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      03-11-2012, 08:10 PM   #1
VictorH
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Road Atlanta Musings

Just got back from weekend at Road Atlanta and thought I pass along a few thoughts.

1) What club do you like? This was my third time with NASA, have run both SE and mid-Atlantic. I think if you are into DE then NASA is not really for you. They do jam a lot of stuff into one day including racing, time trials, more racing and DE, but the DE side gets a bit neglected. I opted for DE group 3 because I know the "types" (more on that later) and DE 4 was open passing anywhere without any point-by (not necessarily bad in the right group). My group was passing anywhere but with point by unless you had a yellow #4 on your bumper (then you can pass that car wherever you feel comfortable). Issues in the advanced groups are if you're in a street car with a street set up you're in the minority and the range of vehicles is huge from NASCAR type V-8 monsters that blast your ear drums out when they pass to these tiny 1/4 style cars powered by AC motorcycle engines.

So what about the action? For the events I've been to there were a record number of spins, offs and crashes. I got to see two up close. One in the 3rd run in the afternoon where a fellow BMW driver was locking up his inside front wheel at the apex at turn 1 and then later I'm right behind him at 6 and he locks up the inside wheel at track out (maybe he's having mechanical trouble, but why push then?) and I get to watch him spin and get airborne in the gravel trap. I had to decide between pushing on and hoping he doesn't dart across track or slow down. I was so close I put the throttle down and went by and at that point the gravel had really slowed him a lot. He was lucky he didn't hit the wall but the suspension was pretty messed up and it looked like his lower body work got crunched too when I saw it on the trailer later. Other episodes just in my group included a car spinning on the double yellow out lap (why?), giving the two mini-midgets who were running together a double point by at turn 3, being passed by the first one, then no sign of the second one, look in my rear view mirror and he's spinning like a top doing a nice 360 to 720 but without wall impact. Then while watching the cars go by for time trial got to see an S2000 get loose mid turn 3 and he had plenty of room to recover but he tried to get back "on-line" and then had a hard punch into the tire wall when he spun the rear end around at a good speed.

So bottom line for me, I like the marque clubs like BMW, Porsche and Audi and I need to try Track Daze and Chin but I think I might be done with the NASA gang. They're nice but it's a bit of a wild bunch and the chances of an episode seem higher than other clubs. Almost every has timing equipment or video and you just get the sense they are out there for times which is not my deal.

2) The track: For all the raving that you see/read about VIR, Road Atlanta is a darned nice track. The Paddock is nicer with pavement most everywhere and there are more places for shade ( a plus in July). I've been to VIR probably 4 times as many as RA but I think I like each track equally well. They are pretty similar in configuration, i.e. 2/3 of the track is corners and 1/3 straights. Both have long uphill back straights with a downhill into the braking zone and at both tracks you can build huge speeds, but less room for error at RA and then both have reasonably fast front straights though VIR is a bit faster. The corner sections are different but they are both nice in their own way. The esses at RA are huge fun with a steep down and steep up through the esses and taken correctly are really fast. Turn 10a has new pavement at the whole mid corner and apex and it's super grippy so you are really fast into 10b (another popular place to spin, but I think someone went off or spun at every single corner of this track, including turn 12 (bad place to get sideways).

For my Columbia, SC friends RA is 3 hours on the button, VIR is 3.5 and it's an easier drive. I-26 West to Greenville then I-85 South to Atlanta and you're there. Don't know why the BMW Performance Center doesn't go there it would be fun.

3) The car: I have an 09 E90 M3 and each time I go to the track I'm always amazed at the performance (I probably don't know any better as I've not had a series of sports cars or track cars). I have summer tires, EDC and the only mods are track pads (Pagid RS-19s that I keep buying from guys who sell their M3s), good brake fluid (previously Motul 600, now Castrol SRF) and Ground Control street camber plates for stock springs (no problems at all, though others have had issues) with -2.5 neg camber up front. This car is just amazingly quick, both nice power down the straights and great handling in the corners. I'm able to place the car where I want in the corner, lap after lap. My goal is to be as precise as possible and always put the car where it's supposed to be and leave a margin for errors or other group members getting sideways or going off in front of you. The handling is so predictable and the feedback is just outstanding (though I've heard that Porsches are better, I'll find out next month about that). The most fun is to be the only sedan out there and mixing it up with all sorts of machinery from relatively inexpensive track only stuff to some pretty nice rigs. As always the driver is the biggest variable but you can have a lot of fun with this sedan on the weekend and then go to work on Monday.

