Watkins Glen – 2-4 August 2013

I was really looking forward to returning to the Glen, after correctly diagnosing my brake problem and fixing it with a new master cylinder. But I realized a week before the event that I should get new tires – the old Yokohama S-Drives were showing their age. I looked for replacements on line and then at a local tire shop, but couldn’t get a full set. I had to look for a different brand and settled for Falken FK452’s. The price was right was this was a bad choice. They are adequate tires for the street but do not provide the same level of grip as the Yokohamas. As a result, I was understeering badly and it changed my approach to all corners. Despite their aggressive tread design, they weren’t as good in the wet either.

It was an interesting event and it turned out to be quite enjoyable. Initially I wasn’t terribly enthused, because I knew only one guy (Mike, one of my evaluators from June), and the other NJ folks weren’t all that welcoming. A big part of the fun at these things is going with a few people I know, and then meeting more. On day two I met a couple of people from Toronto; we hit it off; I helped him with his 77 911 fan belt and her with her driving (in White) and her brake pads (in a 944 Turbo). He was a rank novice, loved my car and I took him for a few laps Sunday. He said he’d never been in a fast car before and I said “You still haven’t!”

My student was a challenge. He’s Israeli, having immigrated 6-7 years ago. He’s very bright and does financial work. But he filtered every comment I made about his driving and rationalized when I pointed out mistakes. I needed all of my patience to be firm, clear and explanatory so he would buy in to the suggestions. At one point I instructed him to pit prematurely so I could chew him out! He was very fast, but extremely rough at first. By the time I finished with him, he was more consistent and much smoother – but still very fast. And anxious to be signed off to solo, which I refused to do. I’ll leave it up to his Region to do that, which they understood and agreed.  We hit 145 mph before the Inner Loop and he engaged the ABS as we slowed for the turn, tires chattering on the way in. Not cool.

Speaking of which, three print Sprint Cup haulers had already arrived. And they’d painted all of the rumble strips/turtles a pretty red and white for TV.

The drivers in Red were generally pretty courteous, but there’s always a couple that pass without receiving a signal. The worst was on the way downhill into Turn 6. There were three cars behind me and I gave two signals, but the third guy in a Cup car went anyway – on the inside – taking away my ability to turn in for the apex. I shouted WTF! But he didn’t hear me. There were three different “someones” who passed without a signal – typical New Joyzee hotheads. And it was emphasized in the Instructors’ meeting every day. Once at my request. It’s a good thing I don’t wear a Hans device, because it would be impossible to look over my shoulder for “that guy”.

There were several spins and spills – including one that caused me to go off in Turn 8 – that held things up a bit. I was following a couple of newer cars that had passed me as I approached 8. I took my usual line and braking point and turned in (to the rght), but halfway through the corner the car stopped turning and went straight off into the grass. I braked lightly and turned a bit to the right to avoid hitting the fence. Initially I thought I might have a flat tire, but I kept rolling and couldn’t feel anything odd, so I drove to the paddock. The safety crew there is top-notch, so there wasn’t much of a delay.

The student’s car was a 2009 C4S Cab – translation:  Carrera AWD Cabriolet with 385 bhp and PDK. I’ve decided I don’t like PDK, because when you add throttle it may downshift two gears and give way more torque than you expected or wanted, eg. exiting Turn 7. And he was so anxious to be fast that we drifted around Turn 7 twice – in AWD! The car has so many nanny controls that it saved his ass (and mine) a few times. And he was timing laps until I put a stop to it. He admitted that he was better after the weekend than he was going in, but he really wanted to solo because he had last year at Pocono. But guess why they put him in Green? He needed more work!

We had a great BBQ Saturday provided by Paul Miller Porsche of NJ – free beer and tons of ribs, chicken and veggies. I made good time coming home, arriving in 5 hours. It took 6 to get there, with a lot of rain and a half hour at the border. I covered about 320 km on track and 890 on the roads – spent way more on gas than everything else combined. The cabin at the Seneca was only $135 for three nights!

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