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From DD to Track Rat, a confession

Posted by Earendil 
March 24, 2011 12:17PM
Gentlemen, I have a confession to make. I've been seeing other forums. It's not you, it's me grinning smiley

Since I bought my E46, I've been looking more and more at my E30 as a track rat. It's too beat up to ever be a garage queen, and I feel like if she's going to go, it would be fitting for her to "go out" on a track smiling smiley Someday I may pick up another E30, one that hasn't ever been wrecked and that has seen fewer miles. But for now, trackrat smiling smiley
To that end, I've been doing a ton of searching, and have ended up spending more and more time on more populated boards with more varied track experience. That is not to say I don't hold our own local track/course junkies in high regard. It just made more sense to ask questions about topics in the same forum I found the information to begin with. I'm eager to see what some of you have to say.

The information is out there, and it's good, but the stupid immaturity I had to wade through to get to it was at times almost unbearable. But, I like keeping you guys in the loop(whether you like it or not!), so here is a post I made elsewhere that I'll copy paste here.

The post was meant as a "sanity check" to see if anyone would suggest a different course of action. You guys are welcome to do the same if you like, but you'd need to back it up with an argument and explanation smiling smiley
Otherwise, just take it as an update!

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My Former daily driver, a 1989 325i with somewhere around 260,000 on the clock has finally been replaced with a newer DD. This has allowed me to take my old and dilapidated baby and make her feel like she has a purpose again. Over my poor college years I had kept her mechanically sound, while sacrificing fixing creature comforts, like water leaks

Now though, I want to transform my baby into a track rat, but a safe and modest one on a budget. I’m not a “How do I blow 8 grand on a car” kinda guy. I do all the work myself, and I have more like $2000 after the planned repairs.

The intention is to build the car towards Pro3/SpecE30. Please keep this in mind. I don’t care about HP so much, which is why no turbo. But it’s also why I won’t be getting 16x9 wheels or a BBK either. Also, I won’t actually seriously consider racing for years to come, so no fire suppression or a roll cage on my list. The intent is to have a car that will serve well for working up to HPDE, AutoX, and sunny days here in the Cascade Mountains. I want to be able to drive to events. If I’m still enjoying myself and employed in a couple years, I might consider a roll cage and actually competing. But for now Pro3 racing is just an end that is helping me define the means.

Here is a quick list of how the car stands right now:
  • 24 months ago front end Control arms, tie rods, and associated rubber was replaced. Rebuilt driveshaft. Mark D chip added.
  • 12 months ago new valves springs were put on, resulting in a new head gasket, and a thorough inspect of the engine. New Timing belt, cooling hoses, gaskets, etc etc.
  • 7 months ago a parts car was acquired, this resulted in my car getting a Bilstein + H&R sport setup, and sports seats. All new suspension rubber was put in at the same time.
  • Weight reduction. Carpet, insulation, A/C, P/S, Seats, speakers, and the trunk fish tank are all gone. None of the components (but speakers) worked, and the carpets were wet. Bleh.
Set in stone, on the next sunny day I’ll be:
  • Replacing the clutch, and relevant seals in the area
  • Rebuilding the shifter. No AKG yet, just a Z3 and delrin bushings.
  • Swapping in a 4.10 LSD
  • Replacing bushings/seals. This includes the subframe bushings…God help me.
As I said, I want to make this car a fun and safe track rat. I’m not looking for power, or to look cool. So with the money I have budgeted (about $2000), here is what I’m planning on doing
  • Signing up for every HPDS event this year
  • Rebuilding the stock brake calipers
  • Finding a good race/street pad
  • Replacing old brake lines with SS lines (If only because my lines probably SHOULD be replaced, and if I am replacing them anyway, why not SS?)
  • Replacing stock 14” with Racing Dynamic 1.3 (the 15x7 verity), so that I have options for…
  • Replacing no season rubber with “extreme” summer rubber.
  • Repairing factory brake ducting
Things I can’t decide on
  • Preemptive wheel bearing repair? I could do the rears without much fuss since I’ll be pulling the subframe anyway. But the fronts will be a pain. I’d also have someone else pull/press the actual bearing. So this would be a $100-$200 job for the rear I’m thinking. And even more for the fronts.
  • Reinforce the car? Front or back strut brace? End link reinforcement? I currently have stock sways.
  • Stiffer bushings? Currently motor and tranny mounts are no more than a year old, but they are stock rubber. Any reason to put something harder in there now?
I believe when this is done I will have a solid engine and drive train to have some fun with, rubber for it to sit on, and brakes to slow it down. Is there any additional safety oriented parts or preventative work I should do? When people get their cars inspected by an AES certified mechanic for use on HPDE days, what are some of the most common reasons for not passing?

