World Class Driving Tour

On Thursday I drove down to Richmond, VA and participated in the World Class Driving Tour. We had a chance to drive five different exotic sports cars through the country side of Virginia. Of course, no speed laws broken by any of the participants, especially me. Cough…  Below is the group shot from our outing (more photos of my group at bottom of this post). I am the second person from the left. 

Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group
Ted Cahall with World Class Driving Group on May 21st, 2009.

We started the day at 7:00AM by signing our lives away.  It would have been unpleasant to have wrecked one of these as I think I promised the future lives of all my relatives for many centuries to come as collateral.

Then we were  out to the cars for the group photo and then the road.  Each driver took a turn in each of the five cars.  We had eight drivers and only five cars, so each driver had three legs as either an exotic car passenger or in one of the lead or chase vehicles.  This was the only let down of the whole morning.  I am not sure I would have registered had I known that.  OK – I probably would have – it was a total gas.

I was lucky enough to sit out the first segment – as that was driving through town in a very slow, deliberate manner.  No fun sitting in a high performance car in traffic!  My first segment was in the Audi R8.  It is a fantastic car that handles superbly.  It clearly can be a daily driver (and Ash Patel at Yahoo uses it as one).  My only complaint was that it was somewhat under powered for an exotic car.  I was also at the very end of the pack – so lagging back to rev the engine was somewhat more difficult.  Still great car and I was very impressed.

My next segment was in the Callaway C16 Corvette.  It is supercharged and was by far the very fastest car of the day.  It has an automatic transmission as well as paddle shifters.  The automatic was so well tuned there was no need for the paddles.  I did a hole-shot out of the parking lot and was shocked by the power.  It got a bit squirrely even with the traction control on.  Yeah – that’s what I’m talking about!  I was second in the conga line behind the Lambo and I lagged back quite a few times.  The car was like a rocket ship when I would nail it and downshift two gears.  The whine of the supercharger was outrageous and the power literally pinned you to your seat.  I have owned some fast supercharged cars – but this was the best.  Callaway got this one right.  I noticed that there was blue smoke pouring out of the back of the car when I would pound on it.  I figured I would point that out when we stopped next (I really did not need to since I was coating the 3 cars behind me).  It turned out that the blue smoke was a harmless leak from the supercharger cooler that only occurred under very high load (ie. me).  I must have done 5 or 6 power runs after lagging back and flooring it.  That ride alone would have been worth every penny – but it gets better.  We got to a straight, well paved, wide-open section of two lane highway following a slower car.  The lead car passed and and the Lambo followed, I lagged a bit so I could wail on the C16 and then hit it.  We blew past the car and began to climb into the back seat of the Lambo.  I am sure we went a tad over 55…

Eventually we pulled over and switched again.  I got the Lamborghini this time.  I figured there was no way I was going to enjoy that after the C16.  While the Lambo does have 10 cylinders, it is not supercharged, etc.  Well, I was wrong!  The thing was amazing.  I was behind the pace car (driven by Roland who is an experienced pro racer that could have made a tricycle go fast).  I let Roland get a good pace ahead of me and pounded out the Lamborghini.  It was almost as impressive as the C16 – but it is all wheel drive and really was incredible in the curves and corners.  I pulled a number of power downshifts in this car too and was really torn as to which car I now liked best.  Either way, there is no loser out of these two.

When my turn was next, I got to drive the Ford GT.  This is a true supercar and was the only car with a real stick-shift and clutch.  One of the instructors always road in the GT.  No problem. ūüôā  This was a great car and extremely fast.  It is also supercharged – but for some reason the power was very linear and smooth.  It did not really let lose and snap my neck back as I had done in the C16 and Lambo.  It might have been due to the instructor sitting next to me – but he never made a peep each time I lagged back and then hit it as hard as I could.  No question a fantastic car – but it did not rank with the C16 or Lambo.  It might be due to the manual transmission.  The automatics they are making in these new exotics are really phenomenal.

When we were well on our way back to the hotel, it was time for my final drive.  I was in the Alfa-Romeo 8C.  It had the nicest sound to it – but unfortunately resembled more of the Audi R8’s power band than the other power beasts.  Unlike the Audi’s fine transmission, the 8C would bog under full power shifting.  It was also grumble backfiring on downshifts or when I let off the gas.  All of this – and it was the most expensive of all of the cars at about $300k!  They are only letting 75-80 of them into the US – so it is a rare collector’s car.  It is a good thing – because even at about $200k this would not see any sales volume when compared to a Lambo, Ferrari, or other car in that range.  It was definitely my least favorite of the five cars.  So I was glad it was the one that I had to waste part of my turn in city traffic as we parked back at the hotel.  I guess it has some appeal and some woman actually called out to us (another driver was my passenger) to let us know she liked our car…  So Italian sound appeal counts for something.

