Thunderhill Raceway 2005

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Thunderhill Raceway 2005


2005 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo
Dark Drive, Porsche Boxster S: Ruf 3400S
Ruf Porsche Stola RK Spyder
2006 Audi RS4

Race track



Boy oh boy I have never started a car that fast in my life before. What you see in horror movies, when the girl gets chased by a crazed axe murderer, she starts fumbling around

Day break arrived early Sunday morning, perfect weather for a drive. Showing up at Weissach's back door at 8am sharp, I found myself questioning whether I had the right time or perhaps had been a bit over enthusiastic setting all my watches back half an hour making sure I don't arrive late. The lonesome wait was short lived. Soon the cars, that would take part in the caravan started to arrive.

A bit of shop talk and a few introductions later, cell phone numbers exchanged and maps in hand, we made our way down across the border. Driving south was an absolute blast, through center Oregon, in blistering heat. Some of the guys picked up patches of 47 deg C on their onboard computers. These are temperatures I last experienced in the semi arid deserts of Southern Africa. I certainly wasn't prepared for this type of heat. However as a true enthusiast, armed with a bottle of sunscreen, I was championing top down driving. The guys had bets on me to see how long I could drive with out the shade of a canvas top. On the second day of the trip my skin started to melt and absorb into the leather seat, so it was time to put the top up. Thank god for Climate control.

Hitting a beautiful mountain pass, with freshly laid asphalt, what could be more inviting for a handful of exotic cars? Black 997S takes the lead, disappearing over the hill. A few minutes later as we entered a “straight away” we were met by a pair of flashing lights and what looked to be like a black 997S. Shortly followed by a phone call from Stuart, “that looked awfully similar to Tom's car”. Pulling aside a short distance back, waiting for our pace car driver to catch up and listen to his rendition of the event. Tom's response to the police officers questions involved an excuse pertaining to his wife, nibbling on his ear, which set an uncontrolled reaction to the gas pedal. Driving a new car, these things are hard to gauge or control for that matter. Excuse or not, a traffic violation was issued in a very polite manner.

The first night stay over in Oregon was a lot of fun. We showed up at River House resort. Hot and tired from the drive down. After a cold shower and a few minutes of R&R we assembled like a pack of hungry hyenas at the local steakhouse. I learned that it boasts the best steaks on the western coast of the States. Mental note: "Need to double check that". They take live cattle and beat them senseless in the kitchen, then feed them to you - I kid. The meat couldn't have been any more fresh or tender. But as with a high performance machine, you pay for quality. At 50 US for the meal which included an unbelievable 22 oz steak, complimented by good wine and the soothing sounds of a cool stream just a stones throw off the patio, it was well worth the experience! The meal was followed by interesting conversation and indulgence in a few more cocktails. Then everybody went to bed… except Stuart and myself. After a few more drinks and frightening away the last waitress of the night, long story, we hit the town to visit a few watering holes and look at the indigenous wildlife.

Day 2 drive went without incident, well almost. Battling through the intense temperatures on the highway could possibly lead to some strange behavior. This was clearly demonstrated by a clinically insane girl in a Honda trying to weave in and out of our caravan. More disturbing was the fact that her tires were no thicker then one side of an Oreo biscuit.

We made good time arriving at the hotel which is perfectly located just 10 minutes from the track. After a quick shower, followed by a get together at the local Mexican restaurant, we hit the sack early preparing ourselves for the next day's activities.

At night the temperature seemed to be dropping slightly. This of course meant that when I stopped for gas and to buy some fluids, I got swarmed by bugs. Now of course it doesn't help that I'm wearing deodorant (last time I checked I didn't smell like a little flower), and the fact that we are in the middle of a semi-arid desert. I made a navy-seal-stealth-type sprint for the station doorway. Moving like Carl Luis on horse steroids all the while anticipating the kamikaze attacks of flesh starved insects with my ninja reflexes, I didn't realize how slow the door opens to the little store. So there I am looking like a geriatric chimpanzee, scuttering across the fuel station parkade in a zig zag pattern, widely swatting at mosquitoes and then slamming into the door, half spinning and almost obliterating the chocolate stand on the inside. I could almost hear the clerk... "Crazy Canadians"

