Posted on April 6th, 2013 No comments
Today was the first, of hopefully many, GTO and Camaro get-togethers. The meeting location was at the Folsom Sports Garage around 1pm, which was nice for those who were making the drive from the Bay Area.
The turnout was good, with a total of three Camaros, four GTO’s, and a G8. Most members were from Sacramento or the East Bay, but the diehard award goes to the member who drove from Tracy to Dublin, to Concord, to Folsom!
After car and driver introductions, and the involuntary drooling period, we headed-out on the cruise.
The route around Folsom Lake was excellent! Despite being later in the afternoon, with a bit of weekend traffic, the group was able to stick together. The road was smooth and had plenty of turns/elevation changes for those who wanted to partake in spirited driving, but was also relaxed enough for a Saturday afternoon cruise to take-in the scenery.
After the cruise we returned to the Folsom Sports Garage for food and happy hour pitchers. The Camaro and GTO owners all did a great job mingling as we ate; sharing stories and talking about cars/modifications.
Today was a great success! It was nice to make some new friends and the cruise was a reminder of all the beautiful and fun roads that are to be had around the Sacramento area. The phrase I heard most often at the event was, “We have to do this again soon”!
Posted on February 10th, 2013 No comments
Last April I had the chance to take the G8 out on-track at Laguna Seca Raceway. While it was lots of fun, the event ended early on a sour note when my engine started making disturbing noises. Shortly after the rebuild I headed-out on my 2012 GONE Road Trip, so have not had a chance to return to the race track in nearly a year!
Determined to return to the track, I’ve spent the winter trying to organize a group of G8 and GTO owners who want to participate in track day events. My goal is to help facilitate the process for those who have never done it before, so have spent many hours checking calendars and putting together guides/checklists. After careful deliberation I decided that I would attend a two day track day event with the Northern California region of the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) at Sonoma Raceway (aka. Sears Point).
In Northern California NASA is one of the largest groups of driving/racing enthusiasts and typically have a weekend event every month at the various tracks. Most event include both High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events as well as full-out racers. The HPDE drivers are broken down into four groups based on experience:
- HPDE-1: Novice – Instructor assigned, passing on main straights only
- HPDE-2: Solo – Runs with HPDE-1, passing on main straights only
- HPDE-3: Intermediate – Passing areas more liberal and increasing as day progresses
- HPDE-4: Advanced – Open passing
Sonoma Raceway (previously known as Infineon Raceway and Sears Point Raceway) is a tricky track. While there isn’t anything as extreme as “The Corkscrew”, the track is not a bunch of individual corners connected by straights… rather every corner flows into another. Making a mistake on the entry to one corner results in a cascade of problems through half the track. When you do things right you can really feel the rhythm of the track, and that’s extremely addicting!
Having never driven with NASA, or at Sonoma Raceway, I decided to take things slow and run in HPDE-2. I’m sure I would qualify for HPDE-3, but didn’t want to overstep my abilities and make a bad first impression. It also gave me a chance to help the new HPDE-1 drivers who had never been to a track day event before.
The week before the event I took the G8 into Synergy Motorsports for routine service (oil change, etc.) and a thorough once-over to make sure everything was ready for the track. After a year (and ~15k miles) I also had the brake fluid replaced (with more Castrol SRF)… the brake pads still had 50% of the material remaining. I also had replacement OEM front LCAs installed (I had reinstalled the original ones after reports of failures with the aftermarket ones).
Given the event was both Saturday and Sunday, I decided to get a hotel close to the track so I could avoid the hour-long drive to/from the track each day… with the gates opening at 6am I figured the little extra sleep would be nice. It was also fun sleeping in a room with posters of Ferrari’s on the wall and a track map above the bed!
I took Friday off so I could prepare for the weekend event. I took advantage of a gorgeous “winter” day in California to wash the G8 before heading-up to the hotel. Most of the day I had a nervous feeling in my stomach, but I knew it was just anticipation.
Compared to my previous track day, NASA was definitely “strict” when it came to the rules. This isn’t a bad thing, especially since there were quite a few people who had never driven on-track before. After taking some time discuss basic information they went over flags then broke-down into the various HPDE groups for more in-depth discussions before getting out on-track.
