(If you look closely at the image above, you will see our GT3, a BRAND NEW Porsche 997.2 GT3-RS 4.0, and Jesse’s 997.2 Cup Car)
We have been gathering a growing group of customers who have moved up the food chain in terms of track activity, and many of these are now actively participating in time trials, with some even doing full Club Racing. With these customers, the requirements for their cars and the weekends expands, with more specific development needed for active track participation. Most of these cars have now made the leap, evolution, move or mind altering position of being a full time track asset….for those that were street cars, they have now made the transition to the dark side, where they are now a track car that may….may, still be driven on the street. Some are 100% dedicated race cars….these can not be driven on the street nor to the events (like our growing base of Porsche Cup Cars).
The requirements on us as service provider continue to evolve as our customers evolve, and one of the key components that we have to demonstrate is that we have the experience, skill, resources, tools, data knowledge, track tuning capabilities…to be not only their shop, but again, one of the best shops for their cars. To that end, that means we are having to consider that we need to change our role a little, for this is a point where head knowledge is not enough, we need to demonstrate that we can deliver the results as well. This is not a small challenge…all shops would like to say they can play at this level, but how many actually have cars where they drive, where they compete, where their customers compete, and are at the top of the field. Merely playing here is not enough. We can’t choose our customers and their cars, so the ability to play at the front of the field really takes extraordinary effort.
So, rather than just sit on the sidelines, we wanted to start making a real splash in this pond, and that meant we would start to play ourselves. At no time do we ever want our role and our participation to take away from our customers…..they are and will always be our focus, and their efforts are supreme. This is a difficult role to play….there have been many shops that want to play themselves, and they find that playing takes a larger effort and skill that it looked like from the sidelines or the stands…and as a result, their attention focused away from their customers, and their crew and time focused on themselves….a dooming effort. That is a lose-lose proposition. So, it is with some trepidation that we say we want to play in the pond ourselves, but when you hold yourself out that you know the best components, elements, software, tuning……at some point, you have to have results to back up those words. So, off to the track we set.
Now, we didn’t need to do this because our customers can’t carry the flag for us on their own. Far from it……and, as mentioned, we don’t “recruit” our customers, they recruit us, so who we have as customers is more due to our role and geographic location. And our customers have immediately jumped to the top of the heap. They didn’t just show up and play, they showed up and put themselves all over the podium….in fact, at Thunderhill in early November, at the POC race weekend, our customer won the main event (Jesse M in his 2011 Cup Car), and our other customers placed 2nd, 4th and 5th in the Time Trial. That’s about as good as it gets. And, that wasn’t with a small group, that was one of the larger grids. So, together, BRR and our customers delivered the goods….and the results. This was a HUGE achievement….you don’t just go say you are going to play in a golf tournament, and walk away w the trophy on your first try (but we did), you don’t enter your first sailing event and stun the participants with your strategy (but we did). We even pulled off events that no one expected. That was the first splash….but to make a name for your business, you need to do this on a regular basis. And the sharks we are playing with are not idle hands…..they all want this. You better be ready for what you have set out to achieve…..there are many failures.
So, our next step in the pond would be the Porsche Owners Club race weekend at Willow Springs. Our customer Jesse M would be entering his Cup Car in the fast race group again, and we would be entering our street GT3 in the Time Trial event. I will now chronicle the event from my view (Bruce), as I would be driving our GT3 for this event in the Time Trial. I have driven a lot of cars, and driven lots of miles on lots tracks, but it has been 10 years since I’ve placed myself back into a full competitive event. Plus, heck, I’m freakin OLD as well, I’m not one of those spring chickens that has no fear, or no family. I’m on the other side of the hill, and taking the risk for the company to put myself in that role is questionable theory, and in fact, some would say the wrong play….but, what the heck.
