ThunderHill Track Day Summit #8

Summit #8: Probe Track Day at Thunderhill Raceway- July 25th 1998

Time and Date: July 25, 1998 7:30am - 6pm

Place: Thunderhill Raceway Park (7-miles West of I-5 on Highway 162 in Willows) ThunderHill Website #2- includes hot lap description.

Fee: $175

26July98 - The track day was a complete success. We had a lot of new people now turned on to road racing and no cars crashed!

About 6:30AM lined up outside the Best Western in Willows, CA. About a dozen people drove up the night before

Gassing up before heading out to the racetrack

BAPOC member and his PGT

Spectators, with Turn 5, the Cyclone, in the background

The Viper GTS James passed on the track!!!

James' car with racing tires on. Marla took my usual #77 so I was #12.

Ben's car developed a collapsed lifter, fortunately Rob has trailer his PGT so was able to give Ben's a ride home.

Summit Fever

My Summit #8 started the night before when I drove down to the Shell station in Emeryville to meet up with the caravan driving to Willows. Coincidently, I saw my first 1999 Cougar on the road on the way there, just a few miles away.

Willows was hot and very humid even at 11PM. The Best Western was adequate, but I probably didn't get any extra sleep. We got up a little after 6AM to get breakfast (Denny's) and get to the track before 8AM.

It took me just about 30 minutes to change my 4 tires with a single floor jack.

There were about 11 PGTs driving on the track, several Golfs, a few Integras, some F bodies, a Mustang or two, a Porsche 911 with a Chevy 350 conversion (!) and a Viper GTS. 29 drivers in all.

We gridded up in two groups for the lead and follow. 3 laps around and then we were let loose on the track.

Passing the Viper GTS

I concentrated on driving the line and not going too fast too soon. After a few laps I noticed the Viper about a 1/4 lap ahead of me. I decided to try to catch up to him. I stopped short shifting, drove my line, kept the throttle floored as soon and as long as possible, and really worked the brakes. Even with hot metal master pads and sticky 245 sized AVS Intermediate tires, I had the ABS on in every braking zone.

The 450hp Viper would pull away big time in the long front straight- no way around that, but as I was taught, I ignored that and drove my line and my speed. After three laps I had closed on him and started pressuring him in the corners. I would slow down much more than the Viper entering the turn, but with my combination of a good line and aggressive braking, I would come out of the turn alot faster and run right up on his tail repeatedly. On the next passing zone he had to let me by. Wow, what a rush!

It is truly amazing how fast the right line is through a corner and how slow the wrong one is, even with such fantastically mismatched cars as the PGT and the Viper. He would go in a little too fast, start his turn in a little too soon, and often not from extreme outside of the turn. This resulted in him having to slow down before the apex and make a sharper turn to stay on the track. Classic racing technique has you slowing down before the turn, then staying on the gas through the turn, modulating the throttle and steering for maximum exit speed without leaving the track.

The Greatest Thrill

Turn 9 leading on the long straight is the most important turn on the racetrack. The faster you can exit the turn, the higher a terminal speed you can reach at the end of the straight. By the end of the day I was setting up the turn long before hand- taking a line through 8, 8A and to 9 that would maximize the exit speed of 9, primarily by finding the line that allows you to get the throttle down sooner and still stay on the track.

I think I was making progress because I was getting that feeling where I was putting the throttle down a little sooner on each lap, and a voice in my head would start saying "lift!, lift!, you aren't going to make it!!!!", but you just keep your right foot pressed all the way down and try to steer gently and the car is drifting off the track and somehow you clip the berm but just stay on the track and it's the greatest thrill you've ever imagined. (Is this a diagnosible illness? :))

The Cyclone

Turn 5, the Cyclone, has a bypass option. After driving it and seeing cars sideways on the berm on the downhill side, I now know why.