I'll post up some photos and maybe a video tomorrow. I don't ever video but I have an driving eval specialist (occupational therapist) who just bought a GoPro and offered it up to try. I just did it for one session (the session after the big off). If I can get it up I'll post.
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      03-11-2012, 08:11 PM   #2
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Last edited by VictorH; 03-12-2012 at 06:01 PM.
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      03-11-2012, 08:11 PM   #3
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      03-11-2012, 08:46 PM   #4
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Nice write-up. Have though about NASA, but am not into racing, more into enjoying life. Subscribed fro photos and video.
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      03-11-2012, 09:13 PM   #5
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Walls are RA do some damage! It is a great track indeed but just too far from Raleigh to make a weekend out of it.
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      03-11-2012, 09:24 PM   #6
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I have to agree that the NASA events I have been too are more focused on the racing and time trial portions of the events. DE4 is very aggressive with many racers / time trialers tuning their cars up in this class. I swear that the hook goes out to collect a car or two at the end of every session.

NASA is a good place to learn if you want to progress to club racing. If you are there just for fun, stay in DE 1 and DE2 ( DE3 often has people who want to go very fast, but have not learned to do it in a controlled fashion yet....).

I have done Chin, and it was a good experience both times. The BMW club events are very polite and they don't like aggression. The club racing events they sometimes have don't bleed over in style into the HPDE events ( well okay, they do a little in the instructor sessions....).
Track Daze is also more laid back.
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      03-11-2012, 09:29 PM   #7
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Nice post Victor, sounds like an exciting weekend....glad I missed it though.
I'm down to meet in late April or May. Gotta get some practice for Chumpcar at Daytona.
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      03-12-2012, 08:09 AM   #8
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Could not agree more with you Victor regarding NASA.
I remember the event we both attended there about 2 years ago had probably over 300 cars that weekend.

I have been to 3 NASA events at RA, all had some incidences and simply to many classes of cars and not enough run time IMO.

My instructors were great though, really knew the track very well.
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      03-12-2012, 09:06 AM   #9
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Have heard the same about NASA but haven't done one. There is definitely a difference between the classes with each "club". I like the local BMW CCA HPDE at RA. Just got promoted to "A" group weekend before last and didn't get swallowed whole. Fast run group with a lot of the instructors but still very civil. However, last RA Chin event I was in intermediate (blue) and was giving out point-bys by the bunches--much more aggressive group. Go figure. I also like TrackDaze and MVP.

I just wish I had VIR in my backyard....still my favorite!
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      03-12-2012, 09:10 AM   #10
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Great review. NASA is different in each region so YMMV. I have been doing almost all Chin events. These guys have a great mix of car variety, lots of track times, the best passing options, great instructors (me included ), and price per minute is great.
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      03-12-2012, 03:36 PM   #11
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VictorH, I just did a NASA event at Sears Point (aka Infineon) here in Northern California, and I have to say the experience was very much the same as you reported. It seems that NASA's focus is really on racing and this mindset detrimentally infects the safety and instruction of the HPDE run groups. An example of this is NorCal NASA's policy of point-bys being optional for _all_ HPDE groups. This policy hardly seems safe for HPDE 1 and 2, where drivers are still learning basic track protocol and are prone to making unpredictable moves and having less than perfect situational awareness.

Last weekend, as usual, NorCal NASA overfilled the HPDE run groups so I hardly got any clear laps. I was in HPDE 3 where we were supposed to be progressively introduced to passing on short straights, then passing in braking zones, then open track with passing in turns. They did session-by-session update the rules to increase our passing freedoms, however the classroom instruction was so bad -- it mainly consisted of reactively scolding students for things they "should have known" but were never taught -- that we were basically left to feel out for ourselves how to handle these new situations. As a result there were some really risky apex-stealing passes being done by participants. Bad instruction and drivers frustrated by on track traffic certainly results gutsy/stupid driving!

