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Old 6th September 2008, 23:56   #1
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Default HPDE at Virginia International Raceway

Hey guys, I just spent 4 days at Virginia International Raceway (probably the best road course in North America), got about 1,000km on the track, Had an absolute blast!

Thought I'd share some pictures. These were taken by an instructor friend of mine at Turn 3. There were other pictures taken by another person but I am waiting for them to arrive by post on a CD.
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Old 7th September 2008, 00:11   #2
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Nice! Got in some serious track time! That must have been a blast.

How did the elise handle a 1000km of hard driving?

I like the car number - 111

cya
R
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Old 7th September 2008, 00:36   #3
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The car held up fine. After all this is what its made for and is crap for just about anything else! But still, 1000km is a LOT of punishment and a transmission mount bolt got loose and the suspension picked up a squeak. I've got the mount tightened down but haven't managed to identify the squeak yet.

I'd better get it done soon since i have a 4 more events at VIR this year and 2 at Summit Point!

Have you been to any HPDEs yet? I hear there is a nice new track in New Jersey that I want to try out, and of course I want to have a go at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut..
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Old 7th September 2008, 01:01   #4
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Wow! Lucky you Harbir! That's a lot of track time, good to see that you're putting the Elise to good use!
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Old 8th September 2008, 19:21   #5
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Thanks!

What really interests me is that I have never seen another Indian at these events. I see the american kids of Indian immigrants, but never do I see immigrant Indians like myself.

I wonder why that that is. I see Indians buying BMWs and what not, so its not a question of money. And a number of HPDE participants arrive in extremely modest machinery so you don't need money to do this.
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Old 10th September 2008, 07:38   #6
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All in good time man. I am watching your thread, will be there sometime in future.

Last edited by kuttapan : 10th September 2008 at 07:41.
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Old 10th September 2008, 14:48   #7
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Wow. How many sets of tires did you go through. And how were the brake pads after the event?
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Old 10th September 2008, 15:28   #8
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Whoa, that's some serious amount of track time. Nice to see the Elise in its element. Plus you seem to be giving the souped up Civics a hard time .

How many kms is a lap? How were your times compared to the others? Would be great to hear about other interesting cars and the times they lapped at.
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Old 10th September 2008, 20:08   #9
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GTO,

VIR is one of the longest road courses in North America, at 6.75km per lap for the longest configuration, called the Grand East Course. The configuration I ran the last time, called Full Course is 5.25km. On the full course, the back straight is 1.45km long, and it would generate huge speeds were it not for the fact that its uphill till almost the very end, and the corner (called Oak tree) that throws you on the back straight is a very slow 2nd gear corner. Even so, the high horsepower cars, like the Vipers and Corvette Z06s driven by skilled drivers can hit 250km/h on the back straight. I am getting only about 200km/h from the Elise since I come out of oaktree slower than they would, I don't brake as late at the end of the straight and at high speeds, big horsepower is needed to overcome drag (which is far more a limiting factor on acceleration than weight)

These events are not timed, in fact timing is strictly forbidden by insurance rules (both my insurance and the event organizer's insurance). Some people do sneak lap timers in, but for me, at my level, I am just focusing on learning to drive properly.

There are many groups at these events depending on expereince and skill. Novice, beginner, intermediate, advanced, instructors. Only the advanced and instructor group people are consistent enough in their driving to generate consistent lap times that they can use as any sort of yard stick. People in lower groups are too inconsistent from sector to sector and lap to lap.

Also, except in the advanced and instructor groups, lap times are almost entirely a function of the driver, not the car. beginner and intermediate groups are not using near enough of their cars' capabilities for the car to be the limiting factor in their speed.

I am intermediate level but have stayed in beginner just to relieve the pressure from other drivers so I can focus on my driving. In the beginner group, I am amongst the fastest drivers, but here is the funny thing. I blow past C06 Corvettes and M3s and 911s in my group. but you see that picture with the two blue cars behind me? the one immediately behind me is a 200hp Acura RSX (Honda Integra) and that driver and I are virtually equally fast, and he is faster than much exotic machinery in the group. The guy in the blue civic was somewhat slower than the two of us.

Note, this does not mean that the Honda driver would have beaten me had he been in an Elise. Neither he nor I limited by our respective cars. We are limited by our driving skill. He would go no faster in the Elise, and I would go no slower in his Acura.

