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One Lap of America: Part 2 of 6

by Roy Maranhao
July 12, 2012

Day 2 is a day of preparation getting ready for Day 3, the first day of racing.

Delayed by a very slow train on the way to the Autobahn Country Club

 Day 2 - Friday May 4

On Friday, we needed to get our racing gear and the car inspected by the One Lap staff. This takes place at the headquarters of Tire Rack - our main sponsor. They gave us stickers from all the event sponsors, a car number and a parking space. After we got all the stickers in place we brought the car in and they checked our tires, helmets, fire suits, fire extinguishers, road flares and first aid kit. When all that checked out, we got a special sticker that indicated that we were good to go.

The collection of cars that competed this year was quite a sight. A partial list included five Nissan GTRs – arguably one of the fastest non-exotic production cars in the world. There was a variety of BMWs, Porches and Corvettes – a Honda Odyssey minivan fielded by the Honda factory in Alabama with an “unlimited” budget to make it go fast and a Ferrari F430 along with many others. There are no rules regarding modifications to the vehicles and many of them had $100,000 plus in modifications. Don and I, like many others, were running unmodified vehicles and doing this more for fun rather than competition.

The Ferrari

A drivers' meeting was held around 4pm and Brock Yates, the event organizer, briefed us on the few rules – no support vehicles are allowed, vehicles must be driven between tracks by team members and penalties will be assessed for arriving at the track late. He also informed us that the state police in every state we would be driving through had been notified of our fun so we had better behave. He cautioned us to not aggravate the truckers with bright lights or excess speed because they talk to each other and since we have stickers all over our cars, we’re easy to identify. He said we shouldn’t travel in packs because this tends to attract attention and the natural tendency is to go faster when in a pack. He reminded us that we were ambassadors for motorsports. I’ve heard this speech a dozen times and try to keep my speed no greater than ten miles over the limit. There are times though, when it’s safer to turn the cruise control off and then speed can easily drift up past ten over.

We got back to the hotel at 5:00 and went out to dinner with the timing team. This year the timing team was driving brand new BMWs from another sponsor, the BMW performance driving school.

 Day 3 - Saturday May 5 – distance traveled: 562 miles

The first event was on the skid pad at Tire Rack. The skid pad is an asphalt circle 200 feet in diameter that Tire Rack uses when testing the various tire brands they sell. Our event tests the cornering ability of the cars. We drove around this big circle as fast as we could and the elapsed time was recorded and translated into lateral Gs. Lower times indicate better cornering ability. The skid pad is equipped with sprinklers which can be turned on all around the track so that cornering ability on wet and dry pavement can be tested. For this particular event the sprinklers were on. Don did a great job maintaining an average side force of .8G.


Don on the skid pad

The next event was a few miles away at the South Bend speedway. Speedways are paved asphalt or dirt tracks that are generally only ¼ mile long and are found all over the country. They are oval or triangular tracks that are banked and lined with cement walls that seem to dare you to go fast enough to destroy your car. Since it was my car, I got to drive this event and managed to do OK without a scratch. Two cars at a time raced around for three laps. The elapsed time was recorded with points assigned to each car.

From the South Bend Speedway, we traveled west for about 100 miles on I80 to Joliet, Illinois. Joliet is home to the Autobahn country club. When we arrived, there was a long wait for the track to be available. We had time to look at all the cars that belong to the rich and famous of the Chicago area. The club is a country club with a race track instead of a golf course. Membership and dues are expensive and many of the member’s cars are world class sports cars.

By mid afternoon we were lined up for our turn on the track. This event is important to the organizers because it determines the run order for all the cars. The course is a 2.1 mile road course 40 feet wide with 15 turns and a long straight of 1,850 feet. I drove this event and managed to place in the last run group. Like I said, we’re doing this for fun and not so much to compete.

Back into the paddock, Don was happy that I made it around without incident. He announced, to my relief that he wouldn’t be looking at the scores until after returning home the following week. This set the tone for us – have fun and be safe. We packed up and headed west to Des Moines, Iowa where we found a Motel 6 and called it a day.




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