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Watkins Glen

Discussion in 'Tracking & Driver Education' started by wthensler, Apr 23, 2022.

  1. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Apr 27, 2015
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    Another action packed month awaits me in the 458. Leaving FL on 06-May and headed up north for 4 full days at The Glen, two with Chin Racing and two with FCA.

    Then later in the month, I *may* run Road Atlanta for two days, or perhaps VIR again, schedule permitting.

    I continue to fastidiously hit all the major track venues on the east coast. While the 458 has performed quite well, I made the mistake of watching the STO on a track and am absolutely dying to get mine out there.

    I will need to overcome some resistance from the wife on that one, I cannot not track that car at some point.

    FCA will be at Watkins and I’m looking forward to another great time and venue. Car is prepped and getting ExoShield this week before I depart.
     
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  3. schao

    schao Karting

    Mar 31, 2013
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    You're getting a large amount of seat time at at so many bucket list tracks this season, hope everything continues to be safe and enjoyable for you. At some point, you may want to consider a dedicated track or race car, if for no other reason than simply driver safety. There are other side benefits and costs, but that's the slippery slope everyone faces and needs to choose the path that's best for their circumstances. Best wishes in the meantime.
     
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  4. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Thank you, I do appreciate the advice, and that is my hope as well. Though I admit to getting a bit swept up, at some point it will calm down, and I really wouldn’t know what to get for a dedicated track car - a C8, a used Porsche, a 12c? a Miata? In a way I feel it's almost too late, and kind of wish I hadn't taken the 458 on track to begin with. But it's old now, fully broken in, depreciated compared to a 'normal' 458, and I do have other cars to drive in a more refined manner on the street.

    I don’t have any aspirations to race - driver safety, developing and nurturing my skills, meeting new folks and having fun at the best venues are my only real goals. That and seeking new venues. I don’t care about lap times - I'm happy to learn the line and enjoy. In fact, my most visited track to date has been Sebring. Maybe RA will surpass that if I keep with it.

    Both Chin and FCA have been excellent in providing instruction, btw.

    But I am cognizant of the risks, and am taking steps to reduce as much collateral damage as possible.
     
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  5. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Five Time F1 World Champ
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    Texas!
    You’re my hero.


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  6. Scudmsl

    Scudmsl Formula Junior
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    Ferrari Club Challenge program…
     
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  8. schao

    schao Karting

    Mar 31, 2013
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    I started tracking in the early 1990's with my first F-car, enjoyed driving to tracks as much as driving on track, and Watkins Glen happened to be the first track I drove. As I began to explore the car's limits, I switched to P-cars setup for track use, but even that was still a compromise. I finally decided on a race car, not to go racing, but because of the no compromise approach to driver safety, infinite range of car setup changes to explore, much more driver feedback at substantially higher speeds (mostly corners) and braking, and substantially lower consumable costs. The tradeoff is that I ended up needing a trailer and tow vehicle, and eventually an engineer to help prep and make setup changes. Unsurprisingly, all that led me finally to racing with full support from prep shop along with data analysis to really understand how to improve the nut behind the wheel and car setup depending on track and weather conditions from one session to the next.

    I recently took my modern F-car for a track day, just to explore and enjoy its high limits away from the streets, and can see doing more for the reasons you stated as there are less racing days ahead of me than behind me.

    Chin and FCA are great, I have fond memories as both driver and instructor. I don't instruct anymore due solely to my personal safety concerns as cars now are so much more capable such that any error results in much greater risks overall.

    Keep the Ferrari flag waving at your track events!
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  9. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Wow, I hardly know where to start, other than thank you for the interesting response and well wishes. I completely get it about the high speeds and sitting passenger-side (I had the experience of sitting in my own passenger seat and it was a bit unnerving).

    In my case, a bit of a late start, but the good news now is I have time, money, and a decent arsenal (including truck and trailer, sans engineer). I doubt I’ll ever go more hard core than the STO - my goal is to learn HPDE and explore the beautiful tracks and appreciate a car's handling characteristics. And meet lots of great folks as well.
     
  10. FerrariCognoscenti

    FerrariCognoscenti Formula 3
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    This is where I am today and tomorrow. Photo was taken at about 6:30am as the sun rose over heaven, which some down here call VIR!

    I’m the only Ferrari at the HPDE event. I seek every opportunity to depreciate this asset because life is too short to be afraid of putting hard track miles on this Italian beauty!

