Saturday, February 21, 2009

Deep Freeze

It's winter. Winter is boring for sports cars here in New England. I've managed to tuck the car away in my landlord's garage (she is the *best* landlord ever!). So it's safe from the snow, salt and ice, but this also means I can't drive it. Driving it in the winter would either be dangerous (if I try to take any fast corners in the sand/salt/ice/etc) or safe but boring anyway. Furthermore the car can't be taken to a car wash so it would quickly look like crap with no good way to wash it until spring. Driving slow in a car that looks dirty as hell only to have layers upon layers of brake dust to clean in the spring doesn't seem worth it.

So what do I do? Well I go out and visit it every couple of weeks to roll it a few feet back or forward so that the tires don't get flat spots, and then I spend a bunch of time wishing I could drive it. I also spend a bunch of time thinking about the driving I did last year...

Now that things are all snowbound, and the car is behind a 2ft plow drift, I should probably tell you about the final driving event of last year. On the recommendation of my mechanic I went to the final event of the year for COM. That's right I got to drive it around New Hampshire International Speedway. It was an absolute blast! There is nothing like heading into a steeply banked hairpin turn at 80+ mph and then breaking hard, turning and gunning it up the hill on the other side (yes that would be turn 6). Also, its the only place to (legally) open it up and blast your way up to 115mph in relative safety (the car can go faster, but one does have to turn eventually). I've never been a big NASCAR fan, but now that I've been on a real track, the whole thing does make a lot more sense... Now when I watch, I remember... I still can't account for the millions of fans who have never driven on a race track, but at least some of it now seems sane, and I can really see why it is folks would want to be a race car driver.

I also got to ride along with my instructor in his Honda S2000, and that was awesome too. He is very skilled and takes the turns much more skillfully than I. I'm sure his lap times are better than mine, but it was quite heartening to see that my car *is* faster than his. Even with my lesser skill I was 15 mph faster on the big straight. I also clearly could catch most of the miatas out there on the straight. Once I improve my performance driving skills I'll definitely have one of the faster cars. I won't ever be faster than the former NASCAR stock car, or the Arial Atom that was out there. Also there were some gutted VW rabbits that blew by my instructor's S2000 like it was standing still. I took a peek at one and it was literally a seat, an engine, a gas tank and a fire extinguisher on wheels. They take turns on 3 wheels (the inside rear lifts about 4 inches!) and so I'm not sure I can beat those either, but they aren't street legal. Among street legal vehicles I mostly only need to worry Z06 corvettes and then about cars that have an MSRP 2-5 times as much as mine. (and of course other Elises and Exiges). The z06 vette is only 1.5x the MSRP of my lotus, and probably the next best deal in high performance automobiles ZR1 vettes are twice as expensive.

There were two other lotus cars there. One was driven by my mechanic... his hypersport Esprit which is an incredibly fast but not street legal car, and a gray 2006 Exige. The Exige has 30 more hp than me with only a little more weight, but , it never passed me except when I spun out.

Anyway, full pictures are here, and the first two are of my Mechanic's car... which he fixed that night and came back the next day to take 2nd 3rd and 4th place (time trials, 3 people drove it..., only one car beat any of em!). I am not yet certified to drive solo, so I couldn't drive on Sunday. I'm fine with that because I am aware that I do still have lots to learn, and the last thing I want to do is to hurt myself, hurt my car, or screw up the event for others because of a newbie mistake. I'll leave you with a quote from my instructor... "When I got back in my car [a Honda S2000] it felt like a family car."

Yeah, Lotus makes a pretty cool car :-)

No comments: