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      05-27-2011, 06:26 AM   #1
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Overdriving America: Part 2 - VIR

This is the second installment in my series Overdriving America, in which an enthusiastic intermediate overdrives great American road courses in the pursuit of happiness. Last time out, we visited Lime Rock Park, this week it is VIR - Virginia International Raceway.

The event was run by the PCA First Settlers Region and was 3 days over the last weekend. These guys did a great job of pulling this event together and I look forward to going again. I am in CT, so the 3 day event made the 12 hr ride worthwhile. The DE team got the balance between safety and fun just right, and the PCA drivers (in blue - novice) were fast and polite. The group has some very accomplished drivers in some nice machinery. The Blue group was a great group to run with.

The Friday morning was the craziest time I have seen at a track day. First session, a 911 hits a wall and knocks off his front bumper, another had to be towed off as his radiator became unhinged. After that, an attendee complained of dizziness and chest pains and was taken to hospital, meaning the track was closed for an hour while the EMS/Ambulance was away. Once the track re-opened, the second lap of that session, an prepped E36 had his steering wheel unclipped before the bridge at the bottom of the climbing esses, resulting in a wild ride right up the side of the bridge ramparts...I mean right up almost to the road across the bridge. The driver was okay. The organizing team did a great job in reorganizing the schedule and despite the 90 minutes of delays, most run groups got there full time. Thanks to the VIR flaggers who switched lunch and breaks to accommodate us. The day finished with a Corvette popping his engine and going up in smoke. They were picking engine parts off the track and the back end was melted down and destroyed. What a day! I have never seen anything like it.

The classroom sessions were good too. I have to admit that these get a little repetitive, but the instructor was a driving coach and added a new angle on some of topics. The one that stuck with me the most was the detail shared with not just applying your brakes, but also how you lift off so as to not unsettle the car. I am not sure if this is exaggerated in a P-car with the rear engine, but he was saying lift off smoothly so as not to let the weight shift off the front wheels jerkily when you are about to turn in just after (or trail) braking. He suggested moving off 9-3-1-0 (10 is locked up) rather than 9-0!

The track itself is awesome. If you had asked me on Friday, I would have said scary, and if you asked me after seeing the Continental GT race (I saw it when I got back on the DVR)...I don't think I would have gone! There is a mixture of technical sections and some challenging long straights too. It is perfect for our M3s. The back straight after the Oak Tree involves a long climb to a blind summit and a fairly steep drop. If is a gut checker to say the least to go over that hill and you stare at the flag station all the way up. I clocked 145 a couple of times going over the rise. At that point, the road drops away and you have to pause before starting your braking, as your wheels are dropping away, so you have less braking initially but it then rapidly loads up as you compress at the bottom of the dip. It is tough to wait to brake, especially as there is another short rise to a blind summit before the turn 14, 14a and 15 rollercoaster before "Hog Pen". I treated the track with a very healthy respect and tended to do a lot of backing off - I have seen too many VIR crash vids, and it hard not to visualize the infamous Audi R8 (Don't hit the wall, don't hit the wall...Godammit!) YouTube clip everytime you approach the Climbing Esses. Oak Tree was a gear change disaster for me and I never got into second for the turn and even went around in 4th a couple of times. It was the first time I wanted DCT! The last part that made you swallow is the front straight and "The Kink". Having a free run at this section, you get a lot of speed and it is a conscious effort to keep on the gas as you sweep through the Kink and get lined up for the hard braking for turn 1, being wary that a badly timed lift can send you spinning into the field to your left. I had one scary moment where I just made a pass on the right side which put me close to the tree/apex of The Kink, only to see an old 3 series pull up right in front of me with a mechanical issue. It was tough to smoothly adjust my line and make sure I stayed on. It is the best course I have driven, and you have to work all the way around to see the cambering changes and keep a good line. Those that have been there, know this, those who haven't been there - MAKE THE TRIP!

The other good part of the weekend was having a full-time instructor all day Friday and the first session on Saturday. After driving solo for almost two years now, with occasional instruction, I have picked up some sloppy habits. This was a great refresher and I got some stuff straightened out about being smoother with power and braking. I actually dumbed the throttle down to help with this. I will probably not run on "Super Sport" anymore at track days for quite some time. These sessions were really useful because they got me to back off and drive a little more intelligently. I am hoping that they provide a platform to start working on smoothing things out, not hauling the car around and ultimately picking up speed. I felt like I was "plateauing" with my driving, so these sessions will serve as a tonic to concentrate more on becoming a much more competent driver.

