PUT THE HORSE ON THE TRACK
WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN By Bill McClure
Pushing the mid 60ís window, I finally talked myself into doing a track day, with a little help from a friend who is much younger and drives vintage racing in California. He also has his license for most all cars and was always doing fly and drive for other teams when they needed a driver.
The reason I say this is he had a complete extra set of driving clothes he passed on to me. You know, the suit, gloves, shoes and helmet. Now when I put all this stuff on, you just know you have to do this. With my mustache, shades and helmet, I could pass any day of the week (on looks) with either Richard or Dale. Youíre just too cool and the old ego says Ďdo it maní.
I always did my driving in the mountains and countryside, always having to keep a wary eye in the mirror and that is plenty of stress in and of itself. Over the years, I have managed to own a few select sports cars like Alphaís and Jags and then about ten years ago, I bought my first Ferrari, a 1989ó328 GTS. A life long dream to own a Ferrari was finally realized. I have to say these sports cars Iíve owned were before and after wives and family, but you understand. This Ferrari was cherry with only 1800 miles on it. I was in Hog Heaven. All these years with this car, I wanted to get up the nerve to put it on the track. Not just because of my own nerves but because this was my pride and joy and what would happen if I plowed this thing in. Neither my insurance company nor I would appreciate this. Now, with all this mental bantering, I knew I was coming to the crossroads where you fish or cut bait.
The RMFCA is always giving us the track days and I would go out and watch thinking to myself that I can do this. I even caught a ride or two and loved it. I didnít know the flags and the braking issues but had some knowledge of the apex issues. Then the club paper put out the issue announcing John Pembrokeís Performance Driving class at Pikes Peak International Raceway. I had been there several times and watched them run and figured this would be the best place for me to give it a go. I signed up! Now Iím really getting my --- in the wringer.
Saturday morning comes and Iím on the road to the track. Iíve got an hour to think about this and I know I can still back out even though Iíve paid my dues for the class. Arriving at the track with my car and gear was pretty exciting Iíll have to say. I even had a garage space next to Adele Arakawa and her Porsche. She was there for two days of racing. Well that did it! Now the old male ego really kicks in and you know you have to go forward, no backing out now.
The class was great and the track times were just set up for us guys in the class so we could get the feel of all the corners, braking and hitting a good apex. Pembroke also had a number of drivers who would ride with us and help out on the shifting and braking plus they had cones up on the track showing when you start braking. All of this preparation was ideal for relieving the stress and strain we manage to put ourselves into.
As the day wore on, we got faster and faster and now weíre starting to cook. Passing for us was only allowed on the straightaway portions of the oval and that was fine with me as you had enough to do and concentrate on without somebody trying to hot dog it on you. Because there were different brands of cars in our class that could run over you, this no passing helped as we would wave and let the big boys go around on the straightaway, like the Cobras and the Vipers. The more time we had in our track sessions, the more comfort zone you established. The 328 was running like I had never seen before and the feeling was awesome. I had the car tuned up before this track day and it was revving beautifully. On the straights, I was turning well over a hundred. No time for 5th gear I found out, so you just ran it up to the red line. What a day!
Later in the afternoon, I was told I was losing fluid and it was just about the last run. This run was with some of the other cars that were there for racing and were out there practicing and they had a tendency to want to run up your tail pipe in the corners but even this wasnít bad. One guy behind me in an old Camero was all over the track and I was glad to let him get by. And if you got tired, you just pull off on pit row and park it. Not a problem.
I only did the Saturday session as I was driving back to Denver. I had planned on both days but quite frankly I was pooped and didnít want to run with the water problem. I had also had a colon cancer operation earlier in the year and that day at the track was nerve racking on the old colon so I called it a day. A new set of rear tires, as the car still had the originals and a very expensive radiator cap will put me back on the track and these two old horses can run again!
If this story has helped any of you who have had the same desires over the years to do this, donít talk yourself out of it. Itís a blast and an absolute thrill to run your car where it should be run. Give it a go, youíll be glad you did and I hope you have as much fun as I did.
-- Bill McClure --