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Team3S Member Track Report:

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Rich Merritt: Midamerica Motorplex, Council Bluffs, IA
Track Guys Driving Clinic, May 4-5, 2002

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Track Aerial

Track Aerial

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I ran an open track event at Midamerica Motorplex this past weekend, May 4-5, 2002.  It was called, officially, the Track Guys Driving Clinic.

Here's a report.  My instructor was Ted Schwartz.  Ted showed me how to do what Chuck Willis has been talking about.  I drove with Chuck last year at Heartland Park and watched him do this stuff, without realizing what the technique was.  You gotta have somebody in the right seat yelling at you before you believe that this actually works.  I'm sure some of the other racers, like Chuck, Geoff and John Christian, will understand this, and may be able to explain it better.

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Ya Gotta Believe!

It all started cuz I asked Ted to help me with my braking.  I have a tendency to stand on the brakes, boil the fluid, and bounce off the ABS.  Ted showed me how to use the brakes -- get on get off.  After the first two sessions, bleeding out the cooked Motul 600, installing brake ducts, and learning what Ted was teaching me, no more brake problems.

The problem with get-on-get-off, however, is that it does not slow the car very much.  So Ted showed me how to carry momentum through the corners. Instructors have fancy words for all this, but it boils down to:  Fast In, Fast Out.

I had no idea my car could carry so much speed through corners.  Ted is a talker: "Lift, brake on brake off turn in HERE flat on the gas straight line those corners, now straight line brake turn in stay out stay out ez through here it tightens turn in look down track find that out marker now hit it."  Whee doggies!

I was turning into corners WAY up track, nailing the throttle, and the car would track through like it was on RAILS!!  Problem is, this technique is so unnatural and counter to the classic line (Slow in, fast out), that it's scary.  You have to BELIEVE that nailing the throttle will make the car stick, when everything you ever knew about driving tells you NO WAY NO WAY!  Talk about being committed!

Sometimes I'd lose confidence in my ability to make it through, bang on the brakes hard to drop the entry speed, and then I'd get all crossed up.  I went off track four times this weekend, not always because my brakes faded (two for brakes, two screwups).

Chief instructor Jeff Lacina threatened to get me a seed cap, and asked if I wouldn't mind putting an attachment on the car.  He figured that if I am going to spend so much time off track, I should do some plowing or seeding while I am out there.

As I tried to explain to all the folks who laughed at me so much ("It's very entertaining following you"), I'd much rather drive straight off track than try all sorts of heroic save-the-car stuff to try to stay on pavement.  Besides, Midwest Motorplex is not quite finished, and there are some truly dangerous spots at corner exits where concrete is still being poured.

I have a long way to go with this new technique.  They combined Group 4 and Instructors, so I had to run with the Big Boys.  As you would expect, they all drive like that.  Where is this technique explained in the driving books?  I'm not sure it can be explained.  You need Terrible Ted talking you through to believe that it really works and the car will really stick.

I learned that if I turned the boost up to 12 psi, I could stay with most of the Big Boys (Group 4 and instructors were mostly Cobra SVTs, Cobra Rs and Corvette Z06es and C5s, almost all of them trailer queens, with lots of permanent numbers and sponsor decals.)

Flying Freddie Fetzer and his Cobra R tended to run me down consistently, and most of the instructors had me by an easy two seconds a lap under stock boost.  The extra boost got me back the two seconds, so I could stay with them (although they did run me down eventually, the boost kept them at bay for a while).  I thought about cranking it to 15 psi just to see if I could run with some of the faster cars (it's frustrating to see a Z06 just walk away from you down a straight, especially after staying with him for half a lap).  But, since I was 300 miles from home with no trailer, basically uncomfortable with this new driving technique, and the car started to heat up under increased boost, I decided that discretion was in order.

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One thing about fast in fast out -- boy does it EAT front tires!  The new Yoko 032s were not only plumb wore down, you could see the tread pattern being eaten away right to left across the tire at a 45 deg angle (lots of right handers at MidAmerica).  For the first time, I did not wear down the outer shoulders -- instead, the tires were wearing INSIDE!  The corner edges were pristine, while 2/3 of the inner tire were worn.  I may have to reduce the camber from -3 deg back to stock to get the outer edges back into the ball game.

Midwest Motorplex is very friendly for our cars.  It's all 3rd and 4th gear stuff, so 2nd gens don't overheat under stock boost.  You need heavy braking only two or three times a lap, so pads last longer.  There are some turns where the AWD really helps, because we can carry lots of speed under full power, whilst the RWD cars are feathering their way through.

It was a good weekend.  Learned a lot.  And nobody better say that a 3000GT is full of shit.  I'll have you know that I installed 3 in. RV sewer pipe as brake ducts!

---  Rich/old poop/94 VR4 (Rich Merritt)

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Article 2002-2004 Rich Merritt, All Rights Reserved.
MAM photos 2002-2004 Midamerica Motorplex, All Rights Reserved.
Other Images 1995-2004 Bob Forrest, All Rights Reserved.