Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Track Time" On The Dragon

"The Boys From Illinois" are already talking about our spring Dragon run.  As always, we're noodling the mix between tourism and Dragon passes.  This time, I'm inclined to make as many passes as I can, which I did in September too.

This is puzzling.  I'm not a competitive person (in the usual sense of the term) and I'm not a competitive driver (in the fast sense of the term).  I gave up high-speed autocrossing for both reasons: it seemed like a lot of effort for not much track time, and the stop-watches put me in the center of the bell curve for RX-7's.  We got about 15 minutes total track time, at best, in a typical day of HSAX.  And it was a full day: up early to get through tech, home after supper.  Talent aside, I needed to upgrade my brakepads, lines, and fluid to stop abusing my car.  Three laps (the normal practice run) takes a lot out of a daily-driven street car.  I don't miss HSAX and, in fact, enjoy the sociability and responsibility of corner-flagging more.

So why my monomania about Dragon passes?  Because, I've concluded, I'm competitive with myself.  The Dragon requires focus and concentration.  It's challenging to get 9 miles of switchbacks even close to right.  Then there is the feel of the thing: hills that load or unload the chassis, decreasing radius and double-apex bends.  Stringing together a sequence of 6-10 turns, done as well as you can, is extremely satisfying.

Speed isn't that important--the bends are tight.  You need to make allowances for traffic.  There are always faster drivers and equipment.  Running against a stopwatch or a bogey time doesn't enter my mind.  (Well... yes it does: under 14 minutes for an unobstructed pass...  ;-)  )  The Dragon is so tight that it's not hard on your car, especially if you slow down to cool the brakes at the end of a pass.

You can make passes all day long.  On your own schedule.  Wrung out or stressed-out?  Take a break for food, drink, people-watching, and gearhead talk.  When you're ready to focus and concentrate again, get after it again.  In my motorsports experience, there is nothing more satisfying than getting a Dragon pass mostly right.

True, there's the expense of getting to and from and staying near it.  But once you're there, it's 8 hours or more per day of free track time.  In good company.

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