Time and Date: July 25, 1998 7:30am - 6pm
Place: Thunderhill Raceway Park (7-miles West of I-5 on Highway 162 in Willows) ThunderHill Website #2- includes hot lap description.
About 6:30AM lined up outside the Best Western in Willows, CA. About a dozen people drove up the night before
Gassing up before heading out to the racetrack
BAPOC member and his PGT
Spectators, with Turn 5, the Cyclone, in the background
The Viper GTS James passed on the track!!!
James' car with racing tires on. Marla took my usual #77 so I was #12.
Ben's car developed a collapsed lifter, fortunately Rob has trailer his PGT so was able to give Ben's a ride home.
My Summit #8 started the night before when I drove down to the Shell station in Emeryville to meet up with the caravan driving to Willows. Coincidently, I saw my first 1999 Cougar on the road on the way there, just a few miles away.
Willows was hot and very humid even at 11PM. The Best Western was adequate, but I probably didn't get any extra sleep. We got up a little after 6AM to get breakfast (Denny's) and get to the track before 8AM.
It took me just about 30 minutes to change my 4 tires with a single floor jack.
There were about 11 PGTs driving on the track, several Golfs, a few Integras, some F bodies, a Mustang or two, a Porsche 911 with a Chevy 350 conversion (!) and a Viper GTS. 29 drivers in all.
We gridded up in two groups for the lead and follow. 3 laps around and then we were let loose on the track.
I concentrated on driving the line and not going too fast too soon. After a few laps I noticed the Viper about a 1/4 lap ahead of me. I decided to try to catch up to him. I stopped short shifting, drove my line, kept the throttle floored as soon and as long as possible, and really worked the brakes. Even with hot metal master pads and sticky 245 sized AVS Intermediate tires, I had the ABS on in every braking zone.
The 450hp Viper would pull away big time in the long front straight- no way around that, but as I was taught, I ignored that and drove my line and my speed. After three laps I had closed on him and started pressuring him in the corners. I would slow down much more than the Viper entering the turn, but with my combination of a good line and aggressive braking, I would come out of the turn alot faster and run right up on his tail repeatedly. On the next passing zone he had to let me by. Wow, what a rush!
It is truly amazing how fast the right line is through a corner and how slow the wrong one is, even with such fantastically mismatched cars as the PGT and the Viper. He would go in a little too fast, start his turn in a little too soon, and often not from extreme outside of the turn. This resulted in him having to slow down before the apex and make a sharper turn to stay on the track. Classic racing technique has you slowing down before the turn, then staying on the gas through the turn, modulating the throttle and steering for maximum exit speed without leaving the track.
Turn 9 leading on the long straight is the most important turn on the racetrack. The faster you can exit the turn, the higher a terminal speed you can reach at the end of the straight. By the end of the day I was setting up the turn long before hand- taking a line through 8, 8A and to 9 that would maximize the exit speed of 9, primarily by finding the line that allows you to get the throttle down sooner and still stay on the track.
I think I was making progress because I was getting that feeling where I was putting the throttle down a little sooner on each lap, and a voice in my head would start saying "lift!, lift!, you aren't going to make it!!!!", but you just keep your right foot pressed all the way down and try to steer gently and the car is drifting off the track and somehow you clip the berm but just stay on the track and it's the greatest thrill you've ever imagined. (Is this a diagnosible illness? :))
Turn 5, the Cyclone, has a bypass option. After driving it and seeing cars sideways on the berm on the downhill side, I now know why.
Actually I had cut my teeth (with my tires in the dirt) on Turn 3A at Sear's Point- also a blind turn across the crest of a hill. I knew how challenging it would be. The Cyclone has been described as similar to the famous "Corkscrew" at Laguna Seca, but "faster and blinder". A steep hill leads straight up, at the top of the hill the track falls steeply away to the left. You had better know exactly where the track is on the blind side of the hill as you go over, or else you can end up on your roof here.
Tim in his new VR6 transplant Golf did a very credible imitation of the skateboarder's trick called "riding the rail" where they jump up onto a railing and slide along on the bottom of board. Except Tim is riding the exit berm in turn 5 with his car at a 45 degree angle! He said he could hear the bottom scraping.
I had started taking the Cyclone in 3rd gear, as it is impossible to shift on the down hill side corner- the G forces make it impossible to let go of the wheel even with one hand. But something very bad started happening- as I made my turn-in just before the top of the hill, I would lose power steering boost, and it would be intermittant throughout the next down hill turn. It felt like the wheel was locked in place. Not a great feeling in a turn.
