Yesterday was the last lapping day of the year for me and my car. It’s exactly one year in and I’ve come a long way from when I started and I feel I’ve got the skill set well established to take myself and my son Colin out on the track next year.
Your last day on the track is always bittersweet. You look forward to the day but you also know that after this, there’s going to be nothing for the next six months. Which also means you’re not going to see your trackside friends for that long either because much like other things, we all run in different circles when we’re not trying to go faster and while Infinite Motorsports is definitely a business (this shit ain’t free) it does feel like more of a club (with fees and all) and it would be cool to hang out with your friends every now and then to shoot the shit and tell war stories, hell, just tell stories.
The goal this season was always to learn how to drive my car better and to learn its foibles at speed, under braking and also under acceleration. It was never to turn the car into some sort of track beast that would be all but undrivable on regular roads and it was also never to make it, “Look the business,” but never see a track day. Other than upgrading my rotors and brake pads, I kept that promise. I’ve always been a big fan of doing more with less. Mostly because of the the looks of, “How is this happening?” on the faces of other drivers in much more expensive cars as I get past them. That being said, I got lapped yesterday by a McClarren 600LT but then he could buy nine of my car for the cost of his, so I took it in stride. Plus he was a super nice guy when we had a chat trackside. But in full disclosure, I will be tuning my car for next season, so I can challenge some of the more obstinate drivers who don’t like to give me the pass on the back straight.
As far as incidents on the track, I’ve been lucky this last year to only witness or be near a few. CTMP can be a difficult track to get round sometimes and it does get the better of amateurs and professionals alike. On any given track day, the ultimate goal is everybody goes home in the vehicle they arrive in. Nobody wants to see a black or red flag. Yesterday, I got to see both. A few times. The good news is for the drivers involved, their car’s safety systems worked. The bad news was it’s never a fun way to find out. The first incident was on the second lap of the Advanced group’s morning session and it shut down the track for the remainder of their session and a good chunk of our first Intermediate session. Which meant we were going out blind of the track conditions as my instructor (there to sign me off for the day) hadn’t seen the track either. Then there was a mechanical incident in the Novice Class but that was minor (stripped transmission). The final incident though happened a few hundred feet in front of me coming out of turn 5C in the last session of the afternoon.
I had just pointed (indicated) a few cars to pass me prior to turn 4 so there was quite a gaggle ahead of me moving through all of turn 5, one of whom was my buddy Bob in his AMG GTR-S. It all looked very busy. I wasn’t too worried because I knew they’d all be pulling away from me. Coming out of 5C I was concentrating on getting back on the gas and lining up for a proper exit when my passenger goes, “Whoa, whoa!”
One of the cars to our front slewed off the track and hit the right side guard rail. The sight picture in front of me changed from a gaggle of cars to one of dust and debris. Lucky for me, 5C is a turn where I’m really slowed down by the mechanics of the corner so I was maybe coming up on 100kmh when it all kicked off in front of me. I do remember seeing the front grille of the car spinning in the dirt though. Everybody rolled off on the throttle. By the time I hit the flag station at the bridge on the back straight the Black Flag was out and into the pits we all went.
Now I can’t speak to definitive cause for either crash but I can pose an educated speculation. The Sterling Moss Straightaway isn’t actually straight. It’s more of a gentle curve to the right and then to the left. It’s also uphill by probably two hundred feet of elevation. It’s long and it’s the reason CTMP is the fastest track (for achieved top speed) in North America. The best I’ve ever managed on it is 205kmh at the crest, my usual speed there is a few kmh shy of 200kmh. I couldn’t tell you what an IMSA Prototype car does there but I’d wager a guess it’s north of 280kmh.
The section where the off in front of me occured has a rising camber to the outside from left to right. I never really clocked it because I’m usually moving to the middle of the track at that point in the track. My suspicion is the driver had turned off his assists in a bid for more speed. This is one of the things you are asked not to do in the morning driver’s meeting for what you would assume are obvious reasons and if you are a driver in the advanced group, I would expect you to have enough experience under your belt that maybe you can make that call or at the very least make the assessment to make that call. I mean some of the cars out there, especially the vintage racers are completely without any type of aid. I would also expect their owners know their cars intimately and don’t try to push their envelope too hard because it’s not like there’s an unlimited supply of parts. Ultimately, (at least in Sport or like modes) most driver’s aids like traction control are there to maintain the grip of your tires under acceleration. Coming into turn 8 I can sometimes feel my ABS kick in if I’m a little too hot in speed and a bit too heavy on the brake and then as I move through the corner I can sense the car’s traction control as it pulses my brakes individually trying to keep me trim. All with a fair bit of understeer, which is the somewhat bane of front wheel drive cars.
But like I said, that’s straight out speculation on my part. Nobody wants to see any kind of incident on the track on a lapping day but at the same time, when it does happen, it reminds you what the stakes can be and that does add some spice to the whole thing.
Now, if you’ve made it this far and you’re one of the original subscribers who locked onto this because I occasionally talked about writing and probably wonder why I spend less and less time on those kind of posts anymore, I’m going to fill you in a bit. To be fair, the last couple of years have been rough. Lots of family drama and a fair bit of personal life crap dropped on top of that. Plus, to be totally honest my books sales took a nose dive and I’m not the kind of writer who can zorch out a book a month. Maybe in my twenties but those days are long behind me. However, a few months ago I got a call from an old associate and he wanted me to look at a project we’d worked on in the film world a while back and would I be interested in resurrecting it in a new form. He has a fairly successful documentary TV production company. I pitched him a series. He’s interested. So I’m going to give that a go over the next six months to get it up on its feet.
Time will tell.