This is for people who don't know nuttin' bout the experience, like I didn't, so please no flames about the verbosity. Thanks.
In the constant pursuit of the "ultimate driving experience" we discuss various upgrades, services, applications, potions and notions and argue their benefits, and although we differ widely on use and conclusions there are a few things on which we agree, the simplest is this:
The best thing to upgrade is the driver.
I noticed on the return trip from the Moo cruise that even under the best of circumstances, (clear interstate, great weather, no traffic ...) I sometimes lost the feeling of control on curves over 70mph.
I planned to purchase a strut brace and sway bars because I heard they made the ride "stiffer".
My shoulders hurt from steering after 5 hours up and 5 hours back from New Hampshire and I felt like I was exerting too much to complete turns, maybe these upgrades would help.
But then, maybe not.
Which strut brace? Sway bars front and back? Which makes a car "stiffer" and how does that feel? What do these things actually do?
Maybe I'd spend a bunch of moola and find out I still had those problems, and boy, wouldn't I feel stupid?
I don't like feeling stupid so I decided to get me some learnin'.
John Corbin mentioned to me on the Moo cruise that he had taken a course at Derek Daly in Las Vegas and DD has a 2 day course using *only* Z3's.
Well, gee. If I don't take the course I have no one to blame but myself.
Surprise surprise the Z3's that DD uses are 1.9's (although one instructor confided he'd be happy if they got ///M's).
If I tell you the people at DD are very nice and super accommodating, it'd be an understatement. Their website, www.derekdaly.com , works great, gives you every bit of info you'd need to decide your course plan and preferred dates. I called Tuesday to ask if there was room in the Wednesday class and they accommodated me. She mentioned I'd want soft soled shoes (SMART) and light clothing.
There's no hotel associated with the driving school, and no transportation to and from classes, most people drive out to the speedway in rental cars. That's a toss up for me, because the time involved in renting a car and finding my way around, the base cost of the car plus CDW and PAI and taxes and parking and valet... what a pita. Taxi's cost ~$35 each way and although they should know the way, they don't really.
I got a deal on the hotel because it is summer and I knew it'd be hot. I didn't know it'd be 112 degrees. Apparently it was a big surprise to the folks in Las Vegas too because their typical summer temperatures are 10 degrees less. There was also construction and congestion in the city so although the ride out to the speedway at ~6am was empty, the return at 230pm was an unqualified bitch. Hailing a taxi was also a female dog because while you wait for your turn in line, you stand out in the direct sun. It ain't pretty.
Lucky for me, I got a ride from one of my classmates who was booked in the hotel next door. Very nice for me, as my designated chauffeur works for Porsche in training and marketing. This was his third class at different driving schools, one was the Skip Barber school and another whose name escapes me. Naturally, he was best in the class and everyone wanted his job.
Also lucky for me there were only 3 of us in the class. The other student was a woman about my age, a lawyer from SoCal. Obviously, there was a wide range in experience and ability.
I learned a lot from both of the students, as well as the teachers. Dave, the Porsche dude, will be in Spartanburg next week working with the BMW training people, and told me that the BMW and Porsche folks "cooperate" with knowledge for their fine automobiles. Gee, what a concept, instead of yammering about whose car is better, they help each other make better cars. Everyone benefits. Again, the 1.9's satisfied everyone without exception. Yes, I am preaching for a minute here because its just so FREAKING obvious that bitching about which make or model is better is an exercise for the uneducated and unworthy of anyone's attention. IMHO- Get the car you want and keep your nose out of other folks' business.
I just checked with DD and here is how they modified the 1.9's:
(I called DD on their free number and they emailed me within minutes this response, you get the idea of how nice and helpful these people are?)
As I had heard from other driving teachers, the best thing you can do to increase the stiffness of your convertible is add an HMS(Joe Marko of HMS is a Z3'er) style roll bar.
I probably won't because I am a wus and want my windscreen, so a strut brace will probably me the best I can do. I will probably add the sway bars front and back as well, why not? Maybe I will do the whole "Stage 2" suspension as described above..
