The Indy Story.

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Moxie and Mom on the Brickyard front straight! A coveted shot, a gift from John at Fluid Photo.

I left off here: Awesome Without Borders had granted me $1000 to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Thanks to the additional generosity of many folks, I obtained needed supplies.  Amazingly, my hubby was unaffectedly excited about Indy. He doesn’t love cars, but is a Hoosier born and bred. Perhaps the Speedway itself struck a chord that resonated. For the first time ever, Big T actually considered taking vacation days to pit crew for me. Although that didn’t happen, knowing he tried mattered to me.

Ten days prior to departure, I began the loading process. After an 800 mile drive to University, we said goodbyes apprehensively to our firstborn. The young freshman didn’t look back as he joined his new friends for dorm hall meeting. I encountered a jumbled emotional mix. But that’s another story.

My lovely family drove back to North Carolina, and I was left headed with my rig to Naptown.

Let me pause here for a moment to describe the magnitude of the event that was organized by Mid-Ohio Region Porsche Club of America (MORPCA): Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has existed for 105 years. It has only ever hosted races. There has never been an amateur event for non-racing purposes.

Being an elite track, while very welcoming, IMS had regulations designed for professional racing only. This was a three year endurance effort of planning for MORPCA and IMS. There are many things about this event that were unusual. Some were logistical puzzles. Others were sheer super-coolness.

 

Upon arriving in Indianapolis, Moxie was pre-tech inspected by Brian at European Auto Sports. A hidden gem of a shop, specializing in European performance cars, Brian himself has a racing pedigree as former Crew Chief for Michael Andretti. He gave Moxie the once over, signed my form, and accepted no payment. #whataguy!

Thursday I chased down some racing brake pads and hunted for rotors. I wanted to be prepared at track in case I needed spares. Thanks to AIM Tuning Indy Miata, I got what I needed. By afternoon, I was ready for the MORPCA tech line. Normally, inspection happens on-site at the track. This means you can drive your rig there, get car inspected, unload, and are ready to go the next morning.

However, IMS wasn’t available the night before. The organizers had to arrange for tech inspection at a NON-track venue. Can you imagine this scene? 270 track cars, loaded onto 270 trailers, being driven by 270 tow-rigs, and 270 drivers (not including crew/families/groupies) all lining up in the back parking lot of the Wyndham.

Seriously? But it worked like a charm! Within the space of three smooth hours all had completed tech inspection. Registration, wristbands, and information sessions were incredibly well organized. Waiting at the end of the line was a sumptuous buffet with robust quantities of delectable hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided. Kudos to Kevin of MORPCA and his leadership team!

The atmosphere was festive. People greeted each other joyfully, after all, it was Indy. The MORPCA organizing team went out of their way to welcome outsider like me into the fold: Special thanks to Kevin, Chip and Dave. At registration, I met two advanced solo women drivers. LadyLambo, smiling with kind eyes, introduced herself warmly. She drove a peridot green Cayman R, and is an instructor with PCA (and other HPDE clubs) and for Teen Safety Driving. We were assigned to the same garage bay. ProPorsche, an athletic-looking blonde, works professionally as an instructor at the Porsche Driving School at Barber Motorsports Park. Her garage was near ours, with her black Corvette Z06.

The registration cost of the MORPCA mid Ohio region event was nearly $800, which seemed high at first. But honestly? This was the most well organized, lavishly appointed, pleasant experience I have ever had at ANY HPDE EVER! Dinners and breakfasts were included in the registration, as was individual garage space for each driver! (Also, I should mention, there were excellent dining and wash-up facilities nearby each garage bay. Showering between sessions is critical for me to stay cool when driving in warmer months.)

That Thursday night, after registration, Indy Pro driver Dan Clarke presented an overview of the track. Most present had never driven here, and had been using Dan’s in-car videos to prepare. I slept restlessly that night. I dreamt of my children and Bianca, my 911.

For the first time ever, I would face a new track without an instructor.

Arrival at track was early, allowing time for the nearly 300 rigs to unload.  En route, I stopped to fill the fuel jugs. Track went hot at 8:00 am for the instructors to take the yellow students for a ride. My run group (B1/PCA White/Intermediate Solo) would be next, at 8:30. The MORPCA team proved their mettle by ensuring that all unloading was done seamlessly, for people to grid by 7:50 am.