Next, consider the track. It has been 10 years as well since I’ve driven Willow Springs (WS) in anger and aggression, and driving that track at the limit is a LOT different than driving it for DE events. There are stories a plenty about turns 8 & 9 at WS….most stories end badly…. “I tried a new line thru turn 8 and tried holding the throttle later…and hit the bumps, and quickly ran out of track, and ended up sampling the desert dirt”….or worse. So, you don’t go attacking WS like any other track. There are only a few turns that matter, but on a very fast track, those turns make all the difference in the world in terms of your track time. Again, doing a DE and talking about the track is one thing, but driving in the race or the TT and competing for top time of the day puts the mindset in a completely different frame. I wasn’t coming to drive just to see how it goes….I was stupid, bold, egomaniac enough to think that we could be near the top end of the scale. But, to get there meant I would have to come to play, and play hard. So, now all I had to deal with was my psychological unstable state, my anxiety, a very fast track, and a car that I had not driven at the limit yet.
For most POC weekends, there are events on both Saturday and Sunday. Oh yeah, just to make things a little more interesting, why not change the wheels and tires, their widths, offsets, and front and rear balance, just to make things more interesting. We had just added new wheels to the car, which allowed us to change the offset on the front and increase the track, along w the wheel width, and new wheels to the rear. We had done this w full knowledge and planning, so again, time to put our designs to the test.
Willow Springs has interesting weather too. It is usually hot and windy, or cold and windy. For Saturday, it started very cold (just above freezing for the first track session) with a slight breeze. It continued to warm during the day, ultimately getting to about 55 degrees, or almost perfect. And the wind was there too, but really not an issue. For the first session, I just wanted to get used to the track again, and get the tires working, as the temps were cold, the track was cold, and the driver was cold. The first session was good….all went to plan, the car felt great, the grip was there, but I had forgotten about all the bumps. There are bumps coming out of turn 1, there are bumps going into turn 2, there are bumps going into turn 3, there are bumps….big bumps on the most critical turn, turn 8. They talked in the download sessions about guys having 20+ years at this track, and knowing the line and the bumps. I thought to myself….heck, this will take the whole weekend w my aging brain to remember all the friggin bumps and to find the right way thru them. Goal for the weekend not looking too good right now. The tire temps and pressures had come to right where we wanted, but I had not counted on the bumps. So, talked thru the issue w our gang, and decided to make a quick shock valving change. We have a plan to add data acquisition for shock potentiometers, but we didn’t have that now, so it was a question of which change should we make first…..compression or rebound, as those who play w race cars know, you can make lots of changes, but you don’ t want to make too many changes at once. So, a small shock valve change we made (to compression). In the first session, we ended up in good shape. We were indeed at the head of the class, and turned a 1:33 on the few clear laps we had. There was a large group all around that time, so I felt like we could indeed play.
Second session on Saturday would be with the shock valve change, and the heat was getting into the track. Plus, I now knew what the track was, and time to start exploring the car and its limits. But, I”m no Pro…and I don’t have the ability to assimilate the whole track and all the turn in points, braking points, throttle points for all the turns all at once. So, lots more learning to be had in this session. I had started at the back of the pack in the 1st session, but they motion me to move the head of the grid for the start of the 2nd session. OK w me…should give me some clean track, time to explore and play hard. The track was indeed warmer, and the shock change was good, the car could hold itself better coming out of turn 1 and thru turn 8. But, it wasn’t enough. The car felt like it had far more grip in store. I was watching everyones lines as well….making sure that “my” fast line was the line that others that looked quick were also running. We improved some in this session, we got down into the 1:32’s, and again, were at the head of the pack. I felt good, and knew the car had more, but everyone else had made a better jump in their times…so, the group would be coming, and now, with us at the lead of the group for the first two sessions (and who the heck is that guy and that car…..this is often a Southern CA group…and you could tell that not many knew who BRR was).
