Saturday, August 22, 2009

Autocrossing the weekend away

So I tried autocrossing last weekend for the very first time, and I really liked it. Before you ask, it's basically just like a mini timed racetrack that's set up with cones in a car park (and no, it has nothing to do with motorbikes, dirt or crashing).

The course is obviously a lot tighter than a track, so you never actually get out of second gear for the whole time, but it feels very very fast as you're blasting around. One of the main problems you have to contend with (apart from not hitting the cones) is actually remembering which way you need to drive. You get a walk or two around the course at the start of the day, but the first time the starter gives you the green light to go, you're basically looking at a sea of orange cones all jumbled up in the parking lot, trying to work out if it's left or right. Luckily there are a few pointers (cones laying down as arrows, some white lines painted around the outside of the track etc), and after a couple of trips around, you start to feel a little bit more comfortable.

Feeling comfortable and going fast however, are two very different things. As it was my first time, I didn't have very high expectations - get around without killing myself or the car, and try not to come last. Luckily I managed both. I was actually relatively competitive in the morning - somewhere in the middle of my group, but then I after lunch I screwed up the first run by hitting a cone, and then the next two weren't as fast. Still, I had a blast, and came away wanting to do it again. So of course, I signed up for another one in a few weeks 8-)) Sign up here if you're interested in joining - there's a rumor that Mr Tonkin is going to join me and Wallace out there next time (and it's only 45 bucks!!)...

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Lotus Advanced Driving School

There's going to be a big post on this when I get some time, but for now you'll have to make do with the photos here, and the video below, that Todd took on our instructor demo laps. I think I was in the car in front, but the whole two days was a bit of a fantastic blur.

I'm now a much better driver than I was when I went, and of course am trying to work out the finances for a trip back there sometime soon.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Excitement is building

Lotus School - Group Photo, originally uploaded by losborne.

Only a week to go, and I have the privilege of joining up with some of last years attendees (at least the ones who avoided breaking their ankle snowboarding in Vail....) of the Lotus Driving School, just outside of Vegas. Judging from the emails that have been flying around (and the fact that I'll be spending 2 days on a track in a Lotus), it's gonna be a lot of fun.

This is probably the furthest in advance I've booked anything for a good number of years (as you would know if you've ever seen me a few weeks before a planned trip back home without flights booked yet), so I've been trying to put it out of my mind. But now it's only a week away, flights are booked, hotels are sorted and the final plans are being put in place. Now I just have to find out where I put my helmet for the winter.....

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Monday, June 02, 2008

RMCBMWCCA Spring Driving School

IMG_1384.JPG, originally uploaded by Aaron in Denver.

So the day finally arrived, and I got to spend the whole day (well, a lot of it) driving pretty fast around the track in Pueblo. George came along with his Porsche, and was grinning nearly as much as I was.

Technically I guess it was spring, but it certainly felt like summer, and my face is red enough to prove it. Rumor was that Sunday was going to be even hotter, so I'm glad I hadn't picked that day in the end (although doing both days is always tempting).

We had a few visitors come down to watch, and luckily they also took control of the camera for the day, so there's a small subset of the photos they took here. There were about 600 in total, so loading them all up on Flickr didn't seem like a practical approach. If you were in Group C or D, I've probably got a shot or two of your car, so let me know if you want me to take a look and send them direct.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

One week to go

And just when I thought I had the excitement level under control, Leslie goes and posts about her Lotus driving school.

Still, I need the week to try and get my heel and toe'ing to a decent enough level not to kill me next week. That means if you're in front of me this week on my drive to work, be warned.

(and if you don't know what I'm taking about in this post, you obviously haven't spoken to me in the last 6 months ;-)

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

BMW Car Club - Car Control Clinic

IMG_0501.JPG, originally uploaded by Aaron in Denver.

So this year I wasn't driving, but Wee Dod was, so I went up for an hour to take some pics and offer a bit of moral support.

Judging from the smile, I think George liked it (a lot), so the real driving school down in Pueblo in a couple of weeks should be a blast.

Managed to take way too many pics of course (and thanks to Cliff who provided a few photography pointers - "hold the camera like this", "don't keep pressing" etc etc), but I loaded a selection up on Flickr here if you wanna check them out.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spellchecker Needed

This went up this week... Glad the taxpayers money is being put to good use, and all their QA checks are in place and working.

9 News Sign Story

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

BMW Performance Driving School

So yesterday was finally the day that I got to drive my car like it was supposed to be driven (well, at least sort of). It was the BMW Car Club's High Performance Driving School down at the Pueblo Race Track, and I had been waiting for far too long for it to actually happen. The run up involved the purchase of the new helmet, as well as a tech inspection and brake flush, but it was all worth it in the end.