The only exception is if you have a high horsepower car, you will be faster on the straights so when an M3 or an STI driven by a guy who is as good as me shows up, he will outdrag me on the straights and go by. but if he is not as fast me in the corners, he will not be able to get near me on the straights.
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Old 10th September 2008, 20:17   #10
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I made a post on another forum where I am regular about my very first track day, which I think is a good read for people who have never been. Now I see newbies who are fricking lost on the track, and I know just how they feel. THey have these hot cars, they think they knew how to drive, and suddenly they feel like they've been thrown into a fire.

This below is my report from my very first track day.

Quote:
Today I did my first track day. VIR north course, which is all of the twisty bits, with the long sections cut out and some wicked nurburgring-esque uphill bits added to close the North loop. It was raining and treacherous.

I learned a lot things today about cars, driving, myself and other enthusiasts.

I discovered that a track is crucible that burns away all the irrelevancies till only the truth remains. You have no idea what good fast driving is, nor how good you are till you've gotten on a track. This is almost a cliche but you understand it only when you put yourself in the crucible and light the burner.

All driving enthusiasts think they are naturals, but actually very few are. Instinct will not get the rest anywhere, even though they think it does. Driving well is such a technical activity, it is like training artillery crews to operate with mechanical, reliable, consistent precision. Its all about managing the inertia of the car and for most people, it does not come instinctively.

Further, it is shocking, shocking, to realize 1. how much safety buffer I leave in my driving and 2. how far beyond where iI think the limits are, they really are. #1 is particularly shocking. I am being asked to approach what I feel is the limit and I am frightened to do so because I have no plan B. How can I use up all of the track, or go flat out through the dropping last corner, loading up the chassis, reaching frightening speeds, and no way out?!

Thats when I realize just how small and limited I am as a driver. I am not even being asked to brake late or brake hard. I am just being asked to follow the line, get on the throttle, unwind the wheel on the throttle to go from inside to outside, and that is terrifying

I don't trust the road surface! its slippery. its soaking wet. Grip varies drastically depending on how hard its raining, whether its uphill or downhill, on camber or off camber. I keep feeling like I am going to go flying off the track in these nasty conditions so I am reluctant to use up the track.

As the laps go on, I get more comfortable, I pick up a considerable amount of speed and start passing other cars, while still getting passed by the more expereinced drivers in my group. My instructor appreciates the smoothness of my inputs but urges me to use more of the track, to let the car go outward after the apex. After the second session, I am starting to feel quite good. I am starting to feel that the rainy track is treacherous but can be worked with if I stay cool and do what the instructor says. i am not feeling the confidence inspiring G forces that let me feel the grip, but my remaining cool headed and following procedure, I pick up a lot of speed and start feeling really good. There are lots of offs in my group as well as the advanced groups, with cars going skating off the track, with huge long slides grass and mud torn up everywhere. But I am feeling good and in control.

Then for the third session, the rain has stopped and a dry line has appeared from the other groups. I continue to do what I was doing in the previous session, i.e. be cool, be smooth, follow the procedure, and I start flying around the track (relative to my group). i am passing virtually everything in sight. I am learning to track out, finding enormous importance of that to finding the right line. I am passing car after car after car.

Then it starts raining again, the dry line fades out and I find myself having lost focus. I lose my cool, stop following procedure, and start panicking about the loss of grip. I stop tracking out, but keep going on the throttle as normal, which kicks the tail out on difficult down hill sections. That unnerves me even more. The session is wrecked. I am missing turn in points, I am off the line, not hitting the apexes. I have regressed badly. Cars that I had been passing in the dry AND the wet are cruising by me.

I am so thankful when the session end flag is waved and we pull in.

After that we go to the skidpad and the instructor is surprised at how much grip the Elise has and how fast I am going around the the cones without over or understeer. Then he wants me to goose it to kick the tail out. But I have become quite disoriented, I can see nothing but the cones and I can't do anything except keep the car on a very tight fast line in a circle. I surprise myself because I expect to be going wide, coming in, going wide, but no, the Elise is on RAILS. The instructor wants me to goose it and I do but the world is whirling round and round so fast, I find myself reacting not to what I can see but what I can feel and as soon as it comes around, I catch it and go back on the rails. The instructor isn't happy because he wants me to try to hold the drift. but I am not catching it with thought, I just react to what the car does. Tomorrow morning, the first thing I have is the skid pad session, and I will try to do what the instructor says. the problem is that my mind doesn't think ahead of the car.

The skidpad session also leaves me confused. Where did the car find so much grip?! Why was it feeling like it was on ice when out on the track? Was it because of the cambers and the declines? Was it just my fear of going off? Can I honestly blame the tyres for their lack of rain grip for having messed up my last session?

