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Spinning Hippo Racing

Welcome to the home of Spinning Hippo Racing. The purpose of Spinning Hippo Racing is to help me learn how to drive on a race track. I have built a dedicated track car for this purpose. This page chronicles my driving experience and the building of the Spinning Hippo.

Sears Point - June 2006. First track day for the Hippo.


I've been fighting a random misfire CEL. Got the Hippo smogged in January at the referee, then decided I needed to tackle the problem. I boiled it down to one of two problems: Failing DMF or wearing valve guides. Turns out to be the DMF, so time for an upgrade to an RS flywheel setup. Silver lining time.

Thunderhill April 2008 - Turn 3: Suddenly, the Hippo is less pokey

April 2008: Ran Thunderhill with Hooked on Driving. Highly recommended group. I was coaching "A" drivers for two days and got in just a few laps. But wow, speeds are way up, cornering is a bunch faster and holy cow, I can't wait to get some laptimes (no one had a transmitter out - time to buy one). I really enjoyed instructing and giving demo rides to new students.


Sears Point - October 2007. Same Fast Car, Same Slow Driver

2007 - The Second Year
Over the winter I did the big 30K interval service on the Hippo and installed the RS Pulley. But a new job really got in the way of track time this year. Two events so far:

October 2007: Sears Point. Ran with the big "Porsches at the Point" event put on my NASA. What a blast! POC and PRC ran race groups both days, had fun in the pits with BAP. Beth and Curtis came out and I took them for parade laps so they could see what some of the fuss is about. New rubber, upgraded to Motul RBF600. After some great coaching on Sunday by Tom Weber, I was able to get down to 2:04:06. Not fast, but getting there. A few pics:


April 2007: Thunderhill. Ran the weekend with NCRC. Car ran great. Times were about flat with last November on the bypass (ttod 2:11:71), but was down almost 2 seconds from September 06 on the Cyclone (2:14:5). Here's a shot of the Hippo in the pits next to Tyson's Evil '72:


The Slippery Slope 2006 - Year in Retrospective
It's been an amazing 12 months. November 14, 2005, I took my first step on the slippery slope at Sears Point and got hooked on the track. One week later I tee'd it up at Thunderhill to make sure. I was in deep. I sold the Carrera and built a car to learn how to drive on the track. June 2006 I took the car out for a spin at Sears Point - and the Spinning Hippo was born.

4 track days in Nov 2005 and 9 track days June - Nov 2006: CDS Costal Driving School, DE days with Trackmasters and NCRC, POC Drivers Clinic and STS, PCA GGR. Lots of great instruction - and plenty of seat time. In 2006 I logged 870 miles and 277 laps. I drove 3,100 miles to and from events.

I finished off my last sessions at Thunderhill (w/bypass) turning fairly consistent 2:12-2:14's in open track, and my best time was 2:10:6. I've still got a long way to go, but the difference in how it feels now versus a year ago is not fathomable. What a year!!

The Hippo is taking a well deserved rest. It's time for the girl to have some routine maintenance, and get ready for the '07 season...

November 2006: Thunderhill. A great day to finish the first season. Moses, Tyson and I made up the Pelican contingent on a beautiful Northern California fall day. Tyson finally got to drive the Hippo (turning an
easy 2:07) and pronounced it "Evil". I could not have been happier with the day. Of course, the Spinning Hippo lived up to her name. After a set of very smooth laps, I entered the 6-7-8-9 complex faster than ever before. And at the fastest corner of the track (8), the rear end swung around. And around. And around. Two spins on the track and one in the dirt. Never did one that fast before, a serious rite of passage for me. TTOD was 2:10:6
w/Bypass and more consistent, better line, more confident -- and having more fun than ever. Woo Hoo!

September 2006: Streets of Willow. I ran with the Porsche Owners Club and took their Driver's Clinic and then ran STS #6. Wow. Somewhere between the skid pad exercises and my first try at Willow, stuff started coming together. Suddenly I can Heel/Toe, throttle steer, follow bumpers closely in traffic. I made a huge improvement in confidence. In my run group, I started five back and passed them all - man that felt good. Next I'm back at Thunderhill to run with PCA GGR - we'll see if the lap times start coming down.

Thunderhill. I ran with PCA-GGR for the first time at Time Trial #5. What a great group of people and a terrific two days at the track. It was the best instruction I've received so far. Between Steve Taty and Harry Demas, they got me down to 2:16:12 with more confidence and control than before. My times are becoming more consistent as well - now about 2:18 average. By comparison, the 2:25 average back in August was running the bypass - 2 or 3 seconds longer. I ran the Time Trial and recorded a 2:16:94 (for point of comparison, Harry in a heavier 993 turned a 2:05) - still a slow hippo but getting there. It was really fun seeing so many Porsches, and PRC ran a race both days which was really neat.

