Long overdue, but worth the wait.Â 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 runningÂ Extreme Speed Track Events.Â 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 driverâ€™s meeting was very thorough and adequately informative. We werenâ€™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 â€ślist of stuffâ€ť to bring was largely helpful but sabotaged by the unfortunate coincidental surprise birthday party for a friend the previous evening. Long story shortâ€¦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 didnâ€™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 (?) Donâ€™t know what I was thinking there
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- CELL PHONE. Ultimately both of my phones dried out and worked while I was out, but for half the day I was â€śdisconnectedâ€ť
- Cash: for food, in case you didnâ€™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. Iâ€™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.
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 donâ€™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 driverâ€™s test in my Momâ€™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 aÂ decentÂ 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 driverâ€™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:Â 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 â€śwalk the trackâ€ť 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 youâ€™ll get around faster. But depending on how many people are out, it can be messy and youâ€™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:Â 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 beÂ smoothÂ when changing directions. Essentially, the car doesnâ€™t like change. Braking, accelerating, turning in, winding outâ€¦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:Â 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 driversâ€™ 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:Â 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 donâ€™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:Â 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 â€śgetting the lap right.â€ť Traffic was light because, oddly enough, with every session more and more people fled the track. Not meâ€¦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
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 donâ€™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.
Letâ€™s face itâ€¦I drive a 200 crank hp, 3200+ lb, front-wheel-drive sport/luxury sedan. It wasnâ€™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 donâ€™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 theyâ€™d like to tag along!