After unloading my gear and parking Moxie in her bay I checked oil, tire pressures, and gas. I thought she needed gas. Hurrying to drivers meeting at 8:00, I decided to gas up afterwards.  But drivers meeting started late. And ended late. They were calling our session.

Most of my run group gridded up quickly. Could I risk it? My gas gauge was unreliable: maybe I had enough gas? But then, did I want to be THAT guy? That idiot running out of gas very first session, making the entire session black flagged?

Heart pounding, with trembling hands I hoisted the 5 gallon jug, siphoning in gas. By now, my run group had left the grid. Gearing up, my harness got stuck but I couldn’t see where. I got out, removed my helmet and fixed it. But when I reached grid, the next session was lining up. The grid worker waved me away. I had missed the entire session!

Fighting the bitterness rising in the back of my throat, I sat watching my run group pit in. I bit my lip hard and tried to breathe deeply. I drove Moxie to the garage.

But the rest of the day went well. I was glad I’d done my homework: For 2 weeks, I had been  watching in-car videos by pro drivers daily, and had practiced by visualizing the course. Also, I’d printed aerial views from Google Earth to plot the driving-line. MORPCA had sent out a link for two Pro Coaches track walks. I knew the configuration well.

The Indy GP course has minimal elevation change and only two decreasing radius turns.  As is often the case, it appeared deceptively simple on video. Driving the course, the challenge became clear: the turns are very closely spaced together. By the time you exit one turn, you are already in the middle of the next turn.  All of Friday, I had no choice but to work on my vision. The track itself forced me to think two turns ahead.

Another surprise: I felt very comfortable in my run group. When registering, I had requested to be put in the lowest run group with an instructor but the registrar had bumped me up. In B1/Intermediate solo, I wasn’t the fastest, but certainly not the slowest. Overall, I kept pace just fine. Amazingly, I was NOT the greenest driver by a long shot.

Throughout the day, I chatted with Lady Lambo. That weekend she wasn’t instructing, but still generously shared her knowledge with me. Another first for me: this very experienced driver expressed an interest in hearing my technique, and exchanged ideas for how to approach some tricky turns: in particular turns 4 and 13. This reciprocity was entirely unexpected! Surely she was just being kind…but maaaaaaaaaaybe just maybe…… could it possibly be….that what I was saying made sense?

Late Friday afternoon, Moxie’s calipers made an odd grinding noise. I worried that I had burned through my brake pads. I asked LadyLambo if she could tell. We realized the only way to be sure would be to remove the tires. I discovered the jack I bought was too high to fit under Moxie. I borrowed my other neighbor’s racing jack and (for the first time ever!) put her on jack-stands. Track people are incredible: LadyLambo and CaptainF-16 showed me how. Yeah…that’s how big a doof I was. Chip Vance from Auto Assets in Ohio stopped by and very kindly pulled off the wheels. My brake pads were FINE! Well over 50% thickness! When I offered payment, he declined.

Fears put to rest, I enjoyed my final session on track. By Friday’s end, I felt I’d comfortably handled turns 2 and 3, turns 5-6 and the 7-10 complex.

After garaging Moxie and a quick shower at the hotel, I returned to the IMS Museum for the reception/dinner. What an experience! While people mingled near the buffet, I slowly drank in the automotive history on display. Before leaving, I stopped at the gift shop and bought T-shirts for friends and family. Except Hair-Gel…None on display were to his taste, so I bought a beanie.

Saturday morning, I felt fresh and ready. I knew what to do: turn in sooner for 4 and brake later/harder into 12. Turn 13 kept surprising me with its acute angle which made me slow getting on the gas at turn 14. Oh yeah, Also?…brake later at 1. Still had ZERO visual cues for optimal turn in there.

My third session Saturday would be an in-car coaching session with Dan Clarke himself! And I was in for a treat: SpeedyDan gave consistent directions, turn after turn after turn. Gas gas gas! Brake hard! Now! Roll it, roll it, roll it.. Now! Breathe the throttle, breathe it. NOW eyes up, eyes up, eyes up!…On the gas on the gas on the gas! It felt exhilarating to carry faster speeds into turn 1, 2 and 3. I went into 4 slower and came out faster. Braking later than I could ever imagine, I carried more speed into turn 7 and (as often happens) found it was so much easier to take it and 8-9 at higher speeds.

