The only NSX in a pack of Porches and Vipers, a new NOS system and a 1 mile straight!
Brainerd Intl Raceway, July 3, 2001
Brainerd International Raceway layout
Mikes buddy Mark has a trailer hitch (!) on his race-preped 944 Turbo with a little two wheel rig just big enough for two sets of tires (one of them mine), so I didnt have to drive up on the Khumos. We went up the Brainerd area the night before, got our hotel rooms, changed our tires in the parking lot and got a full 8hs rest in (I think that was the first 8hrs straight I had seen in about 2 months). Registration at the track the next morning was easy and fast, and we headed off to our paddock. We got to use the Porsche Club building, complete with hoist, water and bathroom. As there were only the three of us in the whole building, this was too deluxe. Checking the fluids and lug torque (85ft/lbs) revealed a slight retightening was required (and after each session as well).
After the drivers meeting, out onto the track! I rode around with the instructor in his Porsche 944 Turbo for a few laps to get the line, brake and turn in points shown to me. As this was not a racing event, there were no apex cones, no 3,2,1 brake markers, nothing. It was nice to see a veteran do it right, and Mike is really good. We then took out the NSX with me driving and Mike riding and I tried to get the feel for it. Braking was the hardest part to just "get right", but when I came into tight right or left handers WAY too fast, I just turned the wheel, stayed on the gas and the car took the corner. Im used to driving fast on the street, so I know to NEVER lift in a corner. I kind of scared Mike a few times but thats what friends are for. The car knew how to corner faster than I did.
Mark's fast 944 Turbo
I then followed him in his car around the track, and man was that the way to go! I had about 50% of the 10 turns right, but following Mike I started to get them all. We started at about 75% speed and hit all the apexes perfect, then turned it up and by the time he was running at 95%, I was having to back off so I didn't run into him! I found that I know the car well enough and it has the capability to do whatever I asked of it. Totally amazing. We hit the straight away and he wanted to "drag race" to see who's car was faster. Well let's just say without the nitrous, I can take him by 5-10 lengths (depending on turn 10 exit speed), and with NOS I have him by 30+. I was going into turn 1 at 150+mph. Some of the big boy race guys weren't going that fast! (Although my buddies from Archer Racing had the flock of Vipers up there and they were going into it at 175...).
The Archer Viper team of Jeff, Rhonda and John about to exit Turn 10
Interesting side note: On my 2nd lap I was accelerating on the straight around 7k rpm I noticed the oil pressure was at 20lbs, not the 40+ I'm used to seeing. I shut down and exited at the handy pit out, and checked the oil level and it was fine. I drove the car on the highway to cool it down (the engine temp never rose above 1/2 on the gauge like normal) and as I drove the pressure came up slowly. I was running fresh Mobil 1 5w30. The instructor told me that all the Porsche guys run 15w50 M1, so right over to the Fleet Farm we went to pick up a couple cases. I drained and filled with that, the pressure came back up to 40+ and stayed there all day. I called Randy Marchetti when I got back and he told me he runs the thicker 15w50 oil in his cars (because he lives in a friggin DESERT!) So sustained high revving makes for low oil pressure in my car with 5w30 oil. This I must remember.
The Vipers heading towards Turn 1 in the distance, Jeff on the pitt out road
I had a pack of people watching me (both on and off the track) and giving me tips, but mostly they kept asking if I was sure it was my first time on a track, because I was passing slower cars left and right. I wasn't running against a clock, just learning, pushing the car a little and having fun. All the drivers were very supportive and helpful, the weather was great and I did pretty damned good. I had one Porsche guy tell me that if he carried the corner speed I did into Turn 3 he would upside down in the ditch and on fire. That made me smile.
John Archer getting ready to take a new viper out for a flogging
Overall, I attribute pretty much all of it to the car. The brakes (factory pads and rotors, stainless lines and Castrol SRF fluid, brake air deflectors and removed splashguards) never faded. I did all the proper cool down procedures between rounds, of course. The tires (Khumo Victoracer) were flawless and have another 50 laps or more in them. I ran 30# air front, 32# rear (set cold, using Kim Crumbs rule of thumb) and never had to adjust them. The Dali street sway bars held the car in perfect position through the corners (I noticed a lot of the Porches rolling quite a bit). With the higher NSX/R ring and pinion ratio, I could leave it in 3rd gear, in the 4-8100 rpm range throughout the back 7 turns, only shifting to 4th and 5th on the long straight-away. Virtually every piece of upgrade equipment on the car was put to use and it performed perfectly.
Jeff Johnson's 650+hp Viper, the loudest, fastest car I've ever been in
So, many thanks to Randy Marchetti and Donavon (RM Racing), Mark Johnson (Dali Racing) and John Archer (Archer Racing) for all the help upgrading my car, and Mike Selner for showing me a little of what it can do.