2008 Volkswagen R32, 2012 Audi Club NW 'Geschwindigkeit' at Pacific Raceways

If you're of a certain age and grew up around Seattle, Pacific Raceways is indelibly stamped "S.I.R." (Seattle International Raceway), and the mere mention of SIR sets off the recording in your head of 70's radio D.J.'s whipping up the excitement:

Despite the radio memories, I don't think I've been to Pacific Raceways before this event. I got started on track days hanging out with the SoCal R32 crowd, and I only hooked up with Audi Club NW about a year ago. July 13th, 2012 was the first time their calendar rotated around through Pacific Raceways in that year.

For some reason, Audi Club NW generally schedules the Pacific Raceways outing on a Friday. Might be better rates, a crowded calendar, or both. In any case, a good excuse to take the day off from work and go play.

Since this is one of ACNW's home tracks, I was able to attend a chalk talk session with an instructor a few months before going to the track. Some of the key points: Turn one has spun more than a few cars. If you're doing it right, you're touching 120 mph or better. It's a slight right hander that goes from level to downslope right at the apex. When you're trying to learn your way around the track, there's a tendency to panic a little and lift throttle just as you turn in. This would be disasterous, as lifting throttle pitches weight forward, unweighting the rear just as the change in slope has the car unsettled. That's a recipe for spinning at high speed. You have to 'commit' to the bend at full throttle and hang on for dear life.

One experienced hand with ACNW told me he actually holds back just a bit on the front straight so that he can time his shift differently. Otherwise, he'd be shifting right at the turn 1 apex, and that's not good.

Turn 2 starts wide, with a late apex at about the gravel service road. I was told to leave half a car width to the right at corner entry, just so I'd have some margin if things went very wrong.

At turn 3a, I headed directly at the access road and tossed a late "rotate turn", trying to achieve a late apex and hold the arc smoothly into 3b. David M. did some ride-along instruction with me later and showed me how to go deeper into 3b, nearly touching the outside of the track before rotating again. The key lesson there was to "surf" the throttle a little after rolling into it; this has the effect of unweighting the rear and swinging it around. I had done this instinctively on snow, but it took a nudge from David to transfer the lesson to dry pavement and the race track.

David helped me with turn 5. My notes say "bounce bounce brake" into the entrance, shorthand for reading the lumpy road surface there - let the bouncing happen, then hammer the brake to get your speed down. Toss the car into 5A, letting the inside wheel just cross the gator. Roll into the gas exiting 5A, and stay hard into it through 5b, and 6.

If you've carried enough speed through the turn 5/6 complex, you *might* need to modulate throttle at turn 7 to stay in control. I found the section from turn 7 to turn 8 to be one of those "beware of traffic" zones. After working on my technique in 5/6/7, I found I was noticeably faster through there than maybe half of my run group. In a few instances a *lot* faster! As you're careening around 7, trying to figure out how much speed is safe to maintain, it gets a little messy when you encounter somebody mid-turn who is going 20 mph slower. It's a bad place to have to unsettle the chassis when you did not intend it.

Turn 8 was all over the map for me. If I was successful in carrying as much speed as I wanted through turn 7, then job 1 in turn 8 was to straighten up at the entrance and grenade the brakes. There seems to be a lot of different 'lines' through turn 8, and it's hard to say which is the fast line. David tipped me that one lane in from the edge, the pavement is smoother.

I think that turn 8 is likely one of those turns where you need to take it slow enough to make the exit perfect and efficient, setting up a fast turn 9 and front straight.

My first few runs, I exited turn 8 wide, making the entrance to turn 9 not quite what it should be. The entrance to turn 9 should be full track left, on some pavement that was not there originally. If you're doing it right, you'll come damn close to the wall with your right hand mirror at the apex and then drift left to track out. Early on, I almost got into the dirt exiting turn 9. Later in the day, the challenge was passing in the straight following 9. By passing rules for ACNW say that the vehicle being passed stays on the racing line, signalling in that direction and lifting throttle slightly. The overtaking vehicle signals opposite, accelerates and passes. The timing of that 'signal and lift' is tricky, with everybody learning as the day progresses. Sometimes you're behind somebody who signals and doesn't lift much (I like to think they believe my car is faster than it really is...). Other times, you get people who don't really accelerate through the turn, essentially they're lifting before the passing zone. That can get a little exciting as you're trying to eak out every ounce of speed at the corner exit, then you suddenly have to pinch the corner short, signal and cut off line to complete the pass. It's a trade-off between maximum speed, safety, and the *appearance* of not being a jack-wad who is driving too aggressively.

We got good track side tire support from Driven Products. They were there consulting with folks about tire pressures, selling nitrogen, and standing ready to sell tires and wheels to those who might be interested. They walked me through bumping up my pressures. Through prior experience, I've run my 235/40/18 Dunlop Direzza Star Specs at around 37 front, 38 rear. The guys with Driven Products wanted me at 50 all around. I let them bump me up twice, ending up at 47 pounds. I'm still deciding if that's an approach I want to go with at my next track day.

I'm reviewing this page in May 2015 as I'm headed back to this track. I can now say with some certainty that '50 pounds' of tire pressure is spectacularly bad advice! I typically start out cold at 35 pounds front and 34 pounds rear. Check pressures hot and fresh off the track, and bleed down in 2-3 pound increments to keep pressures under 40 pounds hot. This keeps the tires right at the 'roll over' indicator.

In an unrelated note, I missed my last run session as I picked up a nail in the session prior. Driven Products saved me the hassle of putting the spare on myself.

I bought half a tank of 100 octane at lunch time. I feel like that added maybe 5 mph to my terminal straight speed, but of course my figuring out the line helps with that too.

I got a chance to play tag with Scott, Leo and the rest of the gang from camp B8 S4. There's a few mods up their sleeves, and the cars are a little faster than the Bunny. Unfortunately right after I had a chance to say hello and compare notes, I had to cancel playing in the last run session due to that tire issue.

Video post-production continues to be a challenge for me. I'm using GoPro's for video and sound capture. I'm gathering data with Harry's Lap Timer on my iPhone 4. In this round, I'm using DashWare to marry them up and do data overlays. At this writing, I can only get one lap's worth of data to match up. I'm also getting some weird aspect ratio badness randomly sneaking in when I upload to Youtube. Oh well, I keep playing with it at each event.

Blank Pacific Raceways comment sheet

Comment sheet with notes from July 13, 2012

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