The next day after wrenching on my brakes and talking about cars with fellow car enthusiasts, we had a small meeting and hit the track for a pace lap. After going around the track at a moderate speed and talking with other drivers about what are some good reference points to look out for on the track. I had an idea of what line I would like to try for my first practice sessions.
In my first practice session, I took things easy, focusing on braking points and finding a better ideal line for my car. With my car being front wheel drive, the ideal line at Gingerman involved trail braking (to rotate the car), and hitting a late apex. Once I started to perfect my ideal line, I started carrying more speed out of corners, and I started banging through the gears. In this session I set a pretty slow lap time of 2:10.084.
I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest one out there, but a 2:10 at Gingerman really puts it into perspective how important it is to get a ton of seat time to shake down a car. After my first session, I was able to make some adjustments to the car. I added added more negative camber on my front suspension and reduced my tire pressure by 2 psi on all four corners. Before I knew it, it was time for my second practice session. I quickly put my gloves and my helmet back on and drove to the paddock.
We all lined up from fastest to slowest from previous session. My instructor pointed to me to the P12 spot in the paddock and we chatted a little bit about my plan for the second session. Essentially, my goal for the next session was to get in some clean air, find a rhythm and use that rhythm to create some momentum and build my confidence.
In my second session run on my 4th lap, I ran into some issues. I was coming out of turn three in third gear, I short shifted into fourth gear before entering turn four. I was pushing hard through turn four, then I hear a loud POP. My heart drops in my stomach. What the heck just happened?!
I shift back into third gear and slowly make my way around turn 5 and 6 (double apex, pretty awesome series of turns), then try to get back on the power, and nothing. At this point it was obvious to me that a coupler had popped off, causing a large boost leak. I slowly made my way around the rest of the track, and returned to the paddock. The hose between the hot side of my turbo housing and the hot side of the intercooler weren’t connected, and I was missing a hose clamp. Since I didn’t bring any extra hose clamps, I asked around the paddock to see if anyone brought any spares, but no luck. I hopped into my friend’s S2000, ran to Autozone and bought multiple 2 ¾ inch hose clamps. I quickly put everything together before my next session, and got back out onto the track for my first-time attack session.
Besides the hose clamp catastrophe, my Fiesta felt really good, and I was becoming more and more confident with my car. The DTC 60/30 brake pad set up definitely helped give me a great initial bite and modulation in the corners at Gingerman. The changes I made after my first session helped balance the car. When I was on the limit, I could make small changes to help the car pitch and roll in-and-out of corners.
On Saturday evening we had our first Time Trial session. I pushed the car even harder, and the coupler popped again. But, I got my best lap time yet, a 2:02.065. Thankfully, I’d bought multiple hose clamps, I got under the car and put everything back together again, but this time I wrapped the aluminum coupler in some sticky skateboard grip tape to help matte the rubber tube to the coupler. On Sunday morning I went on some back roads to test the coupler. 2nd gear pull, check! 3rd gear pull, check! 4th gear pull, POP! At that moment, I knew exactly what I should have done initially. I needed to turn down the boost.
After turning down the boost, my car had no issues. In the track sprint section I ran a 1:06.128. Then in my next two Time Trial sessions I ran a 2:00.679 and a 1:59.116! I broke 2 minutes! That left me with the weirdest feeling.
I was faster in an underpowered car?
The car felt more forgiving and responsive when I reduced the boost. I knew I wasn’t going as fast in the straights, but it didn’t feel like I was going faster in the corners either. After looking at the data, it was all because I was more confident in my car to brake later and get on the power earlier. Less horsepower also equals less wheel spin in a front wheel drive car.
Going from a 2:10.084 to a 1:59.116 felt like a huge accomplishment, but it also pushes me to one day go back to Gingerman and focus on the spots where I lost a lot of time.
This was my experience at my first ever track day. The first day was super stressful, but I still loved it. Fair warning if you love driving like I do, you may get hooked (and/or catch the track bug). At the end of the day, it’s worth it to me. If you are reading this in prep for your first track day have fun, don’t be nervous, and definitely ask questions if you have some (my instructor was awesome, shoutout to John Hunter)! Or, if you already caught the bug I’ll see you out there on the track!
I am a 21 year old, University of Akron college student. In the past two years, I have worked for Hawk as first a Test Engineer Intern, and now and as a Sale and Marketing Engineering Rep Intern at our headquarters in Solon, OH.