For the third session, we made more shock changes. This time, we continued the progression we had started with shock compression settings, but we had not gone far enough….and I wanted to make some changes to rebound as well. As we were now pushing the car a little harder, we also had a small adjustment that was needed to tire pressures. WS is mostly a right hand turn track, and you will see a big difference in the gain in tire pressures on the left side versus the right side. What was both good and bad, was that I could feel that the car had a lot more in it, but with the bumps, I wasn’t feeling confident about exploring that limit. I knew there were much faster times to be had, but would the car step out at the right time and bite me? Between the 2nd and 3rd sessions, there was a drivers meeting for the time trial, and they also wanted to review the first 2 sessions of the day. And, of course, I got called out in the meeting ( I swear it happens every time I get into a competitive mode :) ……. “who is the driver of the white, fast GT3?” I raised my hand. “OK, you’re too bloody fast, especially on the out lap. We want you to lead the group out, but hold the whole group till you reach turn 3….then you can take off. OK, got it? Slow and steady till turn 3. Got it”.
So, we line up for the third session, warmth still getting into the track, the air is cold and dense (can you smell power?). I head out on the track, and play like this is a warm up lap for a race, holding the pace down. The flaggers are all looking at me like I’ve gone mad….they’re waving the green flags like mad, trying to get us to go. I can just hear them talking to themselves, “stupid driver, thinks he is pretending to be a race car driver….no really, I want to go, it’s race controls fault”. I don’t believe in the weaving back and forth to get heat into the tires, but I do believe in the accelerate like mad, then stomp on the brakes like mad. I also believe in dragging the brake on the exit of the pits on the out lap to also get heat into the brakes…I want those suckers as hot as I can get as soon as I can get. So, exiting turn 2, I look over and see the whole group lined up and grouped together, and we’re approaching turn 3. Time to go….so, just before turn 3, I take off like a canon. The Porsche right behind decides he wants to come w me…OK, lets go, dive into turn 3, hard left, up the hill, then hard right at the top of the hill….but, I see in my mirror the Porsche right behind trying a new line….off he goes, into the dirt at the top of the hill….hmmm, maybe we needed a little more heat in those tires. I’m now playing w different lines thru turn 6. If I come out of turn 5 hard to the right, and stay right going over the crest in the middle of turn 6, I get wheel spin on the rear, and have to lift briefly to keep the car settled. I reason that this is bad, as I want to be hard on the throttle from turn 5 all the way down the hill into 8. That is the fastest section of the track, and I believe it is costing me time. So, I try exiting turn 5 a little earlier, pulling to the left side of the track, and try crossing the crest of turn 6 at a slight angle to the track, but the car is steering straight ahead. Seems to work, less wheel spin, and I can stay on the throttle longer. Now its time to start exploring the limits of adhesion of the car thru turn 8….bumps and all. So, I hold my breadth, and push harder thru 8. I’m not flat out, and it feels like the car could take it, just not my heart. Each lap is better, the car feels great, the changes worked as well. The time came, not quite as far as I would have hoped, but improvement none the less. We’ve recorded a low 1:31. I know the car has more in it for sure, and set a goal of 1:30 for the Time Trial session, with a reach goal of 1:29.
The Time Trial is next. Now, normally, I tell customers that new and used Hoosiers take about 2 full laps to come in, and after that they are great. I don’t like to puss the tires hard on the first two laps, first, I’ve seen how they come in, and second, it just eats into the tire too quickly, they just become greasy at the end of the session. But, for the Time Trial, we only have one warm up, and 2 flyers. No time to worry about the breakin now, I’ve got to push. But, my mind is playing w me. If I warm them up too fast, and I’m trying to push thru harder in turn 2 and turn 8, will our two worlds come colliding together, and I’ll get to explore the desert? Remember, no coasting…we’re either going fast, or we’re stopping, no in between…..that’s lazy ground in between. Rico tells me….just go 9 feet deeper into the three key braking zones…just 9 feet. So, tires, laps, 9 feet, turn 8 speed….got it. We probably shouldn’t have, but since our other shock changes were working, we make one last change to the shocks, as we have tomorrow as well. Off we go…..the car eating up all that I can give her. I push beyond where I thought I had found the limit…and the car is just fine. No abrupt breakaway, no nasty habits, no swapping of ends…..it just gets a little out of line, but you can play w throttle modulation even as the car is sliding sideways. I push harder thru turn 8, and the car just soaks up the bumps (I’m amazed at the working of the shocks)….no loss of grip there either. Two laps coming flying by, we head in. I’m stoked, the car felt great, and I’m sure I got the 1:30. Time passes, they finally post the time sheets, and we found new territory. We made it into the low 1:29s….we were flying, and the car was a HOOT to drive. Man, I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. Can I go back out and play some more? Can I, can I? I want to go try some more…I want to see what the dark side is like w this car.