Day 3 started at 7am sharp. Shower, shave, and throw some sun-block on, a vest, driving shoes. Adrenalin at full alert, and arrogance checked at the door. We arrived at the track, spent the morning with an orientation session, then a warm up session for 30min, then off for a number of hot lap sessions. This track is insane. Its about 3 times longer then Mission (twice that of Seattle), and its set over a flurry of rolling hills, so there's no shortage of elevation changes. Mid day the temperatures were intense. I must have drunk 10L or more of water. We had a few interesting events. All started off with me. I had re-checked my tire pressure, as you know when the air gets hot things start to expand, so I brought it down and went back on the track. Now obviously when you are driving on the edge the slightest change in vehicle dynamics could be the difference between going home smiling or going home in a tow truck...

So in I come, threading corner number 2, long and deep into the bend, hit the apex at just the right speed, hard on the throttle out with a slight 4 wheel drift, through the gates, and into corner number three. Heel and toe into second, elevation change nose dips, corner has a negative camber. Then I start too hear tire squeal... under steer in the front... and I start to drift. As a snowboarder, the feeling you get when you loose your edge, well that's what it feels like. I start over correcting and instinctively lift lightly off the throttle. The wrong thing to do. Unfortunately with a negative camber turn, there's just no way you can get much traction no matter what you do. So there I am, doing a full pirouette on the asphalt. Luckily I looked where I wanted to go and instinct and ABS took over, stalling the car center track, pointing nose first in the right direction - can you say adrenalin rush! So there I am, on the track, stalled, with a Ferrari Stradale, and Tim's Black Porsche GT2 doing warp ten speeds hot on my 6... And I'm in a blind corner. Life kinda flashes before your eyes at that point....

Obviously everything is controlled. Black flags went up and every car slowed down. Not much risk to any one. But in a panic I wasn't focused on the flag men.

Boy oh boy I have never started a car that fast in my life before. What you see in horror movies, when the girl gets chased by a crazed axe murderer, she starts fumbling around with her keys, and then drops them - NOT TRUE!!!! Hell I never knew my wrist could twist that fast. Off I went, one lesson learned, and covered with rubber dust!

The day carried on with a Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster landing up tail first in the grass, followed up by a Ferrari 360, which came to roost way out, off in the gravel. Then there was Tom, in his exquisite 997 Carrera S. Following me like a black mamba chasing its prey. Through the turns, my car proved a bit more forgiving as opposed to the more powerful, rear engine biased 997S. Watching in my rear view mirror as I exited turn 15, I saw him slowly gaining on me. Suddenly, akin to a Russian ballerina, he landed a beautifully controlled 360 spin just in front of pit lane. Show off!

Day 4 on the track was just as exciting, if not more. In a space of 30 min we had 5 spin outs! After a good night's sleep and dreams of winning the Daytona 24 all of us hit the track a little too hot. A quick talking to and education in the form of turn studies by the experts of Proformance and we were back on track, slightly toned down. From then on it was smooth sailing. Gradual progression of speeds, skill and confidence started to grow. Adrenalin and fun were the names of the game, and boy, were we having fun. It's a pity the day ended as soon as it did. Five o'clock came way too early.

Then it was time to unwind by the pool and dig in to a perfectly mouth watering feast. BBQ ribs, chicken, steak, with a long awaited compliment of cold beer was a perfect end to a great vacation.

I'd like to wish Tom and Pauline all the best on their anniversary. And Laurence, that's one killer way to spend your birthday!

My hat goes off to Stuart and Asgar for putting together this incredible event. This wasn't just a track event it was a well planned out vacation package. Many thanks to Don Kitch and his group from Seattle, with out them this event would not have been possible.

Till next year,

PS. There are rumblings down the grape vine that next year there might be an event, or better termed, vacation/tour. I believe this would involve a run along the Oregon coast, stop over at thunderhill, Nappa Valley wine testing, and on to Leguna Seca raceway… does it get any better then that?

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