Track Day 29 + 30 - Thunderhill West - Reno SCCA Time Attack

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Leading up to the track day

Coming into this track day, I hadn't really accomplished much on the car. I'd been pretty busy with a second gig I picked up, along with just not feeling as inspired to work on the car. I was putting some effort into connecting with locals to continue progressing with driving instruction in the PNW, but unfortuantely, the rain in the PNW kept my aspirations at bay. So, when I was coming into yet another late April weekend having not tracked for nearly two months... I decided to pull the trigger and jump on a Time Attack event at Thunderhill. As an added bonus two other C5 folks I'd met in the past were there (Andrew and Bryce) so I'd have some folks to hang out with. Oh yeah and Bryce was selling me a set of Kooks long tube headers for my C5, so that gave me some motivation!

I let Andrew and Bryce know i'd be going, I packed up all my stuff, and started to prepare for the long 8 hour drive. It was somewhere in the middle of all that in which I was talking track times with Andrew that I realized the event would be held on the WEST side, a track I'd never been on! Part of me was excited as I would be hitting up a new track, but the humble stay alive side of me was debating the intelligence of dropping into an advanced level group on a track I'd never been to to run time attack level paces. I downloaded a map, watched a few youtube videos, and figured I'd do what it took to make it work.


Saturday came around pretty quick and I was able to quickly assuage any concerns I had about a new track. The Reno SCCA does a three lap "parade lap" session, and I had a friend of Andrew and Bryces jump in with me and talk me through the turns on the track. I felt confident enough I could navigate the track, and figured I'd go see what it was about.

At first, my laptimes were around 1:27 or so, and slightly behind Andrew's car. He's got a bit more power, but nowhere near the Aero, so I knew I had some headroom. Plus TrackAddicts gave me a theoretical lap time of 1:26.034 so I knew I could push it a bit more. Over the next two sessions I was able to drop my time all the way down to a 1:26.365. This was good enough for 3rd in my class and 8th overall out of 40 or so cars. The cars above me were all built race cars, with the exception of one fellow putting down blisteringly fast times of 1:23 in a supposedly barely modified C5 Z06 corvette #253. We all had our doubts about the barely modified, but eh we're just giving race excuses I'm sure. Something about the dudes setup only let him run 2-3 laps before he had to get off the track, while the rest of us could run whole sessions and my best times were often later in the sessions.

Unfortunately during our 3rd session I had an off track slide that was no big deal, but did make it glaringly obvious I'd over cooked my Falken 615s. I decided to take some of my remaining time and go look for tires in the area.

As luck would have it a trackside Vendor (info to come soon) happened to be in the area and had a set of 295/30R18 Continental Extreme Contact Force's sitting in his shop. While I'd have preferred 315/30R18, it was these or nothing. To seal the deal though, it turns out the previous owner had just put them on for a session or two and hated them so he swapped them out. They were easily 99% new. I then got a surprisingly great quote on the price installed, and got them hucked on my wheels just in time for my last session.

While I didn't do anything exciting with my last session, running a low1:27 in the much hotter temperatures of the day. I did manage to scrub the tires in and get an actual heat cycle into them. I put the car away knowing I'd be good to shred tomorrow, even if the tires were perhaps a bit slower.


Sunday was a much easier start to the day than Saturday as I knew the track quite well and I didn't need to be there bright and early for any parade laps. Even better, I could prep my car and equipment in the pits and hear the drivers meeting over the excellent PA system that the Reno SCCA brought with them. Gotta say, that was convenient!

Going into the track day, we had our first morning session, and I didn't click off any sub 1:27 laps, mostly due to the track being cold and me not being used to the tires. They also felt a bit slipprier, especially in the rear of the car. However, towards the end of the session they started to really come to life, so I knew I'd scrubbed them in right and that heat cycle had done them justice.

Our second session unfortuantely was postponed as the entire complex had to go down for a medical situation on the other side of the track. No idea what happened or the outcome, but I hope they faired well. By the time we got back on the track, several folks had left for the day and the track temperatures had picked up a bit. We'd all missed that magic time around 10:30 or so where the track was just right and we're all warmed up, but that was okay.

My best track time of the day was a 1:26.410, so right up there with yesterdays track time. I do think I could have put down a slightly better track time had I gotten a slightly earlier session, and i also had to combat a lot of traffic in this session. The Reno SCCA grids everyone by current standings in time, and as the situation had it, I was gridding in the first position. So I'd jump out on the track, follow the official around the track, and then cut loose for a full speed... only to run right into the crowd again. I'd fight the crowd all day, which was a bummer for my time but still really fun to catch up to folks and leave them in the dust.

