Did PDX in the Evo for the first time ever!! With the forecast being fairly gloomy, I didn’t make the call until the night before to run. My tires are bald and have been bald for quite some time, so running in the rain wouldn’t have been the wisest option for me. It stayed dry though, so Friday night I changed my oil and set my rear bar back down to the softest setting and headed to the track Saturday morning!
Gateway MSP is not what I consider a popular course. It doesn’t have the appeal of the ‘sexier’ tracks – i.e., Autobahn, Blackhawk Farms, Mid Ohio, VIR, on and on. It is built off of an oval, and I’ve heard the road course referred to as a “Roval” – though a decent Roval. Another thing it has are walls – lots of walls. I don’t know how many walls the other road courses have, but GMP has a lot. Despite all this, I had an absolute blast. If I had as much fun on GMP, I can’t wait to see what other road courses are like. The PDX experience is a far different one from Solo. Obviously there are no course walks, and after the driver’s meeting everyone was very scattered. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t parked by everyone else, but I hardly had any interaction early on in the day. I got paired with my instructor and we chatted about the car a bit, and headed off for the first session.
Session 1 was bad. Car got a little sideways and the instructor overall seemed unpleased with my driving, as was I. I had a hard time getting used to the speed of everything, and unwinding the wheel and using the full track. I didn’t get anything recorded during the first session unfortunately, I would have liked to see how bad things were. Afterwards I talked to a few people, and the most common remark I got was, “I thought autocrossers made good road racers.” Not feeling great, I set out determined to go faster. The main thing he wanted me to work on was the line – tracking out after apexes and using the whole course.
Session 2 turned out a lot better. I tracked out the car much better. I think part of my struggle during Session 1 was I was going too slowly for me to make sense of a wider line – why go out farther when I have the grip to turn in now? Adding some speed, things really started to click for me. I let one C6 Z06 get by me just so I could chase him, and we spent the rest of the session going at it as people pointed us by – it was flat out awesome. I noticed at one point the pedal getting a little softer, as well as some clutch/brake smell. We had a big break after this, and turns out a Focus ST that ran with me also encountered some braking smell, enough to where he was concerned enough to try to bleed the brakes during the brake. Most people say novices overcook their brakes due to sitting on the brakes for too long, but I don’t think that was the case here. Anyway, each session was using about a quarter tank of gas, so I filled up and got ready for session 3.
Session 3 was far and away the best. The instructor was pleased with how I was driving during session 2, enough that he wanted us to get in the front of the line at the start so we wouldn’t have to get slowed down by anything else. There were only 2 areas we could point by (pass) other cars – after Turn 6 and around the oval and down the straight. It was hard to believe I was going to improve on what I did during Session 2, but I did. Zero point bys, blew everyone away, and started lapping a few guys. There was an Evo X there that everyone had been lapping, but I had just started catching the bulk of the pack when the session ended. I slid once, early on in the session, which both the instructor and I attributed to cold tires. I started downshifting to 3rd way more often, as opposed to staying in 4th, and the slowdown from the straight to Turn 1 I was downshifting from 5th straight into 3rd – it wasn’t on purpose, but it felt natural and the instructor said that is what he did in his race car too. During the oval, I shifted into 5th early for more stability and that worked out well also. There was no brake smell this time around, presumably due to a longer cool down period between 2 and 3 vs 1 and 2, and the instructor said I was easily the fastest guy in the group – though, this being the novice group, wasn’t saying all that much. There were a few perfect runs according to the instructor, and I ended eager to start Session 4. To build this time, I wanted to add more speed in the oval. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
My girlfriend, who had been driving our Corolla at the time, got into a minor fender bender with another vehicle. 100% not at fault, a car pulled out of a parked position onto the road and hit our poor Corolla in the passenger’s side front wheel. It was fairly minor and no one was hurt thankfully, but this was her first accident and she was pretty freaked out, so I went ahead and left the track. Was pretty upset about not getting to do the fourth session, but I will definitely be back next year.
Can’t begin to express how happy I was with how the car performed. Absolutely no hiccups, and even on it’s cold tires it performed like a champ, easily outrunning faster cars out there. There was no knock, no weird noises, no weird instances, nothing. No oil starve, fuel starve, or overheating aside from the pedal getting ever so slightly softer during Session 2 – on 3 year old brake fluid that is. Just pure, flawless performance from a mechanical perspective. Handling was great too, and AWD is just plain confidence inspiring out here. I’m very glad I set the RSB to soft from the middle setting, and I’m curious how the UOA for the 60 minutes of track time comes out. Based on how the car performed at autocross, I’m planning to stiffen up the springs a bit, but still the car should be perfect for out on the road course.
Some clips below, and the full thing as well
Things to work on (Evo):
- Line – track out, unwind early. Use the whole track
- Head towards the walls early on, will provide more grip and faster times.
- Various levels of fuel
- 17 clicks all around, RSB set to soft
- Shift into 5th early on in the oval
- 5-3 downshift from straight into Turn 1
- ACD on soft
- Tires around 35, 36 cold – a little lower in the rear, and a little higher in the front right.
- The Z1ss’s are beyond cooked, though they did better on the road course than I thought they would.
2015 Run Count: 192 (+60 minutes of track time in the Evo)