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2015 Pearl White BE
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368 Posts
This is the first of a series of posts that I'm going to be making through the eyes of a newbie HPDE driver.

Before I left San Diego for a Panama Canal cruise a couple of weeks ago, I was staying at Hotel La Jolla, sipping on some wine with my wife when we both heard the unmistakable sound of not one, but two GT-Rs slowly making their way up the driveway to the valet. Needless to say, they wouldn't let the valets park their cars, and instead parked in a single long parking spot normally designated for buses.

I sent out a "sighting" post in the R35 forum and long story short, an impromptu meet up at a tea house was organized. Although I didn't have a car there, we ended up with 5 GT-Rs. The two GT-Rs belonged to Dmitri and Richard, who drove down from the Bay Area to see a car show.

I told the group about my upcoming Road Course Bucket List trip, consisting of the following events, a mixture of road course and drag racing:

May 2-3: Sebring International (FL)
May 18-19: Watkins Glen International (NY)
May 21: Maple Grove Raceway (PA)
May 28: Lime Rock Park (CT)
May 29: New England Dragway (NH)
June 3: Atco Dragway (NJ)
June 6-7: Summit Point Motorsports Park (WV)

Richard suggested that I start a thread that I update after each event with impressions, successes, failures, attaboys, etc., and that a lot of members might be interested in how this all turns out.

I should start by stating that I have never driven in any sanctioned road course event. So, I am a true beginner. I had much to learn just in order to make the right decisions about how to transform a FBO car set up for drag racing to one set up for road racing. I decided early on that, in order to obtain the best support for purchased equipment, that I would buy from authorized dealers. I know that most off-road applications come with little or no warranty other than maintaining a good name in this niche market, but that's important leverage. This decision cost me a few dollars, but could pay off down the road.

Second, I decided that I'm no longer the DIY guy that I was in the mid-90s. I had a 4-level cervical laminectomy with fusion in August and most people think I am sick in the head for having resumed drag racing in September. I would toss my hard collar into the trunk before tech so that I wouldn't get thrown off the track. I'm not up for getting under a car, or anything involving the contortions we find ourselves in when working on our cars. So, I put together a detailed game plan and took it to TR3, who shepherds a couple of fully race-prepped Ferraris all over the country and works on passenger cars as a revenue generator. The TR3 team has a lot of hard core race experience and I came to appreciate how much that experience helped.

For instance, the front rotor/caliper cooling system that Stillen ships includes a pair of fans whose brackets broke twice. To Stillen's credit, they overnighted replacements, which also broke when tightened wrist-tight. TR3 sourced a similar fan and had a local marine repair shop reinforce the bracket by bonding another piece of urethane over the original bracket. Problem solved.

I broke the project into the 3 pieces:

1. Install CCM-X rotors, pads, and cooling systems

2. Replace HKS resonated midpipe and Legamax with factory midpipe and cat back and dyno to determine (a) how much power is lost, and (b) get a data log for Bill Guthrie (SIR) to verify that the extra heat buildup won't create too much knock.

3. Procure and install harnesses and HANS device

You are probably asking why we restored the stock exhaust. Because Lime Rock. Lime Rock has an 86 dbA noise limit. I bought a $29 sound meter (forget those free apps for your iWhatever or Android). With a no-cat, no-muffler configuration, my car registered 107 dbA at a distance of 50 feet from the track. When you pre-pay for an event that's 1,100 miles from home, you don't want to be black flagged for noise on the first lap. It is not a mistake to err on the side of caution. On a road course, 20-30 HP won't be missed as much as on a drag strip.

The next thing I learned is that my Pure $XXM umbrella policy doesn't cover damage to my car incurred during off-road events. I needed track insurance. I Googled around and found a couple of companies specializing in policies that cover HPDE events. I talked to both and found Steve Katz at OnTrackInsurance.com to be the most straightforward and knowledgeable not only about insurance, but HPDE, TT1, TT2, and straight out racing. He raced semi-pro for a few years. For 7 track days, I paid $2,600.

