Last weekend was my first DE event for 2014 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) with Chin Motorsports. Very interesting event on several levels.
First, my wife woke me up at 1 am Friday night (that would actually be Saturday morning!) to tell me not to rush out the door as an ice storm had occurred along my travel path and they were urging motorists to stay off the roads. Downed power lines and downed trees, as well as slick surfaces, could be a deterrent. As VIR is my “home track” I usually spend the night at home and bust out at 5 am to get there bright and early. This time I left at 8. As I traveled north and hit the ice zone it did look like a war zone. A lot of branches and trees down and many power lines too. As I traveled through the ice zone I hit the snow zone. By the time I arrived at VIR there were several inches of snow evident, including on the track. I pulled into the newly paved north paddock, also covered with snow, and crunched to a parking spot. I quickly found out the obvious: no track time until the track was clear. Fortunately, the North Carolina sun was doing it’s thing and noon we were turned loose to do low speed laps with all manner of vehicles to help dry the track and reconnoiter. One nice bonus is that they filled in the spare morning hours with an excellent presentation by Peter Krause. Very interesting and informative.
Track touring (and Peter’s presentation) lead me to the other big news, which is the resurfacing of the entire VIR track with new asphalt. It is interesting on several levels. The surface is of course much smoother. They claim that the inside lines of the various corners have not been modified but the outsides and track out have been widened in several places, including turns 1, 9 (Southbend), and 11 (Oak Tree). I personally like the overall effect, especially with Oak Tree. BTW, the Oak Tree is gone due to a previous storm so sight lines are very good there now. They also improved the pit lane and, as I said before, they paved the paddock. I think it is a nice upgrade to the facility all in all.
I started out on a new set of Toyo Proxes RA-1’s as the track was damp. New tires and new pavement were just sublime. Almost like having a new car. I spent all weekend on these tires, even after it dried out, and never did find the handling limits. I am not very aggressive about finding the limits but also, we were doing our best to stay on the pavement, as trips off the pavement were into very soft muddy conditions. It was so bad that very few folks that went off were able to get back on until the session was over and wreckers were sent out. The wreckers wouldn’t go off the pavement so had to let out their cables. It was all very time consuming and frustrating, as almost every session ended early with a black flag so they could do the extractions and stay on schedule. On a positive note, I didn’t see any heavy car damage as the sucking mud and snow made it hard to get to the barriers, which at VIR are generally a good distance from the track. I do have to poke fun at the one Ferrari driver who managed to get high centered on the curbing on the inside of turn 1, suffering the extreme shame of sitting there like a beached whale while we drove by to gather under yet another black flag in the pits while they pulled him off. Ouch!
I love the format at Chin events, which gives you (normally) gobs of track time. For whatever reason, Chin also seems to bring out the guys with the expensive machinery so there was no lack of eye candy. Several Ferrari’s, more Porsches than in Stuttgart, BMW’s everywhere. Boss 302 Mustangs, GTRs, lots of Corvettes, and a number of tasty formula and sports racers. It was a great car show! But the show was stopped by the guy that left on Sunday. In his helicopter! Can’t top that.
The car performed well with no issues. Sadly, there were no other 944’s there so no one to play with. I did have a good time Sunday afternoon as my wife brought up one of her grad students and he went out with me for 2 sessions. It is always fun to get the younger generation involved. He was clearly excited about his rides. Fortunately Chin allows passengers (many groups don’t, I’m sure because of liability) so I was able to entertain the lad with my car.
So I was able to drive it back on the trailer at the end of the weekend, which is always satisfying. The 944 continues to be fun to drive, easy on tires and brakes, relatively fuel efficient (for a track car) and low hassle factor, now that I have it sorted out. One can’t ask for more.