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TT to the Glen, around and around, and back (long)

Miscellaneous ramblings on having just returned from Watkins Glen running a
driving school and time trial with COMSCC http://www.comscc.org/~comscc/ in
my TT....

I had tried to order after-market wheels, but was shipped a non-stock size.
Since this would bump me out of SSA, I mounted my new Kumho Victoracer 700
competition tires on the factory wheels, and drove there and back on the
Kumhos.  My previous experience with competition tires was using BFG R1's
for the past few years on my 84 4kq.  The Kumhos are *much* nicer for
driving on the street.  I always found the R1s to be a disaster for use on
the street.  Very harsh and strange turning characteristics.  Specifically,
at parking lot speeds, there is no "return to center" force on the steering
wheel -- on the contrary they are inclined to finish turning toward the
lock.  None of this was a problem with the Kumho's, which made surprisingly
nice street tires.  Only somewhat harsher than the stock Bridgestone

The TT ran flawlessly.  Watkins Glen cancelled the recent NER QCUSA event,
which gave me an extra two weeks to break-in the TT, which was good.  I
already had over 1200 miles when I left, and over 1700 when I arrived.  (It
was 397 miles from my garage to the Senaca Lodge.)  The weather was 97 to 98
most of the way, and humid, with various radio stations talking about the
heat.  It was a great way to keep cool listening to CDs, tapes, and the
radio.  The climate control worked perfectly.  The Bose stereo, which I
initially thought wasn't so good, has broken in well, and sounds fine.
There is an amazing central image projected off the windshield by those
little speakers in the defroster vents that is unlike other car stereos.  I
found that unlike other Bose car stereos, I don't have to adjust the treble
way up and the bass way down to achieve natural sound.  Initially I had the
treble turned up only a bit, but now that the speakers are broken in, I
found it sounded good turned to the flat setting.  Unheard-of in a Bose.

The first track session was a real handful.  Having never used Kumhos, I
took a wild guess on cold inflation pressures, which were just a few pounds
higher than the Audi recommended street pressures: about 37 front and 34
rear as I recall.  (My driver's log is at home.)  Big time trouble!  The car
wanted to swap ends in a big way.  I can certainly believe the reports of
very high speed spins.  Any even-slightly-stupid maneuver whatsoever is all
it would take.  Under heavy braking in a straight line the rear lightens up
so much you can feel it dancing.  Trail braking almost rotated me around.  I
scared myself in turn 11 (onto the main straight -- lots of Armco if you
lose it) which kept me pretty slow in that turn until the time trial the
next day.  Anyway, I've always like the expression "Shiny side up!", but now
I also had to learn "Pointy end forward!", except that doesn't work with a
TT, does it?  I just had to remember which was the front and try to keep it
that way.  :^)

I came off the track knowing I really had to increase tire pressures in the
rear, and discovered that (duh - now seems so obvious) the fronts had heated
to over 48 psi and the rears to only 38 left and 37 right.  I started
bleeding down the fronts quite a bit each session, until I was running about
41 front/38 rear (hot pressures).  Anyone with any suggestions for the
Kumhos on a car of this weight?  It steadily got less eager to spin as I
played with pressures.  I still have a lot to learn there, though.

100 miles of track driving the first day, so I guess I'll have to consider
the car fully broken in.  All my intention of having the first session being
a "take it easy" session went out the window, as I knew it probably would.
The car's tiny gas tank resulted in my having to go get gas part way through
the day.  I've never had to do that with the 4kq.

At the end of the day I found time to change the oil.  I wanted to switch to
synthetic.  Only (I'm being facetious) an hour and a half to do the change.
What a PITA!  Good thing there was a posting on the TT forum about how to do
it or I'd have been mentally unprepared.  12 torx-head screws (of a size
that didn't match my torx screwdrivers) and 2 screw-connectors in each wheel
well hold on a lower plastic shroud.  (Part of the time was finding someone
to borrow torx screwdrivers from.)  Jack up each side of the car a little to
get the screwdriver into the screws, and remove them.  The shroud falls to
the ground with a plop when the last screw is out.  This is the first Audi
I've seen whose oil filter is not within easy reach.  Remove an electrical
connection to get a cable out of the way (only somewhat necessary, but what
the heck) and then try to squeeze an oil-filter wrench between the filter
and a coolant hose.  You can only barely grab the bottom of the filter.  No
luck.  Borrow a mega-huge channel-lock from the guy next to me and try that
without much success.  Did I detect movement?  Not sure.  Go back to the
filter wrench, and slowly get it off this time.  I think it was
over-tightened, judging by how much it turned prior to getting easy to spin
off.  Add oil according to the capacities in the owners manual (only 3.7
quarts!) and get suspicious about the oil level showing down almost a half
quart.  Do I have to wait for it to drain down to there?  Did I pour too
much into the filter?  Start it momentarily, listen to the racket from the
valves, shut it off, and check the level.
The OWNER'S MANUAL IS WRONG!!!  I think they meant 4.7 quarts.

