Track Day on July 10, 2011

The hot pit where we waited to start our session.Some of you may remember last November I scheduled a track day with XtremeSpeed Track Events, but couldn't attend because of an unfortunate accident on Glendora Ridge Road. I was following my friend Doug around a blind right-hand corner and he had a head-on collision with a motorcycle who was on the wrong side of the road. I was following Doug a couple of feet too close and slid into Doug's car when I slammed on my brakes.

Last week I had the opportunity to reschedule my track day with XtremeSpeed Track Events. I had a blast. I was so excited I couldn't get to sleep and stayed up till 2:15 AM when I had to wake up at 4:15 AM. When 4:15 AM rolled around I hit the snooze button for another 20 minutes and ended up leaving my home around 5:20 AM to make the 120 mile trip to Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Buttonwillow, CA. On the way I stopped at the McDonald's in Valencia to pick up a quick breakfast and still made it to Buttonwillow Raceway Park by 7:35 AM, even though there was a very long line to enter the track. It cost $10 for admission to Buttonwillow Raceway Park.

After I parked, I went to the registration building, registered, rented a helmet for $10, bought a helmet sock for two dollars and signed up for instruction at an extra cost of $45. I attended the drivers meeting and was assigned to the beginner group. Since that this was the first time I had driven at Buttonwillow I also attended a mandatory first attendee meeting. Around 100 cars registered for the event. For the beginning and intermediate groups passing was only allowed on the straights and only if the car ahead of you did a point to pass. A point to pass means that the slower driver keeps his line and sticks his arm out the window pointing to the driver or drivers behind indicating which way to pass. Since I had one of the slowest cars there, I did this a lot.

Once the meetings were over we were ready to go. There were five groups: beginner, intermediate, advanced and super advanced. Each group got to run five sessions of five laps each on the three mile long track. The first session was a follow/lead session. After each lap in the follow/lead session, the car behind the lead car would peel off and go to the end of the line so that each entrant could follow the lead car around the track. We had more than five laps the first session to allow each driver to follow the lead car around the track. The beginner's group had three lead cars and approximately 25 entrants.

I met my instructor Douglas, who is a driving instructor for the LAPD, before the second session. He told me what to expect and that every so often he would make a course correction to my steering wheel and instructed me to not let go of the steering wheel. He immediately saw my long-time problem of turning into the corner too soon even though I knew I had the problem and was attempting to turn in as late as possible. He also saw that I was carrying too much speed into the corners and that I kept looking into the mirror at the cars behind me. I learned to ignore the mirror until I got to the straights and then look into the mirror and point to pass to let any cars behind me pass. Douglas helped me to turn in later, go wider exiting one of the turns and to learn the track. I could tell right away that I was going faster. The instructor session was well worth the $45.

Here's my car waiting for the more advanced groups to finish their sessions.

I spent the next three sessions improving my speed, learning the track and having too much fun. On the fourth session I actually got so low on gas (petrol) that the engine shut off entering and exiting turns. I drove the car slowly off the track and was wondering what was wrong with my car when one of the other drivers asked me if I had checked the gas gauge. The car was almost out of gas! I was having so much fun I forgot to look at the gas gauge. Fortunately, the track has gas pumps that take a credit card and at $4.95 a gallon for 91 octane, you'll need a credit card. I bought around five gallons of gas which would allow me to finish the last session and drive to the city of Buttonwillow to fill up, which only cost $3.85 a gallon.

It was a hot, humid, long day and my shoulder hurt like the dickens, but I didn't care because I had so much fun. If you have the opportunity, I'd highly recommend XtremeSpeed for track day, the next track days are on July 30 and 31, 2011.