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Track Days, where Cars Play Universal Fit Blogging

Heeltoe’s 2/5/11 Track Day Experience & Video

Long overdue, but worth the wait. We hyped up our first track day adventure quite a bit, and now it is time to give our feedback and conclude. We had a lot of fun, learned that prep is important but not to be overly insane about., and developed some skill that would never be possible on the street.

First things first, mega-props to the folks running Extreme Speed Track Events. The whole time I felt like I was treated with respect and assurance that fun times would be had. To some, they might seem a little lax on the rules (self tech and no numbers were needed), but I think this really shows the level of trust they have in their clients to be mature. The driver’s meeting was very thorough and adequately informative. We weren’t spoken to like kids. I am not sure how they were managing to keep tabs on us without numbers but never was a yellow flag misplaced, despite a few isolated incidents. Overall, it was a great bit of fun and I would definitely consider them for all future track excursions!

Secondly, my “list of stuff” to bring was largely helpful but sabotaged by the unfortunate coincidental surprise birthday party for a friend the previous evening. Long story short…I got quite drunk, stayed out way too late, ended up taking a dip in the pool with both cell phones on me, and gave myself only three and a half hours of sleep to recover from it all. I gathered most of my stuff the day before and packed the car, but, some items didn’t make it. The original list of stuff was posted in our introductory post here. I figure I will make a more formal checklist for distribution the next time out.

  • I brought lots of tools, but oddly no 19mm socket for removing wheels (?) Don’t know what I was thinking there
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Food
  • Gloves
  • CELL PHONE. Ultimately both of my phones dried out and worked while I was out, but for half the day I was “disconnected”
  • Cash: for food, in case you didn’t bring any. Or souvenirs for the track.
  • CASH! For the gate fee! Yes, the track collects a fee just to let you on the grounds (for the upkeep of bathrooms and other facilities and lunch for the corner-workers, I imagine). At WSIR it was $10. I’d suggest bringing at least $60. Enough to get in, eat as needed, and get the inevitable emergency couple gallons of gas if disaster strikes to get back to civilization. Always have some cash.
  • Laptop if you have one if you want to record tire temps or anything else you are tracking directly in a spreadsheet (my geek-ass did just this).
  • Power Inverter: If you are bringing phones and a laptop, you might need juice to charge them.


The Video!

I spent quite a bit of time on this video. Big props to my friends Emilio at 949Racing for encouraging me to even get the footage and make the darn thing, and Mark at Mission Viejo Auto Collision for lending me his GoPro.

:)

Make sure to watch it HD! It looks great 

The driving experience

I always fancied myself a decent driver but could not really ever claim it because I don’t really have enough training to support it. Part of the reason I loved the name Heeltoe for my business is that I have been heel-toe downshifting ever since my first year driving. I learned and took my driver’s test in my Mom’s 94 Civic EX Coupe with a stick shift. It felt like a ballsy move, but no big deal.

After this event, I feel a little justified in claiming I am a decent driver. Albeit, I have a lot to learn. Here is how the day played out.

Arrival: Entered the gate, found a pit-spot, unloaded my crap, checked in with the event staff, and attended the driver’s meeting with optional supplementary informative discussion for beginners. After all that, I went to change my brake pads. I knew the pads I had in my car (Racingbrake ET500s) were not in anywhere near track condition, so I brought a set of ET800s with me to run on the Racingbrake 2-piece rotors for the day. I knew these would not be aggressive pads, but figured they should cope well with the rigors of track work and they had full meat on them. With new pads in, it was time to go out in a lead-follow session that the beginner groups are introduced to the track on.

Session 1: Lead and follow. I had heard of a lot of different methods that event coordinators use to get people familiar with a track. I have done the “walk the track” on a previous occasion elsewhere, and while it is definitely valuable, takes too much time if the goal is to get the rubber to the road. I have also heard of groups in cars parading around at parking-lot speeds, stopping periodically to discuss track intricacies and the line. Against walking, this seems better because you’ll get around faster. But depending on how many people are out, it can be messy and you’ll lose visualization of the line. The line seems like the most important thing to know, and the lead-follow to me was the best way of showing it.