Things I believe I will be okay with getting further down the road, even though I’d obviously attract more chicks if I had them now
  • Proper racing seat. I have the E30 sport seat right now. I’d love a race seat, but I’m not sure the money spent on a proper one wouldn’t be better spent on something else?
  • Helmet. I’m hoping to rent one for events. Good idea until I know I’m going to stick with it?
  • Steering wheel. I have the big 3 spoke M-tech 1
  • Exhaust. I don’t need a few more HP, and I’m attempting to stay road legal.
  • Race Shifter. Something along the lines of the AKG
  • Fix rust hole in floor. Not quite golfball size. I may have a buddy that can slap a piece of metal in there and weld it up though. Shouldn’t be an issue if I keep the rest from spreading?
  • Fix rear end quarter panel damage. Corner is crinkled, but trunk shuts and the rear light fits.
  • New paint. It currently aint pretty. But thanks to the silver paint, the silver primer doesn’t show too bad at 100 yards
Anyone care to convince me otherwise?
Are there huge holes in my plan? Any tips? Anyone want to wish me luck?

I’ll try and keep this thread updated as I progress.

Thanks for reading!

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

That all makes good sense.

Star Specs are good tires. Martin got those for his Nissan 240SX for our 2,200 km Targa Newfoundland adventure. Those tres were amazing, wet or dry. And after a week of beating on them hard, the tires still look good enough to use again next year (if we had enough money to go again).

You already have a 4.10 LSD ready to go?

That might be a bit extreme for the 325i, especially for daily driving. First gear will be uselessly short, and when cruising in 5th the engine will be revving much higher than you're used to now. It's gonna eat a lot more fuel.

Other than that, it's sounds like you have all the important stuff figured out.
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Ferdinand
That all makes good sense.

Star Specs are good tires. Martin got those for his Nissan 240SX for our 2,200 km Targa Newfoundland adventure. Those tres were amazing, wet or dry. And after a week of beating on them hard, the tires still look good enough to use again next year (if we had enough money to go again).

That is what I hear! And being here in the NW of the US, good wet traction appeals to me. I watched an HPDE at PIR the other weekend. It rained a bit half way through the event and then promptly stopped after the surface was wet. The first car out the gate on the newly wet surface was an E30, that immediately did a 180 trying to get through turn 2 grinning smiley
He was running a less than good wet tire.

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You already have a 4.10 LSD ready to go?

That might be a bit extreme for the 325i, especially for daily driving. First gear will be uselessly short, and when cruising in 5th the engine will be revving much higher than you're used to now. It's gonna eat a lot more fuel.

Other than that, it's sounds like you have all the important stuff figured out.

Yes, the 4.10 would be a bit extreme for daily driving, which is why I hadn't put one in until I had a different daily driver smiling smiley
Also, my understanding is that people will cater the gearing ratios to the tracks they run on. In the extreme case they will swap out diffs when hitting a different track. I have no intention of swapping diffs on a regular basis, but I know that most of the Pro3 guys that race at PIR and Pacific Raceways are using a 4.10.
If the "good" drivers are using a 4.10 on the local tracks, I'm not sure there is a reason to learn on anything else?

