Day at the Track
Got an email, last track day of the year is the upcoming weekend at Pacific Raceway. I’ve always wanted to do it, have a credit that I need to use… got new tires… why not? The day will consist of 4 runs on 30 minutes each. $220 seems steep, $110/hour, but I guess it’s the going rate and would be a shame to never drive the car on the track.
John Walker is too busy to inspect car so I take it to Chris’ German. They’re really nice guys, find time to fit me in at short notice, and wow do they have some amazing cars around their shop.
Car has no issues, clear to run.
I leave my house at 6am to arrive at gate opening at 7am, I don’t get lost so arrive early and get to hang in the dark with the volunteers. Some very fancy new vehicles there but still surprisingly large interest in my car.
Pass their inspection and park. And wait. Being in the novice group my first run is at 10:30. Fair bit of socializing but really there isn’t much to do. I wait and am thankful I brought a chair and the latest issue of the New Yorker.
My instructor is a carefully spoken guy, very slick and deliberate. He takes the car for 3 laps with me watching the line, then it is my turn.
I’m in the novice group and am surprised by the speeds of the other drivers. Most of them have been on the track before and are driving alone. The fast guys are in a pair of 991s… I need to point them by in the safe zones, hard to fit my arm out the window. At first I chug around the track in 3rd, just paying attention to turn in point and learning how to commit with one turn of the steering wheel. Slowly find the limits. Wow the tires are sticky.
In second session I start going faster, up to about 120mph on the straight, and finally start to pass people myself. At least some of the other new guys are having trouble with their lines so are slow in the corners, then at the end of the corner they stomp it and pull away. The 3.6L cayman is a problem, all his torque gets him up to speed quickly but he’s very slow in the corners.
My car feels wonderful in the corners, I’m able to accelerate out of turn 2 and drift out to a few feet of the exit cone. Would be bad to overcook that corner!
And mostly that is the goal for today, understand the corners enough to know you don’t want to go off the track. Maybe get checked off at the end of the day to drive solo.
Turns 2, 3a and 3b, the twin hairpins, are probably my best corners given that it is where I need to tailgate faster drivers. I’ve started to downshift into 2nd for turns 3a and 3b, which gets me better turn in by slight lift, and also full fast boost on exit down the back straight.
The cayman is quite annoying, doesn’t want to let me by even though he’s holding me up everywhere except the straightaway. I let the faster cars by, then go back to tailgating him. He’s really off-line.
Finally he lets me by and I zoom off.
At the end of the second session my car is quite hot, oil is between the middle and the red. I let car idle for a few minutes before shutting it off. Walking around the car I understand why you don’t set your ebrake, the wheels are very hot from the braking!
Third session goes well, I pass the cayman and the hot rod turbocraft 930. Having a fine time learning the line, delaying my turn in to turn 8 which precedes the long straight. I’m never able to “get” that turn though. I’m not carrying enough speed to be on boost in 3rd, probably I should downshift but instructor says I just need to carry more speed though in order to have boost. I sort of suspect he’s wrong there, my 3rd gear is quite high but I stick with it.
Turn 1 is at the end of the straight, a slight right kink leading to turn 2. As you pass turn 1 you exit the drag strip so there’s an elevation change. Car is not so settled there at 120+ mph so keep my speed a little lower.
In fourth session instructor says he’s just watching, will offer no advice. After 8 or so laps someone reported seeing oil puff from my car so I was black flagged to come off for a check. No oil found, probably it was a drip onto the headers but since session is almost over I decide to call it a day. Instructor signs me off for solo driving if I do this again.
Drive home on freeway car feels fine. I’m glad I did it but really not nearly the intense and abusive experience I was expecting. In contrast the driver skills class at Bremerton airfield was utterly exhausting since there was no down time. With the track day I felt like I was waiting around too much. Not nearly the value of driver skills.
Arriving home it is still light out and engine is nice and warm, figure it’s the best time ever to change the oil.
When pouring the oil from catch pan into travel container I notice a bunch of carbon granules in the bottom of the pan. I reach into the oil tank with my finger and find more granules there. What the heck? This sounds like the oil was coked by the turbo due to hot shutdown. Bummer! I guess I wasn’t careful enough about idling before shutdown…
I remember reading about this happening to others, except that they discovered the granules by finding their engine making awful sounds. On teardown they found the cam spray ports blocked by the coked oil, lack of lubrication meant destroyed lifters and maybe even cams. Full rebuild required.
I add the new oil – which I had just last week decided to change to mobile 1 0w40 – run engine for a minute or so to build pressure and then engine off until I can read and decide on next steps…