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Driving instructors are wonderful people... sharing some of my experiences from PIR


Guest Squirrels of Fury
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Guest Squirrels of Fury

After just completing my 1st 24 hour endurance race at PIR, I feel it's important to recognize some very influential people in my driving "career."

I ended up having 3 driving opportunities over the weekend. First one was in the mostly wet (Scirocco and for 2 hours), next one was in the fog and at night (Audi and less than an hour), and third one was dry and sunny(pampering the scirocco that refused to go into fifth and less than an hour).

Of course, anyone going into any of these situations would feel a couple of butterflies but I don't think I was overly apprehensive for any of the stints.

The first one didn't start out raining but even with the rain I wasn't concerned because I was on new DOT tires with plenty of tread that I knew could handle the changing conditions.

The second stint scared me a little more for several reasons, 1) I have never driven on a race track in wheel-to-wheel conditions in the dark, let alone fairly dense fog through all of the turns but 1 and 2, and 3) the Audi was really difficult to drive (think bucking bronco with a steering wheel) the last time I had driven it in Reno so I wasn't sure what to expect and now it had a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it since and I wasn't about to be the one to ball it up. (oh... and I only had one hour of sleep before I got behind the wheel at 1ish AM... after getting only about 5 hours of sleep the night before protecting the easy-ups we were borrowing from the BMW club from blowing away the night before). (Odds were against me to say the least).

The third stint was also difficult, there was only an hour and a half left in the race, and I had to bring the scirocco back in one piece that was reported to me to be grinding shifting into 3, 4 , and 5 and trying to overheat when revved past 5500. Besides that, I was only to drive it for an hour so Hank, our head mechanic, could take the checkered after ALL of the hard work and no sleep he had had over the past who knows how long.

So, for my first stint, dealing with the rain. I've done this many times before, heck, that's what March and October schools are for in Spokane. I love driving in the rain, smooth is the rule with any driving but in the rain it is MOST important. I was curious how long I had been in the car at the 1 1/2 hours mark but when Sam told me I had to come in at 2 hours I was a little bummed. I didn't feel like I was any worse for wear physically or mentally and could have continued. Car was fine after a few early lean episodes and short pit stops it worked great for the majority of my time.

My second stint, I have to say the Audi was a pleasure to drive, the work that Dave and Hank had put into it from Reno to now was incredible. I was also so pleased with myself that I had within a few laps the mental ability to stop freaking about the fact I couldn't see apexes and knew the track on muscle memory. My only concern after I stopped worrying was something large and dark on the line I was driving around the track. This stint is the main reason for my wanting to recognize my driving instructors from the past. I don't know how many times I saw cars follow each other off of the track. Watching other drivers "follow" each other off at Turn 11/12 was my favorite... Seemed like people just didn't have the same excellent instruction I have had or maybe they didn't pay attention but I remember the first time I saw it happen that night. I remember hearing an instructors voice in my head say "drive your own line around the track, don't get sucked in following the driver in front of you" "look through them" ... I can't tell you how good it feels when words of wisdom ring true. Thank you driving instructors.

My third stint was the hardest when I knew there was more power and speed left in the car but I couldn't get the car into 5th. I was at 5000-5500 RPM in 4th gear at the beginning of both straights and just had to suffer there for the remainder until I could get into the twisties again. Most of the time I tried to get it into 5th I would somehow find 3rd and I didn't want to risk blowing the engine from over revving. I have too much respect for Hank and all of the work he had put into the weekend to ruin the car just to get a couple seconds faster lap times. Hank was actually out in a different car while I was out there (the 22 golf) and when he blew by me in turn 3 the chase was on. I hung with him even though I looked at the temp gauge on the back straight (it's oil temp got close to 110 C ... nothing to worry about unless that continued rising if I continued to push it) ... it wasn't until the voice of reason, Sam, came on the radio about a lap later to remind me of my goal of bringing the car home that I needed to stop chasing him and let him go. Geez... that was hard, I radioed over that it was like holding back the reins on a race horse... they fight it the whole way. I held myself back, ticking away laps, trying to stay consistent and diligent on watching temps until I felt the car burble. Thank goodness for the burble as I was in agony knowing I was getting times seconds slower than I knew I was capable of in that car. Oh well, Hank was able to take over without incident and take the checkered and he was finally able to buzz the wall on the last lap like he has wanted to do for some time now. I'll get my chance at buzzing the wall someday too but he definitely deserved it!

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Thanks Penny for saving some car for me I was very glad I could buzz the wall for our team. Ever since the first 8hour enduro that I went to a PIR years ago as a crew member I've always wanted to do that! I think I did it well.

I know you could have gone faster and next time the cars will be even better!

Thanks to all our drivers that held back so that I could fly us home it was GREAT!

Hank

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When I was in the car just before Penny, every cruch the trans made, i cringed, i didnt want to be the guy who crashed the audi and broke the trans on the scirocco. By the end of my stint i was getting really good at heal-toe downshifting and revmatching. fifth was getting harder and harder to find. but it was still a blast. Watching you buzz the wall was well worth holding back!

No, THANK YOU HANK!!! and Sam, Penny, Jay, Randy, and all the Squirrells!

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