This was the end of the braking zone just before the first turn, you can see the weight transfer to the front and to the right.

Saturday was my very first track day. I did it with Speed Ventures at Willow Springs, and I raced with WrongWheelDrive. It was awesome!

That car looks familiar.

So I took my Mercedes with only slight modifications: I replaced the rotors all the way around with my normal Zimmerman’s, then I put Porterfield R4's in the front, and all I could get for the rears were EBC Yellow pads. They did exceptionally well. Oh and I had flushed the brakes a few weeks prior with Castrol SRF for extra race car. Years ago I had lowered the car with Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, and the Kmax adjustable poly bushings all the way around. And of course my tires are Michelin Pilot Super Sports. Staggered of course.

The track was Streets of Willow which was run counterclockwise. We were in the Blue group. Before the first run, and after every run we had an instruction meeting where we went over the basics, and the main instructor made sure to admonish anyone who made mistakes. And he also made fun of Miatas, a lot.

This was mine and WrongWheel’s first track day, and we both paid $15 more for an instructor, which we got for two out of the four runs. The first run was just a parade lap with no passing. WrongWheel and I followed the instructor in his tuned BRZ and we got the proper racing line. With the second they allowed point by passing on the last straight. We also had our instructor on the second run, and we went a little faster. The third run was with no instructor and point by passing on both straights. I kicked major ass on that run. My friend in the stands counted at least six passes on the front straight, and I’d guess maybe six more on the back straight. But, I was so focused I don’t know for sure. More on that:

When you’re racing, even at lower speeds (I don’t think I ever saw more than 100mph) you’re so focused on the car in front of you nothing else registers. Before the very first run, we were told by the main instructor to count the corner workers. I only counted four, but there five. Most people also got it wrong. WrongWheelDrive got it right. I did make note of where they were, but I just couldn’t keep count while at the same time learning the track, learning the racing line, and making sure not to hit my instructor in front of me. And after the third run most people, including myself, realized we hadn’t noticed the numbers on the car in front of us. At first, I thought, “oh shit, I’m not paying enough attention.” But then the instructor told us that was completely normal. He said it takes a lot of time to learn how to process it all. It really is nuts how much you can’t remember after a run because of how much concentration a few things take. At our last meeting after the third run, someone had asked about the schedule where it said there were open laps, and she asked if we were allowed to go. The instructor said it was a case by case basis, but the run would be point by passing ANYWHERE on the track. Both WrongWheelDrive and I both said NOPE! Neither of us was ready for that. It was hard enough for both of us to focus on the few tasks we had. Point by passing on the straights was plenty for us. That way we could just be aware of the person behind us, but not have to worry about them passing us in a corner, and if someone was in front of us we could devote more of our concentration to following the racing line.

Advertisement

And in that note. As I said in the third run I was passing everyone, and this is where it gets interesting. After the third run, WrongWheelDrive and I had our discussion. Apparently, he had a hard time keeping pace if there was no one in front of him. I didn’t, and I kept closing HUGE gaps whenever I passed a few cars. But I totally get why he had this issue. The racing lines were a pain in the ass on Streets. After the back straight, trying to find the line to quickly get through the bowl at turn 7 was an absolute bitch. WrongWheelDrive and I both got it maybe half the time. I think he was getting it more than me. And at turn 12 I just couldn’t get that line. I was being thrown off by the curbing and thinking that was the apex, but it wasn’t.

Now to the last run. On that run, I got put right behind WrongWheelDrive, which is kind of what I wanted because I wanted to see if I could keep up with a Miata driven by someone who can actually drive. The few other Miata’s in the group sucked and had no idea where the racing line was. Since we both got the same instruction, I think we were both evenly matched compared to others in the group, so it was down to who had more pure driving skill, and how well my car stacked up to a Miata. Well, I couldn’t keep up with him. He gained enough ground in each corner, and I didn’t have enough of a power advantage on him that I couldn’t gain enough ground in the straights. That was fun to see.

Now to the mistakes everyone else made. On the second run some asshat in a TT spun out, and I think he got so butthurt by the instructor that he left. A silver S2000 also kept spinning out, and I could tell he was also getting super duper butt hurt in the meetings when the instructor was calling him out. The instructor and I were talking for a while in between sessions and he said guys like that just don’t learn, and if you can’t take a ribbing then you probably shouldn’t be there.

