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  • Miller Motorsports Park: Day 1

    Posted on March 28th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Day 1 of our 3-Day course at Miller Motorsports Park is in the books and boy was it a hoot!

    The day started out like many of the previous schools I’ve done, with morning introductions and some classroom time. All of the other schools were in street clothing, but this time we had full driving suits! It took a bit of time to get everyone into the right sizes, but we quickly headed out to the garages to get into our cars.

    The Mustang GT is the main vehicle used for the course, and other than a few minor modifications (roll cage, race seat, 4-point harnesses) they are mostly stock. The seats in the cars (Sparco Evo2) is a little narrow for my hips, but wasn’t too bad. After a few laps (and cinched down harnesses) I felt well supported.

    After getting into our cars we headed out onto the “East Course” for a lead-follow session. I found it really nice to get out on track so quickly, even if it was at a slow pace. Just being able to take a couple laps really helped get an idea of the course, and it paid-off later in the day.

    The first drill of the morning was a session of heel-toe downshifting. Like my previous courses, these weren’t my best moments. Fortunately I’m starting to get a little better with the manual transmission. After some practice I was even able to string together a few good heel-toe downshifts! For the rest of the day (and the week) I will be spending my time in 4th gear focusing on my driving line. Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this heel-toe thing, but it’s not going to be now.

    After the downshifting we headed to the skid car for some laps around the paddock. Like last time, it was a total blast. Being able to experience a car with understeer or oversteer in a controlled environment was priceless. I seriously think that all drivers should get behind the wheel of a skid car… even if it’s only once, the experience will help them understand what to do when a car starts to skid.

    There were only 6 students in our course today, which resulted in 2 students per instructor! With almost private instruction, I found it fairly easy to learn the track. It also allowed for lots of open space on track to practice, without having to worry about the car in front of or behind you.

    Our first real session on track was two cars following an instructor. We started slow and really focused on driving the proper line. After a few laps the two trailing (student) cars switched places and we did a few more laps. We continued like this, switching back/forth, for ~20 minutes before heading back into the paddock. By the end of the session I was really starting to understand some of the nuances of the track.

    After lunch there were three more track sessions on the “East Course” configuration.

    One session was another lead-follow. The other student in my group was at a similar pace as me, and it made for a lot of fun. We started out slow, but it didn’t take long for the speeds to start to increase… by the end of the session we were probably running about 60% pace of what I was eventually do today (not bad for the second session).

    The third and fourth sessions for me were solo. The plan was to have an instructor ride along for a period of time, but it seemed that I was doing well enough that they focused on some of the other students a bit more. It was a little awkward not getting a ride along, but it was also nice to know that I was doing things well enough to not raise any black flags.

    I tend to be fairly good at self-critiquing how I’m driving and will often times pick-up on mistakes and try to fix them on the next lap. There were still quite a few places where I made errors, but none of them were too major… and I think I’m getting a good feel for how to prevent them.

    I know I have a difficult time judging closing-speeds when entering a corner, and a few times I fell into the trap of trying to drive too fast into a corner. This resulted in a poor line through the apex and a slow exit… one time I even went through the first corner so hot that I induced oversteer (one potential downside of trail braking) and ended-up “drifting” along the rumble strip at the edge of the track! While it was fun, it was a little embarrassing. I think I just need to take it a little slower to make sure I’m getting a good exit out of the corners.

    Overall I was very happy with the way today turned-out. I was able to pick-up the new track fairly quickly and felt my car control was improving. Tomorrow we head to the “West Course” to learn another new course… I can hardly wait!

    Oh yeah, my Dad had fun too!

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