Drive fast, take chances

Posted by Dave on November 07, 2009
Cars

That’s what Danica told me to do, so…

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“Dave,” you may be asking, “why are there numbers on your car? And why do they look like they were applied by an amateur, on an area of the door only just wiped clean of dirt two minutes ago?” Well, I have a perfectly good explanation: you need numbers when you’re on the track!

On the front straight

I took the family car out for a NASA (National Auto Sport Association) “High Performance Driver Education” aka track day in early October.  The last time I did this was back in 2002 while living in LA. Fortunately autumn held off just long enough to have a nice weekend for driving, although there was a stiff breeze which cooled things down quite a bit.  Cool air makes a heavy car happy, and keeps your brakes from catching on fire.  Is this safe, you ask?  Of course it is!  They have a firetruck:

Fire Truck

Plus, it turns out you can get insurance for this sort of thing.  $75 is all it costs to insure the G6 for an entire weekend of hot-lapping (keeping in mind the $1500 deductible).  I only went for one day, but I got a solid hour and 40 minutes of track time.

Race Grid

I had the least track-capable car in my run group, although not the slowest (at first).  Several other drivers were there for their first track day, and when you’re driving your $80,000 Viper on the track (which happens to be wet) for the first time, you might be a little cautious.  All told, in my group there were 3 Corvettes, a Viper, a Civic Si, a Lancer Evo, a 350Z, and a fully race-prepped M3.  I had a driving instructor ride along for one run, which was very helpful.  Her first comment was, “This isn’t the sort of car most people take to the track.”  Oh, but it’s a G6 GT.

Waiting for Green

This is me checking my watch to see when we get back on the track.  So what if it has four doors?  It had new tires and high-performance brakes, and the four-wheel independent suspension is tighter than the average sedan.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well planted it was, especially when transitioning from a fast right to a left at about 65 MPH.  The front-wheel drive is a bit of a handicap when trying to accelerate out of corners, although very safe and easy to control.  I never felt like I was going to lose control or go off.  The seat-belt never locked tightly though, and I had bruises on both knees the next day from bracing myself in the car.

Cornering

That’s a 50 MPH turn right there.  There’s something therapeutic to screeching tires around a corner, then flooring the gas pedal all the way down the straightaway.  I was hoping to break 100, but only got up to 97-98 MPH in the strong headwind.  I’ve raced the little go-karts at miniature golf places plenty of times, but nothing compares to driving a full-size car around a real race track at speed.  Ideally I’d like to do this once or twice per year, but as I get more mature older, I’m much more conscious of the possibility of something expensive breaking.  At some point, it would be better to buy a genuine race car, something that we don’t depend on for groceries and vacations, but that’s another story entirely.

I have to thank Katie for taking all these wonderful pictures.  You can see some more highlights of the day here.  I should also thank her for being a good sport to let me do this in the first place (“What if you crash?”  “I won’t.”).

4 Comments to Drive fast, take chances

  • Wow. That looks like SO much fun. Maybe when I’m dead I’ll think about doing something like that.
    And Dave, I hope you appreciate what a gem of a woman your wife is!

  • So how’d the G6 do compared to the Grand Am?

    Rie says you should have taken her Z28. Maybe she forgot that you tried before and she wouldn’t let you.

    Do they allow motorcycles? When I get one, I’ll have to find somewhere to race it.

  • I don’t do EVERYTHING Danica tells me to, just this one thing (actually two things I guess). And yes, I do appreciate how awesome my wife is!

    Compared to the Grand Am, I’d say the G6 is slightly but noticeably better. I has a little more power per pound of car, plus I remember the Grand Am would spin the wheels too easily coming out of a corner. The brakes on the G6 are much better, and the car doesn’t lean over nearly as much around the corners, so the transitions and grip in general are better. It would be a fun race between the two.

    Yes, Rie must have forgotten that before she bought the Camaro she promised I could take it on the track, and then afterward she wouldn’t hear of it, but I’m not bitter. I’m sure that 315-hp rear-wheel drive V8 is perfectly happy sitting in traffic on the 405. No, seriously, I don’t know why you haven’t taken it to the track yet. NASA has a $40 “Hyperdrive” event which basically is just one HPDE session at one of their regular track days.

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