A few more pictures of the Hippo at Speed.

August 2006: Thunderhill - I set off to see how much of my poor driving I could attribute to the tires. The verdict: What a difference a set of rubber can make. I finally felt the car working in the corners, had feedback when I pushed it too hard, and gained some sorely needed confidence. This was my best track day with the Hippo - and no OTE's, no spinning. I was able to work the throttle in 2 and 3, made a couple of minor saves - stuff that I could do with my Carrera last year. I felt in control of the car, instead of searching for the edge of the cliff in the dark while running. I also ran my first Time Trial and placed 10th! Out of 10. And was slower than 9th by 8.5 seconds. and 27 seconds from first. Between my Ultralap and the AMB timing, I have sufficient evidence to prove that I am really slow. My best time was 2:20 and I averaged about 2:25 in the morning sessions. In the afternoon the track got really greasy and I let almost 4PSI out of the tires. Had a scare at one point where I thought something broke. After I jacked it up and checked everything over, I think I combination of a lot of rubber on my tires and the fenderwell gasket kicked up under the car just spooked me. Anyway, I got in another 150 track miles, improved my line and gained a ton of confidence in me and the Hippo. Can't wait for the POC Driver's Clinic and STS 6!

Here's a shot of the Hippo with repainted wheels:

Went to the PCA Autocross at the Santa Rosa airport. First AX in about 4 years. I wanted to work on my car control. I ended up a bit demoralized. Despite a well-set up car and good instruction, I'm starting to think I'm just not a very good driver. Got progressively slower and naturally, spun the hippo in a stupid place. Blah. Pics on the track page show me lifting a wheel though - that's cool.

June 2006: Three track days this month: Sears Point (okay, Infineon), Buttonwillow and Thunderhill. I've got a lot of variables in play - I'm a novice driver, in a brand new, well-prepared track car, and did I mention I'm a novice driver? 1st event was the PCA Coastal Driving School. 1st session was a disaster. I was so nervous I couldn't find the line to save me. 2nd session (after a long wait because someone took a new GT3 into the wall at T8) was much better, except that I spun the car at T2. Carried too much speed and lifted. But I reacted well and no harm done. The third session I again took T2 too fast, didn't lift, so I understeered through the corner and spun again. Not happy with myself. The last session went much better. Buttonwillow (CW) with NCRC was marginally worse. I had an instructor for the 2nd and 3rd sessions. The second session I spun the car twice in the same session. Understeer again. But the last two sessions went much better as I drove more smoothly (well, at 7/10's anyway) and focused on the line and incremental improvements. Tyson and I debriefed about my spinning problem. While the majority of the issue is the monkey behind the wheel, we think the tires might be a factor. I'm not getting them hot enough so when the understeer, they get hot, then hook up, at which point the rears are not hot so they spin out. I've ordered a set of RA-1's but they are on global backorder. So I'll take it real easy at Thunderhill. (See the Hippo in action)

Thunderhill: Was not nearly as hot as it could have been - and the low turnout and high attrition made for lots of open sessions in the afternoon. The hippo was always wanting more, so I indulged her and got in 160 miles of track time - that's over 50 laps! CW is more technical than the traditional CCW course and I enjoyed it a lot. Especially the 13-12-11 complex and heading over the top of 5. It's fun to set the car in the right direction, plant the foot and feel the wheel hop going over the crest.

I was able to reduce my spinning by 50% (only once) and stayed on the pavement this time. I took an intentional OTE to avoid a bad spinout at 14. You can take 15 pretty fast (which is were I spun out before) and then get on the brakes hard to make 14. So when I saw this huge cloud of dirt one car ahead of me, I knew bad stuff was happening. I tried to bring down my speed as much as possible, but the car starting getting light so I pointed her straight ahead and made like a lawnmower. Got a great lap time by missing 1/2 the track! Ha!

Mentally, stuff is starting to come together. I can see a bad line from a car in front of me now. A few events ago, line was just a word. I'm looking ahead which is increasing speeds. Given the propensity of the hippo to spin (changing out for RA-1's soon), I'm working much harder on an incremental approach which is not my nature. The car makes it too easy to make big jumps in speed. So I'm doing my best to exercise a little maturity with my right foot and concentrate on consistency and slight increases in entry speed. Those last 10 laps on an empty track were amazing. When's the next track day?

Read about the build of the Hippo here.


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