I learned about submarining, and why 4-point harnesses are all but banned at any serious road racing event. Steve advised me to go with a 6-point harness. Unfortunately, a 5- or a 6-point harness won't work properly with the stock front seats. The bottom straps would have to go through the middle of the seat and be bolted to the floorboard. So, without anyplace for the bottom straps to bolt to, I'd need to go with race seats. My budget is already busted, so decent race seats are out of the question. I read the fine print in NASA's safety harness rules over and over and determined that the Schroth's Profii II ASM (anti-submarine) is allowed, due to a special design that, when the straps are tightened (as in a collision), one shoulder strap gives way a bit more than the other, which forces your body sideways so that you don't submarine under the steering wheel and into the pedals. Solved.

Then, the question becomes where should we attach the shoulder straps? We were hoping for an inconspicuous single harness bar solution that attaches to the B pillars, but nobody makes them any more. We needed to go to a roll bar. We found Forged Performance. Now, I'm starting to run out of time. Since I was leaving for a Panama Canal cruise on April 11th and not returning until the 28th *and* my first event is Saturday May 2, meaning I have to leave on Friday, May 1, I needed the car ready to *before* April 11 so I could park it in my garage, go on the cruise, come back, get the clear bra, and break in the pads. Unfortunately, Forged had a queue, and couldn't just crank out a high precision rollbar in 8 hours. So, I left the car with TR3 and PM'd Sarif and Bobby at Forged and told them the situation. They responded and assured me they'd make the date, and that the rollbar would be so easy to install, it should take no more than one day. My wife and I left for San Diego with me being optimistic but following up occasionally by e-mail, text, and PM.

Sure enough, the rollbar was completed and shipped on the 20th. Pictures in a future post.

On the 24th, while I was touring the lock system at the Panama Canal, I stepped on a section of curb, twisted my foot sideways and broke my left foot. For you orthopedic guys out there, it's the metatarsal bone leading to my little toe. A "Jones" fracture. My wife and I both heard the bone snap. I hit the walkway, but I remember thinking on the way down, "This is my left foot -- I can still drive!"

We got a temporary cast at the ship and flew from Cartagena, Colombia to Ft. Lauderdale near where I live. My neighbor is an orthopedic surgeon, so yesterday I e-mail him and asked if he could see me. He got back to me and told me to tell his secretary that I'm a neighbor of his and to fit me in with his partner, who specializes in feet. Left feet, I'm pretty sure.

I got the news that I'd have to stay off my left foot for 6-8 weeks and I'd have to come in for follow-ups. First one is May 4. Good. I can fit Sebring in. I told him that I'd been planning a 3-4 week trip to New York, and that I'd be away for a month. He said no problem, just keep my foot elevated. My wife drove me down to TR3 and dropped me off with crutches, my laptop, helmet (for HANS fitting), and my EcuTek cable. I got fitted for the harnesses and finally got a close-up look at the Forged rollbar and harness setup. Way cool !!!!

We put the car on the dyno. The PC running the dyno computer blew something, but I was able to get enough run data to send to Bill. I later learned that Bill had been in the shop last week to tune another GT-R and went ahead and loaded the Nismo TCM ROM. He had sent me the file a couple of weeks earlier, but I didn't have access to my car. So, that was a really nice touch. That's Bill. Just a while ago, he e-mailed me and said that the data log shows that I'm losing power due to the exhaust, but the tune is fine, and the car is ready for Sebring.

Even I, an obviously deranged guy, know that I'll need some help at Sebring. TR3 offers full "track support". I didn't need "full service", so they agreed to give me one pit guy for both days. He'll have a truck, tools, 4-wheeler, ethanol, nitrogen, tire temp/pressure gauges, and everything I'll need. I probably won't need to do anything but pay attention in the drivers meetings, get into the car, and drive. As an HPDE1 guy, I automatically get an instructor assigned. For at least one day. If I do okay, I could possibly get signed off to solo on the second day.

Wednesday is clear bra - lip, bumper, hood, fenders, headlights, mirrors, rocker panels, and rear panels. I am going with the 3M. This came recommended by a body shop company that fixed a boo boo on my lip. I've not heard much negative about 3M, and their YouTube video is pretty impressive. If I don't like it or it yellows as some of the naysayers claim, I'll simply remove it and go with one of the other products when the time comes.