Afterwards, Dan sat with me to review his notes. I could see what I’d fumbled, and where I’d progressed. He hopped out to for his next student.

Midday Saturday, LadyLambo had experienced some  transient visual changes while driving, and had pitted in early. I was on grid when she came in, but was tipped off by CaptF-16 that she had gone to the EMS unit. I went to check in on her and found two EMS staff standing with her. They said they didn’t know what to make of her symptoms.

LL consented to my examination: A quick neuro screen showed zero focal findings. Immediately relieved, I suggested electrolytes: gatorade and a banana. She remained, understandably, shaken and decided to rest in the infirmary. Eventually, she felt ready to try another session on track…just to see how the first 3 laps went. She’d pit in if it felt bad. Happily, she completed her entire session and felt fine!

That evening was the final reception at the track. The MORPCA organizers had somehow managed to get access to the dining pavilion nearest to the track. I puckered up at my chance to kiss the fabled bricks.

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Smooching the bricks at last!

By Sunday morning, I’d dropped my lap time by 30 seconds from Friday’s first session. LadyLambo had decided to leave early on Sunday, so we said goodbye and promised to meet again. The rest of the day was an exhilarating blur! I was faster! I passed several cars! I even had an off (onto grass) after overcooking turn 7! Here I was, a mere 3 days short of my 47th birthday, driving my race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What an immense gift I had received from my family, Awesome Without Borders, my other sponsors, Swami Mike (who provided text-support all weekend!), my instructors, and my friends. The humility and gratitude washed over me unexpectedly, as I snuck in a solitary moment over lunch with my track notes.

 

 

That evening, after track went cold, I had planned to load up The Pig Rig and drive partway home. But my college kiddo’s credit card had expired. So, instead The Rig and I drove an hour and half to drop off Cufflinks’ fresh card. I had hoped to buy him dinner. When we met, he was very sweet.  He hugged me, and helped me realign the spare tire rack. Some dorm friends stopped by to ooooh and ahhh over Moxie. Clearly, my son was busy, happy, and didn’t need me there.

Driving away, exhausted entirely, I slumped over the steering wheel, feeling famished. I had another hour and half drive to the hotel.

Heading out of town, I noticed a drug store flaunting a temptingly empty parking lot. Parking the rig, I went inside to use the ladies room and pick up a picnic dinner. As I paid for the fruit and cheese and salad, I impulsively told the clerk “Gimme a pack of those Marlboro lights.” I smoked my first cigarette in 19 years. Immediately followed by my second cigarette in 19 years (which I photographed). I left the rest of the pack on the smokers bench at my hotel. It would have worked equally well to get a tattoo, but I don’t do tattoos.

In predawn darkness, The Pig Rig and I drove home, 700 miles. We arrived 13 hours later in time to pick Hair Gel and Diva up from school. After many hugs and kisses, I moved Moxie and the tires into the garage, and drove the trailer to Buddha’s shop in Raleigh.

By clinic the next morning, I had a fresh manicure and a new attitude.

MoxieCrossingBricksIndy2015

 

 

Return to Road Atlanta: The Overture

My experiences on track in 2015 changed everything.

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The protocol requires you to keep smiling.

A sense of fallibility and seriousness set in.  And I, the allegedly fast driving Dr. Mom, faced a few problems:

1. Habitually over-braking in Bianca, the 911.

2. Fear of crashing Bianca.

3. Realizing the absolute necessity to develop momentum driving skills.

4. Improper seating causing exhaustion.

5. Knowing that any necessary safety/seating modifications would depreciate the car’s value.

6. A stubborn insistence upon doing more with less.

The solution would have to be a race-prepped track-ready car. But which one? The Cayman in Tennessee? The Boxster in Wilmington? The G series 911 in Virginia? Conversations and consultations flew around electronically:  VtechPower, Greenfrog, Vader, Mr. LeMans, Tex, Koldcrest, SCDon, GillesV and Mr. 912 kindly shared their time, wisdom, experience and knowledge. Eventually, I decided.

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This says it all.

But Swami had already known it. That’s why he’s the Swami.

MiataFerrari911
Foreshadowing my automotive destiny.