Advertisement

Which brings me to my mistake on the third run. I put two wheels off between turn 4 and 5 and felt the back end getting a little wobbly, but I kept my foot in it and was fine and kept going. I went off because I missed the apex on 4 and the car pushed because I was going in too hot and if I fuck it up my car pushes a lot. But I was actually surprised how much car didn’t understeer, but I attribute that to my chassis tuning. As I said I lowered it years ago and put in the adjustable bushes, and my alignment guy does setups for race cars all the time. Last week before the track day I had my car into the upholstery shop to have the headliner done, and my alignment guy is in the same complex. When I told him I was going to go do Willow he said he would make some adjustments on my car, and I, of course, let him. I think he just toed it out a little. I think we already had the camber dialed in. And he was super awesome and didn’t even charge me. So I think that really helped with any understeer.

But on the last run, after turn 13 on the second to the last lap, I spun the car and went off the track. Whoops. But I laughed. I came around turn 13, heard the tires squeal and the rear broke loose and started to rotate and I just took my hands off the wheel and the car very gently backed up off the track. The car stalled, I turned it back on and waited for the corner worker to tell me to go. I then exited the track, ran my hands over the tires, which didn’t tell me shit, and tried to get back on track, but the checkered flag had just been waived.

Without trying to make too many excuses, I think the tires got too greasy. I had made that turn the exact same way every single lap before. Either it was the tires, or I applied a touch more throttle, and a touch more lock then I should have. Either way, I didn’t hurt my car, no one was behind me, so nothing bad happened, and I experienced something about my car, and I also instinctively reacted correctly, so that’s great.

Advertisement

But now onto the other people’s mistakes of the day. After the third run, I think, WrongWheelDrive and I found out in the meeting that there had been three people who spun out, and we both looked at each other with confused looks. We had only seen one at the end of the front straight where the skid pad is. Or maybe it was the second run because I remember seeing the black TT. But they obviously came in way too hot, and just spun. But on the third run a white mustang went off, and he went off TWICE in the fourth run. He was two cars in front of me the first time he went off, and it looked bad. He was bouncing around, but it’s crazy he went off a second time. His friend in a red Mustang somehow went off after turn 14 just as the front straight started. Not sure how he did that. Maybe it was the same as me and his tires just gave up the ghost.

Also, this silver S2000 kept going off, and apparently he had a passenger! Me thinks that guy shouldn’t have a passenger, and he should get some instruction.

But that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. WrongWheelDrive and I are hooked now, and we both want to go to Fontana next month. I doubly want to go because the instructor was telling me car would be absolutely perfect. He said he races a 911 and also has several Mercedes, including a W202 C Class just like mine, so I became his favorite. After the third run the white mustang said I wasn’t letting him pass, but he was mistaken and thought the corner workers were flagging me down. But the instructor jokingly said he was obviously mistaken because he knows the Mercedes driver wouldn’t make any mistakes. I thought that was hilarious He was such a nice guy too, we talked for about an hour after the second run. And after the last run I went in and told him I went off and he just said it happens, and I did a good job overall. He was awesome, and I want to go to Fontana now and get some lessons from him.

Advertisement

I think he went off four times.

Now, to the video! I had my dash cam in my car so I figured I’d post that too. And after watching it I see where I made mistakes, and where others were dumb and wrong, like the Mustang driver. Now that I’ve looked at the video, I see he was wrong that I should have let him pass. He was slower than me! Not only did I have a power advantage on him (HA!), but I was faster through the corners too. But I do see where what he was talking about with the corner worker flagging me to let him pass, but as you can see from the video, I was being held up by that 135 who was going excruciating slow. You can hear the engine note in the video, or lack thereof, and can tell I wasn’t even on the power. The corner workers were not stellar at this event. The video also includes a bonus from my trip back from lunch with a Mustang holding another Mustang and me up, and then when I tried to pass the asshole sped up. But I was still able to get around him. That’s sad, I’ve got a flipping four banger.

Also. some may want to mute the sound because there are the occasional swear words, especially with the Mustang incident.

Advertisement

Thanks for reading guys.

That rubber got HOT.

Advertisement

Lined up ready to go for the last run.

Advertisement

Advertisement

That would be me, off the track. Whoops.
Never before have I ever had brake dust on my car.

Advertisement

Hood up cooling down.
Friday night. I parked it at work ready to go.