Monday, March 18, 2013

My Club's Indoor Driving School & Conga Line

How to join the club, register for events, what to expect, safety equipment, basic car preparation, tech inspection,
corner flags, driving technique, and "Do As I Say, Not As I Did That One Time I Just Told You About."

Each March, my sports car club has an Indoor Drivers' School.  It's partly about pitching prospective new members and partly orientation.  For me, it has become the Official Notification of Spring.  In the past few years, the Indoor School has been at Autobahn Country Club.  And I've "worked" the school, which involves the onerous duty of greeting newbies and answering questions.  ;-)   The payoff for workers is free laps in conga lines behind experienced wheel-to-wheel drivers (the newbies pay $20) --all of us in our street cars.

Leaving the pit lane in my conga line.  Somewhere up there, ahead of three Bimmers and a Mercedes station wagon(!)
is our Leader in a Dodge Neon SRT-4.  Behind me, a Miata.

The conga line is a great way to shake off winter doldrums.  I unlearn some of my lazy road driving habits, hone some good habits, and focus once again on driving a proper line.  Renewal.  And lately it has become my annual tune-up for the Tail of the Dragon.  This year our conga leader took it slow: 45 m.p.h. on the straights and 6/10's in the corners.  At the end we did two "fast laps" laps at 60 m.p.h. and 7/10's.  I drove the entire 3.6 miles in 3rd gear.  No shifting or heavy braking lets you concentrate on your lines.  Last year we jumped right in at 8/10's.  I worked hard and erratically to keep up.  It's easier to sort yourself out at moderate speeds before using the wheel and pedals harder.

After three seasons of conga, I'm finally getting the hang of ACC.  Especially the South Loop's Turns 1 and 2 double-apex complex and the North Loop's deceptively tightening Turn 6.  Autobahn is more challenging--and fun--than its flatness might suggest.  My retirement from High Speed Autocross is probably permanent.  It uses up the consumables (tires, brakes) and brings out the limitations of street cars fairly quickly.  My Civic Si feels agile in daily driving; body roll is rarely noticeable.  After a few laps at HSAX cornering speeds, it begins to feel slow to respond to steering inputs and sloppy in the body-roll department: tedious to drive.

But 12 to 18 laps in a conga line, after a long winter, is ideal for blowing the cobwebs out.

1 comment:

Kate said...

You're certainly no newbie, but I didn't know you knew how to conga!

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