Last weekend, out of the blue, I got an invite to join friends Dave, Brad and Jason at one of my favorite race tracks in Texas, Harris Hill Road. The chance hasn’t come up too often, so I’ve only driven one weekend there in the past. The track has a flow and rhythm unlike any other track I’ve been on. There’s hills, long, parabolic bends and plenty of technical complexity. I love it. There are also some bumps that people complain about, though they don’t really faze me as my car rides on stock suspension.
It was well worth the 3-hour drive each to way to see friends and get in, literally, as many laps as our cars and our bodies could handle. It’s always a bit odd (in a good way) when you are the only limit to staying out on track, instead of run groups, flags and traffic. Although June is early summer, it’s still summer, and it’s still Texas, which means hot. Sweltering. Hot on your car and hot on you. After a long session I came in without doing enough to properly let the car cool off and ran into some high water temperatures while I was idling and shutting down. This was its way of yelling at me for not winding down and letting cool air flow through the radiator and engine bay. I need to put in an oil temperature gauge, because right now I’m just sort of guessing what’s going on temperature-wise.
As it was a member day, it gave me a chance I’m rarely afforded: riding with friends while they do laps. I rode with Dave during his second session (his is the grey 350Z pictured, on RPF1s and sticky tires). Wow it was fast! He made it look effortless while still lapping tremendously quickly, even though this was only his second or third time to be on the track. The tires got up to temps quickly and by the third or fourth corner he seemed to be going at maximum pace. What impressed me most was how he drove it hard right to the very edge of the road, which I’m often a bit hesitant to do until I’m very familiar with the track and feeling more confident. That said, I never felt he was taking any risks or driving too ‘close to the edge.’ Full control, every moment.
One of my biggest observations was how different it is to apex and then track out to the edge when the speed increases by ~20%. In the same way that it’s easy to nail the proper line while doing a slow reconnaissance lap but much harder at speed, with more forces and intertia acting against you, it seems to me that going very quickly makes it even harder still. Just my guess. You have more grip but the track seems to ‘shrink’ around you. I’m not sure if I’ve clearly worded this, but I’ll certainly give it more thought. I noticed that somehow being a passenger was even more nauseously hot, I guess because you have time to think about it. Also: If you’re in the UK and you love cars and need car insurance, why not try getting a quote from Aviva?
During the next session, Dave rode with me, albeit at a slower pace (I’ll blame my tires!). It was my second session (so I had properly adjusted the pressures based on running laps a few minutes earlier) and after a lap or two building heat into the tires I felt a lot more confident and the car was a lot more predictable. It was still pretty slick, and this weekend was the last bit of track time I expect to get from my badly-worn Michelin Pilot Sports. I gained pace with every lap until the very end, when the tires became too greasy and stopped hanging on. It was a great dozen laps or so, and I was happy to have a good friend (and great driver!) in the car to see how my abilities stacked up.
Unrelated: We have purchased a house. I’m typing this from my new, still-in-progress office room, which hopefully will see good things. The walls are grey. Random automotive decorum both pictured and unpictured include: a Brembo front caliper, a 1995 Honda CBR600 brake rotor and a piston out of a Honda H22A.