Well, the three-day event at Miller Motorsport Park is over and both the car and driver returned home in one piece.
The track proved to be everything I had hoped – wide, long, complicated and really challenging to learn, even in three days. The facilities are spectacular, even the restrooms smell good. It is truly a world-class facility rivaling Sears, Laguna, Mid-Ohio, and Atlanta for both the track and for the facility.
The NASA event was pretty well run, not the wild-west shootout that I remember NASA group-4 events were in NASA’s early days. For this event Group-4 was combined with the NASA Time Trial (TT) group. The group might also be called the “Old, rich, erectile dysfunction, Corvette group, as that would more accurately capture it’s essence. The combined ego of the group was illustrated by their custom license plates: “FASTEST”, “TRQZILLA”, “WHYLOSE”, “WAY2FAST”, etc. They all had Corvette Jackets (suitably embroidered with all their manly accomplishment, Corvette hats, Corvette T-Shirts, I’m pretty sure I even saw one guy with Corvette socks.
Mixing non-competitive students from the High-Performance Drivers Education program with competitive drivers hoping to record a best lap-time is a little risky but the reality is that Group-4 is really the domain of Driving Instructors and a couple of racers looking for a little more track time. Since there are no instructors, no discussions of driving technique, and no discussion about the track and it's corners, it's pretty hard to call group-4 drivers education.
With a reasonable amount of wheel-to-wheel racing experience I was pretty comfortable with the last second, at-the-apex, dive-bomb style passing the Corvette drivers seem to prefer. A couple of Group-4 students and a couple of instructors were much less comfortable. After a couple of stern warnings from NASA officials (read: threats to send ALL the Corvette drivers home immediately) things got a little better. The issue was finally addressed when the entire Time Trial group was combined with one of the racing groups. This left those of us in Group-4 a little lonely, I mean it’s a 4.5 mile track and with the departure of the Corvettes there were only about 20 cars. I did one entire 30 Min. session without seeing another car. It was actually really nice to be rid of the geriatric penis car group.
Lessons learned at Miller:
The car is going to require significant development to really be fast. In this era of high-horsepower turbo cars (and living and racing at over 5,000 ft., a stock E36 M3 is a bit of a knife in a gun fight – hell, I got passed by a damn Mini in one session.
The upside of the weekend is I got to take a long look at three very well-developed E36 M3s and have a better feel for what it will take. Two were track-day cars and third was a race car. The Track-day cars were exactly with what I want to do in the short term and the race car is what I ultimately get to. I'll detail each car in a future entry.
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