Last, but not least, I want to give props to my wife of 17 years, Geri. She has seen me go through two mid-life crisis and knows that I'll eventually pull out of this one. I have tested her patience with this passion, and she keeps on giving. I only hope that I get the chance to show her how much I appreciate her.

My next post should be sometime after the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on 5/2. Hopefully, Chateau-Elan will be showing it !!!

BF
 

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What is six times nine?
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1,277 Posts
You're going to have fun!

Lots of HPDEs at COTA these days. Should be a bucket list item.
 

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2015 Pearl White BE
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368 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Chateau Élan? Didn't see Road Atlanta or Atlanta Dragway on your list... ;)
It was all about scheduling. I scheduled each road course event at least 10 days apart so that if something broke and I had to cancel the the next event, I could get a refund. I also had the following constraints: Sebring is first so that I can test the car out and have a few days to make adjustments. Then on the 15th, I leave for Watkins. I grew up there and still have family and friends there. Lime Rock is another must-have. I'm visiting friends and couch surfing at in-laws, etc. That left me with one more track event that was at least 10 days after Lime Rock. The best I could do was Summit Point. I had to be back home by June 9 or there might not be anybody living here much after that. I am going to get on my knees and beg for VIR and Road Atlanta, but probably not until later in the year.
 

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I Haul Ass
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1,871 Posts
It's cool man, no excuses needed.
Your list is pretty awesome as it stands! I'd love to do a tour like yours one day...

Ping me if you end up doing HPDE at RA - it's my home track, but I've yet to track the GTR, and itching to take it out there for its first time.
 

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3,333 Posts
Great write up! Can't wait to see some photos of the car and it in action! So happy we could be a part of the project! :D Definitely try to make it out to our VIR GTR track day, I think it would be the perfect outing!
 

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Premium Member
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12,530 Posts
Glad we made your deadline and always to hear about other shops complimenting us on how easy and perfectly fitting our 4 Point Bolt Cage is. Looking forward to seeing your full review down the road. Be safe and have a good time!

Sharif
 

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6,756 Posts
Thanks for the write up.

Although you have prepped your GTR you also can "prep" yourself.

Before any HPDE or track day:
Read this-
http://www.amazon.co...e/dp/0760340501
Check your tires for any flaws, damage or wear.
Get enough rest the night or two before the event-
Drink lots of fluids (not caffeine and alcohol) the day or two before.
Plan to arrive early
Stay out of the sun (prolonged exposure) the day or two before
Do plan on checking your tires (chalk and tire temps) to adjust pressures and make the most out of your tires
Stay off your feet and protect your joints from any injury the week of the event.
Be prepared to have fun.
Get a good helmet (Snell SA2010 or later)

Got a fire extinguisher for your interior?
 

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2015 Pearl White BE
Joined
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368 Posts
Update on the clear bra. I ended up getting Suntech. Peppy at AutoSuperShield in Boca told me that 3M was once the best clear bra around, but that both Xpel and Suntech have surpassed it in thickness and durability. He showed me how the Suntech is self-healing. Not surprisingly, everything is more expensive in Boca. $2700 was the final bill. That included the lip, fascia, fenders, hood, mirrors, A pillars, the strip above the windows, rocker panels, and rear, as well as a Stillen front diffuser. I haven't installed the diffuser yet because the dual-sided tape doesn't really look like it's up for the job. I need to contact Stillen for some ideas.
 

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2015 Pearl White BE
Joined
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368 Posts
At Sebring last weekend, I had my very first road course track days. To sum it up, it was a lot of fun. There was a little classroom time each day, and a lot of time waiting to run. Because I am a newbie, I was automatically assigned an instructor and placed into HPDE 1. My instructor, Jason, can drive in any group, so I let him take my car out in the second HPDE 4 session on Saturday after I had driven the track for the first time.

Big difference. Jason has driven plenty of GT-Rs, so he drove it like he stole it. I'm not sure what his lap time was, but it would have been a lot better had we flipped VDC into the R position. The traction control was pretty evident. After that run, we decided that we'd run in R-R-R from now on. That proved to work well. In R mode, VDC is much more subtle, and gives the driver some freedom to be a bit more aggressive.