The amazing thing I realized is that its not about the cars at all. For all drama the enthusiast community is involved in about desirable cars and better and worse cars, the only thing that matters is good a driver you are. And the car can't help you with that. I feel so stupid having spent $57k or so on an Elise to realize that a beaten up Miata or CRX or E30 would produce just the same results on the track for me.

its also remarkable to realize how important it is to get on the track. I would bed that most of the best drivers at VIR today were of a level that most people can get to with training, expereince, diligence and dedication. And yet, they are so so so advanced and so beyond my level! It is imperative for a driving enthusiast to get on the track to get a measure of his/her ability and to understand what good driving is REALLY about. Its not about lap times and pasing people on the outside. its about managing the intertia of the car in the most efficient way possible. And without going on a track and trying to push your own limits, you will never find out where you're at.

Frankly, I am frightened about tomorrow. When i think of the last right hand corner leading onto the straightway, coming out of a dropping right hander, the springs compressing at the bottom of the dip, the instructor asking for full throttle, the G loads building up at 95mph going onto a straight that is not fully visible yet because you are not on it yet and you're coming out of the dip, man, its scary. The classroom instructor said a few times about the high pucker factor through there and he was right.

Earlier in the day, the forecast was for it to be dry tomorrow but now its rain again. I am going to try to be cool, remember the procedure, stay focused on following the procedure.

And oh yeah, what bwob said about 90hp is true. Its astonishing how efficiently a track strips away illusions of the importance of the car's performance and puts the responsiblity squarely on the driver's shoulders. If you're not good, the car isn't going to do a damn thing for you. And it didn't. i would have been just as fast or slow today if my car had 90hp instead of 190. in fact I wish that it did have 90hp.

interesting that at the track, most cars were Miatas and 3 series BMWs (E30s and E36 mostly) with a number of 911s and some 944s. other common cars were 350Zs and corvettes. A yellow Ultima GTR was the highlight of the day.

I hope I will follow up this post with another one tomorrow reporting that the Elise hasn't been wrecked.

Last edited by Rehaan : 14th September 2008 at 15:16. Reason: Quoted text had been pasted twice over.
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Old 10th September 2008, 20:22   #11
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And this is a post I made about my second event (not the second day of the first event)

Quote:
The previous event's classroom instructor was a professional driving coach for race drivers and in that event, we alternated track and class. In this event we got two classroom sessions of about 15 minutes each of content that was extremely thin and verging on unnecessary. The first session was mostly about flags and passing signals, but fairly unclear which led to a lot of first timers indicating what THEY were going to do, not what they wanted the following car to do.

This was also a much larger event with more cars, more instructors, more hot shots, almost no race cars (street based competition cars that are no longer street worthy).

The different style of the in car instructors was shocking at first because I unconsciously expected to receive the same guidance. but I quickly adapted and found the variation extremely helpful and I suspectthat every instructor is a deeply valuable guide because of what they bring and it is good to learn from different people.

On the track itself, straight off, the car was absolutely flawless. its handling, atleast at my level, is simply PERFECT. That may also be true for other cars, I don't know, but I wish i had checked the suspension settings before the previous event. This time the car was absolutely sublime!

Me, I was considerably less so. God, there is SO MUCH to learn! VIR Grand course east is 4.2 miles long and just amazing! For me the most important part was the section thats not on the North course and the difference in performance and comfort between the known and unknown sections was huge.

When you're as green as me, and so untrained and unskilled in the craft of driving, an unseen track section feels like a kitchen blender because you have to deal with managing the inertia and grip of the car while you have no idea what steering and throttle input you need to make. And when there is so much of it at a track like VIR, it gets hair raising.

First new section of the track for me, the climbing esses, a section of fast left right left right in the middle of elevation changes, at slow speed it was easy, but then you come up to turn 10 at a crest and blind, with the tarmac dropping steeply and climbing back up in a curve setting up for turn 11, then turn 12 immediately, then after the fast uphill straight comes the aptly named "The Bitch" corner, then a blind corkscrewing turn "Spiral", then another blind tight as hell corkscrew at the bottom of a trough, climbing up into a series of accelerating esses again.

Man, there is SO MUCH and it comes at you so fast! The first session was rough, the second one was much better. I learned that you have to set up the car for the series of curves, not one curve at a time. That means a sequences of turn ins, apexes, track outs. I learned that you have memorize whats coming up before you see it, and just how important setting up for a series of curves is by putting yourself in the right place on the track before the curves even arrive.

