Dodging the raindrops on the way to DE
YOU KNOW THAT YOU DROVE right under that system that spawned the tornadoes back home in Ottawa, don’t you?” my wife, Carolyn asked me over the phone as I kissed the ground after getting out of the car at the hotel in Bowmanville. Ever helpful, she had triangulated my position on Highway 7 against the storm track that the Weather Network was still rather breathlessly updating late into the evening of Friday, September 21st. Carolyn couldn’t make it to the DE the next day at, ahem, “Mosport”, but she had no problem reminding me about what she thought of my judgement call!
“Yes, I gathered that something was afoot when I was hydroplaning at only 80 km/h,” I said, an impression that was only further strengthened when I saw Noah’s Ark go by somewhere around Madoc.
Before crashing into bed at 9 pm, I affixed the car numbers (who remembers what a “222 Headache” is?) and filled the tank. Did I really do 6.9L/100 kms on the way from Ottawa in a 718 Cayman S?
The next morning, Saturday, dawned… dark. Well, to be fair, 0600 was pre-dawn, but the tech line was to open at 0700 and I still had a bit of eating and driving to do. This was only my second DE weekend with the club and the first since last year and I wanted to leave lots of time for unforeseen challenges. I needn’t have worried because the volunteers did their usual great job of registering, waiver-signing and tech inspections, with military precision. A full hour before the driver’s meeting I was sitting back studying the track (it was light outside finally) and getting ready to run with the Yellow group. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous since I was expected to “graduate” from the Yellow to the White run group over the course of the weekend and I didn’t want to screw it up!
I needn’t have worried (do you detect a theme here?) for a few reasons, which anybody doing HPDE with our club already knows well: UCR emphasizes (1) fun, (2) safety and (3) respect in equal measure. I was paired up with Peter Askew, a fellow Cayman driver and racer, who immediately put me at ease and focused on my learning objectives while subtly (and sometimes less subtly!) prodding me to greater and greater exploration of both me and my car’s limits. And what limits they are in a 718 Cayman S! What a rush! Before the end of the first day, he had me exploring Moss until I could nail it consistently with a line that worked for me and the car and, despite my frequent crises of faith on 2a and 2b, had me screaming deep into that corner with (almost!) consistent lines time and time again and squealing around corner 3 at 9/10ths. After the last session, Peter checked with one of the senior instructors (I’ll call him Obi Wan Kenobi), Ian John, and then went through sort of a ritual in presenting me with a White wrist-band for the next day’s endeavours.
On Sunday morning I was at the tech-line nice and early. I sat down in my camp chair behind my car to contemplate my Sunday morning nerves. Peter had reminded me the day before that I was moving from a group that had about a dozen cars into a group with three dozen cars and that there would be a lot more traffic along with more passing zones. There’s that theme again… I need not have worried. Peter started the day by having me focus on the basics of following consistent lines through the corners, watching the braking zones and, probably most importantly, having fun. Of course, there was top quality instruction too. After reminding me a couple of times to stop slowing down to admire my handiwork coming out of corners and to get on the throttle, we reached a common understanding. Even with the increased traffic, his calming manner ensured that I was easily able to both focus on my own learning objectives and be courteous to those drivers passing me and those few being passed by me.
During the day, I chanted the mantra to myself “smooth is fast” and everything started coming more easily to me, going faster and faster, deeper and deeper into the braking zones, and safely exploring grip, accelerating through and out of the corners.
Sunday was my volunteering morning. Volunteers are a crucial element in the smooth operation of the HPDE weekend and I found it quite easy to interleave my duties with preparation to get on the track for my own sessions. When everyone shows up, it’s not a problem.
During the day, I chanted the mantra to myself “smooth is fast” and everything started coming more easily to me, going faster and faster, deeper and deeper into the braking zones, and safely exploring grip, accelerating through and out of the corners. Peter was a great instructor and coach. Smooth really is fast! Four 20-minute runs a day doesn’t sound like a lot until you experience it; it is more than sufficient given the levels of concentration and, yes, G-forces that must be withstood.
And then, it was over. Sigh. Peter did a final debriefing and it was quite good of him to say “You belong in the White group.” Packing up to head back to Ottawa was done in rapid order. I was careful to keep within reasonable reach of the speed limit on the way home. After all, as Carolyn reminded me, you can’t help but get a bit “velocitized” on the track.
Until next year… Sign me up again, coach! </>
Story and Photos by Brad Stewart, UCR Member