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    Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Beechmont Porsche (my dealer) sponsors a PCA Club Race at Putnam Park Road Course in west-central Indiana each year. It's located about 15 minutes closer in travel time from my home in Cincinnati than is the Mid-Ohio race track. During a routine visit to the dealer, I was approached about the possibility of my Carrera GT serving as the pace car for their sponsored Club Race event. I, of course, said that I would be very interested. The event organizers contacted me with the details and offered lots of lapping time as an inducement. My track time would be during a simultaneously held DE event that was limited to a smaller-than-normal number of advanced students due to track schedule sharing with the race sessions.

    So I went, and here is my report:

    Waiting for the 0730 DE drivers meeting to start. The DE students would be assigned to run groups that mixed their cars in with practicing race cars of approximately the same speed (lap time) potential. No passing in the corners. No passing the the "straight" (ha-ha) between 9 and 10. The overtaken car has the responsibility to "point-by" the overtaking car to pass on the indicated side. No "point", no pass. Watch your damn mirrors!

    Whoa! This is, indeed, an advanced-level DE. No instructors.

    After the drivers meeting, I ask the track boss in what run group he might classify me. He looks up, and without any discernible pause says, "I'll put you in the "red" group. Is that OK with you?" I ask what sort of cars are in that group. He says, "That's with the GT cars ... you'll be fine".

    I'm not so sure about that. I've never even seen the track before, much less lapped it. It's beginning to rain a little. I'll be in the fastest run group with some REALLY fast race cars and pro or semi-pro drivers. The thought of a slimy track under those conditions makes me a wee bit nervous.

    I decide to wait out the rain and skip the first session. That gives me an opportunity to check out what sort of cars are in the "red" run group, and who might be driving them. Check out the red sticker on the windshield of the white GT3 Cup car next to where I parked.

    See any tread on those tires? Hey, those are Michelin slicks! The driver (whose suit matched my car) is David Schardt of World Challenge podium-finishing fame. I know he's fast and his car sure looks fast. I'm really beginning to wonder whether I'm in the correct group.

    I decide to ask Dave's engineer dad (Jim Schardt: racer for four decades) what kind of cornering g-forces he expects from the GT3 Cup car. He tells me that he had some instruments connected to it one time and couldn't seem to get more than 1.25 g, or so. I tell him that some had measured my car at that kind of side force on its stock tires and his eye brows arch up for a second. His face then slowly dissolves into a mischievous grin and he says,"Well, ... there's one way to find out!"

    Oh, well, the sun's out now ... let's go play in traffic.

    During my first track session, I have to learn which way the track is going to turn next. I more or less drive in the middle of the track if I don't have a car to follow, from which I can learn the general concept of "the line". I get much better as the laps begin to accumulate.

    This brings up a deficiency in track assimilation if one is driving a Carrera GT on an unfamiliar track in a nearly over-ones-head speed group: It's too easy to keep out of the other drivers' way by only using the throttle. The CGT has LOTS of throttle! Since the CGT doesn't have racing slicks as standard equipment, I find it's possible to be out-cornered by almost anything with numbers on its doors. I come to a siege-like stand-off with a number of cars whose headlights I can suck out down the long straight, yet they can completely catch up after a few fast corners. Putnam is turning out to be a "handling track". More accurately, Putnam is an available-side-force track. Horse power, alone, won't cure any tire stickiness or driver limitations here.

    Some of the cars are blindingly faster in the corners and also have only 5 pounds for each horsey to carry around. Like this one:

    I can follow these really fast cars down the start-finish straight and not give up any ground. As they enter the first turn at a speed that I haven't been able to yet stomach, they slip away a bit. As soon as they tear through Turn 2, I wonder, "Where did they go? I was right behind them only a second back!" Now, they're braking to enter Turn 4 as I'm fighting for enough traction to fully accelerate out of the exit of Turn 3. OMG, they're fast!

