In November 2007, my first trip to Laguna Seca Raceway didn’t quite go as planned. Since that time, I thought the place owed me one until I could make my return. I say the place owed me because my mistake of running over the Turn 6 apex marker like many others didn’t seem that egregious. A mid-January discovery of an open track day on February 25th with the Green Flag Driving Association (through MotorsportReg.com) paved the way for that return.
The weekend before the track day, I got a new set of Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec tires (P225/45R17 90W) (nuts…the Tire Rack has a $50 rebate on these right now until March 31st if you buy a set of four) mounted and balanced. Before putting the new shoes on, I changed the front and rear brake pads from the EBC Red Stuff Ceramic pads to Ferodo DS2500s. I didn’t change the rotors because I just replaced them the previous month with the EBC pads. And thanks to the Motive Products hydraulic brake and clutch pressure bleeder I got from RallySportDirect.com, I was able to bleed brake fluid by myself for the first time using a fresh 500 mL bottle of MOTUL RBF 600 high temp fluid.
After unpacking the car, adjusting the Koni strut inserts to nearly full stiff in the front and 1/2 stiff in rear (the latter required the removal of the rear seat (six 12mm bolts) to access the tops of the rear struts), mounting a video camera to the rear windshield, and slapping on some magnetic numbers purchased from izoomgraphics.com onto the front doors, the car was ready to hit the track. I was assigned #16 because my last name was probably sixteenth on the alphabetical list of people registered for the intermediate group at the time the numbers were determined.
I naturally used the first session to get re-acquainted with the track. After three or four laps, I figured out the braking points and lines I wanted to use. As I approached Turn 6 for the first time, I felt a little apprehensive, but knew it was time to exact my revenge! I drove through and took a mental snapshot of the turn to refer to when approaching it every lap.
Above is the video I recorded in the first session. I spent much of the early part of it following a Nissan GT-R whose driver appeared to be learning the track. Later in the day (Session 7), I let him by to see how well (or poorly) I could keep up with him/the car. He checked out on me in about half a lap! The ‘Rex and I could hang with him in the turns but didn’t have the beans to remain in touch on the straights. At the six minute-mark, I let a Porsche 911 997 GT3 RS–just like Chris Walton’s favorite car–blow by me going up the Rahal Straight. Soon after, you’ll see me get mired behind the slowest S2000/driver combination ever (they make another appearance at the 21:00 mark, too)! I don’t know what was going on with them throughout the day. However, I will give the driver of the S2K (black helmet) credit for seeking instruction later in the day (evident when the car was on the track with two people with him riding shotgun). The only allowed passing zones for the beginner/intermediate group that day were the front straightaway, the stretch between Turns 4 and 5, and the Rahal Straight.
As the first session progressed, I felt the rear of the car was too soft. After the session was completed, I stiffened the rear Koni inserts and also reinstalled the rear seat bottom. Its absence explains the clicking and clacking heard in the video above when the seatbelts were moving around in the turns.
Session Two had the distinction of being the only beginner/intermediate session with an incident. A first generation Mazda Miata somehow found its way into the kitty litter (gravel trap) on the outside of Turn 11. To begin the session, I left the pits behind a Ford Mustang (A GT350 replica? Kurt or JDP can definitely enlighten me here.) that let me by at the end of the first green lap. Two laps later, the session was stopped to get the Miata out of the sandbox. Once its wheels were back on the tarmac, it was able to restart and return to the pits using its own power. After the session resumed, I had the sheer pleasure of catching and receiving a point-by from a (stock?) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR a little less than 10 minutes after I left the pits. Two of the faster cars I let by in the session were an ex-Bondurant school Ford Mustang (Cobra?) and a Porsche 911 (997 Carrera S?).
The third session began with me leaving the pits behind an older Porsche 911 (964? 930? Little help here?). I had even more fun chasing this car than reeling in and passing the Evo in the previous session! The fun lasted until the 8:30-mark when I got stuck behind a 996 Turbo Convertible. The person driving it was nice enough to let me by between Turns 4 and 5, but the other 911 had already checked out by then.
During this session, I determined the car was a little more squirrelly than I’d like when transitioning from an on-throttle state onto the binders. As a result, I softened both of the rear Konis a smidge after I had returned to the paddock.
The most enjoyable things I worked on over the course of the day were trail-braking and figuring out how to get through the Rainey Curve (Turn 9) well. I found I could work on the former most when braking for the Andretti Hairpin (Turn 2) and Turn 3. Almost every time I drove through Turn 9, I remembered Josh Jacquot’s advice not to lift when driving through it. Since I’m a) not as skilled as Josh and b) not driving whatever rocket ships he may have driven at Laguna Seca, I would usually go to a partial-throttle state when driving through the turn. For some odd reason, I seemed to feel more G-loading when driving through Turn 9 this time than my first track day at Laguna Seca. Because of that, I figured I consistently carried more speed through there.
