Like some of you, I have a passion for cars. Before I was 16, I never really had the bug, but my parents would drag me out to classic car shows, we would listen to Car Talk Radio, and watch shows like Motorweek and Top Gear. Once I got my license, though, it was a different story all together. I. loved. driving. After high school, I enrolled in the University of Akron Mechanical Engineering Program with a dream of working in the automotive industry. And after too many ramen noodles and lots of hours working, I saved enough to trade in my old car and purchase a “sports” car.
My prized possession is a 2015 Tuxedo Black Ford Fiesta ST. It’s not super-fast, but it’s a weird and wonderful combination of fun to drive AND practical. The Fiesta ST is a Front wheel drive 1.6L turbo 6 speed Manual hatchback, and from the factory it produces 197 hp and 202 ft-lbs of torque.
I have been interning in different positions with Hawk Performance on and off for the past 23 months, and have learned a lot about not only the brake pad and rotor industry, but also Hawk's tremendous support of grassroots racing around the country. Since Hawk is the official Brake sponsor of SCCA, I snagged an invite to an SCCA National Time Trials event at Gingerman raceway at the end of July, 2019. I had all summer to sign up for the event, but at the very last minute, on July 25, I finally decided to pull the trigger. After clicking "register," I experience a pretty wide variety of emotions. Scared, nervous, anxious, excited, equally full of joy and despair, and admittedly clueless about what I would actually experience at my first ever Track Day. “What did I just get myself into?!” was what the voice in my head kept repeating almost nonstop. I scoured the internet until 3:00 am looking for any and all advice on how to prepare for a track day. I made mental and written lists and packed everything I could think of to tackle anything that could possibly go wrong at the track. I watched videos of people in similar cars do hot laps around Gingerman Raceway. I messaged friends asking for tips and tricks on the tricky corners of Gingerman. In short, I became a man possessed.
No matter how much I found out, though, I was still nervous. In less than 24 hours, I would be driving in my first track day… at an official SCCA National Time Trial Event… in my only fairly new, moderately expensive, daily driven car… at a reasonably complicated track… while camping out in paddock over the whole weekend… And did I mention, it would be my first track day?
Little did I know, signing up was the best decision I ever made!
Meeting up with some friends on the way, I pulled into the track Friday night around 7:00 pm. We signed in, settled in, and dug in, prepping our cars for the practice runs bright and early Saturday morning. After jacking up the cars and removing the wheels and tires, I did a quick 30-minute brake pad install. I removed the guide pins from my front and rear caliper set up, pulled out the Hawk HPS (High Performance Street) pads I use for daily driving, and replaced them with a fresh set of DTC-70 Dynamic Torque Control pads. This step was crucial to how well I would perform on track the next day because, when warmed up properly, our DTC brake pads do a great job of creating a great initial bite and smooth torque curve for driving on track.
Braking on track is very different from braking on the street. In normal street driving we tend to lightly step on the brakes, then slowly increase brake pressure and quickly come off the brake pedal to focus on cornering. On the track, however, it’s almost the opposite. Here, the goal is to spike up the initial brake pressure as quickly as possible to the maximum amount that the car and tires can handle before locking up or engaging the ABS system, then slowly and smoothly coming off the pedal to reduce brake pressure and begin cornering. The difference in pressures and torque is displayed with the two graphs below.
After a few more inspections and tweaks to the car, we started to think about getting some rest for the big day. Sometime before dark we’d remembered to set up our tents, and sometime before midnight we remembered to crawl into them. I wasn't able to sleep for what felt like hours, distracted by scrolling through search results on my phone and in my brain, trying to remember all the on-track tips and driving instructions I'd been given - or overheard - my whole life. Oh, yeah, and thinking about my first track day!
I am a 21 year old, University of Akron college student. In the past two years, I have worked for Hawk since May of 2018 as first a Test Engineer Intern, and now I'm a Sales and Marketing Engineering Rep Intern at our headquarters in Solon, OH.