They do not use the wider wheels/tires because they want better traction and control for the classes, as opposed to raw speed. I won't go for the wider tires because it'd make Emmy a high powered sled in the winter on ice and snow.
It is lovely to see all their babies lined up and dressed in the morning, rarin' to go vroom vroom. I did not feel guilty putting that sweet 1.9 through experiments that I wouldn't try on Emmy. I also did not name my red Z3 #2.
The DD folks do everything they can to make you comfortable, unlimited water and sunscreen, your own personalized water bottle. Be aware of this:
overexposure to the desert heat and dehydration will kill you- as in DEAD. (Unlike the humid heat on the East Coast and the South that only makes you wish you were dead.) You can not take it seriously enough. The *only* way to be sure you are not suffering is in the bathroom. Sorry if it's not pretty, but it has to be said, if your urine is yellow, you are dehydrated and in danger. There are no other clear symptoms. I saw more than one person with the paramedics in Las Vegas. Even though they gave me my water bottle, I found out the hard way that I am unable to properly operate a straw. No kidding, I need to gulp water. I got dehydrated the first day and had to bail on class an hour early. Azita, the other woman in the class, did not realize she was dehydrated until she got home. She was red like a beet and could not wake up the next morning.
The DD folks apologize for the lunch time food, it's very simple fare unless you go off the race track site and no one wants to take that much time to eat when there is so much to learn on the track. They had to force us to break.
Even when there are more than 3 people in a class, there is still one instructor for every 3 students, without fail. No more than 6 on the track at a time. During this period we shared the track with a class using the Formula One Ford cars.
The single hardest part of the course was pushing yourself past the normal limits- as in, screwing up. Better to wipe out all the cones than to wipe out in real life. Sometimes I had to say to myself "OK, I'm gonna take out a LOT of those cones this time." Everyone in class is quick to tell you I succeeded in that effort. Sheesh!
Rachel, the big bad cone-killer.
Some of the things they do to the 1.9's are for training purposes like cutting off the exhaust and replacing the muffler so its really loud and they can hear when you are accelerating, brakes squeal etc. so they know what you are doing all the time.
The teachers are very experienced and knowledgeable, the owners, Bob Earl and Derek Daly are very accessible. We saw Bob all the time, Derek was not around.
Again, I can not stress enough how much everyone who worked there cared and helped us.
OK, so now you know where we were, how were got there, who we were, what the cars are like and it's time to talk about what we actually did.
We learned technique and track etiquette before we got in the cars. I will not attempt to explain it, I am too much of a novice. Generally, I would say it is making the best use of the road at every turn.
We worked in a Technique Oval and figure 8 the first day, and again, the girl who could not operate a straw had trouble figuring out which cones were which. Believe it or not, if you aren't used to them, they are hard to discern. Darn good practice, I'd rather make a fool of myself in a classroom atmosphere than in front of my peers at AutoX.
We worked on Heel and Toe - which is giving the engine a touch of gas while downshifting to get into the lower gear without stressing the engine and losing too much speed all at once. The proper way to do it is to begin by braking, apply clutch, hit the gas ("blip") with the same foot that is on the brake, release the clutch and then the brake. The brake should be on the whole time for control. Please get someone more qualified to explain and demonstrate this technique. The harder I tried, the more my ankle hurt and the car lurched and cringed until the instructor asked me to please stop trying.
Then the skid car. This is really fabulous. Dave says the other schools did not have the skid car, they teach skidding in other ways but this is really the stuff. They mounted a BMW 3 series on a rack with hydraulics at every wheel,
The instructor has a box that looks like its from every doomsday movie you ever say with a remote control device... He/she can raise the front and/or rear of the car by degrees so the wheels lose contact with the road. There you are on the figure 8 track making your turns and losing control. You get to feel how losing traction onset feels, and can work with techniques to regain control or contain the skid. The ABS is turned off on their 1.9's. The only things you could hit in the skid car exercise are some few poles and our cars parked while we worked with the skid car. I was so afraid I'd hit the other freakin cars. Azita wanted to know if the extra insurance we'd bought through the school ($50) in case of collision was $1000 per incident or per car destroyed. Did I mention she is a lawyer?
