Track Analysis: Summit Point, Jefferson Circuit Extension

Last weekend I had the chance to drive and instruct on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. Below is my analysis of the changes and a description of my line around the track. This works for me in a FWD MINI on summer street tires. Your results may vary. No wagering. (In-car video by ReplayXD.)

The extension (turns 4 – 9) adds about a half a mile to the old track and doubles the number of corners. I think most old-timers would have preferred if they had just renumbered the new section as corners 4a to 4g instead of renumbering all of the corners, but we’ll use the new numbering scheme. The old track could be run in both directions. The new layout only works in a counter-clockwise direction (though you can still use the old course in the other direction.)

Google Earth hasn’t yet uploaded a new image of the circuit so the plot shows the path through open fields, but it is actually paved, just not well (more on that in a minute.) How to read this chart: Turn numbers are in circles. The color on the path of the car shows acceleration (green) or deceleration (red). Note that deceleration might just be lifting as in between 2 and 3 or the apex of 4 or 8. Green speed readings on the track show max speed before deceleration and red shows apex speed. The bars in each corner show relative lateral G load. Green bars are .4 to .8 Gs. Yellow bars are .8 to 1.1 Gs. Notice the lateral load where the new track rejoins the old track and in the middle of the back straight. There the car is going straight and the lateral load is from the unevenness of the surface. You see some of that on the front straight from 14 to 1 as you drive across the crown to set up for turn 1. Red arrows show apex visuals. If you already know the old Jeff, then jump down to Turn 4.

When you enter the track from pit-out, stay to the right all of the way to the apex of turn 1, otherwise, when at speed cross-over from right to left on the front straight and look down the track to the flagger’s bucket. RWD cars set up to the left for turn-in. The road is crowned so FWD will want to be more in the middle of the left half of the track or you’ll never get over the crown to the apex.

The apex is very late and almost at the end of the curbing. You can ride the middle part of the curbing, but stay off of the end as it will unsettle the car. Stay to the right upon exit and let the car settle before turning-in to turn 2.

Turn 2 and 3 should flow. If you’re early for 2, you’ll also be early for 3 so wait to turn in and make 2 a very late apex. Lift or tap the brakes to turn-in to 3.

Turn 3 is one of the few corners where you can ride up on the curbs without unsettling the car. Apex is very late and carry as much speed as you can. Don’t worry about track position on track-out as the entry to the next corner is rough and you’ll probably have to lift anyway to get back to the apex.

Turn 4 is also a late apex. Ride the rumble strips and try to straighten 4 and 5 as much as possible.

The exit to turn 5 is the roughest spot on the track. Point the car straight after the apex and brake in a straight line. Wait for the second bump before turning-in to turn 6.

Set the car about a car-width from the curbing and late-apex turn 6 at the top of the hill. Open the wheel and let the car track out to set up for turn 7.

Turn 7 is the most difficult corner on the track. You must be patient, especially when your tires are cold. It is a decreasing radius corner. Look for the path of the patch. Set your entry squarely in the middle of the patch and then pinch-off the apex. Trail-braking helps. If you don’t sufficiently load the front-end, expect to under-steer through the apex and off the other side of the track. Track out to mid-track.

Treat turns 8 and 9 as one double-apex corner. Do not track too far out in the middle as the pavement drop off is pretty severe.

Ride the curbing on curves 8, 9, and 10.

Late apex 10 but get on the power early to increase the length of the straight. The point where the new track joins the old is quite bumpy so stay away from the track edge.

Stay 3 feed from the edge in the braking zone to 11 to avoid more bumps. Turn 11 will really hook up when done right. Release the brakes as soon as the car starts to turn-in and power through the exit using the full track width. Cross over from right to left to set up 12.

Staying as far left as possible, turn in for 12 as soon as 12 and 13 line up and straight-line 12.

Stay off of the curbing on 12 as it will really unsettle the car. Downshift and brake for 13 in a straight line. Some people are able to carry enough speed to brake once through 13 to set up turn 14. In the FWD MINI I have to release the brakes in 13 to get the car to rotate and can actually accelerate a little up the hill before turning-in for 14.

RWD set up 14 by going as deep as possible for the entry. FWD don’t go too deep or you won’t be able to cross the crown to get back to the apex of 14.

The apex of 14 is very late. Stay off of the curbing. If you are tracking out to the edge of the track before the pit-in lane, then your apex was early. Cross over from right to left and do it all again.

Larger photos here.

NCC BMW CCA HPDE Summit Point, September 2012

I can tell you exactly when summer ended this year. It was at 3:23 PM on September 8th when this photo was taken. Friday at the track was hot and humid. Saturday was miserable, wet, and wonderful. And Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day.

