Potomac Chesapeake ACNA
Fall Finale HPDE School
November 7-8, 2020
VIR – Full Course
If, like me, you occasionally feel the need for speed, the best solution is to attend a High Performance Driver Education (HDPE) school where you can fulfill this desire in a controlled environment. Your car will thank you. Fortunately, ACNA offers such events and enlists an elite core of instructors so that safety and learning are maximized. I have participated in HPDE schools for over 20 years at a number of tracks. However, my favorite track is VIR, and it is only a 40 mile commute from home. I wish to express a word of thanks to the sponsors for this year’s event: NGP https://www.ngpracing.com/?page_id=14, Craftsman Auto Care https://www.craftsmanautocare.com/ , GMP https://www.gmpperformance.com/ and Audi Annapolis https://www.audiannapolis.com/. Their support is critical to making events such as this affordable to a more inclusive group of us addicts.
We were fortunate to have had a dry weekend. The temperatures on both Saturday and Sunday were substantially warmer than last year when the arrival temperatures were at or below freezing. This event the temperature spread was from about 45-49°F upon arrival to a peak of about 75°F in early afternoon. We were specifically warned that as the sun angle became lower later in the afternoon, some grip would go away. Because I don’t drive anywhere close to the car’s limit, the amount of traction available probably had a minimal effect on my lap times (but then , who’s counting). As was the case last year, the Blue run group (Intermediate Solo) was the first on track both mornings. There was a bit of fog Sunday morning, but it burned off quickly. There was also a bit of dew on the track, so we were advised NOT to drive over the gators (some folks might have been tempted to do this to straighten out/shorten sections of the track) because the painted surface is slippery when wet.
The COVID pandemic definitely affected how some things were done, including in-car registration, on-line waiver form signing, option of Lead-Follow instruction and the cancellation of the Saturday evening banquet. Wearing masks was mandatory as was social distancing unless you had an in-car instructor where the full face helmet served as the mask. Our classroom sessions were held outdoors (indoor classroom not able to safely accommodate 34 students) under a pavilion that backs up to the turn 3 (NASCAR Bend) to turn 4 (Left Hook) short straight where the noise of pedal to the metal acceleration of Black group vehicles often drowned out the instructor.
As always, the cars/drivers were assigned to 5 run groups based on experience and demonstrated ability on track. This grouping means that in every run group there will be a large disparity in the horsepower of cars. For example, there were 3 Miata’s in the Blue run group. Although they were not fast, they were able to carry more speed through the turns and overtake some of the more powerful cars. There were a total of 34 cars in our run group, and most of the Audi’s (TT, TTS, TTRS, S5), BMW M3’s, Porsches (911’s, Cayman, GT3 and GT4) and a Viper were flat out fast! If I saw any of these cars closing on me, I gave them an acknowledging wave at the inside mirror and looked ahead for the next safe passing zone. Passing is by “invitation”. If I put on my left turn signal, that means you may pass me on the left. If I put on my right turn signal, that means you may pass on the right. The turn signals are consistent with the hand signals but safer since the driver can keep two hands on the steering wheel. The 3.27 mile course has 21 turns numbered 1 to 17 with 4 of them having 2 numbers such as 5 and 5a, etc. In addition to the 3 basic and longer passing zones (6a to 7 – bridge straight, 12 to 14 – back straight, and 17a to 1 – front straight), passing was also allowed in 5 shorter straights but necessitating the car being passed backing off to enable a safe pass. The car doing the passing will go off-line, thus the need for the car being passed to back off to facilitate the pass before the next turn. All the cars I saw seemed to be cooperating. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend which included a minimum of spinouts or other off-track incidents. It’s great fun when people play nice!
Almost all of the Blue run group students were not assigned instructors, so I was solo for the whole weekend. Each run group got four 25-minute sessions on track each day. This was only my second HPDE school in the 2019 Audi RS5 equipped with a 2.9L biturbo V-6 (444 hp and 443 ft-lbs of torque) paired with an 8-speed automatic. The car is quick (0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds) and on par with the 2015 Stingray Z51 (7-speed manual) that it replaced. With its lower gearing and AWD, the RS5 is actually faster than the Corvette in short straights such as between turns 2 & 3, 3 & 4, and 15 & 16. In the long back straight, the RS5 is capable of at least 140 mph. However, this year, I limited my top speed to 135 mph in the back straight and 125 mph in the front straight. I left the transmission in S and partially disabled the stability system to allow earlier turbo boost out of corners. I did use the paddle shifters for downshifting coming into turns and occasionally upshifting early to save wear on the car if doing so did not impede cars behind me. In a normal lap I would use gears 3-6. The car redlines at 6700 rpm which equals 71 mph in 3rd, 89 mph in 4th, 117 mph in 5th and 153 mph in 6th (top speed governed to 155 mph but likely not doable on this track). On the last session on Saturday, the low fuel indicator came on before my session ended, so I backed off and short shifted to be sure I could complete the session. The miles to empty was showing 25 ! However, after leaving the track for home that number increased to 30 miles under gentle acceleration and NMT 57 mph on the highway toward home. I traveled about 17 miles before filling the 15.3-gallon tank with 13.3 gallons, so the low fuel warning seems to err on the side of caution (good to know).
My records for mileage to/from the track, mileage on track/paddock, and fuel purchases indicate that I got about 31.7 mpg to/from VIR (way better than the EPA highway estimate of 27 mpg) and about 9.1 mpg on the track and in the pit area.
I encourage the readers to look at a layout of the track by going to https://virnow.com/track/configurations/ The Full Course was used both days. From there you can scroll down to view or print track maps.
There are 3 lodging options on-site, (1)Paddock Garage Suites, (2) The Lodge (motel like) and (3) The Villas (condo like) ( https://virnow.com/lodging/ )which are nice in saving the back and forth drive to the track each day.
Audi Club PCC runs a well-organized event and did a good job in addressing all the precautions for the benefit of everyone’s health and welfare. It does reduce the comradery element a bit, but it was great just being able to get out to enjoy my RS5 and VIR.
Roy A. Swaringen, Jr, Ph.D.
Black 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback