Street Car, Road Race
ProAutoSports Road Racing at Wild Horse Motorsports Park, East Track. March 21, 2015
Having done back to back race weekends in my E30, I think it’s safe to safe that I’m hooked. In the past I always found excuses as to why I couldn’t take my car. It wasn’t setup right, I didn’t have the mods that I wanted, or I thought my car was too broken. But now I just want to get back out there, regardless of how outclassed my car might be. Sure my car needs better tires, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to get an alignment, but I still had fun running my car as is.
I was given the opportunity to join ProAutoSports on one of their race weekends. For those of you who aren’t familiar, ProAutoSports sets up track days in which you can come test and tune, or get seat time. They stress that you are not technically racing, this is a driving school. Fortunately for them reduces their insurance rates. As a result they passed on the savings to everyone in attendance.*
I showed up early and made my usual lap of the pits. I immediately noticed the amount of prepped race cars here was surprising. Caged, gutted and loud, these machines lined the pits. These cars didn’t compromise at all, they were purpose built for hitting the track. I was surprised to see a former stock car sitting in the pits. Even after their prime time, they still see track use today. The caged Audi was certainly a sight in the pits, it’s clear a lot of time and attention went into building this machine. Unfortunately it seemed to be having some trouble that day, every time I saw it go by on the track, there was a trail of smoke behind it.
Another Audi caught my eye right away. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest Audi enthusiast, but this car was jaw dropping. The stance, the setup, the color, the lines. It all blended together perfectly. Enkei RPF1’s happen to be one of my favorite wheels as well, so I was excited to see them look so at home here. I’m a big fan of subtly modifying a car, and I think the owner of this Audi executed that perfectly.
Nearby there was a first generation Viper lurking. Unfortunately I didn’t see the car make any runs that day. I’m not sure if I would have considered an early model Viper a dream car a few years back. With the introduction of the current generation, I thought it looked dated. But I take that back, these cars, when modified well, just stand out perfectly. Given the current climate, I think now is the time to buy one as well. These will likely start to rise in price as collectors and racers alike, realize their value.
Many of the tow rigs weren’t much to write about. Standard trucks with massive trailers. But this truck certainly stood out. It had an honest patina, and clearly continues to live the life of a work truck. While the cars on the track are the stars of the show, I think credit is due to the trucks that get them there. Especially when it comes to a truck like this.
Seeing as this was my first time at a ProAutoSports event, I was required to take a novice class. There they explain the safety rules, as well as what we’ll be doing that day. After the class they sent us out on the track for the first time, and I think it’s safe to say I was once again the slowest car out there. The novice class didn’t restrict the type of car you had out on the track, it just meant it was your first time there with ProAutoSports. As a result my little E30 was running in the same group as a prepared E36 M3, and a Nissan GTR. I might have caused some traffic jams…
I did eventually find my groove, and set down some respectable laps for the limits of my car. That is until I reached my last session of the day. I was running late, jumped in my car without throwing the GoPro on top, and hit the track. The first few laps were fine, but I got over confident. On the last turn of the track, I came in far too hot and ended up spinning pretty dramatically. Once the dust settled I tried to start my E30 back up, but it wouldn’t hold an idle. So they towed me off the track.
As a result of the crash, my car suffered a bit of damage. I lost a vacuum hose and tore the boot on my steering rack. Luckily I was able to patch the vacuum leak with some duct tape and zip ties, and drive the E30 home. While it was embarrassing to spin out, and have the session shut down, I was happy not to go home on the back of a flatbed. As long as my car still runs, I can deal with some minor damage.
Even though I couldn’t run my car anymore, I still got to ride along on the track. If you read my autocross story, you’ll remember that I got help from a man named Tony Staples, when I had no idea how to walk the course. He was at this event as well, and offered me to stop by at the end of the day for a ride along. I knew it was going to be faster than what I’m used to, but this was an entirely different animal. The noise, the fumes, the heat, the g load, was all more than I was prepared for. The car is so raw, and it has so much grip that I was being thrown around in the passenger seat like a rag doll. This car truly is a monster, and being able to ride along was an epic experience.
Tony explained that the car used to be a Bondurant school car, and was built from the ground up by Roush. It has a 4.6 that’s been treated to a host of power upgrades, and cage designed by Roush, a 3 link conversion for the suspension in the rear, as well as massive Brembo brakes and sticky tires. In short, it’s a full blown race car.
I had strapped my GoPro to the roof, but realized that it was tough to get a sense of how fast the car was going from the angle I chose. So I did a side by side comparison of my car, and the “Bondostang” (as I heard it called a few times). I’m not trying to compare my time in the slightest, I know my car (and my driving) is far slower. But look at how much faster the Mustang is. I gave my car a slight head start in the video. The two cars briefly sync at the end of the straight away, and then the Mustang walks away. If we were running in the same session, I would have been easily lapped at least twice, possibly three or four times, in one session. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how brutal that car is, I don’t know what will.
During my down time between sessions, I volunteered to help around the track. I was assigned to turn one with my car club. Our job was to flag cars as needed, and report any incidents on the radio. Between the three of us, things ran smoothly, and I took some time to shoot a few photos as the cars flew by. Once again the only lens I brought with me was a 50mm, and for safety reasons we were a good deal away from the action. But I still got a few good shots in. Although, lesson learned, shooting moving objects is much more difficult then I anticipated.
There was a healthy mix of cars there that day. That red C6 Corvette was one of my favorite though, as it was by far the loudest, most evil sounding car on the track. The burble, and crackling that came from the exhaust, everytime it passed by, was by far the best part of working turn one. Although it did force us to stop talking for the few seconds it was within earshot, we couldn’t hear each other over that beast. Of course tamer cars were present as well, as people brought out their daily drivers. I also noticed a good amount of FB Rx7s in attendance, like that built racer there.
But it wasn’t all small sports cars, and race cars. I sat out of one of my race sessions, and noticed that apparently there was a Dodge Ram running in my group. I hadn’t noticed this before, but it was fun to watch them blast around. After a few laps the GTR caught up to them. Despite their best efforts the Nissan passed by with ease and left the Ram in it’s dust. But I’ll bet the Ram driver had a grin on their face anyway. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a fully built race car to go out and have fun. If someone can track a Ram, you can track whatever you drive.
I was also surprised to see the range of motion in some of the cars. In person, you don’t really see the cars flex and rise so dynamically. But after reviewing my pictures I noticed a few shots where it was clear that a car was hard on the brakes, or really throwing it into a turn. That 997 belongs to a friend of mine, he had mentioned that he was getting brake fade at the end of each session. That gives you an idea of how hard some of these guys were driving their cars.
I spent the remainder of my day at turn one, flagging as needed and taking pictures as the cars screamed by. I got sun burned (again), and we went through quite a few water bottles. But it was certainly worth the experience. While I love driving, there is a certain thrill to me in capturing these moments. I didn’t get a perfect shot from this event, but I learned what I need to do in the future. So I’ll keep chasing that perfect picture.
Sitting at the edge of a track watching cars rip by over and over isn’t for everyone, but I could spend all day doing that. To some, this is just a hobby or just a way to kill time. But for many of us at the track, this is a passion. The need to go fast, stop hard and burn gas brought us all to the same place. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but if I were offered to do it over again right there and then, I would have said yes right away.
*It’s come to my attention that I was wrong about the lack of racing at ProAutoSports. I happened to be there on a weekend when there weren’t any, nor HPDE classes. In the novice class you definitely aren’t racing, but they do have seasons and rankings.