Infineon Coastal Driving Recap

June 6, 2006

Back now from a great day at Infineon with the PCA Coastal Driving School. They're an outfit associated with the Porsche Club of America's Monterey Bay and Loma Prieta regions.

Sunday morning I prepped the car for track duty -- bleed the brakes, put the track brake pads on the front, put on the track wheels/tires (OEM BMW 18x9 wheels with 255/40-18 Continental street tires). I also dialed in some additional negative camber in the rear to try to solve a slight tire rubbing problem (it didn't solve the problem). Got the car packed up before bedtime, and hit the sack at 10pm or so.

Nights before track days are always, unfortunately, restless for me. I can't help doing mental laps around the track or course I'll be driving the next day. I woke up at 4AM and just lied in bed until it was time to get up at 4:45. Made coffee and a little breakfast, then headed up to SF to meet up with Derek.

Got to his place at 5:45, and we caravaned through the city, and went across the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun was rising. What a sight! It was awesome -- I wished I could stop and take some pictures of the approach to the bridge, but there was a track waiting.

We arrived at Infineon at 6:45 AM and found Arturo and JohnR there already. Got the cars teched, and it was time to start the day. We set up the excellent shade structure that Arti's parents had given us the day before. This was a lifesaver, since the Infineon sun can be pretty draining. A couple of fold-out chairs and a cooler full of cold drinks helped keep us relaxed and hydrated.

Overall the day was awesome. I had a pretty rough start in the morning sessions -- Sears (Infineon's "old skool" name) is a mental challenge. I started the day with an instructor in the car, which helped me get through the process of getting back to where I was the last time out there. Unfortunately Derek was left without an instructor in the morning. I couldn't imagine trying to learn Sears solo -- it's such a complicated track. Hank did go out with Derek for a session in the afternoon, which I was happy to see.

I ran the later sessions solo, which ended up working out fine. However, the next time I'm out there, I will push for a day of full instruction.

I had a couple of scary moments at Turn 10 in the midday sessions. For those unfamiliar with Sears, 10 is the last turn in a sequence ("the esses"), where each turn is faster than the last. I will take Turn 10 somewhere around 95MPH. It's very unforgiving though -- if you don't turn in at the right moment, you are bound to run out of track at the exit, and there is a big wall just off the edge of the track. Very unforgiving. There were a couple of times where I know I was saved by the car's traction control system. I turned in to 10 too early, and had to lift the throttle to get the car to tighten its turning radius. I felt the back end get light (like it was about to spin), then felt the Magic Hand of Traction Control set the back end back down. I took it pretty easy through 10 until the last session, when I felt more comfortable with the track and the car.

The most memorable part of the day was in the early afternoon when I got to take a few laps riding shotgun in Hank's Monster 911. This car is 2200lbs and makes 650HP on a bad day. The capabilities of the car coupled with Hank's driving was a breathtaking combination. And I mean that literally -- when the turbo spooled up with full throttle in 2nd gear, I could not breathe. He was charging into and out of corners WELL over my level of familiarity with the laws of physics. The car accelerates, brakes, and corners with a tenacity that I have never experienced. It was a religion-inspiring ride. I kept thinking of Marina and Arti in the car, and reminding myself that Hank is one of the best drivers and instructors in the country. I was oscillating between "Marina needs a dad." and "Hank is an excellent driver." over and over during the course of our four lap excursion. I can't put into words the G-forces that he was able to generate in that machine. Stunning. Absolutly stunning. As in I had to take a break after riding in the car because I was stunned like a person would be stunned after getting sucker-punched by Tyson.

After gathering myself after Mr. Watts' Wild Ride, the last two sessions of the day went really well. I felt like I got to know the track a bit better, and was finally comfortable pushing the car a bit around all the corners. Nothing like the 30-degree slip angles that Hank so deftly managed, but definitely more speed than I had been able to carry around the track.

There were three "incidents" that day, which was unusually high in my experience so far. I'm not sure if all the cars had to be trailered home, but I'm sure one did. Nobody was injured, but it's never fun to see damaged cars towed off the track.

Like other track days, the last session came too soon, but was welcome at the same time. Two hours of driving on the racetrack is just about right for me -- any more than that and I start to feel fatigued. So at 5pm we packed up the stuff and had an uneventful drive home.

This morning I washed the car, removed all the black rubber marks from all over the front and sides with Klasse, swapped the street wheels/tires/brakes back on and reset the rear camber. I tried to do it before Marina woke up, but she beat my by 20 minutes. Oh well, one day she can help!