Last Saturday I took part in NASA's (http://www.nasanortheast.net/regions.shtml) High Performance Driving Event at the Lime Rock race track in Connecticut (http://www.limerock.com/). This was my first time ever at a race track, as driver or otherwise. And it was one of the most intense experiences I've ever had, and had a few. I know, this has nothing to do with street racing, but I thought I'd write here about my observations about other cars I'd run with.
To start, there were some impressive cars out there including many M3s, old, new and highly modified, Porsches, 911s etc, and even a Pontiac Fiero GT, as well as some track only race cars driven by instructors. I was one of about 5 WRXs. One was a wagon.
We ran in groups - me being in novice, so I can only really comment on the cars in my group. The novices were first given brief instructions in a classroom that even included a physics formula on g-forces. A lot of eyes started to cloud over by that point.
We then got into the pit and our instructors got into out cars with us. Mine was fantastic. He gave me a headset so we could talk comfortably through our helmets and we were off! It was all about finding and executing the car through the "lines" which were demarcated with orange cones for us newbies. My senses were totally overloaded with his instructions, the road immediately in front of me, looking ahead for the next bend, keeping an eye on the car in front and the other in the rear, as well as controlling the car itself. But as we lapped some more, I felt more in control and actually seemed to be going sower when I was conscious of going faster.
The track has a straight that's about 1/4 mile long coming out of a downhill bend, so I was usually hitting the straight at about 50 mph. At one point, I looked down at the speedo in the middle of the straight and I was doing 115 mph. This is where I can really comment about my WRX in relation to others because all w were doing was going in a straight line, so really, far less driver skill was involved than say through the "S" turns.
It was pretty easy keeping up with S4s on the turns, and I could usually get right up on their asses (only allowed to pass in the one big straight) and in thrid gear I was jogging up to them. But once on the straight in fourth gear above 80 mph, the S4 would very slowly walk away, and it'd walk progressively faster as the speeds increased.
There was a kid in a mid-90s M3 who drove pretty well. That thing was a terror on the curves. It clearly tracked better than my stock suspension and Dunlop SP 5000s. Of course, it was pretty clear that he was a very good driver. And on the straight, it would also walk away after about 90. I let him pass one time and saw him in the dirt right afterward . The kid told me the car was totally stock.
One time when I and another were caught behind a clueless early MR2 who wouldn't give us the pass signal, a new Trans Am blew by all of us on the straight. Damn, that thing's got power! And then it slowed a bunch of us down in the S-turns.
It became pretty clear to me that the WRX, once in 4th gear has clear limitations. But is in its element from 1st to 3rd.
My instructor let me ride shotgun when he went on the track. He couldn't bring his modified Porsche because he came down from Montreal through a snowstorm, so he drove his wife's 1995 Integra GS-R, totally stock. It was an amazing ride. His driving was so smooth I didn't feel a hint of jerkiness from acceleration, turns or braking as I'm accustomed to feeling. Just smoooooth. Here he was in his 170 hp car driving so well that he was able to carry a lot of speed through th turns. He was constanly on the asses of cars that had much, much more HP than his, like the Mustang Bullit that wallowed through the esses. The problem was that once in the straight where he could pass, unless the other car actually stopped accelerating or slowed down, it was next to impossible for lack of power.
By my last run in the late afternoon, I was overly tired from only 4 hours sleep and driving poorly. During my last lap, I came out of the straight too quickly into the big bend. My left, rear tire hit the dirt and slid out to the left, causing my car to spin out in a dramatic cloud of smoke and dust. Of course, this was not quite as exciting as seeing one $100,000 911 headed straight for another out-of-control-while-spinning $100,000 911. Fortunatly, they didn't crash, but everyone's hair was standing on end. Only one car had some body damage. It was a modifed pickup track-only car whoe rear end got smashed on a post after spinning out into the dirt.
In all, it was my instructor's first time in a WRX and he said he was very impressed with the car, and encouraged me to go to more track events, which I'm definitely doing as often as I can afford to in time and money. I learned a great deal including a lot about my car's and own limitations. I got about 82 miles of track in that day.
I caravaned home with two other WRX sedans (a tight formation of silver, blue, silver) and we took it pretty easy. We were pretty spent, but none of us really felt like speeding or flogging our cars on the open road. It kind of seemed pointless afterwards. Anyway, if any of you get a chance to go to a track with bends I highly encourage it. The majority of posts on this board, especially in this forum, seem to emphasize the drag strip, if it even mentions a track. Thought I'd post something that involved a few turns.