I had two TR3 Performance techs, Steve and Rueben, helping me out because of my broken foot. They arrived with an entire race trailer, complete with a golf cart, generator, AC, a tent, tools, nitrogen, and a 55-gallon drum of Ethanol. They treated my GT-R like they were doing track support for a Ferarri. After each run, tire pressures were logged, fuel was topped off, brakes and tires inspected, and the car was detailed. This time of year, south central Florida air is full of "love bugs". They cover your car. The faster you go, the more bugs end up on all forward surfaces.

The CCM-X brakes worked really well. Although I bedded them before going to Sebring and did a few extra 70-20 MPH braking on the way, it still took a few sessions before they really started to bite. When they're cold, they're a bit mushy. Not dangerously mushy, but they definitely need a warmup lap before heavy use.

We encountered two issues over the weekend. At the end of the Saturday, as their standard practice, Steve and Rueben took off the bottom panel to look for possible leaks. They discovered that the K&N oil filter had a slight rupture on the weld that holds that hex head nut. Oil had been leaking out. They had another filter in the trailer, and replaced it. At the end of the day Sunday, they checked the bottom again, and the K&N filter was blown in the same way. They made a mad dash to Advance Auto before they closed at 6 PM and brought back a Mobil 1 filter and 6 quarts of Mobil 1 0W40 to replace the Amsoil 5W40 that they had put in before the track event. We noticed that the oil pressure was abnormally high - 80 PSI at 2800 RPMs with both the K&N and the Mobil 1 filter. After the Mobil 1 filter was installed, and I drove the car home, I watched it climb to well over 100 PSI at 5000 RPMs, which is a bit scary.

I will put this out there - I'm going to install an OEM filter later this week. Is it possible that the OEM filter flows better than K&N or Mobil 1?

The second issue was a CEL that would randomly flicker for a couple of seconds at the end of the back straight. At that point, the car is in 5[sup]th[/sup] and then 6[sup]th[/sup] gear, going 145-152 MPH. This only happened in the afternoons, not in the mornings. We attributed this to the ECU pulling timing. That was confirmed by Bill at SIR after we captured a log of the event during the last session. We quickly pitted to drop off the laptop. See the video at youtu.be/lxpxVo8TEho.

All in all, I learned a lot. About driving smoothly, better apexing, and getting in the right spot to put the power down. By the last session of the day, I had dropped 15 seconds off my initial lap time. Progress. On my wish list, though, are sway bars and stiffer springs. That would probably push the Pirelli P Zeros to their limit, and then slicks would be needed. Then, I'd need a trailer to tow the slicks to the next event, and so on… The bottom line is, I'm staying with this configuration for now. I think it will work for the whole circuit.
 

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2015 Pearl White BE
Joined
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368 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Today I learned that I need a screw placed in my foot due the bone break opening up further. That means that my bucket list trip is over for now.

I was able to get refunds from SCDA and NASA, but not Chin, who is running the WGI event next Monday and Tuesday. They are exercising their 10-day cancellation policy. They immediately inserted a wait-lister into my slot on the roster, which suggests that there is minimal financial loss to them due to my withdrawal. The event director said that, after the event, they'll "see where we are", and possibly offer me a partial credit of the $599 I paid, towards a future event. I guess we'll "see where we are" in a week or two.

Has anyone else seen that by any clubs -- keeping all or a significant portion of a pre-paid track fee after cancellation and then re-using the slot? I understand the cancellation policy, but if they can simply call/email a wait-lister and instantly fill that slot, you'd think there's no skin off their nose.
 

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Registered
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At Sebring last weekend, I had my very first road course track days. To sum it up, it was a lot of fun. There was a little classroom time each day, and a lot of time waiting to run. Because I am a newbie, I was automatically assigned an instructor and placed into HPDE 1. My instructor, Jason, can drive in any group, so I let him take my car out in the second HPDE 4 session on Saturday after I had driven the track for the first time.

