Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Track Day: Laguna Seca

January 21st turned out to be an amazing day in Northern California.  It's hard to call it winter when it's sunny with a high of 23ºC (74ºF).  A few weeks earlier a buddy of mine had invited me to a track day and I had always wanted to run at Laguna Seca.  I'd also told myself that this year I was going to get out and do more than one high performance driving event.  Which meant, actually committing to going out there and getting on track.

Equipment is important.  And one of the things I was missing was a current full-face helment.  My old helment was rated SA2000 rated and open-faced.  I could get away with it for another year under Porsche Club regulations for autocross, but I figured it was time for an upgrade.  Or at least an update.  Times have changed a bit and carbon fibre is coming down to the masses (or at least my price range).  At a hair under 1.5kg (3.3lbs) the Pyrotect Pro Airflow is the lightest helmet I've worn since downhill running in a Soapbox Derby car.  SA2010 rated, partial carbon fibre construction, and removable padding make a nice package.
Pyrotect Pro Airflow SA2010 Helmet

But let's get back to the track.

Laguna Seca Race Course Map
Since I'd never run at Laguna Seca, and it is considered by many a very technical track, I was a bit nervous.  Thankfully, I had a trusty copy of GT5 in the PS3 to take many laps on the course.  Even with a wheel and pedals, it's no race simulator.  But what it lacks in providing the seat-of-the-pants feedback, it makes up in the visuals.  I can safely say that the course was at least visually familiar and never felt lost on course.  I knew which corner I was at and what the next corners were on track the entire time.  That was a great help in getting up to "speed" especially on where to aim for corner 8, the corkscrew.

 The Northern California Racing Club runs a well organized event.  From the check-in, driver's meetings, and sessions, everything pretty much ran exactly on schedule at a very reasonable price.  Our only hitch came in the afternoon when near the end of run group just prior to mine, someone dropped oil near turn five.  This lead to closing the track down while they cleaned that up and we ended up losing one session for my group.  The organizers made it up, though, by letting us our early for our last session.  So, last session was closer to 35 minutes on track versus the normal 20 minutes.  Overall, an awesome day with about 90 minutes of track time (down from the scheduled 100 minutes).

Some of the highlights for me were around my improvements on track.  Getting the Cayman S up to 4th at the start-finish line and on occasion actually making a decent approach through turn 1 to setup turn 2 was satisfying.  Hitting turn six at speed to get good compression through the corner was fun, even if one time I picked up a large piece of klag and thought I'd blown a tire (thump, thump, thump around the rest of the course until I could pit).

Hot Grid
Hot Grid
passing S2000
point by passing
Miata giving a point-by to pass

Alcohol content: none (too busy driving)