Speeding (Legally) Can Be Addictive
Welcome our guest blogger this week, Jeff Sweeney!
I have always been interested in cars. When I was young, my birthday and Christmas gifts of choice almost always included things car-related, from Hot Wheels toys, to slot-car sets, to plastic models of various muscle cars and racers.
As I grew older, those toys became real cars and I have been blessed to own some fun ones. My first car was a Firebird, and along the way I have parked various Infinitis, BMWs, a Jag, and a couple of Porsches in our carport.
It probably goes without saying, but I also have a fascination with speed. I love roller coasters and go-karting, and even got to do a little Auto-crossing (racing around cones in a parking lot) in my first BMW. I am looking to add some hobbies to my routine as I start stepping away from my daily work responsibilities (I won't call that retirement, because honestly I am not sure what that will look like), and owning a dedicated track-toy to take out a couple of times a month sounds very appealing.
I always thought I would enjoy time on a racetrack, and just recently was able to test that hypothesis. A few of my work colleagues and customers told me a couple of months ago that they signed up for a track night at a private circuit called Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) in Dawsonville, GA.
No need to ask twice. I signed up for the event, secured track-day insurance (thank you Opentrack.com) for my 911 Carrera S, and made arrangements to buy the requisite safety gear. On the day of the event, it was time to check the tightness of all the lug nuts on my wheels, adjust tire pressure to optimal numbers for the track, and head to Dawsonville.
I arrived an hour early to pick up the racing helmet I ordered from Discovery Parts (a great resource for both novice and experienced drivers alike) and to get a lay of the land at AMP. As a novice driver, attendance at a drivers’ orientation meeting was mandatory—and we learned about the rules of the road for the track: when and when not to pass, what the various flags meant, and most of all to enjoy a safe but fun evening with our fellow drivers on the track. Just after the drivers’ meeting, we were then in our cars, helmets on, and taken out on the course behind a pace car for a few laps to get to know the track.
After getting that paced taste of the track, it was a long 40 minutes to wait while the experts and intermediate drivers each held their 20-minute live track sessions. While I was anxious to get on the track myself, I did enjoy watching the more experienced petrol-heads tear up the track. I tried to observe the lines they took through the turns and when they braked into and how they accelerated out of the corners.
At last, it was 5 PM and time for our first 20-minute hot-lap session. As we left the pits and entered the track, adrenaline surged as fast as gas and air exploded in the cylinders and the turbo-chargers spun up. After a lap or two, I ended up behind some slower cars/drivers and excitement turned to frustration.
Fortunately, the drivers heeded the advice they learned in the mandatory meeting and one by one they pointed me by for a pass.
After clearing the slower cars, I really got to open my car up for the rest of the session and to explore the capabilities of the 911. In a word: phenomenal. I have always had a sincere respect for German Engineering, but the engine, suspension, and the dual-clutch transmission were so at home on the track that I am in awe of the designers of this machine.
The evening, and the next two 20-minute sessions were all a blur from there---literally on the track as I hit speeds north of 115 mph on the straights and figuratively as banter with the other drivers and anticipation filled the downtime. The only glitch all evening, a rookie mistake, is that I had showed up to the track with half a tank of gas which was gone by the end of the 2nd session. Driving fast makes the car gulp fuel. After a quick stop at the track’s pump, where understandably the cost of 93 Octane is double what one would pay at the neighborhood station, all was well.
I learned three important things from my first track night: show up with a full tank, drive safely but aggressively on the correct line to have the most fun, and I will be back for more of this. I have been bitten by the track bug and look forward to more (legal) speeding in my future!