Big difference. Jason has driven plenty of GT-Rs, so he drove it like he stole it. I'm not sure what his lap time was, but it would have been a lot better had we flipped VDC into the R position. The traction control was pretty evident. After that run, we decided that we'd run in R-R-R from now on. That proved to work well. In R mode, VDC is much more subtle, and gives the driver some freedom to be a bit more aggressive.

I had two TR3 Performance techs, Steve and Rueben, helping me out because of my broken foot. They arrived with an entire race trailer, complete with a golf cart, generator, AC, a tent, tools, nitrogen, and a 55-gallon drum of Ethanol. They treated my GT-R like they were doing track support for a Ferarri. After each run, tire pressures were logged, fuel was topped off, brakes and tires inspected, and the car was detailed. This time of year, south central Florida air is full of "love bugs". They cover your car. The faster you go, the more bugs end up on all forward surfaces.

The CCM-X brakes worked really well. Although I bedded them before going to Sebring and did a few extra 70-20 MPH braking on the way, it still took a few sessions before they really started to bite. When they're cold, they're a bit mushy. Not dangerously mushy, but they definitely need a warmup lap before heavy use.

We encountered two issues over the weekend. At the end of the Saturday, as their standard practice, Steve and Rueben took off the bottom panel to look for possible leaks. They discovered that the K&N oil filter had a slight rupture on the weld that holds that hex head nut. Oil had been leaking out. They had another filter in the trailer, and replaced it. At the end of the day Sunday, they checked the bottom again, and the K&N filter was blown in the same way. They made a mad dash to Advance Auto before they closed at 6 PM and brought back a Mobil 1 filter and 6 quarts of Mobil 1 0W40 to replace the Amsoil 5W40 that they had put in before the track event. We noticed that the oil pressure was abnormally high - 80 PSI at 2800 RPMs with both the K&N and the Mobil 1 filter. After the Mobil 1 filter was installed, and I drove the car home, I watched it climb to well over 100 PSI at 5000 RPMs, which is a bit scary.

I will put this out there - I'm going to install an OEM filter later this week. Is it possible that the OEM filter flows better than K&N or Mobil 1?

The second issue was a CEL that would randomly flicker for a couple of seconds at the end of the back straight. At that point, the car is in 5[sup]th[/sup] and then 6[sup]th[/sup] gear, going 145-152 MPH. This only happened in the afternoons, not in the mornings. We attributed this to the ECU pulling timing. That was confirmed by Bill at SIR after we captured a log of the event during the last session. We quickly pitted to drop off the laptop. See the video at youtu.be/lxpxVo8TEho.

All in all, I learned a lot. About driving smoothly, better apexing, and getting in the right spot to put the power down. By the last session of the day, I had dropped 15 seconds off my initial lap time. Progress. On my wish list, though, are sway bars and stiffer springs. That would probably push the Pirelli P Zeros to their limit, and then slicks would be needed. Then, I'd need a trailer to tow the slicks to the next event, and so on… The bottom line is, I'm staying with this configuration for now. I think it will work for the whole circuit.
Thanks for sharing your driving experience, great improvement on the 15 seconds difference.

Just out of curiosity, did the car ever get into any limp mode because of any heat issue? Did you have any modification to your cooling system either for the transmission or engine?

Thank you!

Sent from my iPad using GT-R Life mobile app
 

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2015 Pearl White BE
Joined
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368 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for sharing your driving experience, great improvement on the 15 seconds difference.

Just out of curiosity, did the car ever get into any limp mode because of any heat issue? Did you have any modification to your cooling system either for the transmission or engine?

Thank you!

Sent from my iPad using GT-R Life mobile app
It didn't go into full limp home mode. But, during the afternoon sessions when the track got hot, I started getting a CEL flickering for 3 or 4 seconds at the end of the back straight. Finally, we decided to log it with the EcuTec software. I sent the CSV file to Bill at SIR and he confirmed that the knock sensor was getting triggered probably because I was running too much boost (1.3 bars).

No modifications to the motor or trans cooling system. No problems with any fluids overheating.
 

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I am impressed to hear that the Stock cooling system can handle track session.

Thanks again for your time in sharing your experience and answering questions!!!

Sent from my iPad using GT-R Life mobile app
 
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