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      06-27-2014, 06:08 AM   #1
LiM3y
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Thompson Speedway, CT - First Drive

I attended an HPDE at the new Thompson Speedway road course this Wednesday with the SCDA and I thought I'd share my impressions of the track. The track is 57 miles away from home door-to-door, so I am a lucky boy! Previously, the closest was Lime Rock at ~110 miles. Unfortunately, I had some real self inflicted battery issues on all cameras (I picked up the wrong battery for my contour in the rush to leave in the morning), so I have no film, neither shots or footage. Here is a Cayman S youtube from last week…this guy is in the wrong group, even with the line he is driving...



Firstly, the pit area/garages is smallish, so get there early for an HPDE if you want to avoid setting up in the boonies - especially if towing a trailer, you might end up on the skid pad for room to set up if you arrive late. The garages look great - very roomy and you could probably fit two cars in a bay easily. The pit area is pretty tight, so make sure you observe the anti-clockwise rotation rule

I usually run in Intermediate 2 or Advanced with SCDA, but this day I ran in Intermediate 1 for 3 sessions to allow my car a break between sessions as my wife was running her first ever event as a novice. I am glad I did, as it gave me a chance to learn the track at a lower speed - it was also interesting to see how far my driving has come in the last 3-4 years. I ran the last session in Int2 as my wife dropped out of her last session. She did well - I am proud of her and I think she understands what all the fuss is about a little better now!

Anyway, the track…



This is a brand new surface, which I have never experienced before. I am not sure how long it takes to "pack" or "rubber in" but it felt pretty loose, almost like it started to "give" under heavy braking. There is always going to be passing issues as there is only one really good passing place on the front straight, and that has a slight kink on it. There is room for about 3 cars to pass before braking starts for Turn 1. Passing was on the right, but the right is the more settled line for the kink and has pit-in/out. Other zones were added later in the day, between 3-4 and both sides of the bowl, but these require good manners from all to use effectively and a couple of intermediate 1 drivers were getting way off line driving with their mirrors trying to get out of the way. I think patience will be a virtue here!

The turn numbers might be a little "off" later in the lap, as I haven't got the marked map handy, but the sequence is right.

Turn 1/2: This looks like Big Bend at LRP. You get some good speed on the front straight, but you have to brake earlier than you expect to get Turn 1 right. There is an uphill braking zone, but the corner is flat, so you suddenly but briefly lose braking. Combined with the lower grip surface, this catches your attention and you are quickly out of shape and off line and out wide. I tried to do this in 3rd (MT), but settled on a 4-2 downshift to get some torque to get out of the corner. You can unwind the wheel for increasing radius #2 and accelerate with plenty of room for the 2-3 squirt. I was running with DSC off, so you can work on your homework from Billy Johnson's recent article and rotate the car with the throttle. I found I made ground on a GT-R in the group with a tighter line on #1-#2. I was mixed on changing up here with MT, but with a little confidence in #3's line. DCT will pay dividends over MT at this track with plenty of opportunities to flip and flap the paddles on short straights

Turn #3: This is interesting left turn as the road drops aways around the apex and sends you understeering to the right. This isn't a bad thing as there is an immediate uphill to #4 that helps bring you back across the track, it just means you don't end up where you think you should be when you started the corner! If you pinch it too much to stay left, it really slows you down, I just added a little more lock and let the car go where it wanted to and work back left to get ready for #4

Turn #4: This is an irritating, yet fun, throwaway right hand corner. Once again, the track drops away pretty hard and once again, you are fighting a lot of understeer. Coupled to this, the track was starting to degrade and created a stone marble field that made it real fun. The track was to be repaved this week, so hopefully they will use a different, more rugged compound. I made a hard brake here and trail-braked into the apex to try and keep some weight over the front for more grip - a great place to practice this - but it requires patience and you don't gain much more than a more intimate knowledge of the rumble strip on the left by pushing it. I shifted down to 2 before Turn #4 to get some torque for the exit again.

Turn #5: This was a fun right hand corner to play with and set up the bowl. This is the corner under the bridge that looks scary on film, but it is tough to be fast into here, and you don't notice the bridge as you look left towards the apex. I found that I could take a tighter line and really get on the gas and power around the apex into the bowl area. It was fun to squeeze on the power and let the car take itself right using the throttle to rotate the car. There is plenty of room and grip on the seasoned surface to boot it and work across to the left for the bowl turn. The old asphalt feels good after the earlier part of the track!