So I started downshifting to second during the braking on the uphill side. But then you had to shift very, very quickly over the crest in the tiny straight section before the downhill right hander glued your hands and feet in place and then forget about shifting! However, this solved my boost problem. I was even able to line up the turn better and give a burst of throttle as I crested the hill.
I got to ride with Ben is his seriously tricked out PGT- total interior strip, full rollcage and racing seat, ultra lightweight rims with R1s and suspension. His brakes were giving out like mine- just need to brake sooner and downshift. "hmm, no brakes" he would comment while rushing down towards the rocks in turn 8 at 90 mph.
Then Ben rode with me. I was a little nervous and drove not so great on my first lap. In particular I came into turn 3 too fast, which prevented me from getting to the apex, which made me slow down because I couldn't then fix my line into turn 4, which resulted in not hitting the apex in 4. Slow, slow, slower! Mistakes follow you for two turns at least!
I wasn't going to do drag racing- I was worried about my low brake pedal, but Tammy came by begging "I want to race a PGT"- oh great, I thought, no way. So we line up and the flag drops before I can rev up. So I dump the clutch and it bogs, but Tammy was sitting still with wheelspin for a moment. We get going just about the same time. I kept nose to nose until 3rd gear where her weight advantage takes over and she walks slowly away to a car length lead at the 1/8 mile.
We went again but the dreaded PGT clutch curse struck. I launch and shift at red line in 2nd, then shift at redline into 3rd. Oops- shifting right away!!!! Damn- doin' a burn out on my clutch!!! It has been normal since it cooled down. Whew!
Tim laid to rest all comers, except the Viper, of course.
< to be continued... 29jul98 >
Much, much more to come- a complete write-up with my track descriptions, driving and riding experiences.
Thanks to Ben for doing a great job setting up the event and to the Thunderhill staff for proving an excellent and safe site for out Summit!
22 July 1998 Update!
Lastest count: 32 drivers and about 25 spectators The food concession will open between 11 to 3 for your convenience. A 40' x 40' tent will be up the entire time. I will bring 15 gallons of water for anyone who needs them under 100+ degree weather. Please arrive at 8am for registration and lead-and-follow pratice. Maps, passing rules, and schedules will be passed out during registration.
For those interested in driving together to Thunderhill on Friday night, please meet at: SHELL gas station at Emeryville (right off Emeryville exit on Interstate 80, you can also see it from the freeway) 8:00pm SHARP!! (it takes about 2.0 hrs to get there) Please call me at 510 325 2196 or check out Yahoo!MAP for the extract direction to get to Emeryville.
I have reserved 8 rooms(with 2 beds each) at the Best Western Inn for $58 each room(group discount).
Once again, direction to Thunderhill: Interstate 80 East Hwy 505 North Interstate 5 North Exit @ 2nd Willows Exit (hwy 162) Hwy 162 West about 5 miles Thunderhill will be on the right
To Best Western Inn: Just take the same hwy 162 exit, and motel sign will be right off the exit.
THE FUN IS OUT THERE!!! Ben
Hi people, let me give you more update on our event:
After talking to David Vodden, general manager of Thunderhill, he strongly suggested three things which are gonna made our day a lot safer:
1) Open Cyclone(Turn 5): his theory is if we use the Cyclone, we would slow down enough before we enter Turn 6, which is an off-camber downhill right turn. He mentioned that street cars with street tires might flip more than once if enters turn 6 too faster using the Cyclone By-pass, which is a faster but more dangerous way to go around the track.
2) Use Chicanes in Turn 1 in order to slow cars down before entering Turn 1. Between Turn 8 and Turn 1 is the Straight-away where we're gonna do the drag racing. The Straight is a bit more than 1/4 mile(shorter than I thought) and if coming out of Turn 8 with some momentum, we could sometimes break 100mph before we need to brake for Turn 2. Because of the high speed and history of accidents from street cars, David strongly suggested us to slow down before Turn 1 by means of Chicanes
3) I have to apologize about the actual lenght of the "1/4mile". The Straight (between Turn 1 and 8) is indeed longer than 1/4 mile, but if we put braking into account, 1/4 miles might be too close to Turn 1 which is in fact neither level nor straight for two cars to brake side-by-side at the same time. David strongly suggested us to use any length between 1/8 to 1/4 mile. If all we do is to a speed contest between 2 cars without time-slips, the Straight should work just fine. If we have extra time, we could suggest to David whether we can do the full 1/4 mile with timing if we go one after the other. If no one is interested in this suedo-1/4mile contest, we could definitely replace drag racing with regular track time. Again I apologize for the change of rule.
Could everyone please give me a preliminary head count on all friends and spectators they are gonna bring to Thunderhill? I need to find out if we have enough people for Thunderhill to open their lunch place.