My instructor's biggest highlight of my driving was that I turn in too soon and "shallow out" the corners and watching what I was doing and what was making me do it, I realized that this was still connected to my behavriour at the earlier event relating to track out. I am terrified of sliding off the outside, so i am eager to get turned in while I can, and I want to hug the inside of the curve as much as I can instead of letting the car flow towards the outside edge of the tarmac.

Then we had some parade laps and I rode with my instructor (jackson racing super charged '92 NA!), and at just 45 mph he talked me through where I should turn in, how to set up the car's line for each series of curves, where to straighten out esses for a straight shot, how to handles the corkscrews and their follow through.

Session 3 was just frickin BRILLIANT. the instructor said he was going to keep quiet and let me drive and boy did I drive! This must be what they call the Zone! I made myself go as far outside as possible before turning in, turned hard and much later than I used to. I figured out that to do it right takes much more steering input than I thought and then the car is hyper responsive to throttle modulation and doesn't need much steering work, and does not want to slide off to the outside uncontrollably. It stays in control, does what I want, and feels absolutely stunning as it works hard under the enormous g forces that build up smoothly then fade away smoothly. I got the left right left right rythm in the climbing esses and corkscrews, I got absolutely beautiful through "the bitch", using the throttle to steering the car all the way around in a monstrously high g turn (or felt like it), with all 4 tyres seeming to be drifting slightly. oh man it was BEAUTIFUL!!! PURE SEX!!! AHH! Same with coming out of the esses, tclimbing hard and fast, lift a bit, turn in for turn 10, on the throttle, accelerating while tracking out to the outside, then down the hill the other to set up for 11. man! it was AWESOME!

The problem in session three was that I had picked up enough speed in the second corkscrew (the wiggly bit between 6a and 8) that my old way 8 through 14a wasn't good enough anymore with too much steering motion and too much left right. I decided to work on that in the next session.

However, the next session blew up in my face. I had spent the day outside in 95 degree high humidity heat, and despite having drunk 3 liters of water, I had peed less than a cupful. I think I got badly dehydrated and got heat exhaustion. Out on the track at 4.30 in the blazing sun, I was sweating in my helmet. I didn't realize that I had a problem. Until I started blowing corner after corner. blowing them badly. the car was badly unsettled, swinging and heaving left and right as I fought to settle it after my mistakes. corner after corner I did it wrong. After first I thought I just lost concentration and tried to focus and got a couple of them right but it soon fell apart again. By now I also had a headache. On the second lap I realized that not only was I not concentrating, I was losing awareness. my mind was getting sluggish and not keeping up with processing what I was seeing fast enough for me to know what to do, and then not sending commands back in time enough. my mind completely fell out of sync with what I was doing. i told my instructor and said I'll like to pull in and call it a day. He agreed but just then we saw the checkered flag. They'd ended this session into the third lap. I was glad.

Tonight I want to get enough sleep and tomorrow I am going drink a lot more fluid and I am going to try to hang out by the restrooms in the main building, which seems to be the only air conditioned place where you can hang out without having to have a reason to be there.

This time, I was faster than most people in my group, compared to last time. Other than session 4, I got passed only once, a blue STI that seemed have enormous power, given how it went by me and disappeared over a crest despite the fact that I was going 105 at the time. The driver also must have been more experienced than myself.

Today I also learned that horsepower forgives many sins. you can talk all day about how good a lotus handles, but to do well in a good handling car, you have to drive flawlessly. A less car with more power can make up driver skill shortfalls FAR FAR more easily than a good handling but modestly powered car. And while the powerful turbos and big V8s induce envy, there is a great pleasure in being stripped naked by a modestly powered car which only goes as fast as you can drive it, and no faster. They reveal the truth to yourself, and let you work with that truth.
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Old 10th September 2008, 20:41   #12
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More pictures from the most recent event:
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HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir1.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir2.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir3.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir4.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir5.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir6.jpg  

HPDE at Virginia International Raceway-vir7.jpg  

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Old 10th September 2008, 20:52   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sujaylahiri View Post
Wow. How many sets of tires did you go through. And how were the brake pads after the event?
gotta pay to play
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Old 10th September 2008, 21:49   #14
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Wow that looks like amazing fun
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Old 10th September 2008, 22:06   #15
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Wow what a treat it must have been to drive an Elise around such a track.

Here's a vid of the track -

Google image - Virginia International Raceway (VIR) -- Sightseeing with Google Satellite Maps

BTW, the pics are just amazing. They look like snap shots from a Top Gear episode.

Shan2nu

Last edited by Shan2nu : 10th September 2008 at 22:17.
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