Archive for July, 2014

Virginia International Raceway – 16-18 May 2014

Monday, July 28th, 2014

After being very cold in Ohio in April, I looked forward to the warmer weather in Virginia in May. I had been there for the same spring event in 2009 and 2011 and it had been consistently sunny and warm, so my fingers were crossed. However, the weather en route was not very encouraging. On Wednesday it was cool and overcast and construction along Interstate 81 contributed to a long day, whereby I reached Chambersburg, PA in about 10 hours instead of 8-1/2. Thursday was no better, with a severe rainstorm just north of Roanoke slowing traffic significantly and making visibility a challenge. It was still raining steadily when I checked into my hotel in Danville. But I met another Porsche driver from North Carolina at the hotel who declared that it would clear by morning, so I remained optimistic. Thursday night I went to the track and got registered and through the technical inspection, so I was all ready for Friday.

I had volunteered to be a mentor for the National Instructor Training program, so Friday morning I attended a meeting and met my instructor candidate. The plan was for me to behave like a new student – after showing the candidate how I instruct – and then allow him to instruct me for three stints. We should have used his car, but it was a BMW race car with a fixed seat and he was a lot shorter than I – so we had to use my car. He was a Middle Eastern gentleman who was very polite and deferential, but too much so. He should have been more assertive and direct in his instruction, to clear up mistakes and improve my driving. I didn’t recommend him as an instructor, but the fellow I evaluated at the end of the day in his new BMW was much better and should do well. The track looked absolutely spectacular, with its newly repaved surface and a fully paved, huge, paddock.

Having been here twice before with the same group, I started bumping into more familiar faces. I spent some time with my instructor from 2009, as well as a club exec from then who was the event organizer in ’09. I also sat with two guys at lunch, one of whom remembered me because his father has a very similar car, with bad track rash on the hood. My neighbours were nice folks from Richmond – a couple who both drive a Honda Prelude but had technical problems today, a single guy (Tom) almost my age with a nicely built 911 race car (but he’s very modest and polite). And a single lady named Beth who’s in the intermediate instructed group in a 996. Tom had never been to VIR before, so I was his resource for knowing where stuff is, etc. There was a guy with a very loud, very fast 65 Mustang which was very cool, but he left.

Saturday was a little….different.  My first stint was at 8:45 and my student’s at 9:45, after he had a classroom session. During mine, I noticed a little bit of stuttering or misfiring and I checked the plug wires afterwards. One might have been a bit loose.

When he began to drive, it was obvious that we were going to have to work on smooth inputs. He jerked the wheel, his hands were at 10 and 2, he braked too late and too sharply and he was on and off the gas up through the esses. Sure enough, I started to feel queasy after 18-19 minutes and I told him to pit. It turned out that he felt nauseous also, which happens, but rarely. So we talked about the reasons for a while and then split up. Next thing I know his car and his extra junk were gone – he never returned.

So it was pretty easy after that. I had two more stints and experienced the misfire again. So I removed the coil and re-wrapped it with electrical tape to avoid it grounding out. Then I noticed that one of the two small wires on it had a loose crimp fitting, which I now believe to have been the cause. I crimped it better and we’ll find out tomorrow. There was a lot of waiting time between stints – due in part to some charity laps – and there would have been a lot of waiting for the BBQ after 5:30, so I left. Those things are OK, but people tend to bunch up in cliques of friendship, leaving the visitors to fend for themselves. Been there, done that – no thanks.

Sunday was a very good day of driving as well as spectating. I really felt comfortable on the track and pushed pretty hard, all the while limiting the engine’s rev’s to about 5500. I’s have to wait until I got home to compare these lap times with my previous best. I had no further trouble with misfiring or stuttering and the car ran great all day. I left after the 2:40 stint since I was starting to feel a bit tired and I had a big day ahead.

Monday morning the drive home was going well until I got to a long steep grade about 5 miles south of Lexington, VA. I was in the right hand lane when all of a sudden I saw great billows of white smoke pouring out from the engine of the truck. I immediately thought the engine had blown or I was driving through some white powder on the road. I quickly moved over onto the very wide shoulder lane and pulled to a stop. As soon as I looked at the front of the truck, it was obvious that I was losing liquid and the smoke was actually steam. Sure enough, when I popped the hood there was steam everywhere and antifreeze was running down the engine and radiator. It didn’t take me long to find the reason – the lower radiator hose had split to a length of about 4 inches. I tried wrapping it with duct tape after drying it off, but the tape blew off after only a half mile or so because I had screwed the radiator cap on too tight, allowing pressure to build.

