Buttonwillow Raceway Park has been on my radar. It’s fun, fast, technical, and centrally-located in California. It attracts drivers from all across this great state, and for good reason: it’s the great equalizer. At Buttonwillow, a fast lap time can come from a grip advantage (i.e. Miata), a power advantage (i.e. heavy cars), or an aero advantage (Big Wang Gang), and obviously, any combination of the three. This makes it really interesting to see 1) Who shows up, and 2) Who is fast.
In early September I got a call from a friend who told me that he was heading up to Button in two weeks with the Speed Ventures organization. A bit pricier than other local track day groups, SV prides itself on being one of the best organized groups in the game. Their events are generally well organized, easy to navigate and usually go off without a hitch. After having run a few events with them, the price premium is worth it. They structure the event in a pole position grid style formula. Basically, they watch the lap times of every participant throughout the day and each session, they arrange cars on the starting line based on lap times. That way, traffic is minimized as cars should only be close to cars running comparable times, and not getting in the way of each other or causing groups of cars to bunch up and slow everyone down. Smart.
And so it was, that two weeks later, we arrived at BRP.
And it was warm. By 8:00AM, it was already North of 80*F. However, I had an Ace in my pocket, which was the newly- installed CSF racing radiator. A BIG thank you to CSF for being the first sponsor of Jake Stumph Racing! The CSF would hopefully pay big dividends on keeping the car cool, and boost high. To put it to the ultimate test, I brought 10 gallons of the Heartland’s finest.
For turbo BMW Nerds, JB4 tune set on Map 5 with E85-91 octane mix, should be around 18PSI if everything goes according to plan. This ought to be good.
The first session was just a shake down. Traffic was abundant, and it was clear that a good number of the participants here needed some additional driving instruction. I’ll spare you the video, it was boring. I put in 6th gear and cruised for 75% of the video. That said, near the end of the session, a bunch of the slow pokes pitted in (maybe they realized that they were slow rolling road blocks?) and I was able to push it for the last two laps. They felt good, but I hadn’t been to Button in some time, so I was still feeling the track out.
Traffic, traffic, traffic, traffic, HALLELUJAH, SWEET FREEDOM! Surprisingly, I crushed my old lap record here (2:07.250) in the opening session. That’s the power of power.
My driving was all over the place though. Let’s attribute it to the 7 month gap since last being here. After checking out the posted times for the first session, I was walking back to my little spot in the grid and spotted something truly breathtaking.
Range of reaction and emotions:
Give it to me, give it to me now. It sounded majestic. It was raspy and violent, just like an old Porsche race car should be. The metallic howls of the flat six at full throttle made grown men weak in the knees (I saw/experienced it first hand).
Getting back to the action, as I was idling around the paddock, I noticed that the car ticked over 41,000 miles. Woohoo!
Huzzah! Let’s celebrate by going out there and crushing it!
Crushing it indeed. Indeed, many things we’re crushed, lap times, my knee, and the GoPro, which decided to capture none of the footage from the second session. Whoops.
Speaking of my knee, it took a pounding! I’d been bracing myself against the door when cornering, and my knee ended up getting jam into the door pull.
Rubbing knee skin raw: 0/10, not recommended.
Solution: wrap the door pull with super comfy tape to work as padding:
JDM painters tape, good for at least a one second reduction in lap times.
Results are in:
No shit, maybe it actually was good for a one second drop in lap times?!? All kidding aside, this session was much better. The only traffic came in half way through the session and I recovered quickly enough. Non-interrupted lap times were all pretty consistent, hovering around a mid-2:05, but I managed to sneak in a quick 2:04.8 on the first lap while the car was still nice and cool. Score!
Here’s hoping that things come together in session three.
A few 2:05 laps in a row, but no 2:04. I made a few mistakes, but nothing massive. The main thing was tire temperature control. The Hankooks will talk to you, but if they’re howling in protest for too long, they eventually give up the ghost. Oh well, it was still a ton of fun.
Today was a marked improvement in the car’s performance, and the lap times validated that. With the CSF racing radiator, water temperatures never so much as budged all day, and the increased water cooling helped the oil temperatures stay below thermonuclear, allowing my to run some extra boost with the help of E85.
I opted out of session four, as I was worn out. Usually, I’m pretty resilient to baking in a hot car on a hot track, but today was just a bit off for me and that’s just fine. It appears that I wasn’t the only one content to leave early, as a few others had begun to trickle out of the paddock as well. After a few minutes of packing the car up, and checking in with registration, I was on the road again.
It’s not frequently mentioned, but this area of California is actually quite beautiful. There is an odd juxtaposition between the arid, dusty desert, and the views from I-5 as you rip through central California.
The trip breezed on by, except for when it came time to divert from I-5 South to the 405. That is a seriously bumpy stretch of road, to which my stiff suspension and trunk/backseat full up with about 200lbs of spares and equipment took about as well as a drunk person trying to drag an even drunker person home after a long night of partying. That is to say, there were a lot of bumps, bruises and knocks to the head as loose items made their way forward.
All part of the adventure, right?