Before We got on track, we...
Before We got on track, we wanted to protect project Stolen Goods, as the paint on our 4,500-mile car is pretty nice. To accomplish that, we contacted ISC Racer's Tape in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, and ordered up a 4-inch roll of its Surface Guard Tape (PN HT4128). Surface Guard is a clear urethane paint protection tape that is so tough, a dull razor blade won't even penetrate it. If you plan to do more than just the front of the car, you may want to order another roll.
Then it was our turn to get behind the wheel and drive the track at a leisurely speed. This is to get you briefly acquainted with the track and its various turns. The instructor will point out braking areas, apex points, and the general "racing line" to follow. Driving the track at a relaxed clip allows you to talk with your instructor more easily and learn the track without being a giant bundle of nerves. Driving your first lap "balls out" will just slow down your progress, as there's a lot to take in, and you won't be able to absorb that information if you're flying around a track that you've never driven on.
Will Franssen was appointed as our instructor, and where most tutor two students-one in the beginner and one in the novice class-we were lucky to have Will dedicated just to us. It gave him more track time in his own '97 Rio Red Cobra as well. Will was one of many instructors who traveled a great distance for the event, as he calls Montrose, Pennsylvania home. There were instructors from California and Canada as well.
After our get-acquainted laps, we headed back to the pits and into the classroom where Jeff Lacina waited to share his knowledge. Our first class session included a brief explanation of the driving line, and such things as approach, braking, turn-in, apex, and track out. Lacina also explained car balance, how the weight of the vehicle is dynamic, and how it shifts around during driving. While we were in class being sponges, the instructors and solo run groups ran, but soon it was our turn to get behind the wheel once more.
Your author already had a good understanding of the concepts up to this point, so most of the on-track time was spent getting to know what Stolen Goods would do at the limit, how hard we could push it, and learning the track and the driving line. Each session lasts about 20 minutes, and driving at speed for that long will expose any weakness your ride might have, not to mention wear you down mentally and physically. At the conclusion of our session, we parked Stolen Goods in the pits and left the key on to circulate the coolant and keep the electric fan running to cool down the car. We'd detected a bit of tire rubbing on the inner fenderwells, so we went to the back of the car to check out the rear tires' inner sidewalls.
What we found was actually a pretty big fuel leak, one that could have become a fiery situation had we not noticed it. The plastic line from the fuel filter to the tank somehow came in contact with the exhaust pipe and melted through the foam padding. We're not sure how this happened, as the line wasn't touching the pipe when we saw it, and we had previously tie-wrapped the lines before. Seeing the gas drip down on the hot tailpipe was disheartening, but we didn't give up that easily. A trip to the Steeda trailer netted just enough high-pressure fuel line and some clamps to replace the burned one, and we enlisted Stephen Leu and Mike Pogue from the nearby Nitto Tire trailer to help lower the full gas tank.
We ended up missing the last two sessions and classes on Saturday, but we were ready for Sunday morning, which once again started with an 8:00 a.m. mandatory driver's meeting followed by the first class of the day. We learned about the brain-eyes-hand-foot connections and how they affect driving on the track. Having had some time on the track, many of the students also had questions, which Lacina fielded. He also reiterated the concepts of car balance from the day before. This is essential for students, as repetition helps them remember the concepts amid the barrage of information they receive from the instructors, their cars, and the track itself.
The Surface Guard tape is...
The Surface Guard tape is nearly invisible once applied. We did a rush job the morning of our track day and still came away with decent results. Taking more time would eliminate the majority of air bubbles. If you have a daily driver that gets pelted with a lot of road debris, you may want to use this tape and wrap up your ride.
Saturday Night featured a...
Saturday Night featured a dinner banquet, and a number of prizes were given out through a raffle. Lacina talked about the recent acquisition of the SVTOA by another party and how it looks to be a much better fit than its previous owners. We also heard from some of the event sponsors such as Steeda Autosports.
Will Franssen was our instructor....
Will Franssen was our instructor. He's a great guy whose constructive criticism never sounds like criticism at all. When he's not coaching, Franssen likes to blast straightaways and bang turns behind the wheel of his '97 Cobra.