Can't Catch a Break

In my last blog post, I talked about how my girlfriend damaged the front of my grey Aston Martin. To show her who wears the big Redpants in this relationship, I had to one-up her.

I'm kidding, obviously, but I really just can't catch a break lately! Despite the unfortunate incident, I always try to learn a lesson when things go wrong (and when they right, for that matter). So let's take a look at what happened.

HPDE at Summit Point

I was at a High Performance Drivers Education (HPDE) at Summit Point Raceway, which was being hosted by the Audi owners club. Saturday was just unbelievably perfect - the weather couldn't have been better. Sunday, not so much. It was really cold, much colder than the day before. I had been pretty relaxed on Saturday, mainly getting used to my current setup on the track. Since the last time I was at Summit Point, I've changed out my tune, clutch, flywheel, and brake pads, so I needed to get accustomed to how each change would affect my car. All in all, the car performed wonderfully.

What I did wrong

On Sunday, I wanted to try a couple changes to how I handled the course. One of the main changes was dropping into 2nd gear for turn 5, which is a VERY tight left-hand hairpin that leads into the right-hand carrousel. I've always taken it in 3rd gear but wanted to see if I could get better exit speeds by getting to 2nd. My flawed logic was simple: the track is cold and my tires aren't that warm, so I should be able to see how 2nd gear affects my exit from turn 5, and lower gears mean lower speeds.

That was very incorrect, and here's why.

Gears are all about torque delivery. The lower the gear, the easier it is to put down torque. That's why it's easier to do a burnout in 1st gear than it is in 3rd gear. So when I exited turn 5 with cold tires and 2nd gear's extra torque, the back end of the car walked right around to the front and I ended up in the tire wall.

The whole thing took less than 2 seconds from loss of traction to impact.

What I should have done

Although I wanted to try 2nd gear in that corner, I should have waited until my tires were a lot warmer, and preferably later in the day once I'd gotten myself warmed up on the track - not during the first session. You can see in the video that they're still pretty cold as I exit turn 1 - the car is a little squirrelly, and that was a warning I should have heeded.

I also didn't have an instructor with me. HPDE instructors are incredibly experienced drivers that know the course extremely well. I've done Summit Point Main several times as a solo driver, and I'm pretty familiar with the course lines. I had no intention of going fast that morning, so I went out on my own. I should have taken my instructor out with me so I could talk about my plans to change up my driving that day. I know he would have cautioned me about the cold, and would have corrected my flawed "low gear, low speed" logic.

The Aftermath

I thought the damage was going to be worse than it was (*knock on wood* we still have to see if there is any damage under the surface). Yeah, it's going to cost me a lot of money to fix, but the car is mechanically sound so I shouldn't have to worry about anything like that - just need to replace some body panels and get the car painted. Luckily, I'd already scheduled to drop the car off for the repairs needed to fix my girlfriend's little incident, so a large portion of the cost of repairs is already covered. I'll be out of pocket for the additional damages I did, but I got really lucky in this.

After getting off the track, I took the car over to the guys as New German Performance (NGP Racing), who were there as sponsors and doing free vehicle checks. They looked over the car and made sure none of the suspension components were damaged, and gave me the thumbs-up to be able to drive the car home. I want to give them a huge 'thank you' for the help. They're a great group of guys and were incredibly helpful, and just the peace of mind having them look at the car was a huge relief after being in the wreck.

I also want to thank everyone working the event for a great time. Several of them came up to me to make sure I was okay after I got off track, and they showed a genuine concern for me (and all the drivers). I hope to do another HPDE with them in the future!

Redpants Updates

Obviously, I'd got a lot of work to do on the grey car - I'll be repairing it and then doing more track prep. My goal is to make it a perfectly-streetable track car. Now that I'm getting more and more serious about doing frequent track days, it's time to give the car the equipment it needs to be safe and perform well.

Castrol BOT270A gear oil is now in stock and ready to ship!

I'll be on a much-needed vacation next week (the first week of April), so Redpants will be closed during that time. Any orders received will ship out when I get back.