ChumpCar Race at The Ridge – Part 1

ChumpCar World Series LogoAs I briefly mentioned in a previous post, I participated in my first wheel-to-wheel race last month. I signed up for the ChumpCar World Series and joined The Old Lompoc Special team in their Mazda RX7 for the race. The official name of the race was “Fast Times at Ridge-Mo-Park”, held at The Ridge Motorsports Park of course.

The ChumpCar World Series, for those not familiar with it, is a self described “crap can” endurance racing series designed to make road racing accessible and affordable. In a nutshell, you buy a car valued at under $500, fix it up with some safety equipment, put together a team of about 4 drivers and go racing together. No racing school requirement, no SCCA license needed, and tons of seat time. I’m oversimplifying things a bit but that is the idea at the core. You can learn more about ChumpCar on their website and forums.

For me, this was a very exciting opportunity and a great way to end the season by getting a taste of road racing. I wasn’t looking to build a car for this series myself so I browsed the ChumpCar forums and responded to someone looking for a driver at the 14-hour endurance race at The Ridge. I emailed back and forth with Mike, the team owner, a few times and I agreed to join their team as an “arrive and drive” paying driver. They were the most expensive team to join from the ones I’d inquired with but they also seemed to be the most well organized and professional outfits out there. They offered what I was looking for, a well-put together and tested car, arrive and drive arrangement, and all expenses included in the price.

Race suit

Trying out the racing gear

Preparing for the event I looked over the ChumpCar rules including the necessary safety gear. I’d need to pick up a helmet, race suit and other fire-proof gear. Since I wasn’t ready to buy these outright I searched online for rentals. I found a place online called RaceSuitRental that rents race suit packages specifically for ChumpCar. They provide a great service at a reasonable price and that’s where I got my helmet, suit, shoes, and gloves.

I picked up fireproof under layers locally at 425 Motorsports. I did a good amount of reading on safety equipment and the types of gear needed and learned about the importance of these items as well as a neck restraint system. I added a Hans device to my rental and everything came delivered neatly packed in a Bell duffle bag.

A few things I’d like to point out about race gear for those that haven’t tried some on. It gets HOT in there real quick. Once you’re suited up you’re wearing fireproof underwear, socks, balaclava, suit, gloves, shoes, Hans device, and helmet. That’s part of the challenge of driving a racecar, particularly in an endurance race, and something you may have thought about but it’s just not the same until you put on the gear yourself. It certainly makes me appreciate the guys who do this professionally, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Arriving at the event it was quite a site to behold. Although I’d been to The Ridge several times prior, the atmosphere was certainly different from what I was used to. This is one of the first things I came across walking to the ChumpCar registration tent:

ChumpCar Grill

The registration tent itself was in the spirit of ChumpCar, nothing fancy but they did have some very nice and cleverly designed trophies made out of car parts on display:

ChumpCar Trophies

I have to show of the second place trophy up close as it’s hard to tell the detail work that went into these otherwise. This was one of my favorites:

ChumpCar-Robot-Trophy

After I got myself registered which included having the ChumpCar officials inspect my safety gear, I got a chance to walk around while I waited for my team to arrive (they were driving a big rig from Portland).

I took a chance to take some pictures of the various themed cars I saw around the paddock:

Buzz

Little-Pony

Fail

Partridge-Family

Gangreen

After the truck arrived I met the rest of the team and got the car unloaded:

Unloading

Red-RX7

Once the car was out and gear was starting to get organized for the race the next morning I had a chance to sit in the car and check it out. The first thing I noticed was the drivers seat was too far back for me to comfortably reach the pedals (drawback of being short). We’d have to make some adjustments the next morning before the race.

High Performance Driving at The Ridge

This past Sunday I went back to The Ridge Motorsports Park for one of their High Performance Driving days. The event was hosted by the Ridge Racing School and they had a great turnout on a beautiful summer day.

Ridge-School

The Ridge Racing school currently lists a couple type of events, the High Performance Driving Day and the Ridge Driving Experience. The latter is their introductory course for new drivers while the one I attended is for experienced sport drivers or licensed racers only. I was able to attend this one based on my previous track experience which although not extensive, does include my being approved for solo driving on this track thanks to the Hooked on Driving (HoD) event I attended earlier.

The Ridge is an amazing track and I’d been looking forward to returning here since my first visit with HoD. One of the reasons I chose this date to come back is I’ve recently joined a team for an upcoming ChumpCar Race at The Ridge in a couple of weeks. ChumpCar is an endurance race series for cheap cars.

I’ll be writing more about this after the race but am very excited to be a part of it as this will be my first actual wheel to wheel race (as opposed to lapping days). So coming to The Ridge ahead of that was a great opportunity to refresh my memory of the track and get some practice before the big day.

Ferrari-EntranceOne of the first things I noticed coming in to The Ridge this time around was the types of cars that I was lining up behind upon arriving.

Honestly, I felt a bit out of place at first as it looked more like an exotic car show than a normal lapping day.

So you don’t think I’m exaggerating, I’ll post a sampling of the types of vehicles I saw around the paddock below (say hello to Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, KTM, etc):

Ferrari

Porsche
LamborghiniKTMI quickly got over feeling out of place with my Integra and just took it all in and met a bunch of friendly people who happen to drive very nice cars. The staff at the event were great as well and there’s just a great energy hanging around with a bunch of car and motorsports enthusiasts.

Getting on track again was a blast. I hired an instructor for an hour to help me get back in the groove quickly he was very helpful reminding me about turn in points, track out and car positioning to clean up my line. I found I remembered a good amount of the track but there were a couple of areas I needed to work on.

Early in the day I got a good amount of passing done being pointed by much faster cars. One in particular I found to be a great deal of fun, almost comical. The Lamborghini pictured above was a first timer to the track and I kept catching him in the corners while he just launched away like a rocket in the straightaways. He eventually had to point me by as he was actually going much slower around the whole track. :)

Towards the end of the day I found I was getting pretty quick around the track. The other drivers had gotten up to speed by then but I was certainly holding my own in one of the slower cars on track. I had one other very memorable pass which was also the most exhilarating, being pointed by a late model Porsche 911 with both of us moving at speed on a straightaway. I just had a really good run through turns 3, 4, and 5 leading up to the straight and was going significantly faster. I can already tell I’m going to really enjoy wheel to wheel racing.

Unfortunately, that was short lived as I ended up spinning midway into turn 6 from carrying too much speed. I ended up taking a short off track excursion but luckily didn’t travel very far and came to a safe stop. I re-entered the track after the Porsche passed by, probably wondering what the big dust cloud was about.

I definitely got my money’s worth at this event, got re-acquainted with the track and feel pretty comfortable and fast through the turns. I even found the entry speed limit to turn 6, so overall a great day of learning. Until the next time!

 

4th of July at Pacific Raceways

Usually the 4th of July is when the weather in Washington decides it’s the official start of Summer and this year was no exception. Since it fell on a Wednesday it meant no long weekend but instead an opportunity to go back to the track.

Pacific Raceways

Pacific Raceways was having a drivers school and afternoon lapping day on the 4th hosted by ProFormance Racing School. Since they usually hold lapping days at this track on weekdays, I hadn’t been able to make it out since I work during the week. This was a perfect opportunity for me to get some seat time on the track closest to home (about 45 minutes away).

ProFormance Racing SchoolI called ProFormance to ask about their all day driver’s school program and spoke with the owner, Don Kitch. He recommended I go for the afternoon lapping day with a coach instead since I’d already had prior track experience, just not at this particular track. That worked out great as not to repeat classroom stuff I’d already been through but also get someone to show me the line on this track.