There were plenty on the market. After taking a test drive I nearly bought a non-Spec Miata in Fayetteville. A hiccup on the pricing and delay on funding sources put the kibosh on that.

Serendipitously, just as I was clearing up the cash flow line,  a friend of a friend, legendarily known as The Jamochan Shaker, directed me toward a proven badass car. She was the real deal. And, for a Spec-Miata, was a steal.

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TRVB #whataguy

The seller, TRVB, obviously loved this car. He had used her to work on obtaining his NASA racing license. He trekked 3 hours each way to lovingly deliver her personally.  With good cheer and great patience, he took time to go over the controls and equipment with me.

I felt baffled and excited and fearful as I slid into the driver’s seat. Her display panel was cryptic and unfamiliar. Once again, despite my lifelong enthusiasm for cars, I felt completely lost. I had to hoist myself into the cabin by grabbing on to the roll cage.

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Got that safety thing covered. And the joy of my very first kill switch!

Here was a whisper of possibility. Someday I might reach my goal!

The racing steering wheel was hanging off the rollcage, and took muscle to manipulate onto the shaft. I felt intimidation and puzzlement at that quirky starter set-up, the surreal pull-pin fire suppression system, the missing windows, the unidirectional kill switch and the bizarre door-latch apparatus.

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Serious and mysterious.

I giggled out loud when I saw the wide angle  rear view mirror: I could see so much! The Recaro seat smoothly slid up, and my foot floored the clutch effortlessly. The seat itself felt roomy around my hips but snug at my lower back and the new harness held me tight. It fit. I fit!

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Corded trunk hatch and reflected pups.

TRVB showed me how to start the engine. Without a muffler this tiny little fireball had the subtlety of a streetwalker. In that blast I heard her name. Moxie.

The neighborhood teenagers flocked to my driveway. A handsome but pimply boy shyly asked to look in. She is the only car I’ve owned that has no steering wheel, no ignition key, no passenger seat and no windows. She obviously has more track experience than Bianca and I combined. I felt intimidated, but I wanted to learn from her.

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Puppies and babies like her!

The puppies and kids approved. “MOM! That sounds so badass!” Even hubby expressed a mild interest. As TRVB pulled away in his trailer, I parked her next to Bianca in the garage.

My silver gladiatrix was ready, with slicks! And was not street legal.

I had to find a way to get her to Road Atlanta in seven days’ time. I began to worry that I might not. I was cutting it close.

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Back then I thought I was special. Innocence lost.

Race Track or Bust!

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Swami and FDM at Road Atlanta at the Turn 10a-10b complex.

Ah! Here I am again. Thursday, taking emergencies. Only today, there have been none. Among the patients at least.

Last week at VIR I ended up nearly destroying my 911. And, with four days of solo driving you might think my lap times improved, right?

WRONG.

Sadly, without an instructor in-car urging me, I discovered a insidious contentment to take it easy.  “I mean really, Ayesha” asks my amygdala. “What’s the rush? Take it easy baby…” and in a conspiratorial alliance my right foot willingly betrays me. Doing that stupid thing of lifting up.  “Jus’ chillaxing yo’.”

Trying to learn
Trying to learn

Still, I managed three things better:

1. Acceleration in the straights. My data logger proved to me that I was never below 110 at the end of the front straight or below 115 at the end of the back straight. And I was entering the climing esses again at 99 to 103 mph.

2. Beginning trail braking. Scott, the Chin instructor who sat right seat in my check ride last weekend worked with me to “squeeze” my foot off the brake. It’s tricky because the car has no power brakes and thus my own release must be smooth. By the end of the check ride, he said I was doing it right. I kept practicing.

3. Braking later, consistently.

how to drive
how to drive

“YAWN!” say all you guys with big cajones. And you have a point. But, as you are kind enough to read this far, undoubtedly you will agree when I say: “Whateva. I’m making progress.” Slooooooooowly an old dog is learning new tricks.

Slow feels painful.

To avoid discouragement, I must remind myself that within 15 months I have gone from a law-abiding, carpool minivan-driving, “Whatza nomex? Whatza track-out?” decorous, dumpy, middle-aged lady to a “Guess what? I don’t barf at 122 mph!” deliriously addicted, sunburnt, wild-haired, sweaty track hag.

