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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #1
All -

As enthusiasts, we are proud of our cars and have a certain bias in terms of how we compete with the rest of the "mainstream". We polish, tweak, drive and modify our cars with great pride. However, for most of us, the local constabulary poses a real problem to learning the limits of our cars and ourselves as drivers. So, how do we overcome these challenges?

Performance Driving Schools.

I'm not talking about a trip to the drag strip. While fun, its hard on the car, hard on parts and is over almost as soon as it starts. Just my opinion, but when the light turns green, anyone can drive in a straight line.

The SVT wasn't built for this purpose. It was built to attack the twisty parts of our favorite roads. Or in this case, some of the better known road courses and autocross series.

I am a senior instructor with a number of clubs in the Northern VA area and I travel with the clubs to a number of tracks, both for competition and instruction. One thing that all the clubs are faced with is getting enough participants to cover track rentals and lot fees. Not to mention to spread the enjoyment of performance driving.

It is a real eye opening experience to take what you "think" you know about driving and learn the stark reality that you aren't as fast as you "think" you are and then the satisfaction that comes with experience and coming to KNOW how fast you can be. I am amazed every time I go out at what I thought I knew and being proven wrong until someone can show me a better way.

So, below, you will find a partial list of autocross (solo racing) and track events on the central east coast that are well worth checking out. The events are reasonably priced from $30 - $350 for a weekend of track time with a qualified instructor. All events are open to every kind of car.

May 4-5: Summit Point, Shenandoah Circuit. 2.5 mile track with 19 turns. PERFECT for the focus. This is your opportunity to run down Cobras!

May 21st: Summit Point, Full Course. 2.5 mile track with 10 turns. Arguably one of the most technical tracks on the East Coast

June 14-15: Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Full Course. 3.7 mile track with 20 turns. Most gorgeous facility I've ever seen and FAST. My stock focus pulls 123 MPH down the long back straight.

August 4-5: Summit Point, Shenandoa Circuit. 2.5 mile track with 19 turns. PERFECT for the focus. This is your opportunity to run down Cobras!

The SCCA offers a full autocross series, but there is often a waiting list and no guarantees that you will be able to run. So, I choose to run with the Greater Washington Sector Mercedes Benz Club. They offer 8 autocrosses with a minimum of 6 runs (you only get 3 with SCCA).

Visit http://www.gws.mbca.org and click on events for the full schedule.

The SVT Owners Association is working on adding more track dates at Nelson Ledges, Beaver Run, Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen. I will post these dates as they become finalized.

For the events listed above, I am your POC and can assist with getting you registered.

Also, if you have any questions, feel free to post them here or send a private message and I will get you my contact information so that we can discuss further.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Tom

"Happiness is trailing throttle oversteer...unless you drive a focus"
 

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I live in N. Va in Fairfax and am interested in some more information, however, the website link is not working for me. If you can direct me somewhere where I may get the cost and locations of the event that would be very helpful. Thanks.
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #3
My Mistake-

The web site should read

http://www.gws-mbca.org

That should get you pricing information for all but the SVTOA events. That information hasn't been made available to me yet. I expect that I should hear in the next 2 weeks or so.

Last year, 2 days was $275.
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #4
Summit Point is located near Winchester, VA and is about a 1 hour drive from Fairfax. I live in Centreville, so about the same.

VIR is in Southwest Virginia beyond Charlottesville and is about a 4-5 hour drive from Northern VA.

Beaver Run and Nelson ledges are in PA and take about 3-4 hours to get there.

Mis-Ohio is 10 hours by car. Watkins Glen in upstate NY is also about 10 hours by car.
 

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All -

I'm not talking about a trip to the drag strip. While fun, its hard on the car, hard on parts and is over almost as soon as it starts. Just my opinion, but when the light turns green, anyone can drive in a straight line.

The SVT wasn't built for this purpose. It was built to attack the twisty parts of our favorite roads. Or in this case, some of the better known road courses and autocross series.
Now wait just a Second !

I relay like the part about "anyone can drive in a straight line" So you think you can take my ZX3 Focus and make a 10 Sec pass down the 1/4 mile with out a problem , Like a Sunday drive , Im guessing you Wife could do the same thing right after your pass ? I think you have been driving in circles to much

Why do you feel the SVT wasent built for the Drag strip , The Car doesent know where its performing the suspension works very well for the Drag Strip , My SVT has been a 12.99 @ 111 , This same SVT has made a 152.2 MPH on the front stretch at VIR on a GPS on stock Conti tires , Good tires and breaks and a 160 could of been had , slicks and 12.50 could of been had at the strip

The point is the SVT works well for about everything i have put it through , even know a customer that is dirt track racing one , To come in here and say anyone can go straight and the SVT wasent ment for drag racing is an awful bold statement

Tom
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #7
Didn't mean to offend.

