Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Track Day #4 -- 2008/02/24

It's been a LONG time since my previous track day. PIR was closed for a few months because they were repaving the track and slightly reconfigured Turn 7. They made it MUCH wider in T7 and increased the length of the track just a little bit -- now it's 2 miles around which I heard was important for some race organisations who won't run on tracks less than 2 miles.

Here's a few pictures from the event; I got some nifty reusable vinyl numbers from IZoom Graphics (check the vendor lest to the left for a link). The first is a shot of me going through the twisty bits in T6 and the second shows me passing someone on the T9 back straight. No good side shots showing the lettering, but the reusable numbers sure beat using the soap marker pen (of car dealership fame) -- the only thing is that you really want to attach the lettering to the window rather than the painted door panel. It's tough to get off without a razor blade and you really don't want to scratch your paint getting the numbers off.

Anyway, this track day was to celebrate the opening day for the track after the repaving; sponsored by the Friends of PIR (FOPIR) organisation. If you live in the Portland area and enjoy PIR, you really need to give your support by joining FOPIR. You can do it at their web site (

With the long layover from the previous event, I had time to research, purchase and install some coilovers. I chose Megan Racing coilovers with 8kg/mm front and 6 kg/mm rear spring rates. This was a compromise choice as they'll be pretty harsh on the street, but they have lots of built-in adjustments you can make (ride height, damper setting, camber setting, etc.). And, they're pretty cheap at about $1000 for the set. While I was there, I also upgraded the front brake lines to stainless steel brake lines. That gives me a firmer brake pedal.

My goals for this track day were pretty simple -- learn the new coilovers. I wanted to figure out what camber setting to use, see if the damper settings really did anything, and just figure out how the car was going to handle with them on there. I also wanted to improve my situational awareness (e.g., being sure to look at all the flag stations on every lap), improve consistency, improve smoothness, etc.

All in all, it was a good day. Because this was for PIR's opening day, we ran the track with cars and motorcycles (not at the same time); so they configured the track without the chicane. This means that the lap times don't compare directly with my other track days. That's on top of the changes that they already made to turn 7 and the repaving, which changes things. Here's a comparison map showing the differences in the track. The red line is the new configuration:

This was also my first track day running in the intermediate group without an instructor -- going solo, if you will. I was a bit nervous, because I didn't want to hold people up too much being put into the next group up; but it turned out to not be a problem. The changes to the track were new to everybody, and being so long since the last track day meant that everyone was a bit rusty, so we all pretty much took it easy to get used to the track.

The track started out cold and wet; but the sun came out and warmed it up by the end of the day. My lap times were starting out at about 1:43.5 range (remember there was no chicane; so it's about 10 seconds faster than my other track days!); but got a best time of 1:30.7 at the end of the day as it dried up and warmed up a bit.

In terms of my driving... I had a heck of a time trying to get to grips with the new T7. It's Soooo wide it's amazing, but somehow when you drive it, it just doesn't seem to let you keep your speed up. There's something deceptive about the way that the exit of T7 funnels into T8 that prevents you from getting good corner speed there; and my mistake was consistently going in too hot and scrubbing speed with really bad understeer.

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