Session Four provided me with the most clean laps out of all the sessions I drove that day. Because of that, I probably turned my fastest laps during it (no timing transponders were available for rental that day). I suppose I could extract each lap’s time from my recordings, but that would be inaccurate and take a long time. I’m guessing I turned faster laps compared to my first trip because of the upgraded suspension components (JDM STI springs and Koni strut inserts) I had this time. During this session, I also had the pleasure of feeling I had the car’s setup totally dialed in as it responded to all of my inputs in the way I hoped and expected.
The driver of the 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STi I caught and passed told me he had been experiencing brake fade the entire day. His car was also shod with Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec tires (although his tires were 245-width) and stopped by Ferodo DS2500 brake pads. My car was using the stock rotors whereas his car was equipped with DBA 5000 two-piece rotors. I think he was using the ATE Super Blue brake fluid.
The Direzza Sport Z1 tires held up great on the track. They didn’t seem to provide as much ultimate grip as the Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R tires, but definitely didn’t wear as much either (perhaps a visual confirmation of its 200 treadwear rating compared to the 180 rating of the RE-01R). Adhesion felt consistent throughout each session with no signs of becoming greasy or going “off.”
At the end of the fourth session, I heard a scraping sound coming from the rear. A closer inspection revealed that I had used up the left rear brake pads. Not wanting another track day at Laguna Seca to come to a premature end, I donned a pair of gloves and began one of the quickest brake pad changes I had ever performed. The change would’ve been even quicker if I didn’t have to be careful handling the hot pads’ backing plates. Now you may be wondering how I used up the rear pads before the fronts. The front brake pads were a new set of Ferodo DS2500 pads. The rears, however, were used for my track days at Buttonwillow Raceway and the Streets of Willow Springs in March and April 2008, respectively. I thought there was going to be enough pad material left to get me through the day. I obviously thought wrong.
The rear brake pad change was completed in about 40 minutes. I missed half of the fifth session, but was glad I could enjoy the rest of the track day. I didn’t bring any spare rotors with me to the track. But I didn’t care. I was determined to turn more laps even though the rotor had been warped and scored. The vibration produced by the rotor was quite significant, but braking effectiveness seemed largely unaffected.
Another issue that arose in the afternoon was the beginning of the demise of the tranny’s fourth gear synchro. With 108K (hard) miles under its belt, the transmission has served me well. Upshifts over 4,500 RPM from third gear to fourth gear began producing a light grind sometime during the fifth session. I began shifting more deliberately and making sure I was shifting “straight” and not “diagonally” to see if things would improve. They didn’t. (I got a quote of $1,200 for synchro replacement the next day. I’ll probably just live with this for the time being and try to drive more conservatively…at least in third gear anyway.)
Sessions Six and Seven were pretty much more of the same. Because only 30 cars registered for the event, the organizers thought it would be good to combine the beginner and intermediate groups. I was initially concerned when this was announced in the morning drivers’ meeting. An upside of the merge, however, was that everyone would get more track time. The original plan was to run five 25-minute sessions. The new plan allowed for six 25-minute sessions and one 15-minute session.
At the 11:20-mark in Session 7 (see video above), I let the Nissan GT-R by me on the Rahal Straight. Watch as it runs away from me by the end of the lap! Near the end of the session, I didn’t drive as well and started to get a little sloppy. After the session was done, I deemed myself fully satisfied with the day and felt exhausted. It had been a great day!
A full gallery of the day’s photos can be seen here:
The other videos from the day can be seen by viewing the “More From User” and/or “Related Videos” in Google Video.
That’s all for now (especially since the ‘Rex has an ailing tranny)! I would love to hear from others about their open track day experiences! Or if you’d like more info on tracking your own vehicle, I’d love to help!
Saturday, January 3, 2009 marked five years of life together with my 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan, a.k.a. Devoted Dan. After 104,000 miles, it continues to run well and provide smiles per mile. Below is a brief rundown of our time together.
January 3 – Took delivery from Frank’s Irvine Subaru in Lake Forest
March – Installed 17-inch Prodrive P1 wheels (made by O.Z. Racing) with Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position tires (P215/45R17)
May – Cleared headlights
November – Installed Prodrive round tip axleback exhaust/muffler
January – Retrofitted Subaru 4-pot/2-pot brakes, installed Prodrive springs, Group N STI strut tops, and Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
March – Participated in my first track day on the infield road course of California Speedway
April – Flashed the engine ECU with a COBB AccessPort Stage 1 map
September – Participated in a track day at the Streets of Willow Springs
December – Installed fender sidemarkers and 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rear diffuser
January – Participated in a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway, obtained 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX stock wheels and tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE92 -P215/45R17)
May – Participated in another track day at Buttonwillow Raceway
April – Returned to Buttonwillow Raceway
November – Participated in a track day at Laguna Seca Raceway
December – Installed Koni strut inserts and Japanese domestic market (JDM) STI springs
March – Ran at Buttonwillow Raceway again
April – Ran at the Streets of Willow Springs again
February – Already registered to return to Laguna Seca Raceway
Happy New Year! See you later! :o)
Although I never knew him, I was greatly saddened to learn on Tuesday morning that Joe Drey, 75, had succumbed to injuries sustained in a horrific crash at Willow Springs International Raceway, a.k.a. “Big Willow,” over the weekend. When I read that he was driving a MINI Cooper, I put two and two together and realized he was the same person I had been on the track with when I was running at the Streets of Willow Springs in mid-April.