And yes, I already picked up a 4.10 for pretty cheap. Even if I decide to sell it, I could probably get more for it.

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/24/2011 01:49PM by Earendil.
Who am I to naysay where you are at right now...I sold my iX!

Do what makes you happy just so long as you share it with us grinning smiley
It sounds like you've already put a lot of thought into this and have most of the bases well covered. Good for you! I wish more people approached this as carefully!

Just a few comments:

I heartily concur with the Dunlop Z1 Star Specs as a street/track tire. On our LeMons racer we are restricted by the rules to tires with a treadwear rating of 190. After trying a few different tires, we have settled on the Star Specs as our tire of choice. In our experience they are clearly the best dual purpose tire out there; and a walk around the paddock at a 24 Hours of LeMons event will show that the majority of cars are running the same tires, because it's no secret.

Be warned, though: after enough events, you will inevitably begin hearing the siren song of R-compounds. :smile: When that happens, we can discuss those choices.

Brakes: along with tires, the biggest wear item on a track car, and something you will replace frequently. Finding a good street/track pad is difficult, since compromises by their nature do not excel in either environment. Too street oriented and you will experience terrifying fade on the track; there's nothing that will get your attention like pushing on the stop pedal at 100 MPH and having nothing happen! They also have a tendency to overheat and crumble before their time. On the other hand, if you go too race-oriented, you also live with loud squealing, clouds of brake dust, and pads that don't work until they're hot. The best compromise that I have found are the Carbotech pads. I'm not sure which models are best suited for an E30, but on my Miata I use XP10 front and XP8 rear, and I expect the E30 would be similar. They are race pads, but unlike most race pads they stop well when cold, and don't make lots of noise. They do produce copious amounts of dust, but I've never seen a track pad worth its salt that didn't dust. They're a bit pricey, but IMHO worth it. It's good to have a pad that will stop you all day.

Hawk makes some pads worth considering too. The Hawk blacks and blues are probably too race oriented for street driving (the black might work), but the HP+ is a very popular dual-purpose pad. It's not as aggressive as the Carbotech on the track, but more civilized on the street. Forget the HPS; it's too mild for track driving.

Oh, and one other thing about brake pads: with a track car, you'll want to start thinking of rotors as wear items as much as pads are. The more aggressive the pads, the more the rotors will wear. With Hawks, you might get a season or two out of a set of rotors, depending on how much you drive. The Carbotechs are a little easier on rotors.

Also, don't forget the brake fluid. You will need to flush your brake system and replace it with a good DOT 4 fluid with a high wet boiling point. I'm a fan of ATE Super Blue/Type 200. Others like Motul. But you really want this, because your brakes will be getting extremely hot, and regular DOT 3 street fluid will boil. (And you really don't want that to happen!) Because brake fluid absorbs water from the air, you will want to flush the fluid entirely at least once a season (more often if you're racing a lot).

One more thing before I blather on too long (or is it too late already? :razz:): don't discount the importance of a proper racing seat. Part of this is a safety thing. A good racing seat with a proper 5- or 6-point harness will keep you safer in a crash. But it's also a comfort thing. It's amazing how much easier and more fun driving becomes when you're not sliding around and using the steering wheel as a brace to hold yourself in place. When you're wedged in tight in a good seat, you can focus on driving instead of not sliding around, and the whole activity becomes more fun, easier, and faster. But again, there are trade-offs in a street-driven car. To be safe, a racing seat should always be used with a 5- or 6-point harness. But on the street, such harnesses are inconvenient (and possibly illegal in some places). On my dual-purpose car I've come up with a way to run the stock 3-point belt through the holes in the seat so I can use the belt when I'm driving on the road, and switch to the harness when I get to the track. But that's not possible with all seats or all cars. Don't be tempted into getting a 4-point harness to use with the stock seats. They are dangerous, and most sanctioning bodies have rightfully prohibited their use on the track.

