It’s one of those too-good-to-be-true things that turns out to be true anyway: Volkswagen is sponsoring a fifty-freaking-dollar trackday at Summit Point’s Shenandoah Road Course. You need to be a VW owner and you need to bring that VW to the track. There are probably a few other little caveats and fine-print things in the registration as well, but generally this is what it sounds like: a stellar opportunity to get on-track with one of the best organizations in the United States.
Your humble E-I-C was scheduled to be an instructor at this thing, but I just got out of the hospital with some pretty fire-resistant pneumonia and I won’t be up to speed in time to come hang out. Have a good time without me, okay?
TTAC has some great Mustang coverage coming your way in about a week, including multiple tests of two different Shelby GT500 models ranging from a 168-mph blast down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway to a pedestrian-frightening growl through the streets of downtown Toronto. We’re busy writing apology notes to Ford for the state of the tires on the VIR car — are those cords? — so in the meantime we’ll distract you with this question: What’s faster around a racetrack: a “drift car” or a “race car”? In this video, NASA regional director Chris Cobetto and awesome drift dude Vaughn Gittin, Jr. try to create some suspense out of a foregone conclusion. There’s a more exciting video — for road racers, anyway — after the jump.
Did you miss “HyperFest” this past weekend? If you did, then you missed out on what is turning out to be a genuinely American tradition: road racing, drifting, beer, open lapping, brawling, bikini contests, and general debauchery, all held at Summit Point’s outstanding Main Course.
The video above shows an incident that had everybody talking: a high-speed meeting with Bambi on the front straight. But wait, as the AutoBiWeek people say, there’s more.
In his uneven but interesting book Guitar: An American Life, Tim Brookes notes that acoustic players “pick up a guitar in order to meet college girls but wind up talking to other middle-aged men about their fingernails.” I started racing so I could put my merciless, Edward-Green-shod foot on the neck of other competitors in the twilight zone that separates victory from certain death, but I’ve wound up spending my weekends telling other middle-aged men to unwind their steering wheels at corner exit.
This past weekend at Summit Point’s Shenandoah course, I preached long sermons from the Book of Corner Exit to three of those middle-aged men: a novice in a Panamera Turbo, a prodigy in a C6 Vette, and my own crumbling self, piloting a Coyote-powered Mustang GT in an ultimately futile attempt to outpace a colleague in a new 991 Carrera S. Together we pursued the discipline of the Quality Exit, with varying results. To misquote the poet: “O you who turn the wheel and look to chiclets, Gentile or Jew, click the jump to find out how we did.”
Hmm… quite the contretemps yesterday with regards to Web-surfing while driving. Honestly, if I’m endangering any of you by looking at my phone while driving on a freeway so empty that I can’t see a single set of headlights behind me or taillamps ahead, I apologize. And I don’t even own a Martin Backpacker. In a perfect world we’d all be driving in completely silent cars, alone, well-rested and emotionally stable. In my real world, I cover 40,000-plus miles a year on the road and track. Most of those miles are affected by some sort of distraction, whether it’s a phone conversation, personal stress, or trying to sing Douala phonetically along with Richard Bona records. I try to be honest with TTAC readers about what I do behind the wheel. Most of the people in this business are writing whatever they think will ingratiate themselves with the readers or — more commonly — the advertisers.
As it so happens, the one above-parking-speed automobile accident I’ve had since 1988 was directly related to distracted driving. My brother and I were rolling my VW Fox down Cranston Drive in Dublin, Ohio, about eighteen years ago. I was doing about 30 mph. There was a pizza guy in front of me, driving a Tercel. He made a left out of my way. Right then I saw the finest-looking teenaged girl to ever put on a pair of tiny shorts and jog down Cranston Drive. While I watched the shorts, the pizza guy changed his mind and literally backed up into the road. I saw it out of the corner of my eye but was still carrying about 10mph when I hit him. The cop cited us both; me for assured clear distance, him for reckless op. Worst of all, the girl kept running and I never had a chance to share my personal testimony with her.
If you want to spend fifty days a year on-track, or even twenty, every dollar must be watched. A decent hotel can run eighty bucks or so, including tax, near most East Coast venues. Two hotel nights an event, ten events a year, will run you sixteen hundred bucks minimum. A few years ago I came up with a way to save at least eight hundred of those dollars: drive to the East Coast the night before. Playing a bit of “pickup ball”, to be coarse, can save the other eight hundred. It’s also possible to sleep in bathtubs for free if you have generous friends at the event, so pack a pillow and thick blanket along with your torque wrench and HANS device.
Sunday night passes into Monday morning and I am on the road at 12:30AM to cover the 371 miles to Summit Point’s Main Course. There’s less traffic at night anyway, making it easier to read Wikipedia whenever I have 3G signal. I’ll pick a topic and wander through. From 2AM to 5AM or so I’m reading about the late Michael Bloomfield and the story of the “Super Session” record with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. A few reviews, a variety of technical diatribes about the ’58-’60 Gibson Les Paul. The maple top is glued to the mahogany body, which stresses the maple under most conditions of heat and humidity, causing the guitar to resonate a bit more. Fascinating stuff. Yes, I read and drive. You’re not allowed to do it in press cars, but I hold the title for the Boxster and therefore if I want to spend the whole trip playing a Martin Backpacker on my lap I’ll damn well do it. If you want me to devote my full attention to the road, raise the speed limit to 195 and give me a plastic trophy for arriving at my destination before everyone else.