So, went to the track for the first time, ever. And the FR-S is my first sports car. I’ve had the car for about 8 months (since early July,
2012). I have always driven aggressively and had a preferance for curvy backroads in Michigan even before I had any sort of sports car.
The Car (performance mods I’ve made so far):
Visconti Tuned (Pump Gas)
Perrin Crank Pulley
Perrin Drop-in Filter
Motul Gear 300 75w90 in both Transmission and Differential
AFE Super Blue Brake Fluid
Royal Purple 0w20 oil
NOLA Motorsports Park
2.75 mile North track setup
HPDE-1 NASA Event.
Two days on the track with myself and an instructor in the car. I started out feeling rather intimidated, just not knowing what to expect.
Everything from a Mini Cooper to a Porshe Boxster S lined up to go out. To compound on the whole thing, I decided to tent camp the night before
to save money on lodging ($18 per day vs $85 per day). It was a good idea in theory, but we got hit by some horrible storms in the middle of the
night that kept me up and got me a little wet (it was raining so hard that water was coming through the seams of the tent). So not only was I a
little tired and not as prepared as I wanted to be, but my first experience going as fast as I could manage would be on a wet track in the only
new car I’ve ever owned.
First lap was spent being told what an apex was and where it was. I think I naturally knew what an apex was just from driving and feeling the
car out, but never actually knew what it was. The first heat was spent remembering where they where and how to get to them. It seemed fast at
the time, but in retrospect, it wasnt. It was interesting that after about 4 laps, my instructor told me (though the headset we had set up) that
he was going to just be quite and let me feel things out. The next 10-15 minutes were spent mostly in silence with a few comments made by me.
When finished, the debrief was really quick and simple. Get a little closer to the apexes. Otherwise, he was impressed with me and the car. I
mentioned that through the sweeping curves on the back stretch (turns 8-12), I felt like I could do about 55-60 mph at best and feel comfortable.
The track remained wet the whole day, so while I pressed the car a little more through the day, I was certainly reserved about how far I wanted
to push. I got closer and closer to the apexes on nearly all the corners, and got more comfortable. Every heat was noticibly faster. The Miata
that ran with us passed me on nearly every heat, as did the Mini Cooper, the Boxster S, and the 944. I came off the track every time with a
smile on my face, and really didnt receive much advice from my instructor. Most of the advice came on the track. When I would make a mistake, I
tend to say it, and how I plan to fix it next time (getting into the corner faster/slower, earlier/later, etc). And every time I came off the
track, he further emphasized how he was impressed with me and the car.
Also, between heat 3 and 4, we went out in his Porsche 911 Turbo. Unfortunately, it had gotten water in the intake and on the MAF (I think,
still new to it all) and was being very stubborn. It would spin up, catch some water, cut out, burst back into boost again, all sorts of issues.
Eventually, we found out that he’d blown a head gasket, but that wasnt until day 2. In any case, I could tell the car was fast…if it was
working properly. In the end, it made me feel sick, but I found a few points that I could apply to my line, so it helped.
To this point, the whole day, I’d not felt any brake fade. I did, however, notice it shortly after I left the track. Maybe I was just so
focused on the track that I didnt notice.
Dry track. Right out of the gate I was going to press the car more. There were also a few turns that I had identified as being points I wanted
to work on. Particularly, Turn 13 (a 90 degree angle to the right) was the one I worked on at first. It was a sticking spot for me because I
really didnt want to spin out, but I could tell I was not close to taking it to the full potential. It only took the first heat to get that
corner to where I felt I was happy with it. I also noticed near the end of the first event that I had some fade in the brakes. My instructor
thinks it was probably a little glazing of the pads. I worked with them and they never gave up on me. We will see how they are when I pull them
off this weekend.
The second heat I went after turns 14-16 leading up to the straight away. My instructor and I both noticed it as a spot where others were
pulling away from me easily. The problem became that the whole corner is in the torque dip (3.5k-4k rpms in 3rd gear), but dropping to 2nd was
impractical. With how tight the whole area of it was, and my skill level, we decided to stay in 3rd and adjust the line. It cleaned up, but
there is still work to be done to get that right.
Also during this heat, I made a good mistake. I had been cutting in tight to turn 3, getting right against the cone before swinging it out to go
for turn 4. I missed though, went a little deeper on the braking into it and a little wider on the turn, and we both instantly noticed that it
carried more speed and I had more power coming out of it. I was also able to get on the gas faster during the turn. So we fixed a line that we
didnt know we had a problem with. It felt good before, felt great after.
Day two brought about the same feeling as day one, being faster on every heat, and more compliments from my instructor. He was blown away with
how well the car handled, the lack of body roll, and kept saying that my driving was very smooth. The parts that people normally had trouble
with, turns 5-7 and 8-12, came naturally to me. He made a few comments about just being along for the ride and enjoying it.
By the end of the day, running turns 8-12 had a speed between 70-80, with some runs never dropping below 75. The 944 and the Boxster S were both able to pass me, but never able to get away from me. The Mini Cooper went from passing me on the first day to letting me by on the second day. The Miata didnt pass me on
the second day (though I wonder if he changed to HPDE-3, because he had track experience but it was his first time at NOLA). The tires still had
more to give me, so I wont be changing them for a while. The brakes…I havent decided. I doubt I will make any other changes for a while.
It was a great first experience and I cant wait to get out there again. I will certainly be out there as soon as I can manage. My plan is to
stay in HPDE 1 for the rest of the year (I really want to do 3 more events this year).
Pictures: NOLA 23-24 Feb 2013
Videos: Had my Blackvue 400 HD running, will have video posted as soon as I can manage to merge the files together. Its fighting me right now.
They will be up no later than the end of this weekend (I’m really hoping to have it worked out…tonight)