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Old 05-12-2015, 10:44 PM   #1
husker boxster
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Omaha
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My Weekend at COTA

After driving at Laguna Seca last yr, my brother and I wanted to drive another great course this yr. We looked around and found an Advanced DE in conjunction with a Club Race at COTA. It was a bit difficult getting sign up info but with the help of my PCA region’s past president, got connected with someone who gave us the skinny on when registration opened. We got registered, accepted, and placed into the yellow run group, which is the higher of the two DE run groups.

I was a bit nervous about the course when looking at YouTube videos for training - lots of corners (20) that seemed a bit non-descript. I watched lots of Laguna Seca vids and got great info. I didn’t feel quite as prepared for COTA.

The DE was a 3 day event, starting last Fri (5/8). My brother lives in KC and my sister lives in suburban Dallas. The plan was for us to leave on Wed and meet at my sister’s on that evening, then drive to Austin on Thu. Since it was happening on Mother’s Day w/e, I talked my 82 yr old mom into riding along with me. She would spend the 3 days in Dallas with my sister. On the way down, we stopped in northeast OKC for gas. Upon hitting the road, the radio immediately went into weather mode as a tornado was forming 45 mi sw of OKC. Depending on how fast it moved, we might be intersecting the storm in the Moore area. Luckily we navigated traffic and made an end run before the storm arrived. Felt lucky but had no way of knowing this would be a precursor of things to come…

Drove to Austin and checked in and teched in at the track. What a mammoth facility! There was also a “chalk talk” at 6:30 where the intricacies of the track would be discussed. One of the two instructors was Jim Garrett of Continental Tire fame. They talked about preferred lines thru corners and visual aids to look for. One of those aids are yellow protruding blocks in the apex of the tough corners. Their suggestion was to have your car parallel to them and you’d be in good shape thru the corner. They also suggested making turns 3-5 a straight line and you wouldn’t upset the car. This meant a bit of gator driving thru 4 & 5. Since it was also supposed to be a bit rainy throughout the weekend, they said the track itself was very grippy when wet but the gators were not, so we should avoid the painted parts of the track whenever it was wet. They also said if anyone spun off and hit a section of safer barrier, the first person on the scene would be a track employee writing us a bill for the replacement cost of the barrier. (They didn’t say if you got to keep the wrecked section, but I assumed so.) One final tidbit - there was open passing, including corners, except turns 3-6. This would be my 1st event in those situations.

The first run on Fri was awesome! It only took a few laps to get all 20 corners memorized. There were 51 cars in our run group, including 16 GT3s or Turbos. It would take a few laps to get everyone worked into their natural positions and at times you felt all you did was let fast cars go by. But the later laps were usually going against cars of your own speed. Late in the penultimate run of the day, I had caught up to a Porsche and Miata and we were approaching turn 20. As we entered the front straight, the Porsche pointed the Miata by. Its driver pulls over to pass while simultaneously pointing me by. I jumped on the opportunity and we went 3 wide down the straight and I passed both of them. What a blast! Had a bit of excitement in the last run - I was blasting down the back straight, about ready to start braking when all of a sudden the braking zone was in a shower. Oh, oh. The instructors were right - my car stuck to the track and I made the 35mph corner. That was the first session in wet conditions, earlier it would just spit. We ended the session, got packed up, and it poured on the way out of the track. Lucky again.

Sat my knowledge and comfort increased and my times decreased. Ran a best time of 2:53.1 twice and had 5 laps in sub 3 min during that session. Before our first run, a guy came by and said he had just gotten a garage and he would rent a space for $200. That was a good 2 day price, esp since there was an 80% chance of rain for Sun. After the first run, we packed up, moved into the garage, and met our new garage mates - a couple of nice guys from Houston. On the track, it was a combination of hectic fun planning when to let someone pass and setting someone up to pass. Turn 11 (the corner before the back straight) was a fun place to set someone up, but you had to give everyone lots of room. If a GT3 or Turbo was approaching on the back straight, you didn’t even need to slow down to let them by. You did have to be careful you didn’t rip your arm off doing a point by at over 100 mph. I would also keep an eye on my mirrors thru 1 & 2 and would slow way down to let faster cars thru before we hit the forbidden zone of 3-6. Didn’t need them hounding me so I’d give up the lap time to avoid that situation. Had a red GT3 wave his approval as he zipped into T3.

Sun dawned warm and humid. The hourly forecast said the rain wasn’t supposed to hit until late in the day. It was sunny and 90, so was glad to have the shade of the garage. We only have 3 sessions scheduled as the Club Racers owned the first 3 hrs of the afternoon. The first run was crowded but I was getting quite used to the open passing. The next session was the most fun - not a lot of open space but lots of passing and being passed. On 2 different laps I was heading into the braking zone on the back straight. Both times a GT3 was fast approaching, so I’d point them by. We were VERY deep into the braking zone by this time, but they’d brake and downshift and zip right thru T12, no problem. Those GT3s must have awesome brakes. Then a massive 4 hr wait for the last run. Steve McQueen was right about waiting. However, probably 50% of our run group packed up after the 2nd run, so there was lots of room to run open laps during the last session. We finished our session, got packed up, and headed out. Sad feeling knowing the weekend was over.

I wasn’t looking forward to the drive back to Dallas. There was going to be lots of road construction between Austin and Waco (about way to Dallas). I knew it would be busy. And I’d be tired. But we got thru to Waco in good time and without incident. We headed north to Dallas but the excitement was about to begin. The forecast was correct - the storms were starting to brew. A little north of Waco there are some nasty looking skies. The radio goes into weather mode and they say there’s a tornado and golf ball sized hail crossing I35 at mile marker 365-370. We’re at marker 340 and that nasty green cloud on the horizon is said tornado / hail. I call my brother and say we have to stop. We pull off onto a service road and wait 10 min. The storm was fast moving and it looked better to the west and sw. We start back up and drive 20 mi when the next tornado warning drops - this one is at marker 385-390. It looks like we’ll be on the back side of that storm if we continue, so we do. By the time we get to 385, no tornado or hail, just tons of rain. That’s when the flash flood warning was issued for our location. We were now only going about 20mph. Some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever driven in. Then simultaneously a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for where we were currently and a tornado warning for marker 340 (where we first stopped). I looked in the mirror and behind us was pitch black. I didn’t know what was ahead, but was glad we hadn’t waited longer at 340. We soldier on thru another flash flood warning. I’m getting concerned because it will be dark soon and we won’t be able to look at the approaching clouds. Thankfully, everyone is driving well and as we near south Dallas, the rain lets up. We get thru the Mix Master without a lot of rain or traffic and head up 75 Central Expressway to my sister in Allen, TX. Made it to her house without hail or accident damage. Who knew it would be safer on the race track? And I roll with some of the best guardian angels out there. I felt very lucky to be ‘home’ safe and sound. Final score: 3 tornado warnings, 1 severe thunderstorm warning, and 2 flash flood warnings.

Thankfully, Mon was clear blue skies and very uneventful trip back to OMA. Boring was nice.

Here are some links to a couple of sessions from Sun, including the GT3 passes into T12. I will continue to upload sessions over the next few days.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFMlBFqbqbs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUkDDAgQUJU
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Last edited by husker boxster; 05-13-2015 at 03:44 AM.
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