Since I do not
(yet) have a full roll-cage (only a roll bar) in the GTV6, I decided
to buy a set of arm restraints instead of the usual window net.
The purpose of both of these devices is to prevent the arms from
ending up outside the car when/if the car rolls (I imagine it would
really hurt a lot if this were to happen!)
One other item I bought, an absolute necessity for anyone
who wears a helmet on the track is a neck collar. Many of the injuries
you see on track can be prevented by wearing a neck collar so invest
consisted of the usual panic to get everything ready for the drivers
meeting at 8:30am. This preparation included removing everything
from the interior, installing the (Carbon/kevlar) racing brake pads
and installing the track wheels & tyres. I should mention that
my tyre setup is still a bit odd as I have Yokohama AO32R's on the
back and a set of old BFG Comp TA R1's on the front (both 205 50Zr15
on Campagnolo wheels).
Since I was
in the race group, we were first on the track at 9:00am or so. I
was able to size up the competition which consisted of some fairly
impressive machinery! A Dodge Viper, highly modified 300+ Hp Turbo
Toyota Celica (complete with racing slicks), a Porsche 914-6, a
VR6 Golf, Race prepared Mazda RX-7, a beautiful Alfa Duetto (rumored
to have a 180Hp engine!), a 105 GTV (also quite powerful) and my
GTV6 (the brightest car in the pack ;-)
Since the Streets of Willow Springs is a very tight track, only
2nd and 3rd gears are used,
I realised immediately that I would have gearbox syncro problems.
I have a (tired) stock 1981 gearbox in the car still and I suspect
the syncro's are original! I learned to double de-clutch that weekend
- and things improved throughout the weekend. I also lamented the
lack of a limited slip differential as I could feel (and hear) the
inside (light) wheel spinning during hard acceleration through the
tight corners. I also found that the Alfa generally handled better
than most of the cars - and the tighter track meant that my horsepower
disadvantage was not such a big problem as it would be on, for example,
the big track at Willow Springs.
We started out
with the usual reconnaissance laps, but overtaking/racing started
immediately which was quite nice! The extremely tight track is a
real test of the brakes and the tyres of a car and I experienced
failure of both these during the weekend. The brakes would begin
to fade severely after about 5 hot laps. I surmised that the cause
of this was the rear brakes getting too hot, since the fronts seemed
to work perfectly and I had better pads installed up front. For
the next event, I will concentrate on getting the brakes up to scratch,
including installation of the SZ Zagato ventilated disks, cooling
scoops & ducts (for all 4 disks and calipers) and a brake proportioning
valve so I can set up the front to rear bias (the backs are working
too hard). I think the tyres suffered the most damage during the
skid pan sessions - to the point that I needed to purchase a (used)
set of replacement BFG's for the front in order to participate in
the graduation race on Sunday afternoon.
consisted of alternating hours spent in the classroom, on the skidpan
and on the track. The track sessions were the best by far (of course)
as we were able to practice race-craft including driving (at high
speed) two abreast around the track. We also did many laps driving
"off the racing line" in order to feel what it was like
to drive in odd places during passing maneuvers (or whilst defending
a position). The best part were the practice starts of course -
and we each got a chance to be the "polesitter" - the
car at the front of the pack. The procedure is to line up on the
grid in two columns with the "polesitter" on the inside.
The parade lap follows and then the cars form up again into their
designated two column wide format as the starting line is approached.
The car on pole determines the pace and when the flagman waves the
green flag, the race is on and is basically a full throttle drag
race to the 1st corner - which was often negotiated 3 cars abreast!
race was, as previously mentioned, the last event on Sunday afternoon.
The course had been adjusted to lengthen the front straight by including
the skid-pan as turn 1. We also ran the course anti-clockwise so
had no time to learn the track in advance.
I was assigned
position number two, outside line, at the front of the pack alongside
the Mazda RX7. Our instructor based the grid assignment on the relative
horsepower of the cars (least powerful car at the front) - though
I later found that the Mazda had a significant advantage being both
lighter and more powerful than my GTV6! I felt that my car handled
better though (it is an Alfa after all!) The start of the race was
exhilarating to say the least! The Mazda pulled away and was able
to retain 1st position through the first lap, but I was close behind.
As the race progressed, I found that the Mazda pulled away on the
straight (which was about 110 mph in 4th gear), but I always caught
up through the 1st corner (the skid pan) by taking a much tighter
line. On about the 4th lap, the Mazda started making errors on the
tight right hander after the exit from the skid pan corner - and
I was actually able to overtake for the lead of the race following
a mistake which slowed the Mazda down exiting this corner!
I must admit
to feeling the "red-mist" of being in the lead - though
I tried to calm down and drive smoothly. I could see the faster
cars gaining slowly as the race progressed - and felt my brakes
failing as I pushed harder to try and keep the gap constant. I
had to resort to pumping the brakes to slow sufficiently for the
corners - which is not a confidence-inspiring feeling! Eventually,
the Toyota Celica driver caught up and overtook - I did try a few
(Damon Hill style) blocking maneuvers
(just for fun ;-). I had to retire during the next lap and exited
to the pits.
So that is a
synopsis of my first experience racing! I'd like to encourage all
of you So. Cal. transaxle Alfa guys to join me in the race group!
I imagine that
a GTV6 (or Milano) modified with a Supercharger and appropriate
brakes and tyres would make a formidable contender!
Sponsorship would be welcome by the way if you happen to represent
the Supercharger arm of Vortech Inc! ;-)