An instructor in their car leads four beginners around the track at a pace just slower than brisk. Enough to feel a little load but not enough to require concentration on anything other than the car in front of you. The beginners are single file and for 4 consecutive laps, they rotate position directly behind the instructor, each getting shown the line in turn. Then after the rotation is done, the instructor pulls off and the beginners get to drive around un-aided for the remainder of the session. Talk about sink or swim! However, I prefer this to the hand-holding I have heard goes on with other groups.

Best time: 2.04.494

Session 2: For this session, I opted to bring an instructor with me. Wow, I am glad I did. After getting chastised for doing things like swinging wide out of the pit exit (NEVER DO THIS) and braking into Turn 8, I learned even more about driving on the track. Such as, where to get on the gas, and where to turn in. And to be smooth when changing directions. Essentially, the car doesn’t like change. Braking, accelerating, turning in, winding out…all should be done as smoothly and easily as possible.

Even though my car was clearly not very fast off the corners I was catching people because I was carrying more speed through turns. My times here were not really burners because of the learning going on, but they did improve a bit. All in all, I would say that for anyone visiting a track for the first time, going out with an instructor should be required, as I saw people making mistakes all day long that I learned to avoid very early on.

Best time: 1.58.312

Session 3: My first session going out completely un-aided. Fighting my tendencies to tap the brakes into turn 8, and concentration at full tilt through turns 3-4-5, I felt myself going faster. So much so that I pulled up into a train of cars by the 4th lap that had my in caboose position for most of the session. Frustrated, I remembered something that was mentioned in the drivers’ meeting. If this happens, pull off and get a restart. Unfortunately, I remembered this just in time to pull in at the very end of the session, coming out of the pits on the final lap. Lesson learned: when you pull up on a train of cars, just pull off and get a restart as soon as you can. This was a botched session, but I had a great first lap: my best so far.

Best time: 1.49.479

Session 4: Learning during the last session that following a train of cars sucks, and yearning for an even faster time, I squared up early enough in the hot pit for the fourth session to be first in line. After setting off I enjoyed a full lap of clear road, only to have a C65 AMG blow past me on the front straight. By turn 5 I had caught him, and we were running together for the rest of the session. That car was so powerful that he pulled out enough to just slow me down here and there through some of the tight stuff. During the session, I seem to recall getting a big drop in times when he finally pulled off, but looking at the times now I don’t see it. I was going at a pretty good pace with lots of variation because of that guy but still chopped my time to achieve another best-of-the-day for myself.

Best time: 1.46.755

Session 5: This is the last session of the day. My tires were getting worked hard during the last session and I feel like I was getting a lot out of the car. Almost as much as it could get out of it. I figured this session would be all about “getting the lap right.” Traffic was light because, oddly enough, with every session more and more people fled the track. Not me…I paid to come here so I am getting all I can out of it. So off I went, first in line again. This time it took a number of laps for people to catch and pass me (it was really inevitable I guess), but I never was slowed by anyone. It was definitely during this session that I felt the weight of the car and the lack of power in straights.

Best time of the session and the day: 1.45.424

Casualties

My car came out of this event with a little more wear than it had going in for sure. My choice not to tape up certain areas of my car meant I got a few rock chips. This is easy to avoid, but, frankly, I don’t care. I feel like these scars attest to the real use my car gets.

My wheels were CAKED with brake material and later found that the ET800 pads I was running were nowhere near up to the task of track driving. Had I been driving at session-5-speed all day, my pads would have gone metal-to-metal. However, running stock brake fluid proved to be fully acceptable. Not once did I experience fade or fear of loss of brakes.

Tires were the only other components to take a beating. The Hankook Evo V12s I ran are definitely great tires, and in the 255 widths I was running they were probably the only thing keeping my pig of a car on the track for all 5 sessions. However, I was finding the limits with them and even noticed some chunking at the end of the day (over-heated and over-stressed bits of tread flying off). Again, at the speeds I was running at the end of the day this is where the damage was coming in. An all-day abuse like that would have me stopping at the tire shop the next day. As it was, the tires are still doing daily duty.