I agree that the SVT Focus is a VERY capable all around car. However, drag racing isn't my thing. That's why I stated that "light turns green anyone can drive in a straight line" is MY OPINION. I am also confident that the design engineers at SVT weren't focused (pardon the pun) on designing the car as a straight line go-fast machine. If that were true, they would have followed the Neon SRT-4 recipe with a big bore powerful motor up front and trimmed weight. Instead, read here STOCK SVT focus, you have a moderate powerplant (177 BHP) mated to an incredibly nimble suspension with big brakes, and a tight steering ratio. These are not things that are considered when designing a car for a drag racing environment. They certainly help, but they weren't designed for it and as a result, under utilized. The classic example is any muscle car built after 1967. Monstrous power with minimal suspension (my 69 Firebird had leaf springs in the back) and horrible brakes (the front disc brakes - an option by the way - were a mere 8 inches in diameter and were mated to drum brakes). All of the Trans Am series cars of that era were heavily modified from the originals to be able to compete in a road racing environment. The stock cars from the factory had one purpose in mind - Go fast in a straight line. The SVT focus doesn't carry any of that lineage.

I know that there are others who feel differently and VERY strongly, as you point out, that there is much more to it than stomping the gas.

I got my start in drag racing and found that more time was spent in preparing the car between runs than working on driving skill. Take it for granted, there are things like reaction time, and shifting, but there is a minimal amount of steering in a 1/4 mile run.

Obviously, you have a very fast and capable machine and I am certain that you drive it well. You mention VIR. I am curious, which did you enjoy more, the braking zone that leads into the roller coaster section where you have to look 2-3 corners ahead, steer, brake and accelerate (lest you end up in the weeds) or streaking through the traps with the wheel straight and your right foot glued to the floor? You may enjoy both equally. I don't know, but once again, my opinion is that a road course environment is much more of a driving exercise than a drag strip.

The purpose of my comment was to stimulate interest, not start a bashing fest.

Like I said, this is an invitation to those who may not have experience with autocross or road racing. There is merit to all sides of the argument. Could I pilot a Super Stock dragster in a straight line? Probably not, but doesn't mean I wouldn't be willing to try. It might even give me a different perspective and appreciation.

Once again, didn't mean to offend. We all have different interests and at least here, the common denominator is the SVT focus and how much we enjoy them. How we use them is another discussion.
 

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The Librarian
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Moved to "Racing, Rally & Autocross".
Thanks for the info Tom. [;)]

Question:
The SCCA offers a full autocross series, but there is often a waiting list and no guarantees that you will be able to run.
Is it that crowded there?
I have never known the SCCA to have a waiting list for an AutoCross event. [dunno]
 

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No offence was taken , The SVT didnt get a Powerplant like the SRT-4 because of the Mustang , Ford isnt and will never build a Focus that will out run the Mustang and in 02 to 2004 with the power of the SRT-4 would of killed a Mustang with slight boltons

Me i like speed , If i want to go through turns i do it on the dirt track or drifting and do it sideways , If you want a thrill hit the end of the straight on dirt track at 100+MPH , tap the breaks to set the car up (sideways) and back on the gas sideways at 100 so to answer you question i like the straights and going as fast as i can with my foot glued to the floor

I like VIR because of its speed , Mid-Ohio was ok but anything smaller then that wouldnt do much for ME , I know a lot of guys that love it and i support them , It was just the attitude that Drag racing is easy and something anyone can do that i had to respond to

Tom
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #10
Response to the SCCA comment regarding a wait list. In the DC area, it is next to impossible to get a slot if you intend to "arrive and drive". There is pre registration and waiting lists. It's a mess at times. Not sure about in Montana, but if you can get in then that is great and I would encourage you to do as many events as possible.[thumb]

Tom -

I understand where you are coming from. So, please come out and play. If you have never been to any of Summit Point's tracks, I think that you will be impressed. The main circuit has the speed you are looking for with a main straight just under 3/4 of a mile that ends in a hairpin turn. The turn 4-5 complex is a real test of nerve. Down hill and off camber, it is about the length of a football field, but cars reach 100+ MPH and it ends in a 90 degree left hand turn. Pucker factor of 9.8 , don't lift or we'll be pulling you out of the trees and or the tire wall.

PM's forthcoming.

P.S. I am also a Tom.
 

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We have waiting lists down here in the Norfolk for autocrosses as well even though we have at least two a month... I"d be interested in doing a couple but I'd need to get a dedicated set of track tires... so that means saving up but I have to get a retune from Tom for more boost and bigger injectors first...
 

