Track Attack #12, TA’s first day at Calabogie Motorsports Park

Bruce H.

Mar 3, 2013
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Near Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sept 19, 2014

This is one tough track. Built in 2006, it’s set into a highland wilderness in north eastern Ontario, 3 ¼ hrs from my home, and just an hour west of Ottawa, the country’s capital. Popular among the locals for its proximity, its tight layout and 20 technical corners give drivers and their cars a serious work out, and some don’t like it for those reasons. I ran the track’s first lapping day with some friends back then in an MR2 Turbo, and maybe 3 times since, the last since 2007 being 2 years ago in an XKR that didn’t like the track at all with its sensitive stability/traction control.

The TA and Track Pack Corsa tires are not supposed to be subjected to temps below 50F according to Pirelli, and their rep told me they sell many replacements to those who don’t heed that warning. He has personally seen them survive to 45 F. I had planned to stay over in a motel near the track the night before, but when that night’s low was forecasted to be around 20F I decided to stay home and leave the car in the garage with heat on all night. Fields were covered in frost on that early morning drive and unusually cold September morning, temps in the low 20’s, and I hoped the tires were staying warm enough as I drove on them.

Frosty drive to Calabogie
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I have never driven a track where the driving line through many corners is so critical, and 20 is an awful lot of corners just to remember, never-mind consistently nail well. Get them wrong and you lose a lot of speed and time, and it screws you up for the entry into the next corner which is seldom more than a moment away. This track is well-suited to super agile “momentum” cars with suspension and brake upgrades, like a race prepped BMW 325, and for experienced drivers that have a lot of seat time on this track. Thankfully I had an agile car, but…

First session on track was only 40F, and the tires never did really seem to warm up and provide half way decent grip until the afternoon. I think I only reduced pressures once 2 psi to account for heating up on the track all day, as opposed to maybe needing to do 6-8 psi in warmer weather. They also felt like they were being destroyed on rough asphalt, with the pavement’s rough texture transmitted through the steering wheel. I mentioned that to Claude, a long time track buddy, who didn’t really get the same feeling on his Michelin Pilot Super Sports. Soon after he discovered that he had corded two of his tires, and I missed the last session when I discovered the same. Then a fellow with a 911 GT3 corded his. So I lost one new front Corsa tire with only one previous track day on it, after getting 10 days on the original fronts, and I corded one of the original rears that were only half worn. $1500 out the window because of a rough track surface! Not impressed, and I won’t be back until they repave the rough areas.

Tires that were destroyed by rough asphalt, ready for recycle
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I expected that the TA would do well if I could exercise enough throttle restraint for the tight configuration, and if I could keep the laps tidy, but if I were truly honest I’d have to say I just sucked. Even the car told me I sucked, showing peak G’s well below my usual. There’s no substitute for seat time on any given track, and I just couldn’t attack this one with my usual level of comfort and commitment. The tires weren’t hooked, they felt like they were being torn up in some corners, and I hadn’t really found the line that felt right, and that I could run consistently. Tough to let the car off the leash to run good lap times when you don’t have the line down pat. I was there with track friends that live close by and who often track there, year after year, and where Claude in his modded GT-R is usually the fastest car on track. He rode with me later in the day to give me some tips, but I didn’t have enough time to master them. Here’s a short video showing a couple of those laps.

There was a new Z28 Camaro there that passed me, and I’d like to think that he was very experienced on this track the way he was attacking the corners. There was also a friend of Claude’s in a 325i race car who I had passed earlier, left for dead on the two straights, only to have him on my tail again a couple of corners later. So yes, I made his day and gave him the pass-by. Afterwards in the paddock he was just so excited that he had passed the almighty and record setting TA, and I was happy for him :)

There’s a temptation to try to drive faster when another car starts to gain on you, particularly if you feel it’s a lesser car, but that’s when you start to focus too much on his driving in your mirrors and not enough on your own. If you let your ego get the better of you you’re likely to run out of talent half way around a corner and end up somewhere you’ll regret. The same thing can happen easily if you catch up to a similarly fast (or even faster) car, maybe because it had been held up in traffic, and he gives you the pass-by. Now you’ve got your equal (or faster) car on your tail and can’t get away. Check your ego and give him the pass-by. You just can’t suddenly drive faster by trying harder…you get faster with seat time, and a little bit at a time. Hitting a wall is one way to learn to check your ego, but learning from other driver’s mistakes is a lot less expensive ;)

We had a great dinner together afterwards, and it had been a pretty good day, other than destroying two good tires. My problem now was figuring out how to get them replaced in time for my next booked track day a few days later at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant…the subject of the next Track Attack thread!

And for a little nostalgia, here’s a video from the track’s first year with me driving my ’93 MR2 Turbo, and one of the last times it was on a track. A friend had the camera in his Bimmer E30 race car. He seemed to have a little trouble keeping up so I kept slowing down to stay in camera range. Always loved that car, and have decided to start tracking it again next year, with my son at the wheel mostly!

And with aero at the iconic Watkin’s Glen, NY
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Thanks for reading…and I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Ralph and his great SRT Viper Team who designed and built these amazing Gen V’s!


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