Pics!

Conclusions

Let’s face it…I drive a 200 crank hp, 3200+ lb, front-wheel-drive sport/luxury sedan. It wasn’t a rocket, but I am pretty happy. After all, I drive this car nearly 400 miles a week in exactly the same trim I took it to the track in. I turned some really decent times for a beginner and felt validated in the whole HT-Spec philosophy. The TSX was more comfortable driving home than some of the track-oriented S2000s, costs a whole hell of a lot less than a Mercedes, and got 20 mpg over the whole day.

Balancing costs and consumables is the most difficult hump people need to get over to visit the track. The brake and tire costs can add up if you are going all-out every month or two. But, I don’t think that the average Acura driver should really be dissuaded by this. Most people are not going to mash hard all day, as evidenced by my forum-mate Princelybug who was out in his TL-S. He was perfectly content going out with ET500s and not logging lap times at all. Purely going out for the fun of working the car out a bit.

The best part is, from where the car is now, it can only really get faster. Maybe next time, with some dedicated track tires and better brakes I can hold off those S2000s for just a couple of laps. I can definitely see us going back out to more events, especially with Extreme Speed. I will make sure to give my readers here ample warning in the event they’d like to tag along!

If you want to look at all my times in detail, look on extremespeedtrackevents.com!

Categories
Track Days, where Cars Play Universal Fit Blogging

Going to the track, HT-Style. Heeltoe lives up to its name.

Before I begin, let me get some formalities out of the way:
The event is being held at Willow Springs International Raceway, and is presented by eXtreme Speed Track Events.

Special thanks and support go to:
My friends from hybrids.jp
Phil at Tein USA
Brian at Fastbrakes
Oscar and Tony at Skunk2

I am not sure if this is good or what, but it seems like the news of my first track excursion is getting some real attention. Old friends (I mean, going back 10 years or more) who have been going to track events this whole time are all perking up and taking notice. I’ve always known that there is a big dividing line between those who track and those who don’t. I’ve always kinda sorta balanced that line socially without actually crossing over.

And now I am close. Actually very close. In 2 short days, I’ll be circulating Willow Springs International Raceway, with an instructor in my passenger seat and a GoPro Hero camera stuck somewhere on a fender or something. And then it hit me…damn, I gotta lot of preparation to do!

Since I sell a lot of parts to Acura drivers who very specifically and vehemently make the point that they don’t track their cars, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share my experience and provide somewhat of a roadmap for others who are a little hungry for track driving but need a little backup.

I first hooked up with an old group of friends on Facebook who I know would have all kinds of great info on going track driving. My first question has to do with a list of stuff to bring. Obviously, if you are going to have an adventure like this you need to be prepared. But then again, is it possible to be too prepared as well? I relied on some “experts” on trackHQ.com, NWP4Life.com, and hybrids.jp and was a little surprised at some of the items that were mentioned:

  • Brake Fluid (and bleeding implement of your choice, just in case)
  • Brake Pads (you’ll use up milder pads pretty quick, but you could also use a dual-duty street/track pad like a Hawk HP+ to avoid changing. I will be sampling a new Racingbrake compound for possible use in our Stage 3 brake kits.)
  • Torque Wrench* a tire iron will do, though.
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Jack and Jack stands
  • Tire Chock (you won’t be setting your e-brake after exiting the track)
  • Flashlight
  • Mechanics Gloves
  • A basic set of tools and extra fluids
  • Blue tape or some other means of affixing a number and marking tow points.
  • Lots of water (I got 2 jugs)
  • A pad or mat to put on the ground (pit asphalt is rough and nasty, and you may need to roll around on it. I am trying a yoga mat in the least girlie color possible out this time) * This is a luxury item, but is nice to have and simple to pack
  • Shelter (Easy Up) and folding chairs * Also luxury items.
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Razor blades (dunno why, but I always like having them)
  • Duct tape (what the hell, right?) * Redundant with the blue tape
  • Wet wipes * only if you think you need the jack and jack stands and are going to get dirty I guess. Most tracks have bathrooms.
  • Something to put trash in (I got a collapsible laundry bin) * Most tracks have trash cans.
  • Change of clothes * See wet wipes comment.
  • Food (best to bring stuff with electrolytes, natural sugars, and low fat stuff with moderate carbs. I am taking Lunchables, fruit, Gatorade, stuff like that. Easy to pack and eat with little or no prep or cleanup) * This is not a bad idea, but most tracks also have food.
  • A container to put it all in
  • A new set of brakes (the HT-Spec TSX is graduating from Stage 3 to a brand new Stage 4 at the track!) * Don’t do this. An extra set of pads is all you MIGHT need but really, most likely, won’t if you install proper ones before you go.
  • Tools to install the new brakes * Mentioned tools already.
  • An air tank with compressed air (I’ll be messing with tire pressures a bit, and want to air back up as needed) * You can drive home on lower tire pressure, you won’t be dropping more than 10-12 psi. No need to burden yourself with an air tank.
  • Camera/GoPro (I plan on carrying these soon, they are pretty cool) in order to share my experiences with you * Purely optional
  • My HTC Incredible with Trackmaster data-logging software (to measure lap times, split times, and to see if I can measure any increased G-loads with the brake upgrades) * Track lap apps are fun, not really a thing to “bring” though.
  • My laptop with mobile hotspot (what’s life without internet and a keyboard?) * Nobody needs this at the track. Unless you have a special need.
  • Laser temperature gauge (for checking tire temps and brake temps) * Something to test tire temps is a good idea, helps with the tire pressure guesswork. But first-timer need not apply unless you want to geek out.
  • DC to AC power inverter * For what? To run the blender for margaritas? It can be handy for charging phones and stuff, but not needed at all.

Update from December 2020, after going on many more track days, you don’t need nearly this much stuff! I’ve marked optional stuff with an *

Marcus

I have a fair bit of work cut out for me…and whenever you have logistics, supply chain, services intersecting like this, scheduling is critical! So here is my schedule as near as I can figure it:

A week before…Do a quick tech check on the car, make sure all is up to snuff.

2/1/11: Go wherever I need to collect anything I need to fulfill my list of stuff.

2/2/11: Scope out the parts I am planning to install, make sure A) everything is correct, and B) I bring all the right tools to assemble it. I did a little trial run on the brake parts tonight and it is a damn good thing I did because A) everything is NOT correct and I need to get a couple of small items shipped overnight, and B) I have some funky wrench sizes that I might not normally bring. I am also figuring out my schedule, right now.

2/3/11: Order whatever snafu fixes that are needed. Group everything together and get it ready to load into the car.

2/4/11: Track event-eve! Normally I’d load up the day before the event but life being what it is that didn’t work out this time and I need to pack 2 days before this time. Go figure. Nothing is happening today. No drink, and not up too late! Get the coffee ready to brew before going to bed!

2/5/11: Track day! Early start. Need to be at the track at 7:00 AM, and it is about 2 hours away. Leave at 5:00 AM. Wake up a 4:30, shower, brew coffee, and split. Get something to eat on the way, maybe a big nasty breakfast burrito…something with some staying power 
7:00-7:30 AM: Arrive @ track
7:45-8:15: Set up my spot
8:30: Driver’s meeting (where they tell you the rules about safety, passing, run-down flag meanings, etc)
—and now I don’t know the specifics on the times but we have a general order of things—
1) Beginners go out (that is me!)
2) I come in and while other people are going out I am going to take some tire temps and brake temps. I’ll record the data, and export my data log to my laptop. I am expecting to have enough time to install my big brake kit before I go out again, but depending on how things go I might hold off and install them after the next session instead.
>>Basically, I plan on repeating 1 and 2 all day long until it is time to go home 

So that is it…there is a lot of prep, and when it comes down to it the day itself should really be pretty simple. I feel like this posting is just…ending.

I’ll make sure to embellish my list of items and refine the schedule as I begin to wish-I-did-this and shoulda/coulda/woulda-done-that. I really want some of my Acura friends and fans to get out to the track as I get out and reacquaint with some old pals.

Feel free to post comments or questions!

Marcus