Life is Great with a 6.0-liter V8
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • Bondurant: Day 1

    Posted on December 19th, 2011 tcorzett No comments

    Today was the first of three at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, and all I can say is WOW!

    The day started-out with some classroom discussions about vehicle control and weight transfer. We then took a tour of the facility. The workshops at Bondurant are top-notch… each car is given an inspection (at least) daily… and there are piles of tires/parts for repairs. We then hopped into a van to check-out the rest of the property. If you ever have an opportunity to take a van around the Bondurant facilities… DO IT!

    At this point we broke into groups and chose our vehicle for the next three days…

    While I really would have liked driving a Pontiac G8 for the course, I’m “stuck” driving a C6 Corvette Grand Sport… oh darn!

    We headed-out to practice heel-toe downshifting. This was a problem for me… as I was having difficulties even getting the car into the proper gear. It took me a few times to launch from a stop… and (when I didn’t stall) was not very smooth going into 2nd and 3rd gears. After a short time I pulled-off track and went with my instructor to another area to just practice working the shifter and clutch. At this point I was just miserable… I wasn’t doing very good, kept stalling, and overall was frustrated at my lack of abilities.

    After the heel-toe drills we headed back into the classroom (where I was able to meet Bob Bondurant himself!) and talk more about driving lines and weight transfer. While I tried to pay attention to what was being said, I just couldn’t get my mind off the difficulty I was having with the manual transmission. We broke for lunch and I went out to grab a sandwich… all the time time being frustrated at myself. How bad was it? I just wanted to cry!

    After lunch we continued the classroom session before heading out to the Maricopa Oval to put the lessons we learned in the classroom to the test on track!

    For this exercise I only needed to get the Corvette into 3rd gear and leave it there… which was the best news that I had heard all day! We drove the oval in a counter-clockwise direction, having to navigate both increasing and decreasing radius corners.

    After a few warm-up laps, I put the throttle down and started to push the Corvette harder and harder. I can honestly say, this was the hardest I’ve ever pushed a vehicle before! Lap after lap of trying to hit your marks, looking through the apex to the exit… it was exhilarating! At this point I completely forgot the morning and couldn’t get the ear-to-ear grin off my face.

    I did a good job looking where I wanted to drive the car, but I was regularly turning into the corners too soon… making proper exits a bit more difficult. I also wasn’t as smooth on/off throttle and with steering as I’d have liked. I took some time to slow things down a bit and that really helped me get on the proper lines.

    After the oval we headed to do an accident avoidance drill (very similar to the one I did as part of the Civilian EVOC course I took years ago). Having to put the Corvette in the proper lane at 45mph was fairly easy (even though I nailed a cone on the last attempt), but it gave me quite a bit of time to work with the manual transmission. While I still stalled the car a few times, I got much better at (slowly) launching the car and shifting up into 2nd gear.

    The last drill of the day was more heel-toe downshifting. This time, rather than being out on my own, I joined the others and practiced smoothly shifting between 2nd and 3rd gear. I was orders of magnitude better than how I was in the morning… and didn’t totally burn-up the clutch! I’m still far from “fluent”, but I feel confident enough in my abilities to continue using the Corvette for the driving exercises.

    Tomorrow morning I believe we are headed to the skid car… and to quote an instructor, “If you’re not having fun in the skid car… you shouldn’t be driving a car”. I can hardly wait!