Track Day 22 + 23 -- Streets of Willow -- Part 1 of Bring the C5 to WA

NOTE: There's a lot of non-corvette information in here as I was instructing and I wrote a lot about the instruction. I'm going to be coming back to this article and seperating out the instructing notes from the C5 specific information and putting that all into a blog post and linking to it in here rather than writing about it all here, so forgive how long this is currently!

So a lot of details happened between my last track sessions and this particular track session. I had decided to make the PNW my long term home base again and purchased a home there yet again. I love California and I just know I'd live longer there, but I just can't get in on the California game at this point, even in a "cheaper" area like Ventura CA that I love or it's nearby and not nearly as nice towns like Oxnard or Santa Paula. Plus apparently my demands are quite excessive for a middle class fellow such as myself in California. Two car garage, better have two incomes! Oh you want a shop on the property too? GOOD LUCK! I was able to get all that though in Washington, and hey added bonus no income tax. Drive to Oregon and buy stuff, no sales tax. If I was in California I'd be paying both all the time.

So I purchased a house in Washington and it met all of my requirements and didn't go excessively beyond my means like a run down Condo in California would have. It had a good sized house on a great lot that was in a nice central location that I just so happen to love. Sure, it rains a lot and there's a bunch less track days, but I've got a shop now!

This all began the next project in life... get the Corvette home. I'd prep my house and shop for the Corvette, I'd get a trailer to go get my Corvette from storage in California, and then I'd hit up not one track weekend but two on my way back So this is the first part of that adventure, getting my house prepped and getting down for the first weekend of track driving at Streets of Willow.

The first project that needed to happen was adding a garage door to the shop in the back of my new property. Whatever wacko built the shop on the property did a ton right such as get it's own 200 amp electrical service... but for whatever reason decided to install french doors instead of a garage door. A strange choice, but not beyond reversing. So I found a used garage door on Facebook Marketplace for a couple hundred bucks and got to learning how to install a garage door myself. I hired a few professionals for the few tasks I couldn't handle and was able to get a garage door installed and painted for the price of $1400. Not bad considering all the quotes I was getting for a garage door were $3-6k!

With the garage door installed and painted, it actually looked pretty legitimate. Pardon that the best final picture of the garage door install still has painters tape all around the door. I had just a few short weeks of time to get all of the details together before my trip down to get the Corvette!

A few other around the house projects remained I won't bore you with in here. I needed to add an interior door to the shop as I wouldn't have room when the Corvette was in the shop, I needed to add an additional gravel driveway and parking pad for my C5 camper as shuffling trailers around would be a massive headache.These all added about 4-5 days of work and labor, but in the end made the property that much more functional and livable.

Next up, I needed a trailer with which to even haul my Corvette. I probably wasted a good 50+ hours cruising facebook marketplace and craigslist for a trailer within my budget. Unfortunately, I just couldn't find a reasonable deal on one. Unfortunately, it seems that 95% of people selling things these days fall into one of two camps: They either NEED more money than their stuff is worth, or they don't need the money bad enough that they'd price the item to move. Consequently, ever trailer for $3k or so was utter junk and maybe worth $1.5k, but the person needed it to get a work truck / mortgage payment / whatever, and all the other trailers available for sale were just a few hundred less than brand new or well beyond reasonable a reasonable purchase price. So, I started looking at new trailers and finally found a deal on a "last years" model aluminum trailer that had all sorts of bells and whistles and seemed just right for hauling my corvette. The price wasn't crazy, I was able to put a solid chunk of change down on it and I was able to finance the last bit I couldn't afford.

The trailer I picked up was a featherlite Aluminum 18 foot car hauler trailer. The fenders are removable for easy entry and exit from the vehicle, it's light weight and easy to tow with tons of etrack down the side, and incidentally it fits the C5 Corvette with no problems and even a bit of room to spare!

Next up, one would reasonably determine thati if anything happens to the Corvette, they still need to be able to pull it onto the trailer. Hence a good trailer needs a winch. After wasting yet more time researching various options, I purchased a Smittybuilt XRC Gen 3 9.5k winch at the recommendation of a friend. The price was solid enough, it's more than sturdy enough, and it can do the job of pulling my corvette onto the trailer without to much fuss which is perfect. It has a steel cable and not a synthetic rope, which is apparently important since sythnetic rope does not like to be dragged along the edge of the deck when pulling a vehicle up and steel cable is a fair bit more okay with it.

Lastly, I needed ramps to be able to load my Corvette onto the trailer. With the 9 Lives Racing C5 Front Splitter on my C5, my approach angle was a very low 5.7 degrees or so of approximate approach angle. The trailer did come with 5 foot long alumium ramps, which when combined with race ramps appeared to be a solid option... however with shipping and taxes the race ramps I needed were going to cost me approxiamtely $700 to get. Why not see what I can make with $200 of PT 2x12s? I was able to make the above, and to be honest... I don't recommend it. They weigh a ton and they created as many headaches as they resolved as I kept having to refine what I was doing to make it functional. More on that in the part 2 Thunderhill track day section though.

So, with all the details in place, I began my journey south.

Above is a picture of myself and the trailer right at the California Oregon border. The drive is just shy of a thousand miles at 978 miles, but I've made the drive many times now and I'm pretty used to it. Just throw some various content from my phone onto the speakers and just kind of zone out to whatever as the miles zip by. Generally I make the trip with my camper, and so when I'm tired I just find a place roadside to pass out for the night. This time though, I didn't have such luxury and instead had to stay at a Motel 6. My camper may not be the most luxurious, but I've got one heck of a comfortable bed in there and it definitely beats most any motel!

