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In the state of Arizona, driving in excess of 20 mph above the posted speed limit is classified as a "criminal" offense. This is certainly not the kind of traffic violation for which you want to be cited. Trust me. I learned this fact the hard way. But what's a fair-haired lad with a lead foot to do in order to feed his need for speed? Take it to the track, of course.
To help us speed junkies feed our addictions and - just maybe - make better drivers of us at the same time, a wonderful man by the name of Larry Pond founded an organization called Pro Autosports. This organization sponsors open track events at a number of first-rate tracks. Larry is a retired professional racer with over 100 wins to his credit, so he understands the need for speed that gnaws at many of us, and he has dedicated himself to helping us legally satisfy that need, in as safe a venue as possible.
We in Arizona are also fortunate to have a local SVTOA chapter that also believes we should periodically have the opportunity to drive our vehicles the way they were engineered and built to be driven. Toward that end, our club regularly sponsors trips down to the Carlotta autocross track, at Central Arizona College, where we can grind our tires and brake pads down to powder in no time at all. Although Carlotta is a very short track, with average lap times in the vicinity of one minute, it is the same track used by various state, county, and local law enforcement personnel for pursuit training, so it is understandably very a challenging course.
2008 Update: For the 2008 season, Pro Autosports instituted a new rule requiring convertibles without roll bars to run with their tops up. I disagree with this ruling on the grounds that the sail panels of the raised top severely restrict the driver's rear 3-quarter vision, reducing his margin of safety, while the lightweight folding top structure offers no real improvement in rollover protection. Convertibles with roll bars can still run with their tops retracted, but I do not wish to install a roll bar in Taz because I didn't buy a ragtop to put a hoop over my head.
Furthermore, while this new ruling requires me to run with my top up, I must still leave my side window down. Let me just be certain that I understand this correctly: I'm supposed to create a giant vinyl bag by putting the top up, and then force air into it through an open hole? If you've ever driven a ragtop fast with the top up and windows down, you already know this is an incredibly BAD idea. The air pressure wants to rip the top off, or at least blow the backlight out. How's that for courting disaster at 150 mph down the front straight? No, either the top stays down, or the top AND all the windows go up to at least seal the cabin.
I have not participated in any Pro Autosports event since this rule was implemented. Damned shame, too, because I was promoted into the Orange (intermediate) group my last time out. I may relent at some point and get back out on the track with the top up, but for now, I'm going to just sit around and sulk about it. What really irks me about this ruling is that it was obviously devised to appease a bunch of insurance bean counters who understand actuarial tables just fine, but haven't a clue with regard to physics in general or performance driving in particular.
2009 Update: Well, it appears our Phoenix SVTOA chapter has crumbled following SVT's most recent fall from grace within the Blue Oval organization. Ford has yanked its funding, and we can't afford to foot the bill for the track events on our own, so I can no longer look forward to even the Carlotta autocross events. I guess I'm relegated to the street for the foreseeable future. Really hope things turn around. My need for speed isn't being satisfied, and that's just no fun at all.
Firebird International Raceway
Firebird Raceway contains three separate road courses. The main, or "Firebird" track is the longest. This track can be configured as either a 1.1-mile or 1.6-mile road course, with up to 14 turns along its back side. In either configuration, the main road course includes Firebird's 1/4-mile drag strip as part of its 5/8-mile front straightaway. The long straightaway, coupled with a shorter straight on the track's backside make this the fastest of the three available road courses at Firebird. In addition to amateur road racing, this track is used for testing by professional racing teams and for televised events.
The main road course is the only Firebird track on which I have run Taz. Below are several photos taken there of me and the Cobra.
Waiting on the starting grid
Talking with Larry Pond (headset)
With Scott, our resident club hotfoot, pointing out the best lines
Through the esses on the back side of the track with Scott riding shotgun
Coming out of the final turn, back onto the front straightaway
White flag, indicating one more lap
"Take me to your leader!"
For a few shots of friends and family who attend track events with me, click here.