Track season is just starting to get into full swing so I thought I’d share a lap of Summit Point in the rain. Newly repaved for 2018, the surface as fairly good grip and no more of the inconsistencies from water on seam sealer. The surface is less crowned than before. Water run-off is mostly good, but there are some areas where small streams of water cut across the full width of the track, especially in the exits of turn 2 and 9, both heavy acceleration zones.
Last weekend I had the chance to drive and instruct on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. Below is my analysis of the changes and a description of my line around the track. This works for me in a FWD MINI on summer street tires. Your results may vary. No wagering. (In-car video by ReplayXD.)
The extension (turns 4 – 10) adds about a half a mile to the old track and doubles the number of corners. I think most old-timers would have preferred if they had just renumbered the new section as corners 4a to 4g instead of renumbering all of the corners, but we’ll use the new numbering scheme. The old track could be run in both directions. The new layout only works in a counter-clockwise direction (though you can still use the old course in the other direction.)
Google Earth hasn’t yet uploaded a new image of the circuit so the plot shows the path through open fields, but it is actually paved, just not well (more on that in a minute.) How to read this chart: Turn numbers are in circles. The color on the path of the car shows acceleration (green) or deceleration (red). Note that deceleration might just be lifting as in between 2 and 3 or the apex of 4 or 8. Green speed readings on the track show max speed before deceleration and red shows apex speed. The bars in each corner show relative lateral G load. Green bars are .4 to .8 Gs. Yellow bars are .8 to 1.1 Gs. Notice the lateral load where the new track rejoins the old track and in the middle of the back straight. There the car is going straight and the lateral load is from the unevenness of the surface. You see some of that on the front straight from 14 to 1 as you drive across the crown to set up for turn 1. Red arrows show apex visuals. If you already know the old Jeff, then jump down to Turn 4.
When you enter the track from pit-out, stay to the right all of the way to the apex of turn 1, otherwise, when at speed cross-over from right to left on the front straight and look down the track to the flagger’s bucket. RWD cars set up to the left for turn-in. The road is crowned so FWD will want to be more in the middle of the left half of the track or you’ll never get over the crown to the apex.
The apex is very late and almost at the end of the curbing. You can ride the middle part of the curbing, but stay off of the end as it will unsettle the car. Stay to the right upon exit and let the car settle before turning-in to turn 2.
Turn 2 and 3 should flow. If you’re early for 2, you’ll also be early for 3 so wait to turn in and make 2 a very late apex. Lift or tap the brakes to turn-in to 3.
Turn 3 is one of the few corners where you can ride up on the curbs without unsettling the car. Apex is very late and carry as much speed as you can. Don’t worry about track position on track-out as the entry to the next corner is rough and you’ll probably have to lift anyway to get back to the apex.
Turn 4 is also a late apex. Ride the rumble strips and try to straighten 4 and 5 as much as possible.
The exit to turn 5 is the roughest spot on the track. Point the car straight after the apex and brake in a straight line. Wait for the second bump before turning-in to turn 6.
Set the car about a car-width from the curbing and late-apex turn 6 at the top of the hill. Open the wheel and let the car track out to set up for turn 7.
Turn 7 is the most difficult corner on the track. You must be patient, especially when your tires are cold. It is a decreasing radius corner. Look for the path of the patch. Set your entry squarely in the middle of the patch and then pinch-off the apex. Trail-braking helps. If you don’t sufficiently load the front-end, expect to under-steer through the apex and off the other side of the track. Track out to mid-track.
Treat turns 8 and 9 as one double-apex corner. Do not track too far out in the middle as the pavement drop off is pretty severe.
Ride the curbing on curves 8, 9, and 10.
Late apex 10 but get on the power early to increase the length of the straight. The point where the new track joins the old is quite bumpy so stay away from the track edge.
Stay 3 feed from the edge in the braking zone to 11 to avoid more bumps. Turn 11 will really hook up when done right. Release the brakes as soon as the car starts to turn-in and power through the exit using the full track width. Cross over from right to left to set up 12.
Staying as far left as possible, turn in for 12 as soon as 12 and 13 line up and straight-line 12.