I shall be leaving tonight again for track. Road Atlanta with Chin Motorsports. And, per protocol, there is a list of odds stacked against me.

a slow car fast.
a slow car fast.

“Quick run down the problem list, Doc? ”

With drivers meeting less than 48 hours away, I’ve gotta get:

1. Track car (check).

2. Tow vehicle/trailer (in the works).

3. Racing seats/harness/roll cage/HANS device (please, please, Discovery Parts and Racing Analytics of Dawsonville, GA).

4. Brick for gas pedal (overnight delivery by Amazon Prime).

5. Clothespin to protect my instructor’s nose from my malodorous driving (optional).

If-you-are-irritated-by-every
For the student who is eager to learn.

Among my packing list, I must remember to include my Rumi finger puppet. Of course I’m not kidding. I DO actually own a Rumi finger puppet.

Thanks to Kivinski. And thank you WriterInk, WinterKnits, LeggyStig, LaserLady,Tex, Greenfrog, SCDon, 007,  VTechpower, Mr. LeM, GillesVN, DigiBro, Mr. Energy, and TrackRocketRacer.

Thank you Reader.

Bianca and Swami, it won’t be the same without you. I will miss you both but I know you are each getting necessary rest.

If I can do more with less, that means I have learned the skills necessary. Thank you Bianca and Swami.
If I can do more with less, that means I have the necessary skills. I’ll miss you Bianca and Swami.

Vaderito, maybe see you tomorrow? I love you Cufflinks, HairGel, and Diva. And you, Ami, Abboo, Mom, and Dad.

Most of all, you Ducky.

The Lotus, the Tire Wall, & a Lady Retires

photo 1Four days at track!  Count them baby….Yeah: One, two, three AND four! Now watch me Nae Nae. Yo.
Indeed. After the chafing at Road Atlanta, it was a soothing balm for the soul being back on my home turf: the verdant splendor and rolling hills at Virginia International Raceway.
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Cousins selfie at the pool!

Gradually our group of Track Monkeys drifted in Friday night, with the usual suspects Tex, Greenfrog and BP getting there first. By the next day, SemperFi with his 997 turbo and my favorite cousin in the whole WIDE WORLD, VTechpower with his Lotus Elise joined the ranks.  Saturday, I started first session in blue, solo. All day I worked on carrying more speed and was consistently able to stay over 110 in the straights without barfing. My old instructor Mr.Pink saw me out there and we agreed on a check ride for solo in Trackdaze Yellow.

Starting out in Blue with Trackdaze was painful: it was crowded and slow and I was passing cars. That is usually a sign that I’m ready to move up. After passing the check ride and moving into Yellow, I felt more on top of my game. Still slow, but not involuntarily so.

Sunday morning, the Track Monkeys took a few moments for a photo op. We knew that we were the luckiest people on Earth that day.
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Track Monkeys: BP, Greenfrog, Tex, VTechpower, FDM, SemperFi, SoleMan
On Monday, I passed my check ride for solo in green with Chin, and was given a yellow wristband.
Towards the end of the day, a thunderstorm struck. Raindrops the size of tea cups ran rivers of puddles. Because of the lightening, the track closed down.
When it blew over, there were only 30 minutes left for the end-of-day Chin happy hour.
Most of the drivers had found the beer on tap in the Sonic Tools trailer. Only a few cars went out. I wanted to practice with my tires in the wet. About twenty minutes into it, as I drove downhill, Bianca’s tail spun left coming into turn 17 B (aka Hog Pen). I felt it immediately, and reacted to correct the wheel, but my input was insufficient.
When I looked up I saw the tire wall.
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I remember thinking I had to move my eyes to where I wanted the car to be, and shifting my gaze to the asphalt. She spun a double 360, and it wasn’t until I was back on the asphalt that I remembered “two feet in”. On Tuesday I drove. Also in the rain. By 2pm, I had logged 9+ hours on track in four days. I was spent.
I didn’t know it just then, but a part of me had decided to retire my sweet lovely 911 from track. I asked a stranger to take a few photos, then I packed up my car.
Arriving home, the puppies were excited to see me. One of the kids was fixing a Velveeta cheese dip. I found evidence of attempts at laundry. While I pondered dinner, my Big T walked in. It was good to be home.
I can’t imagine what it will be like without Bianca. She has been the force that connected me to track driving. Right now, she is sitting in the garage smudged with track dirt and a bit of residual glue from racers tape. I have not yet unloaded her completely. I am in the process of finding a replacement track car. She has to retire, but I cannot.
Back when I started out, I remember someone saying “Your little white 911 is the best teacher you’ll ever have on track.”
They were right. Thank you Bianca.
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Although we didn’t know it at the time, this is my last track photo with Bianca.

