What a great weekend!
100 degrees and high humidity made a brutal Saturday, but still it was great. (and they let us drive with the windows up and the a/c on if we wanted - I did both). Sunday was high 80's less humidity and just about perfect.
Met Stig 1 and his buddy Stig II - these guys are a riot. Had a great time meeting you. Thanks for the drinks after "dinner" - not sure what that was... I still owe you an adult beverage.
btw, Stig, what kind of car is that?
Mid-Ohio is one technical track. It's slick, is blind in many spots, has off cambers, rises and there are a couple of turns that are a beast to get figured out.
The front straight is nothing much more than a starting grid - it's short - but you can carry pretty decent speed down it (4th gear) - too much for the left handed Turn 1, as a matter of fact. Saturday I found the correct entry speed to be quite elusive. TOO MUCH, too little, close, ahhh, there it is. I must say that I was happy that I kept the ESP button in the active position during the weekend. It definitely helped me a couple of times into Turn 1. By the last two sessions on Sunday I had it nailed. It's faster than you think you can go in, but don't get over-confident, as that will put you off the track and into a nice tire barrier. (nobody used it to my knowledge).
Out of Turn 1 you let the car drift wide right and then work back across the track to the left side to set up for the entrance into the Chicane (turns 2, 3 & 4), a right, left, right combo that sets up into the Keyhole.
I had issues all weekend long diving into the Chicane - "WHAT DO YOU MEAN DON'T BRAKE?!?!" My instructor Dean Treadway (friend of desperado) kept telling me to stop touching the brake, but my puckered butt kept making me do it... On Sunday I got to ride with my friend Chris' (owner of my old TTR8) instructor in a Lotus Exige with R compound tires and finally understood that I could go into the turn w/o brakes, but man... pucker factor was a major issue here.
Just after hitting the apex to the entrance of the Chicane, you nail the brakes (downshift to 3rd) and then feather the gas to settle the car as you make the left hand transition. That feather the gas thing, as you're trying to brake, move feet and such was a bear. I finally started left foot braking going though this section (and left foot braking with the ceramic brakes can be very comical). Touch the curb on the left as you straighten the car up, roll into the throttle a bit, touch the curb on the right as you enter the Keyhole and then carry as much (what seems like way too much) speed into Turn 4. Dean kept me running very deep into the corner before I'd initiate the right turn. Carry speed, turn in easily, just tap the brakes to set the car and load the front end (and just tapping them, once again, was comical at times - man they're grabby with an untrained left foot!) then start rolling in on the throttle and aim for the last third of the right side curbing in Turn 5. When I would get the Chicane/Keyhole sequence correct, it was a blast. You can feel the car settle in on the springs, then the tires getting driven into the ground and starting to grip. It suddenly goes from feeling solid to feeling like you've been put in a slot car track.
Out of the Keyhole, down the back straight, nail the throttle, go from 3rd to 5th, straighten out the kink (Turn 6), look for the 400' marker and hit the brakes. I touched 133 a couple of times just before the braking zone. Find third gear, wait for the cone and then turn in and to the right (Turn 7). It drops down as you go into the turn, but the traction is excellent. Wheels on the curb, right at the apex cone, cut back left across the track and come to the slowest corner on the track, Turn 8.
Turn 8 is an uphill left hander that apexes at the top of a crest and then drops away. You put your left front tire just at the beginning of the curb and sort of drive over/away from it as you crest the top of the corner. Let the car drift out to the dark black stripe and then start aiming back to the left side of the track, setting up for Turn 9 a.k.a. Madness. It's another tight right hand and Dean had me sticking very tightly to the right of the track out of the apex of Madness, which was also the lowest point of the track in this area, so it's a down hill braking zone (just bleed a little speed sort of braking). As soon as I'd see a set of skid marks across the track after the apex, I'd turn back to the left and head for Turn 9 - an uphill left. Aim for the last end of the curb, stay left along the side of the track and as soon as you crest the hill out of 9, start looking for the apex cone on the right side of the track in Turn 10a.
Try to make as straight of a line between 9 and 10b as possible, just bumping off the right side curb found in 10a, and then brake as you leave 10b. This puts you on the outside of the track setting up for Turn 11.
Turn 11 is a 90 degree right hander that crests just after the apex of the corner. Turn in, put your right side on the curb, crest the hill and enter Thunder Valley. Thunder Valley starts on the downside of Turn 11 and just after it gets to the bottom of the valley, it starts back up hill and makes a gradual right hand turn. You stay wide through Thunder Valley and then turn in late so you can get the longest braking zone possible going into turn 12. Sometimes I'd shift into 4th in Thunder Valley - generally if there was no traffic - this was one of the four passing zones on the track. If I didn't shift, I'd just touch the rev limiter (97 mph) at the turn in of the corner.