During the first 20 minute session of the day I started near the back of the HPDE-2 drivers, but in front of the HPDE-1 group. One of the nice parts of NASA events is that while HPDE-1 and 2 are limited to passing on the main straights, no point-bys are required. While this resulted in some sketchy passes by impatient drivers, I found it nice to feel like I wasn’t ever holding-up people.
After letting one person by I had nearly the entire session to work on learning the driving line. I’d spent quite some time reading track guides and practicing in video games, but there is nothing that can replace the experience of driving around a corner. While I’m sure my line was far from ideal, I felt I was starting to develop a good sense for where I needed to be.
Towards the end of the first session the flag stations started to display a black flag (“Black Flag All”) meaning we were to proceed (with caution) around the track and return to the pit lane. As I rounded Turn 7 I spotted a standing yellow flag and a white flag (slow moving vehicle on-track). As I entered Turn 8 I could see a vehicle sitting off-track at the apex of Turn 8a, but it appeared to have damage on the driver’s side door. I kept thinking to myself, “How did you do that there? There’s nothing to hit…”. Then I spotted a Porsche with front-end damage hiding behind a safety truck.
After each HPDE session on-track NASA has a group “download” session where we discuss things. Needless to say there was quite a lot of discussion about the car-to-car incident (which is nearly unheard of). It was obvious to me that people were driving too fast/close for their ability, especially for the first session (of the first event of the year). It was a bit surprising to hear the instructors comments about who was “at fault” in the incident… and that as a driver you are responsible for being able to control/stop your car if/when the vehicle ahead of you has an issue (like a spin).
There wasn’t much time after the debrief before we were back out on track for the second session of the day. I again tried to position myself towards the end of the HPDE-2 group, giving myself lots of room to work on learning the track.
Like I did in the driving schools I decided to keep in 4th gear and just focus on the line. I found that I was picking-up things fairly quickly, but knew I wasn’t pushing too hard. While I started going WOT on the straights, I tried to be consistent with my braking/turning points. Just when I was getting in the groove the session came to an end.
At lunch NASA runs a session called a “Hyperdrive”. This is designed to give people a taste of track driving without all the requirements of a full HPDE-1 run group. Many people would consider a 45 minute track session at a maximum speed of 35mph torture, but with no previous experience/instruction at Sonoma Raceway I took this as the perfect time to really learn the driving line with one-on-one instruction. Unfortunately the debrief from the second session ran long, so I missed half of the Hyperdrive, but I came away from it with a much better understanding of the track. I would highly recommend it for anyone really looking to learn to drive a new track.
Before the third session I needed to fill-up my tank with fuel. With the G8 tuned to run on 91 octane pump gas there isn’t a need for race gas, but during long sessions engine/intake temperatures can get high. Running higher octane fuel is cheap insurance to protect against detonation (or the ECM pulling timing due to knock). After 12.424 gallons of 96 octane (at $7.999 per gallon) the final “blend” in the tank was 94.8 octane… perfect for an afternoon of track driving!
In the third session I planned to apply what I’d learned during the Hyperdrive and really work on driving the proper line. I came up-to-speed more quickly and soon found myself starting to push things harder down the straights and through the corners.
Just when I was starting to get a feel for the track I entered Turn 10 something went wrong…
As I looked into my rear-view mirror to check on the car I was going to let pass me I noticed a bunch of smoke coming out the rear of my car. At first I thought I might have lost traction somehow, but I wasn’t on the gas. Fortunately the entrance to pit lane was just to the left, so I quickly exited the track.
In the paddock I checked the G8′s vitals. Oil pressure and temperatures both looked good, oil level was good. Unlike last time I had issues on-track there were no strange noises. The engine seemed to be OK, but I wanted to find a cause for the smoke. I remembered that I hadn’t checked my catch can prior to the event… and sure enough there was quite a bit of oil in there. At that point I figured I’d found the problem (some oil had been picked-up from the catch can and been sent into the intake, resulting in smoke). In hindsight I really should have crawled under the rear of the G8, as I would have noticed that hadn’t been the case.