This will be fun to follow! I've often thought that a good E30 would be a good candidate for a track car when I'm done with the Miata. (Actually, Spec E30 and Spec Miata lap times are pretty close.) So when do we get to see pictures? :wink:

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
A quick update.

I've dropped the exhaust, driveshaft, and diff. Removed the clutch slave and loosened a few tranny bolts so that I know it's possible. Hopefully I can get the starter out and the tranny dropped tonight.

Calipers have been removed and run through the dishwasher (being a bachelor is awesome). A final scrub down will facilitate the dark grey paint I'll be hitting them with. Rebuilt kit for the Girling fronts are on the way. I have the rebuild kit for the ATE rears. Don't ask, I don't know.

The 4.10 is almost rebuilt, with Redline ready to go for it. I wacked away at the subframe but didn't get it to drop. I'm going to go buy a BFH and hope that encourages it a bit smiling smiley

Also, with the event now a week and a half away I ordered my wheels and tires. I was going to save that until I had succeeded at everything else, and knew I didn't need the money. However, being sick and having a dance performance thingy really put me behind. Now I'm scrambling to get done! At least the sun finally came out in the NW, even if it's still low 50's here.

More updates to come...

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

sdp
We replaced the transmission on ours a few years ago.... Get several long extensions and at least 1 with a wobble connection make it weasier to get the upper transmission bolts...
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sdp
We replaced the transmission on ours a few years ago.... Get several long extensions and at least 1 with a wobble connection make it weasier to get the upper transmission bolts...

That's what I keep reading. So I've borrowed enough extensions to reach 3 feet, and I bought an elbow as well. Now I just need a pipe so I can "extend" the very short 3/8 breaker bar I have...

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

sdp
I think we used a 2-3 foot 1/2 breaker with a reducer... the only problem with long breakers or extensions is the limited clearance you have under the car.. maybe we used our 1/2 torque wrench.. Can't remember... You doing this all by yourself? No one to help you support the tranny?
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sdp
You doing this all by yourself? No one to help you support the tranny?
+1

It's an evil job, definitely need a helper (at the very least to call the ambulance if you drop the gearbox on yourself!).
Done!

I'll have to give the full report, and post a few pictures I took along the way at a later time. But for now I want to post that I survived the repairs with minimal blood loss and only one scar. The Track portion of the endeavor was completed with zero blood loss!

If anyone is eager to see what my car looks like on the track, here is a link to the photographers proof stamped photos. I'd be in "Group 2", and will be the only E30. I spent most of the straight aways waving people pass me, which shouldn't be surprising if you look at the other cars in the group. The only car I ever got to pass was the old subaru legacy grinning smiley
Oh well, it wasn't a race or competition. But it was extremely fun and educational.

I'll give a report of what I replaced and what I didn't later on.

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

It deserved a new topic perhaps ...
Is it your first time on the track?
There was another white e30, with roll-bar, was it significantly different from yours (beside preparation)?

JP
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Jose Pinto
It deserved a new topic perhaps ...
Is it your first time on the track?
There was another white e30, with roll-bar, was it significantly different from yours (beside preparation)?

JP

Yep, my first time on the track! Only my 3rd time visiting a track!

There was also a bronzit E30 there. I don't know what was done to the engines, but we were all stamped as 325i. The white E30 with what appeared to be a very competent driver behind the wheel was pulling away from race preped miatas though, so I'm guessing the engine is in good shape smiling smiley
The white one was very well prepared. The inside was stripped down and looked like it had a fresh internal repaint. The roll cage was also full, and it has racing seats and a few gauges. This car could easily be a race car, and may be headed in the PRO3 direction. Both cars were running 225/50/15 tires, and the White one was lower than mine (I'm on Bilstein sports). I don't know what the suspension was on either.