Ted Cahall

Click on one of the photos to start the gallery.

The More You Know – the More You Don't Know

I remeber back to my days at the University of Illinois at Chicago computer center where I was a consultant to the student popluation regarding all of our computer systems.  As I learned more and more, I realized just how much I did not know.  In other words, the more I knew, the more I realized how little I actually knew out of the vast world of computer science, programming languages, operating systems, etc.  I became curious as to if I would close this knowledge gap or see it widen as more technology was developed.  It was another type of race Рa race into the information age.

I had the same feeling for a while as I attempted to figure out how to begin wheel-to-wheel competition racing with the SCCA.¬† Getting my Novice License and being signed off to race was one hurdle.¬† This was complicated by a coast-to-coast move from Seattle to Northern Virginia.¬† The next hurdle was getting my 2001 Z06 Corvette prepared to race.¬† I have e-mailed a number of people and talked with some as well.¬† Most of those people were involved in the SCCA as Time Trials, Solo or PDX participants.¬† As I have now learned, they might as well be from some other racing program or another planet.¬† The rules for “club racing” are the most stringent and complex.

On Monday morning I was fortunate enough to have the SCCA TCS T1 class driver sponsor call me.  She was very patient and polite (thank you Pam).  She let me know I should have started with the program office and found my way to her first.  Needless to say, between her and the head of tech inspection, it is very clear to me that I need a full roll cage.  So onto PiperMotorsport to have that done when they can schedule me in.

I also learned that I need to have the full roll cage for the SCCA driving school I am registered for on March 27th.¬† There is no way it will be done then – so I am going try to rent a car with a roll cage for that event.¬† It hopefully will be a Mazda Miata – or what they call a “spec” Miata.

One other somewhat interesting factoid I learned was that my “lowly” TCS T1 class runs simultaneously with all othe other “big bore” classes (ie. on the track at the same time).¬† I had heard I would likely be the only T1 car in my class.¬† I had thought I would have the track to myself!¬† This was a bit of a suprise to me since I thought at worse I would only be out there with other cars from my T1 class.¬† Pam informed me that I would be out there with GT1 class cars and some cars with over 700 HP.¬† How ironic – I will probably finish last in the actual race and get a trophy for 1st place in the T1 class (and 2nd place, and last place).

I definitely do not want to be driving a car with 700 HP yet Рso I need to be ready to passed a whole lot by all the other cars on the track.  No pride here.  Just glad to be able to learn and rub elbows with these highly experienced die-hard racers.

Live and learn (carefully)…

Ted Cahall

Racing the Clock to be Ready for my First Race

Drat!  Just when I thoughts I was in the running to complete preparations for my first real season of racing in the SCCA, I find I had some bad information on the requirements.  It seems I may need a roll cage for the TCS T1 class that I plan to participate in.  It was hard enough to buy seats that fit (that took three different sets through trial and error) and finally get them installed.  Please note that both of the previous two sets stated that they fit the 2001 Corvette Z06.  I guess they assumed you did not want to close your doors, roll up your windows, etc.

Roll cage!¬† Now we are seriously drilling holes and welding stuff to the car.¬† No more going back to selling this as a Corvette driven by a little old lady from Pasadena to go back and forth to church on Sundays.¬† It will be clear this car had definitely seen some track time.¬† Oh well, after GM goes out of business, maybe it will be a collector’s item.

Nothing like a little added stress towards maintaining that delicate “work / race balance” – especially with work being so calm and constant at AOL over the last few weeks.¬† One of my cats is sick too – so it only makes sense that the racing hobby throws me a curve ball just to keep things all in perfect harmony.

Oh well, I know I can use this car (if not in the shop getting the roll cage) or my newer 2006 Z06 Corvette for the Saturday April 4th SCCA Performance Driving Event (PDX).  I will also be OK testing out the new Ferraris and Lamborghinis with World Class Driving even if I cannot get this beast race ready.  So at least the whole summer will not be a bust for going fast.

The trials and tribulations of the need for speed.

Ted Cahall

Installing Corbeau Seats in 2001 Z06 Corvette

While continuing my saga of preparing for my 2009 MARRS/SCCA season, I have completed another step of transforming my 2001 Z06 Corvette to meet the SCCA GCRs.¬† I now actually have put the passenger side Corbeau Racing Seat into the car along with the fire extinguisher.¬† While none of this applies to my future attempt to drive over 200 MPH, it is all required if I am going to race my own car this summer while attempting to maintain that precious “work / race” balance.

