I got back from one of the absolute best trips I've ever been on last night.
Left Ohio on Oct 10th and hit four race tracks in three weeks with some wonderful friends and made a few on the way:
desperado and mrs. desperado were met in Nevada and mngolfer joined in at Willows.
We hit four tracks during this wonderful trip:
1) Spring Mountain, Pahrump, Nevada.
2) Thunderhill, Willows, California
3) Sears Point (I refuse to call it Sonoma or Infineon - it's Sears Point!), Sonoma, California
4) Laguna Seca (once again, I refuse to call it Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - it's Laguna!), Monterey, California.
Stop #1 - Spring Mountain - 3.1 mile course
Don't pick on my lines - this place took a while to figure out. It has so many configurations that can be run that trying to figure out which cones were turn in, apex and track out cones versus "don't turn here" cones was a tad confusing.
Notice the lack of concrete barriers and lots of run out areas. This makes you feel a bit more safe if you overcook a turn. I did manage to go off track once, but fortunately it was one of the coned off areas so there was no dirt tracking done (saved that for time in the RZR (a UTV), ripping through the desert surrounding the track - asphalt time, desert time, asphalt time, desert time. Perfect!
Stop #2 - Thunderhill - 3.0 mile course
This track was a BLAST! My favorite corners were 8 (as big as your balls will let you be), a 110 - 115 mph entry speed and 9 where you come in flying, drill the brakes on an uphill (better traction), toss it left, roll over the top of the hill, and then have the track edge show up from the right side and try to work it's way underneath your car.
My only issue there was one off coming onto the front straight. I dropped two wheels off into the dirt (which is where we were told over and over NOT to do this) as I exited turn. Keep the throttle steady, don't try to fight back onto the track, let Quattro kick in and slowly work back onto the track and not do that again - whew!
Entry into turn one was somewhere in the 130 mph range - top of fourth gear. Ever tag a 12" tall cone at that speed? They fly quite nicely! - I was told to aim for braking marker #3 and that darned cone hopped right out in front of me.
Stop #3 - Sears Point - 2.52 mile course
Unlike the previous two tracks, Sears is SURROUNDED by CONCRETE! This place made me nervous and kept me quite tame/intimidated the entire weekend. I'm good with that - kept my car in one drivable piece. The place is a blast, though. I was initially put in the beginner group, but with the help of three instructors I got put in the intermediate group for the weekend. I was able to get signed off with three instructors riding shotgun and was suggested to move on to the Advanced Group (Woo Hoo!!!).
The Carousel proved to be my most interesting point for this track. First time out with an instructor, I managed to pull off a beauty of a drift around the bottom third of the corner. The car never got out of shape, just hung it's tail out about two feet and drifted beautifully to the apex and then settled back in like I meant to do it. My instructor, Mike, said "Nice! Let's try not to do that again!" I agreed fully. The following day I was working on chasing down mngolfer and a Vette and got on the brakes a bit late. I took a nice, slow trip around the outside of the Carousel, int the dirt, that lap. No harm, no foul.
The Esses were fun - but get behind them (or apex early) and that was a lesson in humility and patience. Run 'em just right and that's a surprisingly quick section.
The R8 gathering was impressive too - 15 R8's out of 140(ish) entrants for the weekend. It was wonderful to meet a bunch of R8talkers there.
Sorry about the video getting foggy as it goes on. The weather changed from the time I sealed up the camera to the time I recorded the video and the inside of the Go-Pro's case fogged up.
Stop #4 - Laguna Seca - 2.238 mile course
Laguna was everything and more than I expected. By far my favorite of the four tracks.
While everyone goes on and on about the Cork Screw, and I will admit, it's amazing, it was Turn 6 and keeping the go pedal stuck to the floor over Turn 1 was even more exhilarating.
Turn 6 is amazing - come up in fourth, tag the brakes, catch third, aim for the apex, nail the throttle and get pinned down in the seat as you touch the apex. It feels like an amusement park ride.
Only had one two wheels off incident - out of Turn 5... mngolfer, desperado and I went out on Saturday near the end of the day for some photo ops and mngolfer decided that we had to go off at full tilt boogie. Nope, not enough heat in the tires, not enough run out and whee, here's some dirt for ya Bill! (I think he got it on video).
This is from the camera being mounted right in the middle of the hood (pretty much over the Audi rings). It does give a good feeling for the Cork Screw.
Here's the track from the roof point of view:
Check this clip of a guy in a Miata drifting Turn 2! I was coming up on him down the front straight, caught up to him in the corner and watched him get sideways, drift the car nicely and then catch it and head on down the track. Cool stuff!