Fun Day at VIR

February 2012

Long time racing buddy Eric Cruz, enjoying business success and doing his bit to shore up the flagging economy, decided to host a day at VIR for some racing friends and other misfits/crazies.  Rooms would be provided at the track lodge and breakfast, lunch and dinner would be provided by the track.  Such a deal!  The day selected/available was Thursday 23 February.  Weather should be an enemy.  Reportedly, The Farmers Almanac promised a nice day.  You gotta believe.  The invitees numbered 13 in January, but had grown to 23 by the track day.  Eric and Jill were most gracious hosts, bringing along the spare FE racecar to put people in.  Lots of people took a turn.

Plan was to drive up Wednesday afternoon, setup and have dinner at the Tavern that night.  I got to the track about 4PM as did several others.  We setup our trailers so the cars could be on the paddock pavement.  Nice to avoid the ground stone in the paddock that sticks to the tires.  About 7PM we were off to the tavern.  (Sean was late, but arrived before dinner was served.)  There was an excellent menu to choose from and libations flowed freely.

Thursday dawned wet and dreary/cold.  Forecast for the day was 70 degrees and sunny ( MY GOD, it is February you know), but the day was having a hard time getting started under a cover of heavy overcast.  After breakfast, the closed wheel guys (a Rx8, Viper, Porsche 914, Porsche 9something modern, Lexus, Caddy ) went out to “dry” the cold track.  The Maisey Racing team vowed to forgo track time until the pavement in the paddock had dried (the sun would have to come out!).  As the morning wore on, the track got better (but not dry) and many of the formula car contingent decided to venture out.  Bob in his vintage Lotus FF and Mark went out.  Mark, sliding off in the esses, came back on the dreaded HOOK.   Right rear corner meet the tire wall and is now scrap.

Sun came out by lunch time and the drying got going in earnest.  After lunch, the Maisey team suited up. This would be the first time I’ve turned a wheel in my new(ish) Piper FF/Honda.  I vowed to proceed with due caution.  I would be trying to do most of my shifts without using the clutch (old habits are hard to break).  Shifting, with or without the clutch, went badly.  In twelve laps at 95% speed, I missed probably 25 shifts.  The car shifts great sitting in the garage, so I obviously need to get comfortable with it.  Practice, practice, practice.   Despite the shifting distraction, I did note that the new Piper handled noticeably better than the Swift.  Much more stable.  I was somewhat pleased with my 2:11 laps given my shifting and caution.   Sean reported that he didn’t like the noise from his gearbox (reassembled last weekend), so he came in early. (A long drive for ten laps.)  Jill, Frank, Thor, Karl, and many others took a few laps in Eric’s FE.  Jill liked it better than the Caddy.

As it turns out, I only have 3 wheels that hold air adequately (Damned split rims!).  The right rear I was using (it was the best of the weak) would lose 6 to 8 psi in a short session.  Not good.  I’ve got lots of wheels to reseal (or replace) before the season begins.  I decided to limit my track time to one more brief session.  Went out again about 2PM and did 7 laps at speed (a prudent person would have done less, Yes).  Even though the rear tire was rapidly going down, I didn’t particularly notice the effect.  The shifting went better (PRACTICE), but was not perfect. 

After getting home, I downloaded the data.  WOW!  Did I ever miss the gear selection?  (So much for Lockwood’s setup notes!)  I was only getting 6100 ish RPMs at the end of the back straight.  Gearing was very wrong: sorta like driving in an “overdrive” gear.