Ted Cahall is an executive, engineer, entrepreneur as well as amateur race car driver. He combined his skills as an engineer and passion for racing by developing the marrspoints.com points tracking website for the Washington DC region of the SCCA.
I had the pleasure of attending Rolling Thunder again this year. I staged at Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA with approximately 10,000 other motorcycle enthusiasts to honor our military’s: fallen, POWs, and MIAs. It is a wonderful event that culminates at our nation’s capital with numerous groups of riders crossing Constitution Avenue.
I filmed the opening police escort in addition to a few other groups as they made their way through the parade. It was an honor to again pay tribute to our nation’s heroes. Some photos of the event are on Webshots.
I know it sounds unbelievable. I truly doubt drivers illegally hit 200 mph that often. So when it does happen at all – it is a rare and unusual event.
Why? Well first off, there are very few cars that can actually hit 200 mph. I don’t own one and I own a 505HP Z06 Corvette and a 604HP sedan. Additionally, for the cars that can hit 200 mph, it is hard to find a stretch of road long enough and straight enough to attempt it. Of course there are banked tracks such as the Daimler test track in Unterturkheim or Volkswagen Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track – but those take far more skill than just driving in a straight line.
It takes over two miles for most of the modern stock exotic sports cars (Ferrari 599 GTB, Lamborghini LP560) to hit 200 mph. Finding two miles of straight, smooth pavement not is use by the U.S. highway system is a difficult task. That is where the pros at World Class Driving come into play. They have two locations that make this possible. One in Miami for folks in the eastern U.S. and one in the Mojave desert for the left coast.
I highly recommend this program put on by World Class Driving. It is run by professional race drivers and the cars are meticulously maintained. Drivers are given a choice of any of three vehicles that have all been proven to reach 200 mph: a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Ferrari 599 GTB, and a Lamborghini LP560.
The day starts out with some driving skill drills to make sure each entrant is capable of handling the cars in corners and at speed. For the early part of the day, we were also able to drive a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Maserati Granturismo. Those exercises were really enjoyable as well with hard acceleration and hard braking in some of the world’s fastest and most exotic cars. I must have done alright as they let me move onto the next segment of the training session.
In the next section, they test how well you will do out on the actual airstrip. The main issue in the Miami course is that the airstrip is approximately 2 miles long. Not quite long enough to hit 200 mph in a straight line and stop. The driver is required to build speed on an auxiliary runway and then turn through two turns to head out onto the main runway at about 60 mph for the 200 mph attempt. Even more interesting, after hitting maximum speed and entering the braking zone, the driver still does not have enough runway left to stop in a straight line – and must execute another turn back towards the auxiliary runway at about 50 mph! It is a lot to master for any rookies out there that have not experienced high speed turns under acceleration or braking. The Mojave runway is almost 3 miles long and does not have these issues. So folks that want to just smash the gas and see what 200 mph feels like may want to try that. Personally, I enjoyed the challenge that required some skill.
When we moved to the 200 mph attempts, we were told that we would be given four turns each. Two test turns to get used to the start zones and braking zones and then two attempts to reach 200 mph. It may sound simple, but most of the 16 participants did not hit 200 mph in any of the four attempts. I took the Mercedes SLR and hit 197 mph on my first test run. The SLR is an automatic (no paddle shifters that I saw) and was hard to keep in lower gears when coming out on to the airstrip. After hitting 196 mph in the SLR on my second attempt and noticing that no one was doing well with the car, I decided to switch to the Lamborghini LP560.
I jumped into the LP560 and mentally prepared myself for the turn out onto the airstrip. I knew this turn at 60 mph was critical to hitting 200 mph and made it the main focus of the launch. I lined the turn up well, tapped my brakes to load up the front end to improve the steering and accelerated evenly out to the widest end of the airstrip. It felt like an excellent launch. Much better than the downshift that had happened in the SLR. As I went up a few gears, I realized I was so focused on the turn onto the airstrip that I did not have my seatbelt buckled! I did not let this distract me. The car has airbags and I wasn’t planning on using them either…
As I raced through the braking zone and brought the car back to reasonable speeds, the instructor next to me exclaimed, “200 mph!” I was the first participant to hit 200 mph and the only one to do it in the first three runs.
All of the sudden all of the drivers started using the Lamborghini LP560 as I had done and a few more hit 200 mph on their 4th and final try. One of the drivers hit 201 mph! While I was the first, I was no longer the fastest. This was disappointing – but I did have my fourth and final attempt left.
This time as I prepared for the final run, I buckled my seatbelt. I was ready and again had an excellent launch out of the turn onto the airstrip. I took the LP560 through its gears and kept the gas pedal smashed to the floor as I roared through the braking zone. The instructor yelled, “202 mph”, as I turned off of the main airstrip.
What an incredible day. I was the first participant to hit 200 mph, I was the fastest participant at 202 mph and I was the only participant to hit 200 mph twice that day.
If speed fills your need. Then World Class Driving is the way to do it. The professionals there make sure you and all of the equipment are ready for the exercises – the rest is up to you. If you just want to try driving the world’s greatest exotic cars without going 200 mph, World Class Driving also has some other touring programs that may even be more local to your hometown. I took one of their tours in May of this year and really enjoyed it.
