ACNA Driver Safety Seminar / High Performance Driving School – Laguna Seca (January 2004)
Laguna Seca Raceway, a spot with a plethora of motorsports history. For many the 2.2-mile track is considered to be the premier US road course. Many people however, due mostly to proximity to the track and logistical issues, can only envy those who actually get to drive here. Due in large part to the yearly visit by the CART series, the track surface is kept in excellent condition. The track is smooth, relatively complicated, brake intensive, and also includes several elevation changes to spice up the experience. This means that the driver has a very challenging track, that while fast and rewarding, also presents a larger than average element of danger. Translation? Laguna Seca/Mazda Raceway is the best way to spend a weekend learning how to improve driving technique in an Audi.
Dean Treadway and Helmar Sowick get the lion’s share of the credit for making the 4th Annual ACNA High Performance Driving School at Laguna Seca Raceway such a success. From the quality of the instructor pool to the strict adherence to the track day schedule to the high quality catering, this event was top notch. Anyone who has ever met or worked with Dean knows right away that he is an extremely professional individual, with excellent attention to detail and a keen knack for organization.
Weather During the Event
Other than a slight drizzle on Sunday morning that didn’t really seem to wet the pavement, the weather was pretty darn good. Generally speaking it was partly cloudy with the sun breaking through from time to time. In other words, it was different than the Audi Club events in past years at Laguna where rain would fall for at least part of the day. The air temperature was in the 44-60 degree Fahrenheit range, almost ideal for maximum turbocharged car performance.
Students Divided into Groups
Like all Laguna events, but even more due to being held on the weekend, the event was full. In all about 160 participants and instructors participated. The participants were divided into six groups, which comprised five run groups:
A. Zero/Zeros (no track events before/no track events at Laguna)
Groups D/Y would run together on the track. Students in groups A-C would get instructors in the car with them at all times. D students would be solo unless they asked an instructor to ride with them for a particular session. The sessions were approximately 20-25 minutes each and usually ended up being about 8-9 laps per session.
Vehicles in Attendance
As usual the majority of participants were driving Audis, a total of about 140 cars out of the 160 overall participants. The rest of the cars were a scattering of Porsches, Subarus and Miatas. At this event, however, there were also a few special attendees:
Steve Zlotkin – Owner of Eurospec Sport/Gilroy CA – Steve is a long time Audi connoisseur that has assembled a true vault of Audi Motorsport specimens. Steve and his crew brought three vehicles out of their stable to the event. They were:
For those who have not heard “the sound” before, the sound of a Trans Am Audi blowing past you can be breathtaking. The distinctive sound of the blow off valves releasing excess boost is exquisite and will send shivers up the back of any motorsport aficionado! For a more detailed sampling of all of the Eurospec Sport cars visit: http://www.eurospecsport.com/racecars.html
Paul Lambert – Owner of StaSIS Engineering/Sonoma CA – Paul manages a race team of two Speed World Challenge Touring Cars, as well as running a tuner shop at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA. For this event Paul brought out the #78 Touring car and managed a few white-knuckle laps for the more daring. I had the pleasure of Paul catching up to me on track, and wouldn’t you know it, I ended up concentrating on how cool that Touring car looked in my rearview mirror and forgot to do a good job driving my own car. More information about STaSIS and the products and services they offer can be found at: http://www.stasisengineering.com
Dean Treadway – Audi/Porsche enthusiast, event master of the Laguna Seca event and President of the Golden Gate Chapter of the Audi Club North America. Dean is well known across the US as the ultimate in Audi nuts. For the event Dean brought his entire Audi collection:
Bill Perkins – Bill with the help of STaSIS Engineering brought his heavily modified UrQuattro to the event. This car actually started its life as a rally car. It is now transformed into a tarmac car.
Walt Fleischmann – A frequent visitor to the Audi club events, Walt brought his Andial Porsche 911 that won the stock class in the Pikes Peak Hill climb back in 1996. This car, when first driven at the first ACNA Driving School at Thunderhill back in January 1998, only had about 750 miles on the odometer. Walt, along with Scott Lampkin, Chuck Reed, and a few other drivers, seem to keep this lil Porsche busy during the NorCal Audi Club driving events. Wouldn’t you?
