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  • Bondurant: Day 3

    Posted on December 21st, 2011 tcorzett No comments

    Today was the final day of the 3-Day Grand Prix Road Racing course at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Looking back over the past few days, I’m shocked at just how much I’ve learned.

    This morning we didn’t waste any time before getting back out on track, and jumped right back in where we stopped yesterday… driving the Lake Loop and Carousel track configuration.

    Last night I spent a fair bit of time thinking about what I was doing well, and what I was doing poorly. As I summed-up in my post from last night; Smooth is fast. I took extra time to slow down and focus on driving smoothly into and out of the corners… wow, what a difference!

    By smoothly braking into the corner, rather than stomping at the brakes at the last possible second, I was better able to turn into the apex and get back into the throttle. Rather than jumping off the brakes at the turn-in points, I increased the amount of trail-braking I was doing… and that really helped with the weight transfer (keeping it on the front wheels) making the car much easier to turn. I was also able to focus on the racing line and use as much of the track as possible (rumble strips are your friends). I quickly found the proper line entering Turn 9, and that allowed me to better enter Turn 10… putting the car another foot to the right made things so much smoother (and faster)!

    I also focused on looking where I wanted to put the car next, which is a little strange when you’re going around a corner, but it really helped me with the late-apex corners (like the Carousel).

    All of these factors made me so much faster that I started bouncing-off the rev-limiter in 3rd gear going down the front straight (~105mph)… as a result I needed to start shifting into 4th, then back down into 3rd before Turn 1. I was fairly good at the up-shift, but my inexperience with a manual transmission (and the lack of heel-toe downshifting) really showed… I found myself shifting too soon or not letting off the clutch smooth enough, often times locking-up the rear tires.

    Compared to yesterday, I wasn’t “fighting” with the car as much to put it where I wanted to on track. With things going so smooth, the laps started ticking-off and any sense of time completely disappeared. At one point I started to feel myself getting tired/distracted, so rather than continue to make little mistakes, decided to pull into the pits for a breather. When I did, my instructor told me they were going to be throwing the checkered flag in a minute and it was time to head to the classroom… two hours had past!

    In the classroom we discussed many of the details required for racing… things like flags, rolling starts, following the pace car, single-file restarts, etc. After talking about it, we again jumped in our Corvettes and headed to the track to practice.

    I decided to stay at the rear of the pack for the starts, just so if I missed a shift no one would be running into the back of me by mistake. An added element of the rolling start was that it was the first time we were allowed to go side-by-side and actually race one-another! While it was only for the length of the front straight, it was quite exhilarating being so close to other cars all racing for a place on track.

    Once the starts were out of the way, we continued to lap the track working on our skills. It was at this point that I had the most incredible driving experience of my life… two Corvettes running nose to tail, lap after lap… it was incredible!

    It didn’t matter that there was a car right in front of me, I kept looking far ahead for my breaking points, apexes, and exit points. Being so close, ~1 car length, I found myself thinking less about the mechanics of what I was doing… and just driving. Even my downshifting improved! After ~10 laps he waved me past, and it was my turn to be the rabbit. It continued for another couple laps before we parted ways, but after the session I had to thank him for such an intense “race”.

    After lunch there was a brief classroom session to introduce us to the full (1.6 mile, 15 Turn) Bondurant Race Course.

    In this configuration, rather than turning left into Turn 2A… you crest a little rise and drive into the Maricopa Oval. While we have driven this section before, we now included “The Bean”… continuing to turn left out of Turn 4, rather than just going straight. This lead us towards a crest at Turn 6 and then rocketing into Turns 7, 8, and 9.

    These new sections were challenging, but again… when you got it right it just felt so easy. One of the areas this was most apparent was the run down the back straight. If done correctly, once you crest the hill at Turn 6 you don’t need to lift off the throttle until you enter the braking zone at Turn 9. With the changes in elevation, you really get to feel how the weight of the car is transferred… and what it does to the handling of the vehicle.

    As the afternoon went on I started to learn the areas of the course where I could really put the peddle to the metal… without negatively effecting the handling of the car. I felt myself getting quicker and quicker… having to break harder into the corners, but without the “recklessness” I had when I started the course. Where I once was abruptly tossing the car into the corner, I was now smoothly guiding the car through it. I was consistently challenging myself, fixing one issue then moving to another… asking, “is this the best you can do?”

    Far too quickly the checkered flag flew on the final session of the day, and with that my course came to an end…

    After getting out of the Corvette for the last time, those of us who were not returning for the 4th day of the Grand Prix Racing Course (which is focused on Formula series cars) received our report cards and graduation certificates.

    Overall this has been an incredible experience. Hopefully I can apply the knowledge that I’ve learned towards some Auto-X and Track Days in the G8. Having completed the course I have a new understanding of how to drive, but I know there is so much more I can learn. Now I just need to figure out how I can come back to take another course!

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