IntroductionFriday, July 18, 2003, saw The Nuts attend our second High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) event. As with our first HPDE, this one was organized by Turn One Motorsports at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina. The difference was that this time we took the ITA RX-7 after installing a seat and harness on the passenger side.
The Nuts both want to extend heartfelt thanks to their instructor, Marty Barrett. This was Marty's second time with us, as he had been our instructor in the first day of the March HPDE we attended. Marty is a Porsche Club of America (PCA) instructor. Marty is a great instructor and a very nice guy, who was really interested in our progress.
We also want to thank Janice Squires and all of the other great people at Turn One Motorsports. In addition to putting on a great event, they were gracious enough to loan us a bolt cutter and the use of a telephone.
Getting ThereWhile this was a pretty uneventful day on track, it was part of the “Weekend From Hell” that also included our first autocross. To begin with, the alternator went out on NutHauler I Thursday night, about halfway between Righty's house and Columbia, SC.
Luckily, the convenience store at which the van died was across the street from a mechanic's shop, and the attendant in the store knew the mechanic. We talked to the mechanic and agreed to leave the van and keys at the convenience store. Then we got what we needed from the van, switched the trailer to NutHauler II, and proceeded to the Executive Hotel in Kershaw (which you'll remember from HPDE #1.
We got up Friday morning, checked out of the hotel, and headed for the track. We noticed that the back of the trailer scraped as we left the hotel parking lot, but we didn't think that much about it. We stop just just outside the gate at the track and get fuel, then head in to set up our garage area. When we go to unload the RX-7, we find that the scrape has bent the pins that secure the loading ramps on the trailer, and we can't get them out. Luckily, the track staff has bolt cutters and we get them out and the car unloaded, late for Tech.
In the middle of Tech, we have to run over to the driver's meeting. They finish tech while we're in the meeting. When we come out, they're ready to start Lefty's run group. He gets out a little late, but gets in some decent laps getting used to the car. We have a break for about 20 minutes waiting for Righty's first session. When he's about to go out, Lefty wants to take some photos of him on track, but the camera bag is missing!
Lefty wants to call the hotel, but no cell phone coverage. He finds some change and goes to the pay phone. The desk clerk at the hotel agrees to check their room. Lefty's second session is coming up soon at this point, so he can't hang on the phone. He tells them he'll call back in a little while and goes out on track.
After that session, the hunt for change happens again, and the kind folks at Turn One Motorsports offer to let him use their phone. The desk clerk has found not only the camera bag, but also a tool box that we left behind! Lefty tells her he'll be there in a little while to pick them up, and Righty goes out for his second session.
We pick up the camera bag and tool box during the lunch break, and the rest of the afternoon goes smoothly. Finally, though, just to add insult to injury, Righty notices that the battery on the RX-7 sounds a little weak as we're loading it onto the trailer to head out. We don't think too much about it then, but it turns out to be a big thing the next day. The story of “The Weeked from Hell” continues with Our First Autocross.
On TrackOn track, the sessions were pretty uneventful. We remembered the track pretty well, since we did three days of sessions back in March. But the RX-7 is very different to drive than either Lefty's Mustang or Righty's Focus, which they used the first time. So the first session was just figuring out how the RX-7 reacted to the course and how hard we could drive it.
Things got more serious starting with our second sessions, and progressed nicely after lunch. Marty signed both of us off for solo driving after our third session, so we shouldn't need instructors any more when we run with Turn One classes. Which is awesome! Hopefully we can both get into the NASA novice classes in September at this track.
The RX-7 is much more neutral handling than either the Mustang or the Focus. The Nuts had heard many stories of the RX-7 having a tendency to oversteer, especially at high speeds. Maybe it's the way this car is set up, or maybe the stories were overblown, or maybe we just didn't get going fast enough to experience it, but the car seemed pretty well neutral at speed. We can't really tell how fast we got, because the speedo only goes to 85 mph, and it was buried every time we got a chance to look at it at speed. We'd guess our top speed was around 100 mph.
In fact, it was pretty neutral at all speeds, even old BF Goodrich Comp T/A R1s. We got these tires with the car, and they are at least two years old with several previous heat cycles. Lefty didn't really feel any understeer, except when he caused it with excessive corner entry speed. And the car was easier to throttle steer than Lefty expected, too.
The only big change in the line was that in March, Marty had us apexing T3 pretty much at the geometric center of the turn. At this event, he had us taking the apex earlier, maybe 25% of the way through the corner instead of 50%. This did feel better to The Nuts and seemed to lead to better lap times.
By the end of the day, Marty timed Righty at a 2:06 lap, which is pretty respectable for only the second time on that track and the first time in the car. Lefty, as usual, runs four or five seconds behind Righty.
The weather was bright and sunny and clear, but hot and humid. Between them, Lefty, Righty, and Marty consumed about twenty half-liter bottles of water during the day trying to stave off dehydration, not completely successfully. Both Lefty and Righty even cut their last session short a couple of laps. The car was handling the heat OK, but The Nuts weren't doing as well.
ConclusionSo, we accomplished our goals for the day without too much drama. We got some seat time in the RX-7, we got some more seat time period, and we “got soloed”. That means that we shouldn't require instructors when we go back to events with Turn One Motorsports and we can take the passenger seat and harness out. It also might give us some leverage to speed up the process of getting our NASA and HSR licenses. Hopefully. That's where we're headed next, anyway.
PhotosThe RX-7 rests peacefully and cools off between sessions.
The Nuts' “garage area” in the Carolina Motorsports Park paddock area.
Righty heads to the false grid on pit lane for one of his sessions.
Righty cruises down pit lane headed to the false grid.
Righty cruises down pit lane headed to the false grid. Notice the dust coming up around the wheels? That's “oil dry” on the pit lane from some previous car dropping oil.
Righty comes down the front stretch at 100 or 110 miles per hour. He's almost reached the braking zone for T1.
Now, Righty is in the middle of the braking zone for T1, and is closing quickly on the turn in point.
Righty's through the braking zone for T1, past the turn in point, and the car his heeling over as he pulls it down to the (late) apex of T1.
Righty and Marty (instructor) return from a session during Friday afternoon.
Our “solo stickers”. The colored stickers with printing on them were our permission to our run groups. The white dots mean the car passed technical inspection. The blank colored stickers tell the track workers that even though we started in an instructed run group, we've been “signed off” to go out alone. We've been “soloed”.
The Nuts with the RX-7 at the end of the day. Our inimitable instructor Marty took this photo for us to commemorate getting “soloed”.
NutDriver Racing would like to extend
thanks to the following people and organizations for helping to make this a
very enjoyable and educational experience:
We sure hope we haven't forgotten anyone. If we have, please let us know and we'll get you listed. We'd include links to our instructors, but we can't find their web pages, so far. :-(
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