I took the Porsche 944 track car out for its 3rd event of the year at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research a.k.a NCCAR. The event was organized by Apex Track Events and the MBCA Virginia Section. The weekend started out very cold and windy but ended up with great weather. First, a little bit about Apex Track Events. This was my first time with this organization. Their spokesman, Don LaBar, made no bones about the fact this his mission statement was to offer economically priced track events to help allow newer, younger folks to get involved in the HPDE sport. He achieved this goal with a relatively low price of entry for the 2 day event of $299. I believe the early entry fee was significantly cheaper than that. So check off inexpensive as accomplished. This price is all the more a value when you factor in the track schedule. There were only 4 run groups and using short 20 to 25 minute sessions, there were 5 sessions on both Saturday and Sunday. Top this off with a 1 hour happy hour at the end of Saturday and I got plenty of track time. Most excellent! On the flip side, the NCCAR facility is set up for small research groups, not large crowds. We had porta-potties and no running water, unless you wanted to walk several 100 yards from the gravel pits to the one permanent bathroom. Not a crisis, just remember to bring plenty of water and hand washing materials. Another drawback is that you can’t actually see the track from the gravel pits, although it is a short walk away. Again, not a crisis. You pick your poison. Similar events at top flight tracks can run twice as much. Another advantage is that the track is right off I-95 and only 5 or 10 minutes from an exit in Roanoke Rapids that has a ton of hotels and fast food establishments.
So the track is …. interesting. Here’s a map:
As you can see, there are a lot of extended constant radius circular sections. I gather this is just the ticket for checking vehicle dynamics on new cars, which is frankly the day job that NCCAR was built for. I had heard through the grapevine that some people found it to be boring. Myself, I had a great time! It was my first time at the track so I got to spend the first 2 sessions learning the track. A shout out to my THCSSS classroom instructor Rich who did a session for us in February about how to tackle a new track. Your tips really helped! Once I got to know the track I worked on picking up speed and searching for max grip levels. The long constant radius curves give you plenty of time to experiment with steering and throttle inputs. The runoff areas are sufficient that small mistakes do not result in instant calamity. And as usual, with my low powered momentum car, I enjoy a track where so much time is spent cornering. That is where the 944 shines. I was able to keep up with much newer and fancier cars in the corners.
Saturday started out so cold (22 deg) that I showed up with Kumho Ecsta street tires on the car. These are not bad tires. I used them a lot when I was learning the ropes. They make a pretty decent squeal when they are loaded in the corners so they give good feedback. I find the car is a little tail happy with these tires. I’m probably running more camber than they like.
Saturday never really got very warm. We actually had snow flurries at one point. Sunday started out warmer and become downright pleasant by the end of the day. I started off Sunday running my Toyo RA-1 R-Comp tires. I immediately felt more confident in the car. Another interesting twist. The event organizers ran the track clockwise on Saturday and counter-clockwise on Sunday. So I got to go thru another learning session, although this time I got up to speed much quicker. The track was very fun both ways. I’d be hard pressed to choose a preference.
Another thing I liked about the track was that I was able to explore understeer vs oversteer and I was able to get some good tire temperature data. Since you spend so much time in corners, the tires warm up nicely. I’m going to write a separate article about tire temps but suffice it to say, I found the data very useful and interesting. With the RA-1 tires, the car was more balanced. I suspect my camber setting suited them much better. I’m also going to write a separate article about oil starvation in the long corners. Spoiler alert- there wasn’t any!
So in summary, I really liked my weekend at NCCAR. Sure, it has its shortcomings but it was a very useful event to test and tune your car and your driving skills. And it didn’t break the bank. I’d suggest you keep an eye on MotorSportsReg.com, which is where I found out about this Apex Track Event event. I understand they are going to have more events at NCCAR.