formula80_ca

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I finally attended the Ron Fellows Corvette owner school at Spring Mountain (November 24-25, 2015) and it was an absolute blast! Wow, all I can say is as a C7 owner paying $1,000 for this course is a steal. Thank-you GM for offering this program to your customers. After doing it I would say that for most people paying full price would be completely worth it. I will definitely be paying for Level 2 sometime in the near future.

Spring Mountain has a great track, (actually 3 tracks... many more if you count the different configurations they can make out of those 3 main layouts), excellent instructors and first class facilities.

This is only a Level 1 course but even with a lot of motorsport experience under my belt from some car racing many years ago, a ton of serious kart racing and current autocrossing, I still picked up useful knowledge and was a fair amount faster and definitely smoother at the end of day 2 than I was at the start.

During my 2 days there it seemed like most of the owners attending this school didn't have much, if any, track experience, so if you happen to be someone that does have previous track or autocross experience and are looking to go as fast as your talent will allow, there could be times that you find it a little frustrating. They are actively watching everyone and do try their best to match you with other drivers with similar skill levels and speed. But if you feel you're being held back just ask to be put with faster drivers and they will accommodate you. I asked for this early on and had a conversation with Rick Malone the head guy at the school who assured me that they were working on it and by day two I would be happy.

Day 2 dawned and I, in my A8 Stingray, was grouped with 3 Z06s. I was told that this was the fast group and that my driving would dictate whether or not I remained there. They shuffled the deck in that group a few times throughout the day but I managed to stay the entire time. None of those initial 3 Z06s remained at the end of the day. There were 3 Stingrays and another Z06 that worked his way in for the last run of the day.

In my class there were a lot of Z06s, probably close to half the class, and the transmission split was probably around half and half as well. I have a 2015 Z51 with the A8 automatic so they put me in the same. I could have chosen to do the school in a Manual 7 but after hearing about problems with tracking the auto I wanted to test the A8 capability on track. We were told to always run the auto trans in manual mode and except for a few refused down shifts and a few slightly delayed shifts I was pleasantly surprised at how well it handled the track, but I did do this in November when temps were not a problem.

With the extra 200HP the Z06s could pull me on the straights, but I was often able do a good enough job of apexing the turns to get a better launch off the corners to minimize that extra straight line speed. I would usually catch them under braking and even with 3 inches less rubber on the road most of the time I was carrying more speed through the corners. A couple of the Z06 guys were shaking there heads wondering how a Stingray was able to pull such gaps on them. One guy was telling me he was using every bit of the extra horsepower he could use on the straights trying to keep me in sight but just couldn't hang on.

They run two schools at the same time on separate tracks. Within each school they divide you into two groups. One group on track while the other group is in the classroom. The group on track are usually divided into three groups with one instructor leading 3 or 4 cars. Those 3 or 4 cars trade off following directly behind the instructor. You dictate the pace when you are directly behind the instructor, the instructor will simply go as fast as you can keep up. The rest of the time when you are following another student you were suppose to give them a buffer of about 6-7 cars lengths, I was often finding myself encroaching on that suggested buffer as the car in front would surprise me with being slower than expected through braking zones or corners. The track did get a bit crowded for our group as we caught some slower cars / groups and had to slow our pace to let them pull out a gap again or sometimes we were allowed to pass the slower group but we all had to slow way down to pass them at a safe speed.

We stayed on one track the whole time. Our class was on the middle track (the 2.2 mile North/South track) and it was a very enjoyable track. Very tight and technical in some spots and more open and sweeping in other areas with a lot of variety in the type of corners with different entry speeds and amount of braking pressure required. On the back straight we hit between 120 - 123 MPH on hot laps, although in the beginning I was pulling large gaps out from the cars behind me and often the instructor slowed me down on that straight to pack the group back up again. By the end of the second day I was grouped with the fastest drivers in the class and was able to get a couple of laps where the instructor was going pretty hard for the entire hot lap.

