Possibly a strange habit, but I like to take cars as received to a track I know to get a baseline. Also a bit of a baseline for me as I’ve spent my track career in FWD VWs.
Saturday was the day for my bone stock ’18 PP BRZ.
Grattan is a challenging a fun track and is Michigan’s little piece of heaven. If you haven’t been there, imagine those videos of the Nordschleife and cut it down to just over two miles. It is truly a wonderful place to drive. I’ve got a lot of laps there, but the last time out there was about eight years ago. That is a lot of ground to make up.
One thing that helped me was that I was assigned to do the classroom for the novices. I actually love doing this. Club day, so we try to make sure no one gets in the (literal) weeds. No, seriously. The bottom of the track is a swamp, complete with turtles. For a first day out, it was actually really helpful to go through the routine with them and put myself in the novice mindset. I ended up basically driving control (this appears to be a motorcycle thing) and doing lead follow laps with all of the assorted novices. This had the side effect of forcing me to pay strict attention to my lines instead of just screwing around. I found myself able to go much deeper into the turns than I expected and what traction I had was useful for pushing turning.
One new challenge at Grattan is a repave of sections of the track with some very weird tar surface. Grattan is challenging enough dry, but this surface and water did not agree. I experienced something new to me – skittering. I have not experienced a car hopping sideways across the track before. That was rather unsettling, because it was a start-stop behaviour instead of a slide. There was not a whole lot of steering into it as that just caused the traction control (even light) to go nuts. I have not perfected the pedal dance yet, so getting rid of all of it was not an option.
I have to address that being new to RWD (except for about 5 years as a kid) cost me a ton of time. It’s like learning to drive all over again. I have a good feel for pushing the car, but not for sliding it yet. The skittering was really off-putting and once I figured it out, it was a matter of keeping two wheels on the old pavement at all times. I needed a lot of laps to get my reference points back (needed as the track drops away in several places) and I am a lot rustier than I had hoped. I’m pretty good everywhere except turn 3 now. 3 makes the Corkscrew seem like a walk in the park. It’s so blind (downhill and off camber left) that it is now officially the track exit, mostly because people freak out and drive off right there. I think it took me several days to get it the first time, so no crisis. I’m slow, it’s ok. I have the jump, the esses, the bowl, the bus stop, and the valley back in my brain now.
So enough about me and the track, now the car, with a brief weather report.
The day was cold (low to mid 50s) and rainy. Then came the hail. And more hail. Then more rain. Not the best conditions, which contributed mightily to my experience.
Holy hell, the stock tyres are hilariously bad. Forget worrying about brake updates, the first things that need to go are these stupid tyres. I have experience quite a bit of wandering on longitudinally grooved pavement here in MI, and after a few skitters, I was able to associate it with the rain grooves in the tyres themselves. They seem to be folding over and breaking traction, then catching it again. Like slideways ABS? NO. Like driving me batshit crazy. I think a fair amount of this was due to the weather conditions – summer tyres right at the thermal limit of performance. I had one session where the track was dry and this was far different than the rest of the day. The control was there, I was able to avoid ABS, no skitters, etc. That was a good session and instead of learning new ways to avoid engaging TC, I was building speed in the corners. My hope had been to practice entering little slides, but that did not happen.
Brakes never really got tested because I was never going that fast. ABS is minimally intrusive – I prefer more feedback! It’s useless as a training aid if you can’t feel it. Again, the weather contributed.
Steering was tight and predictable.
The seat (which is outstanding for everyday driving) was ok, but a proper high seat and harness are going to be necessary. I’m spoiled in that all of my VWs have had harnesses, and some have had seats and cages. Trying to track a car without being attached to it is uncomfortable and less fun. I was seriously sore everywhere at the end of the day. Except my legs, which was nice. My upper body was feeling it from being in motion so much. I ordered a CGLock and then forgot to install it. It would not have helped with the upper body movement, though, and might have made things worse.
The best part of the day was that another BRZ driver was among my novices and he improved greatly throughout the day. The second best was discovering that my old endurance car still lives and is actually the west side track rat for our VW club. I got home and found the title, we are going to plate that sucker. It is a beast – ABA swapped with GTI brakes, and caged with two seats and harnesses. It even has window glass now! It weighs all of 1820#. It is soooooo much fun to drive. Pure point and shoot.
There are no bad days at the track if you can drive home. It wasn’t a great day for me, but it was a great (new) start.
I’ll be browsing TireRack now….
emojis courtesy ft86club.com