    Well, my CGT is pretty damn fast compared to street cars that anyone has at the DE. But, compared to the full-tilt race wagons that are out with me in the "red" run group, the CGT (with yours truly at the wheel) is solidly middle-of-the-pack. I decide the problem is one part tires and two parts driver

    I get better and better as time goes by. I get really good at checking my mirrors! Then, OMG, what is this behind me? WTF can that be? A clapped out C4 Corvette from the local junk yard? He's got his nose up a really impolite place on my backside. What is Ronnie C6Z going to say?

    I sidle over to this Walmart Special after the track session gets the checkered flag and chat up the driver. It turns out to be the famous (around western Indiana DEs, anyhow) Bobby Young. This ain't no street car. It's got a juiced up ZZ4 crate motor (I was suspicious of the flames belching from the exhausts on down-shifts) and runs on "cast off" Hoosier slicks that roll out the back of the Hoosier/Michelin race tire service rig when their paying customers are through with them. They'll mount them on his rims for a few dollars per wheel. This crafty old hippie is thrifty! He also claims to have put over 35,000 track miles on this beater.

    I decide not to worry about Ronnie anymore. This Corvette's secret is one part motor, one part tires, and two parts driver.

    To be continued .....

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    W8MM said:
    I get better and better as time goes by. I get really good at checking my mirrors! Then, OMG, what is this behind me? WTF can that be? A clapped out C4 Corvette from the local junk yard? He's got his nose up a really impolite place on my backside. What is Ronnie C6Z going to say?

    No prizes for guessing.

    "He'll blow yah doohrs off"!

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    I'm having fun reading this. Keep it up. I can't wait to see the rest of this story.

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Excellent write-up! Can't wait for the rest...

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Hey Mike - Entertaining post. Made me smile to think that even when you show up with at a trackday in a CGT there is always something faster!

    Sounds like you need some soft sticky trackday rubber. Can you get Cups or Corsa's in CGT sizes?

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Nice Mike Good to finally see more pics of your GT here on Rennteam

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Very cool story Mike!


    And ... we want more!

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Very funny and entertaining Mike!

    So it was a mano y mano duel between leaf spring
    and carbon fiber technologies?

    We await the next installment of ten year old vette
    on cast off race tires versus the elegeant CGT.

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Truly entertaining read Mike!

    Looking forward to the conclusion.

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Thats great that is, i bet seeing that corvette behind you made you '' pay attention''.

    its funny to think just how fast the cgt is yet there are cars which can come passed you!

    on the track do you run the gt with or without the traction control?

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    I wonder what the conclusion is, does that corvette overtake mike?


    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    That's the stuff I love with my morning coffee.
    Keep it coming please....

    CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    I continue to draw out more secrets from the mysteriously fast 'Vette with the clear molded-plastic nose protector (JC Whitney?).

    Bobby is real proud of how cheap it is for him to track his car to death. He reveals one of his feats of parsimony: "free replacement" running gear. He tells me that he shops for rotating parts (brakes? u-joints? bearings?) at a "guaranteed-for-the-life-of-the-car" auto parts emporium (AutoZone?). When he wears out the parts, he simply takes them back to the store and exchanges them for new ones. His total recurring expense is zero, apart from how much he values his own wrench time!

    He eyes me, looking for a sympathetic nod of approval. I give him one.

    He also proudly says that he is too cheap to put coil-overs on all four corners, as preferred by his suspension consultant. Instead, he says, he has some really strong transverse leaf springs (fiberglass?) obtained by a method I didn't completely hear. He muses that it keeps the car closer to being a real Corvette, and gives all the benefits of coil-overs for much less money. I think I see some sort of roll-cage as I peer around him into the open rear hatch.

    The best thing he saves for last. He tells me that his most memorable experience of this particular track event is following me and a certain 930 (with 634 real engine-dyno horse power) through the last turn, and watching us just squirt away from him down the long straight.

    He really knows how to make friends! I bid him adieu!

