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

 

 

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).

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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.
BiancaRetirementJune2015
Although we didn’t know it at the time, this is my last track photo with Bianca.

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!

Braking Pace For a Vegemite Sandwich

Photo on 2013-04-22 at 13.27

Esteemed and Kind Readers,

This post comes to you from balmy, beautiful Sydney, Australia. My mother is undergoing surgery, and I have travelled here to be with her during the next few weeks. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking and I cannot help but agree. Only a mother would want an obnoxious twit like me around when they are feeling under the weather. I write these words from the ICU waiting area, with the backbround soundtrack of cardiac monitors and the Aussie twang of the nursing staff. th

I admit it. I owe you an apology. Mostly for my abysmal sense of humor, but also for not posting anything recently. I have, truly, been interrupted by a combination of puppy kisses, the Pacific Ocean, and feeling sandwiched. Metaphorically and literally: Middle seat. Fifteen hour flight. Hot flashes. ‘Nuff said.

Fortunately, in spite of my myriad shortcomings, the Gods do smile upon me in thousands of ways. Here is proof: My dear friend and driving coach Larry Schmidt had graciously accepted my invitation to write his experiences during the summer of 2014, when he traveled to Europe to witness the return of Porsche Motorsports competing in the 24 Hours of LeMans.  Fortuitously, his completion of the four volume account coincided with my trip to Australia. He is a member of the Northern New Jersey Porsche Club of America. Larry happens to possess a gifted eye for the lens, and is married to a lovely and glamorous woman, Mary.LarryandFamilyJan2014 This is a photo of Larry, his wife Mary and their beautiful daughter Susan (right to left.)

Larry and I met in September 2014. He is an outstanding instructor and a generous soul. Larry is the only instructor who made me laugh so hard on track that I almost had to pull into the pits to recover my composure. His enthusiasm, gentle humor, depth of experience, and positive un-pressured instructional style all combined to make the September 2014 HPDE an event that was pivotal in my development as a driver.  When I asked Larry for background information to use as an introduction, he wrote back inimitable off-hand and self-deprecating manner:

“Not that much about my background that I didn’t tell you at VIR.  My first DE was in 1998, three days after getting back from LeMans trip #1.  I will reach day 200 on Jan 28 while at Sebring.  I have been an instructor since 2003.  At the peak, I did over 20 days in one year and now I am doing to about 10 days per year – going for quality tracks rather than quantity.”

So, with deep gratitude to Larry of Le Mans fame I bring you his story: Le Mans and Beyond, June 2014.

Pyrexia and Palpitations.

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There are things that I love about winter: Christmas cards, starlit morning jogs and wearing PJs all day. Kiddies snooze, raining outside. Daylight emerges and I’m snuggled up with Buddy the puppy. Guilt-ridden as usual: should be calling mother, washing Bianca, cleaning for houseguests… But, for the last 4 hours I’ve been thinking about …. Oh gee! What a surprise!

Ahem….. Now, I just really want winter to go away please so that I can concentrate on learning how to use the R888s.  How will she handle pulling out of turn 1 at VIR? What grip will I feel braking hard left into 4? Will I better manage tail exiting uphill to turn 14?

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Track junkies know this: you can stop yourself from going to track, but you cannot stop your mind from going there. (Any denial is just a polite untruth.) 148762_10204603104096182_2055781425093791747_n

Wondering: Is there any way on earth I can somehow sneak off to Road Atlanta with Vader and Tex without Big T or kids noticing? Agggghhh! It’s killing me. Tex posted a thread on the Hurricanes page. Talking about RA. Lots of good advice from Greenfrog, GillesV, and ProCoach along with some exciting videos by Randy Pobst being shared.  Answer: I cannot go. And I cannot stop thinking about turn 12.petit

For the past 6 months my water-cooled Porsche buddies have been in full cry: Your car is not right for track!  “Why?” I ask.

Unanimous reply: You’re spending so much energy battling the car you’ll never learn to drive!  It’s too difficult to handle!

Truth be told, I do have doubts about continuing to track Bianca, but for different reasons. Mostly related to worries about her safety. It is clear to me that Ron treated her with kid gloves.  The worldwide ummah of air-cooled Porsche lovers know the value: Bianca is entirely original. Many owners of these out-of-production bullet-proofed engine gems have had to restore their cars, splicing them with parts and vin numbers from others.

But am I going to pick an easier car? For my ego or speed? Will I take my dear friend Vader’s advice?

Duh. Guess again. I am FastDriverMom….Mom is code word for “I have no ego left, and because of that I am more powerful than I ever was before. Stubborn as heck.”

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I love that she is really a difficult car to drive, just like (someone I know) is a difficult woman to love.  I adore that Bianca’s torsion bar suspension makes turning the wheel at speed on track require all the strength of arms and torso, and every nerve impulse of my conscious thought. Her nervous 915 transmission requires that I delicately insinuate my way into 2nd gear via a sticky negotiation of sweet-talking the synchros into position. Her prodigious clutch demands my left leg take charge: smooth on, firmly in, smooth off.  Sometimes, because I am so short, I have to lift my rear off the seat to floor it in.

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By the end of a track day every sensation is sweating and alive. My musculature is reduced to a pulpy mush of creatine phosphokinase. For me, by far, the greatest joy in track driving is in learning how to manage this difficult car. Speed will come in time.

Because of the blood, sweat, and tears I put into driving Bianca, I drive as my authentic self. Stupid right? Yup. Every one of my instructors will prove witness to the gory mess I become.

I cannot go to Road Atlanta, or Roebling or Watkins or Cota or Mid-Ohio just now.  And, thankfully, I can’t stop my mind from going there. My brain is singing and tingling under the joy of the pre-frontal cortex dopamine rush! Yes, just by imagining it. My skin is warm, pyrexic. Feverish! Yes, and palpitations too.