I finally made it down to California though, picked up the Corvette from where I had it parked (Ventura CA area) and then headed right out to Willow Springs International Raceway for a track weekend with Extreme Speed.

How the Track Weekend Actually Went for the C5 Corvette

So one thing I've strarted to do now that I am instructing at the track is write about that in my general blog instead of writing about it in the articles. This helps keep the articles from becoming quite lengthy with stories about other drivers and cars. So if you want to read about that part of my track day, check out the blog post here!

Saturday - Streets of Willow - CCW

Saturday running streets counter clockwise began interestingly enough. Joel, the main fellow behind Extreme Speed Track Events, didn't believe he needed me as an instructor. No big deal, I figured I'd just have some more time to myself. Then of course I check in with one of the head instructors for the day and they were immediately interested in having me help. So I went back to Joel, and Joel then set me up with a 1:1 instruction session with a gentleman named Javier. I wrote about that all over in my personal blog if you want to know more about that, but how it relates here is it shapes a lot of my day. When I'm instructing they are my primary focus, and while I get plenty of track time out there, I'm not chasing PB's or winding up in the advanced group every time, infact sometimes I even jump out in various lower skill groups to see if I can find anyone either in need of help or scolding for not following the rules.

Consequently I got a smattering of sessions in advanced along with I was able to drop into some of the other run groups to make sure everyone was playing nicely and that nobody was in the wrong run group or needed coaching on lines. I didn't catch anything needing my attention and so I moved onwards to focusing on my own driving.

With the time to focus on myself, I was able to set a personal best of 1:25.969 going CCW. I have run about a second to two faster going CW, but for me and CCW this was a notable improvement and I'm happy. That said, I need to turn a few more 1:25s going CCW to be happy, as you can see in the track addicts data beow that data surrounding the bowl very clearly is corrupt. The start and stop time is all correct though so it's a valid lap time, and with 10hz GPS I can pretty confient about the data as well.

Problems at the track day... I was struggling with oversteer at the limits on cooler tires. While the temperatures were a moderate 60 degrees, the howling and constant wind was sucking the temperature right out of the track and my tires. Thus I wouldn't get my best feeling laps until later in the afternoon mid to late in the session as the tires became more predictable and felt grip increased. I started to think I might need a wing afterall...

Sunday running streets CW was also a good time. Joel yet again had a private instruction student lined up for me, and this time it was a mother and son wanting to get out in their grandfathers car: a 1991 Acura NSX! That was a killer car, and I wrote about instructing in it over in my blog.

Personally, I didn't get near as much time on the track as I wanted, and also didn't have the bluetooth GPS unit the whole time, so I don't have any good lap information. I was also struggling with oversteer and cooler than desired tires, which incidentally Boh was struggling with as well. In the NC Miata however, we can adjust the spoiler to add more rear downforce, and this in turn really helped Boh out. I have no such adjustment though, and so I just struggled with oversteer as I approached the limits.

This mades me realize... I'd do well with a wing that I can adjust to help handle days like this.

How did the Corvette do all weekend?

Since I had no new modifications of which to speak, I just kept running everything as I had every single time prior to this. The car worked wonderfully and all was well.

One thing of note was that the XP10 brake pads have held up amazingly well. I've now got 6 track days on these brake pads, and I believe they've got two more in them. 8 track days from a set of brake pads is pretty darn good, and the rotor wear has been minimal as well compared to the Powerstop Track Day brake pads. Overall, I like the pads despite a bit of a somewhat meh initial bite.

Handling wise, I was struggling with the windy colder temperatures and oversteer at times. During a few of the warmer sessions during warmer parts of the day I was able to get my tires up to a temperature though and the handling improved drastically, as did the control. I do think adding a wing to the Corvette is next in order, but... we shall see. I have a lot of thoughts about the current C5 options that I'll surely capture in another article.

No hiccups or issues yet with the MPI wheel bearings, they are absolutely trucking along. A good wheel bearing is a bit of a boring upgrade though. They just work and fade noiselessly into the background where they do their job well. So far, the MPI is that wheel bearing!

Unfortunately, loading the Corvette back on the trailer after the weekend resulted in new learning opportunities  / headache for myself.

First off, I needed to get the unloaded trailer off of my truck. I figured I'll just keep it where it is and jack it up for the night on my very stout toolbox I've been walking up and down for over 10 years. It'll hold overnight. Welp, no... not it didn't! So I jacked up the trailer with an ammobox placed longway to allow getting the trailer off the toolbox and continued on my merry way.

The next and albiet bigger headache, was that due to the interface between the trailer aluminum ramps and my DIY wood ramps not being perfect, the pivoting foot of the aluminum ramp was kicked up just a bit too high as I was getting on the trailer and  that in in turn ran right into my splitter. The splitter was damaged and I was quite worried I had snapped one of the splitter supports. I had no time to inspect the car there at the track though as light was fading and we needed to get back to Boh's place in Ventura so she could get a good nights rest for her work week. So we got the car on the trailer better and I would come to tackle the issue later in the week.

Fortunately, when I did get back to inspect the C5 corvette, the damage was mostly aesthetic to the splitter. I was actually fortunate enough that a lot of the bolts holding my splitter in place had come loose over the half dozen or more track days since i'd put it on, which in turn let the splitter shift with the impact instead of translating the full force through the splitter. I probably dodged a bullet there by not having had time to attend to checking all of the bolts on my splitter. As a friend said regarding this: Better to be lucky! Crisis mostly averted! I made a few minor repairs, put it all back together, and then adjusted the interface between the wood and aluminum ramps so as the two would play together a bit nicer. All in all I think everything will be a lot better come the second part of this journey, where I load up the Corvette and stop at Thunderhill for a weekend of track driving on my way back up North!