And then the instructor puked in my car...

The Story of My First Track Event

(An email to some friends dated Monday, May 5, 1997)

With a little help of J and Reb, today was my first day at Seattle International Raceway in my "new" Porsche. What a kick. I'm hooked.

Here's the story...

Last Friday J & Reb told me they thought there may have been an opening for today's race school at SIR. There was and I signed up. I arrived at SIR at 7:30 am, following 3 other 911s up highway 18 from Auburn. I'd never been to SIR before so I just followed the cars that seemed to have a clue on how to get into the track (we were supposed to meet by the tower). We all parked in the staging area nose-out. What a sight. Roughly 20 Porsches all lined up in a nice row. One 924, one 944 Turbo, a Boxter, and the rest 911s of differing years.

The day started with an hour or so of classroom instruction where I learned things like how to position your seat properly and how to heel-toe (I had my own intuitive ideas, which turned out to be not too far off, but I'd never been "taught" any of it). Pretty good stuff for the most part. I am normally not a very good student (short attention span), but today I was in to it. I ate up every word.

We then spent several hours doing "cone" exercises on the track. Slalom, emergency breaking, and accident avoidance. I learned alot and really began to "know" my car. Remember, I've had it for less than a week...

We then took several laps around the track with an instructor. He drove for 2 laps, then I drove for 2. Slowly. Just to get a feel for the track and to have something to think about during lunch.

After lunch we hit the track again. Helmets this time. There were two groups of cars and each group took roughly 20 minute turns on the track. The other group did chalk talks and thought about what they had done wrong/right while waiting. There were "lap" cars on the track (including J Allard, Doug, Darryl and several other MSFTies) to keep things exciting. Darryl had a race 911 as well as one of his Ferarris on the track. Pretty much the only non-Porsche out there.

My first session was pretty good. My instructor gave me LOTs of input and advice. Almost too much for me to take in. I was feeling a bit overloaded, but by the time the session was over I knew what I was supposed to be doing and sometimes doing it. My favorite turns were 3a/3b. You come off of 2 and over a rise and down a grade into 3a. If you've taken 2 correctly you can be carrying a lot of speed down the grade. I never saw my speedomotor but you're in fourth gear before you need to break. The turn-in point for 3a is smack at the "back" of the turn; just head right for it breaking hard and downshifting (heel-toe!) into 3rd and then 2nd. Just as you approach the back of the curve, turn right hard to the apex and out accross to the exit point on drivers-left. Accellerate into 3b (still going downhill!). Really break hard at priorot to the turn-in point for 3b to get the nose down/weight forward and turn sharply to the left, accelerating hard out of the turn. Feel the drift as you accellerate towards the exit point. Weee!

My second session started out ominously. A different instructor this time. He starts off saying that he hopes that I drive smootly because he's not feeling very well. Early on he had good advice, but as we made more and more laps he got quiet. I even tried asking him "How was that? What should I have done differently?" Mumbled responses. Finally as we approach the place on the track where you're supposed to exit he says "you better pull of". I signaled (arm out the window per protocol) and pull in. He said "Stop here!". I stopped, he threw open the door and proceeded to puke. The majority of it stayed in his hemlet, but a bunch landed in the interior between the seat and door-sill. Bleeech! I could have screamed. Fortunately it all cleaned up and didn't smell.

Needless to say, I picked a different instructor for my 3rd session. This guy was great. I really tried to remember his name but I obviously had my mind on other things because I can't. Anyway, by this time I was feeling much more confident and was successfully executing most of the time. I had trouble figuring out the breaking point for turn 8, but finally nailed it. I came to really like turn 8 because if you do it right you get to take tons of speed into the front straightaway. I hit 120mph several times. Yeeehaaw!! I never really felt like I had 5a/5b nailed, but in my mind I can visualize it. Next time!

J & Doug were both behind me for a lap during my 3rd session and both got videos of me. Cool! I can't wait to show them to Julie.