Watkins Glen – 14-16 June 2013

The 2013 edition of the 48 Hours at the Glen was definitely on my radar, until the date of my son’s university graduation ceremony was announced. It was scheduled for the Thursday on which I had planned to travel to the Glen, making it very impractical to try to fit both into the calendar. I had already registered for the Glen and made a hotel reservation, so I cancelled both and resigned myself to missing the track event this one time.

But then a really nice surprise came along. A friend from Calabogie and a fellow Porsche Club member contacted me to see if I could make it somehow to the Glen, because they were very short of instructors. He felt that he could get me into the National Instructor training and evaluation day on Friday, making me eligible to help with the instructing load over the weekend, assuming that I graduated. As I thought about this and all that it could mean, I started to look for a way to attend the graduation in St. Catharines and still make it to the Glen that evening. It turned out to be quite feasible, since I could take my son to St. Catharines on the Wednesday, stay for the graduation on the Thursday and then let his mother bring him up to Toronto on Friday, where he would stay with friends while looking for a job.

So I re-registered for the track event and renewed my hotel reservation, with absolutely no difficulty. We made the trip to graduation and had a great time, including the night before when I helped him design some graphics for one of his clients’ clothing line. I had no trouble making the shorter trip from St. Catharines to the Glen and arrived at the normal check-in time, along with my friend and a few others from our club.

 

I had been accepted into the PCA National Instructor program without delay, so Friday began with a classroom session and the introduction of my mentors for the day. The format would an alternating series of classroom discussions led by the National Chief Instructor, followed by on-track sessions in my car in which I would “teach” the mentor as though he was a novice student. At the end of four such cycles, I would have a different “student” who would evaluate my progress and subsequently discuss my qualifications with the others. Having instructed at Calabogie for four years previously, I was pretty familiar and comfortable with the entire curriculum, so I had no problem meeting all of their expectations.

After finishing but before being notified that I’d graduated, I went over to the event registrar and volunteered for duty as an instructor, just so he would know that I was willing. A few minutes later the Zone 1 Chief Instructor came over and said, “Now that you’re newly minted”, would I evaluate a driver for him who wanted move up from White to Black. So I agreed and went out with a fellow in a mid-‘80’s Carrera that was rough, loud and fast. It had been heavily modified and rode very firmly, but it was a fast car. He drove the correct line, although a little crudely, but we talked through it and he smoothed it out. I recommended him for promotion to Black. The next day I was assigned a student in the Yellow group, in a 996 coupe as I recall, who did pretty well on the first couple of laps but then had a flat tire as we exited the Boot, which we didn’t diagnose until he was approaching the Inner Loop. We were able to pull off safely in the bypass and had to wait for the safety crew to arrive before installing the spare and limping back to the paddock. Later on he was able to get a replacement tire and we continued.

Meanwhile, a problem developed with my car – with the brakes yet again. After having changed the rotors and pads and having rebuilt the calipers, I wanted to verify that everything was OK and I wouldn’t be boiling the fluid. So after a couple of stints on Saturday I measured the disc temperature with my infrared thermometer. Imagine my surprise when I found the rear discs were over 200 degrees Celsius, while the fronts were around 30! I was basically getting no braking action from the fronts. I got into a long discussion with my friend and also the mechanic who I had used many times and who had built my engine (several times!). We talked about all kinds of possible explanations, including collapsed lines, blockages, faulty calipers, etc. The more we exchanged ideas the more I became convinced that the culprit was the master cylinder. For as long as I’d had the car, as the brake pads wore I’d had to adjust the brake pedal’s height to compensate. That’s just not the way it’s supposed to work. The master should draw the pads away from the discs so that the pedal height is not affected. Now that the front brakes were not working, I concluded that an interior seal (or two) in the master was leaking and not applying pressure to the fronts at all. So for the remainder of the event I braked early and lightly and slowed down a bit, to be safe and to avoid overheating the rears.

After I got home I immediately ordered a replacement master cylinder and replaced it – about a week later. After extensive bleeding to clean all of the air out of the master, the brakes were excellent again and the front and rear temperatures were almost identical. That wasn’t the end of my brake problems though. I was still wearing through caliper dust boots and it took some careful inspection and measurements for me to figure out the reason. A previous owner had upgraded the rear brakes to Carrera (’84-’89) vintage, involving larger, thicker discs and different calipers. But they hadn’t finished the job by replacing the trailing arms as well. So the mounting holes for the calipers didn’t leave enough room for the calipers to be installed in a way that would prevent the dust boots from contacting the drum portion of the disc as the pads wore down. I corrected this problem by making the holes in the calipers a little oval (by about 2 mm), and mounting them a little further from the drums. I’m not using the outer 1 mm of the pads now, but the dust boots do not contact the disc hubs as the pads wear. I think I finally have the quality and reliability of my brakes that Porsche intended.

And I have a wallet card and window stickers identifying me as a qualified PCA Instructor, representing the achievement of a goal I set in 2008.

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