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Well, it's taken me a while to get around to posting (here anyway) about last weekends DE at Carolina Motorsports Park, but I've got to say it was an absolute blast! Easily my best track experience to date. (Not that there have been that many...)

I got on the road much later than I had planned, but made the 3-hour drive down to Camden, SC last Friday evening and checked into the hotel the Hurricane Region PCA was using as their headquarters for the weekend. It was nice spot and I was quickly sound asleep with visions of apex's dancing in my head.


Got up very early on Saturday, ate a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel and made my way to track, located about 18 miles away in Kershaw, SC.

I got to the track in plenty of time to set up in the paddock, get checked in, tech inspected, and make the drivers meeting. From there it was off to class. I was placed in the Blue (Intermediate) run group and it seemed like a good bunch of folks and a nice mix of cars was at the track.

As a side note, some of the more interesting cars in attendance (to me anyway) were a Nissan GT-R, an Audi S5 (I had seriously considered this car before buying my CS), and a Ferrari F430 Spyder - with 30 day tags!

We had been expecting very hot weather - this is SC at the end of August after all - but it turned out to be a very pretty weekend, with fantastic weather especially early on Saturday with the rest of the weekend being entirely reasonable.

I met my instructor after class and we prepared for the first track session of the day. I liked my instructor a good bit and really feel like I learned a lot from him over the weekend. The first session was my first time on the track and while it wasn't anything like smooth, things felt very good. I liked the track a lot; it was technical and certainly challenging, but didn't appear nearly as intimidating (to me, anyway) as VIR, where I had run all my previous DE's.

My second session out was a bit better than the first, and I was starting to get really comfortable with the car. I had only one DE with my CS at VIR last year and I never really got in a groove there. Something clicked this weekend, however, and the car and I really started getting along. I'm not claiming I was fast or good, but I do think I've reached a new level of understanding of what the CS can really do.

The next two sessions of the day went really well and I was obvioiusly quicker and more consistant as the day continued. Granted, there were only about 20 cars in the run group, so it wasn't a crowded track, but I was able to carry good speeds through many of the turns and passed a number of cars in each session.

Again, I've got to say I really feel like I've made a break-through with the car now. I was able to place the car around turns largely using the throttle and the precision of the control was amazing. I absolutely need to work on smoother inputs in steering, throttle, and brakes, but I'm staring to feel like I'm getting control of the car. There is just so much feedback coming to you through the steering wheel and your butt in the seat it's almost easy. The car really goes where you think it, and it just gets better with speed.

Saturday evening was fun as a whole bunch of folks, instructors and students alike, headed to a local Mexican restaurant for some good food and track talk. It was a nice way to wind down, and to talk over a few lessons learned during the day.

The first session Sunday I seemed to pretty much pick up right were I left off, and my instructor gave me some excellent tips on some finer point that really helped me in a few corners. I'm liking this!

My instructor offered to sign me off for solo and I was stoked! The process was actually pretty formal at this event, in that I had to ride with a different instructor for my next session and then if he agreed I could solo, he and my original instructor had to sign a form releasing me out on my own. Both agreed and so for my third session I was on my own!

I have to say the first thing I did on my own was very nearly put two wheels off in a bad place on the track - Turn 3, for those who have been there. My first lap out alone I took it pretty easy, but with the start of lap two it was hammer down. I got through Turns 1 and 2 in good shape and heading hard into 3, a tight left-hand sweeper. My speed and line were good, but I quickly realized I didn't have the weight of an instructor in the passenger seat any more! The car drifted a good way to the right as I got on the throttle at the apex, and there I was hard on the gator and confronting a tire wall if I went off!

I am very happy to say the class work and instructor lessons kicked in, however, and I stayed constant on the throttle, kept the car nice and straight until it settled down, and then eased back to the left and onto the proper part of the track. Instead of possible disaster (we were repeated told how dangerous Turn 3 is!), there I was safely through and headed for Turn 4! One of my prouder moments of the weekend.

My last session of the day (and the weekend) ended early when about 15 minutes into the 20 minute time slot I turned a lap just exactly as I wanted to. I figured why press my luck on the last laps, so I took a cool-down lap and headed into the pits to pack up and head home. All in all it had been a VERY good two days at the track.

CMP is a great track, the Hurricane Region folks did an excellent job, and my instructor was probably the best I've had yet. I certainly learned the most from him - though I suppose it may be because I listened to him better than the others.

Still, I had a wonderful time! Now I have to work hard to not get too cocky for my next event and not think I've advanced farther than I have. I know I'm still not nearly the fastest guy out there (which really isn't my goal, anyway) and I still have much to learn. Being humble is a virtue, I think, and there is always more to learn!

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