    Speaking of friends, I catch up with some folks I haven't seen in 15 or 20 years. We used to attend lots of the same track events together in days gone by. I try to get a picture of one of them through the window safety netting of his race car, but all I get is this loving gesture:

    Oh well. He's on his way out for a practice session and must not have time to talk. So I look around the paddock to see what else is going on. I see a bumper sticker on one of the race cars that indicates it's been to Daytona:

    Then, after I walk a little further down race-car-row in the paddock, I take a peek into the engine compartment of Dave Schardt's Cup car. No wonder it's fast. There aren't very many extra parts to weight it down! At least that's what I tell myself.

    Well, now it's time to go back out on the track and see if I learned anything in my previous outings, or if I can remember what I think I learned.

    The first thing I notice after I get up to speed is that my car sounds like its broken as I go around some of the turns. It sounds like the nasty knocking sound is coming from the hubs or wheel bearings. I'm not too pleased by the possibilities. I'm pretty sure it's not the engine or transmission since the repetition rate depends on overall car speed (wheel rate) and not engine speed, and only in hard corners, even with the clutch pushed in (don't try this at home). After a few consecutive hard corners, it goes away.

    Phew, ... it fixed itself! What a relief (kind of).

    Then, right after I signal a GTA car to pass, and pull off the line to make it easier for him in the limited space available, it starts up again in the next corner. A few corners later, it fixes itself again.

    This is starting to get annoying and I begin to pay more attention to just how it seems to start and stop. As I focus better on the problem, I begin to notice that it happens right after I drive off the line (for whatever reason ) and then pick the pace back up in the next corner. If I stay on the line, after a few more corners, the noise disappears. Hmmmm.

    In my experience, nasty knocking noises never get better, only worse. So, I'm hopeful, but still worried.

    Then it hits me!


    (Here's a wad of the damn things somebody picked out of the brake cooling ducts of a race car in the paddock.)

    You know, it's that doughy rubber stuff that's strewn all over the outside of most corners on race tracks. They're called "marbles" because they make it feel like your car has stepped on a pile of them (and can't maintain its balance) if you happen to drive over them on some part of the track. They're the things (besides simple geometry) that make it so much fun to try to pass another car on the outside of the racing line.

    They don't look like marbles, more like giant art-gum eraser rubbings or black, opaque Gummi Worms. Because the Carrera GT's tires have a softer outer compound, and the track surface temperature is in the 130's Fahrenheit, and I've been driving off line to facilitate some passing, my tires pick up gobs of them way too easily.

    Mystery solved!

    These things are causing trouble for lots of people all weekend. More than one car scoops them up in the brake cooling ducts and feeds them right onto some really hot brake parts. If they get stuck, they start to smoke profusely, as if the car has a brake fire, or the tire is about to fail from rubbing the fender. They're a corner workers nightmare.

    Take a look at the condition of the front tires, even after I had driven about 15 miles on public roads. They still look like they're coated with a gooey, thick-cut rubber marmalade:

    The suspension is so directly connected to the tub in a CGT that the eccentrically oscillating side loads, caused by those gooey lumps of rubber flapping around the circumference of the tire, transmit a pretty loud banging noise directly into the cabin. It's surprising to me that it works out this way.

    This car definitely has the "race car experience" that Porsche stated as a design goal, including the sound effects. The brake pedal foot pressure is appropriate to track driving, meaning pretty high. After I had completely adapted to driving the CGT on and off the track for 3 or 4 days, I hopped into my 996TT cabriolet. The first time I went for the brakes in the Turbo, it almost put me into the windshield. I hadn't realised that the control forces were that different. If the CGT had as much brake boost as the TT, it would be very touchy on the track when ones body parts are under such high loads from the g-forces. Porsche got the brake feel just right for over-one-g track driving in the CGT.

    Speaking of brakes, boy does the Carrera GT have some. I tried braking later and later for the first turn at the end of the start-finish straight. It was pretty easy to get going 140 mph before I lifted. One time, I scared myself a little bit and slightly over-reacted to the diminishing distance left in which to slow down. I pushed on the brake hard enough to activate the ABS system, which delivered deceleration forces so strong that I didn't trust myself to repeat them with any precision. I'm still working on this part.