Integra-PaddockI arrived at the track and saw there were several cars already there for the high performance driver school that started in the morning. This group was still in the classroom session when I arrived so I got some time to empty out the car and look around before they went out on course and I could register. There were a few other afternoon lappers but not a large group which I figured would mean less traffic on the track. This is a good thing when first learning a new track, less people coming up fast behind you to have to point by.

In the paddock I saw a Lotus 2 Eleven which I hadn’t seen before and talking with the owner learned is a rare car, so I had to get a couple of pictures.

Lotus-2-Eleven

As the first group headed out to their cars to grid, I met my coach Michael outside before going in to register. At registration I met Don Kitch and he gave me a ProFormance log book and I filled out some paperwork. It’s kind of funny, but in the course of a few short months I have 3 logbooks now (SCCA Time Trials, Hooked on Driving, and now one from ProFormance). These are actually very helpful as the purpose is for you to document what you learned, particular turns on the track you want to remember, and areas to work on. I’m actually being quite diligent here and making some good notes because I see the value in that, just as in writing down my experiences here.

After registration we had a short drivers meeting where Don went over the track, flags, passing protocol, and general safety information. Now that I’ve been to a couple of these I can identify some of the subtle differences you’ll encounter on different tracks. Things like passing protocol may differ between tracks or groups you run with. For example, at Hooked on Driving they required one point by for each car. That means you stick your hand out of the window to point one car by and then bring your hand back in. If there was a second car behind the first, you would stick your hand out again for that second car, and so on. With ProFormance, you would instead leave your hand out and subsequent vehicles could pass until you put your hand back in the car. Similarly, passing zones were marked by green and red cones at Pacific Raceways whereas they were blue at The Ridge. These are all fairly minor differences but it’s important for all the drivers to be on the same page for safety.

After a short break I met up with Michael and we were ready to go on track. As I’d seen in previous events, the instructor would drive your car on course for a couple of laps to show you the line so we’d be doing the same here. Pacific Raceways has fewer turns than the Ridge but the track layout is still quite technical so I knew it would take me some time to get used to it.

Pacific-Raceways-Track-Map

We came back on track and switched seats and headed back out. The first few laps Michael walked me through each turn helping me put the car in the right place as he’d shown me when he was driving. We were going slower and I pointed a few cars by so that we could drive at a speed where Michael could call out the turns and give me instruction.

After those few laps we came back off track to discuss a couple of turns. Turn 2 is a sweeper that requires a similar technique I practiced at The Ridge. I needed to turn in and set the wheel, maintain throttle, have the car come in to the apex on it’s own, then apply throttle gradually and let the car track out to the edge. I avoided my previous habit of trying to accelerate while turning but I was turning in too early. This made me reach the inside of the turn too soon and made me go slower. Michael suggested I follow this seam on the track which would keep the car more on the outside of the turn. Also, on turn 3a I needed to turn sharply to the right and keep the steering wheel set as I had a tendency to try to unwind too early. This is the slowest section of track, it’s downhill and banked so it took a bit of getting used to, but it is actually a really fun turn once I got the hang of it.

We continued sessions of a couple of laps and stopping for feedback which was very helpful. I started to learn the track by turn number and improve my use of the track with “you paid for the track, use all of it” coaching from Michael. Another thing he mentioned I was doing was braking for too long, causing the brakes to heat up and start to fade. I needed to brake a little later and harder to slow the car faster and minimize the amount of times I was on the brakes to allow them to cool.

After a break Michael approved me for solo driving and handed me the ProFormance track license which allows me to drive the track solo at their events. I went back out and practiced what I’d learned and was able to carry more speed through the turns. I really started to feel comfortable on the track and can now visualize all the turns in my mind. Towards the end of the day about 15 minutes before the event ended I noticed my fuel gague was almost at empty (I had filled the tank just before the event). Also I was experiencing more brake fade going through the turns so I decided that was a good time to end.