Poky–But NOT Hokey.

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There is nothing in this world like Road Atlanta.

Ah!  Road Atlanta.  Like a lover, only so much sweeter. I am still on a high.

Who would have imagined that I would get there in 2015? The plan had been in 2021. But the scoffing of Swami, the finger-wagging of Vader, and the gently smiling sweet encouragement of my Big T gave me heart and courage. Yes, me.

Phase I : Get to Braselton
April 26–Sunday prior to leaving I packed the car. Also it was Big T’s birthday. Even 22 years later, at the thought of him I just can’t help my goofy grin. Is that normal?
April 27–Monday: Work and try to breathe.
April 28–Tuesday: Same, but also get the Diva ready for 3 day field trip, get my chipped crown repaired, and wrap Cufflinks’ birthday gifts.
 April 29–Wednesday: 18th Birthday! Legal voting age! Drop off baby Diva EARLY am at school, birthday dinner, gifts etc. Try to breathe.
So it was a bit more serious than I had thought.
So it was a bit more serious than I had thought.
 April 30–Thursday: Taking emergencies, students packed in. Cannot breathe. Leave work for urgent care. Oxygen, nebulizer, steroids and rest. Seventeen hours later, Bianca and I begin southward. Practicing driving fast. The officer who stopped us was very kind and did not incarcerate me. And he subtracted 30 mph when writing the citation. I was trembling and crying for fear he may shoot me. Remember the steroids? Psychosis is a known side effect.
May 1–Friday: Writing furiously. Arson case in court Tuesday. Resting, breathing. Unexpected bonus: a desk in hotel room. Swimming. SwamiMike arrives! Happy to see him and the handsome #8. The last time we had met was before we became friends– and I felt such joy (remarkably, no awkwardness) at finally meeting my bud.
Mr. and Mrs. Swami living out in the sticks (according to their website).
Mr. and Mrs. Swami enjoying a pastoral life.

Phase 2: A Wish Come True

At 5pm, we headed for track to register and tech. “Bad news” Swami said, his eyes twinkling. “I’m your instructor. And we begin your instruction tonight.”  He poured two drinks and pulled out a 3-Ring binder.  We began a Track Walk.

Meticulous and serious. Just like Swami.
Meticulous and serious. Just like Swami.

A perfect evening. Gentle breezes rolling over the deep green tree-covered hills, and a quiet track. Background sounds wafting over: cars setting up and trailers unloading. The air felt dream-like amid the bird-song soundtrack. The slowly westward arcing sun warmed my skin.

Swami has the most track decals I have ever seen! He must have been a very good boy.
Swami has the most track decals I have ever seen! He must have been a very good boy.
 Swami began to describe the topography of the turns. Eagerly, I drank in each word as he flipped through to show aerial image after image of each turn. Each one was detailed, with the perfect driving line drawn in red pencil. Meticulously he had marked out the apex, turning point, braking point and track out path.  Seeing the turns from another angle was an eye-opening experience. I am ashamed to say that, in my ignorance, I naively responded “Sure. I can do that” when he described which curbing to touch and which gators to avoid.We got into his truck and began a perimeter drive of the track. Stopping and getting out at each turn, Swami explained the track. His relaxed pace, friendly manner, and sharing of historic anecdotes set me at ease. Would you believe me if I told you Swami remembers EVERY single crack on the track? And could tell where there was a new one?
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Saturday after my only good session all day, there were a few moments of smiles.

Phase 3: Grass Handed to Me.

I did try to practice going fast in the straights by speeding during my drive into Braselton. As mentioned, I got stopped by an officer when I was cruising at XXmph. He let me off easy. It will be the cost of a track weekend essentially and I have already ‘fessed up to my sweetie BigT. What did I get out of it? Well: I know I can DO IT!
I struggled with basics on the first day. Sheer frustration at discovering that my brain had frozen in the face of the Esses. Did I no longer know how to downshift? Indeed, I did not. Poor Swami had to remind me. The famous combination of goofiness, cluelessness and optimism had failed me.
The second day I got in a couple of decent sessions. Consistency was at about 65% by the end of the weekend, and speed was still flagging. Wish I could have shown that to the cop.

