September 3, 2006

TT-East 2006: Stowe, VT
Text and Photos by: Kris Hansen

For one stunningly beautiful late summer Vermont weekend the hills around Stowe, Vermont's Trapp Family Lodge were alive not with the sound of music, but with Audi TTs which had gathered for the 6th annual TT East event.

What better or more appropriate spot for a group of German car enthusiasts than an Austrian family lodge nestled in Vermont's Green Mountains? Steeped with history, the von Trapp family formed the basis for the famous move "The Sound of Music". TT-East attendees feel like they have been magically transported to the Alps (along with a large number of TTs) as they arrive and take an initial stroll of the lodge grounds.

Most attendees arrived at the Trapp Family Lodge some time on Thursday. By early Friday morning when I arrived (I actually live less than 60 miles away), the majority of the folks were out in a large field beyond the hotel. Even though I had never met a single person there before, there was an immediate sense of family. I initially hung back, chatting with owners here and there and learning more about what to expect throughout the weekend. I was told time and time again that it was all about the common bond - the Audi TT - but even more so it was the real, life-long friendships that had formed as a result of this common interest. It was a rare treat, and I had only been there 10 minutes.

As the owners gathered around event organizer Hans Isler for the driver's meeting, there was plenty of ribbing, laughing, and giddy excitement in anticipation of the day's events. Some of the folks in the group would be heading down the road for an autocross, while the rest were going to take scenic drives on some of Vermont's prettiest roads (later followed by a guided tour of world famous Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory in Waterbury Center). What can make a day more perfect than great roads followed by great ice cream?

During the driver's meeting there was a surprise announcement for the autocross attendees - sponsor Fairfield County (CT) Motorsports showed up with 3-time Car and Drivers 1 Lap Of America winners Mark DaVia and Drew Wikstrom. Mark and Drew of course also had their potent Porsche 996 twin turbo which they had driven to all 3 victories. While TT drivers were busy preparing their cars by removing anything not bolted-down, Mark, Drew and their crew set about creating the course on a somewhat small and dusty parking lot at the local high school.

Once all drivers were ready to go Mark conducted the driver's meeting by giving a basic introduction to autocross, as well as laying down the law. For everyone's safety, rules must be followed. Next up was a group walkthrough on the very tight and challenging course. we were told that Mark likes to lay out very tight and controlling courses which favor control over speed, and this course was no exception. When it was time to start Mark hopped in his Porsche and proceeded to absolutely impress the crowd with a huge drift through the first turn followed by a blastingly precise run of the wide 996 through the narrow course. The bar was set awfully high!

Many of the drivers found more than a few of the course's turns a bit difficult (wandering off-course here and there much to the crowd's amusement), but even so everyone was having a BLAST! Eventual winner John Housley (aka nasTTcar on the forums) actually beat the time set by Mark DaVia in the 996 (till DaVia went out to better it, and then only by a small fraction).

No event of this nature would be complete without a little comic relief, provided in this case by the official 'Pace Car'. A rented Chrysler Sebring driven by Mark BeBawi (YosemeTT) who had flown in sans TT, posted mid-pack times.

Once all of the drivers had taken their laps of the course, Mark DaVia opened the passenger door of the 996 and gave anyone who dared an unforgetable ride. To sum it up, even with the car in a relatively low state of tune (they were having traction problems running with over 500 hp) it was an awe inspiring feeling having such a confident driver like Mark wheeling the equally capable 996 around the course. And like most extremely competent drivers Mark did it all in a very relaxed manner - in fact he made it look easy!

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