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Zone Rep Report November 2009

Sean CridlandIn the Zone by Sean Cridland

Since I last checked in, I’ve had a very busy time. After visiting the Llano Estacado Region in the panhandle of Texas, I came home and began packing for a trip to the opposite end of the Zone, the Intermountain Region of Utah. For several years now, the IMR has been hosting a Club Racing and HPDE event at Miller Motorsport Park, located in Tooele, just west of SLC. As it is their biggest event of the year, I figured that it would be my best shot as Zone Rep to connect with lots of members from the Region. Since it’s a popular event with drivers, it also afforded me an opportunity to connect with several members of other regions around the Zone too.

As part of my trip to Northern Utah, I made a pilgrimage out to my beloved Bonneville Salt Flats for the World of Speed, a five day long event held each September. Since I did my cartop record there back in the 80s, I’ve always wanted to drive a car there, so this was my chance. I entered their entry-level event called the 130 Club. For that event they give you a standing start mile in which to record your speed at the exit of the mile, then a half mile to slow down. Of course we know that Porsches should be able to do 130, but usually it’s done with some momentum already built up, not from a standing start. So I had my concerns.

With some creative taping, trimming of the rear wing, and higher than normal inflation of my autocross tires, I set off across the salt. With a first run of 134.9 and a second at 132.7, my little car easily made it! Now…how to get it into the 150 Club next year…? I should also mention that I saw at least six other Porsches on the salt. Some were running for the 130 Club like me. Several of the hot-rodders came over to look at my car and confessed that they drive Porsches and are PCA members. I even saw GT-Racing bodywork guru Hank Godfreson working as pit-crew for one of my fellow 130 Club runners from Grand Junction, CO.  There was a fire-breathing 928 that was set up for the long course (five timed miles with a two mile run-up) complete with parachute! There was even an electric 911 conversion in its early stages doing some test runs on the short course.

During the intervening week, IMR president Otto Silva and his family graciously hosted me in their beautiful home in Lindon, UT. During the week Otto introduced me to several of the IMR members and to lots of non-members who were just interested in looking at the strange looking 911 parked in the driveway. It was great to meet more of our PCA members and prospective members.  But at week’s end, it was time to transfer over to MMP for the Club Race and HPDE.

Many of us have heard of Miller Motorsport Park and have even seen it on TV. It has quite a reputation for being a world class facility. But until you see it in person it’s hard to really grasp just how well it’s done. When you come in the gates it’s almost sparkling like when Dorothy first sees Oz. Hundreds of flags, a gleaming clubhouse, a pit facility that rivals any, with covered mezzanines and beautiful classrooms and box seats. The paddock is large enough and covered with beautiful smooth tarmac that it could easily host one of the best and largest autocrosses in the country. There are several restaurants to choose from and enough garages that everyone could park their track cars inside, with plenty of room left over! And that’s before getting onto the track surface.

For this event, IMR was running the longest configuration: the 4.5 mile course. They are also able to configure the course as two separate courses of over 2 miles each (where they often run two events at the same time with separate pit facilities!) or they can run the outer perimeter course which is also over 3 miles long.  There are many well placed corner stations and the emergency crews have their own internal road system to get to off-course vehicles with a minimum of yellow or white flag running. The surface is smooth and wide and because it’s used often for a variety of events, well rubbered-in.  To emphasize the smoothness of the surface, I had brought a set of tires that I don’t especially care for and was looking to wear out during the three days of running…but didn’t! I still have tread-wear markers showing. Darn!

The course is daunting. It’s so big and fast that it doesn’t compare with anything this lil’ ol’ country boy had been on. My first session I felt so out of it that I could have sworn I’d been passed by a couple of kids on razor scooters and a little old lady in a wheel chair. But then I was reassured by many of the regulars that they had all gone through that at some point. Thankfully, I did improve dramatically during the weekend. I think I can honestly say that I learned more about driving in 3 days than I had in the previous 3 years. That’s what a good track can do for you. When you hear people talk about seat time, it’s not just driving and driving that creates experience, it’s subjecting yourself to a wide variety of tracks and vehicles and building up a catalogue of responses to a wide variety of situations that makes a driver better. I can now say that from experience! The last couple sessions I was feeling much more competent and confident and really having a good time.

Hats off to all the amazing IMR members who made the three-day-long event go smoothly and efficiently. Though they begin with a world-class facility to work with, they have risen to the occasion to put on a great event worthy of the location. For any of you who are interested either in Club Racing or Drivers’ Ed events I strongly recommend you make the trip to Tooele next season for the IMR event. It is one of the best!

Coming up, I’ll be participating in my home region’s Chili Cook-off, then heading down to the Southern end of the Zone again for the Carrera Region’s Oktoberfiesta in Deming, New Mexico and their Arroyo Seco track facility. Though we’re getting into the late days of the year, there’s always lots of activity going on in Zone 9, practically all the way to Christmas!

I look forward to seeing you at an event soon!

Sean

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