photo by jim williams
by Jerry (Siddhartha) Bradbury
It’s called Infineon Raceway, but as markets and fortunes change, it could be called Yan Sing Raceway tomorrow. Regardless, it will always be located at Sears Point in Sonoma, CA, so we old timers call it Sears. It’s a very technical track, by which I mean it requires the utmost in attention and consistency or it will bite you. Take Turn 2 too fast and you’ll loop it in that off camber corner; turn in under braking going down the three storey drop of the Carrousel and you’ll spin. Take Turn 7B too far up the berm and it will put you in the air; lift in Turn 8, the esses, and you’ll end up in the tires backwards; too fast into Turn 10 will either push you out into the BIG wall that is three feet off the track or if you panic and lift, will spin you and cram the car backwards into the tower. Now fill the track with cars faster than you and slower than you and you’ve got a lot to think about. Except if you think about it, you’re doomed. Things happen too fast on a racetrack to see something, make a conscious decision and then act on it. So you rely on your muscle memory of the racing line and let your sub-conscious do all the complicated ballistics equations required to keep you from hitting anyone or anyone hitting you. You use slow hands in the fast stuff, fast hands in the slow stuff and try to make the right decision about whether that hole in the traffic will still be big enough for you to get through when you get there.
Saturday – Couldn’t buy a clean lap today. First session the track was cold under a chilly overcast, tires were cold and slippery, brain was in the back seat. I managed to control the car without getting much heat in the tires and keep it on the black stuff while others spun or went off. Terrible lap times.
By qualifying time the sun had burned off the fog and the track was warming up. A Porsche in the group before us had dumped oil all the way into turn 7 and through turn 8, so the line was slippery and there was kitty litter all over the track. Now there was a lot of traffic, both faster and slower, and someone’s shunt was so bad they black flagged the session about 5 laps in.
Saturday’s race is not for points so you can’t win anything. You can lose though, as Pete Boveberg found out in turn 11 when a Ferrari cut across him in the hairpin and jammed on the brakes. Pete locked ‘em up but slid into the back of the red car anyway, exploding his own front end and shooting the Ferrari out of the sky. It went down in huge clouds of blue smoke, the rear end crushed against the big back tires, but not before a Porsche blew a freeze plug and dumped oil all over turn 3, causing a red flag (all stop) and finally another black flag all after 4 laps to end the session. My best time was a 2:03 – not very good. Luckily there were some lovely ladies to flirt with at the barbeque, so the day wasn’t a total loss.
Sunday morning – Outside my window the village is waking up. Sleepy eyed folks with tousled hair are scratching stomachs under t shirts and stretching. Next door a girl of about 12 is trying to hold her little terrier mix in her arms like a baby, but the dog is squirming muscularly and wants to get down and play. The Mayor of NASA just rolled by on his Segway looking like Dr. Who in his long greatcoat, checking on how things are in his village. I’ll wash up my breakfast dishes, go pull the cover off the car, check my air pressures, re-torque my wheels and get ready for the warm up laps at 8:15 where we will doubtless lose more race cars to spins and offs. I don’t know why they take themselves out like that in a 10 minute warm up session. There are no trophies to win and Mario isn’t sitting in the stands looking for the next driver for Andretti Green Racing. It’s a mystery.
Yesterday it felt like I’d left my brain in the glove box. The car was all squirrelly and it felt like I’d never been on this track before. Today is better. Warm up was uneventful except the car felt hooked up and I was back to driving two corners ahead. By qualifying time the sun had come out and warmed the track some. With brakes and tires and brain all warmed up as well, I turned a 1:59 and change. Good for me, but not so good in context. The leaders were all around 1:55, 1:56. Four seconds per lap is huge. After 10 laps that’s half a track. All I can hope for is attrition among the leaders in order to place well. As it is, I’m starting 7th of 9 and could use some help from the Borg Collective.
We come around to Start/Finish after the warm up lap and wait for the green flag to drop. There it is and we all peel out and drive in a roaring clump up to Turn 2. There the RX8 behind me tucks into the apex and pushes me to the outside. I return the favor going into Turn 7 and regain my 7th place, only to watch the leaders pull away. The two cars behind me fall back and I’m left to circulate by myself. I make a couple of mistakes and the RX8 closes on me, but can’t get by and I pull out another lead. I suppose you could say I’m the leader of the back markers, but that’s no great distinction.
The real leaders play nice with each other this time and I finish where I started, 7th of 9. Later, one of the top three is disqualified for too much horsepower and I move up to 6th and into the points at least. A few points and my $300 check are all I have to show for this outing aside from the adrenaline rush and no damage to the car. Now I have two months to try to find those four seconds. I think two may come from tweaking the carbon unit, and maybe the Bay Bridge Motors team can find two in the car. At least I have a goal. The next race is August 23-24. Stay tuned.
Mini Mania Precision Steering Amplifier Component review will be up shortly in the blog. It was a good addition to the suspension and I’ll tell you why.