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Count me in as very interested - I have to check my schedule to see which I could make.

As my car is my daily driver, I probably won't push *too* hard, but would love the opportunity to have a bit of fun and improve my driving skills.

I watched my brother learn to roadrace motorcycles at Summit Point, so I have lots of fond memories of the place.
Until I got to drive the Nurburgring, my best on-track experience was at a classic car event when they ran charity fund raiser laps.
Everybody lined up to ride in the old Italian and British cars, but I hopped in a '70 Trans Am, clung to the rollbar, and grinned like a maniac as driver realized he could flog it [:D]
VIR is just over the border, too.
 

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i am interested but I live in NJ. Is there anything a little closer to me? We have the strips but i dont know of any road courses
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #14
It really isn't that far from NJ to go to Summit Point. About 3 hours.

VIR is oviously a much longer trip, but worth the ride. They have a 4 star hotel that overlooks the track. Hardwood floors, 36 inch TV with hookups for cameras and a DVD player. Hot tub in each room. Refrigerator and a walk around porch. All for $89 per night. One of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in and I travel a lot.

You'll be excited to know that in 2010 NJ plans to open Thunder Ridge wich will have a similar layout to VIR. It is near Monmouth and ground breaking is expected this spring.
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #15
Eventerke -

My car is my daily driver as well. The important thing to remember is that instructors will NEVER push you. You know your limits, both in skill and nerve. So, you go as fast as you are comfortable with. That said, if you are puttering around, they might suggest you step it up to stay out of the way of faster cars or pit and then come back out to allow the faster cars to move on.

It's a great experience. One thing I would suggest is that if you can get into a local autocross, try that first.

There is an old expression that says "Good autocrossers make great road racers, but great road racers make lousy autocrossers."

Basically, an autocross is a minature road course compressed into a much smaller time and space. You have little if any time to collect yourself like on a road course. As a result on a big course, it often seems easer.

I have a bumper sticker that says if autocross was any easier, they'd call it road racing. [thumb]
 

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Sückn' n Blown
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May 4-5: Summit Point, Shenandoah Circuit. 2.5 mile track with 19 turns. PERFECT for the focus. This is your opportunity to run down Cobras!

May 21st: Summit Point, Full Course. 2.5 mile track with 10 turns. Arguably one of the most technical tracks on the East Coast

June 14-15: Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Full Course. 3.7 mile track with 20 turns. Most gorgeous facility I've ever seen and FAST. My stock focus pulls 123 MPH down the long back straight.

August 4-5: Summit Point, Shenandoa Circuit. 2.5 mile track with 19 turns. PERFECT for the focus. This is your opportunity to run down Cobras!
Just out of curosity, who is hosting these? SCCA? SVTOA? NASA? Your club? I've been on Summit main with NASA, and VIR with NASA and G&W Motorsports open lapping days. I've been meaning to run with SVTOA, but their events always ended up on bad weekends for me.
 

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The Librarian
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Response to the SCCA comment regarding a wait list. In the DC area, it is next to impossible to get a slot if you intend to "arrive and drive". There is pre registration and waiting lists. It's a mess at times.
^^^Amazing...and, Norfolk as well.
While I've only raced in WA and MT with the SCCA, I've never heard of such a thing as a waiting list.

"If autocross was any easier, they'd call it road racing."
Oh yeah. Seen a few of those bumper stickers. [thumb]
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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Discussion Starter #18
The events are hosted by SVTOA, Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Porsche. I am instructing for the SCCA Performance driving experience, but those dates won't be made public until late spring. The instructors have to go through a refresher course first.

Motorsports have become very popular WD. So much so that to get track dates for next year, we are already negotiating with Summit Point. VIR has to be booked 18 months in advance.

SCCA autocrosses in this area attract over 200 cars per event. That's part of the reason I quit doing their events. Standing around for 8 hours waiting for 3 minutes behind the wheel. No thank you. I'd much rather get my 6-7 runs and be home in time for dinner.

[goofydrunk]
 

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Sückn' n Blown
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I looked into attend DC autocrosses, but the shear numbers scare me. A local club down in Richmond which I autox with is much smaller (~100 cars per event), and more enjoyable.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
EGz -

Try out the Benz autocrosses here in the DC area. We run our events in Winchester which is about a 2.5 hour trip for you. About the same if you went to FEDEX field with SCCA.

The difference is that with the Benz club, you are guaranteed a minimum of 6 runs versus 3 with SCCA. We also limit the number of participants to 60 cars. Over the last few years, we've averaged about 45 cars per event. So, there's plenty of room for you.
 
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