Despite thinking I’d fixed the reason for the smoke, I didn’t want to push things and drive in the fourth session for the day. I took a trip out on the ring road to see if I could see any more smoke and to double-check that everything was behaving. I wasn’t experiencing any issues, so after watching the Group C race I headed back to the hotel for the night.
Yesterday was an exciting day, but after the mechanical issues from Session 3 I was apprehensive about how the day would go. I’d driven to/from the hotel without issue, but I wanted to take things slow on-track so arranged to be one of the last cars out for the first session.
I started out of the pits and everything seemed to be OK. I made my way around the track on the opening warm-up lap slowly increasing the speeds, but just as I started around Turn 10 I knew something in the drive-line was not right.
As I tried to accelerate out of the corner I could hear the engine RPMs increasing, but there was zero power going to the rear wheels. I had another car on my bumper, so quickly dove into the pit lane while I tried to find a gear that would work. After trying a few different gears with no luck, I knew my weekend was over. I coasted into the paddock and quickly located an empty area to park. I pulled-off my helmet and crawled under the back of the G8 to figure out what had happened.
At this point I could clearly see it was something major that caused the smoke yesterday, not just a little excess oil from the catch can. Fortunately one of the steps I’ve taken in preparation for track driving is upgrading to a Platinum AAA membership which includes up to 200 miles of towing per incident.
It didn’t take long for the tow truck to arrive and get the G8 loaded-up. After swinging by my spot in the paddock to pick-up all my stuff (tools, bags, spare tire, etc.) we headed-off towards my mechanic’s shop.
Getting the G8 up on a lift, it’s was obvious there is something wrong with the rear differential.
The driver’s side axle had separated from the differential and that allowed fluid to drip onto the exhaust (causing the smoke observed on-track). Fortunately it appears there was no damage caused to the axles or the differential and after flushing the fluid everything went back together and seems to be driving fine.
Overall it was a fun weekend. It was great to drive at Sonoma Raceway with NASA and I was glad I could help some friends get out on track for the first time. While I would love to get back out on-track soon, finishing on a tow truck wasn’t how I imagined it ending. I said after my previous track day, I really think I need to look into a dedicated track car!
Posted on December 1st, 2012 No comments
Today the NorCal GOATs headed-up to Able Chevrolet in Rio Vista for their annual Toys for Tots drive. Car clubs (G8/GTO’s, Corvettes, Camaros, etc) from all over the Bay Area get together to hang-out and to donate toys to a worthy cause.
Unfortunately the weather forecasts for this weekend are full of rain (something called an ‘Atmospheric River’) so the number of participants was far fewer than expected. At the first meeting spot there were only four cars (including a Volvo), but we met-up with a dozen or so other cars at the second meeting spot.
While the roads were wet from rain earlier in the morning, the weather was very cooperative and only had a few sprinkles throughout the rest of the day. I spent much of the day talking with Corvette owners about track days, but it was also cool to catch-up with the GTO owners as well. I didn’t spent much time checking-out the other cars, but there were a few really impressive vehicles!
Everyone at the event seemed to have a great time at the event, and in the end we helped to raise over 300 toys and almost $1400!
Posted on November 3rd, 2012 No comments
Having recently having my engine rebuilt, which resulted in a 21% increase in power, quite a few people have been pestering me to get to the drag strip. I’ve been avoiding it since I couldn’t get traction on my street tires before the upgrade, but since the NorCal GOATs were going to Sacramento Raceway for a Test & Tune I figured I’d go have some fun.
The days leading-up to the event I wasn’t sure if I was going to run the G8 or not. Towards the end of my road trip I developed a nasty “shimmy” in the front-end between 70-80mph, and wasn’t going to race if it continued. Fortunately the new tires fixed the issue (I still think there might be some LCA issues to fix) and I felt comfortable taking the G8 down the strip.
The weather today was good, but not as cool/dry as I had hoped. By noon, when they started to run, the DA was up to 478′ and it progressively climbed thorough the day to 914′ by the final runs. Not bad for California, but not great.
My best run of the day came just leaving the G8 in “Drive” with the traction control turned on. I rolled into the throttle from idle and just let the computer do the work. The result was a 12.007 @ 116.10mph… not bad for a 245-series street tire!
My 60′ time was 1.934sec, five-hundredths of a second faster than launching in 2nd with TC off, but I could feel the traction control pulling timing in 1st gear and between the 1st to 2nd gear change.
