This past weekend I did an HPDE at NOLA Motorsports with NASA, and it was kick ass. Warning: this is long, but has car porn sprinkled throughout.
My father and I did this same event last year, and we decided to do it again this year. I brought my wife in a Mustang fully packed with 4 wheels, jack, jack stands, tool box, brake pads, impact wrench, and some other stuff. She was not amused at the lack of space, so I think if I keep doing this to her, I will get a trailer sooner than I thought haha. So early Saturday morning, my dad and I drive the 20 minutes from the French Quarter to the track (btw, that is one of the biggest selling points of NOLA Motorsports: you can stay in the French Quarter, eat and drink like a king, and still make it to a high quality track in 20 minutes time). We were both running in HPDE Group 1, since we never had been promoted within NASA. I actually met my dad's instructor outside the gate while we were waiting, he was driving a 2013 Boss 302, that had 6k miles that were all either on the track, or driving to the track.
After swapping brake pads and wheels, we were ready for our first session. I spent most of the first session re-learning the line, and absorbing as much as I could from my instructor. He reminded me to keep my eyes up, and to not jerk the wheel when down shifting, which is something I didn't realize I did until he told me. Even from this session, I could tell my car was fast with the Continental slicks on this track. They gave me a much larger advantage here than at COTA, which was the first track I ran the tires on.
One of the cars in my group was this RHD Skyline GT-R. I talked to the guy, and he said it had actually been in the states for a couple years, and had been titled in Florida. He had just rebuilt the motor on the car, and it was his first time on track, so he was really babying the car around. I don't blame him though, because the car was mint. I talked to him after, and he said he had so much fun he thinks he is going to sell the Skyline and buy a prepped Miata.
At grid during the second session, my instructor was nowhere to be found. I drove around looking for him, but couldn't find him. Instead, I asked one of the guys in charge to ride with me, and we headed out on track. This time, I made a conscious effort to keep my eyes up, looking through to the next corner. This small little mental note made a HUGE difference in my driving, and I drove what I thought to be the best session of my life up to that point. I was tearing the track up, and the new instructor in my car was having a blast, hooting and hollering through every turn. After about 2 laps, he told me I had no business being in Group 1, and that he thought I should be in Group 3!! He also gave me the best compliment I have ever received on my car: he asked me if I had a shop build the car for me, and was amazed when I said I had built it all myself.
After some delicious lunch at the kart track, we decided to check out the shop at NOLA, since they are now a licensed Porsche race shop. There were some amazing freaking cars in there, and those are the pictures I am sprinkling through this post.
After the second session, my instructor immediately moved me up to Group 2, where you get to run solo. I decided to stay in 2 for a bit before moving up to 3, and because I still got to run with my dad. So for the next session, I finally got to test out my Harry's Lap Timer app. For those that don't know, it is a GPS based app that has almost every track in the world mapped out, so you can get a pretty good sense of your lap times. The next session out, I decided to start getting closer and closer to the grip limit of my Continentals, since I hadn't even found it yet. I kept getting quicker and quicker through the esses, passing every car in my group I came up to, even though the only cars I had more horsepower than was probably 2 Miata's and a Integra Type-R.
After completing that session, I hopped in the car with my dad's instructor. This dude drove like a god damn maniac. He was pretty much in a controlled drift around the entire track, but he passed every car except for a TT prepped Viper! It was really astounding, considering every other good driver I had ridden with was mostly smooth, but this guy had constant see-sawing, with the rear of the car always stepping out. It really does go to show that different driving styles can be just as fast as one another. I also was really impressed with how good the car was at braking, so I made a mental note to try and brake later and later next time.
The last session I set out with the intent of braking hard and late. I started putting in some clean laps, and I noticed I had already dropped 2 seconds off my previous sessions time! I then decided to take the esses in 4th rather than 3rd, and after some more clean laps, I put in a 2:09, 3 seconds quicker than my best lap in the previous session. Soon after this though, I started smelling fuel. I pulled off into grid, and started looking around the car. Nothing seemed amiss though, so I went back out. I really didn't get a clean lap after this though, and my session ended. The rest of the trip consisted of packing up, heading back to New Orleans, eating at a mind-blowing restaurant called Doris, drinking a couple hurricanes at Pat O's, and not getting shot by the psychos that emptied two clips into the crowd while trying to shoot each other (which happened right near Pat O's 2 hours after we left). All in all it was a fantastic race weekend, and I hopefully will be going back with the Texas NASA region in September.
TL;DR: went to NOLA, ran around the track, my car is quicker than it has any right to be, I've improved as a driver, saw some pretty pretty cars, drank and ate like a king, didn't get shot.