On July 26, 2014 there was a “fun day” track event at the *new* Nelson Ledges Race Complex. Here is my account of the fun that unfolded, and some videos of my sessions. Enjoy!
NELSON LEDGES RACE COMPLEX
For many in Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, the road course that exists near the Nelson Ledges quarry/park is well-known. It has been utilized in the One Lap of America a few times, and has been quite popular in recent years with various motorcycle clubs and organizations for race series. Sadly, however, the surface was not as well maintained as it should have been and the demise of the track seemed imminent.
Luckily, after the track temporarily closing earlier this year, it has since reopened after transferring ownership to the folks at MotoSeries. They have been hard at work to upgrade the facilities and repair the track, although it is my understanding that they might still attempt a full repave in the coming years. Never the less the general attitude was one of hope and promise, and the team at the track was eager to regain the track’s popularity. If you had written off the track, you should reconsider and plan a visit.
That is not to say the facilities or track surface are perfect. Truth be told the structures on site remain antiquated, and the track surface has a lot of dips-and-peaks. However, the grass areas have been properly mowed (in comparison to the start of the season), there were no pot holes or major expansion gaps in the track, and I felt safe at all times on the course. Room for improvement exists, but the folks at the track will need our support as spectators, entrants, and just general supporters. Check out their new web site for details of events HERE, and also the MotoSeries forums for more info HERE.
FUN DAY EVENT
For years now the folks at Nelson Ledges have put on what they call “fun day” events. These are not traditional HPDEs but rather test-and-tune and just open-track days. Attendees are split into groups based on skill/experience, with as many groups needed to remain safe with not too much vehicle congestion. I’ve attended these events in the past and always felt the bang-for-buck was excellent, spending $100-150 on a single day and being rewarded with as much as 90-120 minutes of on-track time!
On the July 26th event there were only approximately 10 vehicles in attendance. One open wheel “kart” type vehicle ran alone in group “A” while I was in group “B” with an E46 M3, E90 335, and a Honda CRX. Group “C” were novices who were given some class room training, a bonus not typical of these events but a nice gesture by the staff at Nelsons. In the afternoon sessions they did combine the B/C groups, bringing the total on-track to still a very comfortable/small ground of only 9 total vehicles.
Although I would suggest a more classic performance driving experience for a novice, one that offers genuine class room training and has a slew of on-staff folks to ride in your car and teach you, the cost of these events are equally a nice jumping-off point. Still there are other events at nearby tracks that probably would offer a more hands-on approach to teaching you the ways of these events. Never the less, if you’re in the region and want a cheap way to get on track, don’t pass up the fun days at Nelsons.
LAP TIMERS & BRAKE UPGRADES
Prior to attending the event I had seen videos from friends of mine where they had posted YouTube segments of their on-track experiences. There was an overlay that would show track data, a map and GPS data, and so forth. It intrigued me enough to research the software and find that almost all of them were using Harry’s GPS Lap Timer. While there are definitely other apps out there (and free), the $20 version of this app was highly recommended by various friends and web sites.
Overall my impressions of the app were positive, though I feel the interface could use a redo. It is a powerful app, but the interface is at times unnecessarily vague or complicated. Never the less I was able to set it up to automatically record my lap times, video, and other data. I’m really impressed with the features/power of the app. I was pulling just over 1-G of lateral movement according to the app. My best recorded lap time of the day was 1:26.48 as shown below, however because the track was broken into 3-sections the app also told me I could have shaven almost another entire second off had I strung together my 3 best segments. VERY cool indeed!
Just before the event I had visited my friends at HS Tuning to upgrade some of the brake components on the car. There are now Stoptech front/rear stainless steel brake likes, MOTUL 600 fluid, and a set of Hawk HPS pads up front. By the end of the track day my brake pads were holding up strong with minimal wear, but the pedal feel was lacking. This is perhaps due to the stock rotors not being able to dissipate the heat properly, or with the MOTUL 600 not being up to the task. Either way I do plan to upgrade the rotors, and for the cost it will make the most sense most likely to just get the S4/S5 rotors and carriers.
My feeling on the Hawk HPS pads was that they were decent but not enough. Keep in mind the Allroad that I was using is a 3900-lb car (curb) plus the weight of myself, and a full tank of gasoline. That means I was pushing around over 2-tons on the course so the brakes had a LOT of work cut out for them. In general I left feeling very happy with how the Audi did, confident more so in the car than I was with the track. I’m looking forward to going back.
FINAL WORDS & MY ON-TRACK VIDEOS
As solid as my car performed, the combination of the heavy weight, the mediocre brakes, and the track conditions made is so that I didn’t push the car as deep into the pockets as I could have, or should have. I was lifting at points that I am sure the Quattro AWD could have done more, but my all-season Falken tires were screaming for their life. (Amazingly the tires held up great).
It would have been nice to be able to brake later/harder at times, say right before Oak Tree or right after the kink, but in both cases the tires and brakes tended to be the limiting factor, and I didn’t want to flat-spot my tires. I’d love to revisit the course with a nice set of rubber, and some better brakes. Immediate plans are to handle the brake situation, but the tires are unlikely to change anytime in the near future.
Due to plans in the afternoon/evening I ended up leaving after lunch, completing only 3 total sessions. Below are three videos taken from the lap timer app, showing my best time for each session. You can see that my best lap time for each session got progressively better, and I’m certain that as my confidence grew during the day I would have likely continued to improve. As it has been 9-years since I had been on a road course I left feeling pretty successful, and of course left yearning to visit the track again soon.
Hope you enjoyed the write-up. Look for more details later in the season, as I hope to visit Pittsburgh International Race Complex for a TrackCross event later and will do my best to document that as well. Keep it shiny side up– ciao! – Ari