The realization went like this. I read Joe was driving a MINI Cooper. After the fun I had on the track with him at Streets, I looked for him in the paddock that day to no avail. The people setup next to him said that the driver of the MINI Cooper was an older gentleman. Another piece of the puzzle was the fact that Edmunds.com Associate Editor Josh Sadlier said he had seen the same MINI Cooper in my photos at Streets when he attended driving school. He also mentioned the driver was an older fellow. I then looked up the driver list from the track day I attended in April and saw his name. Seeing his name helped me remember his license plate said, “JD MINI,” or something like that. After hearing of the incident, my friend Louis shared he chatted with Joe when we were at the track in April, too.
This entry is dedicated to him and his family. At least he left us doing the very thing he loved most. May God be with him and all who knew him.
NASA regretfully announces passing of Joe Drey
The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) regretfully announces that Joe Drey of San Juan Capistrano, CA has succumbed to injuries suffered in an accident on May 24, 2008 at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. Joe was participating in a NASA event behind the wheel of his beloved Mini Cooper S and despite the best efforts of the rescue team onsite and the medical teams at the hospital, he has now left us.
Joe started racing at 15 enjoying street drags with his friends. He got into formal track racing with an early 60’s Corvette when he was in his early 20’s. He eventually transitioned into Porsches, owning several over 3 decades and racing them all over California with a trailer and his own crew consisting of his two sons. As he got older he pulled away from the sport and it wasn’t until the new Mini came out and he got the 9th one off the boat that his passion welled up in him again. He began immediately modifying the car and loading up on gear while frequenting his favorite track Willow Springs and taking courses including two trainings with Bob Bondurant.
Joe’s family has asked that donations be made to the Mission San Juan Capistrano Preservation Fund in lieu of flowers. Donations can be made at http://www.missionsjc.com/donations.html
Here are some photos of the on-track action from the Streets of Willow Springs. Enjoy! :o)
The full gallery of photos can be seen here:
Here’s the video of my first session at the Streets of Willow Springs (SOW) on April 18, 2008.
I tried to take it easy in the beginning and still spun on my second lap in the left-hander after the chicane. If you start watching at 3:25, you’ll see my spin shortly thereafter. As you can see, the car broke away from me suddenly. Does anyone have any ideas what may have induced the spin? I wasn’t getting onto the power yet nor was I entering the turn at an aggressive pace.
Here’s the video of my second session at the SOW.
This was the most fun session of the day as I had a great tussle with a R53 MINI Cooper S. First, he courteously let me by. When I saw I wasn’t able to draw away from him much, I let him by. He wasn’t able to pull away from me, either. He pointed me by a second time shortly before the camcorder’s battery died. I didn’t get to talk to him to find out what he’s done to the car, but I know he was on Nitto NT-01 R compound tires.
Here’s footage of my third session at the SOW.
I had a great battle with the driver of an E46 M3 Coupe until I ran out of talent around 9:45 into the video. I got loose exiting the chicane either from a bump or from trying to apply too much of my car’s 187 whp. I almost saved it, but ultimately lost.
You can also learn how not to drive a Porsche 911 on the track. The gentleman in the black 911 (997) was driving it too slowly for the fast intermediate group. He approached me afterward saying he didn’t like how close I was to him in the corners and was letting up on the straightaways so I couldn’t pass him. 🙄 Perhaps he is unaware of how much more powerful his car is than mine.
My best (timed) lap of the day (1:34.728) was during this session some time after the spin. The organization running the track day forgot to charge their AMB transponders on Thursday night. Because of that, timing was unavailable for sessions 1 and 2 and the transponder I ended up with ran out of juice between sessons 4 and 5.
Here’s my fourth session at the SOW.
I began this session with Barber Volkswagen/Subaru’s Alvin Tolosa riding shotgun to give me some feedback. After a couple of laps, I brought the car in and picked up my friend Louis who was participating in his first track day with his 2006 Lexus IS 350.
Here’s video of my fifth and last session of the day.
The driver of the E46 M3 Coupe I was chasing in the third session apparently got a lot better by the end of the day as I couldn’t hang with him anymore. In this session, my new friend Chris rode along with me. Chris was participating in his second track day with his 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan.
I tried to apply some of Alvin’s advice of using up more of the track and going deeper into the chicane in this session. It’s too bad the transponder’s battery died before the session. It would’ve been nice to see what effect his feedback would’ve had on my lap times.
For those wondering what the vibration/sound is from the third session on, it’s my car’s left front wheel bearing throwing in the towel.