06-03-11 - New race track near Olympia

The Ridge race track in Shelton is scheduled to open this fall. It certainly doesn't look like it from the video but they claim they are ahead of schedule, and already fully booked through 2012.

The Ridge has a decent road course, but it's rather short, it's 2.42 miles, a small upgrade over the 2.25 miles of Pacific Raceways ; I also really don't like the long straight into a chicane that they are planning at The Ridge, that is the exact kind of feature that kills people. Hopefully PCA runs it without the chicane.

Portland International Raceway (PIR) is even shorter at 1.9 miles ; I found that running the 2.25 mile track at Pacific Raceways was unpleasantly short, it just feels a bit too much like being a hamster on a wheel or just driving around a roundabout, since you're turning the same direction pretty much the whole time; PIR and Pacific Raceways both suck because they have a drag strip sharing the straight with the road coarse ; drag strips have a variety of surface problems that make them incredibly dangerous to drive over, and there have been several nasty crashes over the years that happen right at the point where the road coarse comes onto the drag strip. So The Ridge is big win in that it doesn't have that. Also since it's new it is presumably being designed with decent run-offs and barriers, which our old tracks don't have.

I just found out last week that in the same place (Shelton) you can rent out the airport to drive on; at first I thought you could rent part of the actual runway, which would be awesome, but in fact it's just a big parking lot that the airport owns, which is still better than nothing. Also if you look at Google satellite maps you might see a race track in Shelton already exists. That's the WA State Patrol training track. Bastards.

There's a huge boom of race track development up here right now.

Oregon Raceway Park opened last year, and looks awesome, though a bit too far away from Seattle. It's out in the barren grass land, away from all our deadly trees; I like tracks that are wide open like that because you can see way ahead to know if somebody has had an accident in front of you.

Bremerton has been trying to build a track for a while (currently the old airport there is used for car events, but it's hardly a track); they're hoping to get a Nascar stop, but I doubt it since they're out in the middle of nowhere. Boardman, OR is also dreaming of making this huge PNW Motorspork Park complex with multiple tracks, but they don't have funding yet and that seems like a pipe dream.

It's very hard to find places to drive fast up here. My understanding is that in Europe the track days are open in the sense that you just show up and pay a fee. In the US that does not exist at all because of liability shit. It's always through some kind of club, and they have to pretend that it's "education". (there's also obviously racing, but that's always through a club and then you have to have a race license and a car with cage and fire system and all that). So all the track days here are called "driver education" which is a bit confusing.

Whether or not the event is actually run as education depends on the group and how nitty they are. With some clubs it's a very thin facade of eduction and they immediately start doing donuts and racing each other. Others are a bit more careful to not violate their insurance policy terms. PCA for example is pretty nitty in the beginning, but once you get signed off to go solo it's basically racing.

The Proformance school at Pacific Raceways, for example, is super nitty and pedantic at first, you have to take the class, and the class is pretty terrible; they actually put up cones on the track to force you to drive "the line". Once you take the class then you can do open lapping after that which is okay.

A lot of the problem with these "racing education" classes is that they are just horrible teachers. They're super pedantic and just not very smart. They teach you what you're supposed to do without teaching you *why* you're supposed to do it, and they don't let you experiment and learn for yourself. It reminds me of the bad old days of being in primary education with small-minded teachers who are teaching you the exact machinery of how to do something instead of teaching you the fundamentals and letting you do it however you want. At the first "ground school" that I went to some guy describes early apex and late apex and then asks "what's the right way to corner?" , and here I am still being optimistic and engaged I say "it depends, it depends on the track surface, and what corners are before and after the current corner", and he says "no, we always late apex". Oh, okay, my bad, I though we were human beings who could think and discuss and be realistic and intelligent, in fact we are just supposed to repeat some rote nonsense that you read in a rule book once and treat like dogma. So the "education" is unfortunately just really depressing usually.

A couple of us did the Dirtfish Rally School out in Snoqualmie recently, and it definitely suffers from being overly pedantic. Their faccility is amazing, it's literally like a video game level with rusted old warehouses and big gravel pits, and driving on gravel is really a shit-load of fun, I was jumping with joy every time I got out of the car. I like gravel track driving a lot better than driving on pavement because you get car rotation and so much more crazy weight transfer dynamics and fun stuff going on and slow safe speeds. But I don't really recommend Dirtfish, it's too expensive for the amount of seat time you get, and they're just a bit too serious about doing things the right way. It would be worth it if doing the class qualified you for open lapping (for example the Proformance class is excruciating but the whole point of it is to qualify for open lapping) but of course Dirtfish won't let you do open lapping in their gravel pit.


Tom Forsyth said...

I have found ProFormance at Pacific Raceways to be consistently good over the last four years. Yes, in the first-day lapping stuff they expect you to shut up and do what you're told, because you're a newb with a Porsche, and they tend to be dangerous opinionated morons.

Once you have graduated to being merely a competent snob with a Porsche, then you can happily discuss with them why the line you like is wrong. Because it is wrong. They've all done zillions of hours in a huge variety of cars, and the chances of you picking a better line are the same as the chances of them writing a new more optimal compression routine.

cbloom said...

Ladies and gentlemen, mister Tom Forsyth!

old rants