Like I mentioned before, you can pretty much go as fast as your ability will allow. Although in the two day school that GM sponsors for C7 owners you will only do lead/follow laps where the instructor was out front, but you set the pace with how close you were to them. Basically they would start pulling away from you a bit and then if you got faster and closed in they would go even faster, so if you could stick to their bumper they kept increasing the pace. All the instructors at Spring Mountain can drive looking in the rear view mirror and coaching us via a 2-way radio while still negotiating the twisty challenging race course to perfection.

The normal three day Level 1 school has "open lapping" on day 3 where you are out on the track on your own but they don't offer the third day with the GM sponsored owner school anymore... I tried to add that on but was told it was no longer available, but apparently if you take the 2 day Level 2 course you can add the 3rd day of Level 1 and do that before as a refresher... definitely looking forward to that!

One of the best parts of the school was the "demo" session about half way through on Day 2. We all hopped in cars with an instructor driving and went for a ride... it gave you an idea of what was possible. These instructors are very good, fast and amazingly smooth, my biggest take-away was that the speed seemed to come from that smoothness, the car never seemed to be unsettled. All the transitions from deceleration through turn in to the apex and back to acceleration and unwinding out of the corners were seamless. Those kinds of laps became the goal. The demo session was on the same track we were on and during my session they were setting lap times in the 1:45 second range. My best time behind an instructor was a 1:50.5 on my second to last run, but we only got one hot lap where you could set a decent time before we would have to slow and rotate and allow the next driver to follow the instructor. If I could have strung a few hot laps together and worked into a good rhythm I think I could have dropped a couple seconds off of that quite easily. Having said that, keep in mind the instructors apparently are only allowed to drive these demo sessions at approx. 70-80% of their ability... it was impressive. This car is so capable on the racetrack it's intoxicating. Open lapping sessions would really be something as you gradually work up to finding the limits and gain confidence in each sector of the track.

Here's the video of my last session...

Our final group of four consisted of Alfred (silver Stingray starting behind the instructor), then Jason (red Stingray in front of me), myself and Bryan in a Z06 (who got the last turn behind the instructor). Near the end (approx. 16:30) our instructor Blake says on the radio that it has been a long time since he has seen a group this quick in a Level 1 class and says we were easily performing at Level 2 pace and making him hustle. During my run behind Blake (starting at 07:50) I start pushing pretty hard on the second lap and manage to force him into a couple of little slides in turn two (at approx. 10:30) which brought a little smile to my face. If I could have gotten a time out of that lap instead of having to pull over to rotate to the next driver I think it would have been well down into the higher 1:40's.

You Tube

BTW, remember to bring a 32 GB (max.) SD card for the PDR, and make sure it is a class 10.

When you are not on the track they are either teaching you some racing concepts (looking ahead, apexing, braking, oversteer/understeer). If you know this stuff a lot of it could be a bit boring, but like I said most drivers in this Level 1 course don't know a lot about these concepts. I thought of it as a "refresher" and tried to find small tid bits of info that I could work on while out on track. For me, although it was not a new concept, getting to put into practice "throttle steering" and to start to master that in a 3,400 pound car (instead of a 400 pound super kart) was my "light bulb" moment.

In other classes they are actually showing you features of the car. If you are like me, you already know most of this stuff, but it seemed some others were quite interested in finding out about some of the systems that were present on their cars. I did learn a couple of small things so it was certainly worth it to pay attention. One very good explanation of the multiple levels of traction control and active handling did help clarify some things about that system for me.

The curriculum was excellent for a Level 1 course. They make sure you learn about car control, balance and vision before you ever hit the track. Before actually driving the track on Day 1 they put you through some preliminary drills... Shifting, Braking, ABS braking in the wet, Oval, Figure eight on a wet track, etc.

If you have never tracked your car this is an awesome school to start with. The tools they teach you are extremely valuable on the racetrack and much of it will transfer to the road to make you a better driver.
Even if you have some track experience by the end of Day 2 you will still have had a great time, guaranteed.

A few more things to mention...

Staying in a condo onsite is perfect! Just walk to your room after a long day on the track (or after a drink at the bar in the club house with some new friends) and wake up and drive! The bar also serves food in the evening, a limited menu but we ate there one of the days and it was quite good. The best dining in town was definitely at the winery.