Lots of damage was happening: SwamiMike called it a “crashfest”. I found driving with Chin was another ballgame entirely. The other cars in my

#8 and Bianca at Road Atlanta paddocks
Swami is a very fast driver: his car is a Porsche 911 (997.2 S). He is an outstanding coach. Here are #8 and Bianca at Road Atlanta paddocks.

green run group were: 5 (FIVE!) ferraris, 1 maclaren, 1 aston martin, 1 maserati, 1 mazda, 2 M3’s and 2 or 3 caymans.

SwamiMike was disapproving of the lack of speed, but continued to encourage me. He recorded one session using his Gopro on my car. I could see my mistakes much more clearly. However, I continued to repeat them and we were both a bit deflated by the end of the weekend.
By last run Sunday, Swami says: “That was a good session. We didn’t come out under the bridge at the same point twice any single time.” I reminded him I was not in the “gifted and talented” program. I scored a D+ on the Chin grading scale.
Unsurprisingly, my sweet Bianca was the only one who shone. SwamiMike said “I’m very impressed with your car”.
Team Ferari. I tried again but the bunny ears trick only worked once.
Team Ferari. Long story. Search for “Enzo’s Dream” on YouTube.

Road Atlanta was a thrilling, challenging, and addictively fun course! I think I did sub-okay overall. I am not proud of my performance. But I learned the line. And was able to remain intact on  an unforgiving track, in unforgiving car, on my first event there. There were many others that weekend who did not.

 Phase 4: Drive Trophy Home
Keith and Micki Madison from Goldcrest Motorsports. Lifesavers!
Keith and Micki Madison from Goldcrest Motorsports. Lifesavers!
And, thanks to the heroic efforts of Mickie and Keith Madison of Goldcrest Motorsports in Kennesaw, GA, Bianca’s worn out rear brake pads and rotors were replaced! Within a hour, they had the parts. Keith himself, renowned for working on  pro-racer cars, was so incredibly good to my Bianca and worked on her himself.
When I told him what happened, Swami said: “All that braking”. He was right.
I was happy to drive my beloved Bianca home. I love her.  And I’ll be back at Road Atlanta in June with Vader.

Hello Cowgirl in the Rain.

Friday the 13th at VIR. Forecast loomed ominously. Rain, sleet, hail, puddles, and muddy run-off from the hills pouring onto track.

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A little touch of Nascar Nomex for FDM

You may remember (hubby away, caring for sick puppies, two teenagers, etc.) my track prep had been minimal: watch vids, wax car, stuff track gear into frunk.

At work, it was the week after Spring Break. That usually means that anyone who had avoided panic attacks all year was now fulminant.

I cannot overstate my gratitude for kid-wrangling friends: Amie, Clare, Angie, and Lars. You guys made it possible. I had packed Bianca the night before. After taking emergencies that day, I shot out of clinic way behind schedule.  Straight home, switched cars, and began redlining my way to salvation.

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TrackMonkies wearing trucker hats.

At Oak Tree, I discovered 007, RAM and Mrs. Showmonkie had graciously saved me a seat at dinner. The atmosphere was charged with excitement! For most of us Track Monkies this was the season opener. Vader and Tex arrived shortly followed by 930Man. Slow service led to a relatively late meal, but we had fun catching up.

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My instructor, CastleGuy with his track car.

Next morning, I awoke at six. Not at 2:30 am! Amazing! No jumping jacks, running or yoga were necessary! Registration and inspection down in good time. For the first time I was “alert and oriented times four” when drivers meeting began. I was just a bit nervous about using new tires on a wet track. It began to sleet, then hail during the meeting. Next, I discovered that my assigned instructor was absent. What?  After some back and forth the organizers found me someone to be paired up with. I’m ashamed to have said “Wait, I wanted my special instructor!”

Because that is exactly what I got. CastleGuy: an M3 driver. Laid back, with an infectious grin, and inspirational style of teaching. He sensed how tense I was. And began every session by saying “Let’s just go out there and have some fun!”