I had my best (solo) Spec Miata finish of the year on Saturday at the EMRA Sprints. The Sprints were held just before the EMRA Enduro race that afternoon/evening (where Bad Al Bell and I combined for a 3rd Place finish). I finished in 4th Place in a field of 9 SM Spec Miatas. This is also the first race where I finished in the top half of the pack.
The truth as shown in the videos below (unlike some fishing stories) is that I was in 3rd Place with a half lap to go when I blew a shift and the #72 Blue Miata slid past me. I was a half lap short of a dual trophy day.
The race was actually even more exciting than that (at least for me). I started out in 5th place and by turn 4 of the fist lap I had dropped down all the way to 9th (last) place. The race starts have the highest incidence of crashes and I see from my videos that I have a tendency to let the cars sort themselves out a bit (definitely a bit too much).
I have included the whole race as posted in three segments on YouTube. You can see by watching the first minute of part 1 how I drop off to last place when the red #14 car passes me.
Over the course of the 18 lap race, I pass all of the SM Miatas except those in 2nd and 1st place. I race in 3rd place ahead of the blue Miata for several laps after passing him. It is on lap 18 that the #72 blue Miata passes me back to take 3rd place back. This part can be seen towards the end of part 3 posted below.
Note, there are other race classes mixed in with my Spec Miata SM class. You can see the little yellow formula cars as well as an occasional Volvo! These are not in my class but still were in my way from time to time.
Part 1 – The Start of the race – where I immediately fall behind to 9th place.
Part 2 – Where I continue to chase down the Blue #72 Miata.
Part 3 – Where I finally catch Blue #72 Miata and move into 3rd place until missing a shift on the last lap.
The headline sounds nice, but I think my grandmother could have taken 3rd place with Bad Al Bell as a partner. The EMRA 4 hour Enduro race requires two drivers. I did my part by not leaving the car in a tree. Al did his part by passing all of the cars that I had let get in front of me. That is what I call teamwork! It was the longest race I have done in my short career. I was in the car just under 2 hours before I turned it over to Al. A huge thank you to Mike Collins and the Meathead Racing team for all of their help!
This is a quick video of Randy Ramos from Meathead Racing heading off into the gravel pit in Turn 1 at the practice session for the EMRA 4 Hour Enduro. Randy was being followed by Bad Al Bell in my car as we took some test laps. They both pass the white Miata before turn 10 and head down the straightaway towards turn 1. The only issue is that is was really wet and Randy decided to brake a little late… Nothing a little tow truck action could not sort out. It was a great day at the Enduro and the Sprints that preceded them.
You can see the red #14 car sneak up my right side in turn 5 as we stack up into a line of cars. He stays inside me for turn 6. Instead of falling in behind him, I keep my line off his left bumper – and run out of track. This is the old, “watch the track – and not the guy in front of you” lesson.
The 2009 SCCA Club Racing Season was really enjoyable. I was able to make it to seven race weekends this year plus four other high performance driving events. That is more track time in one year than the sum total of track time in my entire life before this year.
I really learned a lot and set new personal best lap records almost every week. I started the year with my best lap in the MARRS 1 qualifier being a 1:37.908 and 8 of the 10 laps being slower than 1:40. I finished this year in the MARRS 11 final race with a 1:31.826. Six seconds faster in a single lap is a great improvement. More telling was the consistency of the laps in each race with many of them clustering in the 1:32 range at the end of the year.
I met a lot of really great people as well. I could not have even come close to making this happen with my busy schedule if it were not for Mike Collins and his fantastic program at Meathead Racing. A huge shout out to Wendy, Sherise, Glen, and Jimmy who helped me though a huge learning curve.
The other racers were also fantastic (aside from some early “rookie bumps” out on the track to initiate me to Spec Miatas). Some of these people are very accomplished racers that turn laps in the 1:27 range. Yet they will still spend time and talk with the slow pokes like me to help me learn and grow with this sport. Many of the Meathead Racing teammates also took time to help me get buckled in and ready out on the grid as well. Such an outstanding group of people to spend a weekend with! If you have ever considered learning how to race in wheel-to-wheel competition, I would highly recommend contacting Mike Collins at Meathead Racing. Even for a busy person such as myself, they make the words, “arrive and drive” a reality.
My hosting provider performed a platform upgrade (actually sold part of the business and moved to a new colo). So somewhere between September 25th and October 2nd, my blog went down when WordPress could no longer access the DB. While they assured their users there would be no interruptions to service, clearly that was not the case.
I saw that the blog was down this morning, figured out what was wrong, and edited the wp-config file to point to the new database. Things are seemingly back to normal. It could have been MUCH worse. I have seen total disasters in migrations such as these (none under my management of course). 🙂
Now I need to jump in my car and high-tail it to Summit Point, WV for my last SCCA Club Race of the season. I am shooting for a new personal best lap record after setting one in the qualifying race yesterday.
I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Berti Roos Racing School up in the Poconos last week. They teach open wheel racing in Formula 2000 cars. This was my first event in Formula 2000 or any open wheel vehicle.
We were allowed to pass in one specific zone if we were given the flag indicating it was OK. I am happy to say I passed a lot of people – but no one ever passed me. That is the way it is supposed to be (aside from real racers at SCCA Club Racing – where getting passed was a reality for me this year).
You can click on the photo below to see a couple of more images on Webshots.