Being in the condo also meant that my wife (after doing a ride-along with an instructor once) could sit on our balcony drinking coffee (or wine) and watch me drive in comfort. We had an end unit and turn two of our track went right around that corner of our building. She got some good photos and video from her point and shoot camera from there.

The food served during the course was good, and enough choice that all but the most picky of eaters would be satisfied (if you have special dietary restrictions I think they will accommodate you if you let them know in advance). They have a breakfast and lunch buffet, I think the lunch provided is included in the course fee and breakfast is a very reasonable amount added on. Wives are welcome at breakfast and lunch for a small fee, and they are also welcome to attend all the class room sessions as well as getting to do ride-alongs with the instructors when you are out on course.

Everything about the school is top notch, from the entire facility to the instructors and administration people, and the beautiful setting it was all great.

Especially the people, from Rick Malone, J.J., Blake and all the rest of the amazing instructors to Melinda and all the other sales and admin staff and even security, I have to say that it was the people who really MADE IT. Everyone was so personable and helpful, like they all loved their jobs.

Not only were the instructors knowledgeable and able to teach you the skills but they did so with such enthusiasm. They all made it their mission to make you a better driver and to ensure that you had a good time doing it.

A big thank-you to everyone at Spring Mountain!

For $1000, just do it!

You can find a few pics here...

Spring Mountain has multiple track layouts, there is now a new East track as well.
 

smackYYZ

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Clive,

Thanks for the video. It brings back great memories! Have you installed the Cosworth Software to get all the telemetry data from your track videos? If not you should, it gives you a lot of interesting information.

Here is a track layout that includes the East track, which was the one my wife and I took the course on. I was talking with Rick when there back in May and they are trying to acquire another 300 acres to the North so they can build more tracks ( 2 more minimum ) . Then when all 5 are interconnected it will be the largest road course in North America.
SpringMtnTrackLayout.jpg


I had the same experience with the Z06's and ZR1 that were in the class. I ended up in the top level and there was myself and one other Z51 and 2 Z06's in it. The ZR1 and other Z06's were in lower levels. Makes you feel good to be able to carry the speed through the corners and catch up to the Z06's. It was just those straights where they pulled away!

Mike
 

nascar03

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Clive....
A great write-up....
Thanx for the info and the videos.

I'll bet that was a blast.

Graham
 

formula80_ca

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Clive,

Thanks for the video. It brings back great memories! Have you installed the Cosworth Software to get all the telemetry data from your track videos? If not you should, it gives you a lot of interesting information.

Here is a track layout that includes the East track, which was the one my wife and I took the course on. I was talking with Rick when there back in May and they are trying to acquire another 300 acres to the North so they can build more tracks ( 2 more minimum ) . Then when all 5 are interconnected it will be the largest road course in North America.
View attachment 4052

I had the same experience with the Z06's and ZR1 that were in the class. I ended up in the top level and there was myself and one other Z51 and 2 Z06's in it. The ZR1 and other Z06's were in lower levels. Makes you feel good to be able to carry the speed through the corners and catch up to the Z06's. It was just those straights where they pulled away!

Mike

Hi Mike,

Yes, I have the software and it is very interesting to play around with. One of the guys in my group at Spring Mtn is a software engineer with GM and is working on the next generation of the PDR software. He asked me and a few other guys in our group for our contact info to pick our brains in the future about what weekend racers would like to see in the software.

Looks like there are more straight sections on that East track for the Z06s to use their power... how did you like that track overall? The elevation changes on that course looked interesting. It is such an awesome facility already... will be crazy if they build two more tracks.

What an experience!
 

smackYYZ

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Hi Mike,

Looks like there are more straight sections on that East track for the Z06s to use their power... how did you like that track overall? The elevation changes on that course looked interesting. It is such an awesome facility already... will be crazy if they build two more tracks.

What an experience!

It was a pretty fun track. Had some great elevation changes.

Can't wait for level 2.
 

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