    William, I know Enzo would be proud of us.

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  11. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Oh heck yes, I love to give the man a laugh. And watching you slug it out at VIR during FCA was phenomenal - great pic, too!

    Life is way too short not to enjoy these gems in a controlled track environment.
     
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  13. c4b4the04

    c4b4the04 Formula Junior
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    Just a reminder, drop off today is between 6 and 8:30. Driver meeting is tomorrow morning at 8:00, most likely in the press room. Listen for the announcements.

    Safe travels everyone
     
  14. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Okay, we’ll look for you. Just completed two days at WGI with Chin in perfect weather and track conditions.

    I know a number of folks are staying for the FCA event as well.
     
  15. mpritch23

    mpritch23 Rookie

    Jan 28, 2016
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    White 458? Saw you there..


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  16. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Yes, that was me in the white spider. Was there all four days, saw some familiar faces and had a wonderful time and lots of track time. Did we get some great weather, or what?

    Car performed beautifully as well and luckily the shop in the garage got me brake pads in the nick of time.

    Were you driving? Both events?
     
  17. mpritch23

    mpritch23 Rookie

    Jan 28, 2016
    15
    Just Wednesday and Thursday. 4 days - I quote “you’re my hero”
    are you doing Pocono or LR?
    You had yellow numbers on the car.
    Hope to see you again at an event.


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  18. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    I’ll say this….the four days went by as quickly as it was driving around the track! Yes, that was me with the yellow #62…..I’m awaiting pics and will post up a few and a brief summary of the event itself.

    Coming up I’ll be at Sebring and Atlanta in June, then ViR in July, all with Chin.

    If I can make Pocono, I will. It has special meaning as my Mom was from that area.

    Definitely planning to participate at Lime Rock in October, assuming it doesn’t interfere with Daytona.

    LMK if/when you plan to be out, would be great to meet up.

    William
     
  19. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    As promised, I wanted to provide a brief write and some pics up of the Watkins Glen experience this past week. Sorry if the car is a bit over exposed, I don’t have any pics without it…..

    The Track
    Watkins Glen is named after the town itself, which ironically, is not where the track is located (it’s actually in Dix, NY). Suffice to say it’s way up in New York State, at the lower end of Seneca Lake. The hills are rolling and the track itself has a lot of elevation change, and at 3.4 miles, is one of the longer tracks. Is also say it’s one of the more challenging tracks, especially as there are steel barriers everywhere, with very little runoff space. A screw up here could easily put you into a wall. It’s also a high speed track with plenty of late apexes and off camber corners, some of them blind. The surface is smooth as glass, unlike Sebring (which is flat and bumpy). The Chief instructor at Chin describes it as one of the top three tracks in the universe. After running pretty hard four days straight, I believe him.

    I won’t provide a turn by turn analysis, but there are some really unique features of WGI. It has uphill esses like VIR, but WGI is higher speed, has more compression going in, and high walls everywhere. There are several high speed straights, a chicane section (the Bus Stop), and some late apex turns and blind corners. And plenty of places to pass and give point bys to faster drivers.

    Overall the track has a rhythm despite the frightful appearance of the walls. Focus on your driving and run within your limits and you’ll be fine.


    The Events
    The first two days were with Chin Racing. I had a great instructor ‘DJ’, who knew the track well and pushed me pretty hard. The effort was rewarded as at the start of the next two days with FCA (Empire Region), I got a check ride and ‘graduated’ to blue solo. Both Chin and FCA are absolutely fantastic organizations, and there aren’t enough accolades to describe my respect and satisfaction. I takes so much effort to put these events together - even the smallest details like on track emergency maintenance, food, fuel, training, garage space……it’s a lot of work! I have a bit north of 20 track days between the two, including Sebring, Homestead, VIR, Concours and now WGI and I am deeply humbled by what I have seen and experienced.

    The instructors put their lives at risk to provide training and confidence to novices like me. Have you ever sat in the passenger seat of a car doing 150++mph with someone you’ve known less than a day? I couldn’t do it, ever.


    The Weather
    Upstate NY can be iffy in May. They’d had snow the week or so before. But we had four absolute ringer track days. Perfect would describe it, 68 degrees, brilliant sunshine and low humidity. The cars run better and the track surface is at its best under these conditions. It did get hot the last day in the afternoon, and the FCA organizer advised us novices that the track gets slick under these conditions, and to beware. I took it easy knowing I’d had my fill and wanted to just get seat time and run smooth laps. Mission accomplished. More importantly, this is what good people do - they help others out.

