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Winter Driving Diaries – Pt 2

In March issue of Provinz, I recounted my trip towing the Martini (M) rig south and my first experience at Road Atlanta. A loading mishap at the end of the DE had shattered Martini’s carbon fibre splitter and I had dropped it at Zotz Racing in Orlando for repair.   

Well the universe was unkind, and the front splitter was so badly damaged that to repair it would have cost almost the price of a new unit. So new unit it was. To prevent further instances like the one I had at Road Atlanta, I have invested in a pair of Race Ramps, removed a hinged portion of the trailer ramp, and just to make quite certain, employed a new pair of 8-foot-long plywood planks. So far this set up has worked without a hitch. Great, home and dry. 

Well, not quite. During late summer Brad of Braidan Tire discovered my rear wing had managed to break one of the mounts. In a brilliant piece of overnight Heath Robinson fixing his team had M back up and running with a bit of judicious welding and fibre glassing ready for the next Driver’s Ed. This first aid survived a couple of UCR DEs, the Atlanta event and the early December Chin Track Days event at Sebring. But in a bit of an overhaul at Sick Sideway before the early January Sebring Chin DE the techs noticed the wing had failed again and this time it was terminal. 

The December event at Sebring was with Chin Motorsports, marking its 20th anniversary. This excellent and very professional track day provider was started by Dr Wei-Shei Chin in 1999. In that time, 55,000 drivers have participated at over 650 events at 16 locations across the USA east of the Mississippi. In 2019, they have scheduled 57 events at 15 tracks. Simply put, they know exactly what they’re doing and how to provide an excellent experience for the driver–and also for his family and friends. 

The Porsche pro community is well represented, Randy Pobst, for example, is a regular these days as is Ron Zitza, a two-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner. Feeling that I was not yet back to that level, I arranged to ‘back squad’ myself to the Blue Group and was actually very glad I had.

Three years ago, before my little health issue hiatus took me out of the hot seat for a while, I had worked hard to get myself into Chin’s Red Group–the most advanced run group. It’s a very able, very fast and courteous cadre of extremely experienced drivers – many of them pro racers that come along for the fun of it. The Porsche pro community is well represented, Randy Pobst, for example, is a regular these days as is Ron Zitza, a two-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner. Feeling that I was not yet back to that level, I arranged to ‘back squad’ myself to the Blue Group and was actually very glad I had. Running in the Blue Group was relaxing and a very good way to reacquaint myself with the 17 turn, 3.7-mile track. Brandon Comella had once again joined me and we enjoyed a great weekend of fast cars, interesting drivers and the inevitable tall tales at the bar each evening! 

The ‘next event’ was the much anticipated PBOC Winterfest, a full four [five if you are a racer] days of fun in the sun at Sebring. There’s something for everyone here, regular DE with and without coaching, Super Solo (SS) and racing. SS is for experienced drivers, like a Driver’s Education (DE), it’s not racing but neither does it require point-byes, just excellent situational awareness and an ability to pass anywhere on track including the corner apexes. Once the good people at PBOC have checked out your driving record and given you a check ride you may become eligible.

I have driven Super Solo before and did so again on this occasion. The club does not mess around with SS, they have very high standards and expect compliance in every detail. Transgress a rule or fail to show up for a volunteer duty and you are out of SS – for good. It makes for the most courteous and drama free group I have encountered anywhere. But it is also extremely fast and once again you will find yourself on track with Randy Pobst and other well-known pros that enjoy the opportunity to run flat out without drama. Of all the DE and race groups to run at Winterfest Super Solo was the only one to not experience a track closure during a run; that says a lot. 

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of Winterfest was cut short by the failure of a hub retaining piece of which Porsche North America had just one in inventory in the entire country and delivery time was four days! But in a show of their flexibility and common sense the organizers issued me an instructor wristband and thus I was able to ride shotgun with several drivers that were new to the track and help them out. A real win-win! 

UCR regular Kevin Choquette got fed up with me nagging him and sent his new GT3 down to Autoquest at Ft. Myers to join me for a few events.

UCR regular Kevin Choquette got fed up with me nagging him and sent his new GT3 down to Autoquest at Ft. Myers to join me for a few events. His first was a Chin DE outing at Sebring, his first time at that track so I sat in with him to act as track instructor. He was a quick study and was soon mixing it up with the best of them.   

PCA 48 Hours of Sebring offers tonnes of fun with great weather and a whole lot of racing. The signal event of the PCA 48 Hours of Sebring brings 400 cars and drivers to FL each winter for four days of DE, racing, autocross and a generally good time. Organized by the Suncoast and Gold Coast PCA regions of Florida it offers something for everyone. We were blessed with excellent weather for the entire event and spent hours on a dry, warm and sticky track. Sebring sports some of the best sunrises and sunsets of any track I have visited and those along with the gentle breezes ruffling the palms trees make for an idyllic setting. 

A final PCA event at Sebring for us snowbirds saw nearly all the regulars that hang out at my trailer in attendance, Graham Choquette, his father Kevin, Brandon Comella, as well as Bruce Trigg, Dave Smith and Jack Dertinger. We had an absolutely spectacular weekend in bright sunshine with rain appearing for literally the last couple of laps in the closing minutes on Sunday. The high heat and humidity was a problem for a number of the cars and their computers insisted on turning on ‘limp mode’–I’m relieved to report that dear old M was not one of them!

Suncoast Region in their typical trailblazing style had already adapted to the speed differential between the latest cars and the rest by splitting black group in two with the very fastest running in ‘pink’. An eminently sensible move, and one that was greatly appreciated by both parts of the group. 

Returning to Ontario involved a virtual doubling of my journey from 1650 miles to a little over 3000. Not only that, but M got to stretch her legs along the way on some very nice new tarmac indeed. </>

Photos by Kevin Choquette and Andrew Combes

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