Accomodation: Super 8 Motel: $54 for a room of 2 (AAA discount) Please contact me ASAP if you want me to reserve a room for you.
Again the gate opens at 7:30. Please arrive no late than 8:00 because both Thunderhill and we are gonna have registration and announcements. The Track opened at 9:00 for the first group, and last car leaves track no later than 5pm.
Schedule: 8:00 - 9:00 Registration, Announcement, and Tech. Inspection 9:00 - 9:30 Lead and Follow 9:30 - 10:00 Group A 10:00 - 10:30 Group B 10:30 - 11:00 Group A 11:00 - 11:30 Group B 11:30 - 1:00 Drag Racing / Lunch 1:00 - 1:45 Group A 1:45 - 2:30 Group B 2:30 - 3:15 Group A 3:15 - 4:00 Group B 4:00 - 4:30 Group A 4:30 - 5:00 Group B
End 16Jul98 Update
Local Accomodations: Thunderhill is located about 1.5 hr north of San Francisco. I would strongly recommend local accommodations the night before the event. Please email me if you need accommodation info.
Included in track fee:
Just a few reminders: Definitely arrive at least a few minutes before 8am. I'll make sure the paddock gates open at 7:30am.
Schedule(tentative): approx. 3.5 hr track time + drag race
8:00 - 9:00 Registration, Announcement, and Tech. Inspection
9:00 - 9:30 Lead and Follow
9:30 - 10:00 Group A
10:00 - 10:30 Group B
10:30 - 11:00 Group A
11:00 - 11:30 Group B
11:30 - 1:00 BAPOC Quarter-mile Challenge / Lunch Break
1:00 - 1:45 Group A
1:45 - 2:30 Group B
2:30 - 3:15 Group A
3:15 - 4:00 Group B
4:00 - 4:45 Group A
4:45 - 5:30 Group B
Tech. Inspection is mandatory. It is simple and would only take less than 5 mins. From about 8:30 to 9:00, course workers will check the follow items:
The schedule above is just tentative.
Quarter Mile Drags: At noon will be our long-waited 1/4 mile challenge!
Map (which I think is out of perspective) is at: http://www.thunderhill.com/expansion_plan.html
o Join track from pit, get as far right as possible.
o Brake hard in a straight line (probably more than you need to). It's usually marked by cones but if not, it's a little past the worker tower on the right
o Turn 2 is a wide constant radius left hander. After braking turn to about 1/2 or 3/4 of the track (on the right). FWD you late apex (there's usually a cone) and then drift out onto the exit berm. Constant throttle modulation. Once slowed, get back on it and see how much speed you get (should be 3rd gear?). The only way to mess up this turn is to go in too hot which is pretty difficult to do.
o Turn 3 is a very off-camber wierd turn to the right. After coming of the burm on 2, bring the car back to near the center or slightly left (under full power ASAP). Brake the car straight and early or you end up off the side of the hill. Turn sharply to the very inside of the turn... kinda violent. Try to stay on the power until 4
o Turn 4 is a small left hander that you almost don't notice... it's more of a runup to 5. Try not to lift but you may have to in order to turn.
o Turn 5 is the cyclone. Up a steep hill (steeper than it looks). There are braking zone markers on the right but you'll find what's right quick enough. During braking, you'll probably downshift to 2nd, but some don't... if you do, you have to shift coming down the hill which is kinda difficult... you'll find out why when you drive it. Once slowed, turn left sharply and nail it. You won't see where you're going but you need to be pointed slighty (ever so) across the track. Make sure to clip the left side berm (run over it) as that lines you up even better. Stay on the power until the end of 6!
o Turn six is a long soft right hander hanging on the side of the hill... stay to the right and on the power. The tires will squeel but that's how it should be. If you didn't line up right through 5 you'll be way off line here.
o Turn seven is a kink to the left. Do a little bit of braking and then hit the apex point which is a little past the berm (they usually have sand bags there) [note: 6 & 7 seem to change the most depending on line, car, weather, etc.]
o Turn 8 is usually set up as a 90^o left hander onto the straight unless they're using the more dangerous 8a,9,9a loop or the full 3 mile track. Turn 8 onto the straight is a perfect autocross turn like we practiced. Brake hard, (downshift to 2nd), turn (trail brake?), then gas it. First on the gas wins in the straight.
So far about 24 people have signed up with their deposits. Our goal is to keep it right below 40 people for maximum track time. (20Apr98)
ps: I was at Thunderhill last Sunday with NASA and we drove the entire 3-mile course. It was long but really fast. On two of the straights I was able to break 100 by quite a margin. I really suggest R tires and good pads for those who want to get the most out of the track. But either way, it was a lot faster than Sears and Laguna, and definitely worth a try! - Ben
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