CastleGuy undid a the damage that my last track event  had sustained back in November. He helped me build on carrying momentum into turn 1 consistently. Next at turn 3, he helped me return to taking it fast, as a sweeper, as 007 and Mr. LeMans had taught me.

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Outline of track for your reference.

Then, he showed me a new entry line going into the “Esses” at turns 7, 8, 9. Taking 10 faster than before, and the biggest change for me: Taking turns 11 and 12 as a slingshot, rather than a double-apex! CastleGuy tidied up my entry into 14 and helped me to identify the feel of Bianca’s balance shift for the optimal braking point between turns 17 and 17a.

Shaved off 10 seconds.

On Sunday, the sun shone triumphantly! What a grand start to 2015! Laughter, fist-bumps, comparing notes, getting pointers and celebrating! RAM got his black wristband. TrackMonkies crew included Tex, Vader, 007, 930Man KingK, GreenFrog, SaintWasso, ProCoach, Mr. and Mrs. ShowMonkie, RGB, The Major, 928enBlanc and QueenB.  We even had special guests: GoThingNC, JaSchifster, and LeggyStig! People I missed: Kivinski, Mr. LeMans, SweetandSourSwami, and SCDon.

One last thing. Promise.

Cowgirl in the rain.
Cowgirl in the rain.

Driving Bianca reminds me of Neil Young’s lyrics of a powerful, indestructible woman surviving the ingrained paradox of strength and imperfection. That’s Bianca.

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SaintWasso took this shot of FDM. He said “A girl and her car.”

Hello Cowgirl in the sand. Is this place at your command?

Hello Ruby in the dust. Has your band begun to rust?

Hello Binky with your tires. Could you set the track on fire?

Yes. It is the woman in me that makes me want to play this game.

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FDM and Tex are all smiles Sunday. Blue run group, pink solo bands!

Up next: Bibbity Bobbity Boo

The Truth Is…

It’s difficult for me to write this post. IMG_0153

For the past 5 days, I have been a single parent to two kids who cannot drive (nor ride the school bus) and two puppies (one of whom has been awake for nearly 18 hours whimpering in pain). My sweet darling Big T has taken our firstborn on their annual father-son hiking trip to Death Valley National Park. Neither of them will need cufflinks.

Not to complain about any of that…the reason I struggle to write this is: I feel torn between continuing the story of how I found my beloved Bianca and the actual story of my present life. Because the present is a gift. Ugh. My apologies, it’s late and I couldn’t resist.

Meaning: YES! I’M GOING TO TRACK TOMORROW!

Three, yes count them baby 1-2-3 days! At Virginia International Raceway with the Zone 2 Porsche Club of America High Performance Driving Event (aka. Z2 PCA HPDE). I will drop off my bambinos to school, drop off the puppies to their vet for boarding, will endeavor to SAVE LIVES all day in clinic. Yes, I am taking emergencies tomorrow but I’m a tough guy and in the last 15 years have not met a patient who scared me. (Except the one that jumped out of a window). After clinic, I will begin my drive to the magical land where my soul is nourished.

God willing (yes even Marginal Muslim Mommies can say Inshallah when needed) I will have packed the Beautiful Beloved Beastly Bianca by 7:00 am. I will get my racing suits from the cleaners because they (like every other item of clothing I own) need alterations.imgres-2

Yes, I am short, old, and cranky but I make up for it in laughter, goofiness, and absentmindedness. Plus I am a verbose but good-hearted soul. Some say I’m cute. Others believe I’m a goddess. Yes, I know, they lie for self-preservation purposes.

But I do have an orange helmet, and can deliver a punch line.

The whole crew will be there this time! Agent 007, Vader, RAM, ShowMonkie (and Mrs. ShowMonkie who is possibly a very very secret Victoria’s Secret model), RBG, Mr. Energy, QueenB, KingKrug, The Major, GreenFrog, ProCoach, Blanc968, and so many more. Here’s who I miss: Mr. Le Mans’ heart of gold, MikeJim’s affected snarkyness (because he has to hide his heart of gold), Kivinski (who has a heart of gold and doesn’t even know it so has not been able to hide it all these years) and SCDon (with his earnest goodness, foodiness, and The23Car). I know they are having adventures of their own and that makes me happy.IMG_2099

To my brothers and sisters of burning rubber: Shiny side up!