Sorry for the late post up. I got the link for the pictures the weekend I was heading down to Franklin, TN for the Story Grid Conference. Speaking of which, if anybody wants to ask me about it, I’ll be happy to talk about it personally off the blog as I will not be putting up a post about it.
Speed Therapy Sessions are put on by JRP a local speed shop and pretty much the best place in town to buy your, “Go fast,” products. The September 9th session was sponsored by KW Suspension Systems and they gave a very interesting presentation over lunch and yes, better suspension is something I’ll be looking into for the, “Red Menace.”
Everybody runs their show a little differently. I’m used to Infinite Motorsports and their briefing up at the main offices at the track. Speed Therapy stages their day down at trackside in the middle offices on pit row. Still, it’s the same types of people who show up regardless of who’s throwing the party and there were more than a few familiar faces and cars in the briefing and down in the pit area.
Like any track day, there are different classes and because I hadn’t been out with these guys before I was in their beginner class. I thought they were going to check me out with an instructor before signing me off for going solo round the track but the reality was if you wanted an instructor, you asked for one, which was fine by me at this stage in the game.
The one thing we all missed was the loudspeaker system being off. Infinite works with a three call system over the speakers so you know when to assemble in staging. There was a lot more clock watching and a lot less track watching without this handy reference. Twenty minute sessions also make for faster turn around as you’re up and ready to go every forty minutes.
Having a bit of a chinwag in the pits post session is one of the best parts of any track day. You get to see some amazing cars and talking to their drivers is always a plus. The thing that always makes me laugh though is how many people comment on how fast the, “Red Menace,” is. I mean it’s fast enough but where I make up most of my time is my corner entry and exit speeds. I’m carrying a lot less weight and the front wheel drive is very forgiving (IMHO) as long as I don’t come in too hot.
One of the best if not confusing moments was blasting by a Lotus Exige on the back straight. Which I thought was odd until I looked up the specs on their car and realized they were running with a full 60HP less than my JCW Mini. Still, they looked the business.
Below is what happened to me the previous lap day. I’d had a rim cut that went undetected until after my first session and I rolled into the pits. I had to buy a whole new set of tires and missed the next two morning sessions waiting for them to be delivered and installed. That being said, the new rubber has better grip and ride and I was back on pace within one session.
There was a father and daughter there in a Ford Focus GT and they were quick. A good couple of seconds on me a lap even though the Ford was a lot heavier than the Mini. However, they do have the benefit of all wheel drive, something available in the Clubman and Countryman models of Mini but not the F-56 two door hatch.
I think the real fun of any lapping day is trying to beat yourself each circuit of the track and sometimes everything lines up and you find yourself in a pocket where you don’t need to pass anybody and there’s nobody behind you waiting to pass you. Though the other side of the coin is passing other cars worth much more than your car or boasting more horsepower. But as has been said in the past, “It not the size of it, it’s what you do with it that counts.”
Which brings me to the only smudges on a damn good day at the track. When we do the morning briefing during the days I go out with Infinite Motorsports, it’s heavily stressed to let faster drivers by regardless of what car they’re driving. A lot of having a good lap day comes down to understanding your surroundings. That means you check your mirrors who who is coming up behind you and you check the flag stations to make sure you know what track conditions are and what you need to maybe worry about but checking your mirrors is critical to keep the flow of traffic going by you if they’re faster. It’s pretty easy, you get off the line and point them past you. In Intermediate class (my class) you’re expected to have this dialed in. In Advanced class, there’s a lot more give and take and opportunities to pass but there’s a lot more skill there as well and most of the cars are very quick around the course.
In the Novice or Beginner classes, people are still learning and getting the hang of being aware on the track and to be honest, I have no issue with them. You can pretty much tell when a driver is new and finding their way. My issue is more with the experienced drivers who let their ego get in the way of everybody having a good time. But like I said, most everybody was well behaved except for two exceptions. One was a gentleman in a white Jaguar F-Type and as usual, with these types of driver, your issue starts on the straights. Simply put, my 2L four cylinder twin turbo at 240HP can’t compete with a 3L six cylinder putting out 380HP. I mean that’s just physics. But when you brake a full six seconds before I do and enter Turn 8 on a wide line, I’m going to catch you up and if you continue to be slow through Turn 9 and 10 I expect you to call it and let me by. Because here’s the thing, even with all of that going for you, I caught up to you and the only thing stopping me from passing you is a wave by, otherwise I’m bound by the rules to watch you arse it around the track and make a hash of it in the corners. But hey, you’re in a Jag and I’m in a Mini and I’m sure me passing you would be too much to take.
Which brings us to the second guy in a 5.0L Mustang GT, who as it turned out I’ve tracked with before and who was guilty of all of the above sins. The worst part was he’d been a speed bump all day to the point I’d had to launch my friend Bob in his AMG GT-S at on the back straight because he’d held us up for two laps. I was pissed enough I couldn’t let it slide and had to go have a chat with him. Which I hate because usually when you’re talking to other drivers on a track day it’s about how much fun you’re having. Still, there I was explaining to a driver I’ve driven with before about letting me by.
“But I’m faster on the straights,” he replied.
“Yeah, except you’re not.” I pulled out my phone, called up my lap timer and showed him my lap times prior to getting behind him vs. being behind him. On my own, I was a full twelve seconds faster. In the end he conceded that maybe his ego got in the way.
In reality, it got in my way.
Still, it was a decent discussion and we left emotion out of it and hopefully next time we come across each other on the track he’ll give me the wave.