March 1st, 2003

The first track day of the year! It was an Alfa club day. I had been fiending for the track for a while, so I was really hoping this day would have good weather. It was raining the Friday before, but stopped overnight. When I woke up in the morning everything was soaked but the radar showed no rain in the area, and the skies were clearing, so I decided to go to the track and investigate.

When I got there the sky was almost clear, just some high fog that I knew would burn off. The pavement had already started to dry, so I decided to go ahead and tech in, and pay my $100. When I got the schedule I was surprised to see that we were going to have SIX sessions. Good deal. There weren't as many neat cars are usual, but there were some. The first session of the day the track was very wet and I was sliding around quite a bit. Lap times were around 2:13. The second session the track was almost dry, and I was running around 1:51 every lap, but I still didn't feel very comfortable out there yet. I started feeling better and better by the 3rd and 4th sessions, where times were around 1:45, on average. By the 5th session I was feeling fairly comfortable.

Photo courtesy of David Birkbeck,

I was applying the brakes much later this track day than the previous ones and they seemed to stop working as well on my last two sessions. PIR is pretty tough on brakes, as you slow from 120mph to 40 for the chicane, and 120 to 70 on the back straight. On the second to last session going into the chicane I had bad enough brake fade that I had to go straight, bypassing the chicane. The very same thing happened on in the next session, also on the second to last lap, but this time even worse. Luckily no one was in front of me either time. Below is a look at the left front rotor after the 6th and final session; you can see quite a bit of pad transfer.

Both sessions I was consistently lapping at 1:41. This is the first time I've had an in car camera, so the first time I could accurately time my laps. The in car camera really did help after the event, because I could see all the things I am doing wrong, so hopefully I can improve on them next time. I also have to be sure to check the camera mount before each session, because during my last session the bracket actually fell off, hitting my passenger, Dave, in the shoulder. With some quick thinking he grabbed the camera and pointed it at me, which contributed to the video (10meg mpeg). The video is of a 1:41 lap, including some passing, views from in the car facing forward, backwards and at me, as well as views from the stands.

A very fun track day, and I now know of some specific things I need to work on from the video. Also I'm going to see if I can find the money to do a brake upgrade soon.

March 28th, 2003

A BMW club day at PIR (photo index page). Due to my brake fade problems at the last track day I decided to forgo running today. Dennis purchased some pads (Repco MetalMaster) and rotors (Euro floating rotors) that I was thinking about getting, so I wanted to see how his held up at the track before I went ahead and got them. Also, I was originally thinking about not doing the event because there was a chance of rain. By morning that chance went away and it actually turned out to be perfect weather for the event. Once things kicked off I was regretting my decision not to run. I should have and just taken it easy on the brakes. Oh well. During the first session, Dennis was black flagged because his brakes were reported to be "on fire." After he came in it was determined that it was probably just the paint on the pads that was burning off. At the end of the day he said the pads worked a bit better than stock, but they were half gone (they were brand new)! So I probably won't be getting them.

For the second session of the day I went down to the chicane in hopes I could catch Dennis' brakes on fire. Unfortunately, they were done burning. I did get some decent pictures at the chicane, though, including an E46 M3 getting rather squirrelly.

There was quite an impressive turn out of M Coupes at the track today. Just shows what an enthusiast's car it is. Out of about 75 cars at the track, 8 of them were M Coupes. Roy was able to organize a photo shoot of all the coupes at the entrance to the track, underneath the BMW flags. Pretty cool.

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I met several M Coupe owners that I hadn't before, so that's always good. Hopefully they'll be there at future days as well. Dave, with the silver M Coupe next to mine in the photo above, was kind enough to give me a ride on his last run. It's amazing how fun just riding as a passenger is.

You may also view all of my pictures from this event.

May 12th, 2003

After my brake fade at the last track day something had to be done about my stock brakes. Originally I was thinking my fade was due to the pad transfer of the stock pad, but now I'm wondering if my brake fluid was just boiling. So I figured before getting new rotors, I'd first just try new pads and brake fluid. I went with the Porterfield R-4S pads from iigomotiv. They seem to have the lowest prices on the net. After I ordered them on Saturday I got an email from iigomotiv saying the pads were being drop shipped directly from Porterfield. They arrived on Thursday. Not too bad. On Saturday I went to Matrix Engineering and got some Motul RBF 600 brake fluid. This stuff has a higher boiling point (594F dry) than the Ate Super Blue (536F) that everyone recommends. Today (Sunday) I went up to Roy Lewis' house to do the swap (since I don't have a level driveway). I had planned on taking all kinds of pictures of the whole process, but that just wound up not happening. Oh well. I read this article that recommended using NAPA's CRC Disc Brake Quiet to stop the terrible brake noise that I hear these have. We gooped a bunch of it on, and installed the new pads, drained the brake lines, and put the new fluid in. The old fluid certainly looked a bit scorched. I should have been smart like in the above mentioned article and only applied the anti-squeal compound on the contact area, but I wasn't, so it looks a bit unsightly for now. Should clear up (or cover up, rather) once some brake dust gets spread around.

While at Roy's I figured I'd also modify the air intake to allow a bit more air in, which basically just improves the sound. When I mentioned that to him he said, "Well why don't you just use this." And held up his old Dinan Cold Air Intake from his wrecked M Coupe. What a deal! He said he'd let me borrow it until he got another M Coupe, or at that point I could buy it from him. Cool. We had no instructions on how to install it, and the shop did it for him, so we monkeyed around a bit until we figured it out.