There were nine (9) basic steps to this procedure:

  1. Remove the old seat
  2. Attach the bracket to the new seat
  3. Attach the safety harness connectors to the seat
  4. Connect the harness under the seat
  5. Install the seat into the car on the four bolts in the floor
  6. Install the fire extinguisher on top of the front bolts
  7. Install the “harness bar” between the seat bolt and the harness bar
  8. Bolt down the four bolts
  9. Connect the remaining harness belts

Please note that the “harness bar” that runs behind the seats for the top two belts of the 5 point belt was already installed for me at Tony’s Corvettes.¬† Similarly, the harness connections down by the lap belt connectors was also installed there.

I decided to capture some of this work here in the blog with a few pictures.¬† I was considering bottling some of the sweat as well just to show I actually do some of these things myself…

Step 1: Remove the old seat
I do not have any pictures of me removing the old seat. It was done long ago on the previous attempts of installing Sparco seats into the car.  Below is a shot of the car without the seat in it.  Note the four bolts sticking up from the floor.  These are the bolts that the new seat will bolt down on.  The fire extinguisher is attached to the two front bolts in this picture.

I do have a shot of the old seat next to the new seat before it went in though. This allows some comparison of height, width, etc.

Step 2: Attach the bracket to the new  seat
I ordered two different brackets (driver and passenger) for the identical seats.¬† The main difference between the brackets is a connector for the “inside” lap belt connector.¬† Clearly the inside of the bracket is different for a driver or passenger seat (left or right).¬† In this case “inside” means towards the middle of the car versus the lap belt connector out near the door.¬† The bracket simply bolts onto the bottom of the seat with four bolts that come with the seat.¬† Below is a picture of the seat after the bracket was bolted onto it.

Step 3: Attach the safety harness connector  to the  seat
The lapbelt and inside belt connector need to be attached to the seat.  They can be seen on the side of the seat below.  The new safety harness connector is the solid metal part and the block part is to the old lap belt.

Step 4: Connect the harness under the seat

The photo below shows the connector for the leg belts being connected to the interior side of the seat.  This has to be done before you install the seat or you will never be able to connect it.

The result below shows that the leg belts are now sticking out of the middle of the seat.  This is the main part of the 5-point harness system as it contains the buckle that all of the 4 other belts (2 shoulder, 2 waist) will connect into.

Step 5: Install the seat into the car on the four bolts in the floor

and Step 6: Install the fire extinguisher on top of the front bolts

and Step 7: Install the “harness bar” between the seat bolt and the harness bar

Bolting the system to the floor all happens at once.  The seat is installed onto the bolts.  The fire extinguisher is bolted to the front seat bolts and the harness bar support is connected between the outside rear seat bolt and the harness bar above the seats.


Step 8: Bolt down the four bolts

From there it is as simple as tightening the four bolts.

Step 9: Connect the remaining harness belts

This is as simple as taking the belts and attaching them to the connectors on the harness bar and the other connectors.

Finally! Sit down, buckle up, and hold on! Or at least pretend to since I am in the passenger seat and no one is driving.

Most of this was extremely straight forward – aside from the fact that the lapbelt connectors and harness bar were already done by Tony’s Corvettes.

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall Breaks the 200MPH Barrier – soon…

In addition to preparing for the 2009 SCCA season, I also plan to take part in a couple of events put on by World Class Driving.¬†¬† It is all part of maintaining that “work / race” balance I referred to earlier.

The event that first caught my eye was through and ad in United Airline’s Hemispheres magazine.¬† The title of the ad was, “Break the 200MPH Barrier!”.¬† Their web site calls it, “World Class Driving XTREME“. It is held in Miami this year in April and December.¬† I am registered for the April session.

Most people in their lives would never even want to do such a crazy thing as break the 200MPH barrier.   For the remaining few that actually do think it sounds exhilarating, the possibility of a) owning a car that can do it, b) finding a place where you will not kill yourself, and c) remaining within the laws Рis pretty small (if not zero).

The fastest car that I own is a 2006 Corvette Z06 which is “only” rated at 190+ MPH top speed.¬† So that eliminates me pretty quickly from this club.¬† Furthermore only a few highly skilled race drivers have the talent to take a capable car over 200MPH on a banked oval (go try it sometime if you think you are Mario Andretti).¬†¬† So, this relegates the average (or slightly above average) schmoe like me to trying this in a straight line.¬† Even really fast production cars barely get above 130 MPH in a 1/4 mile dragstrip.¬† So where can us “weekend warriors” have a chance of hitting 200MPH¬† even if we could rent the proper beast?

Voila!¬† Abandoned airstrips across the US should work nicely if you can get access.¬† The one World Class Driving uses down in Miami is 11,000 feet (over 2 miles) long – plenty of room to make it to 200MPH and back down safely.¬† Let all of the legal issues be part of World Class Driving’s responsibilities.¬† That is a much better idea than sneaking a Lamborghini from a dealer “test drive” onto some abandoned airstrip!¬† Although I must say I was very pleased that Lamborghini of Washington let me test drive one of their Gallardos – but that is a story for a different time.

