I was given some spot-on advice and descriptions of the track before I left from friends who have raced there.
I was planning on camping but folks said Watkins Glen the village is part of the charm of the place. One kitchy tavern/motel there is called Seneca Lodge, and since it was forecast to rain, I decided to make a last minute reservation there.
The Track (full course): unreal, awesome, imposing, huge. Fantastic facilities. I was told to be patient, because there are precious few places where you can't get into trouble if you overcook things.
I booked a cabin at Seneca Lodge, which was awesome. A night arrival, unfamiliar facilities, in 35 degrees, in the rain? That wouldn't do. So, for just $65 a night I had a cozy clean room, warm bed, hot shower. Four miles from the track. Half a mile from downtown. And the tavern itself just steps away. Highly recommended.
Here's what surprised me, despite all the build-up and advice I was given:
This track goes down and up more than any other I've been on...it's very steep in several places, like a roller coaster, in fact. I think that's one of the most distinguishing things about it, and it's a big part of what makes it so much fun.
The clubs that rent the track get use of a huge building where everyone got to stake out a workbench and generous space for inter-session wrenching. These are the same garages the pros use when they're at the track, and it was such a luxury to have them. Wow. A workbench. That was really cool, simply because it meant for way less bending over to find stuff that would otherwise be strewn on the ground.
I had brake issues with my car most of the weekend. First, I had to install my track pads at 6am on Monday. That I expected. But most of the first day, the pedal felt just a little squishy. So in between sessions the first day, I bled the fronts, trying to find that bubble (which turned out to be in the rears). The track pads had only run two days at VIR (8 sessions), and I was hoping they would last the weekend at The Glen. They didn't. After my first session the second day, I took them off and the inner pad was down to metal. Grr. So I installed OEM pads up front, which was actually a good thing. I wanted to see if the OEM's will last just as long with cooling ducts. Not part of my plan was running out of pad on the rears. I installed Hawk Blues there, and bled out those pesky bubbles at the same time.
I got to complete all of my sessions except Day 2, Session 2, which I used to change all four corners as I said. I feel a little like I spent the entire two days doing brake work, with some driving in between.
Great Run Group:
So for my last two sessions on Tuesday, I had a nice firm pedal feel, and I was able to again turn consistent 2:28's when I wasn't slowed by those pesky S2000's.
There was also a guy in a souped up Neon SRT4, complete with track outline decals, that was hesitant to lift to let me by. I don't know if it's because I was a in a Fiesta, but it was gratifying when he finally realized he had no choice but to point me by and lift. Overall, though, the HPDE 2 group was a really great group. Lots of communication, not much conflict or consternation.
I got to ride along with an instructor in his Miata. Really fun stuff. He was turning 2:35's or so. And I let another instructor drive my car with HPDE 1 group (he took it pretty easy on the car, actually), because he was nice enough to ride with me while I was spinning out in Turn 6 ("the laces") the day before, and because he was considering buying a FiST. I think after seeing me work on my brakes as much as I did all weekend, he wasn't too pro on the idea.
Because of driver attrition on the second day, they combined the last two run groups. HPDE 3 & 4 ran with HPDE 2. That meant running with the big dogs. Fun, great practice with fast traffic, and I had a great time. I have probably ten minutes of video of the tail of that SRT4, though. :meh:
One of the best parts was grabbing dinner with a few of the instructors and then going back to the track to make s'mores and have a couple beverages. Lots of great stories, and now I know I'll be going back to hang with NASA NE sooner than later!