Virginia International Raceway, November 2002
November 2002 trip to VIR, as best recounted (& enhanced) by Rob Fusi
We had all been talking about VIR since the beginning of the season. Charlie was the only member ever to drive at the famous track, and he did nothing but rave about it. He did his best to get us excited (which worked), and a southbound convoy was formed!
I had originally planned to go to VIR, but my work schedule conflicted with the event. About 4 days before the event, things changed and I rushed to coerce my way into the event, get my car tech’d, schedule a friend to complete the sale of my 968, pack up all of my stuff, and make the time to properly taunt my friends before the event.
So it was settled, Charlie & Katie, Flynn & Dawn, Mazzola, and I were to journey south! Since I needed to get my 911 tech’d before the event, Charlie was good enough to take a ½ day on Wednesday and drive the car to Powertech before we left. While driving my car to Powertech, the Good Samaritan in Charlie arose. There were several gigantic chunks of concrete in the road and he feared that other motorists might hit them and lose control of their vehicles. Therefore, Charlie took it upon himself to demolish the monstrous concrete pieces into tiny bits…using my front spoiler. He has some tall tale about a BMW 745i kicking them up into his lane…
The fleet awaiting departure from Katie's Parents' house in DC
On the road to VIR
Nevertheless, we all met at the Boyer’s on Wednesday evening to begin our trek. We stopped for the evening in DC at Casa de Katie’s Parents’, and left after lunch on Thursday to complete the journey. During the morning, we madly searched for various SUV dealerships to pressure Flynn into buying a new truck for towing, but our attempts were thwarted and we left DC without any new vehicles. While fueling up for the trip, my 911 decided that she didn’t want to go to VIR after all. She refused to start, which we all felt was a horrible omen towards the rest of the trip. After several minutes of intense GTC collaboration, we found the problem to be a faulty fuel pump fuse, and we were on our way with a quick replacement. Phew…tragedy averted!
Mazzola looking his best
The rest of the ride to VIR was relatively uneventful, but I can honestly say that I have never seen as many dollar stores in my life as I did during the drive through Virginia. One of the dollar stores even had a “fashion plaza” of some sort inside…it was awe-inspiring to all passer-byers. We ended the evening with a scrumptious meal at the “First Taste” Chinese restaurant then stumbled back to the hotel, delirious from too much General Tso’s Chicken (which we all agreed tasted more like some form of licorice chicken). I’m not sure why they call it “First Taste Chinese”…perhaps it’s because once you have your first taste, it will be your last taste.
Pesky 914, The Great Pumpkin, and the Chickmobile in the pits
Since I made such a last minute decision to go to the track, there were no hotel rooms available. Therefore, I took the guys up on their offer to share one of their rooms. They said that there were two rooms, both with one King-sized bed each. I thought they were kidding…they weren’t. Thus, I volunteered to stay in cottville for the duration of the event. I stayed with the Flynn’s, and Flynnster did his best to infect everyone with his disease. I believe his only victim was Charlie, to JFlynn’s disappointment.
Friday morning finally arrived, and we headed for the track. Flynn was a ball of nerves the night before, as it’s a new track for him and he didn’t have his run group companion, Ags, there with him. The rest of us were psyched! VIR is a first class track, no two ways about it. The facilities are fantastic, it’s a very scenic setting, and the track itself is in outstanding condition. I had seen videos of the track before arriving, but the elevation changes are much more dramatic in real life. I feared that my underpowered car would be hugely disadvantaged at this track, but that was not the case. There are lots of great turns, and I feel that a fair amount of them are “courage turns” which allow you to make up time lost to high HP cars on the straights. Most of the guys in the GTC like this type of track very much.
Charlie prepping the Boxster S
During the first day at the track, we were having a grand old time. The weather was fabulous, sunny, and ~70 degrees F. I was elated that I was able to pull off a trip to VIR on such short notice, but we were all disappointed that the rest of the GTC members couldn’t attend. We decided to do what we could to spread our joy, so we called Ags at work to tell him about the wondrous Virginia International Raceway. Everyone took a turn conveying their thoughts on VIR, and I’m not sure that our good friend truly appreciated the call. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that he resented our well-intentioned olive branch, but I’m not sure that he shared in our joy ;)
Now for the track itself. We ran the full course, which is just over 3 miles long. It’s a series of turns connected by two long straights and one short straight. You enter the track at the end of the front straight and are greeted by a sharp right hand turn. Next is a medium speed left hander followed by a slow, sharp left hander. As previously noted, this track has several “courage” sections. The snake isn’t that frightening of a turn, but you definitely have to enter it the right way in order to achieve a good exit speed. The snake is quick right, left, right, left. It is a hoot to drive.
Rob at the Oak Tree
Next is a short straight where there’s typically a lot of passing. This straight leads to the esses. This part of the track separates the men from the boys, IMHO. Once you grow balls through the esses, can really put some distance between yourself and the more timid drivers. If you do the esses correctly, you carry a *lot* of speed at the end, before the left hander. The left hander at the end of the esses can be taken very fast if done correctly. I saw many cars staying to the left side of the track through the entire turn, therefore braking heavily before the turn. More experienced and confident drivers tapped the brakes and fully tracked out to the right of the track as they went over and down the hill on the off-camber turn. Charlie & I typically were in 4 wheel drifts at the end of the turn due to the lightness of the car from going down the hill and the lack of proper camber. I’m not certain of Colin or Flynn’s experiences, but Colin finally started to grow a pair at the end of Saturday and was hauling through that section. Flynnster will need to fill us in on his progress.
