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4/20/2011: Racing School and New Video Equipment

Now that I had a few days to edit video and recollect on all that’s happened, I can tell you what has happened this past weekend.

But first, I have to introduce my new recording device to finally retire my faithful and reliable Panasonic mini-DV tape camcorder, which has been recording my driving adventures for the last 7 years.

Now comes the successor, the GoPro HD Hero, my first HD and flash-based camcorder.  It came just in time for the racing school this past weekend and it was definitely ready to log my new adventures for the first time in HD.

  

Now the racing school.  Thanks to the Alfa Romeo Owners of Southern California, they hosted a racing school at the Streets of Willow to help me get my NASA Provisional License so I can start practicing in shorter enduro races with Team 949Racing to train for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.  Also thanks to Trackspeed Engineering for prepping one of their Spec Miatas for me to rent for the weekend

  

Lots of stuff happened and I learned a lot.  I can go on and on about the details, but I’ll summarize a bit with some video.

I got a lot of practice on race starts.  Basically a couple of laps, then restart and switch positions.  This gave us a taste of how manic a rolling start actually is from the cockpit.  A scary moment in the end of the first video below, as the steering wheel ended up falling off mid-corner.  Don’t know how that happened, but most likely that I didn’t put it in right to begin with.

Since we are on the subject of scary moments, I had my first experience of car contact with another driver.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a footage of this incident as my SD card ran out of memory and stop recording.  Fortunately in this case, the damage for me and other driver were limited to swapping paint and small dents that were easily fixed with a nice whack of a mallet.  And for me, I was very lucky as the rental I was driving already had a dent on the front fender that got hit and was easily popped out.  In case you are curious, here’s a photo of the other car.

Usually, contact is very very frowned upon, especially in a race school, but after some talking with the instructors about what has happened and what we learned (the hard way) from our mild love-tapping, all was well to continue the racing school.

Later in the weekend, they extended the sprints after the starts to 3 laps and that had its moments of great battle footage to watch, including the second race starting at 4:54 in video below, as me and fellow Miata driver, Eric Green, were having a nice sparring match.  I’ll get you next time, NEMESIS!!

To cap the end of the weekend, I participated a couple of “graduation races.”  No qualifying as the positions were random.  It so happened that in the first race, I was picked to be on pole position.  I had a good fight with the Datsun 280z “Faux-rari” for the first couple of laps, but ultimately was taken out by a very quick Lotus 7 replica (I think it was Caterham).  It didn’t matter to me as I still finished in second place and with a huge gap from the rest of the field.

In the second race, I started 10th.  I got a bad start as the first corner was crowded and I was trapped by the cars around me, but I held 10th until the fast Caterham easily went around me during a misshift on the main straight, falling to 11th.  But as the video shows, I finally started to concentrate and drove my heart out to fight my way back up the field.  A few laps, I had to pressure a very crafty AW11 MR2 driver quite a bit to finally get my way around him.  He definitely put up a good fight.  By the end of the race, I was in 5th place, barely missing 4th, held by an FC RX-7.  I got to his tail on the final corner, but it was already too late.  Regardless of my position, I think climbing 6 positions is a good accomplishment for my first race weekend.  But I swear, I needed another lap or had to have gotten around the blue Mustang and the MR2 faster to catch 4th position.

Overall, I learned quite a bit and had a bunch of fun.  I now wonder why that I waited so long (7 years after I started doing open HPDE trackdays) to start wheel-to-wheel racing.  But now that I have started, there’s no stopping it now.

Bring on the 25 Hours of Thunderhill!!

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