The class itself was an all day affair, which involved getting up at 5am to get down to Pueblo in time. Not fun, but Red Bull gives you wings, and although I was a little late and slightly panicked on the way down, I made it in time to not miss anything. As it was my first time, I was in D class (it goes from A to D based on experience and skill, and all first timers end up in D from what I can tell, unless you've had prior to race experience, or done some other classes). You start off with classroom sessions where they tell you about the track, the racing line and some basics about how the day will go in terms of building up speed gradually, and getting the racing line down before you start to push it. The instructor was a guy called Bill, and it was obvious that he really knew his stuff - very knowledgeable about everything, and able to deal with all the questions, while making the classes fun.

After the classroom session, you go out with the instructors for a "brush the cone" exercise - the instructor takes you round twice, nice and slow, showing you the correct racing line around the corners. There are cones out on all the corners for the turn-in points, apex and track out point, which help a lot. So once you see the line, they let you go out, nice and slow to get the feel for the right line. It still feels pretty fast - 50 million things to do, all at once, and the instructor giving you step by step instructions. Overwhelming, but lots of fun.

Then a quick break, more classroom, and back out on track again. When you're in the D class, you get the same instructor again, and I have to say Peter, my instructor, was great. He was very patient and encouraging, and really knew his stuff. So, the second time out was a lot quicker, and some corners came a lot easier than others. Pueblo has some pretty technical sections in there (well they felt pretty technical to a novice like me) with 3 or 4 corners linked together in close succession, and not much straight to get set up, so the concentration on the line was very necessary.

After this run, it was lunch, and the instructors get some track time as a reward for putting up with us lot. Peter volunteered to take me out for a real lap as a passenger, and to be honest, it was one of the best rides of my life. He has a tuned E36 M3 with R compound tires, race brake pads and upgraded suspension, and at full blast, it sounds great. I learned a lot, mainly about how fast you could actually take the corners, and how late you could break before you hit the turns. We were flying, and staying ahead of a lot of supposedly faster cars - the Z06 in front stayed right in our sights, but it had way too much power on the straights for us to pass him. If you ever go on this course, make sure you take up the chance to go around with the instructors - it's amazing.

The afternoon sessions were the two best drives. It was suggested that the third session was going to be the best, as the 4th is late in the day, and all the concentration and processing you've done takes it's toll. It didn't quite turn out like that for me - 3 was great - lots of speed through the corners, but for some reason I was having a hard time hitting turn 9 right. It didn't slow me down too much, but it was a little frustrating. I went into a couple of corners a little too hot as well, but nothing too serious.

By the time session 4 came around, I was tired, but still completely wired with adrenalin and smiling like someone possessed. Another different instructor, so a couple of warm up laps hitting the line, and then we were off. This was by far the best session - I was about 3 times quicker than the first run, and there were some sections that I came out of knowing that I just nailed completely. My instructor, Doug, was pretty excited, especially through turns 5 and 6a and b. We took over a few cars, and had a decent little cat and mouse with a 997 S for a couple of laps before I let him past to see how fast he actually was. It turned out we were just as quick as he was, so we tracked together for a lap or two before the chequered flag ended the day.

So, I want to say thanks to all the instructors, corner workers, fellow students and other helpers. It was a great day out, and if you ever think about doing this, I'd definitely recommend it whole heartedly. The next one is going to be scheduled on my calendar as an immovable object, and I'll be waiting anxiously until that day...

One other (non-driving) highlight of the day - I got to meet some of the Lijit team - they're the smart people who make the widget over there on the left that makes searching for stuff so much more helpful. It had a special significance on this particular day, as the main reason I ended up at the driving school was through one of those 6 degrees of separation things that happen on the web. I had added Lijit, and found Tara's website, and she does some interviews of co-workers on Fridays. One of the first (or maybe even _the_ first) was Leslie, and she seems as obsessed about her car as I am (red S4 if you see it blasting around Boulder making wonderful noises). She had a post about the driving school, and how amazing it was, and that's what kicked off my plan. So, I saw a Lijit t-shirt floating around, and basically just went over to see if I could get one 8-) They're a very necessary commodity in the fashion world, so as it was probably my only shot to get one, I removed the typical English "don't speak until spoken too" part of my personality and went for it. And well worth it it was - business card duly dispatched to Todd, so I'm going to spend the next few weeks waiting for the post to arrive, and getting to hang out with a group of smart and fun people was a definite bonus.

So, class day all round, and as Nike keeps telling you "Just Do It". You won't regret it.

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