After we were done I tried to follow the break in procedures found here to bed the new pads in. I started having really bad fade after about 5 hard stops, though... so that makes me a bit worried. The last time I drove the car was during the bedding in process, so I can't really tell how good the brakes are yet. We'll see. The fact that I had bad fade on my SECOND pass (after I let them cool) after 5 hard stops from 60 to 5 does concern me, though. Also, towards the end the brakes were howling like the oldest city bus I have ever heard. :-( I may have to remove the pads and put more anti-squeal compound on there...

The Dinan CAI is pretty nice. I don't even really notice a difference up until about 4,000rpm. Around 4 grand it starts getting a bit louder, and at 5,000rpm and above the car makes an all out howl. It sounds pretty sweet. I've only driven about 30 miles so far, and certainly not in a very spirited mode since the pads were being bedded, but I think I'm going to like the sound. I highly doubt there is any performance improvement, though. In looking at the design vs. the stock setup, I think the Dinan one is actually getting LESS direct air flow. It's basically resting on an open hole in the ducting. The stock setup actually has close ducts all the way to the intake. I'll comment more on the CAI and brakes after more driving, and certainly at the upcoming track day on the 23rd.

May 23rd, 2003

Another awesome Lotus club day at PIR. The track gods were nice again, with a cloudy week in the upper 60s giving way to a beautiful day at PIR where the high reached 86 degrees! I was a bit apprehensive about my new Porterfield R-4s pads, since I didn't really like the way they were feeling on the street. I just knew I had to take it easy the first few sessions as I got use to the brakes. Some very unique and rare cars showed up, including one with eyes for headlights and an Aston Martin with a glorious sounding V12 in it.

The first session we spent the first two laps under yellow at speeds around 60mph. By the third lap we were up to speed, and by the end of that lap there was a full course black flag (similar to red) and we all had to come in the pits. Rounding turn 12 we saw the culprit: a red spec looking Miata into the tire wall. After the pit stop we only got two more laps in, so I couldn't really get into a rhythm. The second session started out much better, but there was quite a bit of traffic at first. Finally the track opened up and I started running some 1:43 laps. Half way into the session I caught a Z3. As we were going around turn 6 something unsettled the car and I started to slide the back end out. As this was happening I kept on saying to myself "don't lift... don't lift..." and watching the video I didn't. Instead, just as I almost had it recovered from the drift I way over corrected and got myself cranking the wheel in opposite directions. Once that happened it was all over, and I went off into the grass, heading for the wall. Luckily I stopped, after doing a 360, short of the wall. Back into the pits for me, and a full course black flag to sweep the track.

Between sessions I watched the video of the spin over and over again to try and see what happened. I'm still not sure, but something certainly unsettled the car and it shook back and forth before the spin. I wasn't even going as fast through the turns as I was the whole rest of the day. During the first few laps of the third session I tried taking the exact same line through 6, but at a slower speed. The car never shook like it did before the spin, so I wonder if perhaps there was something on the track? Who knows... The third session was a great one, though. So was the fourth, fifth, and sixth! SIX sessions! Four of them were 20 minutes, one was 15, and the last session was an open session with intermediate, advanced, and race cars all at once, and was 35 minutes. That's over two hours of actual on track time. See why Lotus days rule?

The pads held up very well. Once they get warm they stop like crazy. The only problem is the pedal feel remains terrible throughout, and it nearly goes to the floor. Due to this, I'm going to have to do something about my heel-toe technique. What I've been doing is just using the ball of my foot to brake, and the right hand side of my foot for the gas. Since the pedal is going so far to the floor, I wind up being on the gas and the brake at the same time! This is bad slowing from 120 to 40 for the chicane. So I'll have to start doing true heel toeing... time for some practice.

Above photos courtesy David Birkbeck

All day long I was running 1:41-1:42s, lap in and lap out. There were a few 1:40s thrown in there, and a stretch in the 5th session where I had 5 laps in a row at 1:40, and a couple a few tenths below that, so we'll just say 1:39 :-) I felt faster than the Alfa day earlier this year, but I guess not by much. Oh well, 1-2 seconds is something. And I was certainly more consistent throughout the day. In the last, 35 minute session I didn't have a single lap below 1:41 and most were 1:42. I think I just started "cruising" around the track, not thinking to improve at all. The last few laps really opened up, as people started pulling off the track, so I started pushing harder. Unfortunately my tape ran out half way through the first lap I started pushing harder. Oh well. I'm sure I must have ran a few 1:39s in there.

The video (10.5 megs, 2:08) consists of 6 clips:

  1. Passing a V8 Lotus Esprit after it touches the grass in turn 8.
  2. Miata in tire wall at turn 12.
  3. It's hard to see, but the red 300ZX (in front of the Esprit) touches the grass/dirt on the back straight while conducting a pass of a slower car. Lucky he didn't go into the wall after that... You see me shake my head after I see the puff of dirt come up (which you probably can't see due to the reduced size/compression).
  4. Quickly gaining on a Z3, then spinning.
  5. dp's Westfield in front of me after he passed me on the back straight.
  6. Passing three cars after the chicane. In the race car group they allow this, and race car rules applied in the last open session, and I didn't want to be stuck behind these guys through all the turns, so I thought, "what the hell, I'll try my hand at this short pass," and blew passed them. I almost straightened out too much when I saw the RX7 I just passed was coming my way, but it worked out. Just used all of the track instead. ;-)

After people started leaving, a bunch of cars lined up for a quick photo shoot. All these drivers were in the intermediate group, and very social throughout the day. Nice people.

What a great track day. I was never passed in the intermediate group, and only passed by 4 cars in the open session (three of which ran in in the race car group, the other in advanced). Unfortunately the next Lotus day is going to be open to Lotuses only, since the west regional Lotus meet is going taking place in Portland at that time. What a drag. In any case, the thing to work on for next time is just not getting into the "cruising" mode.

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David Paris
Last modified: Mon Feb 2 21:30:15 PST 2004