The Truth About Cars » trackdays http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 02 Aug 2014 03:20:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » trackdays http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The SVRA Wants To Get You On-Track http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-svra-wants-to-get-you-on-track/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-svra-wants-to-get-you-on-track/#comments Mon, 06 May 2013 21:20:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487544 What exactly is the SVRA? Why, it’s the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. Your humble author held an SVRA comp license for a few years in the previous decade, because for reasons I do not understand the SVRA was the official sanction of One Lap of America. In my case, the sanctioning was legit because I […]

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It's so pretty. Picture courtesy Blogspot.

What exactly is the SVRA? Why, it’s the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. Your humble author held an SVRA comp license for a few years in the previous decade, because for reasons I do not understand the SVRA was the official sanction of One Lap of America. In my case, the sanctioning was legit because I was running an old 190E Mercedes, which managed one or two mildly surprising results in my hands.

In general, however, the SVRA restricts itself to old-car racing, with all the over-restoration and 7/10ths driving that implies. To bring more potential drivers into the fold, the organization has come up with an outstanding program that would be appropriate for any car and driver combination from E-Type to F-Type.

Classic Motorsports reports that the SVRA now offers a Driving Experience for would-be racers. For $495, you can get your own car on track and enjoy a series of exercises designed to bring you up to competence in a hurry. While there are literally dozens of trackday organizers in the United States, the SVRA program differs significantly from what you’d get at a typical lapping day. The most significant advantage is the presence and involvement of Peter Krause. Mr. Krause, like Ross Bentley, is among the gold-plated elite of driving coaches and his time typically costs a lot more than you’ll pay to work with him at an SVRA event.

If you haven’t been on-track yet, and you’re interested in getting started in an environment that is designed to protect both you and your vehicle as much as possible, I’d recommend giving it a shot. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous than that… well, I’m coaching most of the TrackDAZE events this year, starting two weekends from now at Summit Point. Sign up already!

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Review: 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S – Track and Field http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-porsche-911-carrera-s-track-and-field/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-porsche-911-carrera-s-track-and-field/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451010 Imagine it’s 1998 and you’re the successful CEO of a company that makes, oh I don’t know, jewel cases for CDs. Business is booming and your four-year-old 911 Carrera coupe isn’t quite the paradigm you want to project. You’re moving with the times, and there’s a new, modern 911 coming. Keys in hand, you walk […]

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Imagine it’s 1998 and you’re the successful CEO of a company that makes, oh I don’t know, jewel cases for CDs. Business is booming and your four-year-old 911 Carrera coupe isn’t quite the paradigm you want to project. You’re moving with the times, and there’s a new, modern 911 coming.

Keys in hand, you walk into your local Por-shuh dealership and… what the hell is that thing?

Flash forward to 2012 and your company now makes an app of some variety: iPaintswatch or some such nonsense. You’re minting money at $0.99-per-download, and your ’08 silver-on-black C2S is due for replacement – your business partner just bought himself an R8, and you simply must have LED running lights to keep up appearances.

You head back to that same dealership – which is now equipped with a cappuccino machine – squeeze past four Cayennes and three Panameras and feast your eyes on the newest 911…

Well first off, my eyes! The goggles do nothing! This (terrible) colour is called Lime Gold, and puts me in mind of the bilious shade you used to be able to get the E46 M3 in. Look, the 911 is a businessman’s coupe, not one of Ali G’s track-suits: after the tenth person said “nice car, too bad about the colour,” I figured the market research portion of the review was over.

Looking past the paint-job, the new 911 is long and languid, smeared out across those big blingy wheels. And, for some reason, someone’s hot-glued a chromed ingredient list on the back bumper. Again, enough with the booyakasha.

Still, looking at the smoothed, stretched and polished form of the Panamera Coupe, I’m sure you can make an educated guess as to how it’s going to drive.

You guessed right.

Jack Baruth informs that I was impressed by the new 911 at a Porsche-run press event. Not an entirely accurate representation: firstly, I was tagging along at a private driver-instruction day which was individually paid for by participants and Porsche Canada – bless their little Nomex socks – covered the tab for a few journalists to have track instruction time in two of their cars.

Secondly, the 991 didn’t so much impress as meet expectations. A lengthened wheelbase has the big flat-six slouching towards mid-enginehood to be born as the world’s biggest Cayman; no rough beast this, it’s a 3.8L direct-injection mill that surges against the reins once the revs crest four thousand, every one of its 400 horses a thoroughbred.