I think we showed well….we beat the next car by nearly 4 seconds….the 2nd place car turned a 1:33 lap to our 1:29. Heck, I could have qualified in about 3/4 of the grid for the fast race group w Cup Cars. I’m dazed, giddy, smiling….stoked. And, I know the car has more to go.
Sundays dawns cold and clear….did I say cold? I mean cold. It is about 22 degrees at 7am. When we filled up at the service station that morning, the windshield washer bucket was frozen solid. It is cold…real cold. And, just to make us know that we are in Willow Springs, there is a slight breeze blowing at 7am. Did I say it was cold. We get the cars prepped and warmed, and Jesse and I look at each other just before our 1st run group. “You going out? Not sure, you going out? Not sure, I’ve never driven in snow conditions before w race slicks.” So, I pass on the 1st session. The car had felt great, almost too good, and now I’m wondering if I really want to test the limits of the car in these conditions. But, then I watch the first session from the sidelines, and out go all those thoughts. We chat amongst the team, and wonder since the car is so hooked up, if we should make a wing change since this is such a fast track. We’re hitting over 145mph in 2 places on the track, and if we are running too much wing, then we’re just slowing ourselves down. So, we decide…sure, lets try it, lets take a hole out of the wing, go flatter (less rake), and see if we can even tell. The other groups report that the track is holding well, plenty of grip. I don’t want to waste the tires, I just want to test the changes we made, and start exploring the limits again……they may be more my limits, not the cars. Now realize that we’re talking about one hole change in the wing. Can we even feel a one hole change in the wing? We can’t see any difference when we look at the wing. But, there was a change. With the new wing change, I can feel the change in total speed coming off the hill and I can feel the speed coming down the front straight. But the big change is the grip exiting turn 2. At about 7/8ths of the way thru turn 2, the rear of the car gets light, and I start getting rear wheel spin under full throttle exit. Sort of the same thing in turn 8…the car feels less settled, jumping around a little more. Car works fine, but robs me of some confidence, and not the direction I wanted go to find the extra speed in the car. We only got 1 clean lap, so I didn’t expect much from the timesheets, and they bear this out. Our times are in the high 1:29s…..not where I wanted to be, but we leaned something.
We make the change back on the wing, and wait for the TT session later in the day. I use the next session to try some different lines again, to see if I’m leaving time on the track. Session shows that we didn’t gain anything. Since we don’t have any data acq on the GT3 yet, I don’t have the ability to really break the track down into sections to compare w other laps to see where the speed is (just wait for next year). I’m still ecstatic with the car, and come in after each session with a huge smile on my face……what can be better than this? WOW.
