Lime Rock Park with BMW CCA in a Civic Si
April 23, 2011
The day began a little later than expected. I wanted to leave home at 5AM so I could get to Lime Rock Park (LRP) at a leisurely pace and settle in for the days happenings. But as is the norm, I did not hear the alarm go off, woke up late and left home a full hour after my expected departure time.
The drive down was scenic as could be with the early morning landscape coming alive in the rain and I set as spirited a pace as possible down slick back roads to make it to Lime Rock Park. Along the way, around the Spencertown-Austerlitz area, I also had the opportunity of driving in snow on summer tires for the first time. I arrived there at 7:30 AM, hurriedly unloaded the car and then went to get tech inspection complete. The car passed tech inspection, although I was asked to remove the driver side floor mat and the tool kit, both of which I'd forgotten in my quick 2-minute unloading of the car as I dodged rain drops matrix style.
Tech inspection complete, I went into registration and then on to the mandatory drivers meeting, that was run by a couple of guys that seemed to be aspiring stand-up comics, but they went a long way in easing several minds that seemed to be pondering whether or not to go out on track as the puddles seemed to be growing larger by the minute breitling replica.
The next event was a mandatory classroom session for everyone in the novice group to discuss flags and what they mean't followed by an insight into the track and the precautions to keep in mind. Class room sessions seemed to do too little as there is only so much input you can provide in a one-day event. Each group had four twenty minute sessions on track.
The first session was run entirely under yellow in pouring rain and I was stuck behind an E36 M3 who seemed rather jittery and overly cautious. I think our average speed for that session may have been about 35 MPH. In a way it was cool as I did not need to use my brakes at all but rather used throttle control to make my way around the track. There was one guy issuing point by's and whats even more ridiculous was that cars were taking it with the flaggers blissfully looking the other way.
The second session happened when the rain was at its heaviest and yet again I was impeded by a whole bunch of RWD cars that either lacked the courtesy of issuing a point-by or were too scared to even check their mirrors to see that a little Honda was actually on their tail all through the corners. These cars would step on it on the front straight and gain on me only to slow down into big bend. This time I was stuck behind a 993 and barely got a couple of laps that were relatively free of traffic. The flaggers should just have kept the blue flags inside as they seemed to be unheeded.
Third and fourth sessions were progressively faster as the rain slowed and the puddles around the track grew smaller or disappeared. Although traffic was still an issue, I managed to get in with a group of faster cars and we stayed out and ran fairly well until we came around on one of the slower cars to start another train. In the last session particularly, I was held up by this M3 that refused to give me a point-by on the No-Name Straight, but I'd let a faster car by because it made no sense for me to not let someone who was much faster by. We'd go all around the track and on the front straight the M3 would issue a point-by to the car between us, but would not let me by even though I was within inches of his rear bumper. Eventually I passed him on No-Name straight alongwith an E92 M3 ahead of me and was able to go by much faster after that. I noticed that my car was much better everywhere except on the Front Straight. I'd turn into big bend carrying much more momentum but would have to scrub speed as someone would be going slower.
My instructor Michael was very patient and helpful. He said driving an E30 M3 in his class was akin to me driving my car in a group that included several P-cars, a ton of E36, E46 and E92 M3's and Miatas. One thing he said stayed in mind. He told me that one critical aspect of advancing to a higher class was to have proper track etiquette. It mean't letting faster cars by where they had the advantage and taking it easy when someone was being stubborn with not issuing a point-by. He told me about his younger brother who while good, would take time to become an instructor as he still was obssessed with passing people and dislikes being passed. He encouraged me to try out different lines and feel the different surfaces during the second session as we were stuck in a train. With his approval I rode kerbs, took an outside line up the Uphill to get a feel for how much traction existed elsewhere. Other than that experimentation he had me stick to the dry line asking me to avoid placing a wheel in the puddles. I found that it was much faster as I'd be gaining on the cars taking the rain line and then hold back as we were in a no-passing zone.
My friend Jeff, helped me with the left-hander. He told me what to use as my reference point in terms of placing the car prior to turn-in and that coupled with my instructors advice helped a lot. I still think there is work I need to do on the left-hander. That is my achilles heel, very much like Turn 6 at Watkins Glen. Both being left hand turns, I think I can safely say I'd never have a career in NASCAR (or any other series for that matter ). Jeff was great company and I'm very thankful he came. He even bought me a beer to celebrate my first outing at Lime Rock Park and shot several pictures of me on track. What a teriffic pit crew member!
LRP Turn by Turn:
At Turn One, braked and turned in foot gradually easing off the brake pedal and feathering the gas pedal into the apex. Hug the curb for a few meters and then let the car track out to about the middle of the track. At this point lift pedal to shift grip forward and turn wheel to the right and aim for the apex of Turn Two. Track out to the left and gradually bring the car towards a little past center of the track and gently step on the brakes as I line up the car with the Restroom up the hill. Keep looking left not straight and as you sight the apex for the left-hander, turn the wheel in and as I hit the apex kept the car to the left until I see the apex for Turn Four. A slight lift followed by a turning of the wheel and on the gas hard heading on to No-Name Straight. On the brakes at the end of No-Name straight as I turned the wheel to get to the apex for Turn 5 (the uphill). The Uphill put a lot of compression on both me and the car. I tracked out to the middle and on to the Back-Straight at the end of which car needed a quick stab on the brakes to go in to the apex for Turn 6 (West Bend). On the gas past the apex and a slight lift and a dab of the brakes as I turned in and aimed for the apex of Turn 7 (Downhill) and gradually increased pressure on the gas pedal to get on to the front straight.
Lime Rock I found was very physically demanding and I found I needed to stretch and massage my neck muscles after each run. This is because of how fast the corners come up. The event went well but was crowded as typical BMW CCA events are. I hope to someday run with SCCA so I get a chance to drive the track with relatively lesser traffic. Even during the fastest fourth session I was still hindered by cars and restricted by the fact that there were only two passing zones. But I was not there to pass, but to learn. Learn I did, and I am glad that it rained like it did. My instructor was trying to assure me about the rain, and I told him I'd been taught well by some people to never miss out on an opportunity to drive in it. Also told him that as it rained the last two times I went out on track, it was something I'd come to love as I had all the advantage driving a FWD car. replica omega watches Someday the real test will be when I drive a RWD car. Perhaps I'll be just as nervous as the people that were going slower.
In closing, I have to add that after two years of going to driving schools and being the only FWD Honda, there were three other 6th generation Civic Si's as well as two EP3 Civic Si's and a 7th Generation Civic LX running on track. Warmed the cockles of my heart seeing how there were more Civic's than MINIs at a BMW event
** A big thank you to Jeff for the photos! **