Man… what a fun weekend. 2 days at Barber’s is amazing and challenging. I’m guessing I did around 100 laps? Not an exact figure, I didn’t run any telemetry and recording on Saturday because I was focusing on working with my instructor and learning the track. I did 5 sessions on Saturday and 4 on Sunday and I was getting between 10-13 laps each session. Lots of things to break down here:
It’s amazing. If you know anything about Barber’s Motorsport Park, you know it is beautiful. I’ve spectated races there, I’ve been to the museum, I’ve run AutoX events there, but this was my first time seeing it from an on-track perspective, and it is just as beautiful from the driver’s seat. The team at Barber’s do an outstanding job of taking care of the track and the people there, I’m very appreciative of them and it really makes for an enjoyable time at the track.
My favorite corner was also one of the ones that I had the most difficulty getting right / fast. Turn 1. You are coming at high speed down the front straight to a blind apex where the road falls away from you. It took an entire day for my brain to believe that that were more track there than it looks like as you approach turn-in; in fact, you might be able to hear my in-car pep talks to myself in the videos. As fast as you can down the straight, brake before turn-in, set the car and then get back on the gas. That last step was very hard for my brain to want to do. The road does fall away from you, but then it comes back and when you hit the bottom of the hill you get the grip you need. It’s a lot more complex than it looks on TV (or in person for that matter).
Turn 5 was interesting as well. My instructor and I would take different lines in the hairpin. He (e36 M3 with full suspension) would use a double apex line. I tried it and couldn’t make it fast, so I used a line where I would ignore the first apex, and trail brake the car for the second. Similar thing in turn 14, he would straighten his line out of 14 and square off 14a to be lined up for 15. I would keep more of a constant radius, and then use the blip / downshift to help the car rotate around 14a. I probably need to work on that a bit.
I never felt that I got the turn 11 + 12 complex right all weekend. I was being instructed on the novice line which is basically a double late apex. It’s safe, but I felt that I had to brake harder than I should of to get the Mini to stay on the right line. I was ok at it, but I know I’m giving up seconds of time in those 2 corners.
The kink was a lot of fun in the Mini. On Saturday, we had cool temps and lots of cloud cover. By the afternoon sessions, I was legitimately not lifting off the gas from museum until T11. Sunday was much warmer (10-12 degrees) and lots of sun. I only managed to not lift literally 1 time, every other time I had to just breathe off the gas between 9 and 10 to make sure the nose pointed where I wanted it to go.
I did have a minor off track moment. It came on what ended up being my last lap. Coming into the museum complex, I think I had too much angle on the steering wheel when I hit the brake and had an immediate ABS kick. The speed didn’t come off fast enough. I got the car around, but was wide and cut the grass over 7a. No damage to car or track, but I got to go explain myself. By the time the talking to was over, there was only 2 minutes left in the session, I called it a day.
The course is a ton of fun to drive, would recommend.
My biggest fear for the weekend was the amount of punishment the Mini would go through and I would break something and not be able to enjoy the whole event. As you can probably tell from reading everything above… the Mini didn’t just survive, it did great. I’m pretty happy with all the choices I’ve made building up the car so far. It didn’t miss a beat. I learned a lot about how the car behaves in high(er) speed driving (vs. AutoX). The biggest take away was learning how to treat the brakes. It was in the 3rd or 4th session on Saturday I went to really try and shorten my braking distances and started trying harder stabs at the brakes later in the zone. I over did it a bit. The car was stopping, but by the end of the session there was a huge shake in the pedal and wheel. Turns out that is just how the brakes react when they get overheated. After a cooling period, they returned to normal feel. To try and describe it in numbers: 10-9-8-7… resulted in overheating; where 9-10-9-8 did not. I think some brake ducting would help with the cooling and probably solve this issue.
The Mini handled amazingly well. Through all the turns it was as fast any non-aero car. I was carrying good amounts of speed compared to the rest of the run group. The Mini’s downfall on a big track will always be horsepower. Despite that I was noticeably faster than the ’06 Mini (plus mods) and driver, and I was only 1-2 seconds off the lap time the 2018 modded JCW Mini was running.
The other item that is in need… seats. The factory seats are only slightly better than a bench seat. It’s a lot of work trying to go fast and hold yourself in place. Speed costs money… how fast can you afford to go.
This ended up being a really good decision. First off, I love the look of the new wheels. The tires had tons of grip, even though they were only 205s. In most of the corners I was hitting 1G of lateral load, with a consistent load of 0.9G. They behaved very well, really predictable on grip and slide. The only time I had any understeer all weekend was all on the driver coming in to hot to a corner. Even still, the tires generally provided grip enough to get back on line with minimal correction. I did notice the tires getting a little greasy on Sunday afternoon, granted it was 92+ degrees and sun on most of the track and it was only after several hot laps. Front pressures were gaining about 10 PSI by the end of the sessions and wear was right on the recommended triangles on the tire tread. I was starting at 34, and end of session hot pressure was 43-44.
I drove to and from the track on the tires as well (only about 15 miles). The road behavior was good. Quiet. No following lines in the roads. Saturday on the ride home a thunderstorm hit as I was going down the interstate. I was cruising comfortably with traffic. Granted the tires are only a few days old, but I noticed no hydro-planing or ill behaviors from the tires in that short rain drive.
A few glamour shots from the weekend…