Not that you’ll ever see the thing: pop the bonnet and all you glimpse is what appears to be the cooling fans out of a desktop PC. Achtung! Fiddling vis ze motor is verboten!

With front-track widened to improve bite and enough aluminum in the bodywork to qualify as a tinfoil hat, the 991 is such an easy car to drive fast: brake later, turn in more aggressively, power-on sooner. The electric steering is perhaps a touch less communicative than the 997′s, but the difference has been over-reported – it’s still good enough to have Audi engineers flinging themselves from Ingolstadt parapets.

The 991 flows through the corners in a liquid manner, as velvety as the Scotch burr of my driving instructor. Later in the afternoon, his son will be having me sturming the curbs in the Panzerkreig Panamera GTS. Here we flick through the chicanes like a steelhead through a riverbend. Smooth, smooth, smooth, fast. Even on this soggy, debris-laden track, I am relaxed and confident: any idiot could drive this thing fast. Any idiot, in fact, is.

Wonderful stuff, but $60K better than a Cayman R? I don’t think so. Then again, take the 911 to the streets – where I found little brother’s bookend seat-bolsters and twitchy wet-weather behaviour to be liabilities; here, through the week, the 911 begins justifying its price tag.

The new interior is as button-festooned as the cockpit of a business jet and thus, feels like a business jet. 911s have always been expensive, here’s one that won’t have you terrifying your passengers at extra-legal speeds by way of explaining the cost.

Road noise is halved from the 997. I burble home on a busy evening freeway, heavily pregnant wife at my side. Both of us are somewhat tired out from a hot afternoon at a summer wedding, and the 991 is taut, yet forgiving. A supremely relaxing place to be. She dozes. I feel rested.

Hang on, is that a tunnel up ahead?

Windows down. Sunroof open. Sport Plus. Sport Exhaust. Manual PDK. Bang bang bang on the downshift – a stab at the go-pedal and the tiles echo to the wailing honk of a flat-six. Brake, stab. Brake, stab. Brake, stab.

She rolls her eyes. I chuckle. And yet…

You want track performance? The 991 has a button for that. You want a smooth and cosseting street drive? There’s a button for that. You want to act like a loon or have a start-stop system that’s so quick you can be sitting at a light with your engine off and still blow the doors off 95% of whatever rolls up next to you? Buttons for both.

You want a visceral, emotional connection? Where the hell’s that button?

Everyone likes to talk about the 911′s evolution; an engineer’s gradual progression, each year a slight improvement. Really though, there’s a disconnect.

If you think the 911 should be a small-volume, hand-built car that’s engaging and ruthlessly mechanical, then good news. The toughness that Porsche built into the air-cooled Luftwaffe means that even a moderately-preserved example can make for a good daily-driver.

There are squadrons of specialists to care for these cars, warehouses packed with spare parts, and while the air-cooled cars may have their dynamic and ergonomic quirks, they’re easy to drive in modern traffic, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Buy one and you’ll also enjoy a depreciation curve that’s as horizontal as the Bonneville Salt flats.

But after 1998, the 911 was something different. No longer the car that burst forth from the Beetle’s chrysalis, it’s become the everyday sportscar, an instrument of speed that’s as capable on the track as it is at everyday life. Each successive generation has been faster, more flexible, more capable.

The difference between an air-cooled 911 and the current 991 is the difference between a finely-crafted mechanical watch and an iPad. The watch does one thing, and does it well. The iPad does everything and does it all better than the watch.

But the watch is not just a watch, whereas the iPad is just a very fancy tool. The craftsmanship that went into making the watch no longer exists and it is therefore irreplaceable. The iPad is only as good as the latest update, and like Apple, only a few months in and Porsche has already released a version that is very slightly improved.

It is the best Porsche yet. The best 911 ever. A technical marvel and an engineering masterpiece and one of the finest pieces of machinery ever made. It is probably the best car I will drive all year.

And I don’t want one.

Porsche Canada provided the car tested and insurance as well as comping the aforementioned on-track driver instruction day. Photos by Kieran McAleer where noted.

991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 - Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer 991 Picture Courtesy Kieran McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Trackday Diaries: the long night, street habits on the track. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trackday-diaries-the-long-night-street-habits-on-the-track/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/trackday-diaries-the-long-night-street-habits-on-the-track/#comments Thu, 15 Jul 2010 16:22:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360926 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 […]

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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.