There were some really cool cars at this event, including this beautiful blue Ferrari 458 Italia seen below. It was good to see that the owner of this car a.) drove it to the event; b.) drove it at the event; and c.) drove it home. The previous owner drove this car only 750 miles in two years of ownership. The current owner drove more than 3,000 miles just bringing it home after purchasing it. I never really appreciated the styling of the 458 until we got out on the track. Even at 100 MPH, we were able to have a conversation with the windows down. That says something for aero efficiency. (You listening MINI?)

The inside even smells good. It smells like that brand-new baseball glove you got when you were a kid. The one you put a ball in and slept with it under your pillow to break it in. (OK maybe not everyone has that memory….) I took some video from my helmet cam as we lapped the course. I was fascinated by the speed of the gear changes and the great display graphics that emulate analog gauges. Unfortunately, you can’t see the gauges very well in the video.

If you look just about 6 inches to the left of the “458 Italia” logo there’s a depression in the leather. It is sort of forehead shaped. That got me wondering about the survival rate of previous passengers. This car accelerates so quickly, just holding my head off of the headrest gave my core a workout.

The GeorgeCo MINI powered by Beano was of course in action as well. In this photo, it’s powering through turn 7. The suspension work paid off and the car was very well balanced, level, and had tons of grip, even in the rain.

The telemetry system is still a work on progress. The GPS is not very accurate with the iPhone in its current position so the track map is all over the place. (It looks like I’m taking a grand tour of Delaware.) The corner and straight speed indicators seem to be off too when you compare them to the large central speedo. G meter, throttle position, and RPM seem to be working, but the gear indicator doesn’t seem to go above 3rd. So there’s some work to be done, but the technology is cool. Fast forward to the session time of about 11:50 and again at 13:17 and you’ll see why we spend so much time on the skid pad in this program.

In case you had \$229 to \$295K sitting around and were wondering what you would get for your money. The answer is at least 3 seconds a lap. That’s the difference in two laps chosen at random from my video of this past weekend. Both were on Friday as we refamiliarized ourselves with the track. The only difference is that in my case, I’m pushing the MINI about as hard as I’m willing to go. There’s a little bit left, but not much. The Ferrari is going maybe 6/10ths on the straights. Alternately, you could take \$13-\$27K, buy yourself a low mileage 2006 MINI Cooper S, and buy a house with the rest. Just saying.

If you can start the two videos at the same time, they both start at the same point on the track. You want to have the sound playing on the Ferrari video however. (I’m working on editing them into one feed that shows both side-by-side but haven’t figured that out yet.)

All Autumn in a Day

Somebody must have hit the fast forward button on Autumn. We had our first winter snow storm yesterday — much too early in the season. It was a great day to get caught up on watching movies, sorting photos, and editing videos. Much has been happening at GeorgeCo in the last three months. Let’s get caught up.

Labor Day weekend brought the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. (Click the photo above for the complete set.) The three days of racing got off to a slow start as the track was about half a day late opening up to practice, but once it did open, Balmer put on an excellent show. Crowds were strong all three days and the racing was solid. The local BMW club had a hospitality tent and a car corral which proved great fun and also gave GeorgeCo an audience to advertise the GeorgeCo E30 powered by Beano for sale. GeorgeCo even got to meet Bobby Rahal (he signed my hat.)

At the end of the day, we even got to drive the track. (GeorgeCo thought he was in a traffic jam to leave. Much to his surprise, traffic turned left instead of right, and we found ourselves on the track.) Pratt Street was bumpy at parade-lap speed, I couldn’t imagine what it was like at 185 MPH.

The beginning of October brought the final NCC BMW CCA Drivers’ School of the year. This time we were on the Jefferson Circuit. Rain turned most of the driving into one big skidpad exercise. But even at super low speeds with no grip, the Jefferson is tons of fun. Mid-day on the last day, the sun came out for a while and we got to take the new GeorgeCo MINI out for a spin. The video below shows the GeorgeCo MINI wearing regular old street tires, chasing down a certain Red M36. I still haven’t mastered getting the helmet-cam on straight, but this video is better than most.

The big news of the month, however, has to be that the GeorgeCo E30 Powered by Beano has been sold. The buyer is an enthusiastic autocrosser who will give it a good home and the attention it deserves. Scuderia GeorgeCo has now gone from a high of five cars, down to a more reasonable three.

Summit Point in the Rain, April 2011

The Colonial Challenge Cup, a local charity group, hosted another track day at Summit Point Main Circuit in West Virginia. I had a chance again this year to instruct and drive during the event. Today was a wonderful sunny Spring day here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Unfortunately, the event was yesterday. Yesterday was cold and wet. I love driving in the rain, but I always approach the CCC events with some trepidation: To say they are a bit organizationally challenged is an understatement. Running an event with little structure in the rain, well let’s just say it paid to keep your guard up.