Checkered-Flag

Overall it was a great day on the track in beautiful summer weather. I learned the track and am now approved to drive Pacific Raceways solo on lapping days. I’ve improved my line in the sweeper and am able to hit the apex and accelerate out much better. I also worked on my braking and transitions so overall feeling much smoother and quicker.

One thing I’ve learned is the value of working with coaches/instructors. In particular, when learning a new track I find it saves a ton of time over having to try and figure out all this stuff on my own. I figure if I am paying for track time anyway, I might as well pay a bit more to learn the line from someone who really knows it and can help me make the most out of my  day.

One of the things I should mention is the big difference I saw in the wear on a warm summer day vs driving in the wet/rain. I used a full tank of gas just in afternoon lapping as the straightaway was pretty fast, reaching just about 120 mph in the Integra. I definitely saw some tire wear but not huge, just noticeable. What did get alot of wear was the brakes, not helped by my earlier mistake of staying on the brakes too long. They were already a bit worn from the previous track days but this time around I used up whatever was left.

Brakes-GoneWhen I exited to the paddock at the end of the day I heard some squealing and upon checking the brakes it looks like the rear’s were pretty much completely gone and the fronts were pretty low. I had enough left to get home but am leaving the car parked for a few days and have ordered some new brakes and rotors all around. The squealing is not too loud when driving, but I found that going in reverse is very loud so I took this video so you can see what I mean:

As I told Michael when he asked how it went at the end of the day, “I’m out of gas and out of brakes, it was a great day.”

Hooked on Driving – Part 2

At the lunch break the instructors conducted “demos” where they would drive their own cars and take students along for a ride on the track. I had the chance to ride along with another instructor in Don’s Lotus Elise and that was a blast! The car definitely feels very purpose built for the track, and handles more like a kart than a car in how precise it felt in steering and overall responsiveness.

Don's-Lotus-EliseLater in the day Don invited me to ride along with him in the car as well and he demonstrated more of the smoothness we had been working on in my car and it further illustrated where I needed to focus my practice. He really was making very minimal turns of the wheel, smoothly setting it, and then using the throttle to make minor adjustments throughout the turn. He definitely showed a driving level I aspire to get to with more practice so I really appreciated that experience.

We then went out for more laps and I was starting to feel much more confident about the turns on the track. Don did a great job of figuring out where I was skill wise and pushing me to get better. He had me braking later at the straightway as I had a tendency to lift a bit early and brake earlier than I needed to (from doing a bit over 100 mph on the main straight). He kept reminding me to use maintenance throttle (not accelerating or decelerating) during the turns and helped me with my shift points during braking. All of these things resulted in my going incrementally faster. I was starting to get pointed by to pass by higher performance cars and that was a blast.

Colin's-Porsche-944After one of the breaks I took the time to walk around a bit and talk with some of the other drivers. I had noticed earlier in the day someone had a Porsche 944 on track so I looked for the car and went to meet the owner. I met Colin, who told me he’d recently bought the car a few weeks back and loved it. It’s a lower horsepower car but he found it to be great for learning without extra power masking your mistakes or getting you into trouble. So far it looks like that may be the right car for me to get as a race car so I was glad to have a chance to chat with him.

Porsche-911As I walked around I took the time to snap some more pictures of other cool cars I saw in the paddock and I came across a very serious looking race prepped Porsche 911. The owner turned out to be one of the instructors and I chatted with him briefly about the car. He then offered me a ride in it, and I jumped at the chance! Now this was probably one of the highlights of the day. I got in the car and strapped in the 5 point harness of the racing seat and we went out. The first lap felt absolutely like a roller coaster ride. Although I’d been out on track both in my car and as a passenger in the Lotus, this was definitely way faster. This thing was fiercely loud and just ate up the track spectacularly. We got pointed by several cars and it was just a blast lap after lap.

