September 21, 2006
After 2 weeks of thrashing on the Camaro all night every night the car was ready
for Thunder Hill. There were several projects I was working on just before this
track day. Earlier this year I put a rear anti-roll bar in the Camaro and due to
some abuse the plates and tabs I had welding into the floor ripped out. I ended
up rebuilding the whole system (Camaro : Rear Anti-Roll Bar). I also installed
spindle extenders to fix the geometry problems the early F-bodies had with
camber curves. I ordered new wheels and tires for the car and this was my first
event with them on. On top of this I had to get an alignment and find a trailer
all down to the last min. But I will tell you what, this track day was worth
twice the work I did.
Wednesday afternoon we loaded the trailer and started our
drive to Willows Ca at around 5:20PM. We had a smooth drive and stopped to eat
at a great Dinner in Willows called The Black Bear. I had gone to Thunder Hill
last month with Nicole and I learned a valuable lesson, it IS worth the extra
money to stay at a nicer place. After great nights sleep in a really clean nice
hotel (AmeriHost) we headed out to the track. I drove the Camaro from the hotel
and Yves drove the truck behind me. I replaced my battery and did some little
things here and there and got myself to tech. Tech went smoothly.
My dad went to this event and it was really cool to see him
in front of me or in my rear view mirror. My dad was driving a Caterham Super 7
and some of the other cars included new GTO, Evos, STIs, S2000, Jetta, Corvettes
and I think there was a GTI or something in our group. My Camaro was once again
the only ďvintageĒ domestic out there. My first run I got passed my nearly all
of these cars. I was taking it easy, I had 30miles on these new tires and wanted
to make sure they would grip before I hammered on it too hard. As the laps went
by I was getting passed less and less until I hardly ever even saw another car.
There are just so many things to remember from this track day I decided to do a
turn-by-turn analysis to try and get it all down.
ThunderHill Track Map
Coming from around 115mph (lifting throttle for the last
ľ of the straight) you come into the highest lateral force level turn of the
course. Later in the day when I was going faster and braking later it gave me
the white knuckle feel big time. It makes you feel what its like to let the car
pull you to the outside.
The car really surprised me today. This is a long-ass U turn
and every time I came into it I thought ďis this car still really sticking?Ē I
remember the probe in this turn and waiting for it to stop under-steering. I
feel I could improve on this turn by getting more comfy with the idea of staying
to the outside longer when I enter. The instructor I followed said that to me
and I think he is right.
This is by far the most uncomfortable turn for me. It is
blind, down hill, off camber, and relatively sharp. I spooked myself by not
breaking enough causing me to drag my brake a little over and down the hill and
it the rear end slide out good foot. I learned not to have any weight on the
brake pedal once I crest the hill so avoid doing that again
Turn 4 was fairly easy and was more just a transition from 3
referred to often as the mini corkscrew. The biggest difference though is that
this turn is off camber like turn 3. For the first couple rounds I would
brake during the uphill part of this turn and let off once I got to the top but
Yves suggested I just lift earlier and not touch the brakes and this lead to a
much smoother turn. Too bad we didnít discover this earlier in the day because
it helped a lot.
6 & 7
Turn 6 is the entrance to a long stretch of straight flat
that is interrupted by a slight kink they call Turn 7. I started the day with a
conventional line for 6 but then realized if I turned in later I could get a
straighter shot and get more speed. Soon after changing my line I realized I
donít need any more speed for the straight.
This one is a great turn, it is FAST, and itís the start of
an uphill section. At first I was using the brake before this turn and gradually
broke that braking habit and didnít even touch them. I was surprised how fast
that turn was by the end of the day.
My FAVORITE turn. I estimate by the time I get up the hill to
turn 9 Iím going at least 70MPH. I felt comfy using a lot of brake here and
high with pretty hard from the beginning. Itís uphill and cambered the right way
so thereís a pretty good amount of control. It is not impossible to loose that
control however. The last run of my last session I came into this one a little
hot and got the car perpendicular to the course at the apex of the turn. I
proceeded to drive over the berm, scraping the underside of my car on the
concrete, two wheels in the dirt turning back onto the track to see the next
station waving the black flag at me. I pulled into the hot pits to get my
punishment and was pleased to just get the Ďbad girlie!í finger point.
The black flag can come out for several things, mostly its
when you do something wrong. I saw it was a totally positive experience. Getting
off course was something that comes with speed and pushing your car. I know at
least what it is like to loose control at high speed and how to get it back.
After coming down the hill from turn 9 in 4th gear
I would downshift into 3rd to be able to take this 90degree turn a
little slower. The last time out Yves suggested I just brake before turn 10,
leaving it in 4th until I straighten out after the turn. It took me a
couple laps to get the speed right in 4th but it did prove to be an
This is the dog leg or S section. I enjoyed this spot a bunch
and didnít change anything about how I was driving it all day. There is a yellow
section on the inside of turn 12 that is about a car width deep that you can
use to create a straighter shot into the straight ahead.
14 & 15
I have heard this is the most mentally challenging part of the course. At the
entrance there is an 80-30mph braking followed by a flat set of turns. The
fastest way I saw to go was turn early, hit the inside of turn 14 then let
yourself pull to the outside and just ride it to the outside of the start of 15.
I was slow enough though this turn that the fastest line wasnít that important.