Calabogie Lapping Day – 1 May 2011

May 1 dawned early and clear, although it was about 5 C when I left home at 6:10 AM for Calabogie.  En route I noticed that the truck’s steering wheel wanted to stay aimed a little to the right, so I’ll have to adjust the toe-in at the left tie rod, which I just replaced. There’s always something.

After stopping in Arnprior for fuel, I arrived at the track a little after 7:30 and was surprised to find very few cars in the paddock. As it got closer to the time of the driver’s meeting at 8:30, more people had arrived, but there were no more than ten drivers present to do any lapping. There were 4-5 other Porsches belonging to people I know, plus a couple of Mitsubishi Evo’s, a BMW and a C5 Corvette from Toronto. The guy with the C5 is familiar to us and shortly after he unloaded he found that he had a blown seal, so he re-loaded and tried unsuccessfully to rent a Mustang. But a few others had rented Mustangs so he was out of luck – a long trip for no lapping. There was only one novice – a fellow around age 65 (at least he seemed older than I), named Laurent, whose company had done all the exterior stone work on the admin building – and he would be my student! Because of the numbers, it was decided that the day would be 100% open lapping. They would throw the chequered flag every 30 minutes to ensure that people didn’t become over-tired or dehydrated, but otherwise the track was wide open. In Laurent’s car, we kept our four-way flashers on to alert the other drivers.

While Laurent spent some time in the classroom with Rob, I prepared my car and had a sound level check. With the Bursch muffler, it registered 90.8 dB at 4000 rpm – well below the threshold of 100 dB. So I didn’t have to worry about swapping in the used OEM muffler that I had brought. I then went out for 2-3 laps to warm up the tires, the engine and me. That was worthwhile, as I hadn’t driven the track since October and I needed to get into a rhythm. The car ran well, although it was backfiring quite a bit until it warmed up.

Laurent’s car is a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport, which has the brakes and suspension of a Z06, but with a lesser engine of “only” 436 hp. It is a shade of red best described as claret, with a grey interior. It has an automatic transmission with buttons on the steering wheel – push to upshift and pull to downshift –at both the three and nine o’clock position. It also has numerous electronic features that require an owner’s manual or a 10-year old child to decipher. It took Laurent several minutes to figure out how to disable the seat memory function so I could fit into the driver’s seat comfortably – he’s only about 5’6” tall! Then we had to disable the GPS and who knows how many other voice prompts, so we could drive in peace.

After showing him how to position the seat, mirrors and steering wheel for the proper driving position, I pushed the start button and we left the paddock in Drive, headed for the pit-out. We left it in fully automatic mode for the entire day, to concentrate on learning the track instead of worrying about learning to downshift, etc. The car was very easy to drive smoothly and had more than enough power for the job at hand. I spent the first 3-4 laps showing Laurent where the marshals and passing zones were, as well as the correct line around Calabogie’s 20 corners. Then I gave it a little more gas to show him what the car could do. I was very impressed with both the power and the brakes, as well as the cornering forces we able to generate. I could learn to like this car!

After a brief break, we switched seats and Laurent took the car out for the first time. He had never been on this track, or any other, but because he’s a veteran motorcycle rider, he thought he already understood a lot of the principles involved. He admitted later to Rob that there’s a lot more to this than he realized. He progressed reasonably well through the morning, but he required more than the average number reminders of where to position the car on the track and when to begin his turns. He had a lot of trouble remembering to use all of the available asphalt, so we spent too much time in the middle of the road and cornering awkwardly. As lunch time approached he was obviously becoming fatigued, so I got him to stop a few laps early. During the morning I took him out in my car a couple of times, to emphasize the line, as well as to push it a little and monitor the vital signs. They were all good and I was looking forward to adjusting the tuning a bit for the afternoon, by changing to colder plugs, adding more 109 octane fuel and advancing the timing a bit. I did all of that after lunch and before the track reopened, settling on about 32 of timing advance.

The lunch was a catered pasta dish served by a nice young lady, plus a fruit cup and the requisite selection of cakes – very tasty. I sat between Laurent and another new addict who had been signed off only the day before at the Open House day. He was also an older man – late 50’s perhaps – and drove a 2-3 year old Mustang. We all had a pleasant chat while eating and they both had lots of questions, which made it enjoyable and productive, I hope. After the meal I completed my tuning adjustments with an audience of a man and woman who were just visiting, although they knew a few participants. He was quite interested in my car, its provenance and the engine’s history.

