Spent this past weekend at Thunderhill with NASA. I ran in their HPDE 3 group. This is the second time with the Javelin at Thunderhill but the first time running the turn 5 bypass. NASA always runs the bypass and I found out it’s because you can race side by side through the bypass where only 1 car can go through the regular turn 5.
Steven (sik68 from Protouring.com) was there with his cool ’68 Camaro and saved me a great paddock spot next to him. His car is sinister with it’s primer gray and probably 450hp motor! Gaetano (gitterdun on protouring.com) was their on Saturday too running in the Time Trials group with his monster 600+ hp ’69 Camaro.
The Saturday morning drivers meeting had a surprise for me. I quickly found out that the HPDE 3 group was open passing. All my other track events this year have been mandatory point by passing only. At first I thought, uh oh, maybe I screwed up and should be in group 2. But I decided I’d go out the first session and see what it was like. I gridded near the back and we headed out. We’ll I quickly found out I wouldn’t be the slowest car out there as I was stuck behind a train of about 20 slower cars… Unfortunately I also found I’m still getting a vibration under braking. I think I just screwed up the bedding procedure and am going to have to get the rotors surfaced and get another set of pads… oh well. Next session I gridded further up and for my 3rd and 4th sessions I had Don Curtis (curtiss69 on protouring.com) giving me some driving coaching. I think my best lap on Sat. was a 2:22 something… Saturday night there was a bbq at the track which was fun. Then I headed back into Willows to my hotel and tried to get some sleep.
Sunday I started gridding up front to see if I could hang with the fast guys. There were about 5 cars that were quite a bit faster than me but I had the rest of the field covered and started hitting lap traffic in about 3 or 4 laps. However, I wasn’t as brave when it came to passing as some of the other cars so I’d find myself tucking behind a slow train of cars waiting for a chance to pass and some braver drivers would come barreling through on the inside/outside. Third session on Sunday was a mix of group 3 and group 4 cars. I had a blast and got my best lap of the weekend: 2:18.6. I need to learn to carry more speed through turns 1 and 8 at least. I think the car is capable of shaving another 5 seconds off that time probably… I had 3 more sessions I could of run Sunday but at this point it was about 3:30pm on Sunday and I was thinking about the 2+ hour drive home. I was spent and the car was still in one piece so I decided to call it a day.
I’ve heard comments about running with NASA. Things like “too crowded”, “not enough track time”. I had a different experience. Since my goal is to actually race next year this NASA weekend was the perfect progression for me. After 7 non-NASA track days this year the open passing was a revelation and will make it very hard to enjoy a non-open passing event again. So, if you want some track time but want as much safety as possible pretty much any of the other track groups are good. The car count is lower, the paddock isn’t jammed with big rigs, RV, trailers, etc and you usually get between 30 minutes and 2 hours MORE track time than NASA…
However, if you want to move into actual racing then the HPDE groups are great. That being said I am running Laguna with a non-open passing group in November but that’s because I really want to run Laguna with the Javelin. First video below is my “fast lap” of the weekend. The video below that is the “music video”… check ’em out!