My instructor had a 2010 GT3. That car is insane...not necessarily the power, but the brakes are unbelievable. He drove me around for a few laps and I still cannot believe how fast that it scrubbed speed...and then built it up again with its 450hp NA engine. Superb machine. He was trying to talk me through the weight transfer for corners, but all I could think about was the brand new taste in my mouth from my stomach being hurled about for 10 minutes!

Anyway, these are the vids I have edited. The first is my instructor driving my M3 to show me the line and talk me through, and the second and third vids are me driving solo after I got signed off after the first session on Saturday! Enjoy!

Instructor Laps: (that was the sunrise on Saturday morning!)



Saturday Session #3:



Sunday Session #2 with my camera mounted on my helmet:



Later in the June, I will post Parts Three and Four...Overdriving NJMP Thunder and Lightning!
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      05-27-2011, 08:25 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiM3y View Post
I am not sure if this is exaggerated in a P-car with the rear engine, but he was saying lift off smoothly so as not to let the weight shift off the front wheels jerkily when you are about to turn in just after (or trail) braking. He suggested moving off 9-3-1-0 (10 is locked up) rather than 9-0!
VIR is awesome. It's funny hearing somebody talk about the kink on the front straight like it's a turn, lol. More powah = more puckah

That's how you drive a Spec Racer Ford too. Several SRF racers told me you can't trail brake an SRF when I bought mine but it's not true, you just can't be stupid about it.
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      05-27-2011, 08:57 AM   #3
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Nice writeup and vids. Do appreciate the time to do this. Hope to get out to VIR at some point and will be revisiting this thread B4 I do. Looks like an awesome time
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      05-27-2011, 09:01 AM   #4
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just went yesterday, VIR is right in my backyard

just curious what speeds were you hitting on the front and back straight?
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      05-27-2011, 09:19 AM   #5
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I was backing off a little most of the time, on the straights you would catch Boxsters and Caymans, that were faster in the turns than I, on pure grunt and there was a lot of passing going on by P-turbos! I sucked at Oak Tree, so would go aorund it in 3rd instead of 2nd. I was getting 145 on the speedo (139 real?) on the back straight, and probably ~125 on the front straight as I was conservative through The Hogpen.

Please note that I have RPI scoops on my car, so that will have added huge amounts of power!
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      05-27-2011, 09:33 AM   #6
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Coming into T11 in the GT3 I am right around 100mph hard on brakes - 4th down to 3rd inside at t11 track out before oak tree, 3rd to 2nd and then flat out. gt3 I am at 157 on the back straight every single lap. front straight 149...

A lot of people lose a lot of time on the back section of the track and it is not designed that way. You can fly through most of it

I got my doors blown off by a Zr1 yesterday on the back straight and he said he was hitting mid 170s on that section
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      05-27-2011, 09:50 AM   #7
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The scary thing for me was chatting to a couple of bikes movign in for a Monday track day. One of their guys was getting 172 at the crest on a bike. I am surprised he could actually sit on a bike with cajones that big!

If I had managed to get to 2nd on Oak Tree, I am sure I would have picked up more speed, but I didn't have the wherewithall to do that consistently, and opted for a slow gring into the torque band. Something to work on for the next trip!
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      05-27-2011, 10:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
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The scary thing for me was chatting to a couple of bikes movign in for a Monday track day. One of their guys was getting 172 at the crest on a bike. I am surprised he could actually sit on a bike with cajones that big!

If I had managed to get to 2nd on Oak Tree, I am sure I would have picked up more speed, but I didn't have the wherewithall to do that consistently, and opted for a slow gring into the torque band. Something to work on for the next trip!
Being honest third gear in that section usually feels a lot more smooth but second gives that extra grunt to get going a little before the hill...

Let me know when you are coming back!
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      05-27-2011, 02:15 PM   #9
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LiM3y- I also made it to that event, in my space gray sedan. It was good to see another E90 out there. I definitely second what good job the FSR PCA did with the event, especially after that first morning. Good times.
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      05-27-2011, 02:56 PM   #10
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Hey Rob. Very nice write up and vids. Looks like you had a lot of fun out there. I hope to get to VIR one day but i just dont see myself making a 16 hour round trip from long island,ny. Unless someone offers to transport me with my car in a helicopter, lol. You said it was the best road course you have driven. Have you been at WGI? If not, you may change your mind regarding the best course after you experience it. It is my fav. track by far.
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      05-27-2011, 11:09 PM   #11
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LiM3y- I also made it to that event, in my space gray sedan. It was good to see another E90 out there. I definitely second what good job the FSR PCA did with the event, especially after that first morning. Good times.
I have shots of your car. PM me and I can send files.
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      05-28-2011, 04:39 PM   #12
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The Friday morning was the craziest time I have seen at a track day. First session, a 911 hits a wall and knocks off his front bumper, another had to be towed off as his radiator became unhinged. After that, an attendee complained of dizziness and chest pains and was taken to hospital, meaning the track was closed for an hour while the EMS/Ambulance was away. Once the track re-opened, the second lap of that session, an prepped E36 had his steering wheel unclipped before the bridge at the bottom of the climbing esses, resulting in a wild ride right up the side of the bridge ramparts...I mean right up almost to the road across the bridge. The driver was okay. The organizing team did a great job in reorganizing the schedule and despite the 90 minutes of delays, most run groups got there full time. Thanks to the VIR flaggers who switched lunch and breaks to accommodate us. The day finished with a Corvette popping his engine and going up in smoke. They were picking engine parts off the track and the back end was melted down and destroyed. What a day! I have never seen anything like it.
...and the day ended with a swarm of locusts, frogs falling from the sky, and a Biblicial flood in the Hogpen.