    After repeated use, lap after lap, they are still working like new. I get curious to see how much, if any, brake dust has accumulated on the wheels. I'm not expecting much, since I had rarely been able to detect any in ordinary street use.

    Yuck! There is more than just a little. I guess it all depends on how deep one gets into the brakes on a routine basis.

    Now, the track is closing for the day and its time to find a "good" place to eat in rural Indiana. I manage to get some reservations at the only place for miles around which lists any wine on the menu priced at over $12 per bottle. Dinner turns much out better than I had imagined it might. In fact, it's pretty good. Maybe its because we're all very hungry.

    After dinner, I need to make a personal trip to Walmart. I need a few things before tomorrow comes. In my haste to pack my luggage (a small sports duffel) before leaving my house, I neglected to pack two important items: Sunscreen. Undershorts.

    Lack of sunscreen has caused the additional need for a big bottle of aloe. And, I'm too old to wash my undershorts for consecutive nights in the hotel-room sink and spend 15 minutes each night drying them with a hair dryer. Walmart is the only place around within a 30 minute drive where I can be assured of "one-stop-shopping".

    I'm a little apprehensive about parking a Carrera GT in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of corn country. But, I figure if I can brave Cup cars in traffic, I can muster the courage to go to Walmart. I figure that nobody roaming the lot will even know what I'm driving.

    Sure enough, I pull into the lot, find a parking spot way, way, away from anybody else, turn off the key, and wrestle my long self out of the car. Immediately, a mixed group of teenagers (with cell phone cameras pointing my way) spots me and one brave male asks,

    "Hey mister! Is that the new Corvette?"

    I say, "No. It's a Porsche"

    He asks, "A what?"

    I answer, "A Porsche."

    Another one asks, "How many horsepower?"

    I respond, "Six hundred and five."

    Immediately, this answer sets them off hooting like Gibbons at the zoo. I decide to not alter my gait as I keep heading for the entrance.

    After I emerge from a successful safari to Walmart, I make deliberately nonchalant strides toward the car. The cell phone users in the group have alerted a small herd of Ninja-bike-mounted friends to gather near my car. They study it as if it were a wild animal. As soon as I use the remote on my key to unlock the doors, they scatter in different directions and regroup 50 meters away.

    I'm glad to arrive at the little bed and breakfast where I've chosen to stay for the night. It seems like a good place to hide my car. I'm ready for bed. I don't know if I can stand any more fun for one day.

    The next morning, after arriving at the track, I see this sticker on the back of a street ride in the paddock:

    Apparently, he wasn't driving fast enough to attract sponsors. Other drivers report seeing him under the care of a local constable at the side of the road earlier in the morning. Can you imagine?

    Anyway, now it's time to get into pace car mode. The DE driving sessions are now for DE registrants only. The racer practice and qualifying sessions are forbidden to DE cars. Since the first DE session is being conducted simultaneously with a racer drivers' meeting, I elect to go to the meeting in case I need to know something being said.

    We do some practice starts to begin each qualifying session. They're real easy to catch on to. I marshal the CGT to a position a hundred meters past the pit exit, turn on the hazard flashers, and wait for the tower to radio my passenger (the race boss) that it's time to move out. We start out at only 20 mph until the last car on the grid has exited the pits. At that point, we up the pace to between 40 and 50 mph around the back side of the course. When we approach a particularly slow corner (#7) we slow down to collect the group. If the tower likes what it sees in the way of good order in the pack, we're told to turn off the 4-ways and get out of the way. The CGT is really good at getting out of the way! Slowing down for the pits is left for me to judge Here's how it looks from a camera position way down past the first turn:

    Being the pace car has a number of advantages, some of which incite envy in other race-day volunteers. For instance, since we have a radio, we need to be able to hear it clearly. The race cars make so much noise that we need to keep the windows rolled up to block out the din. This isn't so bad because the pace car has air conditioning It's between 90 and 100 degrees F outside and the humidity is on the rise. Check out the heat distortion in the pace lap shots!