Mangy 951 and other GTC cars in the pits
Next is the extremely sharp and slow oak tree turn, followed by the LONG back straight (I think it’s nearly a mile long). I hate straights like this because my car only has ~160hp and high HP cars shmop me in these sections. Charlie rode with Flynn, where Flynn was lifting about 2/3rds of the way down the track, just before a gradual dip in the track. Charlie asked Flynn why he lifted, and Flynn uttered the words, which I’m sure he quickly regretted, “Because I’m scared”. Talk about leaving yourself open to GTC torment! At the end of the back straight, there are markers at the end starting with 5 (for 500 yards), 4, 3, 2, 1, and finally 0. Charlie rode with Flynn, where Flynn lifted before the hill then broke around 5. Charlie then rode with me, and I took the approach of starting to brake around 1, then trail braking through the rest of the gentle left turn. Charlie had previously been braking around 3, and realized that he should change his approach to that turn. We all discussed it in the pits, and it quickly became a competition to see who could brake the latest. I’m not sure where Flynn ended up, but I know that Charlie, Colin, and I were all braking after “1” by the end of the weekend. This is where you could clearly real the early brakers in. This is a perfect example of how the GTC makes you a faster driver J
After the back straight, there’s a sharp right hander, and then you go down a relatively steep hill through the “roller coaster”. (This section does not look very steep in videos, but it is very much so in real life). This is the turn where Charlie’s student put his car into the tire wall at the end of the weekend. (No, Charlie wasn’t in the car). Exit technique and speed at the bottom of this hill is critical since it brings you onto the front straight, another very long straightaway. Then comes the sharp right hander and the fun starts all over again.
Colin in Pesky 914 at the Oak Tree with Rob close behind
We ran the full course all weekend long. After day 1, Flynn posted a 2:51, Colin a 2:23.5, Charlie a 2:19.40, and me with a 2:27.00. It’s very difficult to post good lap times when you’re in the lower groups, such as white or yellow, as you are constantly being held up by someone. Colin, Flynn, and I only had a handful of clean laps the entire weekend (evidenced by the videos in the gallery section of the site).
Day 2 built on day 1. Everyone discussed the track that evening over some Italian food. I was very concerned when we pulled into the same parking lot as “First Taste Chinese”, but felt an overwhelming amount of relief once everyone started walking to the restaurant a few doors down. We played off of one another’s experiences over dinner and went to day 2 with a positive state of mind. Unique perspectives on various portions of track were shared, Flynn was tormented for his “I’m scared” comment, and of course we taunted various drivers. Although Flynn was on death’s door and spreading his plague to the rest of the group, he marched onto day 2 of the track like a true soldier.
There wasn’t anything terribly noteworthy about day 2. Boyer rode with all of us, and he commented that The Great Pumpkin (my 911) is like a roller coaster ride. Colin is really stepping up to the plate lately with some impressive driving, and Flynnster will soon have a new set of benchmarks in his new track car, Slow White 914. I’m simply disappointed that the NNJR PCA disallows the rest of us from riding with one another. Alas, the time will come when it’s not an issue. Colin finally strapped it on through the esses and began braking at a respectable “1” at the end of the back straight, like the rest of us. Flynn flammer continued his progress in the 944 turbo, getting faster and faster with each run. Flynn also took a ride with Dick Fell in his sick 911 racemobile, and was thoroughly impressed. An honorable mention goes to Katie for firing up a mid 2:30’s time in the Chickmobile, besting Flynn’s best time (you didn’t think I’d leave that out, did you?!). My friend Steve DaSilva drove up from Wilmington, NC, and was quickly initiated into the GTC with a round of harassment about his Corvette. We signed him up for the event so he could take some rides, and Charlie asked him if he “ever rode in a high performance sports car” before taking him out. Hey, you can’t show up to a Porsche event in a Corvette and expect to get away scott-free. He later rode in a ridiculously fast 944 turbo to see life in the seat of a gazillion-HP car. He joined us for the track dinner, and was back to NC for an autocross the next day.
Steve's very modified Vette...yes, he was harassed
Day 2 times:
Boyer: 2:18:87 - chickmobile
Mazzola: 2:22:40 – pesky 914
Fusi: 2:25:00 – The Great Pumpkin
Flynn – 2:36:50 – Mangy 951
Day 3 brought Flynn to the Land Of Tech Inspection Failure. Not all that different from cottville (to be explained in further write-ups), LOTIF is not a happy place. Then again, Flynnster didn’t seem to mind all that much as he drove Pesky and The Great Pumpkin all day. Hey, maybe I should wear my tires out a day early next time so I can drive everyone else’s car! (oh, wait…I did that at the last event when my car broke. Thanks, Ags!).
Flynn in LOTIF with his failed Pzero C
So that was our first trip to VIR. It was a resounding success, and the track clearly kicked ass. The entire experience was positive and I will absolutely be heading back next year. I think we all enjoyed wearing the GTC shirts on Sunday and walking around like a gang. I don’t know why there aren’t more gangs in motorsports ;). Until the next chapter…