    The People
    I met so many wonderful people, many came from quite far away (including me, who trailered up from FL). It’s quite a commitment and everyone wants to be safe, have fun and learn (if you’re at my stage). Some folks brought an entire pit crew and multiple cars. And I’d seen several at other events. But to a tee, everyone was respectful on the track. And FCA had a dedicated Women’s session which was really classy to get women interested in the sport (about a dozen participants!).

    As I ran in all three groups (yellow, blue and red), the speeds increase and you need to be on your game for passing and giving point bys.

    I also want to give a shout out to the corner workers, You may not even know they’re there, but they’re your key to survival! Thus far I’ve seen two cars catch fire, a few wrecks, and several cars break down on track (this all didn’t happen at WGI). Your only way to know conditions ahead is what is communicated by these worker bees, They are there all day, in all weather, helping keep us safe. And of course, you will learn the flags!

    The 458
    Again, I simply can’t say enough about the performance and reliability. There were 24 sessions in 4 days, and the 458 answered every bell. Yeah, I blew through rear brake pads, but that was all on me. It’s not the fastest nor the best handling with street tires, but it is truly a fantastic car. Running with TC off is an experience in and of itself if you are respectful of how the car behaves. The car is not overwhelming (but of course you can get in trouble if not careful). It’s not a Challenge car and won’t set any records, but you will learn the limits of the car, and experience the thrill of running a high horsepower Ferrari car on a world class track that sounds magnificent and looks the part.

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  20. c4b4the04

    c4b4the04 Formula Junior
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    Great review on the events! This was a perfect weather week for sure, and I always love to see the garage full of Challenge cars...
     
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  21. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    I’ve decided to start my search for a Challenge car. I understand the 296 will offer a version and I’m going to speak with my dealer when I’m back in FL

    I’m sure it’ll be a long wait, but supremely worth it.

    I’m of the conclusion a street car (no matter how good) on a track isn’t safe. The Glen really solidified my thinking.

     
  22. schao

    schao Karting

    Mar 31, 2013
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    #19 schao, May 17, 2022 at 9:29 AM
    Last edited: May 17, 2022 at 9:40 AM
    I'm really glad you've come to that conclusion, and would encourage you to think about all that will be needed and cost associated with whatever track tool you decide on. Lay out all the items (and costs) that will be required: (1) who will prep, maintain and repair your car, (2) what are the consumables interval and availability, (3) is it possible to participate at at track event by yourself and if not, who will you need and will they be available? Talk to as many people as you can who operate a vehicle you are considering as well as prep shops near you; go to some track days as a spectator and just talk to people, watch and learn. Happy hunting for your next track tool!

    BTW, how far away is Sebring for you?
     
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  23. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated! Watching and learning is part of the fun! The constructive criticism that comes with instruction can be the hardest, but is a necessary part of the process.

    The 458 has been (and is) fantastic, really, but it’s a street car, period.

    I understand about consumables, expenses, etc. I’ll start going down this path, who knows maybe I can get in line for a 296 Challenge,,,,,,,,,unfortunately it’s too late to drive a Miata.

    Sebring is about 3 hours and change, would be much less if I didn’t have to deal with Orlando sprawl. I’ll be there June 11th for the day……..
     
  24. c4b4the04

    c4b4the04 Formula Junior
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    For what it is worth, parts seem available and most of the services you can do yourself on these. I can't speak to this particular chassis number but the 430 Challenge is an amazing platform. Well suited for DE type events and can make a full season on brakes and tires if driven with some reserve. I've been in FCA motorsports for many years and these are a workhorse for a lot of drivers. This one is for sale and I get emails weekly from their stables.

    https://bryancircosta.com/ferrari-f430-challenge
     
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  25. wthensler

    wthensler Formula 3
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    Thanks for the link! I am already in touch with a few folks here, and the big decision is 430 versus 458 or even 488. I really like the DCT of the 458 and don’t think it would be too much car. And I am already keenly aware of brakes, rotors, tires, etc.

    I am quickly coming to the realization a stock 458 is not the place to be on a track (fun? yes….safe?mmmmmm……).
     

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