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My Laguna Seca track day adventure

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My Laguna Seca track day adventure

Old 11-15-2018, 12:22 AM
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My Laguna Seca track day adventure

Did an event with the Golden Gate Lotus Club yesterday. I live about 100 miles from Laguna Seca, so I stayed the night before the event at some flea bag motel about 15 miles from the track. I was running late in the morning and my always more or less reliable RX8 wouldn't start when I was leaving for the track... first time ever! Why now?!

Clearly an electrical issue, car wouldn't crank, would barely light the dash lights. I rapidly alternated between sulking and panicking for a couple of minutes, then popped the hood. I left the headlight switch in the on position so I could see if I had power when I was standing by the open hood. Since I had no other ideas, I reached in and wiggled the neg battery cable and voila, I couldn't believe my luck, first try and the lights were on, and, I had enough power for the car to start. What a relief. I drove a few blocks to Walgreen's and left the car running in the parking lot while I ran inside, I didn't want that to happen again. I actually made it to the track with about fifteen minutes to spare before the driver's meeting, and it was the first time that morning I felt I could relax.

I was in the novice group because that was the only group that still had an opening at the late date I registered at. Since the advanced group went out first, I got a ride with my pal Mike in his emerald green Elise. I'd ridden in that car before, even drove it for one autocross run, but I'd forgotten what a trick it is to get into one of those low and little things. Mike was nice enough not to laugh at me while I contorted my body into positions I didn't know it was capable of, and I finally got settled in without rupturing anything. What a cool little car. I've ridden in an assortment of Elises and Exiges, and I always enjoy them. I will state the obvious and say "those are really good sports cars". Fast, nimble, look good, sound mean, and they seem to be very reliable, Mike's been tracking and autocrossing his for years, and I don't recall him ever mentioning any serious problems. They are definitely on my want list.

In turn, Mike rode with me when I headed out with the novice group. I normally drive in the intermediate or advanced group, and I was trying to remind myself not to be condesending or overly confident when driving with the newbs. I'm experienced, but I'm just an average driver, and I didn't want to get in over my head trying to blow through traffic. I was pretty good until my third session when three cars were merging onto the track from the pits and I thought I could beat them all to the next turn. I dive bombed the lead guy, who was in a white first gen Miata. I know I scared him because he yelled something at me. I couldn't hear what he said, but it might of been "A**hole!". At least it should have been, because I was. I apologized to the guy in the paddock, and he was well over it by then, hardly seemed to care at all.

The powers that be switched me to the advanced group for the afternoon, so I went from being the cool guy who was one of the fastest in his group to the dipshit who was one of the slowest, kind of like going from grammar school to high school.

I thought running with the fast guys would inspire me to run faster myself, but instead I was slower, probably because I had to keep slowing down to let all those faster cars by. I did eventually run a 1:56.0, which is respectable, I think, about what the average Spec Miata would run. Mike told me his best times were high 40s, but I'd think an Elise would be faster than an RX8. I was actually hanging with, or even beating, some of the Elises through the turns, but they seem to have better acceleration.

I realized a while ago that no matter how much you know about driving, and how much you practice, and even if you have really good physical talent, lightning quick reflexes and laser-like eyesight, a lot of track driving comes down to having gigantic chrome plated *****. To be really fast, you've just got to be willing to go ten-tenths, to balance the car on the edge of it's best performance and flaming disaster. I've ridden with some really good and fast drivers, and those guys are always making little corrections as the car is about to over or understeer, constantly working to keep the car in control while using all its available traction, just barely hanging on. I'm rarely willing to do that, I'm happy in my little comfort zone.

As usual, there were more non-Loti than Loti at this sold out Lotus club event. Great as they may be, there just aren't very many of those cars in the world. My favorite Lotus was an Eleven that an old feller had owned for forty years. He was going to give it to his adult son, and together they were prepping it and the son was learning the ins and outs of driving it. It was every car enthusiast's father and son fantasy come to life, and holy crap, what a cool old vintage race car that mechanical work of art is.

Some other cars of note were an old 1990 Eagle Talon that was really fast. This was the first gen, when it was slightly wedge shaped and angular looking. With its faded dark blue paint covering its beat up body, it looked like an old piece of junk that would be sitting in some degenerate's back yard for years, but that thing was as fast as the Porsches and Vettes. I talked to the guy while we were getting gas, and he said it was awd and made 330 at the wheels. He seemed to be having a very good time, he was constantly laughing. Now that's a guy who knows how to enjoy his car. I didn't ask and he didn't tell me, but the guy probably had about $5000 in the car. I love cars like that.

In contrast, there was a gorgeous black FD RX 7 with a sbc in it. I didn't ask and he didn't tell me, but the guy must have had at least $50,000 in the car. Really well done swap, was even smog legal. Not only is the body styling great, that's one of my all time favorite interiors, the way the dash wraps around the driver, and the array of analog, black faced gauges. Just perfect. Along with the Elise, that's another car on my wish list.

There were other interesting cars, but I didn't see them up close or talk to the owners, an Exocet, a Formula Ford, a very fast and radical looking modern Porsche race car, and some others I can't recall at the moment.

As for my 2005, other than the difficulty starting, I had no issues. The cable wasn't even loose when I shook it, but for whatever reason it helped. After I got to the track I loosened it, repositioned it slightly and retightened it, and it seems ok. Might be an issue inside the battery, like a damaged post connection. I did suffer some fuel starvation, but that was my fault. I should know by now that the tank needs to be over a quarter full or it acts like it's running out of gas. I got more gas, problem solved. Car ran a little hot, around 235, but I don't know if that's too hot, it got me home. But what a pleasure it is to drive that car. It might be a little lacking in power, but it handles so nicely, and it has the best brakes of any car I've owned. The guy with the Talon used to own one, and he was really praising its handling. I always feel like I can trust that car's handling, it won't surprise me and it'll do what I want it to do. It's also nice to have a unique car. I used to drive Miatas, and when someone would ask what kind of car I had, I almost felt like I had to apologize for being so uncreative in my car choice when I told them, just another Miata, like half the people here. My RX8 was the only one there.

I had a delightful time. I love the Golden Gate Lotus Club, they are very nice people and put on smoothly run events that give you a ton of time, seven twenty minute sessions this time around, sometimes more at events that aren't sold out.

I always feel like I got away with something at the end of a track day if my car didn't break and I didn't crash, once again I had cheated death. Which reminds me, almost forgot, on my way home I witnessed a murder. That's right, a murder... a murder of crows.

I was getting gas at a station in Monterey, on the main drag across from Safeway, and in the few minutes I was there more and more and more crows were showing up, all coming from the same direction. They were shoulder to shoulder on the powerlines, walking around the gas station, flying over head, everywhere. I asked the lady on the other side of the pump what was going on, and she said it was normal over there, they did it every day all year around. She said they came from a cemetery (how appropriate) and were headed for a lagoon. I don't think I've ever seen so many crows in one place, there were hundreds and hundreds of them. To make things even freakier, there was a crazy old man sitting on a bench singing really loudly in a rough and raspy voice. If not for him, I'd say it was like a Hitchcock movie, but because he was there, it was more like a David Lynch movie.

After that I got in my car, went home, and went to sleep. And that concludes my Laguna Seca adventure. The end

Last edited by Greasyman; 11-15-2018 at 12:38 AM.
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