The GeorgeCo MINI and all GeorgeCo instructed students completed the day with both their egos and cars intact. That can’t be said for all participants. There were three run groups and a small group of instructors, maybe 35 cars on the track if you added up all of the groups. This group attracts all levels of drivers and a wide range of cars from an old Austin Healey to an Aston Martin Vantage; Subaru Imprezas to Ford GTs, with a smattering of M3s and MINIs thrown in for good luck.

The casualty list was also impressive: Acura NSX, E36 M3, Ford GT, and a Subaru Impreza all individually put into tire walls at some point in separate one-car incidents (no one was hurt.) The most amazing (and no doubt costly) crash was the Ford GT. After completing what appeared to be a very high speed lap in the rain (picture above), the driver (not the owner I believe) was exiting turn 10 at about 3/4 the speed of the previous lap, was in the center of the track, got back on the power, and immediately spun off toward the inside tire wall; hitting the tires backwards and bouncing back out onto the track in the direction of traffic. Fortunately the Aston Martin it had just passed had pulled into the pits or he would have collected him up as well. The car limped back to the pits. I’m sure there isn’t anything on this car that’s inexpensive to fix.

The one I really felt for was the Subaru driver — you can’t go to the track with a car you can’t afford to lose. Especially when the conditions are like this:

Still, there is great educational value in driving on the track in the rain. A slick track really rewards smooth driving. All of your inputs must be smooth or the punishment is immediate. If you’re smart, you’re running at slower speeds so the penalty for not being smooth is lower than in the dry — maybe not everyone got the memo on the “slower” part of driving in the rain. There was zero grip on this track. You had to try to maintain your entry speed because it was impossible to try to put power down exiting any of the corners. All of my students were very timid under braking and afraid of pushing through turn-in, but it was the exits that caught out the ones that crashed. I don’t know where the Subi ran off, but the Acura want off at the exit of 9; the Ford GT at the exit of 10; and the M3 at the exit of 2. More photos here.

Well, speaking of cars you CAN afford to lose, the GeorgeCo E30 is due back from the paint shop on Saturday. We took it to the local paint shop that repaired our Subaru last Fall and said we wanted a basic “scuff & spray.” That may have offended them, as they came back with an estimate that was about \$500 more than the book value of the car. Undeterred, and determined to get a professional hack spray job, we headed off to the local Maaco. (No Earl Scheib around here.) Hello Ambassador Paint Service. Nothing like a new coat of paint to show off the new bits: new hood, fenders, side skirts, and deck spoiler. That just about completes the pile of discarded parts which was the original car. All we need to do now is replace the rear main seal and it will be just about time to sell the car and look for a new project. Will post photos when we get it back.

You have an Unstable Attitude

Saturday marked the end of the motorsports year for GeorgeCo. We spent the day on the skidpad at Summit Point, honing our over-steer skills in preparation for winter. There’s nothing like a couple of hours on a skidpad to build your confidence. We also worked on trying to navigate a course around (and sometimes through) the cones while maintaining an unstable attitude. Now it’s time to park the GeorgeCo BMW powered by Beano in the GeorgeCo Garagemahol, look for worn-out parts, and start making preparations for next season.

NCC BMW CCA HPDE Summit Point, Oct 10

After an extended summer break I’ve finally gotten back to the track for a few days. In September it was for one day on the main circuit at Summit Point instructing for the Colonial Challenge Cup charity event, then three days this past weekend instructing with the BMW club.

Here’s a picture of my car at the skidpad.

(My car is the blue one…)

The CCC events are fun if a bit chaotic, but I really like the BMW events. This time I was instructing on the skidpad. I had forgotten what it was like to work with beginning students and how much fun it is to see when they start to get it: you really can’t add more steering when in understeer…

I had an interesting moment under heavy breaking in turn one when I ran through some anti-freeze just as I started to turn in. In the first part of the video, you can see my normal line through this corner. In the last part, you see the fluid-induced lane change. If you pause it, you can see me pointed about 15 degrees to the right at 80 MPH.

I ran the GeorgeCo 325is Powered by Beano on Friday, but have a front wheel bearing starting to go so chose to run the MINI for the rest of the weekend. For the most part I could hang with the E36 and E46 M3s. I lose about five car lengths on the front straight to the higher horsepower cars and the make it up under braking into turn one. I’d have to be careful through the chute not to run up too quickly on the heavier cars. I think the larger JCW brakes made a huge difference to how late I could brake.

