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  • Spring Mountain Level 2: Day 1

    Posted on February 9th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today I started my 2-Day Level 2 Course at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort.

    While there are a couple courses going-on at the same time, I really lucked-out… there are only two people (including myself) in the Level 2 course. This has resulted in quite a bit of one-on-one instruction. So far all of the instructors have been very good at working with me on my goals. Much like the previous course, I’ve been surprised just how much I’ve learned in only one day.

    Because Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort is located ~45 minutes from Las Vegas, I decided to stay in one of the on-site Condos.

    Being able to get a good night sleep and not have to deal with the drive in the morning was been great. Being able to look out your bedroom window to see Corvettes driving by on the track is definitely unique!

    The course started-out in the classroom for introductions and some review of the fundamentals. We then headed out in the Corvettes for a heel-toe downshifting exercise. I’ve not been able to practice with a manual transmission vehicle since I took the last school in December, so I was a little nervous. Fortunately I was doing much better shifting through the gears… and didn’t even burn-up the clutch!

    At first I was quite flustered about the heel-toe process, but after some one-on-one instruction I started to understand it. Like last time the whole process was overwhelming, but breaking it down into individual steps… and practicing them one at a time… really make a big difference. Rather than trying to jump-in and do it all at once, I took a few passes where I only practiced blipping the throttle… then added-in the downshift. By the end of the drill I actually did a couple smooth heel-toe downshifts!

    During the heel-toe exercise one of the instructors mentioned that the school has a couple Corvettes with automatic transmissions. This was the best news I’ve head in a while! While I will eventually want to practice driving a manual transmission, not having my mind occupied with the mechanics of shifting allows me to focus on learning vehicle control.

    After another short classroom lesson we headed-out onto the track for an initial lead-follow session. At Spring Mountain the cars are equipped with two-way radios, so there is instant feedback on track… almost like the instructor was sitting in your passenger’s seat. Because there were only two of us in the course, and two instructors, the first couple sessions were very educational.

    For the Level 2 course we were on the 2.4 mile (Bus Stop & Loop) configuration. The course is quite a bit larger than the one I drove previously, and while you can just leave the car in 4th gear the whole time, there is quite a bit more shifting involved. While I started-out only shifting into 4th on the back straight, it didn’t take long for me to need 4th gear in several sections. Also, having an automatic transmission, I wasn’t afraid to up/down shift to get more performance out of the car (not that a Corvette Grand Sport is a slouch).

    We spent the entire day driving on the track, mostly in 10-15 lap sessions. Breaking the day into several shorter segments allowed for plenty of time to debrief and ask questions. So far my focus has been on learning the track… which has been humbling. Even just trying to recall what corner I was in has been a challenge… let alone remembering all the breaking/turn-in/exit points while speeding around the circuit. This is where having a the radio has been really helpful… if I’m doing something wrong in a corner there is nearly instant feedback; that way I’m able to make adjustments for the next lap.

    All of the sessions today were lead-follows, and I feel that I’m getting a good hang of things when there is someone showing me where to go. Unfortunately there were a couple times when I wasn’t the first car in line behind the instructor… and I found myself having a difficult time consistently hitting my marks…

    My biggest issue so far has been judging when I should start applying the brakes. Unlike the previous track I was on, there are no break markers/cones at Spring Mountain… and I have a tendency to miss-judge my closing speeds. When this happens I enter the corner too quickly, sending me wide at the apex… killing my corner exit. While I’m getting better, there are still times when I’ll completely blow a corner.

    Overall I’ve been very happy with my progress so far. While it would be nice to be gaining more experience in a manual transmission vehicle, I think I’m getting much more out of the course because of the automatic. I’m starting to get a better feel for the racing line, and will continue to work on consistently hitting my marks… I can hardly wait for tomorrow!

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