This past weekend FR-S and BRZ drivers converged from all parts of California to join us at ThunderHill Raceway in Willows, CA for a two-day weekend of track action. These days were Rounds 10 and 11 of the NorCal 86CUP time attack competition series, which is a friendly and fun but competitive time trial event held exclusively for drivers of the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. We were there in the midst of the action and have many photos and stories to share with you. Both days were held on the 3-mile section of ThunderHill, aka ThunderHill East.
Saturday morning started off with a decent amount of rain and the first session of the day proved to be a wet and wild one. Several cars spun or went off the track on the very first lap, including yours truly and it served as a sharp reminder to us all that the track was very slippery in the wet. I myself vowed to take it easy the rest of the day, and it wasn’t until later in the day that the track started to dry off and I was able to regain some confidence in myself, and my tires.
Funny enough, this was the second event where we went out on track and although we were supposed to be running the bypass configuration on Saturday, the track was set up for the Cyclone configuration and so our first session turned out to be a preview of the Sunday drive. After the first session they reset the track to the Bypass config.
There was one major incident at the track on Saturday that caused a full red flag stop of all track activity. A Honda Civic Si went off at turn 9 and managed to flip several times as it made its way into the sloped hillside. The car looked completely wrecked but miraculously the occupants climbed out and were fine albeit a bit shaken up. I don’t know exactly what happened but it definitely was another wake up call to most of us — track driving can be dangerous and you need to drive within your limits and be safe. Some of the drivers we know have gone all out on the safety equipment, fitting their cars with a roll cage and wearing a HANS device with their helmet.
We celebrated a birthday while at the track — one of our 86CUP competitors RehabJeff86 had his birthday on Sunday and his wife and friends were nice enough to come up for a day and even brought some delicious cakes from the Bay Area for us all to enjoy. Happy Birthday Jeff!
We also shared the track on Sunday with the motorcycle group. It was quite thrilling to see and hear the motos ripping around the track when it was not our turn to drive. If you closed your eyes you could almost imagine the high revving sounds to be formula cars racing around the track. Some of our drivers are former riders and it certainly brought back some nostalgia for them, and perhaps a little bit of temptation. “Honey, can I have another bike?”
Experienced S2000 and BRZ hotshoe Mike Kang from CounterSpace Garage down in Southern California made the trek up to hang out with us and offer his coaching and technical advice to our group. He proved to be a valuable source of knowledge for many in our group. I took him up on his coaching in my second session on Sunday and the advice and input he had definitely had an impact on my driving. I found myself gaining more and more speed around the track and with his encouragement regained the confidence I had lost in the rains on Saturday.
He also brought the CSG BRZ (sporting a Jackson Racing supercharger) up from SoCal and showed us what a well prepped track car could do on our own home course. Despite never having driven ThunderHill before Sunday, he set a best lap of 2:10 — quite impressive for a first outing on an unfamiliar course.
It was a great weekend at the track and when we weren’t out there tearing it up on the track we were standing or sitting around talking about the pursuit of the perfect lap — optimal lines, approaches to particular corners, entry and exit speeds, downforce and tire grip. Discussions of a lot of science that goes into a very challenging art.
But ultimately it came down to having fun with other friendly drivers and sharing a common bond and experience. For many of us it was a learning experience but having fun while doing it, is what makes it so memorable and something we can’t wait to do again.
NorCal 86CUP’s final event, Round 12, takes place at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca on December 27. For more information on this series visit the thread at FT86Club.
Photo gallery — click on the photos to enlarge. Thanks to Scott G., Kevin S., and Jessie S. for their photo contributions!