Spinning out of turn 5. "Driver's Education" at Roebling Raceway. Jan07.
After 4 runs over the weekend, I took a ride with my instructor in his car. And even tho I knew that I was going to be amazed with how aggressively he could take the corners, yet stay on the track....I was still, well, amazed at how aggressively he could take the corners, yet stay on the track. I figured that I must have a lot of spare tire adhesion that I just wasn't using. So in my next run I decided to press the pace just a little harder.
I could hear my tires squealing in turns 2-4. That was a little surprising because I didn't feel like I was going faster then usual. I started worrying that maybe one of the tires had lost some air. That was the only thing that made sense to me because, heck, I wasn't going any faster then usual. At least I didn't think that I was.
I was heading into turn 5, the same turn where Dow the neighbor with the Viper that got me into this, spun out in Nov. Per the guidance from the instructors, I was going to take it in two parts, turning it into 2 separate turns.
I accelerated out of turn 4, but not too hard because I didn’t want to end up too fast into the next tur. The aggressive folks accelerate flat out and then stand on the brakes before most of the turns. In contrast, me, driving like an old lady, is generally worrying about having too much speed in whatever the next turn is. And even on the straight-away I let up on the gas pretty early. The learning occurs on the turns. Who cares if I reach 125 as usual, or attempt to push it to 135mph on the straight-away? And, frankly, although slowing from 125mph in a great big hurry going into turn 1 creates some anxiety, slowing down from 135 in a great big hurry creates a lot more anxiety. One might be tempted to say that it’s scary as shit. But one might not want to be perceived as a girlie-man.
I would come to learn later that speedometers overstate your speed. So 125mph was probably 118mph.
Turn 5 is a left-hand turn that starts gradual but then gets tighter. I didn’t “track out on the exit of 4 to make it easier to set up well for entering turn 5. I very gently touched the brakes before "turn-in". This is called “confidence braking”. It’s guys that come up with these phrases and “I’m afraid braking”, while more accurate, didn’t get too many votes.
My turn in point and the amount of steering input I’d selected worked out ok so I caught the inside of the turn and then drifted out towards the outside again. Then I managed to unload lateral g’s and sneak the car straight for just a heartbeat, and I touched the brakes once again for the tricky part......turning into and then charging thru the second apex, the second and sharper half of turn 5.
Just as I was coming off of the brakes I initiated the turn in towards the turn’s apex and ultimately tracking out of the turn under heavy acceleration. I was trying to keep inputs smooth and the car balanced. The car was aimed for the apex and my eyes were concentrating on the the track out area of the turn. Peripheral vision handled the now, while my focus was a couple hundred feet out. It seemed like I already had good speed heading for the apex, so I didn’t push the throttle too hard. Too much speed and I’d just slide off of the track. Although it sure seemed like when the instructor had been driving at this exact place 20min ago he'd been flying.
I could feel the car doing some oversteer, that is to say a little rear end sliding out, but that happens often and is largely no big deal. I mean…heck, either the front is starting to slide out or the rear is starting to slide out. Something is always starting to slide out. So I stayed with my moderate throttle and largely ignoring the subtle queues from “now”, while my brain focused on “will be”. A little rear end sliding out is no big deal. Give a Porsche a little gas and the additional weight shift to the rear will clamp the rear tires down nicely.
And then the damndest thing happened. The “rear end starting to slide out” that I’d shrugged off as no big deal, kinda just kept going. The rear end just kept coming around. My brain seemed to be working in some slow motion detached sort of way. I remember thinking, laconically, “It (the rear end coming around) wasn't supposed to do that.” I think that it took me about 10min to figure out that I might have a problem. First of all, I didn't detect the transition from "regular old not-a-problem oversteer", to "Uh oh, we've got a problem oversteer". The difference between not-a-problem and problem was just so darn subtle.
Your brain has to be focused on planning every nuance of the next 10 seconds. So your automatic reactions and peripheral vision have to be up to handling “the now”. And it takes them a while before they can really handle that.
