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NCC BMW CCA HPDE Summit Point, September 2012

MINI wet

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?)

458 Italia

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.

458 Interior

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.

dash dimple

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.

Powered by Beano

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.)

All Autumn in a Day

Frosty MINI

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.

RLL Racing

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.)

Bobby Rahal

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.

GeorgeCo E30

Summit Point in the Rain, April 2011

Summit in the rain

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.

his and hers turbos

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.

GT before

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.

You have an Unstable Attitude

Saturday marked the end of the motorsports year for GeorgeCo. We spent the day on the skidpad at Summit Point, honing our over-steer skills in preparation for winter. There’s nothing like a couple of hours on a skidpad to build your confidence. We also worked on trying to navigate a course around (and sometimes through) the cones while maintaining an unstable attitude. Now it’s time to park the GeorgeCo BMW powered by Beano in the GeorgeCo Garagemahol, look for worn-out parts, and start making preparations for next season.

NCC BMW CCA HPDE Summit Point, Oct 10

Summit Point Gate

After an extended summer break I’ve finally gotten back to the track for a few days. In September it was for one day on the main circuit at Summit Point instructing for the Colonial Challenge Cup charity event, then three days this past weekend instructing with the BMW club.

Here’s a picture of my car at the skidpad.

My Car
(My car is the blue one…)

The CCC events are fun if a bit chaotic, but I really like the BMW events. This time I was instructing on the skidpad. I had forgotten what it was like to work with beginning students and how much fun it is to see when they start to get it: you really can’t add more steering when in understeer…

I had an interesting moment under heavy breaking in turn one when I ran through some anti-freeze just as I started to turn in. In the first part of the video, you can see my normal line through this corner. In the last part, you see the fluid-induced lane change. If you pause it, you can see me pointed about 15 degrees to the right at 80 MPH.

I ran the GeorgeCo 325is Powered by Beano on Friday, but have a front wheel bearing starting to go so chose to run the MINI for the rest of the weekend. For the most part I could hang with the E36 and E46 M3s. I lose about five car lengths on the front straight to the higher horsepower cars and the make it up under braking into turn one. I’d have to be careful through the chute not to run up too quickly on the heavier cars. I think the larger JCW brakes made a huge difference to how late I could brake.

Here’s an interesting video comparing the MINI to the E30 on the track. They are remarkably similar.  May take a few moments to load. Here’s more video from Saturday.

bmw mini comparison