According to their web site, for the XTREME program, we will be testing some of the following cars:

  • Ferrari 430 Scuderia
  • Lamborghini Gallardo LP560
  • Ferrari 599 GTB
  • Mercedes McLaren SLR
  • Lamborghini Super Leggera / Lamborghini Murcielago
  • It will be the first time for me in any of these cars – although the Super Leggera is just an improved model of the Gallardo that I mentioned above.

    The other event I will be joining World Class Driving for will be their “normal” track event.¬† These are held in several states around the country all year long.¬† I plan on being over in Richmond, VA for the morning session in late May 2009.¬† That series of events uses normal race tracks and features the following cars:

  • Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
  • Audi R8
  • Ferrari F430
  • Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
  • Ferrari Scuderia
  • Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4
  • Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
  • Maserati GranTurismo
  • Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS
  • The training specifies that you will get to try five of these cars throughout the day.¬† Many of these cars are nice additions to the autos I will get to test in April down in Miami.

    If anyone gets inspired to register for one of their events, please use my Ambassador Reference code: fa63280f.  I think I get some bonus points or something if you do.

    Here is a video of some of the cars making their 200MPH runs.

    Ted Cahall

    Preparing for SCCA Racing in 2009

    2009 should represent the next step for me in the SCCA Racing program.  I am a member of the Washington DC Region of the SCCA and have my Novice Racing License.  I obtained my Novice license after taking training up in Kent, WA at the ProFormance Racing School at Pacific Raceways.  Other than a quick trip to the dragstrip, most of my recent race practice has been out of Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia.

    To move on to my Regional license, I need to compete in two regional races in 2009.  There is a series of races called MARRS (Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series) that are held in the DC region each year.

    I have modified my 2001 Z06 Corvette to comply with the SCCA GCR (General Competition Rules) and will compete in the Touring Category Specification (TCS) T1 class.  This class allows mostly stock cars to compete with some safety upgrades such as:  seats, harness, fire extinguisher, etc.

    The main issue I have faced is getting good seats that will fit into my Z06 Corvette.¬† I wanted to keep the stock belts in addition to adding in the required 5-point harness.¬† This caused quite a bit of additional complexity due to the very tight space between the doors and the transmission hump.¬† After a couple of expensive trips to Tony’s Corvettes in Gaithersburg, MD, I decided to attempt to complete the rest of the problem on my own.

    After determining that the Sparco XL and standard Sparco seats are too wide, I have gone with a pair of Corbeau FX1 Pro seats.  I have seen these in a couple of other Corvettes with the standard belts still installed.  I will attempt to document this semi-arduous process as I undertake it.  The seats have arrived as seen below.

    Ted Cahall

    IMG_0212

    Cecil County Dragway in my 2006 Z06

    I finally have gotten around to putting a blog back up after my server was wiped out in the great Seattle windstorm of December 2006.  Mostly the blog will cover my driving excursions in my Z06 Corvettes.  My most recent outing was up in Maryland at the Cecil County Dragway.  I was able to turn a 12.25 @ 120 mph with my 2006 Z06.  I need to clean out my clutch fluid as the pedal stuck to the floor on my last (pathetic) run.  Check out the photo gallery below the photo below.  Click on any photo to start the gallery.

    Ted Cahall

    Ted Cahall 2006 Z06 – plus finger tip!

    Infineon Raceway and my 2001 Z06 Corvette

    Wednesday night at the races up at Infineon Raceway.  Isn’t it great to live in the USA? Anyone with a license and mom’s station wagon can burn up the tires. For me it was 111 mph and 13.08 second quarter mile with street tires and my work clothes on. Kudos to Ross at work for actually dragging me away from the office!

    Now I need to take my Harley Fatboy up there and see how the 96 ci motor I put in there runs. I doubt I am talented enough to go sub 13 seconds on it. Not even sure if a really good pilot could do it (but maybe I will ask John Strickland to run it once as he did a 12.25 on my old 1200 Sportster that I sold him)…

    Hmmm… Now I am thinking of buying a “second” set of rims and tires so I can see if I am capable of running in the low 12 second range with my Z06. Some kids there were telling me about a super-charger I could bolt on to take myself to 450 hp. Or I could just wait for the 2006 Z06 to come out – rumor has it that it will be 500 hp out of the box… That sounds nice – an ’06 Z06…

    – – – Note: – – –

    This post was originally published on LiveJournalLiveJournal in March of 2005.  In June of 2006 I did, in fact, purchase a 2006 Z06 Corvette with 505 HP.

    Ted Cahall

    Ted Cahall 2001 z06 Corvette