Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fun in the Civic with the BMW Club at Tremblant

I joined the BMW Club at Tremblant this on May 16th to instruct at their high performance driver education event. The forecast called for snow, which seemed hard to believe for mid-May, but sure enough, on my way up to Tremblant, I saw many cars headed south with snow on their roofs. Eventually, I came to areas where there was a dusting of snow on the ground as well. There was even a  bit of slush on the road at places and I saw a car that had rolled over into the ditch as well... not what one expects to see on the way to a track day.

As usual, there were many interesting cars on hand, many of them non-BMW's and most of them belonging to the instructors. My old Civic was usually one of the faster cars on track, even in the instructor group. After a couple of sessions on track, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the new Civic, although about 5 seconds slower per lap (2:03.4 according to my phone), is still in the mid pack. I always get a bit of an ego boost when people come up to me after a session and say "Was that you in the Civic? You were quick out there!". At St-Eustache, there are a bunch of really quick Honda's, most quicker than mine. However, at  these BMW events, there are usually only a couple of Honda's , so I think many attendees are a bit surprised when they get passed on track by a Civic, especially one that looks as unmodified as mine.

I was not comfortable pushing too hard because of the cold conditions, but the car felt really planted. The back end stepped out a bit once (first time ever with this car!) at the transition point between corners 4 and 5, which was a surprise, but generally, the car gripped. When it understeered a couple of times in a row during a session where it was snowing, I decided to pull into the pits. Constantly changing conditions are tricky, and I didn't feel like risking anything just to try to go that little bit faster. My car's top speed on the back straight was 182 km/h, which is as fast as I've ever gone on this track.

I took a video with my phone in a 99-cent Ebay phone holder, and the result was shockingly good. Here it is. It was not my fastest session of the day, but rather the only one I filmed.

I am pretty sure that in nice conditions, I will be able to go quite a bit faster, maybe even under the 2-minute mark. My minimum speeds in most corners are 85% of what they were in the race car when it was running in the 1:58 range, and my top speeds are pretty close. The new Civic was clearly making good power on such a cold day. The car felt really good: good acceleration good gear ratios, adequate brakes, good grip, predictable handling. I look forward to future events with the car at Tremblant.

Lovely E30 M3 from the instructor group
I love the 964 too.
Maybe my favourite colour for the E92 M3
Alex used to have an NX2000 just like this!
This Evo looked like a serious track weapon0
Another lovely 911
Nice wheels and an aftermarket wing make for a neat-looking 996 Turbo
There was no missing the only yellow Civic in attendance!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Back at Monday Night Lapping

I was able to attend Monday night lapping at St-Eustache on Monday for the first time this year. My friend Mazen met me there and I lent him my car so he could get some instruction in the red group for the first time ever. Before he arrived, however, I headed out in a green/black session and it wasn't long before I beat my best lap time from two weeks earlier. My new record is 1:03.63. I felt pretty good about the lap, until I got home and looked at the data... I was extremely slow in the two slow corners (like almost 15 km/h slower than I had been two weeks earlier) on my fastest lap, and there is definitely room for improvement in the driving department. After Mazen's first session, I took him as a passenger in another green/black. Apparently, the driver of the Lotus Exige in line behind me complained that my Civic seemed to be in the wrong group. I guess he was worried that I would hold him up. Well, it took him a couple of laps to even catch me, and though he had been filling my mirrors at the end of the back straight, I left him in the dust in the esses. He passed me on the following lap, but I easily stuck with him through the esses after that. Don't judge a book by its cover dude! Even though my best lap of that short session was only a 1:04.63, I had much better speed through the bus-stop and hairpin. It seems I am only able to do my best in some corners when there is some external source of motivation, like another car. I am confident that if I can get in the right mindset, I can get into the high 1:02's with my current setup.

Here are a couple of photos taken by JAG Imaging:

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 photo 13217576_10154128867877145_6729743946572853141_o_zpsc9cqxwyl.jpg

I also got to drive a student's Shelby GT350, the track-oriented Mustang with the 526 hp flat-crank V8. It was a very pleasant drive, and the motor was not a torque monster... rather, it felt like the torque would come on nice and gradually, making the car seem easier to drive. Of course, I was not pushing it in a student's car, and actually did the whole lap in third gear. I have often said that Mustangs can make great track cars with only a few modifications, but this is the first time I try one that would need nothing more to be a track star.

I am heading to Tremblant to instruct next Monday, and I am eager to see what the Civic can do on a big track with lots of high speed corners.

A student's GT350
A lovely Exige

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

AISA School @ Calabogie

I headed out to Calabogie with Carl and the AISA gang for our second and last race school of 2016. I was looking forward to a second outing on track with the Civic and was eager to see how it would perform on a bigger track. Heading out to the track with such a lightly modified car is not that big of an undertaking: I just packed a few tools and electronic gadgets, but did not need a jack or spare wheels.

I headed out to Calabogie, which is exactly 300 km from my house, on Friday afternoon. I was to be co-teaching the Friday night classroom session with Oktay. The drive was pleasant and uneventful, and I thoroughly enjoyed having cruise control and a stereo in the car.

When I got to the track, I enjoyed looking around at all the cool cars in the paddocks. Most of them were there for Friday night lapping, or for other reasons. There was a wide variety of machinery, as is usually the case at Calabogie.

Ready for action, looking like a plain street car
On Saturday, I prepared the Civic for the track (basically, checked the oil and reduced the front tire pressures) so that I could head out on track at lunch time. My group of students was the usual mix of modified or race compact cars and powerful sports cars. I had a good bunch and all ended up with a race license by the end of the weekend.

A couple of advanced students in their modified Corvettes

My old Civic and another Civic EP3, more modified than my own
The Martel brothers' Hondas
I was one of the first instructor cars out at lunch time and really enjoyed my session on track. I was mostly alone out there. Sadly, my video camera stopped working and did not record the session. I was not pushing the car that hard and managed a lap time of 1:28. I was on pace for a 1:27 on one of my last laps, but I lifted for a long while to let Pascal through in his Integra (only to realize that he didn't really want to pass me at that time). By comparison, Jérémi, one of the other instructors, who laps in under one minute at St-Eustache, has a best lap of 1:24, so I figure I was doing well enough. Sajan was flying in my old Civic and was hitting the 1:20 mark. I hoped to improve on my time if it didn't rain on Sunday, but it wasn't to be: it rained almost from the beginning of the day. I still went out on track at lunch time with a student for a passenger and kept Jérémi behind me for the whole session (even Sajan took a couple of laps to pass me). My best lap in the wet was 1:39, and I was taking it quite easy. The car performed very well in both sessions and I think I set the tire pressures just right (28 front, 32 rear). My time on track was all too short, and I really want to get back out on track as soon as possible. Hopefully, it will not rain next Monday evening and I can get in a couple of sessions at St-Eustache!

The Civic with its rain setup (identical to the dry setup)
I don't usually like 911 Targa's, but this one was quite attractive-looking
This GTR was there for lapping
Tastefully modified 370Z
Yes, that's a Chrysler 300 race car!
The driver of the 300 had this Hellcat as his street car
A neat E46 track car
In Montreal, I continue to come across many interesting cars, mostly near my office in Old Montreal. 
Not the best colour for this 991 Turbo S 
Horizontal grill slats indicate that this is the 991.2
I often see this VW Thing puttering around my neighbourhood
This Impreza looked ready to head off-road
The Tesla you never see
My favourite F-Type: The R coupe
The 612 Scaglietti is a wide car
It looks great in this colour, with these wheels.
I was quite surprised to spot this super-rare Cayman GT4 right outside my office
I quite like this colour for the Cayman