Edric Alunan – another multi-time visitor to the Audi Club events. Edric has a silver B5 platform Audi S4, which he has brought with him to the track a few times, but this weekend he once again treated us by bringing his rare Blue Ford RS Cosworth. You don’t see many of those around.
Like most Audi Club Driving Safety Seminars there is a portion of the first day that is set a side for the beginners to get a feel for their cars. Many of the participants this year had never been to a track event before, so a few car control exercises in the paddock area were quite necessary. This year we did the slalom course, the lane-toss exercise and the threshold braking exercise. Each exercise was a station. Students stayed at each station about 35 minutes in order to get a good feel for how their car handled certain situations. Instructor Dean Benz was responsible for keeping the exercises on track, and he did an excellent job at this event.
Turn-by-Turn Track Description of Mazda Raceway/Laguna Seca
To entice you to potentially visit Laguna Seca in the future, here is a quick turn-by-turn rundown of the track:
Turn #1 – At the end of the main straight it is a high speed turn, slight jog to the left, after which you go down a slight hill, braking pretty heavily to turn #2.
Turn #2 (aka Andretti Hairpin) – Hairpin turn to the left approximately 170-degree turn. You usually stay in 2nd or 3rd gear throughout the turn. There are many ways to take this turn, and you frequently see a wide variety of lines taken, depending on the car and driver skill.
Turn #3 – Flat right hand 80-degree turn to the right, usually in 3rd gear. You usually end up having your left side tires hitting the rumble strip on track out.
Turn #4 – Higher speed flat right-hand turn to the right, usually taken in 3rd gear. Some people just tap their brakes here, get the weight transferred forward, then turn in, accelerate through the turn and track out to the left side exit berm.
Turn #5 – Banked left hand turn that can be taken much faster than some people think due to its uphill and banked nature.
Turn #6 – High-speed slight 120-degree turn to the left, usually in 3rd gear. This is a turn for people with cajones. If you have cajones you pick up speed here, if you don’t have cajones, your fellow track attendees can gain major time on you here.
Turn #7 – Almost a non-event, very slight turn to right. This section of track is mostly considered the back straight, and goes to the highest elevation of the track itself.
Turn #8 – The infamous Corkscrew, a left-right combination turn, with a serious drop in elevation. The inside berm on the right side is said to be home for many red crocodiles that love to eat oil pans, accumulators, and an occasional tire or wheel rim.
Turn #9 – Rainey Curve – Definitely a turn too late apex which many consider to be the most dangerous turn on the track. A rolling left hand turn in 3rd gear, going downhill. If you turn in too soon, you run out of track on exit. Yikes.
Turn #10 – A banked right hand turn at relatively high speed, on camber, so you can retain a considerable amount of speed through the turn.
Turn #11 – A ninety-degree left hand turn, usually taken after downshifting to 2nd gear, it exits into the main straight at Laguna and the bevy of spectators just trying to get a glimpse of the fast smooth driver of that Audi.
Saturday night participants retired to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside for the Banquet dinner. The buffet line was packed with delicious cuisine like Salmon, Chicken, and Tri-Tip. After dinner a number of donations by the various vendors like Ronal Wheels, 2Bennett Audimotive, Toyo Tires, Griffin Motorwerks, STaSIS Engineering and several more were auctioned off. Some “excellent” deals were found during the evening. To be honest, it might even be worth it just to make it just for the auction; some of the deals were just that good.
Packing It In
After a long day of track driving participants gathered up their belongings, including a few less millimeters of tread on our tires and a few less millimeters of brake material on our brake pads, and said adios to the track until next time. Laguna Seca is definitely a track to experience if you can swing it.
Special thanks should be given to Bruce Qvale of Audi of Oakland for paying for a catered breakfast and lunch at the track which was much better than track food! Without dealership support these events could not be possible.
Lastly, thanks should be given to Mike Veglia of Motorsport Visions Photography. You can usually find Mike braving the elements out on the track during the events, camera in hand. Mike gets some awesome shots during these events. In fact I have several of Mike’s photos hanging in my living room right now. If you haven’t already, check out some of the Audi Club shots on Mike’s website at: http://www.motorsportvisions.com