Saturday, March 31, 2012

The track beckons!

Well it’s spring but it feels more like summer. Temperatures have climbed rapidly and the coming week it is expected to be mostly high 70s. Perhaps even low 80s, and definitely looking like it’s time to head to the beach, or, at the very least, to unplug the cars from their battery tenders and to once again fire them up in earnest. Tires may actually be able to grip the road and brakes may actually work! It’s been several months since Margo and I have been on a serious fun-drive in the mountains and as I write this post, Margo is already out and about in the C6 ‘Vette.

The photo at the top of the page is of the C5 Z06 Corvette freshly washed and waxed alongside the new trailer and with the appearance that it is just ready to go! Again, the lines from that Beach Boy’s song come to mind once again. Yes, while we are once again enjoying the C6 as a daily drive, Margo and I can barely wait to see how the C5 performs and with the early onset of spring, it’s only a matter of weeks before we will know with any clarity whether our decision to retire the big blue ‘Vette was the right thing to do.

Talking of summer weather and of heading to the beach, it wasn’t all that long ago that Margo and I were able to catch a Beach Boys concert at Las Vegas. It was all part of the entertainment provided by HP for their user community as they conducted their annual week-long user event. This was all well covered in the post of June 24, 2009, to Real Time View “
HPTF - picking up good vibrations!”. While I did try to surf, as a teenager living near Sydney’s northern beaches, many of the Beach Boy’s songs were associated with cars and for me the song I liked the most was “My 409”!

Not for me were the traditional pictures of young ladies attired in swimsuits hanging from the walls of my room! Pasted to the walls were literally hundreds of pictures of cars – from F1 to Le Mans Prototypes, to Hot Rods and Dragsters. Pride of place? Well a couple of pictures of Chevy 409s from ’61 to ’63, and all those years ago I wished for a 409 of my own. Well, living in Australia, that wasn’t likely to happen. However, here I am living in the U.S., having spent almost 25 years as a legal alien.

"Well, I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes
For I knew there would be a time
When I would buy a brand new 409!"

While no one is certain about who first said it, the saying "be careful what you wish for, you may receive it" is right up there with the better known quote “the danger in life is not to set your goal so high that you will never be able to reach it, it is to set your goal so low that you will be able to reach it." The connection here is that for all those years I wished to own a 409 never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get one, and so, when I found out that in fact I did own a 409, it isn’t anything like what I had anticipated for all these years.

But there it was staring me in the face; the “chassis” manual of our new RV, a Tiffin Allegro RED 38, left nothing out. True, the chassis in this case is a Freightliner with a Cummings 6 cylinder diesel, turbocharged, providing some 360hp with 660 lb-ft of torque - more than enough to tow our Featherlite trailer and Corvette. Yes, the displacement of this big iron diesel is well, sure enough, 409ci! Who knew, but somehow, it’s left me with a kind of hollow feeling. Now what do I do? I got it – but I cannot see it ever matching the expectations set by the Beach Boys.

"Nothing can catch her
Nothing can touch my 409!"

However, this 409 that spends much of its time in our driveway, is the company’s new command center and will be our residence at association and community events, no matter where they take place, as well as be a more comfortable base for weekends at the track as we continue to promote Pyalla Technologies and develop the storylines that make it into these posts. And already the calendar for 2012 is beginning to take shape; registration has been completed for events at several tracks including Pikes Peak International Raceway (April 15) and High Plains Raceway (April 20) – we will tow the Vette to Pikes Peak behind the trusty Escalade SUV, whereas we will use the RV to tow the Vette to High Plains.

Margo is going to have the pleasure of kicking off the year with the event on April 15. This event is put on by NASA Rocky Mountain region and she will have the opportunity to reacquaint herself with the driver education program NASA provides. It’s been almost two years since Margo had quality time behind the wheel, and so it’s only fair that she gets to enjoy the first outing. For the second outing, barely a week later, Margo will head out first for the morning sessions at HPR and leave me to dodge the more aggressive participants in the afternoon – this will be an open lapping day and we always find these somewhat “exciting” by the end of the day!

It’s not just about reacquainting with the tracks, and with the organizations that put on these events, as it is about coming up to speed in a new car. After four years driving the big, supercharged automatic C6 Vette coupe, we will be running laps in a stock-standard C5 Z06. In the last post you may recall how it spent time last month at Corvette Spa here in Longmont, Colorado, where tow hooks were installed front and back, a fire extinguisher mounted in front of the passenger seat, and critical fluids (clutch, transmission and differential) were all changed. New Bridgestone tires have been mounted and the car does look like it’s ready to go!

Even so, the nerves are just beginning to set in and the adrenalin levels are beginning to inch up. Walking past the kitchen this morning I caught site of my driving shoes under the bench, and it only further increased the anticipation. We are not racers, nor will we ever be. We don’t attend events to compete with other drivers – there’s no transponders mounted on our cars. This has very little to do with being competitive or looking to see if we can be quicker than someone else. It will always be about having fun and really learning how to properly handle the car we have and to really experience firsthand what it is like to drive them up to their potential – something that is impossible today on public streets and highways.

Margo and I have spent many hours thinking about whether it is worth it or not. The off season, or the “silly season”, as I referred to it in a previous posting, is as much a time for reflection as it is for preparing for what is to come. There always be an element of danger in any sport or pastime, and when it comes to throwing a ton and a half of metal sideways, deliberately, there’s the potential for something to go wrong and there’s been many times where both of us have dropped two and even four wheels off the track. But even here, we have come back better prepared from the experience and fortunately, those occasions seem to be happening less frequently as we understand more fully the consequences of our actions.

But the fun truly does outweigh any negativity we may have had, and the decision to step back a little from the extremes that the C6 Vette represented is a new beginning for us both, so yes, it’s only fair that Margo gets to start the season. (I have to keep on repeating this or I will try to talk her into letting me drive – it’s going to be tough to “wrench” for her all day!). It will all change pretty quickly of course, as next month we head back down to southern California to join our many friends at NASA SoCal for a weekend at Willow Springs. “Big Willow”, as it is better known, is a track that Margo simply revels at – continuing to carry more speed into turns 8 and 9 than I have ever been able to do – so with a couple of outings under her belt before she once again heads our onto the “hot track” at Willow will be time well spent.

At “Big Willow” it will also be the first time we reunite with our good friends Brian and Jan at the track. Both couples will be arriving in their respective RVs and we will set up base camp, probably somewhere to the south east of the track – for those who may be participating, sure come look for us. We may not be hard to spot – two red Corvettes do tend to stand out, after all. If all goes to plan, Margo will run all day Saturday and then it will be my turn, Sunday. There will be barbecues (hopefully, we can convince Brian to cook his slow-cooked pork with sauce again) and I know head instructor, John Matthews, will come looking for us to see if there really is shrimp cooking on the Barbie! Fulton Haight, who took out 3rd place in last year’s NASA “Nationals”, will likely be participating as will some of our other friends that will be making the trip down from NoCal.

It certainly does feel like summer, and yes, in the driveway is my 409! Again, who could have guessed? Maybe I did set my goals too low, and yes, maybe I should have been a bit more careful about what I wished for. There are many friends who, like Napoleon, aren’t ever likely to point out to me when I am making mistakes, but the sheer fun of being able to take regular street cars and learn how to drive them somewhere near their potential is an opportunity that’s extremely hard to pass up!

For now, all that is left is to do is get back to the track, hook-up with our instructors, and enjoy the fun!