Sebring With Chin Trackdays
Updated: Nov 3, 2019
First and foremost before I can write the rest of this, I must thank the team over at Chin Trackdays for facilitating such a fun event. High Performance Driver Education or HPDE, is key to learning the limits of your car, whether it is a 120 HP front wheel drive econobox, or a fire breathing 600 HP rear drive monster. Using Sebring International Raceway as the landscape to gain useful race knowledge, it overall was a very humbling yet exhilarating experience... I look forward to future events in the near future.
Secondly, I must apologize for the lack of photos in this post; while focusing on learning as much as I could and truly living in the moment, it was difficult to snap pictures of everything going on. Luckily I can articulate what my experience was like with words and hopefully inspire some of you to get involved at your nearest race track.
Racing is not a poor man's sport by any means, however a track day with Chin or a lot of other HPDE organizers can be affordable if your car is prepared properly. In a previous post I upgraded the brakes, rotors, lines, brake fluid, and wheel studs to sustain a full day of track driving. Other than the brakes my car is mostly stock with almost no power adding modifications, I have a Kart Boy short shifter (I highly suggest this or other short shifters for a better feel and faster throw), a K&N Air Filter (so many horsepower gains i peel rubber in every gear...kidding), and a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires. These slight modifications went a long way and I will only have to worry about potential hotel stays and track admission costs for future events...as well as food and liquids, you must stay hydrated.
Ok, so a quick run down of what went down. Everyone gathered at the track fairly early before 8 AM to be paired with instructors for novices, an opening ceremony, and then a quick parade lap followed by classroom session. The classroom session is exactly that, you sit down and have the head instructor go over what you will experience throughout the day, rules to keep you safe while having fun, and a general run down on how you want to attack Sebring; one of the most difficult tracks to drive in the world. After you're done learning about the do's and don'ts...it's time to head out on the track and truly get acquainted with the road beneath you.
Sebring International Raceway is a 3.74 mile long course consisting of 17 turns over what used to be an airfield prior to 1950. The track is known for some of it's difficult turns over equally difficult asphalt that can unseat a car during braking, acceleration, or just coasting. I can honestly say that while many years of street driving, autocrossing, and even playing video games like Gran Turismo and Forza have prepared me for track days like this one; nothing compares to actually being there pushing your car to it's limits.
In my post on the brake upgrade that was performed I said I would provide feedback on how my car performed...and I shall. The StopTech Sport Kit has to be the second best upgrade I have done on this Scion FRS other than getting rid of the stock Prius spec tires and going with the RE050s. Each session gave me about a half hour of pedal to the carpet driving, both pedals at that with almost no fade. Throughout the over 2 hours of track time I was able to get up to about 118 MPH on the back straight and up to 57 MPH through turn 17 as I tried to find my best line over that treacherous pavement. My brakes through it all held up, the tires warmed up nicely and kept my car planted as I attacked each turn; slowly getting a feel for the balance needed to transition properly through the course. Known to run hot, I didn't experience any overheating; my temperature gauge was just slightly above normal even on a sunny 85 degree day.
Adding to the expenses for the event were the many bottles of Powerade I chugged along with some complex carbs to keep my body going through the day. Gasoline was also not an issue, I used half a tank to the track, a whole tank at the track, and half to get home; in Florida that is about $70 well spent on 93 octane. In between sessions I would leave the hood up and e-brake off; letting the car dissipate heat while I did the same under the shade of the paddocks as I went car gazing. The event lasted till about 6:00 PM but by then I was on my way after my last session, it was a success; all my tires stood on the road and my car only hit a few love bugs...all is well.
When all was said and done I felt accomplished to finally drive on a real track as it has motivated me to do my next track day with Chin. I'm currently building a car strictly for track use but in the meantime I will use this balanced RWD platform to hone my skill and gain confidence along with knowledge. If you're thinking you can't take your daily driver to the track, think again. Make sure your car is safe to drive, has fresh tires, brakes, and fluids; then reach out to your local HPDE group and have some fun.
Thanks for reading everyone...stay tuned.