When it comes to HPDE weekends I like to be prepared, and part of the planning is knowing where you’re going to stay overnight. I’m not a big camping person, so I usually look for an affordable hotel close to the track. This time I decided to give Airbnb a shot, which turned out to be a great option. I found a room on Lake Sebring that offered a nice yard, grill and hot tub for half the cost of a decent hotel room. I tend to carry a lot of tension, so grilling brats next to the lake while having some beer was a great way to relax before the event. Next time you plan your HPDE trip, consider Airbnb.
5 weeks before the event I started keeping an eye on the weather for the weekend, which looked cool but dry. 2 days before the event the forecast for Saturday changed to rain… not really what I wanted for my first day at the track but that’s usually how it goes, last year I had the same issue at NCM. Sunday was supposed to be dry so things were still looking good.
I arrived early on Friday to have my car teched and get my bearings around the paddock. The inspection itself wasn’t as thorough as I’m used to, which was a bit disconcerting but I know my car is in good shape and I was eager to get on track. Considering how many people drive Sebring throughout the year, I found it very strange that there are no E85 stations listed online. I had to drive a bit over 30 miles to a town called Lake Wales to fill up my tank and fuel jugs.
The rain from Saturday provided an interesting challenge for a first timer, but I powered through and managed to lay down a lap of 2:47.59. Considering that my goal for the weekend was a 2:45 I was happy with that result. Unfortunately I accidentally deleted most of my video so I have no record from Saturday.
Sunday the temperature was low most of the day and very windy, we were advised to take it easy but the track provided plenty of grip all day. Given how cold it was a ran with the seat warmers on high the whole time… made for a much better experience.
I had to deal with traffic for the first 3 sessions so I wasn’t able to set a good lap but the passing opportunities made up for it. For my last session I had open track after the warm up laps and was able to concentrate on my driving with no interruptions. At this point my brake pedal wasn’t firm or consistent so I had to pump it to get a good response. Because of this I didn’t feel comfortable pushing my brake points but I was very happy to lay 3 very consistent laps before I wasn’t able to slow the car down properly. I had 2 off on turn 16, which was my cue to cut the session short.
I have to admit I didn’t have the balls to go flat out through Bishops Bend, the car can definitively do it but I need to improve my transitions to keep it smooth. I also need to stay flat longer as I approach 13, fixing these 2 corners will easily put me in the high 30s. Of course there are more things I need to improve, but those 2 are big ones.
The new tires handled very well, pressures were spot on all weekend (34 PSI cold, before driving to the event). After they warmed up the grip was consistent throughout the whole session, I haven’t found the limit when it’s dry so I’m looking forward to see how much more I can get out of them.
The new alignment also seems to be providing good performance, the car felt very stable and so far the wear on the tires seems consistent.
Takeaways from the weekend:
- The car burned more than 1/4 tank per session, which puts my on track MPG at around 5. I started Sunday with a bit more than 3/4 of a tank and on the last lap of the second session my gas light came on. I might have to get a third fuel jug… it’ll be tricky to put more things in the car but should be doable.
- I felt a slight hesitation coming out of a few turns when the fuel was low, the car is known to suffer from starvation with high Gs but this is the first time I’ve experienced it. If it gets worse, I’ll have to do something about it.
- Need to experiment more with the suspension to see if I can handle the bumps better, this will allow me to get on the throttle earlier and carry more speed out of turns 17 and 1.
- This region is not very strict with the skill level on the higher groups. Point bys and passing are somewhat of an issue, most of the cars should be going faster than they are.
- It seems that most of the cars that go to Sebring for HPDE are high power, there are several parts of the track where they can easily go over 100. This makes me very uneasy from an instructor perspective, the perks for entry fees are great but I’m not sure I want to be riding shotgun with a hot shoe that might not listen to directions. Still considering whether I want to instruct with this region or not.
- The concrete paddock area will get very hot in the summer, it’ll be better to find a spot on the grass.
- The prep I did before the event provided a good reference for a driving line, but once I was out there I had to change my turn in points. Most of the turns required a later turn in than I anticipated, took a while to get used to.
- The goal for the next event is to set a 2:37.5.
Overall I’m very happy with the results, looking forward to go back. I’ve uploaded pictures to the Event gallery, and the video that I managed to salvage has been posted to my YouTube channel.