It's mid-summer and hot. And a great time to enjoy driving! A few ACF members and friends took a trip down to Quonset Point to attend the July 19 session of ADSI's high performance driving school and autocross. I wanted to see how many of my cars I could get down there to experience so I enlisted the aid of Alex SdB and Mike M so we could manage three: the '07 997, the '86 944, and the '73 914.
The 997 is an ADSI veteran. But this would be the maiden voyage for the 944 and 914. Mike M is the prior owner of the 914 and the person responsible for making her look and work so well. Having him behind the wheel was such a natural and enjoyable thing. He said he hadn't really gotten a chance to drive her much before passing her on to Christian and me. It was time to make sure he got to experience her correctly. Wish you were there to take it all in, Christian!
We met up with Alex P-T in Providence with his lovely Audi S5. It was his first time coming down to ADSI as well. Jean-Yves took ill, unfortunately, at the last minute and wasn't recovered enough to join us. Hope you are feeling better, Jean-Yves!
We ran into Fred, with his amazing Miata, and his wife, Gersende, in her 335, on Route 195 on the way down! RI is so small! Suddenly we had five cars cruising down 95 to North Kingston!
It felt like a mad-shuffle of papers and money and stuff when we arrived - three times the paperwork! But we finally got settled in and the morning class had 15 cars!! Josh P and his wife, Nicole, made the trip down. Our male-skewed gender bias is finally starting to diminish a bit! And I'm so very glad for it. Gersende and Nicole appeared to have great fun and quickly saw that danger and speed are not real elements of this experience - it's about learning, control, and good driving. I hope anyone who thinks this is some crazy thing that scares them will reconsider and give it a chance.
We got started on the classic ADSI lineup - slalom, lane change, and then shoestring. We did slalom and lane change simultaneously and that worked well to keep us on our toes. Having my five-year-old wake me up at 2am that morning meant that I needed all the wake-up time I could get. By the time I woke up, I was exhausted. That method of preparing for autocross is going to have to change.
With 15 cars, we didn't get in quite as much practice as we've been fortunate enough to enjoy at prior events. But more students is great for the school and I'll never complain a whit about getting use of a big, open airstrip on a sunny summer's day! Rich S may have beaten my record for most continuous ADSI events attended at this point! We finished up the class portion by running a sub-section of the full track–the tight twisty bits mostly–which was a blast to do in different cars. Downshifting and attempting heel/toe in a '73 914 is roughly akin to trying to get to the moon in an Apollo sardine can. It can be done, but you sure do appreciate the amazing folks who did this first back in those days. Muscling the big wheel around the track, dealing with massive body roll, squealing the skinny tires, and locking up the rear wheels with downshifts...can it get any better?
15 more cars showed up for the afternoon open autocross. 30 cars total is a pretty small crowd and by about 2:30 enough cars were too hot, too broken, or too tired so the line disappeared to the point where there might be one car ahead of you at any time. I found that I couldn't capitalize much on it due to being worn out already and so hot, but I had great fun watching folks take my car out for runs. Nicole laid down a solid 1:36 and then Josh, her husband, decided he had to try to beat that. He did a couple of runs and some say he tied his wife's best. Others think Nicole may still hold the title!
Gersende tried the 997, too. Fred may now need to put in a few more hours at the office to keep his wife automotively happy! I am predicting we'll see a few more Porsches at the autocross soon! My nefarious plan to get everyone into a Porsche is progressing nicely!
My 944 and 914 left before the autocross portion since Mike and Alex SdB (and Alex P-T) did the morning portion of the day only. I think the 914 could have tackled the afternoon pretty well, but the 944 is making some creaking noises from the front suspension now that have me concerned. I'm hoping it's just the steering tie rod ends since I already have a new set to install. I hope it's not bushings in the lower control arms. Those are hard to find and not an easy wrench job. But the clutch pedal worked better than expected and the tires were tremendous on the 944. The 944 got a bit hot so I'm considering whether I need to work on the cooling systems a bit as well. Racing always stresses a car a little more but ADSI is always your choice about how much you want to coddle or mistreat your baby.
Speaking of mistreating, the 997's tires took a beating. I'm now definitely going to add more rear camber to reduce wear. The shoulders of the rear tires are just disappearing. Add in a puncture that I didn't discover until the next day and it was not a good day for tires. But that comes with the territory when you love turning money into noise and tire smoke!
We even had some comedy (tragedy?) with the Brown University FSAE team. They build a race car and have it run races and tests! For college credit!! About 8 kids were trying to get the car running. Brad gave them a big hand troubleshooting that they had no cold-start choke mechanism for some reason...and didn't advise them to run the car much that day. But they kept banging away at it until it would run...sort of...if they stayed on the throttle. If they lifted, they stalled. Not ideal. But since most of the team had never driven the car and wanted seat time, and against the recommendation of anyone who knows anything about machines, they took to the track.
As I watched them go down the first section with Dave H following them in a support pickup in case they needed a tow back, I saw smoke. I said, "I think they are on fire," somewhat casually hoping that I was wrong. I wasn't wrong. One of their oil lines was crafted of non-heat-resistant silicone rubber and melted. Oil hit the hot exhaust of an engine that had to be over-rev'd to keep running. And flames were the result. Thankfully, Marcello, a motorcycle racer, demanded that they wear the fire suit and helmet they had on hand rather than running in the shorts and flip-flops as they had planned. Luckily there was little real damage to the motor. But it was a big lesson in safety for the Brown kids!
All-in-all, it was a really fun day. And unique to be able to drive three of my cars on the same course on the same day! Not sure when or if another day like that will come. For me, this summer has been full of many such days and I'm every so grateful and amazed. I hope the same is true for all of you!
If you were there on 7/19, drop a note about your experience below (or reply if you got this as an email) and let us all know what you thought. If you weren't there, we hope you can make the next one on 8/16!