Earning My Stripes at The Glen…

Posted: July 3, 2015 in 300ZX Build
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE

It was July of last year… I was 20 minutes into my first Saturday session at the famed Watkins Glen, and had just went off exiting turn 6 “the laces” and tagged the armco. As I limped off track and back to the pits, a million thoughts raced through my mind.

An elderly track official flagged me down to asses the damage, and after a brief walk around the Z said, “Well, you earned your stripes at the Glen today, take pride in that.” It gave us all a good chuckle, and broke the tension I was feeling after the mishap. Back at the pits, I remember staring at the car thinking, “I thought I’d be more upset than this.” But the truth was, this is what I built the Z for! And like everything else I do in life, I didn’t hold back.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE

I’m no pro race driver by any means, and am the first to admit I have a lot to learn, but I’m not out there doing parade laps for the “experience” either. I’m constantly pushing the car (and myself) to the limit…

So I guess it wasn’t a matter of if, but when something like this would happen. And in all honestly, it could have been a lot worse – in the previous session, my buddy lost his brakes going into turn 1 (at 130mph!) and totaled his mint S14.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE

Right before the incident, I had just come off my best lap of that session (probably of the weekend), as pointed out by my instructor Emrich, and was feeling pretty confident.

Friday had been a blast – 5, 25 minute sessions of pushing the car harder than I had ever before, on one of the most challenging tracks to date. Every corner I’d exit wider, getting as close to the rumble strips as I could – my instructor’s favorite line of the weekend was “Let it out!” as I tended to fight the car on exit instead of letting it track out naturally.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE

Unfortunately, on the next lap (feeling cocky having just completed my best lap) I went a little TOO wide, and my rear passenger tire clipped the high point of the rumble strip, lost traction, and sent the car into a skid.

Thankfully, I was able to control the skid, and just ever so gracefully double tap the armco before the car came to rest on the grass. You’ll have to wait for the finished documentary to see the crash footage (it’s pretty epic), but I hope to have a short video of my best hot lap from that weekend up on the blog in a few weeks.

In hindsight (after reviewing the footage/reading some great articles by pro drivers in the off season), I realized that besides taking the car too wide, I was also way to far down on the GO pedal. I was flooring the accelerator before even finishing the turn on exit in a corner… most times overpowering the front tires and causing massive understeer. The resulting push on exit no doubt brought the car even wider than I had intended right before the crash.

(My goal for 2015 is to feed the throttle progressively while unwinding the steering wheel exiting corners.)

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE

Back in the pits, we pulled the wheels and checked over the suspension. Besides the obvious body damage, both my SSR’s on the passenger side were trashed, along with one of my tires, but the SPL suspension was unscathed.

The front fender damage had caused the fender liner metal mounting tab to bend outward, filleting my practically new Nitto NT05! (Needless to say, rolling the inner fender lips is definitely on the agenda for this season.)

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE SSR TYPE C

Who says Forged wheels don’t crack!

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z

Luckily, my buddy who had just wrecked his S14 (pictured fueling up our friend’s 911), was gracious enough to let me borrow his 350z Rays V1 “street” wheels. 

We banged out the front fender best we could (so it wouldn’t rub), and I was back out on the track! On a side note, the Z looked fantastic with the Rays V1’s – I was originally looking at these wheels way back when I first started building the white Z, but ended up purchasing the SSR’s instead.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE

Before we went back out in the Z, Emrich asked if I’d like to go for a spin with him in his car to get an idea of how he navigated the track. Having learned so much doing the same with my instructor/good buddy Cody at previous events, I jumped at the chance.

Emrich said he had been racing the Glen for the better part of 30 years, and normally tracks an 80’s RX7 (full on track car), but header issues before the event forced him to drive up in his mostly stock AWD BMW 3 series. I wasn’t quite sure what I could learn on track in a stock BMW, on street tires at that… but all I can say is, I WISH I had brought the GoPro out with us!

Emrich danced that Bimmer around the track effortlessly, 4 wheel drifting the car through turns at speeds I wasn’t even reaching in my Z! I think my face was set to permanent grin the entire time we were out there. Just goes to show that power isn’t everything, and driver skill goes a long way.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE

Before the mishap, I’d been pretty aggressive on track. I was reaching speeds of 130+ in the straights, and close to tipple digits in some of the turns.