The third and final session I ran was a hoot, but I unforutnately did take another off track excurision. I was pushing my tires well past the point I knew I should have. They were hot, I could tell as I was sliding in a lot more places, but I'd just gotten a pass on a new friend in their Audi and I wanted to give him something to chase for a bit. Also, I somtimes run hotter laps when I'm playing around like that. Unforutnately, a bit of a slide become more than I could recover from and I spun. No big deal though, an easy recovery and I was right back out on the track for two final laps.


Some good laps:

Me Spinning (from in car, and chase perspective)

Final Standings From The Weekend

On Saturday (Day 1) my best time per the transponder timing was 1:26.359, so with a few thousandths of what my GPS showed, but still slightly faster! This was good enough to secure 8th overall out of 39 entires, and 3rd in the Max 2 class. I'm pretty happy with that, though I do wish I had more power as I am seeing several cars above me that I absolutely destroyed cornering but they'd pull away from me out of the turns.

Saturday (Day 2) my best time per the transponder timing was 1:26.447, so a few hundredths faster than GPS showed but still pretty much right on the money. This was good enough to secure 3rd overall out of 36 folks, and second overall in Max 2.

These results feel pretty good, especially being the first time I've ever even been at this track. There's a few mods I'll hopefully toss on my car before the next event that should help add some time, along with I had a best thereotical lap time of 1:25 flat... so I think I can continue to reduce my times and be competitive!

Takeaways about the car from the weekend

1: Love the new tires.

I'd been running Flaken 615's for quite some time as I wanted a more durable tire. Getting the Continental Extreme Contact Force's on though yielded big improvements to turn in and mid turn hold on the front end. While the rear end was still a bit loose at times, it overall was an improvement and I think with a set of 315s and some time on these tires I could easily start to put down better times. I also would hope the tires last longer as I should be gripping more and sliding less.

2: My car has new clunks, and I don't know what's up.

There were a few strange noises first getting on the track. I need to check these MPI wheel bearings as I think they'd developed play at the last track day, and need to confirm where they are at right now.

3: My car needs power!

There were yet again situations were I'd be harassing far nicer cars, like a Porsche GT3, and then we'd hit the straights and they'd pull away. I'd catch them in the turns and get right on their butt, but they'd ignore me and the blue flags that were being shown to them. Ultimately a pass attempt that failed let them gain about a half second on me and I never reeled them in before they peeled off the track.

Currently I've done NOTHING to my car power wise. I've got a cold air intake that probably is hurting more than helping and I've got a the Z06 exhaust bypased, which mostly saves weight and changes exhaust tone.

Long term plan is seeming like an LS3 swap. It will both help me stay in the SCCA Max 2 Category, and deliver a nice boost in power. Plus, the factory Chevy Performance engines come with a warranty!

Short term, I'm going to huck the exhaust on, get rid of the cats, put the LS6 intake manifold on and see if I can pick up 10% or so power. I also will try and 3d print something to improve my cold air intake... if I can get better at 3d printing.

4: Technique improvements and steering wheel change.

I've had it pointed out many times that my hands shuffle the steering wheel. I've never paid it much mind as it's felt like a nescessary adaption, a lot of which seems to relate to the masive (380mm) steering wheel the C5 ships with. Even being turned 70 degrees my hand contacts my body, so I shuffle, and a lot. I don't mind it, I can't point to anywhere distinct it's caused me issues, but eh all the cool kids say that it's a poor technique so I'll get a 350mm steering wheel and try it out.

The other place I know I could improve technique was my braking into turns 1, 7 and 9. I would be braking late into the entry and start to look through the turn. This would add steering angle before the braking was complete, which in turn understeered, resulting in me not turning or braking nearly as well. While the new continental tires had much more grip and were able to make this work better, I still think it demonstrates that I need to be able to delay my turn in while still being able to start to look into the turn to maximize my braking.

5: It's delusional to think this thing still needs so much streetable features on it.

I'm lugging around a bunch of stuff on this Corvette I really just don't need, especially if I am going to be doing more time attack events. I've got the tape deck and AC still for some reason, haha. I can ditch those along with carpeting in the back and maybe even pull the passenger seat for Time Attack events to really help be competitive.

6: Time for some general maintenance.

Oil needs to be changed for sure, though I'm sure it's got plenty of life left, I like to replace it more often than not. I also want to give everything a once over and check dates on when I last did things like transmission and diff.

7: Long term, do some transmission upgrades

So I struggle to get the car into reverse, and when it's cold it hates going into nearly any gear at all. Apparently other C5 owners have had the same issues and so going with brass shift bushings (or arms? I don't know) really helped and was actually pretty reasonable for the home machanic to do by themselves... minus the pulling the transmission but eh, one can dream?

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