I am back from a great one day track event at Summit Point Shenandoah Circuit. The Saturday only event was hosted by BSR and is part of their “Friday at the Track” (FATT) program. This is one of two each year that are not held on Friday, but rather on a Saturday.
I had planned to leave early on Friday the 15th and work remotely from the hotel that afternoon. As usual, my day off started with me going to work and attending client meetings. I was able to break away about 1:00 and head towards Summit Point.
In my Avy with the RX7 in tow, I set off for Winchester, VA where I would stay for the night. As I made my way through Chesapeake, I saw the dreaded flashing lights on the “Urgent Traffic Information” sign. I tuned into VDOT’s AM information station and found out that there were problems at both tunnels. Doing the tunnel shuffle is no fun and I have been there before. Sometimes you guess right. On Friday, I did not. There was an accident at the Monitor Merrimac with traffic backed up 6 miles. There was a disabled vehicle at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and traffic backed up 3 miles. I figured that the disabled vehicle would probably be cleared by the time I arrived, but after I had committed to the HRBT (264 interchange is my point of no return,) I realized that I had made a bad choice. By the time I caught up with the traffic, it was backed up 5 miles and the backup had spawned numerous rear-end collisions that were not helping matters. 15 minutes at a dead stop and 1 hour rolling at 5-10 miles per hour later, I was through the tunnel.
I made my way to 64 between Newport News and Richmond, and the 0 to 70 to 0 game that is played out there almost every day. That is a story for another post.
The Avy pulled the RX7 with ease over some steep grades and I was glad to finally see the Days Inn at Winchester. I have to put in a quick plug for my humble Days Inn. It is not an architectural wonder on the outside but it is clean and cheap. $44 a night got me free continental breakfast, all the channels, free wifi, micro/fridge, a/c that would make an Eskimo homesick and a toilet with a good strong flush.
Saturday morning arrived and I headed towards the track. There is a nice guy that works the gate at Summit Point who has been there for years and he always gives you a big good morning and a smile when you arrive. I don’t know his name but seeing him is part of the experience. He asked me if I was a FATT driver. I told him I was just big boned. At any rate, he pointed me to the Shenandoah Circuit bridge and I proceeded to the paddock and unloaded the car.
One of my favorite parts of a track weekend is meeting new friends and this weekend was no exception. There are so many passions in a track day paddock that make the mix of people very interesting. I made quick friends with a number of drivers. The cars were as varied as a new Ferrari, an Aston Martin to the usual BMW’s, Corvettes, Miatas, and Subarus. My paddock neighbors had 2 Police Interceptor Chevrolet Caprices that made really cool track toys. Rotary power was well represented with 3 FB RX7’s, my FC, an FD, as well as an RX8.
The track day went well. Shenandoah is described as one of the most technical race courses on the east coast. I had driven on this track once before in a really hard rain. It was difficult to learn under those conditions, so I wanted to give the course another try. Now that I have spent more time on the course, it is not my favorite, but I love the variety and believe that it is an excellent training ground for any driver. There are so many turns on Shenandoah, it really is a great equalizer. High horsepower cars seemed to have little to no advantage over the smaller and lighter cars. One thing that I noticed the most was that there is really no time to rest on this track. You are almost always setting up for your next turn. There are about 3 short straights, but only one gives you much time to take a quick glance at the gauges before you are at the next turn. By the end of the day, I had established a nice line that was working well for the car and I was building speed. I plan to go back as I want to master the course.
BSR also gave us time on the skidpad with their training cars. The old Crown Vic Interceptors were surprisingly fun to drive. During the skidpad training, the instructor had control of the gas and the brake and the student only had steering control. The instructor would play with the gas and intentionally get the car to oversteer while the student would work to catch it. He progressively would get the car more and more out of shape until you were driving sideways while looking out the driver’s side window. It was a strange sensation and excellent training.
The RX7 ran well, but at the mid-point of my track season, I intend to give it some much needed TLC over the coming weeks. I am having some minor hot transmission issues and another Mazda driver who rode with me to observe thinks that it is fluid related. I am going to swap out my Royal Purple synthetic to a yet to be determined fluid. I am also replacing my rubber engine and transmission mounts with polyurethane mounts to give me more positive shift action while the car is in transition.
My next scheduled event is CMP with NASA-SE October 22 and 23rd. I will probably sneak in another weekend at Summit Point Main before then. The season will end at Road Atlanta the first weekend in December. As soon as we can get our gallery fixed up, I will post some pics. Stay tuned.