Emrich really challenged me, pushing me to do better with each lap of the track. I learned a lot from him out there, and as my confidence grew, I began to test the Z’s limits, regularly manhandling the car with little regard for our safety.

Post crash… not so much. Nothing like a good crash to put the fear of God in you.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE NITTO NT05

My times were close to 7 seconds slower after the mishap, partly because of my own hesitation, partly because the Rays V1’s were smaller in the front than my SSR’s (8″ 245 vs 8.5″ 265).

The smaller tire really gave the car a lot less grip in the front, and lowered the speeds I was able to enter corners dramatically. I still managed to get the Nitto’s nice and sticky though.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE RTR

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE SOLO

Although Emrich felt I was driving well enough to promote me to Blue group, the crash prevented him from doing so. This was disappointing, as it was something I was really shooting for that weekend.

He was able to clear me for solo runs though (the yellow band pictured above). A great victory in and of itself! Emrich also took the time to give me a great review in my PCA log book, pointing out my strengths, and areas I should continue to work on. This was a first for me, as other events I’d run hadn’t offered a log book. I plan to bring the book to future events to keep a written record of my progress.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE

Unfortunately, a turbo oil feed line leak that progressively got worse prevented me from putting any serious solo track time in Sunday. But it was still an incredible feeling to have had the opportunity to solo on track.

And of course, there was no better feeling passing high dollar Porsche’s, in a car I built myself! I can’t tell you how many Porsche owners came up to me that weekend to compliment the Z (and my driving), from the RTR staff to the other drivers. A few had even owned Z32’s in the past, and chatted about their fond memories of the car.

glen4

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z INSTRUCTOR HPDE RTR  TRACK TOUR

Another highlight of the weekend was getting the chance to walk the track, turn by turn. The staff did a great job breaking down each corner, and explaining the best way to attack it. Quite an experience to see close up.

Some parting thoughts on the track itself:

– You can carry some serious speed through “The Esses.” I got progressively faster through here as the event went on. Eventually, I didn’t even have to brake turns 2 through 4, and almost rode the entire stretch flat out!

– The inner loop might be my favorite part of the track. There was something extremely fun about bouncing through the rumble strips maintaining as much speed as you can before braking for turn 5.

– Before (and after) the accident, turn 6 was actually one of my strongest on the track.

– The Z loved to understeer and push hard through turn 7, even when I had a great line. It got progressively worse as I got faster throughout this section all weekend. I may need to invest in some adjustable FUCA’s and dial in more negative camber in the future.

– Turn 9 was by far my worst turn on track. It’s a blind corner, uphill! You literally can’t see where you’re exiting, and just have to know it’s there when you start to turn in. I had a very close call here Friday, and almost stuffed the car coming out too hot before the bridge.

The Rriesentoter Porsche Club put on an amazing event, and I was grateful to have been a part of it. All and all, it was an action packed weekend.

Z32 300ZX ROAD RACING WATKINS GLEN ARMCO VG30DETT AMPUTEE RAYS V1 350Z HPDE

Back at the garage, work obligations sidelined any progress on the Z through the winter. I finally started pulling the motor last month to prep for this season (and ZCON 2015!)

I took the time to upgrade a few things as well, namely the turbo oil feed lines and the stock mechanical radiator fan. I also re-purposed the stock TT oil cooler as a power steering cooler, added a .40 micron fuel filter in the rear, fabbed up some aluminum ducting in the nose for better airflow, and have plans to upgrade the stock TT brake calipers to a pair of 6 piston Brembo’s with 2 piece DBA rotors!

I plan to do write ups on everything in the coming weeks, but for now, you’ll have to make do with the teaser pic’s below.

See you at ZCON!

Jay

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING AN LINES TURBO OIL FEED SS

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING EFAN MARK VIII

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING EFAN MARK VIII

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING EFAN MARK VIII

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING POWER STEERING COOLER OIL COOLER

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING AEROMOTIVE .40 MICRON SS

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING DUCTING

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING BREMBO 17Z BBK

300ZX Z32 TWIN TURBO JSWORKS ROAD RACING BREMBO 17Z BBK

 

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