I’m very happy with my results. Would it have been nice to run in the 11′s? Yeah, but I’m not going to go crazy searching for a time. Looking at my trap speeds there are still a couple tenths left in the car… if I was ever wanted to get serious about drag racing.
My favorite part of all of this is just how “well rounded” my G8 is. I can run 2 minute lap times around Laguna Seca, 12 second passes down a drag strip, and drive 11,000 miles across the country without changing anything!
Posted on October 30th, 2012 No comments
Thank goodness Discount Tire has a $100 rebate; I need new tires!
While my car was in the shop getting the latest round of mods I noticed just how worn-out my rear tires were getting. Before leaving on my 2012 GONE Road Trip I replaced the rear Bridgestone RE-11′s with another set. I was able to get ~22k miles out of my factory “Summer Only” Bridgestone RE050A’s, so getting 14k miles (including a Laguna Seca track day) on the rear of a 444hp/460tq car wasn’t too bad.
Despite all of twisty roads I drive, the front RE-11′s have been able to survive ~26k miles! I’m extremely impressed, and better yet… the outer edge of the tread has held-up nicely (unlike the RE050A’s). Since my rear tires still have some life until I hit the wear bars, I’m moving those to the front and installing a pair of the new tires on the rear. I’ll keep the other pair of tires handy for when I eat-up these!
Posted on October 21st, 2012 No comments
Since returning from my Road Trip I’ve spent the past few weekends “recovering”… which is another way of saying, sitting on my butt watching TV. This weekend I decided to be spontaneous and lead a cruise with the NorCal GOATs up to Napa!
After some deliberating on the details, I came-up with several different potential routes and posted the event info. I arrived at the starting location early and waited to see what the turn-out was going to be like. With these sorts of short-notice events it’s always a toss-up when it comes to participation, but it would have been nicer to have a couple more cars… none the less, those of us who came out had a total blast!
The group decided on my “Short Route” (~2.5hrs) and we headed out…
Our first stop was at the Monticello Dam for some photos. I drove past here on my road trip without stopping, but I’m really glad we did this time… I’ll need to keep this on my list of potential photo locations.
We then proceeded towards Lake Berryessa, which I only recently learned was the site of one of the Zodiac killings (remind me not to stop there for a picnic!). Before turning off onto Knoxville Rd. we stopped at the Turtle Rock to stretch our legs… boy were we surprised at what we found!
This is the sort of place I love to find on drives. Just like The Junction out past Mines Rd. in Livermore, it’s the sort of “hole in the wall” watering hole only known to locals. There is a certain type of “character” in these places that makes them fun. I will for sure be stopping here again the next time I come through (I hear they have “world famous egg rolls” too).
The road to Lake Berryessa was nearly devoid of traffic, which made the drive very enjoyable. I didn’t want to loose the cars behind me so kept the speeds reasonable. It would have been nice to get a little more “spirited”, but the relaxed pace added an extra element to the cruise. It was nice to just slow down to just enjoy the atmosphere…
Since we started the cruise early today the sun was still fairly low in the sky by the time we arrived at Lake Berryessa. I knew finding a good location for photos would be possible, but also a bit difficult. I didn’t just want a photo from the road with the lake in the background, but rather something that would really allow the cars to standout. I spotted a deserted picnic area and pulled over to try and find a good shooting location. It was a bit awkward to get a clear view of the lake, and there were quite a few nasty speed bumps, but we found a decent spot.
After taking far too many photos of the individual cars, then group shots, we eventually got back on the road. The rest of the drive was nice, but the road started to get a bit more rough/bumpy so wasn’t as much fun. We also started to get more traffic, including a semi hauling grapes who had zero respect for the center-line, so the speeds slowed dramatically in some places. Fortunately the views of Lake Hennessey and the various vineyards around the area made-up for it.
The final destination for the cruise was the Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) tasting room. When proposing the spontaneous cruise I figured having the option to stop for lunch or wine tasting would be nice, but today everyone seemed to have more pressing engagements. I get the feeling that most people aren’t really into that aspect of a cruise… oh well.
