On Thursday, May 24st, the Alfa club hosted a driver training/ track day at Hallett Motor Racing circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma. It was a lot of work to get my old girl there, but also a lot of fun!
The Alfa received a metric shit ton of work in prep for this event, most of which has been detailed elsewhere. The days before the track day we did a lot of shit. Against all odds, however, we actually got the car ready in time!
My first lap of the track was hanging out the back of a minty, manual Jeep Cherokee. No, that wasn’t a typo. We had two instructors on site and that is what one of them was driving.
We drove the track at about 20mph, detailing the apexes, lines, and tricks of the track. On the 2nd lap we actually got out and walked a few of the trickier corners. It was a great way to demystify the track and explain driving technique.
Ok so two disclosures: I know nothing about racing and nothing about this track. The information in this section is either regurgitated from what I heard yesterday or pulled off the internet.
Allegedly the track was created in the 70s when the founder bought a pasture, and drove his Trans Am (?) around it, staking out corners along the way. An avid racer, he wanted to create a track that had all of the trickiest features he’d encountered and thus Hallett was born.
From the website:
Hallett Motor Racing Circuit is a 1.8 mile, 10 turn Road Racing course in the rolling Osage Hills of North Eastern Oklahoma. Hallett has over 80 feet of elevation change and is considered Technically Difficult. It has wide, grassy run-off areas and zero concrete or Armco barriers. Hallett is unique in that it can be run in either clockwise or counter-clockwise directions making it two completely different race courses.
Being a newb, this all seems perfectly normal. Apparently all of the corners at Hallett are “late apex” and that certainly seems to be the case. Either way, the track is set up for handling over raw power and it was fun to drive in a small, nimble car.
There is one straight where I could get up over 80 MPH, but most everything else was mid-range. For the most part I kept the car in 3rd and went for it. Two of the corners required 2nd, and one straight required 4th. I guess a couple of the GTVs were playing with 5th which is pretty nuts.
So yeah. I think the founder (whose name escapes me) spoke at the VCOA national meet last year and was a truly a crazy old man, but in a good way. Rumor is he co-founded the track with a buy-out clause which stipulated that if one of the founders offered to buy out the other, the offered party was allowed to buy out the offeree for the same price.
Interesting idea, but apparently it didn’t work out well for him as he low-ball offered the other founder and was therefore bought out.
Does that make any sense? Don’t worry about it. This is not the section you’re looking for.
Sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t end up going off the track and my car seems to be mostly OK after the trauma of the weekend. My stlye was (apparently) to go very hard on the engine, leaving it at full throttle more often than not, and pretty easy on the brakes. As a result the little Alfa got a through Italian tune up and I never had problems with brake fade.
The track itself was a lot of fun, with a good mix of “I’ve got this”, “I’ll never get this” and “OH SHIT!!!” corners. The right mix of making you feel like a newb and a racecar driver in the same lap.
We did 20 minute sessions with 5 drivers to the track at a time, which turned out to be basically the exact right amount of time to get out and enjoy yourself, but you were about ready to go in about the time you were supposed to.
I did get passed.... a lot. But I also passed someone! Actually the same girl twice. I think she was having car troubles.
Speaking of car troubles, despite there being around 20 Alfas present, most of them older than me, the mechanical problems were few and far between.
Scott in the green Duetto kept ejecting one of his injectors, causing him to go from having a good lap to suddenly running on 3. To his credit, he fixed it every time and headed back out. The last fix seemed to take and he got a full session completed without issue.
A couple of the guys spun off, but no one had any damage as a result. There was also one father and son team that kept getting black flagged, but it was (mostly) for stupid shit.
JR in a recently resurrected GTV had an amazing final session hunting down and actually passing the 4C, which is a hell of a feat in a 1750CC car from the 60s. Mad respect for both the driver and the car.
While I was hanging out with the driver’s kids (my age-ish) and after the 4C came in we noticed a distinct lack of the GTV’s loud exhaust echoing across the track. A touch worried, we walked over to the overlook to see what was what. Driving that aggressively, there is certainly a concern he’d gone off on an unmonitored corner.
Shortly thereafter we got the news...
His fuel pump died! Last lap of the last session, he wasn’t even mad.
Track day overall had the best possible outcomes:
- I got a lot of work done on the Alfa, making it a better vehicle overall. My love for it has deepened.
- Nothing major broke
- I am not addicted to track days
Those last two were the major concerns. Both would have been expensive. I had always suspected that if I got out on a race track I would be hooked. Luckily I enjoyed it, but when the day was over my thinking was “I am really looking forward to doing this again next year.”
This is because I (A) don’t enjoy competition and (B) have a lot of mechanical sympathy.
The track was fun, challenging, and very pretty.
Overall it was a lot of fun and, as previously mentioned, I am really looking forward to doing it again next year.