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Old 12-31-2017, 12:06 AM
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JackOlsen
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Default You never know WHO you might be talking to

I went out for a testing day on Friday at my local track, Willow Springs.

I’ve been working for three winters now to try to get down to a 1:25 lap in my 911. To do it, I’ll need the perfect combination of temperature, winds, track conditions, tire condition, and, well, driving ability. I had some of those pieces in place yesterday, but… not quite. I got down into the 1:28’s pretty early, then with some tire pressure adjustments and a little focus, got into the 1:27’s. All of that is good for me and the car -- but the ambient temperatures, which had started out in the mid 30’s (which is perfect), got up close to 50 by about 11:00 and continued to rise.

There were about half a dozen other cars at this testing day. Right when I got there, someone came up and told me they’d watched my instructional video for the track earlier that morning. Another guy came up later and told me he’d met me for the first time in 1998, and had become a certified track nut in the meantime. People have heard of my car, my garage, and my track videos because I talk about them online. For me, it’s part of the fun of this hobby. But the one complicating factor with it is my prosopagnosia — I don’t recognize faces the way other people do. I use other things to identify people. Their cars are an easy trick. Other people suffer from this to greater or lesser extent. I have it worse than most. But I get by.

I’ve been driving this one track almost exclusively now for nine years, and it’s tricky to try to find areas where I can squeeze more out. There were some new cones set up along one section of the track, and I was using them to experiment with putting off my braking for turn 9, an infamous decreasing-radius turn taken at about 100 mph.

Here's a 1965 clip about turn 9, to give you some perspective:


Early in the day, I put it off that braking point a little bit too long — and went right off the track. My splitter sometimes contacts the pavement under hard braking, which has sharpened the leading edge of the aluminum like a knife. So going through the tumbleweed, it acted like a high=performance lawn mower. At the end of this video, you’ll see what the front of the car looked like when I pulled in.


There was no damage to the car, fortunately. My home-made aero pieces can be sacrificed in an incident like this, but the splitter was fine. The sand and dust I drove through paints a very literal picture on the back of the car of where there is an aerodynamic low-pressure area.



I came in, checked everything out, and went right back and clicked off another 1:27.

All of my aero unbolts and gets packed into the car at the end of the day. As I was packing up, a guy named Randy came over from a group driving old Fords and Shelbys and introduced a friend of his who wanted to ask me some questions about my car.

He noted my lap time. He looked at the contours of the car. He lifted up the wing (which was off the car, now) and felt its weight. He asked about everything, including the profile of the wing, the downforce I thought it generated and how I’d put it together.

Everybody asks questions — that’s what people do at a track day — but his were more focused than most. As the two men left, it was eating away at me that I might have met this guy before, or something like that. I remembered he’d been introduced as ‘Pete.’

I got everything packed away inside the car.



I went to wash my hands and said good-bye to the guy named Randy as I headed back to the car. He smiled and asked if I knew who I’d been talking to. That’s when it finally clicked.

That was Peter Brock.

If you don’t know, he talked his way into the Art Center’s design program when he was 17, then got hired at the age of 19 by GM, where he’s credited with the first defining drawings of what became the Corvette Sting Ray. He drew them when he was 20. And he’s also the guy who went to work for Carroll Shelby to run the Shelby Racing School. After Shelby found out that Brock was more than just a fast driver, Brock designed the Daytona Coupe that raced (and won) at Le Mans, the Nurburgring, Daytona and Sebring. Brock was the one who had to explain to Shelby why turning the Cobra into a coupe with a hard top wasn’t enough — for effective aerodynamics, they’d need to do a ground-up redesign of the car.

I didn’t have any of this in my head while I was clumsily talking up the virtues of my home-made, beer-cooler-foam wing and my high-tech (to me) methods of estimating downforce by measuring ride height with $5 junk-yard sensors pulled from a 1996 Lincoln Continental. But in retrospect, it was one of the great moments you can have at a track — casually talking cars with a guy who just happens to be a living legend.

If I’d had the good sense to realize who it was I was talking to, I’ll bet he could have given me a tip or two about that aero or the car to get me that 1:25 — or if I’d tossed him a helmet, he’d no doubt been able to take the 911 out and drive it to one.

Ah well. It was a complete pleasure speaking to him.

Here's one picture of him from back in the day, and one I found from this week.



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Old 12-31-2017, 12:38 AM
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Texas RS
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Originally Posted by JackOlsen View Post
I went out for a testing day on Friday at my local track, Willow Springs.

I’ve been working for three winters now to try to get down to a 1:25 lap in my 911. To do it, I’ll need the perfect combination of temperature, winds, track conditions, tire condition, and, well, driving ability. I had some of those pieces in place yesterday, but… not quite. I got down into the 1:28’s pretty early, then with some tire pressure adjustments and a little focus, got into the 1:27’s. All of that is good for me and the car -- but the ambient temperatures, which had started out in the mid 30’s (which is perfect), got up close to 50 by about 11:00 and continued to rise.

There were about half a dozen other cars at this testing day. Right when I got there, someone came up and told me they’d watched my instructional video for the track earlier that morning. Another guy came up later and told me he’d met me for the first time in 1998, and had become a certified track nut in the meantime. People have heard of my car, my garage, and my track videos because I talk about them online. For me, it’s part of the fun of this hobby. But the one complicating factor with it is my prosopagnosia — I don’t recognize faces the way other people do. I use other things to identify people. Their cars are an easy trick. Other people suffer from this to greater or lesser extent. I have it worse than most. But I get by.