Overall the day was a success. It was great to see some friends and spend some time cruising on the backroads of California’s wine country. With all the positive comments about the route and scenery I’m sure we’ll be back up here again soon!
Posted on October 10th, 2012 No comments
Here are a few stats for the road trip:
- Total distance Traveled: 11,146 miles
- Average Speed: 45.9 mph
- Top Speed: 168 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats
- Speeding Tickets: Zero
- Gallons of Gas Used: 596.60
Average Fuel Economy: 18.55 mpg
Highest Fuel Economy: 22.64 mpg (11.30 gallons @ 69.2 mph average)
Lowest Fuel Economy: 16.32 mpg (8.82 gallons @ 42.0 mph average)
Total Fuel Cost: $2492.66
Highest Fuel Cost: $5.599/gal (91 Octane in Bridgeport, Ca)
Lowest Fuel Cost: $3.889/gal (91 Octane in Wyoming)
- States Visited: 16 (map)
- Number of Photos Taken: 10,235
Posted on October 9th, 2012 No comments
Today was the final day of my 2012 GONE Road Trip. I started this journey so long ago it’s difficult to remember what it felt like.
Since I only had a few hours driving until I made it home, I slept-in as late as I could (I’m on vacation after all) then hit the road.
Yesterday evening I briefly contemplated driving over to Highway 1 and up the coast, but decided I best save that drive for another day. Since my route was almost entirely on the interstates, nothing really exciting happened.
One thing to note though, I could tell I was back in California. There’s just something about the way Californians drive on the freeway that told me I was “home”. Having spent the last 42 days driving the speed limit, trying to minimize the risk for tickets, I quickly remembered how impossible that is in California. Even people on the on ramps are easily doing 10mph over the limit, so just cruising in the slow lane is not an option. Fortunately the G8 has some extra “pep” for these sorts of situations.
As I approached the SF Bay Area I turned-off onto Patterson Pass Road. This is a local favorite for “spirited drives”, but I took my time and found a place to take an “I’m Home” photo.
It was a little bitter-sweet pulling into my garage to end the trip. While it’s a great feeling to be home, and to have completed such an epic road trip, it’s a bit sad to not need to wake-up in the morning early for another day of driving.
Posted on October 8th, 2012 No comments
Today was the last “real” driving day for my Road Trip, and it did a good job living-up to the standard set over the last few weeks. With over 7 hours of driving, including going through a National Park on a “Holiday” (is Columbus Day really a holiday), I wanted to get an early start. After quickly stopping at Subway for breakfast, I hit the road.
Several years ago I drove through this area taking photos, so with the sun still low in the sky (golden light) I figured it was worth another try. Wow, have I been spoiled with the views the past few days at Bryce, Zion, etc… every location I found just seemed so “blah” in comparison. I did drive through Genoa, the first settlement in Nevada, where I saw people swimming in a hot spring and a nice buck crossing the road.
About an hour into my drive I reached the border into California. It was a little surprising to have to stop at an inspection point (the first time for any of the states I drove through). When the officer asked “Where are you coming from” I pointed to the map on the side of my car. With no fresh fruits or vegetables they waved me on, but it made me think about what other things I could have been transporting around the states.
Most of the morning was spent driving on Highway 395. Within the NorCal GOATS there has been much debate over this route as an alternate to GoatRun, so it was good to see what all the fuss was about. I found it to be nice and scenic, but wasn’t overly impressed with the “spirited nature” that was often given as a reason for driving it… then again I was by myself and kept things at the speed limit. I’m sure it would have been more fun with a bunch of G8′s and GTO’s!
Having last filled-up on fuel in Fernley, NV I needed to stop for gas before heading into Yosemite. I stopped in Bridgeport, Ca to fill-up, mostly due to a long delay for road maintenance, and nearly choked when I saw the price… $5.599 per gallon for 91 octane!
I knew gas was expensive in California, but this was just insane… I paid less than $4/gal a few days ago! Up the road I even saw a station that was $0.20/gal more expensive. I understand this was the in middle-of-nowhere, near a National Park, on a “holiday”, but come on… I sure am glad gas price was more reasonable the other places I was traveling!
