|Pick Your Number They Said! 77 I Says!|
How was your weekend? What did you do Saturday? (your answer here)
Here's my answer: DRIVING ON TRACK
|POCONO Raceway with NASA NE|
We Drove the South and East-Yellow/White Part
Got up at 0430, which is right about 4:30AM, dropped off Julie at LaGuardia airport, and then drove thru NYC to Pocono Raceway. Hey, any day that starts with getting to a ridiculous airport, thru NYC, across Jersey, and into the country in PA is already a pretty good day! Even with rain along the way, it was fun, with a full day of driving on track still coming up! At this point I had no complaints, since my better half was stuck in a plane for 2 hours on the ground in the same rain. Eventually we both got where we were going!
0730, sign in, park, find my instructor Peter Raymond, register, get the car briefly inspected for safety, and then it's time for several iterations of driver's meetings, classroom "learning" about track driving, SIX 20 minute sessions driving the NMS Abarth on track, and since that was NOT enough, I spent several other 20 minute sessions riding along with my great instructor in his Spec E30 BMW race car on track. Without going into the blow-by-blow and minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour or too-many-hyphenated-cliches, it was a ton of fun!
|Check out NASANE.COM for Driving!|
OK, I also learned a lot, got some good experience driving in WET and DRY, saw some things on course I'd never seen (other drivers spinning, a dry course turning wet, and the ever popular lightning which is unsafe for the course workers so you get off track), and had fun! Did I mention the fun part? The fun part happened when...exactly at...when that guy....ALL DAY!
On the other hand, some things didn't go according to plan, such as my Check Engine Light came on, so I just pulled off track into the pit area, checked a few things, and then decided to cut that session short to see what was what. After a while I remembered the only other time the FIAT threw a code was due to a loose gas cap! So, I check the gas cap, and it was a little loose, obviously caused by driver error when I fuelled up right before the event. Long story short, I drove it anyway, even with the light, and sure enough by the last driving session the CEL went out. My car likes to keep the CEL on for a while, so it usually takes a few miles of driving or X number of on/off engine starts to clear the error light.
|Joe Casella Leads the Classroom Session for Drivers|
Also not planned, some rainy sessions, and some dry sessions. This was really a good thing, since driving in the wet is more challenging. The rain hit one time when I was riding with my instructor Peter in his car, and we kind of saw the rain coming, and then it hit in a corner right at the end of the back straight, so with race tires on and having gone directly from dry to wet we came close to sliding off track, so that was kind of exciting! The real racers have dry and rain tires, so I can better understand why you need to be on the right tires! Then for a few laps we had some wet track in a few corners, while the rest of the track was dry, so that was challenging to say the least! After a bit of that we got off track and waited to see what the weather was going to do.
Then, in one of my afternoon driving sessions, the course started dry, but then with dark clouds overhead, I spotted a black flag (meaning come into the pit and get off track) as my instructor spotted some lightning. While you're probably safe in a car with visible lightning, the course stops to keep the course workers safe, since they're out there in the weather with no protection. So, that session was a bit short, and once the weather cleared things got back on schedule.
|Peter Raymond's BMW|
Also on the not-perfect world, when I got to the track the passenger window didn't quite go all the way down (have to have windows down on track, it's a safety thing), and then it wouldn't go up either. At lunch time I took the interior door panel off and tried to get the glass back in the track but had no luck, so the rest of the day I had loose glass rattling around inside the door, so now I have an appointment for the glass shop to fix it up (under warranty since it's a new piece of glass). To say the least, driving home for a few hours with the window open was a lot of fun IF YOU LIKE LOUD NOISES!
Back to the good stuff, my instructor helped me learn the track and where to place the car in the corners by driving my car the first few laps during the 1st morning session, and this was a GREAT strategy for teaching that helped me a lot. I'm convinced that this cut down the learning time to achieve the same results if I'd just started driving first. With this type of track event, the intent is to make the driver smoother, and not to worry about lap times, not to go buy a McLaren, and not to race the other students driving on track. Shoot, if I win the lottery maybe I'll buy a McLaren anyway, but as Spider Man says, "with great power comes great responsibility." Or was it Iron Man? Whatever.
|Those Garages Look Dry Inside!|
We had specific passing zones on track, and also the following driver isn't allowed to pass on the straight until the lead driver gives them the "point-by" on the left or right. This makes the passing very predictable, which is important for newbies on track, and made me feel safe too! I pointed plenty of cars past me, and I also passed a few cars, so it was fun doing that too. A few times I was stuck behind a train of 4-5 cars, and with limited passing room my instructor had me pit in, and wait for some clear spot on track to come back out and not have to slow down for other cars. In a way that was pretty fun too, although I'm still not ready for IndyCars, but they'll be racing at Pocono next weekend if you want to watch them.
Hey, here's a video of some track action. This is on part of the infield course at Pocono, just the 2nd session of the day, so it's drying nicely. For the entertainment part, go to 13:30 and watch the 4th car up ahead spin out on a left hander that I'm approaching. The corner worker was all over it, and practically was waving the yellow caution flag and checking on the driver incredibly fast!