The Bronzit was closer to my car. Relatively stock interior, and about the same height. Neither driver stuck around there car, and they were in a different group than me. It was kind of hard to have EVERY car on the track me significantly faster. It would have been nice to have a few out there that were close so that I knew if my lines were close or fast. But my instructor said I passed the novice level with flying colors, so next time out I'll be in the "Advanced School", with a good chance of proving that I'm solo worthy.

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/16/2011 05:25PM by Earendil.
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Earendil
Yep, my first time on the track! Only my 3rd time visiting a track!
Welcome to the addiction! Your bank account will never be the same again. winking smiley
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It was kind of hard to have EVERY car on the track me significantly faster. It would have been nice to have a few out there that were close so that I knew if my lines were close or fast.
Don't worry too much about that. Too often, beginners try too hard to be fast, and end up learning bad habits and sloppy technique. If you start out trying to be smooth and consistent, learning the line, and listening to the advice of your instructors, speed will come.

Your instructor should be giving you pointers about your line as you go.
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But my instructor said I passed the novice level with flying colors, so next time out I'll be in the "Advanced School", with a good chance of proving that I'm solo worthy.
Congratulations! What club is this? What track were you driving?

BTW, nice pics. I like your car. :cool:

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
sdp
My cousin is an instructor & officer here in the San Diego BMW club.. He hooked me up to go on a ride-along with an experienced instructor in a M5 Dinan??? with nice track slicks. They do the races in the parking lot of the San Diego stadium...

Well he rode it hard.. for my sake I guess. Anyways.. I nearly sheet my pants with the drifting, twisting and flying past the endless rows of orange cones.. Very exhilarating.. yet I felt a bit sick afterwards too.
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Dave_G
Welcome to the addiction! Your bank account will never be the same again. winking smiley

Ugh. Don't I know already smiling smiley


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Don't worry too much about that. Too often, beginners try too hard to be fast, and end up learning bad habits and sloppy technique. If you start out trying to be smooth and consistent, learning the line, and listening to the advice of your instructors, speed will come.

It was only dishearting to have every car blast by me. I was supposed to be learning things like letting up on the gas a little to let them pass, and how to properly pass people myself. I never had to let up on the gas, because most of the cars out there had 2x the hp, some of them had near 3x. They passed me like I was standing still.
I had little desire to try and keep up with them though. But there is "slow", and there is "holy-crap-what-is-wrong-with-my-car-slow" grinning smiley [/quote]

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Your instructor should be giving you pointers about your line as you go.

That he was. But there was at least one turn that we had to experiment with a bit because the coned enter/apex/exit were a little off for my car. After a while we admitted that the only way to figure out the line was to have him drive my car (which he couldn't), have me drive the corner a couple dozen more times, or to watch another PRO3 race and pay attention to how they took the corner. Even though most of the PRO3 cars are quite race prepped, and all running R-compound, they might show me how to take that corner better than the M3's and Mustangs were smiling smiley

The turn in question was turn #7. A little elevation drop, the track goes from 6 car lengths wide to about 3, and it's right before the second longest straightaway.





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Congratulations! What club is this? What track were you driving?

BTW, nice pics. I like your car. :cool:

The Club was Cascade Sports Car Club. I highly recommend them in the area for HPDE, even though I know that no one reading this recommendation lives near by smiling smiley
The track was Portland International Raceway, which you have probably figured out by now if the pictures loaded. And the car does look good...from a distance. It's certainly a track rat, but she is handling very well, and even though she doesn't have a lot of hp, the engine sings up high smiling smiley

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

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Earendil
It was only dishearting to have every car blast by me. I was supposed to be learning things like letting up on the gas a little to let them pass, and how to properly pass people myself. I never had to let up on the gas, because most of the cars out there had 2x the hp, some of them had near 3x. They passed me like I was standing still.
Oh, I understand the frustration completely. I drive a Miata on the track, so I know all about low-powered cars. smiling smiley The Miata and E30 (not counting the M3) are actually quite similar on the track: similar power-to-weight, RWD, similar nimble handing.

