Ever since my first Holiday Lap at Virginia International Raceway I have wanted to come back and go flat out through the Climbing Esses, scream down Roller Coaster, bust through Hog Pen, and apex NASCAR perfectly, all without being blocked by Mustangs and Corvettes trying to make it a drag race. So when I found out that SCCA was hosting a Track Night In America event at VIR for just under $230, I quickly signed up and began prepping my 1993 Acura Vigor for its big day.
Of course, one of the most exciting track events I sign up for was also the most stressful. The overall prep of the car went smoothly until just a couple days before the big event. While bleeding the brakes I noticed the right rear caliper was leaking brake fluid from the caliper piston itself. I replaced the caliper and ran into yet another leak; the threads inside the front right caliper for the bleeder screw was gone and fluid was gravity-draining itself from the reservoir because the screw no longer could be tightened. Back to the parts store and another new caliper later, the brakes were finally bleed of air with fresh Motul RBF660 and leak-fee. What a relief! Learned a lesson, bleed brakes at least a week prior to the track day!
With the stress and worry of not being able to make it to the track now gone I was able to get some sleep for the day to come. The event was scheduled from 3:00PM to around 9:00PM, which gave me all morning to check everything over on the car one last time. I met some friends for lunch and we headed up to VIR, just a forty minute drive from where we all live. Once arrived and checked in we attended the drivers meeting and by 5:00PM I was lining up in the grid to pull out of South Paddock and onto VIR’s approximately 4,000 ft back straight, starting off my first session of the evening.
As I accelerated up the back straight with all five cylinders roaring to their 7,100 rpm fuel cut, cars ahead of me entered their first braking zone and down Roller Coaster. I was a little nervous about not having an instructor with me, since I haven’t driven VIR at high speeds before, so I made sure to find all the flag stations around the track during my first couple laps and kept an eye out for traffic coming up behind me.
After a few laps, I found myself with a lot of open space, and began to focus on what my car was doing. I tried a few things differently each lap and found what seemed to work best. Coming out of Left Hook into turn 5 and 5A is where my car pushed and wanted to understeer the most. To help fight off some of that understeer, I reduced my speed and utilized a little bit of lift-off oversteer in turn 4 to set my car up for entering turn 5 by staying further left and apexing early into 5. When done correctly I could tell the driving line was smoother and I was fighting the steering wheel and throttle less with higher exit speeds.
Climbing the Esses was a bit unnerving with my car’s super soft suspension and my late apexing causing me to input more steering than what should be needed. I also was slowing down way too much for turn 10 and apexing too early, often not using all of the track. Exiting Oak Tree didn’t prove as difficult as I imagined, but getting my car to stay in second gear mid-corner did give me a lot of trouble in turns 11 and 1.
My 176 horsepower Acura Vigor was only able to reach top speeds of about 115 miles per hour around the track, but where I felt the car shined was down Roller Coaster and out of Hog Pen on onto the front straight. Despite the soft suspension, I could get some four-wheel-slide action and carry a good bit of speed through Hog Pen onto the front straight. It seemed to just have a certain planted feel that inspired more confidence than anywhere else on the track.
By my third session I could really feel myself driving faster and smoother. This is where I was trying harder to keep up with the car in front of me but careful not to overdrive myself. I found myself chasing an E36 M3 the best I could for several laps. This was unfortunately cut short due to a cylinder misfire that resulted from a fuel injector sticking open. Thankfully that is all the trouble my car gave me for the entire event. It was halfway through the last session of the evening, and I didn’t miss out on much track time, but my GoPro did run out of battery early that session right as things between the M3 and I were getting good.
Track Night in America isn’t about racing or lap times, so I can’t tell you what my personal best was around VIR. I would have to guess it’s somewhere around the 2:30 mark or higher, which isn’t too impressive when you look at the cars that were around me. I have some things I need to work on to improve those times, once they become something that matters. Both my driving skill and the car setup need improving, but what I learned at VIR was that smoother driving will always make a faster feeling lap no matter what. I do believe I will be returning to VIR soon with more confidence now that I have been broken in and I hope to get better at a few things around the track, like staying in gear or braking later, or not at all!