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March 2015 - Test Day

It has been a while since I actually drove a FF for a whole day. Last time was Montreal in 2013, so I was quite excited to finally strap into a car and head out on track for the test day this past Saturday.

I was joined at the track by Alex Herbst, Ken’s other son, so he could familiarize himself with a FF as he has only driven tintops to this point, and Greg Long who wanted to shake down a fresh engine and new eye!

The day started well, as all 3 cars actually started at first attempt, and at 8:20am we rolled down to the pre-grid. I had been offered lots of really good advice by the family (especially Savina!) and assembled drivers that came out to watch. Things like, the pointy end is forward, stay on the black ribbon, drive faster, who needs brakes, carry more speed through there, turn the damn wheel, don’t worry – it will handle better as soon as you go faster, you know, all the sage advice I have been dispensing over the past years has come full circle to bite me in the arse!

I was driving the Vector, Mark Powell’s car, and after figuring out how to get my child bearing hips into a car built for a teenage anorexic supermodel (car is actually normal, it is my proportions that made this difficult!) it was out to quiet all the voices in my head. Figured that if I did really poorly I could say that I didn’t fit the car (hey, all drivers need a pocket excuse handy!!)

Was it ever fun! The car was magic, I was slow, the sound was so cool and it was exhilarating to be on track again. About halfway through the 1st session I started noticing the slight push that Mark had mentioned. Tried different lines and figured I would need to make a suspension change. Enjoyed the session immensely, and all too soon it was over.

Back in the paddock, enjoying prosciutto wrapped Cantaloupe, freshly brewed coffee, turkey quesadilla with chipotle gouda (Thank you Lisa), it was time to sit and stare at the car. Counting all the clicks on the shocks, looking at the basic setup, remembering what we had tried, decided to do the exact opposite, so we dropped the rear ride height. Mmmmm, wonder what that is going to feel like?!?

After much advise, plenty of hand signs and a few ‘ you are really going out again?’ comments, it was back out. I followed Alex for a few laps, then led him for a few laps, then finally picked up the pace (or at least I thought I picked up the pace!) Tried to follow the lines we talk about, brake entry, trail brake to the apex, try to apex right at the cones – hoping they are correct, or close to, getting on the gas and trying not to fall off the track on exit (accomplished most of the laps – sorry Mark) then oopps, cone in the track! Oh, well, someone must have knocked it over. Car felt really great, easy controllable oversteer out of the carousel, great turn-in, so I think it is an improvement. Great session!!

Come in and feeling quite chuffed with my first real session in some time. I am immediately confronted with comments that what was I thinking, need a learners permit, have I heard of a Haboob (sorry Mark), having the cones fall over like that?!? I explained that I was so close to the cones on my perfect trajectory that the suction vortex behind the car must have drawn the cone onto the track! Apparently the prevailing theory in the paddock was that I was so slow and the lines so bad the cones fell over laughing … so much for my ‘feel’ for the car.

Actually, ran some high 1:02’s so pretty pleased. Jim Edmonds wanted to try the car on for the afternoon sessions, and as the result of some pretty dedicated and thorough work by our crew guy Erik, I was able to spend the afternoon in my own car. Imagine that, there have been 2 guys in it and I have never driven it. Today was the day.

As most of you know that were at the track earlier this year, neither of the other 2 drivers had stellar luck with the car, and after the first session in it I realized that I could not get it around the track in any fashion whatsoever. The previous owner had a different style and is a much more accomplished driver, so some changes were necessary for me. I know, more excuses but hey!...... Dropped the back, stiffen swaybar, diddle with all the shiny knobs on the shocks, haven’t a clue what I was doing but it impressed the spectators that had gathered (OK, spectator, a 5 year old boy, but he was impressed!).

Have a little lunch. As always Lisa put on a good spread, and I am starting to realize that guys are coming for the food, not the racing. Time to go out again, and this time I am highly motivated: the fame, the glory, the large cash bonuses that come with winning a test/practice session?!?! Actually no, Lisa promised me cheese, slow burn chipotle salmon spread and proper pate’ if I could get the car around the track in decent fashion, so she didn’t have to go home ashamed. The result, well, another car in the 1:02’s and finally something I felt that I could actually drive. Ha, and pate’ to boot.

Greg had a few gremlins, Jim enjoyed the Vector a lot and now has a baseline for his 1994 Van Diemen mono-shock, and Alex turned a 1:06 his first time in a FF. Not too shabby a day.

Thanks again to all that have joined the group and helping it grow. I am very excited to be back in a car, and with Lisa and Savina’s help, not to mention Erik in the shop and William and Darrell helping on weekends, I look forward to being back in the fray and working on growing the group even more.

Regards, Jens #10

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