I turned off Hwy395 at Highway 120 and made my way over Tioga Pass into Yosemite. Being “the highest highway pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada” I was expecting a bit more, but I guess that’s because I’ve recently been climbing mountains in Colorado.
Once inside Yosemite the views did not disappoint. I’ve been there before, but was much younger, so it was good to see things again. I stopped several times in search for “the shot” of Yosemite Valley with Half Dome, etc. that I had in my mind. While the first place I pulled-over wasn’t what I was looking for, it was still a nice view.
It took me a while to get through the park, and somehow always found myself driving behind slow moving tourists. The speed limits inside Yosemite are slow, as would be expected in a National Park, but for some reason no one could drive the twisty roads at more than 15mph. To make matters worse, most areas are no passing zones… and when you do get to a passing zone the slower car somehow manages to drive 10mph over the speed limit, making passing even more “difficult”.
I eventually made my way around to the Tunnel View overlook. I figured, being a “holiday”, it would be packed with people… but it was surprisingly light. I was able to get a parking spot and took quite a few of the “classic” shots of the Yosemite Valley.
With traffic being light, I figured it was worth trying to get “the shot” I had worked-out in my mind. I drove the G8 the wrong-way down a one-way street, stopped, and jumped out (engine still running) to get my photo… Totally worth it!
Sure, I got a few strange looks as I was sitting in the middle of the road, but sometimes you have to go all-out to get the shot you’re after. In this case, due to the position of the sun, I had to take several photos and blend them together in the “darkroom” (Ansel Adams would have been proud).
With my photographic needs met for the day I set out to enjoy the remainder of my drive. The first joy was a childish run through the tunnel… which has below average grip (or maybe I was just using above average throttle). I then drove to Glacier Point, even finding a some space between other cars to enjoy the switchbacks.
The drive out of Yosemite on Highway 41 was fairly enjoyable. Having recently been repaved the road was smooth, but was not yet lined (making it all a no passing zone). Fortunately I had a stretch all to myself and was able to enjoy some “spirited driving”. After a construction delay, which bunched-up everyone on the road, the driving was tedious and well below the posted speed limit… but it was getting late and I was ready to relax.
I arrived into the Fresno area and checked into my hotel for the night. After dinner with a friend from college I prepared for the final day of my Road Trip by eating some free ice cream and going to sleep early.
Posted on October 7th, 2012 No comments
Today was an extremely boring day, and not just because I didn’t go over 150mph. I woke-up at the “normal” time and got on the road for nearly 6 hours of interstate driving.
Spending so many hours just staring at the road started to get to me after about 3 hours. I started asking myself questions… “How do they make the rumble strips?” (answer); “How many grades of USDA beef are there?” (answer); and others that shouldn’t be mentioned here.
One cool thing I spotted was the “It ain’t easy being green team” Dodge Challenger from this past year’s One Lap of America.
It was going the opposite direction on the interstate, but it would have been fun to talk with them about their experience. One Lap is something that I’d love to do one of these years!
Another event that would be fun to compete in is the Spectre 341 Challenge. My reward for spending so much time on the interstate was an out-and-back run on Nevada 341. Unfortunately today was the “World Championship Outhouse Races” in Virginia City, so the road was full of traffic. I was also surprised to see that since last year’s event the road has been repaved and most corners now have guardrails. While I couldn’t push anything, I had a good time… especially compared to the interstate.
When I arrived in Carson City I spent over 30 minutes driving around looking for someplace to take my daily G8 photo. Despite my best efforts I just couldn’t find anything reasonable. I decided I would “cheat” and use one of the un-used photos I took a few days ago; who would know right?
I checked into my hotel, which I’m not paying for, and was upgraded to a 2-room suite! Must be a slow night in Carson City, but I’ll take it! The Casino next door had a steakhouse (USDA Prime, in case you were wondering), so I put on a collared shirt and sat down for a nice dinner.
When I finished eating the sun had fallen below the hills, casting the entire area into a shadow. Not wanting to give-up on my daily G8 photos I went back out searching for an appropriate photo location. Last year when I received my first Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) I pulled into the Nevada State Railroad Museum to diagnose the issue, so figured I’d try to get a photo there.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Yosemite on my last “real” day of this Road Trip. It’s going to be a long drive, but should be full of nice twisty roads!