Actually I had cut my teeth (with my tires in the dirt) on Turn 3A at Sear's Point- also a blind turn across the crest of a hill. I knew how challenging it would be. The Cyclone has been described as similar to the famous "Corkscrew" at Laguna Seca, but "faster and blinder". A steep hill leads straight up, at the top of the hill the track falls steeply away to the left. You had better know exactly where the track is on the blind side of the hill as you go over, or else you can end up on your roof here.

Tim in his new VR6 transplant Golf did a very credible imitation of the skateboarder's trick called "riding the rail" where they jump up onto a railing and slide along on the bottom of board. Except Tim is riding the exit berm in turn 5 with his car at a 45 degree angle! He said he could hear the bottom scraping.

I had started taking the Cyclone in 3rd gear, as it is impossible to shift on the down hill side corner- the G forces make it impossible to let go of the wheel even with one hand. But something very bad started happening- as I made my turn-in just before the top of the hill, I would lose power steering boost, and it would be intermittant throughout the next down hill turn. It felt like the wheel was locked in place. Not a great feeling in a turn.

So I started downshifting to second during the braking on the uphill side. But then you had to shift very, very quickly over the crest in the tiny straight section before the downhill right hander glued your hands and feet in place and then forget about shifting! However, this solved my boost problem. I was even able to line up the turn better and give a burst of throttle as I crested the hill.

Riding with Ben

I got to ride with Ben is his seriously tricked out PGT- total interior strip, full rollcage and racing seat, ultra lightweight rims with R1s and suspension. His brakes were giving out like mine- just need to brake sooner and downshift. "hmm, no brakes" he would comment while rushing down towards the rocks in turn 8 at 90 mph.

Then Ben rode with me. I was a little nervous and drove not so great on my first lap. In particular I came into turn 3 too fast, which prevented me from getting to the apex, which made me slow down because I couldn't then fix my line into turn 4, which resulted in not hitting the apex in 4. Slow, slow, slower! Mistakes follow you for two turns at least!

Noontime Drags

I wasn't going to do drag racing- I was worried about my low brake pedal, but Tammy came by begging "I want to race a PGT"- oh great, I thought, no way. So we line up and the flag drops before I can rev up. So I dump the clutch and it bogs, but Tammy was sitting still with wheelspin for a moment. We get going just about the same time. I kept nose to nose until 3rd gear where her weight advantage takes over and she walks slowly away to a car length lead at the 1/8 mile.

We went again but the dreaded PGT clutch curse struck. I launch and shift at red line in 2nd, then shift at redline into 3rd. Oops- shifting right away!!!! Damn- doin' a burn out on my clutch!!! It has been normal since it cooled down. Whew!

Tim laid to rest all comers, except the Viper, of course.

< to be continued... 29jul98 >

Much, much more to come- a complete write-up with my track descriptions, driving and riding experiences.

Thanks to Ben for doing a great job setting up the event and to the Thunderhill staff for proving an excellent and safe site for out Summit!

22 July 1998 Update!

16Jul98 Update

End 16Jul98 Update

Local Accomodations: Thunderhill is located about 1.5 hr north of San Francisco. I would strongly recommend local accommodations the night before the event. Please email me if you need accommodation info.

Included in track fee:

Just a few reminders: Definitely arrive at least a few minutes before 8am. I'll make sure the paddock gates open at 7:30am.

Schedule(tentative): approx. 3.5 hr track time + drag race

Tech. Inspection is mandatory. It is simple and would only take less than 5 mins. From about 8:30 to 9:00, course workers will check the follow items:

The schedule above is just tentative.

Quarter Mile Drags: At noon will be our long-waited 1/4 mile challenge!

Hot Lap Description (new 2Jul98)

So far about 24 people have signed up with their deposits. Our goal is to keep it right below 40 people for maximum track time. (20Apr98)

To sign up, please provide the following information.

Tel # home
Tel # work
Car Model, Year and Color
Experience(tracks, schools, etc.)
Guest Name(if applicable)
Guest Model, Year and Color
Emergency Contact and Tel#
Drug Allergy

July 1998

Bay Area Probe Owners Club Website