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      09-23-2012, 12:23 PM   #1

Drives: '09 M3
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Report from Mid-Ohio O'Fest

Report from Mid-Ohio
Just back from the OíFest at Mid-Ohio. Event was well run as usual, weather however, was not quite as cooperative. I arrived Thursday PM and ran the track on Friday and Saturday. Was nice to see friends again and catch up. It seems perhaps this year attendance might have been down a bit, but I canít say for sure. The run groups were certainly packed on Friday, but perhaps only Ĺ the cars on Saturday. The track is really quite fun and challenging. I would describe it as a better version of Barber. If you like blind corners, apexes at the crest of hills, off camber corners (really just a problem if you happen to get outside of the corner and then it can be dangerous) and carosels then you will like Mid-Ohio. Itís described as a ďtechnical course.Ē I always thought that ďtechnicalĒ tracks where what people called tracks that just had a whole bunch of turns and not much speed. At Mid-Ohio you come to learn that technical means that you better make darn sure that you have the car set-up and placement at corner entry just right otherwise you are liable to get in big trouble. So itís more challenging in that regard, and so it demands some precision on the front end and in return you will get a nice rhythm and flow through the corners.

The weather was the other issue. On Friday even though there was a 70% chance of rain, it was dry all day and the track had fantastic grip (itís pretty smooth too). On Friday evening after the awards banquet a number of cars were damaged by a micro-burst thunderstorm. A tent used for a covered car display, at the conference hotel, got blown over and the cars underneath were damaged and the guy who parked next to me (at the next dayís track event) had part of the tarp and one tent pole land on his 26,000 mile E46 M3 scuffing up the paint on his hood as well as scratching the paint on his mirror and door. He was parked near the tent, not under it.

On Saturday everyoneís first session was on a cold and really wet track even though it wasnít raining at the time. I like driving in the rain, but the morning session was not that much better than driving on ice. The track maintenance people used a lot of asphalt sealer in the corners which give tremendous grip in the dry but makes it an ice rink in the wet. Everything had to be very gentle and deliberate, ran the course two gears higher than in the dry and just drove like I was driving on raw eggs. The track dried out for the second morning session but it started raining again just as my final session of Saturday started. Amazingly, grip was really quite good for a damp track (Iíll talk about tires below). Overall, a really nice time and a nice track. If you get a chance I think this track is worth a visit.

Now some comments on parts and pieces:

1) Schroth R55 Mini harnesses- Yes, this is a non-approved application but this was now my second track event with them. For those of you used to running your cars with just the standard seat belt you will understand what I mean when I say I completed two days with no knee bruises . What is amazing is that with a good harness you can actually use the steering wheel for just that, steering. No more holding/bracing yourself with the steering wheel while trying to turn. No big surprise but you can actually place the car better when you only need the wheel for steering. I have a head restraint as well and boy are you really locked down when everything is cinched up, makes closing a fully open door impossible and checking for cross traffic is really a challenge. Super easy to install and remove, takes longer to put the belts back in the box than hooking up in the car.

2) Bridgestone RE-11 tires. Iím running 255/35/19 Front and 285/35/19 Rear. 275s were not available so I went with 285s, which I got last Fall. Even with the bigger rear tires, the carís bias is toward oversteer which is fine with me. The grip of these tires is really phenomenal for a street tire. Iím down to 4/32Ē in the rears and a touch more in front, but I drove this set from Columbia, SC to Chicago (rained the whole way, and yes I did hydroplane in larger puddles, so best to avoid standing water) and then to Columbus, OH to OíFest and home, total mileage 2,200. The last three instructors Iíve had (Road America, Road Atlanta and Mid-Ohio) have all commented without any prompting, at how good the grip and handling of car is. A major part of this is the tires. Dry grip is fantastic, for a street tire, Iím not saying they are R-comp like at all, but relative to PS-2 or Sport Contact 3s (Iíve had both) they are in a whole other league. The other thing that was impressive was that on a damp track, that is the track was dry and during the session itís raining the whole time, that grip was incredible. I couldnít believe how hard I could push and the grip was predictable and stayed there throughout the session even though the track was getting wetter and wetter. Iím really temped to get another set but Iíve heard good things about the AD-08 as well, which Iím temped to get just for comparison.

3) Ground Control Adjustable Street camber plates Ė Iíve had these for a year now. I have a ďtrack alignmentĒ with -2.5 degrees of camber up front. The plates have completely eliminated the outside edge tire wear I used to get. Front end grip is improved and I never have any understeer now (though some of the complaints of under-steer are driver technique related and in my case probably too). The plates have been trouble free and noiseless. Again, a good addition for my car and usage.

4) Cantrell motorsports front brake cooling ducts Ė I am running these for the last 3 track events with Pagid RS-19 front and RS-29 rear pads. I think they help, but I do know that at Road Atlanta if you have no traffic and run 3 consecutive laps hard, you will get brake fade with this set up. The fade is moderate and as soon as you get into some traffic it gets ďcured.Ē Iíve just learned to move the braking point back a bit and understand that it might be possible to get total brake failure if you donít make some adjustment. Was not an issue at Mid-Ohio and VIR has been fine too.

5) E90 BMW M3, with EDC and DCT other than items noted above, all stock. Itís not the fastest accelerating car, itís not the best handling car, it doesnít generate the highest cornering forces, itís not the most nimble car and itís not the best looking either, but boy as an overall package itís the best car Iíve ever owned. As noted above each of the last three instructors Iíve had have all said that they were amazed at how well the car handles, and how much grip it generates. Itís easy to drive, very forgiving and the handling balance is fantastic. Even though my car is 3 going on 4 years old (Iím at 45,000 miles) I still like it as much or more than when I first got it. Super reliable, burns no oil at all, will run 130-150mph at most any track (not Barber or CMP, well probably a bunch others too) and for a car that gets driven everywhere it just plain stomps.

For those of you thinking about OíFest next year, BMW CCA is seriously evaluating running the next event at Laguna Seca to be timed just after the ďHistorics.Ē This would be potentially a very memorable event. They are also looking into doing auto hauler car transportation by region for those who want to drive Laguna Seca but donít want to drive all the way cross-country. Keep your eyes open for more information coming from BMW CCA.
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      09-23-2012, 02:12 PM   #2
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Great report! I'm moving to WI soon and now they move Oktoberfest to the west coast. I can't win! A Laguna Seca event would be phenomonal!

I think when you say technical, you have to consider corners AND elevation changes. I think elevation changes really adds the challenge. It sounds like Mid-Ohio has plenty of both!

Understeer. Your assessment matches what I've experienced. A lot of people bitch about how the E9X M3 has lost its soul and blah, blah, blah. I'll say this...if the E30 M3 defines what an M3 is because it was neutral and high revving then the E9X is the closest thing because it is the highest revving AND the only recent BMW that doesn't go into terminal understeer in stock form when pushed.
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      09-23-2012, 03:55 PM   #3
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Thanks for the report - sounds like it was a good time and a track I need to put on my radar.

If BMW CCA organizes an AutoHauler for Laguna Seca next year, I would be interested.

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      09-23-2012, 09:38 PM   #4
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Great write up and Mid-Ohio is definitely on the list. Waited to long to sign up and missed it, but an epic drive to Laguna may be in the cards for next year. Loved the report on the harness (can't imagine coming home without the dreaded bruised left knee) and wonder how much better/faster one can drive while strapped in? Great report and love to see some pics or a vid.
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      09-24-2012, 01:58 AM   #5
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Well at least it did not snow Often the Frost on the Pumpkin driving school gets snow at Mid_o

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