I went back on track in my car for the remainder of the day and continued working on my skills. Later in the day Don approved me for solo, which means I could go on track on my own without an instructor riding with me. This allowed me to continue practicing on my own and by the end of the day I really felt things were clicking for me. I was able to implement Don’s instruction and could see I was carrying alot more speed through the turns while at the same time doing so more smoothly. This is a great and addicting feeling, when you can get the car to just fly through the track almost at the limit in a very controlled fashion with the minimum steering inputs needed.

trackOverall this was an amazing track day and a great value for the amount of instruction and experiences I got that day. I’m now approved for solo on two local tracks and have come a long way in terms of driving ability on the track. I can’t say enough good things about Don and the Hooked on Driving team of instructors and I’ll definitely be looking out for their future events.

Hooked on Driving – Part 1

The Ridge EntranceAfter my first track day at Bremerton, I looked at the schedule for upcoming events and saw there was something coming up the next weekend at The Ridge Motorsports Park. With the motorsports season well underway and summer weather in Washington starting to peek through, I felt up to tackling a larger track right away and continue the momentum in developing my new skills.

This event was hosted by Hooked on Driving, a race and performance driving school that  hosts events at various tracks throughout the country (I learned this after visiting their website). This was again a bit of a leap from the previous event both in terms of cost and venue. I was definitely pretty excited at the prospect of learning a new track, one that was not only new to me, but newly constructed.

Driving to The Ridge is just under a 2 hour ride, but not too bad early on a Saturday morning (I left around 5:30 am to get there by 7:30 am). Since my commute to work is only about 20 minutes it was actually nice to go for a long drive, especially when anticipating a fun track day. The weather was cooperating for the most part, although it did rain lightly on and off early on. I arrived at the track, parked next to a couple of Corvettes, and proceeded to the big yellow Hooked on Driving tent for registration.

Hooked-on-Driving-TentThere I picked up a loaner helmet, a new logbook, and group A sticker for the windshield. Group A is the beginner group as they also offer intermediate and advanced groups so you can run the track with drivers of similar ability levels safely. I got my car unloaded of all loose items and took a few minutes to walk around the paddock and check out a bunch of the cars driving that day. I found it pretty fun to see my car parked next to all these exotics and high performance sports and race cars.

Acura-Integra-PaddockThe day officially started with the morning drivers meeting where Hooked on Driving regional owner Don Clinkinbeard gave away some prizes for their referral program including sets of Pirelli tires (Pirelli was one of the event sponsors) and free track days. I’ll definitely have to keep this in mind next time since I didn’t know about it before then.

The first next thing for me was a group A classroom session led by Don where he explained the schedule for the day and asked us all to introduce ourselves and say why we were there. For many people this was their first track day and just wanted to drive their cars fast in a safe environment.

Acura-Integra-on-GridSince I had already been out on a track, my goal was to learn this track and develop my skills. We then proceeded to review some slides on safety, flags, the track, and were told to line up our cars on the grid and wait for instructors to take us out on the track for our first couple of laps.

As I was waiting on the grid for an instructor to come by, it looked like they were running short on instructors so Don himself would be instructing me. That was pretty exciting and I was looking forward to learning alot from him. We went out on our first few laps with him driving and we were able to talk to each other via connected headsets in the helmets. I had mentioned to Don previously that I had done the PDX at Bremerton and he told me The Ridge would be very different, and he was right.

The-Ridge-Track-MapThis track was alot larger and more technical, with blind corners, elevation changes, and a long sweeper. It was a bit overwhelming the first few times around the track but I definitely got a sense of how well Don knew the track with him at the wheel.

We then switched drivers and I had my turn on the track. While we were on grid waiting in line we talked some more and he mentioned he brought his Lotus Elise he would be driving later in the day but also owned a Porsche 944 Turbo. This was great to learn as I have been researching the 944 Spec series as a goal and asked his advice on racing in that series. He told me the most important thing there is to be a good driver. The 944 Spec series has evenly matched cars so it’s not about upgrading the cars to go faster but about driving well. This is why I’ve been particularly interested in starting in a spec series, I’m more interested in developing as a driver and competing on skill to minimize the variables to deal with starting out.