I used to think it was an advantage of NASA that NASA has its own safety trucks and safety crew which extracts disabled cars under hot-track conditions. The benefit here is that you hardly ever have a session ended early to pull someone out of the gravel pit. However, after hearing from the classroom instructor about the numerous times when drivers have missed flags and then careened into the back of the safety truck, I now think the safety truck is more of a liability than a benefit to HPDE groups.

As long as I am griping, why does NASA nickle-and-dime drivers by charging $10/person gate fees and $5/person fees for ride-along-passengers? Why do they consistently oversell run groups and also give you less track time? Considering that other local clubs (Trackmasters, NCRC, SpeedVentures) offer less crowded/better behaved run groups with an additional 30min to 60min track time per day, I think I'll be avoiding NorCal NASA in the future. Shame that they seem to have captured 75% of Sears Point's HPDE weekends.

(Ok - thanks for letting me get that out of my system!)

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      03-12-2012, 03:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleeper519 View Post

I just wish I had VIR in my backyard....still my favorite!
Hmmm I think I can see it from here, yep, there it is

Just thought I'd rub it in a little!

-Martin
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      03-12-2012, 04:24 PM   #13
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^ Yeah, thanks Martin for making me (more) jealous.

I'll be coming up to your backyard May 5-6 for TrackDaze, so fire up the BBQ.

-Bill
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      03-12-2012, 07:24 PM   #14
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Nice review on RA Victor. I plan to go there this year but will probably go to VIR for TrackDaze in May first. Thanks for letting me know to ignore all the NASA events.
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      03-12-2012, 07:30 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AMPowerJ View Post
Nice review on RA Victor. I plan to go there this year but will probably go to VIR for TrackDaze in May first. Thanks for letting me know to ignore all the NASA events.
I'll probably tag along too. Victor - c'mon as well.

1000 miles round trip for me not counting track mileage.

We need to rent a condo there
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      03-12-2012, 07:41 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brainofjjj View Post
I'll probably tag along too. Victor - c'mon as well.

1000 miles round trip for me not counting track mileage.

We need to rent a condo there
I'd love to go but I have a conflict. Early June is no good either. I need to find a late May event or late June.
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      03-12-2012, 07:54 PM   #17
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Anyone going to VIR with Tarheel chapter in August? Making the trek from Florida.
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      03-12-2012, 08:04 PM   #18
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Anyone going to VIR with Tarheel chapter in August? Making the trek from Florida.
They run a very nice event. I might try to make it. Bring plenty to drink it's going to be hot.
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      03-14-2012, 06:44 PM   #19
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Turns out I know how to turn on the GoPro, but I don't know how to hit "record," therefore, no video. Bummer
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      03-14-2012, 06:48 PM   #20
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Yeah, but I'm sure you looked cool with that stuck to your windshield anyway!
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      03-15-2012, 12:11 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AMPowerJ View Post
Nice review on RA Victor. I plan to go there this year but will probably go to VIR for TrackDaze in May first. Thanks for letting me know to ignore all the NASA events.

TrackDaze runs a very good event, just returned from this past week end at VIR helping out with their Instructor Clinic. Good group of canidates, and several will most likely graduate.

Early May I will be at VIR with the Teen Driving Solutions School, same dates as TrackDaze, May 5-6, so I will look for you all. Other VIR events I am signed up for:

May 18-20 First Settlers Instructor
May 25-27 Mustang - TCUSA (Most likely there instructing)
Jun 9-10 TrackDAze Instructor
Jun 29-01 Tarheel BMW Instructor

Did I hear that Martin might be at one of these????

Quote:
We need to rent a condo there
VIR has nice Villas that would work.

vz
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      03-15-2012, 01:09 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by von_zoom View Post

Did I hear that Martin might be at one of these????


vz
...I think Martin LIVES there!




VZ, I will look for you there in May.
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