I Solemnly Swear that I am Up to No Good

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Four days in November 2014 at Virginia International Raceway. With much gratitude to the FDM pit crew, fan club, and paparazzi, here’s the scoop! Complete with exclusive photos. Special thanks to coaches 007, Mr. Le Mans, Vader, and RedStrap who, amazingly enough, put their lives on the line and to MikeJim for providing wisdom on how to stay strong when the spirit wavers. My deepest gratitude to my one and only true love: BigT  (along with the little T’s Cufflinks, HairGel and StrummingDiva).

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And obviously, most of all, thanks to co-conspirator, childhood friend, intellectual muse, moral compass, and visual guide: Kivinsker for her brilliant photography, over-all good spiritedness, and saintly patience. Additional outstanding pics from AWOL photo. Having returned from the feast of giving thanks, I bring you my final track installment of the year.

Something about arriving at track combines the anticipation of ebullient, irrational, joyful thrilling victory and mixes it in with the queasy, irrational fear of humiliation by crumpling defeat. No one leaves with a trophy. I don’t even want a trophy. All I want is to improve!

Yet, this uneasy feeling is there every single time. It is because I know I will leave disappointed. Despite the pleasure of satisfying the visceral craving to drive on track. It’s because I am still WANNABE FastDriverMom. Precisely because growth in my competence matters so much to me, I know at this stage in my skill I cannot meet those expectations. The expectations of an 8 year old who has waited 39 years.

It matters. Very much.

You know, that rare moment in your morning rush of getting kids, bags, lunches, shoes, adults, keys, jackets, phones, lunch money, permission slips…and you accidentally look up and see your face in a mirror (grimacing, tired, stressed, whatever).

You look in your own eyes.  You think: “What have I become?”

To me, seeing myself at track….How I perform, how much I’ve learned, how much I can apply, how far can I trust my skills…It’s that same moment. ” Do I have what it takes? ”

Oh yeah…I can just see the snickering at this post…Oh she’s such a wuss, look what she’s writing now….Yeah man, so dumb…What a loser…….Gah, have some balls…etc and so on.

Well. That might be true. But I do have the guts to go for what I love, and better late than never.

And it is also true that for each one of the other drivers there. Yeah: the jolly self-deprecating banter, the deadpan jokes, the blase, thick-skinned bravado, or the tired “seen it all” boredom they brandish about covers an internal urge pushing each one. Just a little faster, just shave off the last personal best, not forced into allowing a pass.

The competition is…cue cliche here…against yourself. Yet, as any pro will tell you, the crux of the matter lies in risk:benefit ratios, and forces many of us to swallow the bitter pill of incremental growth.

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20141115-DSC_5305  (Ms. B DeWeiss)

20141115-DSC_5367 20141115-DSC_5371   (RedStrap’s beast)

RedStrap drove a car very similar to mine in origin. He had spent the past 10 years stripping it down, and had installed a 3.6 liter engine along with a limited slip differential and upgraded brakes from a 993 in the front and a 996 in the rear. It was a dedicated track beast, with expanded tire wells to handle racing tires.

The weekend began with sleep deprivation, over-focus on traffic management, confusion at turn 3, and subsequent degradation of my previously tight handling of turns 4 into the Snake. While RedStrap was positive and encouraging me (and even adopted the squiggle line at turn 1 as his own marker, courtesy of MJ), things were going downhill.9YdyBniCRRO2os-gnLzWUmw0_Zr-AJXeYwDF1asymEM,3deEOP0bWIuniq9j-k7qr2vZIqCFVTHNxoHAB8xRmRM,KyzosRBwRh-fnT0SHdkwYtzu2ey9hXNLTOYFl-08LjY

After a nap and a cup of tea, I, FDM returned for the last session. RedStrap coached me through turn 12 by identifying a peripheral marker for a turn in: the green stripe behind the tirewall. It helped, and I will carry that marker going forward. In fact, I have seen it in my dreams when I am driving through Oak Tree.

By Sunday morning, I realized turn 3 was setting me off, and I discussed it with RedStrap. We agreed I could go back to doing what I was used to doing (taking it as a sweeper) and things seemed to click a bit better.


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                                                                (RedStrap and FDM debriefing)

Meanwhile, Kivinski and I had said a somber goodbye Sunday morning. It was not easy to see her leave when several things in life were so sad in so many ways.  In some way it seemed to make up for it that the weather promised to be much better.  Even though, later on as I write about it, it comes out just sounding wrong somehow. Maybe when temperatures were so bitingly chilly, it mattered more.  I missed her, but tried to turn my focus to getting my in car videos set up.  As the day went on, I along with my track bros. the dashing Agent 007, GreenFrog, Tex, and 928enBlanc our spirits climbed up with the temperatures and the day ended on a high note for all.

I, Tex, MaclarenRoss and M3Dav hung out for the finale. Quote of the day: by M3Dav, “Glenmorangie will be the last drink I will request before I die.”   In the end, we all gratefully drove our trophies home. YsfXK77LI6giJwGqzrv8nn5O4unndfakvWNQYhMx7Bc,OY5Fe0P05z-D8JjLZfNi0dDl-rNmw0tKuFOPtJpxm0s,r5WqDSE-O4I9fo-xjdqDc8NaTMN_t1cxd8tZFpMAo8E

Who could possibly ask for more?       hYKfBpOCqSljmaa4Kho6hcBmP4NR979iO3sgmNhsWPI,7_lKiGAZU5lEdNbpBJb0TuWh_pW5Hk2_TKphwf8i8UM,dCuSQlDOw55zsMLx5tfAAxz3SAk4miCIc0Ttam5ZJFENext up: Ladies Only.