May 16, 2006

CG's Pocono East May 5th report

(posted for CG)
I believe after today's track day I've been able to convince my Axis mates about how great this little track is and how much fun can be had it while exploring the limits of the car and the track (the latter includes off-limits too!)
Why is it so good?
First it only uses a straight section of the Nascar tri-oval so no stupid-highly-banked-emotionless-and-risky-superspeedway.
Second, it goes counter clockwise, so for change, driver's bias weight actually helps
Third, the infield turns offer great variety: high speed blind apex, high speed double apex, hairpin with hooligan powerslide exit optional, left right lef technical combo, decreasing radius late apex, etc... you name it and this tiny track has it (including huge bumps and trciky camber changes).

To nail a fast lap one has to be "in the zone" and you have to hit the apex way low and exactly right because there's a lot more camber the closer you get to the apex. Turn in early and you end up in Siberia, and turn in late and the car just jumps through the camber change unsettling it self and being very slow....

We had great weather; sunny but cool, so tires did warm up but engines run stress free. First session of the day, as usual, AC and me in the track sweeping convoy. We didn't have the transponders but we took it easy as this was AC's reconnaissance laps of an unknown track. Very short session as we came out late but good enough to get back in tune with the twisty beast. Car felt OK and tires much better that at LRP.

Second session went out with Stee as a passenger. Oh my God!, haven't ridden with a passenger in a while in the Elise! It makes a huge difference! Missed several of my braking points (which I rarely do) and left hand turns the car felt sloppy and the suspension too soft with bottoming out on the fast corners. As hard as I tried, the best I could was a 1:15.2. AC moved ahead in traffic and we didn't see much of each other.

Third session was for Hollywood: Loaded with cameras and with a plan to run together to get the best shots of the Axis attack. Huge fun following AC and he took well my advice of "low" apex, to the extent that I just followed the "puffy" clouds of dust around the track.
My time to go to the front, passed an extremely slow purple sedan only to be sandblasted with rocks (Thank you Mr. for my newly perforated rear quarter!), and half a lap later in the second fast left hander after coming from the Oval straight, I apexed 1.5ft too early and tracked out with two wheels out of the "deep" camber part of the track, tried to correct a bitwith minor extra lock but obviously oversteer became present, counter lock and nothing else other than lead the car off course almost parallel to the track. Two wheels off, some cornering momentum left, so 4 wheels off, and the Elise was taken through a "line" more adept to one of its Land Rover cousins... (Watch the Video, I think at the end it illustrates very well what's the safest thing to do under that situation...)

Came into the pits for the mandatory off road inspection and after a warm up lap posted the fastest laps of the day (1:13.8 the best with several 1:14s) but was only able to capture some as the camera just stopped randomly in the middle of the session. I guess it has something to do with G's and vibration...?... I'm cluelesss because it is a solid state cam (all flash memory).

Elise Laps Pocono East!

BTW, apologies for the crooked angle on the camera but that's how it always ended after a couple of anti-clockwise rotations...

This session clearly showed were Z06s make their time and where the Elise becomes the "Infield's giant slayer". It is just ridiculously funny how on 1/2mi straight a Z06 or C6 pulls almost 200yds on the wheezing Elise.

Last session we asked to run in the Instructor Group to get an Axis Group ride with Stee and show him the way. Too much fun to be had and camera shots from all angles, but again my camera decided to stop after a couple of minutes. Go figure....
Lots of fun again, we traded the lead with AC, and Stee fell back in traffic. Some fast lapping with AC, but not for the record books as we always encountered at least 1 car in almost every lap.

I couldn't break my last year's record of 1:13.7. Not sure why, as track conditions were similar. Maybe by the last session the track was a bit dirty due to one too many "grassy" apexes? :^) Only car nuisance is that the rear shocks felt soft in the slow corners as the suspension reached the bump stops when accelerating out of 2nd gear corners (and that's with throttle modulation to prevent inside rear wheelspin). What I continue to confirm is how hard is the Elise to drive at the real limit. Usually in other cars I can nail the fast laps wihtin 1-2/10 consistently but not in the Elise.... All stars, all corners have to be spot perfect to get that fast lap!

Compared to AC's MCoupe the Elise was slower cornering in the two tightest corners (I guess there's an advantage in 2+ degrees of camber?). As usual the Elise feels fastest in the faster corners, but you have to be careful when running behind because you really come out at the limit and you can't lift if you close in too strong on the car in front (that's recipe for disaster in a midengine car). Obviously, with 190hp and single digits torque you have to downshift everywhere to keep up!

But don't loose too much time reading this, just watch the awesome video footage and superb AC editing....


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