My first laps on the track we started slow and I started to learn the line, braking points, turn in points, corner apexes, and landmark reference points (trees in the distance, patches of grass that stood out). Also important was learning the location of the flaggers at the worker stations and identifying the passing zones marked by blue cones. It’s alot to keep up with the first time on a new track but my previous track day made it feel less overwhelming and having an instructor in the car talking me through the turns was great.

As we continued through the lapping session I picked up more speed and started to be a bit more consistent hitting the apexes and following landmark references. Landmarks turned out to be particularly important at The Ridge because you have to rely on them to point the car in the right direction when coming up on blind uphill turns where you don’t see the apex cone until you’re over the hill. We used tree tops as a way to orient the car at various places on the track which worked great.

The-Carousel

The Carousel, see white apex cone off in the distance

I also learned to navigate a long sweeping turn (The Carousel) where you turn the car in at the turn in cone and set the wheel, turn your head towards a far away apex cone, and just use maintenance throttle to let the car gradually arc inwards patiently until it gets to the apex. This is easier said than done, as this was an area I had trouble with and kept trying to accelerate while turning. This just caused the car to push outwards (understeer) and miss the apex. This is something I struggled with through the day and finally improved on towards the end with repeated practice.

As I got faster navigating the track, I ended up catching up to other cars and at one point was trailing a blue BMW M3. At one of the turns it looked like he lifted off the throttle mid turn and ended up spinning out right in front of us. The instructor saw it coming and had me slow down as the other car spun off towards the right side of the track and stalled the engine. Earlier Don had mentioned the importance of maintenance throttle and not lifting on some of the turns so this was a great first hand demonstration of what happens if you do (without me having to spin out).

We covered this and other aspects in the following classroom session.  One of the most valuable things I learned from Don was the importance of not only being smooth but making a turn with the wheel and setting it, holding it steady and making any adjustments with the throttle instead of the wheel. This was again, throttle steering, which I’d experienced in the wet in Bremerton but got more practice here with a semi dry track (it had been sprinkling earlier in the day) and then on a dry track in the afternoon.

My First Track Day – SCCA PDX

Ever since my first experiences with autocross I knew I wanted to get more involved with motorsports and some day try road racing. This summer I made the leap and decided to take action on that goal.

I went to the SCCA website and found the next upcoming Performance Driving Experience (PDX) event and registered. The PDX is the very first introductory level event for road racing. It was my opportunity to get out on a road course with my daily driver (1999 Acura Integra GS-R) which I had autocrossed so many years back.

I found a wealth of information online both at the SCCA website but also at this site called Go Ahead – Take the Wheel. They break down how to get started road racing, the various types of events, what to bring, how to prepare, what to expect, etc. It’s an truly excellent resource that I not only recommend but will continue to reference throughout my journey.

This PDX event was held at Bremerton Motorsports Park here in Washington which is about an hour and a half from where I live. I had to get up pretty early on a Saturday morning to get there by 8:00 am with enough fuel in the car to make it through the day. You burn up fuel much faster when racing than you do driving normally so it’s good to fill up before getting to the track.

The morning started with a tech inspection of the car and getting a loaner helmet from the club. So far this was the same as it is in autocross so it felt immediately comfortable. We then went on a track walk with the lead instructor, David Jackson. Again, this was similar to autocross but now we were on a much bigger track. Interestingly, I think Bremerton is the ideal track for a first time road course experience for someone like me having previous autocross experience.