Seriously, though, what a great writeup and videos. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together. Your self-deprecating humor is fantastic--a nice change from the frequent unwarranted bravado on a lot of these message boards.
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      05-29-2011, 07:39 AM   #13
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A couple more comments/questions about the videos:

The corner worker at Oak Tree is SO close to the track--an instructor in the right-hand seat could give him a high-five!

The helmet-cam perspective is cool as a teaching tool. It really shows you where your eyes are when driving the track and whether you're looking ahead to the next corner.

There are a HUGE number of skid marks all over the track. Was your event day right after the Continental Challenge or Rolex GT races?
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      05-29-2011, 08:53 AM   #14
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There are a HUGE number of skid marks all over the track.
There are always tons of skid marks on the track at VIR, just don't follow some of them
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      05-29-2011, 07:47 PM   #15
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I think your instructor was Ryan with the dark grey GT3 RS, right? He is an excellent driver and instructor, you were lucky. Nice, smooth driving.

The first day was really crazy. In 8 years I have been DE'ing, I have never seen anything like it, an incident during all first three sessions in different groups, very unusual. But I think we closed the weekend on a high note with Saturday and Sunday having very few issues, good, cordial driving.

Cheers,
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      05-29-2011, 07:55 PM   #16
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I think your instructor was Ryan with the dark grey GT3 RS, right? He is an excellent driver and instructor, you were lucky. Nice, smooth driving.

The first day was really crazy. In 8 years I have been DE'ing, I have never seen anything like it, an incident during all first three sessions in different groups, very unusual. But I think we closed the weekend on a high note with Saturday and Sunday having very few issues, good, cordial driving.

Cheers,
Ryan...is that you??? LOL!

No he rode me pretty hard all day Friday, and I thought that I was struggling, and then after first session Saturday, he said "What do you think about going solo?".

I made sure that when I saw him afterwards I said "You must be a lot heavier than you look, I passed several cars without you in the car!" He was a good guy, and liked the fact he dropped by several times to make sure I was alright through Saturday and Sunday. He scared the crap out of me in his GT3!
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      05-30-2011, 09:38 AM   #17
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I was parked next to Ryan, I had the white GT3. I had a Cayman S last year, then he gave me a ride in his 3RS at Summit in a session; that was the last time I saw my Cayman, sold and got the GT3
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      07-07-2011, 10:59 PM   #18
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I have to know what song it is in the first video when it starts!
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      07-08-2011, 06:13 AM   #19
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I have to know what song it is in the first video when it starts!
"Life in the Fast Lane" by The Eagles
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      07-09-2011, 07:19 PM   #20
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I was backing off a little most of the time, on the straights you would catch Boxsters and Caymans, that were faster in the turns than I, on pure grunt and there was a lot of passing going on by P-turbos! I sucked at Oak Tree, so would go aorund it in 3rd instead of 2nd. I was getting 145 on the speedo (139 real?) on the back straight, and probably ~125 on the front straight as I was conservative through The Hogpen.

Please note that I have RPI scoops on my car, so that will have added huge amounts of power!
I have a lot of experience at VIR, and I'll offer a comment regarding Oak Tree. Because of the combination of radius and track camber, it is challenging to smoothly downshift and make the turn in to the second apex. I find it difficult even with a DCT car, because I am trying to left foot brake everywhere, and the same issues arise. A good race seat and harness make either much easier, since you don't have to rely on your left foot for support. If you compare your speed, second v. third gear, at a point down the track, say the entrance of the south course on the left, you might be surprised that the difference is not so great. It depends on the gearing and torque of the car, of course. From a competitive perspective, Oak Tree is tremendously important, since you are entering the longest straght on the track, wide open into the brake zone way down there. If you work on your line through there, you might find you can carry enough speed that third gear is fine.
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