Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Followed by a whole lot of AWESOME

So yeah: MazdaDrivers put on a craptastic event. And I have it on good authority, and from multiple sources, that they won't have the chance to fail so dramatically again.

But Trackdaze and NASA? Epic.

I hit the Trackdaze HPDE @ Summit Point Main a couple of weeks ago, and while attendance was way off, the experience sure wasn't. With fewer than 20 cars in each run group (and only about 10 on the 2nd day), the track was wide open, and I had almost no mechanical issues. I ran out of gas once, had one set of questionable tires go away completely, and the worst thing I had to deal with all weekend was some INSANE rain on the way home. It rained so hard that the trailer roof leaked again. Grr...

Two really cool things came out of that weekend, though.

1. I got to run my first ever session of passes without point-bys. Late in the 2nd day, I ran with the instructors with my window-net up (first time ever on track). I learned that the net is really distracting and that there must be a much higher level of trust between drivers when there's no pre-negotiated agreement on passing.

2. I became 100% convinced of my need for a Traqmate. So I bought one. I'll get back to it, but holy crap is it awesome.

Both of those things became instrumental to the event I just completed: NASA's Sweaty Summer Slam @ VIR. This 4 day event(!) was not only the longest I've ever done, but comprised entirely new activities for me.

I took the Level 1 and Level 2 Instructor Clinics, and spent Saturday and Sunday teaching others how to drive their race cars. The classes were long, but very content-rich; the on-track exercises were...startlingly realistic; the students were amazing.

I finally got to experience that moment I've heard about from other instructors: when a student goes from driving a car on the track to track-driving. "Magical" doesn't quite describe it, but it's close.

I also began my competitive track career in Time Trials. I managed to finish in 4th place in my first ever event, and 5th place on Sunday (after disqualifying myself by going off-track).

Know what made that 4th place possible? The Traqmate. It also enabled me to put down my fastest VIR lap ever on Sunday morning during warm-up, at 2:26.1 (still off pace for SM, but I'm getting there). What was really surprising, though was learning that, if I'd done everything to the best of my ability, I could have managed a 2:25.2. That's cookin' with gas!

I got a new camera, too: a GoPro Hero. The old Aiptek broke off its mount at Summit Point (video here), leaving only a threaded plug attached to the mount. The GoPro got some good footage, but after I added the Traqmate data, that footage went from being entertaining to being, as one coworker put it, a Business Intelligence tool. And she's not wrong. Check out 4 laps from my fastest session, beginning with my personal lap record.

From a Time Trials perspective, though, the real benefit of the Traqmate is the display unit. It updates all the way around the track with predictive lap times, telling you instantly if you're moving faster or slower than your best. That's powerful stuff.

And since we're on the subject of pure freakin' awesomeness, I got a new truck. The F-250 was just getting a touch too unreliable for repeated trips to West Virginia (those mountains are TOUGH!), and the Mazdaspeed3 filled no practical voids in my life, so I decided to consolidate down to one vehicle.

I did some research, and it turns out that many trade rags are in agreement: the Dodge Ram 1500 is the best half-ton truck being made today. Coil springs, anti-sway bars, independent suspension, and let's not forget: a bitchin' 5.7L V8 Hemi. The truck is rated to tow 10,000lbs, so it's a little bit future-proof with regards to trailers (my trailer is rated to 7000lbs, and probably weighs within 10% of that, fully loaded).

It tows like a dream, and I just got towing mirrors, a backup camera (to assist hitching), and a weight-distributing hitch with built-in sway control.

And Alastair LOVES the new truck. He sits high and proud in the middle of the back seat, and has a commanding view of the road. But his favorite part is the 7.3 second 0 - 60. "Wow, daddy! I didn't expect it to be fast!"

Oh, and? Alastair starts preschool September 14. Before he does, though, we're gonna go spend Labor Day week at the beach. Off-season rates are less than 50% of summer rates, so it's a steal, and this will be the last year we'll be able to escape during the school year.

So yeah: Summer 2010 is kicking all kinds of ass (and you don't even know the best part...ha!).

1 comment:

Kim said...

Seriously, a truck?

What's next... plan on moving out here to Bubbasville? You might confuse a few of the locals with your fancy schmancy race talk, but otherwise it looks like you're shaping up to be a right good redneck. Just please, avoid the Calvin pissing on Ford and Chevy, NRA and deer hunting decals.

(Dude, put down the Bud Light and back away slowly...)