December 7, 2007
Another track day with TrackMasters Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey. Our day ended early when the engine lost all it’s coolant on the track during my first morning session. We suspect a gasket for the water pump had blown given the amount of fluid dripping below the car whenever the system is pressurized. I’ll know the exact cause of the problem after we tear down the water pump.
Even though my day was done, I did manage to get a ride with Marissa in her Ford Taurus SHO. Marissa’s regular track car is a ’94 Mustang convertible modified for track abuse with a Griggs Racing suspension setup, roll cage, and lots of go-fast parts that bump the engine’s output to a conservative 300 horsepower.
Unfortunately, the Mustang was not track ready for today’s event and Marissa had to go with the SHO as her backup car. For those who understand racing, you know its all about “seat time” with regards to improving your skills and not necessarily what you happen to be driving. As Lance use to say, “Its not about the bike.”
Curious as to how Marissa got into racing, I discovered Marissa’s dad put her on the track at age 16 and she was addicted since day one. The short story is that Marissa can drive circles around anybody at any of the local tracks (Sears Point, Laguna Seca or Thunderhill) and leave a lot of the drivers muttering, “Dang! That driver is fast.”
I jumped in the car for a hot lap session with Marissa on a cold track (temperature was in the high 50′s and it began to rain during the afternoon). When our session ended, I walked away duly impressed with Marissa’s driving and passing skills. Watching Marissa work the SHO to its limits, I took note of her smooth driving style and ability to maneuver 3,300 pounds of metal and glass around a race track.
Riding around in the SHO is a little crazy since the car doesn’t have any race seats or harnesses. Just the factory seats, seat belts and a tiny grab handle on the door to keep me planted while Marissa hauls-ass around the track chasing down Porsches and BMW’s.
The next time I’m at Sears Point, I’ll be searching out Marissa for some personal instruction. Being a resident of Marin County, Infineon Raceway is practically in her backyard and one of her favorite tracks. I could certainly learn a few things from Marissa and knock down my lap times by a few seconds.
July 21, 2007
Being a track junkie takes a certain amount of dedication and commitment, but the payoff and adrenalin rush is huge. Recently, I had a chance to get back onto the race track after a 3 year hiatus and reacquaint myself with Infineon Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma. Just entering the paddock got my heart pumping and I could start to feel the adrenalin rush.
Check out some of the cars and drivers that showed up on a sunny Saturday in July. There must have a been a 2-for-1 sale on Porsche GT3′s because I gave up counting after seeing at least 10 of these über-expensive Porsches in the paddock.
Because this was an open track day organized by Doug Gale of TrackMasters Racing, everyone was in a friendly, relaxed mood and willing to talk about their track cars and the “go-fast” parts attached to them. Driving Ambition brought out 4 Acura NSX’s. The red one is owned by Kip Olson. It’s a ’91 with 3.5L supercharged motor that puts out 520 HP and outfitted with brakes used by F1 cars.
The white Acura is owned by Steve Ghent and has a twin turbo to help it around the track. This car was so fast, Steve lost the air scoop, that forces air to the intercooler, on turn 1.
Bob brought his ’69 Z28 Camaro because the race track is the only place it can be safely run. The 358 cubic inch motor was built by Buzby Motors in Martinez and puts out 650 HP at the crank. Before Bob found this unpolished jewel, the Camaro had been sitting alone and neglected for 22 years years in a garage located in Pennsylvania. Bob immediately recognized the potential and went about having the body cleaned up, installing a roll cage with Kirkey race seats, and building a motor that is just plain scary-fast.
Unfortunately, Bob’s track day ended a little earlier than scheduled when a passing move in turn 8 didn’t go as planned. The short story is that the Z28 went off-track and backed into a wall. The good news is that this isn’t the first fender-bender for the silver rocket. The word is that in three weeks time the damage will be repaired and looking so good that nobody will ever notice there was ever an accident.
One of the stars at Sears Point today is Kim Wright and her ’94 BMW E36 3-series. Kim not only drives her 3-series around the track, but she also built her track car from a salvaged M3. I was duly impressed after learning that Kim had personally removed the engine, transmission and other salvageable parts from M3 and installed them onto her E36 3-series. A roll cage was welded in after removing most of the factory interior pieces, along with bolting on a few choice parts from the Dinan catalog.