Well, I had wondered if I should go. I was asked to instruct there for the SVTOA group, they were having a big meet and track day at Buttonwillow. I had missed out on going to Buttonwillow with GGLC/Club111 and was looking forward to seeing how the Elise does on the track.
On the other hand, I was leaving for SEMA Monday morning and I needed to get a lot of things done and I also had to make sure the car was in perfect shape to show. Through a flurry of work this last week, I had the front clam winglet repaired and resprayed again...and had the front of the car's StarSheild replaced. It looked great by the way.
Anyway.. I left San Diego this morning for Buttonwillow, leaving at about 4:20am and arriving at BW at 7:40am, just in time for the instructors meeting. Then there was a driver's meeting where they discussed things, specially about not going off at Sunset. This is the turn onto the main straight. We were running Track configuration 13 CW. Seems they keep having cars try to save it after getting loose in SUNSET and then smacking into the wall.
Most drivers were in Cobras or Lightnings. I did some instruction and took my car out for a couple laps.
Well, on lap 2, I went into Sunset too hot. I was hitting 115 going into it and then braking to something less, maybe 50 or 60. It is pretty tight. On the outside of SUNSET is a lake...surrounded by mud. Two tires off and I think I can actually save it. Bobbled a bit back on and off the track and then got it straightened out. But I was blackflagged and given a wee warning. While I was trying to straighten out the car, I saw how close that pit wall really was and heard to words of my wife to not mess up the car.
Anyway... I figured out the car a lot more after a few more laps and settled into a rhythm, trying to see how deep I go... or how much speed I could carry. On the front straight, hit 120mph, brake hard into sunrise. I first was using second gear there, which put me around 7500rpm, and then decided I liked 3rd gear better. Shift into 4th and then brake hard for OFF-Ramp. Off ramp is the slowest corner and speed maintenance. I am not sure how to do this well, but I just figured don't make a mistake and set up for the next straight.
Down to second. Back to 3rd and 4th and then back to 2nd for Cotton Corners... always tricky. Very late apex set it up, but coming out of the second turn, I was always sliding a little.
Small lift for Grapevine and then back hard on the throttle in 3rd to Club Corner...small lift or flat out. The Bus Stop was in 4th gear and flat out, with a small lift at the exit to tuck in.
Riverside was throttle controlled in 4th gear with speeds around 95mph. Back to 3rd for Lost Hill with no lift on the entry of the climb, and then a tap of the brakes before cresting the hill.
Back full throttle to 4th into the sweeper. brake, downshift into 3rd. Double apex and line up the car for the esses. Esses were flat out in 3rd and then 4th gear...all the way back up to Sunset.
Some notes on the driving.
Third gear sucks to find. I don't know why, but it is not easy. No other gear at speed gives me this trouble. But I often messed up the 3rd gear up shift.
The clutch does not like being slipped because it won't last if you do. On the other hand, the car did not respond well in a few spots to dumping the clutch without at least making an attemp at rev matching.
The A048s are very nice and sticky street tires. I thought they were very predictable. I still ran them higher pressures than most people suggest. I might try the lower pressures later.
Understeer was never an issue. A little oversteer was. Most of the time, it is surprising how well you "catch" it when the back end steps out.
I went out with the advanced drivers group, with some concern. There were a lot of cars on racking slicks and with 600+ horsepower and gutted interiors. Real race cars. And some daily drivers with experienced racers in SVT Cobras. I didn't see the race cars much, I was not able to catch them, and I guess they never caught me. Maybe I was just lucky.
But I did reel in every other SVT Cobra in front of me. You can see them out-accelerate me (but not by much) but I would gain a lot of ground under braking and some more in the turn. I spent a lot of time waiting for the designated passing zones to get past the other cars.
I had a blast. I didn't time my runs, since I thought on street tires, the numbers would be not relevant.
So what was the bad and ugly?
On the way home on south I-5, the truck in front of me kicked up a large tire tread behind them and I didn't have time to avoid it at 80mph. It destroyed the front grill, popped out a turn signal indicator (odd to see that tethered by it's cable and flying in the air and bouncing on my hood). I have a lot of clam damage and of course the brand new StarShield is trashed.
Sucks. I don't know if it is repairable, but I can't get it done anyways by Monday morning. If nothing else, I need a grill, because putting a grill in there will cover a lot of the damage. One or two of the grill mounting holes are ripped out too.