At this point the shoulder was barely one vehicle wide and I was on a slight uphill grade, but I had no choice but to stop again, since the engine temperature was rising quickly. No  one stopped or even slowed down to see if I needed help, so my only option was to unload the Porsche and drive to the nearest town to look for a replacement hose. At least I had all the tools I would need to effect a repair, assuming that I could find the correct part. The nearest town was Lexington and when I found an Advance Auto Parts store, they didn’t have the hose that I needed. But they phoned around for me and found one in their affiliate store in Staunton – about 35 miles further north. So I bought a couple of hose clamps and gallons of anti-freeze mix from them and drove up to Staunton. I successfully found the second store, bought the hose, gassed up the car and drove back to the truck – a detour of about 130 km. After a couple of hours struggling with the old hose clamps and cutting off the old hose, I was able to complete the repair and get back onto the road. It was more than a little intimidating, lying under the truck with 18 wheelers roaring past at 75 mph mere feet from my head!

At the end of a long day I pulled into a Holiday Inn Select in Gibson, Pa to spend the night. It was a bit expensive, but worth it to get off the road and have a good night’s sleep. I got home Tuesday afternoon about 2 o’clock without further incident. This was a great trip to VIR but next time I could do without the drama! Video is available at

Mid-Ohio – 25-27 April 2014

Monday, July 28th, 2014

After looking forward to it all winter, in March I was finally able to register for the first event of my season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was also warming up a bit, so I could work on the car in the garage without using too much propane for the heater – the price of which had gone through the roof!

So I went through the annual process of changing the brake fluid, checking CV joints, etc. I had already bought four new Yokohama S-drive tires and installed new rear brake discs, as well as changing the engine and transmission oils and adjusting the valves. I also bought two new thermocouples for the cylinder head temperature gauges and replaced the turn indicator assembly which had broken while I was fixing the horn. Then I got a technical inspection and saw that the rear sway bar bushings were badly worn, so I replaced those in April. At our instructor day at Calabogie I also saw that the oil reservoir tank was still leaking a bit, so I bit the bullet and replaced it as well – for $1900!! There’s always one more thing. By the time I was ready to leave for Ohio, I had spent $3600 and the car was as good as I could make it.

We’d had a very long winter with lots of snow, so the weather was still quite cool in late April and most of the melting had come quite late. So the drive to Ohio was pretty cool and it rained all the way to Buffalo. I had left two days early to visit my son and daughter-in-law in North Canton, so I arrived there Tuesday evening and we had a nice dinner. We visited throughout Wednesday until they had to leave for the airport and I killed time until Thursday afternoon, when I left for Lexington. Thursday morning I came out to the hotel parking lot to find that my car and trailer had been totally boxed in by a commercial van! It took me a little while to find the culprits and get them to move the van, but it would have been very interesting if I couldn’t have found them. I arrived at the track a little after 5 o’clock, registered and unloaded the car before checking into my hotel in Lexington. After a long day of driving, I had no trouble falling asleep.

Friday dawned overcast and drizzly and it never improved all day. The temperature was quite low (under 8 C) and the track conditions were as awful as only Mid-Ohio can be. I did 6 laps, in three groups of two – all wet. And I haven’t been this cold since…February! As expected, this place is just ugly when wet. And the patches/sealer areas are so big there’s almost no safe place to go. In my middle stint, I had intended to shoot a demo wet video, but forgot to remove the lens cap! So I had to go out again to get it. It’s really, really slow. At no time were there any more than six cars on track and nobody stayed out long.

Because of the weather, there was lots of time to socialize. I ran into two of the guys I had met there in 2011 and I met my paddock neighbours, including a nice couple from Akron with a 458 Italia and a Cayman S. I helped another fellow tune his PMO carburetors, since he’d forgotten the correct steps to follow and I had recently done mine. At the end of the day, I met my student who seemed like a nice fellow with some familiarity with the track. I had a quiet evening of reading and looked forward to better weather for Saturday.

Day two was clearer but still quite cool – cooler than it had been a year earlier for my son’s wedding in North Canton. I met up with the very nice lady I had met during the wedding weekend and had a look at her three cars – a 2011 Carrera S, a 968 race car and a Ferrari 360 Modena track car, as well as the hauler from her business in Columbus. We had several nice visits through the day and got a good picture of the two of us with our cars, which are the same model and colour but seven generations of Porsche 911 apart.

My student was very good and had quite a bit of experience with the track. We just working on fine tuning. He didn’t  want to solo, although he could, because he appreciates having the instruction – which is fine. My driving was good although I didn’t set any lap records. Just had a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of instructors my age who feel the same way.

At the end of the day there was a nice meal available, with lots of socializing in the technical shed.

Sunday was another good day, although it was 3C this morning; and windy. My first stint wasn’t until 9:40, so I had to try to stay warm. It got really crazy out there with expanded passing – which means ANYWHERE, with a point-by. Having a slower car, my left arm got a work-out.

Two cool things happened. The photographer caught me on three wheels going through Carousel, so I bought a print.Secondly, I put two tires in the dirt exiting the Keyhole while pointing a few cars by. No damage or loss of control, but the Golf behind me had to eat some gravel.

I left with one stint remaining – enough is enough. Met some great people – with too much money – and made some long-lasting track friendships.

Oh – I shared a hug when I left. Video is available at