At 1:30 Laurent and I went back to work and he showed the usual improvement that comes after the lunch break. He was smoother and remembered the desired lines much better, although I had to continue to remind him in several corners of how to minimize his steering inputs and maximize his use of the available road. We took frequent breaks and he continued to improve as the afternoon wore on, including a nice evasive manoeuvre in the middle of corner 2 when a groundhog decided to cross the road. The only other incident we saw on track was before lunch and had an interesting story attached, which I heard at the break. A guy named Darin, who owns five tennis and golf bubbles in the city, was my student early last year. At that time he drove a fairly current Carrera 2, but now he has a recent GT3 that Travis’s tuning company has breathed on heavily, to add lightness and power.

Darin was driving and Travis was assisting him, as they went through the Duck complex. In Turn 12B, Travis wanted to show Darin how to hold the line at the apex, so he reached over and held the steering wheel, which was turned a fair bit to the right. I guess Darin didn’t understand what Travis had in mind, so he lifted! Of course the rear end got way too light and they spun, hitting first the grass on the right and then ending up parked in the grass on track left. Fortunately they didn’t hit anything solid and we came along just a few seconds later to find a waving yellow and to see them talking about it in the car. We had a good laugh about it when they told me the story.

Around 2 o’clock I took my car out alone and ran 3-4 good laps to check the cylinder head temperatures and throttle response. It was running great and the CHT’s were fine, so I looked forward to some more solo lapping later on. A funny thing happened on my last lap, causing me to stop a bit prematurely. The engine went down on power and was obviously misfiring, but the only problem I found when I pitted was that the number 4 spark plug wire had come off the plug! I’ve had trouble with that plug all winter, so I must look at the connector to make sure this won’t happen again.

Laurent decided that he should leave around 4 o’clock so he could get home for supper and to tell his stories to his wife and adult children, so we did a lot of driving with him behind the wheel up until that hour. He showed significant improvement and by this time I was saying very little – usually just a few compliments when he finally mastered Temptation and Turn 14, which is always the toughest corner to learn. If he had stayed for the last available hour, I would have signed him off to try a solo stint, partly because by then there were almost no other cars on track.

At 4 o’clock we stopped and I told him how I felt about his driving ability and the progress he’d made. He was very satisfied and thanked me for a good day, also commenting to Rob separately about his satisfaction with my approach. We said our goodbye’s and I took a brief break to check tire pressures before heading out on track on my own. After a couple of warm-up laps I started to push it quite hard, running the rev’s up to 6500 and using more brakes. I didn’t bother to install the video camera so I don’t know my lap times, but I’d say I was approach the best times I’ve ever run. Using that many rev’s and downshifting to second in Turn 14, I have to short shift significantly to fourth gear before Spoon, to keep the car stable down the fast right-hander. I caught and passed a Mitsubishi Evo, which made me feel pretty good. However, later on Paul mentioned that he had noticed that its driver still had some learning “issues”. So maybe it wasn’t such a great pass after all.

With the reduced weight and the rich, advanced tune, the car feels very fast. Going down through Spoon I had to pay very close attention to get the right line that would allow me to use full throttle without the rear end getting loose. It was very exhilarating! Later on Paul told me that the car sounded great going down the front straight. The highest speed I saw was 180 km/h on Rocky Road, at about 5000 rpm in fourth. With a better exit on Turn 3 and later braking for Turn 5, I could improve that. After about 20 minutes I was getting a bit tired and I’d seen all the testing evidence that I needed, so I stopped for the day. The CHT’s never reached 350 F, the oil temperature stayed below 100 C and the oil pressure remained close to 8 Bar, which is quite high. The amount of backfiring reduced significantly after my warm-up laps and of course the AFR remained quite rich, peaking at about 0.84 Lambda at wide open throttle. I’d say the car is running as well as it ever has.

I loaded up and packed away my gear, while chatting with Paul and a few others. It was a good day and I was looking forward to getting home to unwind. When I arrived about 6:30, I had a chat with Steve at the end of the driveway about his Porsche’s oil leak and alignment, as well as his impending race school. Steve also wanted to comment on the Lexus LF-A that had visited Dale and Betty the day before, which I’d already heard about from them. Apparently it has an almost F1-style exhaust note and rev’s like crazy. Then a neighbour (Chris) came over to ask about the performance improvement he should expect from a cold intake on his Hyundai Genesis turbo coupe. I finally got inside the house and had something to eat, before going back out to unload my tools and pick up a load of tree branches from the windstorm two days earlier. It was a full and enjoyable day and I’m looking forward to more lapping next Sunday evening before heading down to Ohio.

Comments are closed.