First of all, thank you, Jalopnik, for your help in saving my track day.
Shortly after the BMWCCA announced that they were running on my birthday weekend in June, Circuit of the Americas cancelled all of the track days on the schedule. Thankfully, the track reversed that decision due to the amount of feedback they received, and the event's organizers were quick to thank everyone who sent in a note back to COTA for their part in getting it back on the schedule.
I'm local, COTA is a fifteen-minute drive from my apartment, and it would have been be a crying shame if I didn't take a vehicle that still technically belongs to my mother on this racetrack.
So, best birthday weekend ever? Best birthday weekend ever!
Taking an automatic, front-wheel-drive Lancer GTS with 168 hp sucked through a CVT full of angry bees to an event full of BMWs is sort of like bringing a chunk of poly-fil to a nuclear war. The car handles well (albeit understeery)—it's just that the hamsters under the hood can't run fast enough to keep up with most of the other cars on the straights.
At one point, I got a point-by to pass at the tight hairpin at turn 11 from an M5, but since the CVT takes quite a while to whirrrrr back into the Lancer's powerband no matter what I do, it took me halfway down the back straight to take the pass.
I guess this is why B-spec picked a weekend where they'd be running the shorter course, haha.
That's not to say I don't have fun playing with a much, much slower car at a track day. Oh, no—quite the contrary. The fun for me is seeing what I can keep up with in a car that's not meant to do this sort of thing that only has stickier tires and track-worthy brake pads on it.
(Okay—it has a bunny, too.)
At one point, a little girl pointed at my car and asked, "is this going on the track, too?" Her mom responded, "well, it has numbers on it, so I would think so." Tee hee.
I do try to at least lighten the load a little by unpacking my trunk. I discovered that my spare tire can double as a cupholder, too—w00t!
Given the amount of nervousness over the previous almost-cancellation, everyone seemed to be on their best behavior. The organizers gave us ample warning to clean up after ourselves, be polite to the staff and take extra caution with several of the corners. Our goal was to avoid having the 28th car to eat the wall at T4, and we made it!
If every track day was approached with the same amount of care by the organizers and participants, there would be much fewer tales of woe involving lost venues. Seriously—we really, really want to come back next year.
Having not done many organized track days, I was put in the Novice group. Since I was nervous about not having driven a new track in a long, long time, this was more than fine with me.
It rained on Sunday morning for a little while, and I discovered that my balls of steel apparently rust in the wet. Driving in the rain on the track isn't something I get to have a lot of practice with here, so I was pretty glad to be in the slower group.
I get to drive another new track for ChumpCar in a couple weeks, so getting some time here with an instructor definitely made me less nervous about doing that, too.
The track itself is fantastic. The surface is extremely smooth and all the esses were a blast to figure out. There's a few troll corners where the turn-in is way later than you'd expect, or where it's hard to see how sharp a turn is. I kept over-braking for turn 19 because it looked much sharper from turn-in than it actually is—oops. The curbs were gentle rumbles in most spots and really fun to ride over. The hill at turn 10 where you just floor it as the track surface drops off and dips into the turn was a blast, too.
Uh, so when can I get to drive it again? Squee!
Oh, and the other great part about track days? Lots and lots of eye candy. Enjoy:
The M1 actually went on track, and that made my day. Gorgeous!
One of the most awesome things I've seen at the track: one of the racecars was fitted with hand controls and being driven by a guy paralyzed from the waist down. Very cool.
I'm not sure how I'm going to top this for Birthday #28, heh.