Pocono South

Metro NY PCA

April 15-16

I have spent the past month preparing my car for this event. Basically, I wanted to make a number of improvements
to my suspension, with the goal being better performance at club races. I canít touch the motor and stay in the stock class, but suspension changes are pretty much Ďfreeí meaning almost anything goes.
The trip to Pocono was uneventful, and at 11:00PM Friday night my friend and I were parked at the entrance to the track. I Turned off the RV, drank a beer and went to sleep. There was no need for an alarm, 911ís idling at 6:30AM served to wake me up. Head in to the track, parked, and unloaded. At 8:00am there was a lot of fog, so I doubted we would have cars on track at 9:00. Oh well, head back to the RV and relax. Finally, at 10:30, the fog has lifted enough to allow cars on track.
OK, time to see if the wheels fall off or not. I strap in and head to the hot pit. Cool, Iím second in line. We get the sign to proceed onto the track, but the first car isnít ready, so off I go, the first one to get on the track this year at a Metro driver ed event. Get on the track, and the car seems OK. I'm getting some vibrations above 80 mph, but Iím running an old set of Kumho tires, and they arenít balanced, so the vibrations arenít totally unexpected. No vibration under braking, in fact the brakes feel great! Hey, the whole car feels great. With the stiffer suspension, I donít feel the car lean very much. Itís pretty flat, and I can stay on the power almost all the way through NASCAR 1. Wow, this is fun! Now I remember why I spent all those hours working on the car, then more time and money traveling away from my family. This track stuff is a blast! Out on the track, the car is working well. Itís oversteering through the last few corners, the track is bumpy there, and I feel the bumps unsettle the car and make the rear start to hop. The track is damp, but as it dries, the car handles better and better.


Here's a map of the track. Click on it for a larger one.

We ran the track counter-clockwise. The turn numbers are all wrong for us, but you can get a feel for the track from the map. One other thing, on Saturday, we ran a short version, skipping the hairpin and basically making the course an oval. On Sunday, we ran the hairpin. That makes those few corners like an autocross.

In the second run I was having a blast. I had adjusted the tire pressures a little after the last session, and most of the oversteer was gone. The car was handling very neutral with lots of grip, plenty of power, and excellent speed. I was passing almost everyone, when I came up to a PCA Club Race class GT1 S 911 turbo. The car is very fast, but I was catching him in the NASCAR turn 1. He was leaving me in the dust on the straights, but I was gaining on him in all the corners. Finally he have me the pass signal, and after a few laps I put enough distance between us that I was able to relax a little. That run was major fun, and after it, the driver, Chris, came over and we rehashed the run.

Third run, more of the same. I took my student, Lisa, for a ride. I wanted to show her exactly what I meant by ďhitting the apex.Ē Again, the car was working great. The brakes were excellent, and the old K tires were pretty grippy. By now, I had worked up to going through the bowl or NASCAR 1 wide open. From the time I completed the last corner before the main straight, I was at wide open throttle until braking for T2. Mid way through the run I caught up to the chief instructor, Bob Slawson, in his 911. Bob is a great driver, very fast, and his car is well set up. He was faster than me through the infield, but I was able to make up all the ground NASCAR 1. We ran nose to tail to a few laps, and it was really great. If we were racing I donít think I would have been able to pass him. Since we werenít, he was nice and gave me a passing signal. Then I tried to stay in front of him. It was easy in the bowl, but not easy in the infield. He was faster than me in the tight stuff.

Here I am entering the 'bowl' of NASCAR 1. You can click on it for a larger image. Photo credit Vince Ponzo

Thatís it for day one. I cleaned up my stuff, got some gas, and picked up some stuff to make for dinner. I was looking forward to a quiet, relaxing evening in the RV. After working so hard for so long to prepare for the event, an evening in the RV, with nothing to do but eat a little, read some magazines, and turn in early was very attractive. However, at about 6:30 some of the track workers came by and told me that I couldnít stay in the track, I head to leave. Bummer! I asked where I could stay, and they told me of a small entrance about ½ a mile down the road. So I unhitched the trailer, stowed all the loose gear, and hit the road. I found the spot to park, and I did have that quiet evening I was looking forward to. I was sleeping by 10:00 PM.

Sunday I drove back into the track, and prepared for the day. We were running the same course, but with a slight change, the hairpin turn was back. I was looking forward to making at least the one right turn.

The first run I took a passenger, nothing eventful happened. We got on the track a little late, and the car worked well. The slow sections of the track are slow, and took some getting used too.

Photo credit Vince Ponzo

For the next run the sun came out, and the weather started to get very nice. What a pleasant surprise. I was driving some good fast laps, when, in traffic, I caught up to a red 911 TT. I know the car and the driver. He is a new instructor, and while heís a good driver, heís not great, and I can keep up, and even gain a little. Heís on Hoosiers for the first time, and the car is hooked up, working well, and fast. Heís faster than me everywhere on the track but NASCAR 1. I use my superior speed in that section of the track, the fastest, to stay with him. Each lap Iím getting closer, but not close enough to get a pass signal. Iím working hard, driving the wheels off the car trying to keep up. I analyze the situation, and see that I have to be careful where NASCAR 1 ends. If I go through there flat out, I am probably going 15-20 mph faster than the 911 turbo. When he gets on the brakes, Iím usually still on the throttle. If Iím not aware of the situation, it could get ugly. So Iím making sure that I have enough space to brake, and I leave myself some track to use in case I canít slow down. Iím putting the pressure on the 911, and I see his driving start to suffer. Heís starting to miss apexes as he pushes, I see little puffs of smoke as he activates the ABS under braking. Iím smiling to myself as I gain. Finally, exiting NASCAR 1 and preparing to make the left into the infield, I see him start to lose control. The car starts to spin, but the driver catches it after it goes about 10 degrees around. I back off, and give him room, but he collects it and heads to the next corner. Suddenly, as he turns in, the car just does a snap spin, doing about a 270 degree turn, and stopping in the middle of the track. Since I had backed off a little, I had no problem moving left, and driving around.

I figured it was a harmless spin, and that the car would be on the track next lap. However, next time by the car was still sitting off the track. Next lap, and the driver was out of the car, and the hood (or is it a trunk in a 911) was open. Uh oh, was it a mechanical failure? After the run, they called for the tow truck. I went to look for the driver, but I didnít see him anywhere. Later, he came over and we talked about the run. The tire, a brand new hoosier, had a 2Ē cut in it, right where the tread meets the sidewall. Our theory is that he developed a leak, and then the tire let go and that caused the spin. Luckily, no damage done, just a $200+ tire reduced to junk.

In the afternoon, I did two more sessions. I eventually wore my RR tire down to the cord on the outer edge. That was an old tire, and I was very surprised that it lasted as long as it did. After finishing up with my student, I loaded the car on the trailer, cleaned up, and headed for home. Got home, saw my wife and daughters, and ate a late dinner.

Now the carís in the garage, and I donít have that much time to prepare for the next event, NHIS with Metro and Rennlist, on May 8-9. I need at least one new (or used) 265/45/16 V700 before then. Hopefully I can track one down before then.

Hope to see you there!