Stay off of the curbing on 12 as it will really unsettle the car. Downshift and brake for 13 in a straight line. Some people are able to carry enough speed to brake once through 13 to set up turn 14. In the FWD MINI I have to release the brakes in 13 to get the car to rotate and can actually accelerate a little up the hill before turning-in for 14.
RWD set up 14 by going as deep as possible for the entry. FWD don’t go too deep or you won’t be able to cross the crown to get back to the apex of 14.
The apex of 14 is very late. Stay off of the curbing. If you are tracking out to the edge of the track before the pit-in lane, then your apex was early. Cross over from right to left and do it all again.
Larger photos here.
I can tell you exactly when summer ended this year. It was at 3:23 PM on September 8th when this photo was taken. Friday at the track was hot and humid. Saturday was miserable, wet, and wonderful. And Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day.
There were some really cool cars at this event, including this beautiful blue Ferrari 458 Italia seen below. It was good to see that the owner of this car a.) drove it to the event; b.) drove it at the event; and c.) drove it home. The previous owner drove this car only 750 miles in two years of ownership. The current owner drove more than 3,000 miles just bringing it home after purchasing it. I never really appreciated the styling of the 458 until we got out on the track. Even at 100 MPH, we were able to have a conversation with the windows down. That says something for aero efficiency. (You listening MINI?)
The inside even smells good. It smells like that brand-new baseball glove you got when you were a kid. The one you put a ball in and slept with it under your pillow to break it in. (OK maybe not everyone has that memory….) I took some video from my helmet cam as we lapped the course. I was fascinated by the speed of the gear changes and the great display graphics that emulate analog gauges. Unfortunately, you can’t see the gauges very well in the video.
If you look just about 6 inches to the left of the “458 Italia” logo there’s a depression in the leather. It is sort of forehead shaped. That got me wondering about the survival rate of previous passengers. This car accelerates so quickly, just holding my head off of the headrest gave my core a workout.
The GeorgeCo MINI powered by Beano was of course in action as well. In this photo, it’s powering through turn 7. The suspension work paid off and the car was very well balanced, level, and had tons of grip, even in the rain.
The telemetry system is still a work on progress. The GPS is not very accurate with the iPhone in its current position so the track map is all over the place. (It looks like I’m taking a grand tour of Delaware.) The corner and straight speed indicators seem to be off too when you compare them to the large central speedo. G meter, throttle position, and RPM seem to be working, but the gear indicator doesn’t seem to go above 3rd. So there’s some work to be done, but the technology is cool. Fast forward to the session time of about 11:50 and again at 13:17 and you’ll see why we spend so much time on the skid pad in this program.
In case you had $229 to $295K sitting around and were wondering what you would get for your money. The answer is at least 3 seconds a lap. That’s the difference in two laps chosen at random from my video of this past weekend. Both were on Friday as we refamiliarized ourselves with the track. The only difference is that in my case, I’m pushing the MINI about as hard as I’m willing to go. There’s a little bit left, but not much. The Ferrari is going maybe 6/10ths on the straights. Alternately, you could take $13-$27K, buy yourself a low mileage 2006 MINI Cooper S, and buy a house with the rest. Just saying.
If you can start the two videos at the same time, they both start at the same point on the track. You want to have the sound playing on the Ferrari video however. (I’m working on editing them into one feed that shows both side-by-side but haven’t figured that out yet.)
Somebody must have hit the fast forward button on Autumn. We had our first winter snow storm yesterday — much too early in the season. It was a great day to get caught up on watching movies, sorting photos, and editing videos. Much has been happening at GeorgeCo in the last three months. Let’s get caught up.
Labor Day weekend brought the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. (Click the photo above for the complete set.) The three days of racing got off to a slow start as the track was about half a day late opening up to practice, but once it did open, Balmer put on an excellent show. Crowds were strong all three days and the racing was solid. The local BMW club had a hospitality tent and a car corral which proved great fun and also gave GeorgeCo an audience to advertise the GeorgeCo E30 powered by Beano for sale. GeorgeCo even got to meet Bobby Rahal (he signed my hat.)