Turn 12 was fun - uphill, good traction, on the throttle - but if you were a bit early it put you in a slick section on the right side of the track. If you were late, it just screwed up the drive. 12 and 1 both just took seat time to get the feeling for "I can go this fast". Try to put your left wheels on the curb and roll into the throttle through it.
So, out of Turn 12 and into the Carousel. This corner kicked my butt all weekend. It was also the other section of the track that Dean wanted me to left foot brake in - once again, like the Keyhole, to settle the front end and get bite. Yea, sure. There was no consistency on my part here either. When I got it, I got it really well and it felt like the Keyhole - feel the chassis settle, stick drive. When I didn't get it, I'd often get a little ESP warning - like the Keyhole. They were so similar!
Come into it, let the speed carry you wide, stay wide, start to turn in, but stay wide (what seems to be forever) into Turn 13, tap (hopefully appropriately) the brakes to stick the front, turn towards the cone on the right, try to avoid the dip in the middle of the corner and drive on out - in a perfect world... I felt good when it worked!
As you exit the Carousel you're headed down hill a bit, you aim to the left side of the track and tag the curb in the apex of Turn 14 and head back onto the front straight.
My last session of Saturday, we came off the track and Dean said "You got every corner perfectly at least once, just never all in a row. Let's work on that!"
What I noticed most of all with Dean was that during the first two sessions, he talked me through just about every corner. There are some little nuances that you have to learn to drive the track well and they're not easy to pick up on. There were more than a couple of times that he and I talking caused me to blow a corner or approach - and fortunately he realized it. As the day progressed on Sunday, Dean went from directing and teaching to just getting quieter and quieter. I was able to point out my mistakes before he would say anything and he said he was pleased with how well I responded to correction and direction. That really made me feel good! I also talked to Dean's wife Pamela on Sunday and she said that he was saying that I was smooth and never worried him a bit. Dean was always low key and level toned with me - but she said that if a student scares him he can get quite loud and animated - guess it's good I kept him calm!
The last session on Sunday, I was confident enough with my driving and the track that I tried to keep lap times. Only managed to click the wipers on once! I ran a bunch of 1:50-1:52's and managed to click off one 1:49.5. I mentioned this to Dean and he sort of laughed. "We don't worry about lap times when doing Audi events, we focus on driving and skill and learning." I told him that it was curiosity on my part, just to have an idea for the next time I go there, to which he followed up "I totally understand and not a bad time, by the way." I liked the politically correct response followed by the 'car guy' response.
One thing that was really fun was to wander around the track and watch all the other lines people take. I watched Chris and Stig both make huge changes from 7 on through 10 on Sunday, as they were both in Group 5. There was one other V10 R8 there - a white one - being shared by a father and son. The son was in my group, but I never saw him. There were a couple of sessions that I saw Stig, the white one and Chris all lined up and running around. That TT V8 just sounds so wicked compared to the two V10 shriek. Stig was definitely on the throttle harder than the white car was - I though he had an aftermarket system on the car, as it was noticeably louder out of the corners.
I got lucky and they put me in Group 4 (thank you desperado!) and Dean signed me off for the next Audi event - he recommended that I drive with an instructor the first session and then be allowed to drive solo if I want to. We'll see what the instructor says. I'd like to be able to drive solo but have an instructor ride with me the first couple of sessions, go out on my own, see how badly I can screw up the lines and then have an instructor ride with me again to show me how badly I've screwed up the lines.
This track is very easy on tires - the PSS's are killer and they don't look worn at all - the leading edges of the outer lug grooves have a touch of cupping, but that's it. It's also quite easy on brakes - pretty much the only really hard braking area was going into Turn 7 at the end of the back straight. I managed to snag a set of Michelin Sport Cups this week and am looking forward to seeing what they're like on the track during my next outing.
Here are three videos we did. One inside my car (notice Dean's posture and hands - he's not hanging on much at all - but notice how much more he moves around with just the three point stock seat belt that I do with the harness), one outside my car and one outside Chris' car. Notice how different our lines are - My instructor Dean was all about the late apex and trying to carry speed. Chris' instructor Bruce (racing yacht designer - like World Cup stuff!), who drove the wicked little Exige drove an entirely different line - which he showed Chris. I heard that Bruce was ticking off 1:42's.