Friday, August 10, 2018

Never say, "I wish I had ridden in a race car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway"

Automobile racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the world.  However, until now, my interest was only superficial.  Thus, this blog post was difficult for me to write, as high-performance driving was something I had never paid much attention.

On the flipside, my son Timothy has had a lifelong interest in high speed sports from dirt bike riding, snow mobiles, ATVs, car repairs and automobile shows among his high-speed interests.

So why my blog post on high-performance driving?  Last winter I met a new friend, John, who shared with me he was a high-performance driving instructor nationally certified who teaches for SCDA, NASA, Porsche, BMWCCA, Audi, JCNA (Jaguar), Ferrari and a host of other clubs/marques across the country.  I told John about Timothy’s interests in high-performance driving.

Last week John offered to have us join him for demonstration laps and classroom instruction at an event organized and run by the Sports Car Driving Association (SCDA) at which he was instructing.  The event would be held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH.

With zero exposure to high performance driving, Never say, “I wish I had …” popped into my mind.  My call to Timothy was eagerly accepted, followed by my confirmation email to John.

With this background to the reader, you can expect this post is not a “how to”, but a “Hmm … interesting” insights from a neophyte on performance driving.

The SCDA provides the driving enthusiast the opportunity to experience high performance driving in a safe and controlled environment. Events are strictly driver educational events - they are non-competitive and are not timed events.  All novice drivers - those who have never been on a track - must ride with a certified instructor in the right seat.

As non-certified drivers, neither Timothy nor I drove on the race course. However, we did get the full passenger effect.

Pit Crew

John had trailered his Corvette, and he had to change a brake rotor on his rear wheel before the day started. This is when John’s new Pit crew of one – Timothy - used his car and jump cables to help start John’s corvette.

As we watched John begin to remove the cracked brake rotor, the wrench slipped on the nut and John’s forearm smashed against the frame – “Ouch!” This was not a small hurt, and Timothy, who is a Journeyman Printer at the Boston Globe and responsible for maintaining the presses, and has replaced brakes on his own car, jumped in and worked with John to replace the broken brake rotor. In less than 10 minutes the car was ready for the track.

Novice Classroom Instruction
John suggested we start the day by attending the Novice classroom instruction.  The instructor had a screen of the track with a number assigned for identification to each section of the track.  The instructor briefly described the awareness of each section pointing out critical areas, and to “keep your eyes off the wall”.  “Focus only on the apron”. [The apron is an area of asphalt or concrete that separates the racing surface from the infield.]

Walking tour of the Pit
While John attended to his instructor responsibilities, Timothy took me on a walking tour of the pit providing me his insights.  This stadium can hold nearly 100,000 fans on a race day, the largest sporting event in New England, but was essentially empty today with about 100 or so SCDA students at this event.  

The Two Videos

Below are two videos. The first video is a summary of our day: Timothy pit crews for John; we attend the novice class; a walkabout of the pit; observe the racers from various parts of the course; saw a minor incident and the quick response of the emergency personnel and equipment (which is mandatory at such events) respond; saw both black and yellow flags in response to this incident, where the black flag is waved at all corner worker stations, and means that all cars must come into the pits to await further instructions until the incident is evaluated and the track cleared.

John took Timothy on a six-lap drive, but it was difficult for me to video as the fences protect and prevent visitors from getting close to the race track.

The second video is short snippet videos of my 5-lap ride with John driving his corvette.  The video starts with Timothy getting strapped in John’s car. For my run I hold my camera on the dash as we zip around the 1.6-mile course five times.

A day at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Five Laps Around the New Hampshire Motor Speedway

  1. Sports Car Driving Association
  2. TheNew Hampshire Motor Speedway
  3. Survive the Drive
  4. Glossary ofMotorsport Terms

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