Monday, October 11, 2021

Drove on a Track, Had a Blast, VOL. 1

NMS Cayman at Turn 1, Watkins Glen Track Walk


This past weekend I ventured up to Watkins Glen for the second time this year, and drove in eight driver education sessions with the NASA-Northeast folks, and it was AWESOME! After my visit in July and working with a great instructor, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to drive the track, and some areas I wanted to improve, so over the weekend that's exactly what I did!

Thanks Julie for everything!


FRIDAY night: My wife and I drove to the track for the 5:30pm "Track Walk." For big time racers, they will always have a scheduled time that they can walk the track, examine the pavement, make note of all the flag stations, run-off areas, and notice all the important stuff like that. For us not at the pro level, and given the length of Watkins Glen, the "Track Walk" was really a "Get in your car and we'll meet at a few key spots around the circuit, get our of your car, and listen to the instructor highlight what you need to be paying attention to in that spot." No matter what you call it, it's fun to do, and really puts the spotlight on the elevation changes at this track. I think from the bus stop and then through the carousel, to turn 6, and down to turn 7 in the toe of the "boot" it's something like 140 feet of elevation change. That's a lot! Oh, and then of course, the track magically goes UP that same amount eventually! Funny thing about a track like that, you keep driving and driving and end up where you started!
Green Lotus


Saturday and Sunday it was a bit damp in the early morning session, but then dried out for the rest of the day. While at first it doesn't sound like fun to be driving on a big track in the light rain (with your window down of course) but in reality you learn more. You learn to drive safely, stay off the slippery shiny stuff like the curbs and painted lines, and doing it at a slower speed than in the dry is a good idea! 

Green Porsche 911 with enormous wing


To be honest, I was in a big group of beginners with instructors, and those of us just a little more experienced without instructors, and we had some big traffic problems where the beginner/slower drivers were just getting used to having to deal with track driving AND with other drivers wanting to pass them AND in the wet, so it's understandable that it was a bit slow. By Sunday, and especially Sunday afternoon, I think everyone was much improved in keeping the traffic flowing, so that was fun. The main point of driver education like this is SAFETY, so we kept it safe. The more advanced drivers (groups 3 and 4, the instructors, the racers, the time-trialers) had their own separate track time sessions, so I have to point out that they all have more experience and are going faster than the rest of us. 

Mustang and Miata on track, home straight


A big part of the being at the track for a weekend is meeting to other drivers, learning from them (and in the classroom sessions,) and just hanging out and checking out all the other cars. Holy smokes, there are some nice cars out there! For this blog post I'll just share some photos of the weekend, then next time on the blog I'll talk more numbers and driving stuff! Like I said, I had a blast! 

A couple of spec racer BMWs


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