Part 1 of CG's Daytona week end at the Porsche Club of America Oktoberfest races.
First time racing at a Nascar Speedway, and in this case, the Daytona 24hr Course uses almost 100% of the banked speedway! Big expectations for a race weekend in a historic venue as the American equivalent to LeMans.
First impression is that the facilities are First Class despite the track being so old. The Stadium seating feels bigger than Indianapolis and although everything is flat, it is easy to get lost in the infield roads and numerous buildings. Driving randomly around to allow my kids turns at the Golf Kart, we even found a Go-Kart Track in which we practiced the theory of smooth hands and straightening turns with my 5 year old. In the Paddock and pits, everything looks new and in perfect shape. The Nascar area is clearly built with the fans in mind and it is the first time I take an elevator with A/C to Timing and Scoring! I wished they put that kind of money in our local tracks!
Car was in perfect shape but had gained some weight due to the addition of a much needed Transmission Cooler. Running at 160mph in 100F weather would have certainly mean melted my gears without it (This being a new Tranny after the old one blew at Mosport). We found we were close to 3200 lbs (100 lbs above min weight of 3106 lbs with driver), so decided to finally run the mini-battery to take 20 lbs off (That battery is only good for 2-3 engine cranks and maybe 45 secs of running accessories; as proved the first time out that the car didn't start on the Quali grid! and Big Mike had to come to the rescue).
Farnbacher had setup the car with the proper staggered alignment to avoid potential tire failures at the Speedway. Car felt good right away on the speedway, but it was an understeering then oversteering mess in the infield. Feedback from other drivers that had run the track other years said that it was unusually slick that first day. We still softened the shocks a bit with a few magical tweaks from Spencer, and voila! the Cayman was again faster than anything else through the tight turns of the infield.
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The track is very easy to learn and looks exactly the same as in the numerous Youtube videos you can find. However, you need to build the line that works with your car in the infield (Cayman is very different than 911) in the almost 180deg corners and it requires some confidence build up to keep the throttle pinned through the banking as due to gradient and sharp turn radius your visibility at 150mph+ is no more than 200 yds in front.
The theoretical tip is to take a peak through your window, but only works if you are short enough for your A pillar and roof line not to obstruct the view (not my case!). Other than being efficient through the infield, the two critical spots for a record breaking lap are exit from T7 to the Speedway (Very early full throttle but shorter arc possible IMO), and carrying as much speed and early throttle out of the Bus-Stop. From the Telemetry, using the grip in these sections from fresh tires on the first 3 laps before they started to "go-away" in the 100F weather, is what made the most difference for the best possible lap times.
The most challenging part of the track then, IMO, is nailing the braking into T1. At almost 160mph and with the the track surface being so wide and no contrast surface to determine the track's edge (only cones to mark a deep view into the asphalt horizon) it was hard to visualize where to start braking while still turning slightly left. A good late braking effort and proper downshifting into T1 can save almost 5/10ths on a single lap.
Practice day went well and within a few laps felt comfortable with racing the track (ran old tires but still good enough to make the setup meaningful). Pace was in the 2:08s. The Fun Races made me realize that my qualifying time was above the car's ability to accelerate on par with its lap time peers and I was going to get killed on the start by the I Stock cars and the fast GT5 cars around me. We had taken the spare NASA ECU (20-25hp more aprox) and the new rear hatch with a TechArt Wing that allowed us to run in I Prepared. Decided to Run H Stock as usual for the Sprint Races on Saturday to be able to get enough data (Quali + Race) to make later comparisons meaningful between the 2 setups while running I Prepared for the Enduro.
Got a Black Flag in the Warm Up session as my front splitter was about to come loose and it did! Big Mike from Farnbacher with the help of the rest of the crew engineered a Frankensplitter using the detachable piece of a Cup Car's. After 40mins of intense labor in the 100F heat the result was amazing! We covered the rivets and any spaces with red duct tape to match the car's livery and it even looked good (see if you can tell from the pictures). Sticker tires for Qualifying made it easy to carry more speed in the infield and BusStop, so achieving low 2:07s looked feasible. Despite the the hiccup of running out of battery in the Quali grid, was able to enter the track late, and Daytona is probably the easiest track to find empty track space thanks to the very long speedway section. Did 2 laps and managed a 2:07.098; best lap so far and new track record for H Stock.
Qualified P4 behind 3 I Stock cars and just in front of very fast GT5 cars that out accelerated me but being old 911s they had big drag profiles so top speed was slightly lower than mine. Despite being out dragged on the start (See video and Pictures sequences) was able to make the handling advantage count in the infield and made some passes (sometimes re-passes as I was passed again on the speedway) and traded a few places (faster in the infield, slower in the Speedway than I cars), and ended up P2. However, although I was able to catch up in the infield, I didn't have enough HP to contest for P1 with Greg Pickeral and he ran away with the Group Win in his 3.6 Silver 996. The video shows the first 5 laps of that race.