Friday, November 14, 2008

Mini Gives @ VIR Holidy Laps

Great place for motoring around a track

Today I got to take my Mini, Mr. Mini Wuf, on a new adventure - a trip to Virginia International Raceway.  After missing out on several Tar Heel MINI Motoring Club events in September and October due to other priorities, it was good to get out with other club members for some motoring.  It was also nice to get out for some fun in the Mini after its trip in for some surgery after my deer strike a few weeks ago.  Alas, it will be a while before I can get stripes installed while the paint on the new hood cures.

The turnout from THMMC (until Minified showed up later)

The event was the Holiday Laps event at VIR.  They hold this event as a fund raiser to help the Salvation Army.  For a $25 donation (or equivalent in toys or perishable food) you could take your car out on the track for about a 20 minute session.  I didn't really bother to keep count, but I think that translated to about 6 or 7 laps.  I ended up paying for two sessions.  As it turned out, I also had to take my son along with me as he developed a fever overnight and could not go to school.  Needless to say, I think he had a better time with me at the track.  The downside was it cut my day at the track short as I had to leave to get him to the doctor.

Paleo takes the family for a spin around the track

The other challenge for the day was the weather as rain moved into the area on Thursday and the forecast was for it to last all the way through Saturday.  It was a drizzly mist for most of the ride up Hwy. 62 to the track with some moderate showers along the way.   I figured it would catch up to us at the track eventually, but it never really got bad out there.  In fact, for the first session, at points the track was showing signs of drying.  Light to moderate drizzle took care of that by the second session.

Mustang was definitely out in full force, even getting their own mention over the PA system

I have no point of comparison, but I think the weather may have kept the crowd quite a bit smaller than anticipated.  While I was at the track, there were a total of 7 Minis present and Minified from the THMMC was on her way in as I was leaving.  The RX-7s and RX-8s had a pretty good turnout as did the Miatas.  Probably the biggest group was the Mustang club.  So many, they got a mention over the loudspeakers and pretty much formed a "group" all by themselves.

We had a good view of MidnightDave and RudyT

In addition to the donations to get a turn on the track, some raffles were also going on.  One of these was for a chance to take a ride in a McLaren Can-Am racecar (more on that later), there was supposed to be a chance to go for a ride on a motorbike, and you could buy turns in an Ariel Atom with a professional driver.  I know MidnightDave from the THMMC did that and maybe RudyT as well.  Helping handle all these was a crew from WAKG 103.3, a country music station.  My son's favorite station has been 93.1 The Wolf, but he might have changed now after this event.  A little side note - while waiting in line for our second session, we were right next to the WAKG van while they were broadcasting from the site.  So we had it on in the Mini and we could hear it over their speakers.  It was like a super stereo effect for me (maybe not so much for my son who was on the far side).

Up the esses we go!

So what about the on-track experiences?  For the first session we had a pretty big group - maybe 20 to 25 cars.  At that point, it was only MidnightDave, RudyT, and myself present (and in fact MidnightDave had already done a run earlier), so we got lined up together.  As it turned out, we were in the first half of the field.  Which was good as about three cars behind me there was a slower vehicle that held up the back half of the field.  Felt kind of sorry for a yellow Corvette and a Cobra that were stuck back there.

Uh oh Dave - I don't think that's the right direction!

About the third lap maybe, we had an interesting little incident as MidnightDave spun his car on the track.  I'm not sure exactly what turn it would have been, but it was just before we started up the main straight.  Fortunately for him he kept it on the track and me and RudyT were able to get stopped in time (as were those who ended up coming up behind me).  One plus to the incident was that it gave us a chance to wind things out a bit as we set off to catch the rest of the field.  For the run, I think the highest we got was about 90 mph for just a second or so on one of the straights.

Max preparing to leave the paddock

My son and I then spent some time looking at some of the vehicles that were out there and cruising through the pro shop.  He especially liked the Cobra and the Rent-A-Racecars.  One that was interesting to me was a BMW 1 series that I spotted (pic in the gallery).  We also went and watched the Ariel Atom turn some laps.  I also took the opportunity to get some pics of some of our THMMC members out on the track during one of their sessions.

Max comes roaring down the straight in the Can-Am.  I either need to learn how to focus or buy a VR/AF lens

Just before the lunch break, I decided to head out for my second session.  As we lined up we ended up with only 8 cars in the group this time.  Max Headroom was in the group this time, a couple cars ahead of me.  The track was a lot wetter this time, but we were still going about as fast as earlier.  In fact, I think the pace car decided to wind it out just a tiny bit during a couple of our middle laps.  This meant I was able to get it up to 100 mph at one point during this run.  We also saw another spin, this time by one of the RX-7s just before we started up the esses.  Unlike MidnightDave, he ended up going off track, but not into anything.  And just like earlier, he was two cars in front of me, so we got a pretty good view of things.

Upon returning to the paddock area after the second session, the PA announcer was calling for none other than THMMC's own Max Headroom who had won one of the rides in the McLaren Can-Am.  So, my son and I went and watched him get in that and head out on the track for (what I'm sure were) some extreme thrills.

Thus concluded the day at VIR.  It was a blast for me to get the Mini out and be able to wind it out a bit.  Obviously, with it being a paced event further slowed by weather I was nowhere close to being on the edge.  Of course, the downside is that I am even more interested in being able to attend something like a Phil Wicks Driving Academy so I can really see what I can do in the Mini (or is that what the Mini can do to me?).

As usual, there are more photos in the gallery.

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