    After the race starts, we get some really good seats for the race. There's a spot maybe 50 meters past the flag tower where we join the tow truck, fire truck, and ambulance for quick access to the track, if needed. It's a great spot to watch the race! We're only 20 meters from the track edge, we're sitting at eye level, and we're air conditioned. They're the best seats in the house. It's like watching the show from a mobile luxury box.

    Pretty soon, it's time for the actual 22 lap sprint races. I find the start of the GT car race to be visually very exciting, as seen from the pace car. As I look through the rear-view mirror, I see the cars swerving back and forth across the track to warm up their tires before the start of the race. The pole sitter occasionally comes so close to the back of my car that I can't see all of the front of his car. Then he backs off,... and does it again! The sight is so involving that I catch myself staring at the view behind instead of driving. What a gas!

    All in all, I had a fabulous time at the races.

    Here's hoping you feel like you were there with me, enjoying it too.

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Cool report Mike!

    Was the pole sitter that #69 - 914?

    Who won?

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Great story Mike.

    Trackdays (and track evenings!) have become incredibly popular over here in the UK...and for good reason.

    My advice to fellow rennteams who've yet to take their Porsche on track - do it - you'll love it! Being on track in a Porsche...any Porsche (ok maybe not the cayenne!) ranks as one of life's better experiences

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    S1XXR said:My advice to fellow rennteams who've yet to take their Porsche on track - do it - you'll love it! Being on track in a Porsche...any Porsche (ok maybe not the cayenne!) ranks as one of life's better experiences

    I agree! Hey, is that your RSR in your avatar?

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    QUOTE: jimflat6
    "Cool report Mike!

    Was the pole sitter that #69 - 914?

    Who won? "

    The GT3 of Dave Schardt was on pole.. the race was stopped short due to a bad crash down in turn 1 that ended in a 911 rolling over a few times... all were OK though.. As for the race win Dave Schardt took the win. his GT3 BTW the way is for sale.....

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    WOW thats an adventure!

    I'm really supprised that you left your car alone with those teenagers outside..

    over here in the uk, were paranoid about parking a 12 year old vw golf on the car park of the local supermarket, incase of either somebody messing with it or ''door bangers'' parking next to it.

    it sounds real fun out on that track, the bloke who gave you the hand gesture are you sure you didnt beat him on the track all those years ago and he still remembers!

    That banging / knocking sound may have been caused by those rubber bits, if not then its either a bearing or cv joint, like you said they can only get worse.

    so its best to get it sorted to avoid futher damage and exspense.

    on route to the track did you encounter any traps with the trusty v1?

    reading that just reminds me of how much fun driving is, obviously i cant wait to get another motor and get back on the road.....

    thats really cheered me up after having the worse time of my life...with my car being wrote off.
    but you've cheered me up with your pace car race track adventure.........

    you should have camcorded your adventure, i'm sure the non cgt drivers would love an in car view of the gt being belted around a track track....

    enjoy your gt with good health....


    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    wow, that was a GREAT read, thaks so much for sharing and for the quality narration

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Thanks Mike.

    Fantastic story!

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Great story, great pics. Thanks!

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    So enjoyable!!!! Had lots of fun reading, love the photos and had a good laugh
    Thanks so much

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Grant said:
    I agree! Hey, is that your RSR in your avatar?

    Sadly not. Sounded great going up the hill at Goodwood last week. Here's another gratuitous pic.

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    S1XXR said:Sadly not. Sounded great going up the hill at Goodwood last week. Here's another gratuitous pic.


    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Great read Mike, thanks for sharing your fun adventures

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Your story was so touching Mike.

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    great read! You should submit some of your stuff to an auto mag one of these days...they're in need of good writing!

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    Looks like a lot of fun! Am I right, those tires are the PS2's? Can you get the sport cups (on the GT3) for the CGT wheel size?

    Re: CGT Pace Car Caper - Part II

    A great write-up.

    I really felt like I was there and I really wish I had been there.

    Re: Carrera GT Pace Car Experience Part I

    Great mike! Thanks for taking the effort of posting this all, with those beautiful pics. Makes me feel like I was there and drove the yellow shark myself... thanks again!



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