It’s not often that you get to drive a new circuit at your home track. But for our recent HPDE at the Summit Point Shenandoah Circuit, we got to do just that by driving counter race for a session.
The Shenandoah Circuit has a couple of different configurations in the normal (counter clockwise) race direction. Most of these involve adding chicanes or extra corners in the Pistol Grip section which just make an already busy track even busier. If you don’t want to drive the Karussel, there’s the inner apron, or the outer apron available to you. You can also cut off the Karussel entirely by taking the bus-stop cut over to the Corkscrew under the Bridge. I wanted to try something completely different. So for the first session on Friday, I had the instructors drive the track clockwise with the corkscrew to bus-stop cut over. As you can see from the video it was a very different track.
I have a greater appreciation for the elevation changes in various parts of the circuit, and also a sense of just how many of the turn entries and exits are off camber. And on a predominately right handed circuit with off camber entries, I realized I sit too low in the car now and cannot see the majority of the right hand apexes. Given that no one in the group really knew the line, it was a great learning experience and will be repeated in the future. I think next time, I’ll have the instructors and advanced students drive this direction for a half-day on Friday.
I have the opportunity this month to have two events on the same track. At the beginning of June I instructed with PCA at the Shenandoah Circuit, Summit Point Motorsports Park, and at the end of June I return with BMW. I’ve always wanted to see if I could gather data to answer two common questions: How much faster will I be on track tires? And, how effective is coaching an experienced driver?
So the answer to the first one is fairly straight forward, but since this track can have several different layouts, let’s establish some controls. We will not use the banked Karussel, but instead take the inside apron. We will run the Old Ram cut-off instead of running through the hot grid, and we will drive the Range Straight instead of the Range Esses.
I have 75+ days on this track and data on several hundred laps, that until now, were always on max performance summer tires (treadler 200 or greater.) My best recorded time was 1:44.73. At the start of this first weekend in June, I did a few sessions on Falken 615Ks (treadwear 200) and then switched to Toyo RRs (treadwear 40.) The best on the Falkens was 1:44.87 (so 0.14 sec off of my best). The best on the Toyos was 1:42.96, an improvement of 1.77 sec over my best, and 1.91 sec better than the Falkens on the same day. Average the two together and that’s a 1.84 sec improvement or just about 1.75%. So, just by spending money on better tires, I was faster, but that doesn’t mean I was better.
Armed with my new faster tires, I then asked one of my fellow instructors, Paul Bylis to ride along and coach me. I listened to his advice for a session, and then went out on my own again. This time, my best lap was a 1:41.97. A further improvement of 0.99 sec. So now I have a rough comparison of the value of coaching (which for me is free since I just have to ask for it) vs. spending money on more expensive tires.
The Catalyst tells me I’m still leaving a three fourths of a second on the table.
On Monday, it was my privilege to be able to instruct at the Ferrari of Washington track day at Summit Point. It was a beautiful fall day, with great people and wonderful food. Thanks to all who pulled this together.
Lap from recent HPDE with NCC BMW CCA on the Jefferson Extended Circuit, Summit Point WV. E46 M3 on Michelin Pilot PS2 tires with full tread. Only my sixth track day in this car.
Video is interesting because you can see my struggles as a former front wheel driver. I’m leaving about 3/4 of a second on the table as I try to find the right way to deal with the road crown on turn-in. Watch the red time in the lower right of the frame. That’s the delta to my optimal lap. I loose time on the turn in for Turns 1, 4, and 14. I do get a good launch out of T14 at the end, where I’m immediately up on the next lap which was ultimately not completed due to the end of the session.
My best lap ever in the MINI on Pilot Super Sports was a 1:27.5. Previous best in this car was 1:26.2. New best is 1:24.9. I continue to be impressed with how easy and effective the Garmin Catalyst coach is to use.
Track season is finally upon us here in the mid-Atlantic. I had the chance to spend three days at Summit Point Main with PCA at the end of March. Here’s a 12 minute video I put together talking about how I used the Catalyst to improve. Please let me know in the comments if you have any features you’ve found especially useful.