PCA GPX/SGV Time Trial
February 25, 2012
Pomona Raceway La Verne, CA
photographs by Greg Phillips
video by LightningMotorsports.US
This has been quite a weekend. We hadn’t decided until a week before to participate in the GPX/SGV Zone 8 Time Trial at Pomona Raceway. As this was a one day event, we would be driving up to Pomona and then heading home on the same day. On Hankook R-compound tires.
Some of us had run the “historic” version of this track last June as part of a DE put on by the PCA Grand Prix Region. The track is extremely bumpy, not just lumps and bumps from patching and cracks, but also long depressions and humps from decades and decades of settling soil. Not so bad for street cars, but horrible for stiffly sprung race cars. Some areas of the venue have been sealed, others have been re-paved, but others appeared to be crackly 50+ year old asphalt with the consistency of moon crust.
Due to the fact that there was a big dip/hump on the exit of the big sweeper leading onto the back straight (right past a big telephone pole), the organizers had revised a section of the track to avoid this part of the track by using some of the other relatively new pavement, creating a rather tight, autocross-ey section shortly after the bridge underpass. This made the current track an unusual combination of two tight autocross-ey sections, two very long straights, a big sweeper turn, and other humps and bumps here and there.
When we ran the earlier version of this track last June, it became pretty obvious that the bumpy surface would favor suspension compliance over stiffness, such that full race cars that had no means of softening their rear suspensions would be at a slight disadvantage here. Also, the two autocross-ey sections should favor a nimble quick-turning car like the Boxster, with its mid-engine layout.
In general, traffic in the Red run group prevented us from getting a clear lap in the first two sessions, although we were able to turn INSIDE of many of the 911s, Carreras, and 944s in the second autocross-ey section throughout the day.
As the morning went on, we started experiencing “car handling problems” in the first chicane section. Every time we went through that section at speed, the car would step out or start sliding. We thought we had a low-tire, or a busted sway bar bushing, or the tires were going off, so we’d back off and point by whomever was coming up on our bumper. But for some odd reason, we didn’t have any problem following them for the rest of the lap. Still, by the end of the morning, we managed a best time in the mid 1:51’s, which was third fastest at that point. It wasn’t until right before timed runs that we realized that the first chicane section was actually getting greasier and greasier throughout the day [new asphalt and tar with a good does of sun and heat added], and that there wasn’t anything going on with the car at all. Even so, the best lap time during the third practice session had come down to the 1:50’s.
Right after the third practice, we lined up in the hot pits for timed runs. Warmed up the tires a bit on the warm-up lap and got the green flag for the first timed lap. Went really hard past start finish, braked a little too late before the first chicane, carrying too much speed into the greasy section, and ended up almost losing it, doing a 90/180/90 right-left-ride slide.
Oh well. We managed to keep the car on the track, quickly checked to make sure no one was coming up from behind and finished the first timed lap at 8/10s to compose the tires and the driver.
Then it was back into attack mode for the white flag (last) lap. Hard down the front straight past start/finish, braking hard BEFORE the greasy first chicane, tip-toe around the chicane, then back onto grippier pavement along the dragstrip K-rail, and push full-bore. Went quickly through the second autocross-ey section, and managed a great launch onto the long back straight. Stayed on the gas past the braking cones/slowing funnel, then slammed on the brakes for the next turn. Braked so late we barely managed to wrestle the car down at turn-in and not go off the course. Whew, made it. Then gas into the big sweeper, enough to drift, but not enough to spin. Down the short straight to the last turn, neutral throttle through the big depression right past the left hander (to be kind to the drivetrain), and then full gas to the checkered flag at start/finish. GPS timer flashed a low 1:27. Geez! That was faster than anybody’s else time in the morning sessions. (see the video):
Came around to pit-in after the cool-down lap and started packing up for the trip home. Some teenage kids came by asking questions about the cars and how fast they can go, etc. Then they asked “which is the fastest car?” We told them “Either the silver GT3 with the carbon fiber wing, the red 911 racecar with the yellow stripe, or the light-blue 911 racecar with the orange stripe.” And then we smiled and added “…or maybe THIS car.” They just laughed and went to look for the other cars.
It took a while for the timing team to bring the timing equipment and results back from its temporary “bunker” (a ring of concrete K-rail sitting out by start/finish). When they came back, we went to their trailer to see if they had the results. The timing coordinator Chuck just stared at us and said “Geez, when did you guys install nitrous?” We looked quizzical. “Because you set Top Time of the Day!”
A lot of hard work under the car and behind the wheel sometimes pays off in the form of “a day in the sun”…