Perhaps the best part about subscribing to my blog (which I absolutely encourage you to do) is that I get the opportunity to inspire frequent visitors to work hard by sharing some aspects of my life I’m extremely passionate about. Even more than marketing, I love cars and Formula 1. Everything about them. I bought my first car months before I was legally allowed to drive it, I remember I had some car problems but fortunately I had a good lawyer which helped me with them. Not a day has gone by from the time I was 16 years old that I haven’t thought about cars in some capacity. Until you experience something your passionate about on this level, you haven’t truly lived, or perhaps I’m just fortunate to have “that something” in my life. I whole-heartedly believe I’ll be an F1 driver in my next life, but until then, I have many chances in the meantime to take part in the various track day events around Southern California.
A few weeks ago, my fiance and I spent a weekend in Palm Springs with some mutual friends. We spent Saturday eating good food (some healthy, some not!), then woke up very early Sunday morning and drove an hour into the desert to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Chuckwalla is a private motorsports facility with a 2.68 mile fixed configuration road course. I ran 5 twenty minute sessions throughout the day, getting progressively more aggressive in my driving throughout the afternoon as I memorized the track layout and became increasingly more confident driving on the limit under the track’s conditions. I take a lot of pride in my car, keeping it in near-show condition year-round, but when a track day comes, I’m not afraid to drive on a knife’s edge and push to the limit to set a fast time.
See what I mean? This isn’t exactly what most people think of when I describe my “grocery getter.” While it’s small and suitable for the street, it’s also a race car for the street. No, it’s not quite the race-prepped Viper or open wheeled Radical frequently seen at the track, but as a passenger, you’ll think twice after a hot lap around Chuckwalla (Just ask Jan, who lost her breakfast after the first session). Of all the things there are in the world to be afraid of, speed definitely isn’t one of them for me. It’s the only place I’m completely fearless, and I’ve never quite understood why. Perhaps it’s the feeling of being protected by the outside of the car? I can assure you, it’s not pleasant losing control in a corner at 70mph, doing a few 360’s before coming to a stop in the sand without ever touching the brakes. Yes, that happened during one of my mid-day sessions. The track temperature got very hot and my tires were struggling for grip. This was even after bleeding 5-7 pounds of air out of each tire. Lower tire pressure helps lower tread temperatures, but also increases sidewall flex and slip angle, which I suspect attributed to my loss of control.
After rejoining the track from the spin, I was on an in lap and the only thing going through my mind was “Did I completely destroy the front end of the car? Uh oh, how much damage did I do?” Jan and I could buy a third car for the amount it would cost to replace the front clam on a Lotus. Fortunately, no damage was done. It was a great day to hone my skills as a driver, and all of my runs were video-recorded with timing data.
I spent the following 2 days cleaning rubber marks off the paint and picking rubber chunks out of the intake and radiator vents. I run a DOT R compound tire, suitable for both track and street conditions. The compound is soft and gets very sticky when hot. When these tires get to optimal operating temperature, chunks of rubber melt off from the lateral friction.
Despite Jan not feeling 100% (especially after riding as passenger during the first session), we still had a great time. The car has been restored to show-like condition, only to return to the track to repeat the process all over again in a couple months.