Turn #6: This is the bowl turn. For us, they kept us off the banking, but other groups have used some or all of the banked turn. This is fast, fun corner and the car feels planted on the old track. I just brushed the brakes to set up, turned in and powered out with plenty of room on the left. Another chance to feel the car move with the throttle, use the slip angles on the tires and make them sing!. This was fun to feel a little of what the Billy Johnson article talked about and actually do some edumacation at an HPDE!

Turn #7/8: Exiting the bowl with a smile on your face, this turns a little to puzzlement to get 7/8 right. I think you need to be wider than you think to get #9 right. You need #9 right to get set up for #10 and #11 - you'll lose a lot of speed on the front straight by missing #9. A wider line on #8 gives you a better radius and makes it easier to get onto the left curbing, but too far outside right is very rough and unsettles the car. There is camber here to help you get around and allow more speed. You can overlook the turn by walking along the top of the unused oval banked turn. I think it is best to get as left as you can to widen #9 for more speed in an M3, but watching other groups showed a variety of lines here with different cars.

Turn #9: Not much to talk about here, just keep off the inside curbing as it throws the car left and unsettles it when you wanted to be squeezing on the power for this sequence through #10-11. There was plenty of grip here and a fun corner to load up the left side for #10.

Turn #10 &11: I lifted the throttle slightly here to help bring the front around, but in a light car or slick tires, I am pretty sure this is full throttle. All you see is the black asphalt of the blind summit of #11 and you are wondering where you need to be. I tended to be too tight on #10 early on, worried about where the track is on the other side and finding myself having to steer out left. There is plenty of track to the left and let the car go out there. Just make sure you check the flag station cf the back straight at VIR as you are blind (to your right, away from your natural view). I found there is a lone silver birch peeking over the crest that gave me a good line over the crest of #11 and onto the front straight. This sequence reminded me of Hog Pen at VIR leading onto the front straight. The car is compressed with plenty of grip and you can lay down the power keeping the back planted. You are full throttle going over the crest of #11 and the car wobbles a little as the axles load and unload, but you can see the wide open space of the front straight appear in front of you and off you go…I think it is better to work to the right of the straight to make a smoother line through the kink just past start/finish and give yourself a long straight line into #1

[As an aside, you can drive through the pits and over to the skid pan tucked away behind Turn #10/11 to cool off safely in a less busy area]

I fully recommend a day out there if you can and learn the track. The slow corners and short straights gave a real opportunity to work on driving techniques like heel-toe downshifts and trail braking at relatively low speeds for a track day. I preferred heel-toe downshifting and trail braking into #4 here than Uphill at LRP! I am just starting and looking forward to rebuttals from better drivers to these comments in the future! I am guessing the surface will mature and season over time - it was a little unnerving feel it kind of move, especially at Turn #1 and Turn #4 under heavy braking. Although short in nature, there are lots of hard brakes…maybe this is a conservative approach to a new track…but my brakes let me know they had been busy during the session as pulled into my parking area. Overall, as I got to know the track through the day, the more I relaxed and trusted the line. I am looking forward to the next time, that time with a working camera!
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      06-27-2014, 09:05 AM   #2
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nice review, a couple of comments from my NASA sessions last week:

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiM3y View Post
Turn 1/2: This looks like Big Bend at LRP. I tried to do this in 3rd (MT), but settled on a 4-2 downshift to get some torque to get out of the corner.
This is a 5-2 downshift, get on 5th gear before the kink and brake hard past the 4 marker. Should be redlining 4th around the start line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LiM3y View Post
Turn #4: This is an irritating, yet fun, throwaway right hand corner. Once again, the track drops away pretty hard and once again, you are fighting a lot of understeer. Coupled to this, the track was starting to degrade and created a stone marble field that made it real fun. The track was to be repaved this week, so hopefully they will use a different, more rugged compound.
Very irritating indeed. If you late apex it as much as possible (far end of (cracked) asphalt) and kink it, you save lots of time, or so my data says. Plus I don't like the water-filled plastic containers on the track out point, 3 of them exploded spectacularly at T9 & T1. All 3 cars had to be towed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LiM3y View Post
Turn #10 &11: I lifted the throttle slightly here to help bring the front around, but in a light car or slick tires, I am pretty sure this is full throttle. All you see is the black asphalt of the blind summit of #11 and you are wondering where you need to be.
Middle @ full throttle with street tires.