We all had a fine time wiping out.
Then we wiped out some in the 1.9's...
Next day we all came in earlier to try and beat the heat. It's going to be a lot LOT LOT different when the weather is nice. They may have to drag us off the track with a rope.
We did the Evasive Action Simulator in the morning and spent he rest of the day on the Speedway track, sharing with the Formula Ones.
This was also fabulous.
Imagine you are driving at 35mph along a divided 6 lane highway and suddenly your lane of traffic becomes blocked. A wheelchair has fallen off a truck in front of you or a moose walks in front of your car- as it did to Harvey or Stan- how fast is that and what can you do about it? The exercise sets up that scenario, on a real road in a real Z3 really going 35mph, if you dare. I do not have a picture of this, but imagine you see an intersection ahead. There are three lanes and you are in the middle lane at a stop. Over each lane is a traffic light. They are all green and you step on the gas and get up to 35mph as fast as you can. Travelling at this speed, they switch two of the lanes to red arbitrarily. It's like a child darting out into the road, or car comes out of nowhere and you have to make your decision in an instant. Sometimes all of the lanes turn red, so obviously you have to jam on the brakes as fast as you can instead of swerving.
I died 3 times I think. I killed many cones. They make this sick sound if you hit them just right and drag them along the road under your car long enough. There's always your instructor out there resetting the cones in the 112 degree heat and telling you how you can improve. Oh, btw about that post about whether or not you can/should use the ac with the top down on a hot day... these are pre-production 95-96 cars and they're still OK, it's SOP so.... seems like its gotta be OK. I did not even have the fan up past 2 and that little 1.9 kept me cool enough.
[On the other hand, Emmy ('97 2.8) billows hot air up at me when the AC is on after a couple hours driving on a hot day unless I run the AC and leave the flow indicator direction between the body position and the feet position.]
And now onto the track. If you are like me and have never even been to a race track, driving through those tunnels to get in is a rush like your first kiss.
By the end of the morning session before break I was ready to pack it in, but as John from DD says:
We don't give up.
And by the last lap I was getting it all, including blipping heel and toe.
The trip odometer read 104 miles, every bit of it earned learning in those two days. I was still the slowest in the class, but my technique is good and I have a shot at being the best if I keep working on it, and I know for sure I am a better driver.
I probably will get the strut brace and front and back sway bars anyway, I liked the feeling of knowing my suspension is the best it can be, but I will stick to my not-terribly functional roll hoops because I like my windscreen and I am not a racer. I will look into the shocks and struts and stuff.
I will put all this into practice on the Steamtown cruise next weekend and let you know if I feel the difference after giving my car the very best upgrade, a better educated driver.
This post will change on my site as additions/changes come in and a few more pics from the Derek Daly photographer.
My insurance agent says that in Pennsylvania there is no reduction in premiums for driving course unless you are younger than 21 or older than 55. It may be different in your locality.
I have already begun discussions with the Derek Daly school about a special Z3 only course geared to Z3 enthusiasts, with only Z3'ers at the school over the Presidents Day weekend in February '00. I'll try to get us a good rate at a hotel, maybe tickets to a show and some kind of transfers to and from the school if we get it together right away. Please let me know ASAP if you are interested, if we book it now we save big $$$$.
Email me ASAP.
Btw, I asked Dave if the Boxsters use the same kind of water based paint as the Z3's and if they have the same paint chip problem and he said yes, they use the same paint but because the boxster front is more aerodynamic than the Z3 front, it gets less resistance and therefore less objects hitting it at speeds all the time so no, they don't have a paint chip problem. Even so, I love the Z3 nose and won't give it up.
'97 2.8 Boston Green Metallic w/Beige, Black Roof, V1, Chrome Magnetic Stone Guards, Rollover Protection Bars,
Limited "dot" Beige LeatherZ armrest
Wind Deflector, Floor Mats, Trunk Organizer, Parcel Net Seatcovers, and power top