What should have occurred is that I'd a sensed it early, and completely automatically, applied a little more gas. And maybe turned the wheel into the slide just a tiny amount. With no conscious thought I'd have done the right thing and I'd continue on my way flying down the track.
But instead of any automatic and correct reaction, what really occurred is that I was struck by this sense of detached wonder. As in "My…. how strange. That's not supposed to be happening".
What you cannot do, as your rear end is threatening to come around under light throttle, is lift the throttle. This unweights the rear. Of course too much throttle can spin you around too, so you just have to develop constant awareness as to throttle position, the weight balance on each tire due to lateral g’s and braking/accelerating, and just how much you are asking from each tire for traction, moment to moment. Depending on the variables, one minute to the next, the right answer could be more gas or less gas.
I knew better then to casually lift the throttle, which would unweight the rear and therefore reducing their grip…exactly the wrong thing to do when the rear is sliding. But after reliving my first spin countless times, I really can’t say with certainty that I stayed on the gas. There’s an “oh shit” automatic reaction that pulls your foot off of the gas and it takes a long time to defeat that reaction.
When it was clear that I wasn’t going to catch the situation, I thought to myself "Well........Shit. Then, remembering Dow's instructor's words to him when he spun out in the exact same place <imagine an old guy with an utterly bored voice>...."You're not going to make it. Just put both feet on the floor". And I hit the brakes and clutch as I did a leisurely 180.
There was no one near us so there was no problematic traffic. The spin was entirely on the asphalt, but my momentum rolled me backwards on to the outfield. With my eyes as wide as saucers, we sat there a couple of seconds. Then my instructor said "ok, lets get back on the track."
I was so flustered that I couldn't find First. I hit Reverse. Twice.
The fallout from this was a little sad. My instructor was going to allow me to not just graduate out of Novices, but to skip over the next group up, and go right to the "Solo Group". But my lousy response to excessive oversteer indicated to him that maybe he'd been optimistic. So I get out of the Novices, but there'll be no skipping up to Solo. Dern.
Somehow I've neglected to tell Sarah about the spin. It must have slipped my mind. Should you be tempted to repeat this story to any member of the female gender, make it slip your mind too. I don't need to remind you that all women on the planet are telepathically connected.
That's the only real story of the weekend. Car insurance covered the guy that rolled his Boxter in Nov. so he was there with a different car. There was a fair amount of spins over the weekend, so I had company. A guy with a Mini Cooper S decided to get track tires, so he bought an extra set of wheels. Turns out that the extra set of wheels had more lug nut "stand-off". Therefore his stock lug nuts, although properly tightened, only had 3 or 4 threads taking the strain. So he lost a wheel. That didn't do his brake rotor, undercarriage, nor sheetmetal any good. Most of the 914's, and 924/944's had mechanicals and had to be towed off of the track. Which is God's way of saying that Porsche motors are supposed to be in the rear.
The new '99 911 is far more powerful then my '91 was, and it's suspension is clearly better too. Turns that were scaring the crap out of me last Nov were not that stressful this time. Of course I didn't spin in Nov. but even this spin wasn't frightening really. My reaction was more of "Now that's very strange. Dang, I'm facing the wrong way" vs. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The '99 911 really has more power then I can use. Given half a chance it will fly into a corner a hell of a lot faster then I have any hope of making it around. I usually don’t even bother to floor it on the straight-away.
I knew better then to try any "heel-and-toeing". Going 130mph and downshifting, popping the gas to match the RPMs at ~5k while simultaneously standing the car on it's nose with heavy braking is pretty damn hard. I can do it when I have all the time in the world, but I can't do it in the 1 millisecond that is available just prior to entering turn 1 at an extremely unforgiving speed.
I also learned that the Corvette is a hell of a sports car, especially the Z06 model. I've never been much of a 'Vette type, but man, those Z06’s have no weakness. They weigh only slightly more and have half again my hp. But of course, I suck.