The last seventy or so miles takes place on a variety of two-lane roads. Now the morning trucks are out. Passing traffic in the Boxster avec trailer is tricky business but it must be done. Finally I’ve arrived and can get set up. Ugh. My latest set of $25 front tires is an inch too tall. They’re 40-series instead of 35-series. Makes a difference. I travel with a prybar for these occasions. I use the prybar to bend the spring mount on the shocks so the wheels will turn and head out.

Summit Main is an old-school track. It’s killed racers, and it’s even killed an HPDE participant as recently as 2007 or thereabouts. I encourage students to treat it with respect. The question I ask them is: “Where is your nose pointed when you are accelerating out of the corner?” Too often, the true answer is “at a wall” instead of “down the track”. If you are pointed at the open track or a nice safe runoff spot when something bad happens, you are likely to still be doing trackdays next year, rather than waiting for the orderlies to come change your diaper and move your arms to a different position for you.

Turn Four is one of my very most favorite places in the world. I’ve borrowed these photos from the Alfa Club.

What you cannot see is that it is seriously downhill and off-camber. Spec Miatas don’t need to lift for it, but they are also usually a bit iffy about full-throttle on the way out. This is what you see at the exit:

The tires on the left are calling your name as you head down the hill full-throttle. I drive this section with full commitment. It’s hard to beat the Boxster through this section; even the well-driven Ariel Atom ahead of me in one session swells a bit in the windshield as we dive to the inside of the 180-degree Turn Five. Once we reach the front straight he blasts off like a tube-frame Space Shuttle.

I have good students this weekend; a fellow in a 993 Carrera and someone with what amounts to a NASA GTS3-class BMW M3. Both of them suffer from what I think of as “street habits.” The first big street habit has to do with brake pressure. Imagine you are coming off the freeway toward the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. How do you slow the car? Obviously, you start with light pressure on the brakes and build as you come closer to the stop sign. Your maximum pressure on the pedal probably happens right before you stop. That’s a street habit. All novice and intermediate drivers do it on the track as well.

What we should be doing is to quickly apply the maximum possible brake force at the brake marker and hold that pressure until we’ve arrived at the proper corner entry speed. Most people have never done this in their lives; maybe once, when a deer jumped out in front of them and stood there waiting for impact. On a racetrack we do it every corner, every time. If you brake too early… well, it didn’t kill you, did it?

Another street habit is unconsciously maximizing g-force in a corner. Imagine that you are at the Tail of the Dragon with all the jerkoffs in their S2000s and the neon rolling GSX-CHICANES. You’ll take each turn in a manner designed to press you into the seat with all the g-force possible, which means going in a little too fast, riding the outside of the corner, and not accelerating until you’re way past the exit. Your brain feels that cornering force and says, “Awesome! We’re really booking along, dude!” Meanwhile, I’ve slowed down more than you did, turned more than you did, and I’ve accelerated out of the corner while you’re marking time.

Both of my students acquire a lot of speed during their eight sessions and pass a lot of their session-mates. This becomes addictive so they start to get a little crazy when cars appear up the road ahead of them. They want to push harder, and the old subconscious tells them they need to go faster in the corners. Without really meaning to, they start turning in early without braking as much. That’s too fast so they correct by turning the steering wheel more, which slows the car. It feels very fast, but now the Corvette ahead of us is getting smaller, not larger. When in doubt, relax and drive your line.

By the end of the first day, I’ve been awake for 22 hours in solid heat, six of which I spent on a racetrack, and I’m totally ready to sleep in a bathtub. Good times! Tomorrow we’ll talk about two more street habits, and how tire heat affects the speed at which you’ll hit a tire wall.

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Trackday Diaries: OSB, ESP, SRT. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:10:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358869 OSB. “Other Sports Beckon”. It’s what Skip Barber instructors reportedly used to write on the report cards of utterly feckless driving students. While the phrase may be long gone, the attitude persists among the instructing community that some people just shouldn’t be in the car. I often hear instructors at various events talking about just […]

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OSB. “Other Sports Beckon”. It’s what Skip Barber instructors reportedly used to write on the report cards of utterly feckless driving students. While the phrase may be long gone, the attitude persists among the instructing community that some people just shouldn’t be in the car. I often hear instructors at various events talking about just how horrible/dangerous/contemptible their students are. That’s not right. We are supposed to be coaching the driver to his or her best possible performance, not humiliating them by listing their flaws.

