On Track, First Time At Speed

Picking up from yesterday’s post, the midday parade lap at the Harris Hill Road event with Sondra was more interesting than driving my Nissan in the morning.  It was informative to not only see the track a second time, but to observe the variety of lines taken by the car in front on this 36′ wide track.

The Dam & Mustang curves at H2R

Later, I struck up a friendly conversation with Ron, the owner of this 1995 Spec Miata.

Ron's Spec Miata

His racing background started with ice racing in Wisconsin, during his college days.  Later, life brought him to New Braunfels, TX.  He had been doing Solo (autocross) competitions for 15 years with an ’84 VW GTI, in the ITB (Improved Touring) class, but eventually got tired of the constant maintenance.  He had noticed that Miata driver’s simply drove their cars home after events.  They hardly ever had to fix anything with them (and I’ve heard this from other Miata owners).  He sold his GTI and found this Sepc Miata (SM) in 2003.

So, what’s a Spec Miata?  Its a Maxda Miata (MX5) modified in a minimal way, many non-essentials are stripped out, the engine is left pretty much stock, there is an upgrade to racing type of suspension & specific tires & wheels.  For more SM details, go here.

Spec Miata racing
© www.specmiata.com. All rights reserved.

“Spec cars, such as SCCA Spec Miata, and now NASCAR -and increasingly Formula One- take the car out of the equation and it becomes more driver vs. driver. This is the purest form of racing, and in some cases, such as Spec Miata, it might not draw a crowd, but so what? We’re talking pure sport. I predict that in the next two decades, every major type of racing will be a spec series.” – H.A. Wheeler

With Ron’s extensive Solo experience & enough participation in high performance type of driving events, he became a part-time instructor at the The Driver’s Edge school.  That’s the type of high performance driving education I’d like to aspire to!  I wish I had asked him more questions about that…

Ron making a point

Ron agreed to take me for a ride-along, but first we had to make sure I fit!  I’m 6’2″, almost 250lbs.  He had a 5-point harness & the passenger racing seat was fixed and a little narrow.  With some belt adjustments & my negociating the rollcage, I got in & tightened everything down – as snug as a bug in a rug.  I felt okay , tightly attached to the car, but not uncomfortable.  But once I put the loaner helmet on I was wedged in further, forced down by the helmet restricted by the roof.  I decided that it was a good thing – I wouldn’t have to use my side neck muscles, unaccustomed to the lateral g-forces from the track’s curves, to keep my head upright.

Spec Miata interior The 5-point harness

We got going and Ron wasted no time in getting up to speed.  He held nothing back.  With all the straights, curves & a hill, he used 2nd, 3rd & 4th gear.  Top speed was almost 85 mph.  The sound of the straight through exhaust was exhilarating.  Ron was going through the turns, pedal to the metal, and it seemed like we were close to the point of drifting off the edge of the track, but not quite.  He had the car on the edge of control, but never lost it.  It was confidence inspiring to watch Ron drive.

Approach to Santa Rita

On this day the track was run in a counter-clockwise direction.  The approach up the hill to the Santa Rita corner is blind, one you take at speed with faith.  As you climb up, you can’t see over the crest & have to have faith there is still racetrack there.  They named this curve after Saint Rita, as she is the patron saint of improbable causes.  What that says about this corner (in either direction) is that it is tough to master the proper line.  This little diagram below shows the course direction (the green arrow) and the yellow-red line is the crest of the hill, where it abruptly levels off (where you lose your stomach).

Santa Rita corner detail

I think we did 10 laps, maybe more.  I lost count, I was so distracted.  Ron passed a couple of times & he passed some cars, too.  When there were no cars ahead or behind, the fast driving was actually kind of boring.  About 3 laps before the session ended I started to feel a bit woosey.  I was able to keep my lunch, but didn’t enjoy those last 3 laps very well.  Lesson learned – don’t eat and compete within 20 minutes – wait longer!

But I made it & was happy for the experience – I was no longer an ontrack virgin, at least as a passenger…

Me, happy after the run!Me, happy after the run!

Tomorrow I will post more details and information as to why Harris Hill Road is one of THE places to become Racing Ready in South/Central Texas!

Dan

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6 thoughts on “On Track, First Time At Speed”

  1. [Reposted by Dan, on behalf of Ron, the cool
    Spec Miata dude; from July 30th, 2008 at 9:53 pm]

    Dan: Glad you made it out to the track. Nice write up, glad I was able to give ya a ‘ride’. You never mentioned about the last three laps, we could have come in early….naaah it was too fun.

    Ron

  2. It looks like fun but what is with the short pants and t-shirt. You guys are doing 85 m.p.h. and just wearing a smile! Oh, I guess that is the way SCCA flies.
    NASA Guy,
    Dave

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