If you're at the left, you'll eat dirt at track out. If you're at the right, the dip will upset your suspension.
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      06-27-2014, 09:28 AM   #3
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OP, nice review. Mid corner fun, i was there with NASA on sunday with my white 135i in HPDE3/4 run group. What car were you driving?
I would say that this is not a typical road course. Very short like LRP, but not as fast and free flowing. Not much run off areas, so if you spin, or go off, you will most likely hit something. That front straight is not really straight, and in the beginning of it, my car was air born several times. I was braking at the 3 mark, but it was scary at times, because if you dont do it right, there is no plan B. I was trail braking in T1, and had to use second gear coming out of a very tight corner. Overall, this track is not going to be my favorite i think. In fact, its at the bottom of the list for me. WGI is by far the best track in the northeast.
Just want to add, that even though i didnt really like this road course, my car did very well. Maybe short wheelbase was allowing me to go through tight corners faster, maybe my set up was perfect on r-comps, but only one car passed me in a very fast run group. And that car was Ariel Atom.
At the end of the third session i lost power due to limp mode and had to cut my day short.
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Last edited by Groundpilot; 06-27-2014 at 09:50 AM.
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      06-27-2014, 09:45 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Groundpilot View Post
OP, nice review. Mid corner fun, i was there with NASA on sunday with my white 135i in HPDE3/4 run group. What car were you driving?
I would say that this is not a typical road course. Very short like LRP, but not as fast and free flowing. Not much run off areas, so if you spin, or go off, you will most likely hit something. That front straight is not really straight, and in the beginning of it, my car was air born several times. I was braking at the 3 mark, but it was scary at times, because if you dont do it right, there is no plan B. I trail braking in T1, and had to use second gear coming out of a very tight corner. Overall, this track is not going to be my favorite i think. In fact, its at the bottom of the list for me. WGI is by far the best track in the northeast.
2nd to bottom, Pocono is still last...

If your 135i has a black spoiler, you were parked next to me. AW M3, instructors group. small world
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      06-27-2014, 10:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mid-corner fun View Post
2nd to bottom, Pocono is still last...

If your 135i has a black spoiler, you were parked next to me. AW M3, instructors group. small world
Hahaha. I didnt know your screen name.
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Last edited by Groundpilot; 06-27-2014 at 11:17 AM.
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      06-27-2014, 10:58 AM   #6
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Thanks for the comments. I think using the birch tree put me in the middle of the track at #11 going over the hill, I just remembered the voyage of discovery the first few times. The Mustangs in the group had a horrible time with their fixed rear axle!

#4 I just stayed tight in as there was no grip at all on the marbles. I tried a late apex and pretty much slid off into the trap and did two wheels off until the curbing on the way to #5. I didn't try it again
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      06-27-2014, 11:14 AM   #7
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Why is all the cool shit in CT so god damn far away.
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      06-27-2014, 11:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiM3y View Post
Thanks for the comments. I think using the birch tree put me in the middle of the track at #11 going over the hill, I just remembered the voyage of discovery the first few times. The Mustangs in the group had a horrible time with their fixed rear axle!

#4 I just stayed tight in as there was no grip at all on the marbles. I tried a late apex and pretty much slid off into the trap and did two wheels off until the curbing on the way to #5. I didn't try it again
Yes. Many times i had to alter racing lines in several turns to find the grip.
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      07-02-2014, 08:48 PM   #9
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I liked the track when up there with nasa. It's not overly fast, but I hit around140 on the front straight. T4 is terrible with more grip all the way out. Onto and off the oval upsets the car, so you have to lift and control it. T1 thru t3 can be treated as one large apex and you carry a ton of speed if you hit it right. It's a drivers track, and eats up tires and brakes. I found it very flowing once you get a good line for the car. Looking forward to going back!
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