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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Laguna Seca Day

It was a bit of a surprise but the folks from HOD managed to get a date at Laguna Seca. I received the email about 3 weeks ago and a few hours later, I had bought my spot. Good thing I didn't wait since they pretty much sold out that date within 48 hours.

There were a bunch of people coming from the Apple Auto Club but I haven't met any. I just noticed that one dude who has a blue Ferrari with the Apple logo on the doors.

Once again, I took my sister and since it was her last day in California (before flying back to France) it became somewhat of a farewell gift.

We loaded up the Lotus on the newly painted trailer - I wanted to put some bed liner on it to make it more resistant to bad weather and bird poop - and we put the tools, helmets and my gloves in the Bee. We went to bed fairly early on Sunday night since we had to leave by 6:30 on Monday.

Monday the 23rd, 6:30AM: We basically left by 6:27AM and went down highway 1 towards Monterey. The good thing about Laguna Seca is that it's less than one hour away from home, which is very appreciable.

We got to the track by 7:30AM and proceeded to unload all the stuff after looking for a place to park. There had been an event over the week-end and there were a ton of 18 wheelers in the paddocks. After finding a decent looking spot, I parked the Bee, unloaded the Lotus and we went for a recon mission. The goal of our mission was to spot the bathrooms and also the gift shop.

9:00AM: Finally, it's time for the C group to get on the track. For some odd reason, our group is always the group that goes first and dries the track for the others, grrrrr....

The track was cold and so were my tires so, I did that session in slow motion. I think that I got lapped during my last lap by the guy you went out first. Unless, he went in the hot pits to wait for the track to be less congested. According to the dude in the Cayman parked next to me, people were slooooow. He told me that perhaps he should follow me. I answered that perhaps he shouldn't because I always start last. I usually pass a few people during a session but once that's done, the track is super clear in front of me. I can't catch the faster guys or guys that are as fast or a tad slower than me since the gap can be of several seconds between cars when we start out.

The second session was a lot better and I was feeling a bit more confident. The car felt pretty good and the tires warmed up a bit quicker too. My sister was impressed by the Corkscrew, which is understandable since it's a very unique turn.

The sun finally came up around 11AM and that was a welcome event since we were kind of cold in the paddocks. Our 3rd session was right before lunch, around noon. At that point the sky was all blue and the track was nice and warm. My lap times seemed a lot faster than in the morning although I wouldn't be able to tell since I don't have any lap timer.

I was feeling pretty good in turn 4 and I could feel that the car was telling me that it had a ton of grip as I was going across the apex. I also started to push harder in the straight/turn 1 and I would keep on the gas until a few yards of turn 2, which is a double apex turn (first time I tried to take that turn that way but I liked it).

I had to let an Atom by coming off turn 11 and my sister was amazed by the fact that the little car would let me in its dust going up the start/finish line. For a couple laps, I would catch up by turn 2 and be on the Atom's ass until T11 and finally, the driver let me pass her going up between T5 and T6. Never saw her again :)

In retrospect, I think that Sears Point is still better suited for the Lotus than Laguna Seca is but Laguna is still way better than Thunderhill, which benefits high HP cars.

All in all, this was a very good day. The only blemish is that my exhaust (which I had to revert to stock) got so hot that a small part of the rear shell started to bubble up, screwing up the paint in the process. It's a little difficult to see but I know it's there :(

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Round and round around Infineon Raceway (Sears Point)

Monday 8th.

Finally got to go to Sears Point. Last time I was there was in 2005 for the AFM races, in which I crashed during the Formula IV race, in turn 2. Obviously, I know the layout of the track but, the lines are quite different in a car and on a motorcycle.

I loaded up the truck on Sunday and we left (my sister and I) on Monday at about 5:25AM (yikes!).
As we arrived in Oakland, I missed the 580 West exit and I ended up being forced to take the bay bridge. I turned around on Treasure Island, which was a tad hairy since there is only one road and I had to make a U-turn in a very tight spot with the following setup:

Definitely interesting (not counting the wasted $14 for the extra toll).

We got to the track at 7:50 and I went directly to the registration which was in the garage #1. I had to get a number for some reason, which I assumed was because of the sound limit, and I picked #13. Since there was no more #13, I got 43 and April (a lady member of the staff there) who's an awesome lady by the way, cut the 4 to make it a 1 :)

It was foggy to begin the day but it was more like low clouds. No humidity, but the track was cold and so were my tires. The car fish tailed in turn 4 a little, although it was nothing too serious, my sister did tell me about it. Finally, around 11AM and right before my 3rd session, the sky cleared up and the weather was just glorious!

Coming off turn 11.
We went 3 more sessions (there are 4 groups, so you do 3 sessions in the morning and 2 in the afternoon in the C group) and we reached the end of our day at about 4:30PM.

It took me a while to figure out the turns and I made a little list of spots where I sucked:

  • Turn 4. I just can't hit it properly even though I know it's a late apex.
  • The end of the esses, where I slow down too much.
  • I'm a chicken in turn 9
  • And so am I in turn 10
Overall, it turned out to be an great day and I hope that I can go there again sometimes soon.