But I very firmly believe that the absolute best way to learn the art of high-performance driving is to do so in a low-powered car. I see far too many people try to learn in something like a 300-HP STi, and all they can do is point and shoot down the straights, and then tip-toe through the turns. In a low-powered car, that option is not available, so we need to learn to get the best out of the turns, which is where the challenge, and more importantly, the fun is. Drivers who learn to drive in a momentum car like the E30 (or Miata) learn how to squeeze every last bit out of their cars, far more readily than someone in a fire-breathing monster. Those 300-HP cars may be blowing by you now, but I predict in a very short time you will be catching many of them in the twisty bits.

Sure, there's a limit to what an E30 can do, and you may never pass some faster cars driven by capable drivers. But you'll get closer than you might think. There's something very rewarding about passing a Mustang or 911 in my Miata. smiling smiley And, if you ever do get that 300-HP monster, you'll be in a much better position than someone who learned to drive in a fast-in-straight-line-only car.

One of the best drivers I know drives a Factory Five Cobra powered by a 5L Ford V8. The thing is an absolute beast, unbelievably fast and also unbelievably twitchy. I'm actually scared to death of the damn thing, but my friend drives it with a big grin, sliding it around corners like he's in a kart. What did he learn to drive in? A stock 115-HP Saturn SC. The majority of the really good instructors I know also cut their teeth on low-powered cars like E30s or Miatas, too.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
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Dave_G
Don't worry too much about that. Too often, beginners try too hard to be fast, and end up learning bad habits and sloppy technique. If you start out trying to be smooth and consistent, learning the line, and listening to the advice of your instructors, speed will come.
Excellent advice from Dave.

Really, don't worry about how fast you are or aren't compared to others. For your very first time out on a track you should only be worried about not killing yourself, or your car, or others. Then concentrate on learning how fast YOU can be, and work on improving yourself. Only once you've smoothed out your driving style to the point where you are convinced there's nothing YOU could be doing better to improve your speed, only then should you start looking at how other people are performing in comparison to you.

Once you are confident in yourself and in what you're doing, then you'll realize that a lot of those other guys who you thought were quicker than you are actually just thrashing faster cars. They may not be any better at driving than you are, they just have better equipment. There's a ton of satisfaction to be gained in knowing that YOU are driving YOUR car to the best of YOUR ability, regardless of how your actual lap times compare to others.


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After a while we admitted that the only way to figure out the line was to have him drive my car (which he couldn't),..
I see what you did there.

The only time it is truly demoralizing is when someone else steps cold into your car, never having driven it before, and then promptly goes twice as fast as your best ever lap. That hurts. Those are the people you need to watch and learn from!

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The turn in question was turn #7. A little elevation drop, the track goes from 6 car lengths wide to about 3, and it's right before the second longest straightaway.
That's a great corner. As you've probably figured out already, the critical corners are those at the beginning of long straightaways. Also important are the braking zones at the end of long straightaways.

Because this corner has such a wide entry, but tight exit, you have the luxury of experimenting and trying different approach angles. Rear-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, regardless, the theory is always the same in that you want to launch onto that long straight already carrying as much speed as possible. But the execution might be totally different with different optimum entry angles depending on a whole lot of different factors, like how good your brakes are, sticky tires, suspension compliance, power available, etc. That's one of the things that bugs me most about track school, is that they teach you the "optimum" racing line, marked by entry, apex, and exit cones based on someone else's idea of what the optimum line is, when in fact that line may not work at all for you.

You need to pound around the track by yourself often enough to learn to feel for yourself what the difference is in taking slightly different lines each time.

Then of course, there's a world of difference between lapping/school events and actual wheel-to-wheel racing, especially in a corner like turn #7. When you're alone on the track you're going to want to go as deep and wide as possible before turning in to apex late, giving yourself the best launch at the following straight. But if you've got someone on your tail, that's just an invitation for them to dive down the inside and steal the corner from you.
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