Sunday, November 11, 2012

I am a Track Rat Once Again

In the past two weeks I have spent a LOT of time on the Summit Point circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park.  Last weekend, I attended the NASA Fall Finale running in HPDE1, and on Friday I attended the final Friday at the Track of 2012 running in group 2i (group 2 with instructor).  This still means I have only attended 3 track events state-side, but all three of those occurred in the last two months.  The good, the Rabbit holds up very well on the track, especially after I updated the front brakes to R32 calipers and slotted rotors.  The bad, this is a very expensive hobby to have.  I really need to win the lottery.

Sometimes size does matter
Old rotors vs new

My goals for this year were pretty simple.  I wanted to go into next year not having to run in the lowest group because that group contains all of the people who are first-timers on the track and they don't know how to react, are very intimidated, and can't process all of the information coming to them (and thus forget to do things like point-by cars that are on their tail).  I also wanted to evaluate my skill (since it had been a few years), my car (the Rabbit had never been tracked before), and gauge how I wanted to proceed going forward with track days.  Most of that has been resolved now, it is just the "going forward" part that I am not too sure about yet.

NASA Fall Finale Day 2
Coming through Turn 10 on Summit Point Circuit

I succeeded on multiple fronts when compared to my goals.  The Rabbit handled remarkably well thanks in large part to the JOM coilover suspension, APR Carbonio Intake, Unitronic chip tune, AWE Tuning exhaust, and for the second and third events, R32 front calipers with ECS Tuning slotted rotors.  I also want to give a shout out to NGP Racing, since they did the coilover install and have done some other work on the car.  The car is still relatively under powered since it is a naturally aspirated 2.5l 5-cylinder, but unless I win the lotto, a power-train swap would not be possible.  Handling wise, I need to upgrade the front and rear sway bars to either OEM GTI sway bars, or even beefier aftermarket ones.  OEM GTI sway bars that someone has removed from their car would be the least expensive solution.  There are other modifications that should occur if I continue to track the car heavily, and I will address those at the end of this post.

Summit Point Turn 7 in the Rabbit
Notice the giant front brakes?

As for assessing my skill level, I can say that my skill level had not dropped off in any significant way in the years since my track time in Germany, and has now actually surpassed my original skill level.  While I don't have any official sign-offs for NASA events to move to HPDE2, my instructor during those events was impressed.  Given my status at Summit Point Friday at the Track events, it shouldn't be hard for me to skip to HPDE2 (or even 3) if I attend another NASA event at there. With the Summit Point Friday at the Track 2i group, I had an instructor for most of my first three runs.  I had a different instructor hop in the car during my third session, and he let me run solo for the last few minutes of session three and ALL of session 4.  With his, and my original instructor's signatures, I have been signed off to move to Group 2 SOLO in the future at Friday at the Tracks.  That also opens the opportunity to attend "Seat Time" events at Summit Point which allow me to even take a passenger along with me.  This makes Chrissy very happy.

Summit Point Friday at the Track 11-9-2012
Last run of the day solo through turn 10

Now comes the hardest part:  What are my plans going forward?  At the very least, I plan to attend many more events at Summit Point in the future, and the car will have to be able to withstand the abuse of double-duty because Chrissy will want to participate at least some in the events.  I also want to attend some NASA events at nearby tracks, such as New Jersey Motorsports Park, and Virginia International Raceway. Even a trip to Road Atlanta wouldn't be out of the question.  But how do I want to advance my "career" in NASA?  Do I want to work my way up to being an instructor (so I can get some free track-time)?  Do I want to consider competition, such as Time-trials?  Or maybe even the German Touring Car series?  Will I start competing in Autocross events? Time trials and actual racing would both actually increase my costs so I would have to hunt out some sponsors to offset my costs, and if I actually did want to compete, would I want to start over with a GTI for performance reasons ($$$$$$$$)?  Regardless of how I choose to advance, if I do plan on continuing this on a regular basis in the Rabbit, it will have to become more of a track car, and less of a street car.  It will be kept street legal though, because I still drive it on a regular basis.

Since it is a 2-door, we only use the back seat for actual people once in a blue-moon, so taking that capability away from the car is not a huge loss.  That allows for a roll cage to be installed in the rear of the car with a harness bar and racing seats with five point harnesses.  That would also help with the rigidity of the chassis going through turns.  So that brings the list of major upgrades still needed for track use to better anti-roll bars, cage, harnesses, racing seats, and upgraded rear brakes too.  Some "just barely street legal" racing tires would be good for the track events too.

So, now I need to decide where I want to go, and how I want to get there. I think becoming a NASA instructor would be awesome, but I have always wanted to be a "race car driver" so Time Trial at least gets that element of competition in there.  What to do, what to do?  Of course, I need to win the lottery first ;)

For more photos and videos, use the below links:

No comments: