Only one word needs to be used to describe this event: Wet. Perhaps even a better word to summarize the day would be Slippery…
Paul and I were back to PIR only 6 days after our last appearance and things were going pretty smooth Friday night as we checked into our Motel 6 that was less than a mile from the track. We didn’t get checked in until nearly 9, but we still had time to drop by BJ’s Brewhouse in Jantzen Beach for some of their Blonde Ale. Paul’s meatloaf was outstanding, but my ‘southwest’ spring rolls were shit (if only I had associated southwest with the crappy airline, I could’ve avoided that let down!) But it was just what we needed to settle down and attempt some sleep before what felt like the 3rd Christmas morning this year.
The next day we arrived very early, and once checked in (settling our fears of not making the event due to the lack of event registration confirmation), we rolled into the puddled PIR with the Rabbit and the M3. It had rained the night before, but the forecasted all-day-rain had yet to appear and we were in fact met with partly sunny skies! Everyone had a buzz of optimism that the sun might stick around on our day of hookie at the track.
But that didn’t last any longer than the first run session, which Paul was lucky enough to get in on. My session, Novice for my first rear-wheel-drive outing at PIR, was immediately under rain. No big deal, right?
Well needless to say, I was waaay over confident as my previous PIR sessions in the Rabbit proved to be trouble free and quite quick. But those illusions of racing grandeur were quickly squashed as my third lap out resulted in a 180 between turns 8 and 9. I had just passed a few slower cars on the front straight and was ready for a quicker pace. But as I exited 8 using a line that the Rabbit thrives on, the back end got light and started to move to the left, point the car to the right. I was prepared for this though, knowing that at some point during our track day the M would likely move around. This is what I wanted out of my track day, to find the limits of this car. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon!
I heard numerous instructor’s voices in my head, all shouting loudly in my memory, to continue to apply throttle even with the back end loose to keep the weight over the rear axle in the hopes of controlling the slide. I ended up never fully lifting, but did try to modulate the gas to regain full control. At first it felt like I had it and was going to pull through. But then in an instant I lost it and the rear end swapped positions with the front and my windscreen turned into a huge rearview mirror as I faced all the cars behind me. We were now traveling backwards, but the tire squealing turnaround had scrubbed off most of the speed and we quickly settled on the slick and muddy grass infield.
My initial reaction was that of relief as I expected something to happen switching from our fast and easy front wheel drive Rabbit to the more delicately balanced, rear-wheel drive setup of the M3. Not to mention the car remained un-bent! My mindset was that, “Now that that’s over with” we could get back to getting faster. We watched the caravan of cars go by and we talked about what had happened and what to do next. We were luckily in a safe spot and once I re-fired the stalled motor, I delicately dug up the infield to turn around and got back on track.
Unfortunately, it continued to rain all day. When the racetrack gets wet, it turns to near ice-like conditions. There’s years of built-up oil, coolant, and other fluids just waiting to come to the surface when it rains. So most of the day was spent learning the new line for the M3 and delicately upping the pace without spinning. I don’t think I exceeded 65 the rest of the day, and in most sections was doing more like 45.
Meanwhile, Paul was out in the Rabbit putting on a clinic. He kept coming in remarking how great the car felt and how easy it was to pass. My confidence was in the toilet and he was having a blast!
All was not lost however, as my instructor ended up being Dubsquad member Gabe B. I recognized Gabe from previous PIR events and his excellent supercharged R32. But what I learned is that Gabe spends almost all his free time at PIR and is very accomplished driver and instructor. His instruction was very good and taught me alot about my car and the track, and really opened my eyes to my truly novice PIR talents. I have a lot to learn, but he was very cool the entire time (including some hot laps riding shotgun in his car at a pace I simply couldn’t believe could be achieved in the wet on slicks!)
All in all, a useful day that probably taught me some important lessons that’ll keep me out of the wall in my baby. But no question, I’ll be looking forward to the next warm and dry event to try again!
A very big kudos to the Portland BMW ACA Club. I’ve attended nearly 10 PIR instructional events now, and this was by far the best run and most organized of any organization I’ve witness thus far. Everything was clearly explained, all sessions were on-time (which is unheard of), and the attitude of almost everyone involved was very impressive and encouraging. Nice job guys!
All photo’s from Jerald @ pnw-foto.com, who I’ll be buying prints from soon!