With that said, some drivers present an active danger to themselves, and to their instructors, on the racetrack. I’ve come up with a few guidelines to keep you, the reader, from becoming one of those people, should you decide to give this open-track business a whirl.

Do some reading. Everyone — and I mean everyone — who wants to set foot on a race track should read Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley. It will cost you ten bucks and possibly save your life. Read it. There will be parts about which you do not care, like the sections on passing during a race and all the parts where Ross complains about his Champ Car being a piece of junk. That’s okay. Read the whole thing. You may not understand it all. In that case, find your instructor before your first track session and ask him. Or you can contact me, personally, using the contact form at TTAC.

Practice the three phases of a corner on the street. The three phases of a corner are: brake, turn, accelerate. We don’t mix them on the racetrack unless we are working to do something very specific with the car’s balance. Practice getting all of your braking done before you turn the wheel into a corner. Don’t accelerate until your steering wheel is straightening out. In the middle of the turn, hold the throttle steady. Do it until it’s a habit. Do you want to kill yourself on a racetrack? The easiest way to do it is to steer and brake at the same time.

Learn to heel and toe, or don’t. It’s okay if you cannot heel and toe. If you cannot, we will keep you in fourth gear for the whole track. Don’t laugh. I did five full trackdays in fourth gear only when I started out. If you complain that you want to shift to “go faster”, I will explain to you that, of the forty-five seconds separating you and me around a racetrack per lap, only two of them are due to gear selection.

This is a race you cannot win. Because it isn’t a race. It’s an open lapping day. I know you will forget this. I know you want to pass people. That’s fine. If you listen to me, you will at least pass the students who ignore their instructors. Then you’ll “win”. Kind of.

Leave your friends, your significant other, and your camera at home. You cannot impress them. All street cars look slow on a racetrack. And you might kill yourself in the attempt. They can come to your first race, and you can then drive into the sand trap on Lap One because you’re so nervous about your friends being at the track.

The above is what I would tell people if they asked me about being prepared for the racetrack. However, they never do. They ask me which car they should buy/borrow/rent and bring. It doesn’t really matter. You will be slow on your first weekend, no matter if you have a Citation or a Corvette ZR1. So don’t worry about it.

That hasn’t satisfied you. You want to know what you should bring. Okay. The most important thing to do is to bring a “stock” car. Slower is better. The guy who spends all day lapping in a rented Camry finishes the day as a better driver than the one who missed two sessions fixing boost issues with his AMS Mitsubishi Evolution 1000XXX. If I could issue a car to every new trackday driver, it would probably be a four-cylinder Accord. They rarely break and you can learn a lot from the feedback provided by the controls.

I’d like you to have ESP/PSM/DSC/whatever. Some people absolutely panic and do the wrong thing on a racetrack. Normally, it’s a bad combination of brake and steering, often in the middle of a turn. ESP can sort that out most of the time. A bad driver “drives on the system”, continually overcooking into turns and brake-steering his way out with all four calipers chattering overtime from the stability system. Don’t be that guy. Use ESP as a safety net, not a crutch. Your instructor will show you how.

Some cars are exceptionally tough to learn with. My student yesterday had a Challenger SRT-8. Big, fast, two-ton cars present a lot of problems for instructors. The brakes fade without warning. The available power upsets the car and engages ESP at the slightest throttle misstep. It’s far too easy to arrive at the next corner at a deadly speed, and the student doesn’t always understand why I feel he is entering the corner too quickly.

By the end of the day, Mr. Challenger was doing just fine, but we spent two of our available four sessions fixing problems mostly brought about by the availability of 425 horsepower in the middle of a slow corner. Had he brought a Chevrolet Cobalt LS, he’d have finished the day a better driver.

I finished my day by driving the five-hundred-something miles home, arriving at 3am. In a few days I’ll be driving at a Grand-Am test day. Driving against the guys you see on Speed TV can be a bit scary. One time last year, during a Koni race, I had a GS-class Porsche run me off the end of the Climbing Esses at VIR. It was somebody I’d cheered on while watching World Challenge races. To this day, although I know I was in the right in that situation, I feel bad about it.

I thought a lot about my test day on the drive home. Long trips alone will make you think. I’m not always sure where I’m going, or why. There’s one thing I do know. For me, this is the sport that beckons.

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