At the end of the day, we even got to drive the track. (GeorgeCo thought he was in a traffic jam to leave. Much to his surprise, traffic turned left instead of right, and we found ourselves on the track.) Pratt Street was bumpy at parade-lap speed, I couldn’t imagine what it was like at 185 MPH.
The beginning of October brought the final NCC BMW CCA Drivers’ School of the year. This time we were on the Jefferson Circuit. Rain turned most of the driving into one big skidpad exercise. But even at super low speeds with no grip, the Jefferson is tons of fun. Mid-day on the last day, the sun came out for a while and we got to take the new GeorgeCo MINI out for a spin. The video below shows the GeorgeCo MINI wearing regular old street tires, chasing down a certain Red M36. I still haven’t mastered getting the helmet-cam on straight, but this video is better than most.
The big news of the month, however, has to be that the GeorgeCo E30 Powered by Beano has been sold. The buyer is an enthusiastic autocrosser who will give it a good home and the attention it deserves. Scuderia GeorgeCo has now gone from a high of five cars, down to a more reasonable three.
The Colonial Challenge Cup, a local charity group, hosted another track day at Summit Point Main Circuit in West Virginia. I had a chance again this year to instruct and drive during the event. Today was a wonderful sunny Spring day here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Unfortunately, the event was yesterday. Yesterday was cold and wet. I love driving in the rain, but I always approach the CCC events with some trepidation: To say they are a bit organizationally challenged is an understatement. Running an event with little structure in the rain, well let’s just say it paid to keep your guard up.
The GeorgeCo MINI and all GeorgeCo instructed students completed the day with both their egos and cars intact. That can’t be said for all participants. There were three run groups and a small group of instructors, maybe 35 cars on the track if you added up all of the groups. This group attracts all levels of drivers and a wide range of cars from an old Austin Healey to an Aston Martin Vantage; Subaru Imprezas to Ford GTs, with a smattering of M3s and MINIs thrown in for good luck.
The casualty list was also impressive: Acura NSX, E36 M3, Ford GT, and a Subaru Impreza all individually put into tire walls at some point in separate one-car incidents (no one was hurt.) The most amazing (and no doubt costly) crash was the Ford GT. After completing what appeared to be a very high speed lap in the rain (picture above), the driver (not the owner I believe) was exiting turn 10 at about 3/4 the speed of the previous lap, was in the center of the track, got back on the power, and immediately spun off toward the inside tire wall; hitting the tires backwards and bouncing back out onto the track in the direction of traffic. Fortunately the Aston Martin it had just passed had pulled into the pits or he would have collected him up as well. The car limped back to the pits. I’m sure there isn’t anything on this car that’s inexpensive to fix. The one I really felt for was the Subaru driver — you can’t go to the track with a car you can’t afford to lose. Especially when the conditions are like this:
Still, there is great educational value in driving on the track in the rain. A slick track really rewards smooth driving. All of your inputs must be smooth or the punishment is immediate. If you’re smart, you’re running at slower speeds so the penalty for not being smooth is lower than in the dry — maybe not everyone got the memo on the “slower” part of driving in the rain. There was zero grip on this track. You had to try to maintain your entry speed because it was impossible to try to put power down exiting any of the corners. All of my students were very timid under braking and afraid of pushing through turn-in, but it was the exits that caught out the ones that crashed. I don’t know where the Subi ran off, but the Acura want off at the exit of 9; the Ford GT at the exit of 10; and the M3 at the exit of 2. More photos here.
Well, speaking of cars you CAN afford to lose, the GeorgeCo E30 powered by Beano is due back from the paint shop on Saturday. We took it to the local paint shop that repaired our Subaru last Fall and said we wanted a basic “scuff & spray.” That may have offended them, as they came back with an estimate that was about $500 more than the book value of the car. Undeterred, and determined to get a professional hack spray job, we headed off to the local Maaco. (No Earl Scheib around here.) Hello Ambassador Paint Service. Nothing like a new coat of paint to show off the new bits: new hood, fenders, side skirts, and deck spoiler. That just about completes the pile of discarded parts which was the original car. All we need to do now is replace the rear main seal and it will be just about time to sell the car and look for a new project. Will post photos when we get it back.