The next day was national blow-up-your-car day.  The first session got
pulled off the track after a Porsche 968 hit the styrofoam wall at turn 11.
(What did I say about fear of that corner?)  My session was next and we got
black flagged for oil all over the track.  (Someone put a rod right through
their block.)  My second session was run under full-course yellow while we
were asked to drive all over the kitty-litter to help clean up the track
from another spill.  Then it was time to turn in my time sheet prior to the
time trials.  The person timing me on the first session didn't get a time
prior to our being pulled off the track.  I self-timed the second session,
but there was only one lap without yellow, and there was a train at the oil
spill.  I put in a complete SWAG of 2:33 for my time based on other
competitors SWAGs.

The 3rd session was delayed by a second crash, more severe than the first.
(The 968 had some expensive body-panel damage, but could still run.)  The
second crash was a Corvette into the Armco before the bus stop.  (Many
commented they could not figure out how one could crash there.  The driver
thinks he hit oil.)  This was a surprise, since that driver (the club
president, actually) is really competent.  He was the 1997 club driving
champion and was chief instructor last year.  My 3rd session was otherwise
without a hitch, and self timing got a best lap of 2:36.change.  I
discovered the times had not been put into the computer and changed my
timecard to 2:35.

Big wait for my run group for the time trial, and off I went.  It was
great!!!  30 second spacing between cars, I never saw the car in front nor
the car behind, and drove my heart out, including getting over my fear of
turn 11.  Through turn 1 and get on the gas.  Do not lift!  Do not lift!  Do
not lift!  etc all the way through the esses and the back straight until
BRAKE! and fly through the bus stop like a maniac.  The TT really handles
the bus stop well.  It is unfazed by the rumble strips when you cut the
corners.  Used caution going into the downhill (still a bit of oil in the
braking zone.)  Blew the heel of the boot every time (meaning could have
been a little faster).  My three timed runs were around 2:34, with a best of
2:33.9.  When I came off the track I was on such a high!  Everyone else
seems to be able to start packing up their car, but I float around on a
cloud talking to people for an hour or two before I can start the mundane.
At least I didn't have to swap wheels.  I placed 3rd of 5 (2 trophies) in
SSA, missing 2nd by less then 3/10s.  (First was out in front by over 5
seconds with a 2:27.x.  5th was a DNS.)  Assuming that the other competitors
weren't excessively slow due to unfamiliarity with the track (it was COM's
first event there) then I conclude that the TT is competitive.  I have room
for more speed as I get more familiar with it.

I was expecting the TT to be a little faster at the end of the back straight
based on an earlier posting on the TT forum.  I'm not one to be able to
spend a lot of time looking at my speedometer when rapidly approaching a
braking zone, but the highest speed I'm sure I saw was around 112.  I
thought I saw 117 once (during the time trial?), but later careful looking
at the speedometer (which only has digits every 20 mph) makes me think I'm
mistaken.  The biggest problem with the TT on the track is the FWD traction
(or lack thereof) in the corners.  I'm used to putting down (much less)
power to all four wheels in the 4kq.  The traction control light was always
on when attempting to power out of the turns.  (I never got around to trying
turning it off as I intended on the morning of the second day.)  I tried to
adjust by positioning myself to unwind earlier so I could get on the power a
bit earlier.

The brakes on this car are stunning.  I noticed that the brake pads are
thicker than any I've seen.  They are so much thicker than a new set of 4kq
pads.  It is hard to imagine enough heat getting through them to make the
brake fluid boil.  Watkins Glen isn't too hard on brakes, as there are lots
of straights between braking points so the discs can cool.  The only
downside is that such heavy braking makes the already light rear end become
nearly weightless.  "Blunt end forward!"  No -- that doesn't work either.

On the return trip, for a short while I noticed the cruise control doing a
very rapid bit of hunting, with little surges at a perhaps 3 times per
second.  Very odd.  It did this for a mile or two and then seemed fine
again.  Like other Audi cruise controls I've used, it maintains a rock-solid
speed except for that one anomaly.  The cruise with the drive by wire is
weird.  On the plus side, it takes over perfectly, with no need to wait for
the mechanism to take the pedal away from your foot.  On the down side, it
makes it impossible to tell where you are taking over from the cruise if you
want to increase speed temporarily to pass.  The pedal is constant
resistance, with no apparent point where the cruise control is holding the
throttle.  Good when you turn it on; bad when you want to take over and turn
it off.

It has lots of power and torque to accelerate at highway speeds without the
need to downshift.  Sweet car!

Finally, having driven the car 1000 miles in several days, I take back what
I said about it being a bummer to have to drive the V8.  It's not so bad for
a change, and the interior seems downright cavernous.

Next event: NER QCUSA Lime Rock

Jack Rich
00 TT
90 V8Q