I had a great time out at MSR Houston last weekend with Rick and the gang at The Driver's Edge. Masks and distancing were in full force which put a little dampener on the social side of things, but I've only been out to Houston once before and it was clockwise, so this was a very fun day.
The Miata was running great, no issues whatsoever. I got in on Friday evening early enough to walk the track - in this case it really is WYSIWYG for the most part, since its pretty flat. Doesn't make it any less fun, of course. I was fortunate to have Gale jump in with me for two of the Saturday sessions to give me some pointers as well, which helped, but I'm also glad to be getting enough experience that I was able to keep progressing well solo for the rest of the event.
I learned pretty quickly on that the two areas I'd be struggling with all weekend were Sugar and Spice (16/17) and Diamond's Edge. For S&S I mainly had issues seeing the turn, since track limits are marked by a very subtle asphalt-colored rumble strip and turn-in to 17 was hard to nail. This was exasperated by the fact that there's a pit wall between 17 and 1, which made me a lot more timid than I should have been and ended up with me taking the whole complex slower than I should.
Diamond's edge got better when I adjusted my shifting. I'm in 5th coming down the straight and I had been braking and shifting to 4th before turn 3, then getting back on the gas for 3 and slowing 4-3 before turn 4. By the last session I was staying in 5th, which let me tap the brakes for 3 (honestly think I could take that with just a lift with a few more sessions) and then shifting 5-3 for the turn. I did the same thing for Sweeper (7) as well, since going 5-4 bled too much speed and I was constantly going back to 80% pedal for the turn.
I found the fastest line for me through Diamond's was heavy trail brake to get the car rotated followed by enough throttle to get the rear end a little lively and rotate the car to apex.
The Miata was definitely underpowered for the company I was running in. I'd often close on someone in the fun parts (7-13) only to have them pull away, never to be seen again. This got me thinking about the wisdom of a new car, but I'm thinking that finally installing a Megasquirt and going from ~110whp to ~135 would let me keep up with the Minis and BRZ/FRS guys just fine.
Those fun parts though were an absolute hoot. By the end of the weekend I was carrying more speed through Sweeper than some (still not close to what I could, I think), and then its a great series of quick turns with conveniently placed concrete patches for extra traction. I had fun trying to stay right up on whoever I was with until they inevitably opened up after the Launch and dropped me. Ah well.
I realized at one point that my car control skills have definitely improved over the last few months. I'm getting more comfortable finding the limits of my car to the point that I'm regularly overdriving it just a little. I realized that in almost every session I was comfortable with the car moving around - and knowing how to respond - in ways that would have resulted in a spin or at least made me nervous not that long ago.
The most fun I had all weekend was actually during my 3rd Saturday session. A group of us had been stuck behind a slower driver for a couple of laps, and finally made it through on the back straight. Knowing that we all trusted each other, we were able to come into Bus Stop nose to tail and stay that way all through the complex. That kind of driving is just a blast, and its a big part of the thrill for me.
Hopefully we can continue to have track days responsibly during the Age of Covid.
Next up, its finally time to swap pads/rotors and try to figure out what my next event is going to be.