NCC BMW CCA HPDE Jefferson Circuit, July 10

Here’s a video of the last few laps from this past weekend’s Driver’s School at the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. This is from the A Run Group, last session on Sunday. I was signed-off to solo so the only voices in my head this time were my own. Quite a different experience not having a passenger to balance (slow) the car.

NCC BMW CCA Fall HPDE, 2009

The GeorgeCo BMW powered by Beano put in a strong performance among higher horsepower cars this past weekend at Summit Point. The three-day school on the Jefferson Circuit was the last track weekend of the year for the National Capital Chapter.

We’re finally figuring out the skidpad and sustained oversteer. The key is to stay in second gear, dial in some mild understeer, as the front hooks up, wait, then blip the throttle. As the rear comes around, countersteer and hold the throttle steady.

Temperatures on the car were good all weekend. Tirewear has been fairly even. We’re getting some rubbing in the front on the new swaybar but that may be only an issue at full lock on the skidpad.

The biggest issue of the weekend is the ugly song the differential began singing on Saturday. We checked the fluid level and color and both were good. Temp was fine. It may just be in the last throws of death. Time to start checking craigslist.

Final Session, Part 1.

Final Session, Part 2.

• Turn 1: max entry speed; stay on the crown; trailbrake; put in lots of steering input; carry speed up the hill; don’t worry so much about track position for turn 2, just be back on-line for turn 3.
• Turn 4: brake mid track; wait for the front to hook up; long apex; unwind the wheel on exit
• Turn 5: stay mid track to avoid dip on entry; trailbrake slightly; head for accessroad; lots of steering input at the apex; avoid the patch; full gas well before apex
• Turn 7: double apex. Brake late to carry speed up the hill, but don’t go deep; trailbrake; get on the throttle early; late second apex

Colonial Challenge Cup, Summit Point, 9.9.09

9/9/09 was a lucky day. I got to take the day off of work and spend it as an instructor at the Colonial Challenge Cup (CCC). The CCC is an annual charity event at Summit Point that benefits the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Boys & Girls Clubs. It includes track lapping, driver education, go-carting and charity rides. It’s a very low-key event with lots of track time if you want it. Instructors had two sessions to ourselves and could go out in any student session we wanted as well. I managed to instruct 5 sessions in an E36 M3 and run 5 sessions myself.

This wasn’t your usual BMW club HPDE. From the organizational structure (not) to the rules on the track (lax) to the overall schedule (relaxed), it was a good chance to get back to the main circuit and test out the changes to the car. There were some very good drivers in some very expensive cars and some rather scary drivers in some scary fast cars. Click here for some laps of the main circuit.

It was a good exercise in space management and situational awareness. That came in the form of both a Daytona Coupe spinning in front of me in Turn 1, as well as a Ford GT passing me on the front straight at 140+ MPH after the checkered flag. It’s not every event where I get to park near an Aston Martin Vantage.

The GeorgeCo BMW, powered by Beano, is really handling well. On Tuesday I added thicker front swaybar. The bar is only 10% thicker than the stock bar, but that difference virtually eliminated body-roll and still maintained neutral handling.

The non-adjustable bar from IE meets Spec E30 requirements, and included new reinforced mounting brackets and adjustable end links.

CDC Autocross Event Four, 5.9.09

On Saturday I finally made it to a CDC autocross event. This one was held at the Triple Skid Pad at Summit Point — same place as the BMW Club event, only this one wasn’t a sogfest. BSR has finally paved the aprons around the inside of each skid pad and cut-out, but the infield is still very soggy. The course was fairly simple, but because of the lack of grip, was actually quite challenging. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be wet so I took both the RA1s and the Hankook slicks. I ran the morning runs with the RA1s and then the slicks in the afternoon. Right off the bat, the slicks were 3 seconds faster and ended up being almost 5 seconds faster.

CDC Autocross, 23 May 2009

The video is from the last run. I still haven’t fixed the audio, so you want to turn down the volume.

The results aren’t posted yet, but I suspect the winner was in the low 47 second range. I’m hoping for a top ten finish. My best was in the high 48s. As a comparison, my best on the RA1s was in the low 53s. I probably should have heat-cycled the Hankooks before running them last month at the first SCCA event. They really had much more grip this time, even on the slick surface. I think they are going to work out well this year and seem to be wearing fairly evenly so far.

The only down side was the poor fellow driver in the Lotus Elise who went off into the mud only to turn up a 30-pound rock with his front splitter. With a large “whack”, bits of carbon-fiber were flying everywhere. I’ve been told the only way to make repairs is to buy a new clam shell for the front half of the car. That’s an expensive weekend.