Bremerton Track Map – Click to enlarge

Bremerton is a track on an airfield and the course is defined by cones and larger pylons just like an autocross track. The difference is there were much fewer cones, not as many turns, and a very long straightaway allowing for much faster speeds. Also, there were concrete walls in the middle of the course so I was certainly keenly aware that spinning out in the wrong place would not be the same as in autocross where there is usually nothing but cones to hit. David had some great stories to tell from his many years of racing experience and he did a great job of dispensing advice.

After the track walk we went into the classroom session with the PDX group where David started going over a presentation. We then went to perform some exercises near the paddock area. They set up a coned slalom course, again very familiar from autocross. This was a two part exercise, the slalom followed by threshold braking section to stop in between two cones. Threshold breaking is braking has hard as you can at the right time to have the car stop exactly where indicated. It was fun to hear the ABS come on at the end of each run, I don’t normally get to feel that in my car. It took a couple of tries to get the car stopping at marked location as I found I was braking too early.

My white Integra on grid

From there it was back to a classroom session where we talked about flags and their meanings. It’s important to know where the flag workers are located throughout the track as you’ll have to watch for flags during the race. This was all prep to go onto the track which we did next. We each had instructors drive our cars for two laps to show us the racing line and for us to find the corner workers. Then we switched and drove the rest of the session with instructors riding with us. This is where it really gets exciting!

The first few laps were getting acquainted with the track layout, which was not that hard at Bremerton. Listening to feedback from my Instructor Harley Johnson was very helpful and I learned I could take turns 3 and 4 (see track map) in a higher gear (3rd instead of 2nd in my car) and was able to carry more speed through those corners.

Throughout the day I continued working on threshold breaking after the 100 mph straight on the track. The fun part for me was not so much going 100 mph but the change in speed threshold breaking from 100 mph down to make a tight left turn at the end of the straight into turn 1. I was still breaking a bit early and each lap I continued to brake a little later as I got closer to the turn in point. Then I had my first off track excursion when I experienced brake fade, braking a bit too late and essentially missing the turn altogether. Harley saw I was going to miss it and just motioned me to continue going straight as there was a runoff road at the end of that turn. That was totally unexpected and I wasn’t sure what to do for a moment so that mistake was a great learning experience. I went off track to a safe distance from the turn in case other cars missed it as well. I then turned the car around and waited for the nearby corner worker to wave us back onto the track (this had caused a local yellow flag).

That was the last lap of the morning run and upon returning to the paddock I was signaled to stop by the lead instructor. He wanted to “have a word” and asked me what happened. I explained I hit the brakes late and experienced fade. He said I did the right thing (of course, I had help from my instructor Harley riding in the car with me) but that was a great learning experience. I don’t plan on going off track much but now I know what to do in that situation, always focused on safety.

Later in the day it suddenly started pouring rain. We are in Washington state after all, go figure. This made things even more interesting as puddles quickly turned the track into a mess for the other prepared cars with race tires (very little or no tread). We waited out the rain a bit and David went out with safety workers to inspect the track. When he saw it had dried enough he sent our PDX group out first since we were on street tires. That would help clear the track of standing water for the rest of the field.

This was actually a blast. I got to feel the car slide around a bit but I felt I could control very precisely where I put the car just by holding the wheel steady and using the throttle (called throttle steering). This is much easier to do in the wet because you can experience it at slower speeds.

I got my share of blue flags (faster cars coming up behind) and practiced point by’s (sticking your hand out of the window and pointing another car by so they can safely pass). The format of the event is strictly about learning and not racing other cars so there was no pressure there and could just focus on being a safe driver and learning the track.

Another flag I experienced was a red flag, meaning come to a complete stop off the side of the track near the flag station. It turned out a deer came out of the woods and ran onto the track so they had to stop the whole field to ensure nobody hit the deer or got their car hit by the deer. I’m told you don’t normally get a red flag on course unless something really bad happend so this was a good one to experience without someone being hurt or cars being damaged.

Overall this PDX was a great experience and definitely got me ready for the next time I could get on a race track.