By Andrew Combes, UCR member (from March Provinz 2014 page 22)
All photos by Colour Tech South Motorsport Photography
Due to the peculiarities of publishing and copy deadlines, my promise at the end of the first installment to bring readers up to date with ‘the season so far’ will be mostly unfulfilled. By the time you read this I will have had a lot more track time in the sun, but with Christmas, New Year and a short vacation over the last few, short weeks, track time has been a bit thin.
The weather in Florida this winter season has been for the most part as spectacularly good as it has been atrocious in Ontario. We have enjoyed light winds, sunny days and temperatures in the high 70s to high 80s— about 10F warmer than one might normally expect. At Daytona in December the mercury hit 90 both days, well before lunch. Sometimes there can be humidity too and on those days it is very important for us northern souls to stay well hydrated. As Martini moves ever closer to becoming a stripped out neo-racer there is one item I shall never give up. My AC may weigh 27 pounds but I’m certain it is a net gain to performance when I’m driving in hot and humid weather.
Last month I mentioned some of the tracks I have visited in Florida. I thought it might be worth going over a couple in more detail. My ‘home’ track down here is Sebring, a 3.74 mile, mostly concrete track with 17 turns. Some of the turns are notoriously bumpy, to the point that if you are pushing hard it can be difficult to maintain hand and eye coordination. You have probably seen video of the famous T17 which connects the front and back straights, sometimes under race conditions a car will leave the ground entirely and hop sideways! Mastering that turn with its acres of room—and thus an almost infinite variety of lines—is key to a good lap.
Corner workers, safety and EMS crews are first class. You can use the pit garages, but while they may get you out of the sun and the afternoon showers, they are concrete, tall and right on the front straight—in other words NOISY—take some earplugs! There is usually a good variety of vendors present. Wine Country Motorsports have a big presence and there is a repair shop open for events.
Sebring is a long way from anywhere, stuck in the centre of Florida in the midst of orange-growing country. There are a variety of accommodations available in the town of Sebring, or a few miles south in Lake Placid. But right at the track is the Chateau Elan, which is within walking distance of the paddocks and has many bedrooms that look out at the famous hairpin. Each evening the bar and restaurant can be found jammed with folk like us who like nothing better than a chat about the adventures of the day, suitably lubricated with the occasional adult beverage.
Notes from Daytona
Daytona is a very different animal, what follows is a little dispatch I sent some buddies back in December. “Well today was my first time out in the upgraded Martini, first time at Daytona, first time driving banked curves, first time with Performance Drivers Group and the Audi Club, first time using a racing shop’s trackside support. Lots of firsts!
It has been a hot day, approaching 90F this afternoon, with some humidity just to make it really interesting. I arrived here on Friday at about 5:30pm, found the entry gate and drove into the infield. Wow! The place is huge. For those of us who think Watkins Glen has a lot of bleachers, well let’s just say we clearly haven’t been to Daytona. Lots of nice garages available at $100 for the weekend which in the bright sunlit heat is money well spent by pasty northerners. It feels very decadent to arrive at 7:15am to find your car ready to go, teched, fueled and cleaned. The 7:30am driver meeting run by Audi Club gave just the necessary info about Daytona and repeatedly emphasized tyre safety. Runs began at 9am sharp and finished at 5pm, gates are closed at 6pm—all very efficient by the Daytona crew.
I was assigned an instructor who is a regular SCCA hand and drives a Cayman R PDK which was helpful. Everyone was strongly advised to check their tyres every run and to run higher than normal pressures on both sides of the car, but even higher on the uphill side [right]. I ran 43 and 37 hot R+L, it leads to weird handling on the infield road section of the course. I don’t much care for the banking. Sit there— hands off if you want—and pedal to the metal. Lots of high HP American muscle left me in its wake on the banking only to get thoroughly in the way on the interesting bits. I probably would not bother coming to Daytona again as I find the banking at once boring yet intimidating because speeds are so high. I was taking it ‘easy’ on the new engine but regularly saw 150mph coming off the banking.
Lots of high speed offs and crashes today and one formula car crashed and burned—all drivers walked away. I shall not be sorry to head out tomorrow afternoon. Sunday was blisteringly hot, by 9am we saw 29C and by early afternoon it was in the mid 30sC. Folks who had travelled down from the northeast and midwest had seen the dismal weather reports and snow warnings from home and just packed up and headed home in the hopes of getting there before work on Monday.
The hotheads that had made themselves so evident on the Saturday by trying to demolish various parts of the retaining walls were either trying to coax their cars back to life or at church, possibly both. So the groups ran well and without incident as far as I could ascertain. I drove three of my four sessions and by then had seen and done enough. The last time out I was at the head of staging and never saw another car the whole 30-minute run. Well nothing that passed me, so I guess the 3.8 is doing rather well—although it is throwing an error code that suggests an air leak just before the throttle body. Luckily the Porsche Tech that won top spot in America this year [and is to be the first man trained on the 918 in Ludwisburg] offered several free computer hook-ups and analysed the results for me: Beachwood Porsche out of Cleveland, OH.
I will probably not go to Daytona again. It is very hard on tyres and frankly I found it too easy on the infield and really boring on the banking. It has given me a new respect for NASCAR drivers–for their nerves of steel anyway. I found myself constantly thinking about the consequences of a blown rear tyre–in our track notes it was stated that such an event “usually has a very poor result”. Quite an understatement by the look of some of the scars on the wall. And never let your inside wheel drop down off the banking as this will apparently immediately propel you up the banking and into the wall. In other words concentrate very hard on exactly where you are and try not to blink. Not for me…”.
So what about getting your car back into Ontario? Remember, if you have any work done on it that is not of a regular service or repair variety you must report it to Customs, produce receipts and pay the requisite taxes. The ultimate penalty CBP can assess in instances of avoidance is to charge duties and taxes on the full value of the vehicle. I have driven my track car across the border, trailered it and had it trucked. Driving is exactly the same as for any other vehicle but trucking and trailering do have a few wrinkles.