For the TT, we are grouped at the head of the pack, and use the same process that worked so well on Saturday. But, just like the gain we made in the TT yesterday, I want to push really hard in this run group and see if we can’t break into the 1:28s. First lap, I decide to push deeper into the braking zone in turn 1. That works just fine, carrying more speed thru the turn and into the exit as well. Ahhh….the exit. Haven’t talked about the exit of turn 1 yet. Just to make the turn exciting, turn 1 has banking, and you can carry a good amount of speed from the fast front straight into turn 1. That is the good news. The bad news is that at the exit of turn 1, the track falls away, and goes from being banked to being off camber. And, just do you know that others have found this limit, there is a big rut on the edge of the track where many have dropped wheels there. So, my speed into turn 1 was great. Mid turn felt great. The exit…not so great….and we carried too much speed there, and sure enough dropped a wheel into the dirt on the exit. Crap…there goes that lap. Since this lap has now turned into a throw away lap, I try a different exit off the top of the hill in turn 4 to see if I can get the car to rotate better (I”ve been using left foot stab of the brake up there, and that seemed like it was working well, but time to try something else). I get something else all right….not as bad as some of the other cars that have spun up here, but I do get the rear end loose….crap, more time lost here. OK, no need to push thru turn 8 really hard, no gain, lets save the tires. But, I’m early on the throttle entering turn 9 and into the front straight…we have one lap left. The whole lap goes well. We come off the hill, flying down into turn 8….time to find out if the car can hold it….no feathering of the throttle this time, time to go for it. OMG…the car holds, and we’re freakin flying. We come thru turn 8 alive…and the car in one piece. My mind is racing….this is just awesome, I know I have a fast lap. But, in all my brief moment of elation, I forget to adjust my braking point entering turn 9 (which is the exit to turn 9….they’re all one section)….I go flying into turn 8 exit and turn 9 braking zone, hard on the brakes…and oh my goodness, I’m running out of track (now, at WS, when you run out of track, you run out of track…and you are quickly tossed into the desert)….I’m sliding the car w the wheels on the edge of the track. I’m thinking I have two choices here…either go off, straight off, or turn and spin the car. I decide on the later (I know this is not what I tell most of my students…I say, just go off….but at WS, you really don’t want to go off, there are BIG boulders and man eating things out there in that desert….we’ve seen them, the cars that have gone out there have come back to the pits bearing the evidence of the things the monsters on the outside of turn 8 and turn 9 will do to a car….I’m not going out THERE!). I wonder…how much can you slide one of these things. So, I trail brake, scrubbing off speed, sliding the car…….and…and…..the car holds it’s line and starts to turn in for turn 9. Wow…but, now I’m way late for turn 9, and I’m starting to see all the marbles laid down on the outside, off line area of turn 9….this is another area that you don’t want to go. My mind races ahead again….great, you saved it in turn 8 exit, only to find the marbles and go flying off in turn 9. Way to go. But, the car continues to hold….and like any good Porsche driver, I add throttle, and make it thru turn 9 and onto the front straight. WOW….my heart my have had a moment, but the car didn’t. The downside, w all the sliding thru the turn, I know I’ve now lost this lap as well. Crap…oh well, we learned a lot more about the car and the levels of grip at the limit at 145mph…..just amazing. We come in. Heart calms down. I’m drained….I just slowly drive the car around the pits to calm down (and I needed to use the car to go get Jesse M for his race, he was up next, and they had moved the schedule up and he needed to grid up, so we used the GT3 as a taxi to get him back to the pits). Time sheets went up….I was hopeful, but resigned that I might have screwed it up. Time was posted……we beat Saturdays time, but were still in the 1:29s…..but dang…I now know that the car has a 1:28 in it….
Such fun…..not a thing I would do to change the car other than have data to use.
That was our turn…..and as I stated, our customers shine as well. Jesse M was running his Cup Car as part of the BRR group in the Red Race Group. This is the fast run group. This is a track that is not high on Jesse’s list of fun track either (wasn’t on my list before this weekend, but now am thinking again…hmmm), and he certainly explored the limits many times thru the weekend. But, he also persevered, and we made several setup changes to the car to also adapt the car to the track and conditions. All changes were in the right direction, and Jesse made outstanding progress each session. Every session, every time out, he dropped his lap times. The result was that he qualified 6th for the race on Sunday, and made the move of the day on the start entering turn 1. While everyone was setting up for turn 1, he just went there, and took the whole group by surprise. He went from 6th to 1st in turn 1 (and they all say that you can’t win in turn 1, HA!). He then drove the skins off the tires, and completed the race coming home 2nd, beating many cars w extensive mods to their cars while Jesse runs to the true spec definition for the Cup Car class. WAY TO GO Jesse……an amazing weekend again for the BRR group.
They may not have known much about us before, but there is no question going into 2012 that when we show up, they will know who the BRR group is. Can’t wait for the next event…..WOO HOO.