Mid-ohio, my first virgin track this year. Taking what I learned at Autobahn last year, I made sure to spend some time in iRacing turning laps before embarking on the 10 hour trek. The purpose of this trip was to learn the track and start building speed for the championships in one months time.
This event was only two weeks after the incident at Autobahn so I had to scramble to get the car ready. The damage wasn’t too bad, requiring a new front fender and valence, reworking of the airflow through the radiator and new axles as one of the old ones ate itself. New front pads and rotors were also added as general maintenance items. Afterwards, I took a moment to reflect that I am, in fact, racing a 35 year old car and things are going to break … frequently. I will talk about why I’m not racing something newer here. (link coming to soon).
Driver Prep (iRacing)
It’s been a while since I have fired up iRacing. In the past I found that I didn’t particularly enjoy iRacing when compared to a more arcade focused sim. But this is more about learning a new track than sheer enjoyment, and Mid-Ohio just so happens to be on iRacing. So the plan of attack was simple, for 7 days prior to leaving, spend 45 minutes in the sim lapping Mid-Ohio in a momentum car. The logical choice is the Spec MX-5. And of course I promptly changed the color and alignment to match my 944spec and set off in my pink, poorly handling mx-5 and started learning the track.
This time I found the sim incredibly useful in building a visual map of the track.
Mid-Ohio is a brisk 10 hour trek from home and is surrounded by beautiful farm land. As I approached, I was soon reminded of my year in Pennsylvania when signs for horse drawn carriages dotted the road every mile or so. Must be Amish country. So watch out for this unusual road hazard from about 45min out. At one point, a carriage pulled out in front of me taking my right of way. Needless to say we were both shaken up for a moment although the horse seemed unfazed.
As with pretty much every event, warm-up should be called race light. This being my first time on track, I went out slow and let lots of cars by. The plan, and you should have one for every session, was to do a few slow laps to confirm my visual markers from iRacing and start to add physical sensation to my mental map. The plan was crap as I spent the first half of the session bedding my brake pads because I FORGOT TO BED THEM! Not fun going into the first turn on a new track and realizing you have almost no brakes.
Not much to say here. Come qualifying I was several seconds off pace. Not the end of the world but I was getting worried I wasn’t going to get much faster. My car felt ‘slippery’ throughout the day Saturday and I didn’t feel a lot time left in the car.
Saturday Race 1
The ‘slippery’ car would continue into race 1. It was a pretty frustrating race as my car wanted to drift or slide in every turn no matter how I approached it. Half way through I thought ‘screw it’! There was no chance of a podium finish so I might as well embrace the slide and have some fun. I spent the rest of the race not worried about position and sliding around. Something about this site being called Driftopia… Ironically, once I quit trying another second came off my lap time.
Sunday Race 2
I swapped my tires out Saturday night in prep for Sunday and immediately noticed a grip improvement. I felt like I could lean on the car more in the turns and with that I dropped 2 more seconds on my lap time and finished in 3rd place. That put a smile on my face.
Note: The tires I ran Saturday had two weekends on them and looked to be relatively fresh. For some reason they were toast and had already fallen off dramatically. The tires I used Sunday are an older set but definitely felt better. Fresh rubber goes to nationals though and the bad set will continue life, albeit shortly, on a special project I’m working on. (Link coming soon)
Sunday Race 3
I was running great in race 3. Dropped another second off my lap time and looking at another podium finish. That is until a little mishap left me with a bent steering rack and about 10 degrees of steering movement. After what felt like a 20 point turn to tuck the car behind the wall, I was able to exit the car and watch the race from the stands. Not the viewpoint I wanted. At least by getting the car out of the way, the wrecker didn’t have to interrupt the race.
After a short tow and figuring. out how to get the car back on the trailer, it was time to head home. To fix my car … again!