I’ve been driving this one track almost exclusively now for nine years, and it’s tricky to try to find areas where I can squeeze more out. There were some new cones set up along one section of the track, and I was using them to experiment with putting off my braking for turn 9, an infamous decreasing-radius turn taken at about 100 mph.

Here's a 1965 clip about turn 9, to give you some perspective:

I came in, checked everything out, and went right back and clicked off another 1:27.

All of my aero unbolts and gets packed into the car at the end of the day. As I was packing up, a guy named Randy came over from a group driving old Fords and Shelbys and introduced a friend of his who wanted to ask me some questions about my car.

He noted my lap time. He looked at the contours of the car. He lifted up the wing (which was off the car, now) and felt its weight. He asked about everything, including the profile of the wing, the downforce I thought it generated and how I’d put it together.

Everybody asks questions — that’s what people do at a track day — but his were more focused than most. As the two men left, it was eating away at me that I might have met this guy before, or something like that. I remembered he’d been introduced as ‘Pete.’

I got everything packed away inside the car.

I went to wash my hands and said good-bye to the guy named Randy as I headed back to the car. He smiled and asked if I knew who I’d been talking to. That’s when it finally clicked.

That was Peter Brock.

If you don’t know, he talked his way into the Art Center’s design program when he was 17, then got hired at the age of 19 by GM, where he’s credited with the first defining drawings of what became the Corvette Sting Ray. He drew them when he was 20. And he’s also the guy who went to work for Carroll Shelby to run the Shelby Racing School. After Shelby found out that Brock was more than just a fast driver, Brock designed the Daytona Coupe that raced (and won) at Le Mans, the Nurburgring, Daytona and Sebring. Brock was the one who had to explain to Shelby why turning the Cobra into a coupe with a hard top wasn’t enough — for effective aerodynamics, they’d need to do a ground-up redesign of the car.

I didn’t have any of this in my head while I was clumsily talking up the virtues of my home-made, beer-cooler-foam wing and my high-tech (to me) methods of estimating downforce by measuring ride height with $5 junk-yard sensors pulled from a 1996 Lincoln Continental. But in retrospect, it was one of the great moments you can have at a track — casually talking cars with a guy who just happens to be a living legend.

If I’d had the good sense to realize who it was I was talking to, I’ll bet he could have given me a tip or two about that aero or the car to get me that 1:25 — or if I’d tossed him a helmet, he’d no doubt been able to take the 911 out and drive it to one.

Ah well. It was a complete pleasure speaking to him.

Here's one picture of him from back in the day, and one I found from this week.


Great story Jack. Reminds me of a trip to Watkins Glen with my father last year. While we were at the track a seasoned gentleman came over and introduced himself to my father and they stuck up a conversation. As it turned out the guy was Don ***, one of Roger Penske's first engineers. He worked for Roger for more than 30 years and he had a lot of very interesting racing related stories to share about his time in racing. At the time he was working on improving the handling characteristics of his current GT4. You never know who you are going to at the track.

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Old 12-31-2017, 02:03 AM
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I was part of the vette group testing but came after you had already left. In your car if 30s is perfect temp and the day got to 70F, what does that 40 degree delta cost you in time?
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Old 12-31-2017, 08:21 AM
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Great story!
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Old 12-31-2017, 09:25 AM
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I was watching a rerun of Chasing Classic Cars this morning, and Peter Brock makes a brief cameo.
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Old 12-31-2017, 11:36 AM
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Really cool story, and I love your 911. My first 911 was a black '72 that I "RSR'd". Do you know your car's history?
But your real problem isn't your wing, it's that you're not driving a GT40 like in the video.
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Old 01-01-2018, 04:55 AM
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Hey Jack, I was there too. I had expected only a small turnout for a track day in December, and it was a nice surprise to see you rolling in. And then I saw Old Yeller getting unloaded, and later Pete Brock standing next to a Cobra with period racing history. Very cool.
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Old 01-01-2018, 10:24 AM
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Great story. Thanks for posting and Happy New Year!
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Old 01-01-2018, 01:00 PM
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Great story Jack. That is one of the great things about track days... you meet some amazing people. In my mind, this is too good of a learning experience to pass up. Since Peter still runs the Aerovault company (I believe) I would call there and follow up with him to get his thoughts and recommendations on your car. You may never get this good of an opportunity again.

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Old 01-01-2018, 01:05 PM
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By the way the number at Aerovault is 702-843-5320. I have heard that he or his wife usually pick up the calls.

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Old 01-01-2018, 01:28 PM
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Peter (and Gayle) are a blessing! He's fun, approachable and very open in sharing his knowledge. He's a regular on the concours and historic racing circuit.



Presenting concours awards and a little history lesson with the great Peter Brock.
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Old 01-02-2018, 04:39 PM
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Peter and Gayle are nice peeps! They designed and sold me my Aerovault trailer and were delightful to work with.
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Old 01-04-2018, 01:41 AM
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Agreed; Pete and his wife are friends of my parents. Pete and I converse sometimes by email; mostly when I have been mulling over car purchases. He is a really great guy.
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Old 01-04-2018, 04:44 PM
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Cool story Jack.
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Old 01-04-2018, 04:51 PM
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Great read. Thanks.

Thanks also for teaching me a new word.

Prosopagnosia
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