The day started off like it often does here in Hilo, wet. The above picture is what the weather looked like just before I took my first run on the track.
Having never done auto racing before, I was a little nervous and didn’t quite know what to expect. My first lap was spent between figuring out where I was supposed to be going and sliding around the course. After a very full weekend and around 100 laps later, I can say that this is one of the funnest and most useful things I have ever done.
Obviously, the focus of the school is to make you faster, and without a doubt I am certainly a much faster driver on the track. More importantly though, I am also a much better driver on the road. A wet track and very worn tires meant that I had the chance to control the car past the limit. We all learn the basic principles of driving. Handling a car that has lost it’s traction that has lost it’s traction is so counter intuitive that you probably won’t make the right choice if you lose it on a regular road. I had the chance to control understeer (car doesn’t turn enough), oversteer (car turns too much) and lost traction again and again.
Autocross should be required for anyone who is getting their license. I really think it makes you a better driver.
After a couple of runs by myself I started to get the hang of it. After a couple of runs with the instructor, my times started getting better. After several runs more runs, I looked at my temperature gauge and realized my engine was overheating. Apparently, one of my fans had stopped working. Leaving the heater on while I was racing took care of the problem. Not the most comfortable solution, but it worked. You’ll notice in the picture below that my hood is up to help cooling.
Below is the full lineup of the cars that attended. The other Miata is just barely in the picture. All together there were six cars: my 2002 Miata, a Mazdaspeed Miata, a 350Z, a Lotus Elise, a BMW M3, and a Porsche Cayman (two drivers were sharing this car).
My car on the course later on in the day after the track had dried out.
We spent most of our time on the track getting instruction while driving or while in the passenger seat. This was the really great part of the class. I got to spend so much time behind the wheel. We did have intermittent breaks to discuss what we had learned.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted. My car was dirty, and I couldn’t wait to come back for more the next day.