Track Fun - Updated for 2010
by Kent Miller
Exercise your Ferrari
Historically, the Ferrari Club of America – Rocky Mountain Region has not had enough interested members to run regular “open track’ or “drivers education” events, though that may change this year. There are, however, several sponsoring organizations that run track day events that are open to Ferraris. This page summarizes the best options for Colorado Ferrari owners who want to drive their cars as they were made to be driven.
Ferrari 360 Modena at speed at Pikes Peak International Raceway
Colorado Exotic Car Association
The Ferrari Club of America-Rocky Mountain Region's newsletter regularly lists the local events schedule the dates for the Colorado Exotic Car Association (“CECA”) events at local racetracks. This is an “umbrella” organization organized to run open track or driver’s school events for several smaller car clubs that, by themselves, could not get enough attendance to sponsor their own events. The five original car clubs remain the same sponsoring clubs of CECA: Ferrari, Shelby, Pantera, (Sunbeam) Tiger, and Lamborghini. The Lamborghini club is really inactive now, so the first four carry on, each with a representative to the informal CECA Board. While CECA events are listed in our newsletter, they are not, however, sanctioned or sponsored FCA events.
CECA for more than twenty years has organized “drivers education” type track events at paved, road course tracks including Pueblo Motorsports Track, Aspen’s Woody Creek Raceway, La Junta’s old airport track, Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, the now demolished Second Creek Raceway near DIA, and starting in 2009, the new High Plains Raceway east of Byers.
CECA sponsors four or five “open track” events each year, from May to September, each at a different paved Colorado road course track. These events are open to any track-ready vehicle and are not limited just to the marques of the sponsoring car clubs. At any CECA event a dozen or so different manufacturers might be represented – Porsche, BMW, and Miata are commonly in attendance. However, over the last few years, Ferraris have been well represented.
There are a number of things you need to know to participate in a CECA event. First and foremost, CECA track days are not races. There is no wheel-to-wheel racing. Cars are sent on the track in small groups for either fast or slow “run sessions,” typically about 15 minutes long. Passing is restricted to specific straight-aways. Dangerous driving is not tolerated.
Drivers are put in appropriate run groups after a mandatory drivers meeting. Helmets are required. Passing is limited to one or two stretches on the track. An ambulance is always on site and corner workers with flags and radios help make this a safe place to exercise your Ferrari or other exotic. Driver instruction is available and you can catch rides with veteran drivers or instructors. Spectators are welcome. There are no admission charges. However, entrants are required to sign waivers. You are encouraged to bring friends or family to watch the cars at speed.
Registrant’s cars must pass a "tech inspection" before being permitted on the track. This should be done by you or your mechanic in advance and the car will be minimally re-checked at the track. Your car must not leak fluids, it must not have loose wheel bearings, and it must have at least factory-installed seat belts.
At the track, the glove compartment, trunk and interior must have all loose items removed. Unrestrained object, whether bowling balls or cell phones, can’t be flying around in your car while you are trying to brake, turn and accelerate on the track. A well-maintained street legal car will only need a small, mounted fire extinguisher to pass tech inspection for a CECA event. The advantage of getting your tech inspection done in advance is that you won’t risk disappointment on the morning of the event if, for some unexpected reason, your car fails the at-track inspection. As such, you are encouraged to complete your tech inspection comfortably in advance of the event.
You will not need special clothing to participate, just a long sleeve cotton shirt and long pants; provided, however, you must wear an approved helmet. At other such events, only helmets built to 1995 standards or later (“SA95”) are allowed.
The purchase of a “Snell 2000” (“SA2000”) helmet is recommended because it will be allowed several years longer than the 1995 standard. Beware of the M95 and M2000 helmets, which are for motorcycle riders. They look just like the auto sports helmets, but in FCA events, motorcycle standard helmets are not acceptable. Full-face helmets are recommended for open cars, while open face helmets are acceptable for enclosed cars.
All participants are required to attend the drivers’ meeting at the beginning of each track event. At this meeting the different flags are explained and the ground rules for the event are outlined. The passing zones are identified, and the run groups are explained. This meeting is mandatory – failure to attend will preclude driving in the event.
All participants are expected to do a shift of corner work during the day of the event. Corner workers have flags, two-way radios and fire extinguishers. They provide safety and security to ensure that any accidents or vehicle problems are immediately identified and addressed. An ambulance with two attendants is present at every event. Corner work is explained and assigned at the drivers’ meeting.
For first-time participants, or for those unfamiliar with the track, CECA events start with “parade laps” after which there are usually “lead and follow” laps so that first-timers can take turns following experienced drivers, to learn “the line” as well as braking and turn-in points for each corner. Although CECA doesn’t certify driving instructors, there are always plenty of veteran drivers in attendance, many of whom are instructors for Porsche, FCA and other clubs, and rookie drivers can always request and get in-car help from helpful and experienced drivers. The instructor option is offered at the drivers' meeting and is available throughout the day upon request by any participant.
The cost of these events varies, depending on the track, but is commonly $75-120 per car. Lunch is extra and food service is usually not available at the tracks. CECA’s September final event usually includes a catered BBQ at the track at the end of the day. These are relative bargains in today’s economy, with total costs amounting to a small fraction of what the professional driving schools charge for a track day.
These events are safer than driving your Ferrari on I-25. The other cars in a CECA event are safety-inspected. The drivers are not putting on makeup, eating cheeseburgers, or talking on cell phones. There is no cross traffic, no pedestrians, no trucks dropping their cargo. CECA has an excellent safety record and obtains liability insurance for each event. But be advised that many insurance companies have exclusions in their policies for “speed contests” or “exhibitions of speed” which could leave you essentially self-insured while driving on the track.
Now that you understand what a CECA event is, what’s keeping you from bringing out your Ferrari to drive it as it was made to be driven?
You can hang out with other car enthusiasts, including many Ferrari owners, watch all the different cars perform, and increase your driving skills with little risk and minimal expense.
If you have a more competitive spirit, there is usually a session of timed laps in the late afternoons at CECA events. This is an opportunity for you to try to turn your best lap times, but without other cars involved. Cars are released so that they can run the track alone. This part of the day is completely voluntary. You can work a corner and watch or you can turn a timed lap or two and get a benchmark for your next time at this track. There are no trophies; you just get your lap times and whatever bragging rights you elect to flaunt at the end of the day.
Kent Miller is the FCA representative on the CECA board. We have several FCA members who are qualified to instruct and Kent Miller is happy to match you up with another Ferrari owner for your first CECA outing. To get involved, contact Kent via email at email@example.com or by phone at 303-832-5412.
To be added to CECA’s emailing list to get registration materials, notice of events, etc., send your name, email address, and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorado Tracks for
There have been several developments and changes in the tracks available for CECA events.
Below is a track by track report of what’s new for 2010 as well as information on organizations that conduct “driver education” or “open track” events in Colorado. These are one- or two day outings where you can drive your Ferrari as it was designed and built to be driven. The car club organizations together with several local driving schools use six paved “road course” tracks. The tracks have different levels of accommodations, different physical conditions, and different personalities. Below is a summary of the venues for these driving opportunities.
High Plains Raceway
This 2.6 mile track, certainly the crown jewel of paved road courses in Colorado, was new last year. It is located approximately 60 easy miles east of the I-25/I-70 intersection, 17 miles east of the Byers exit off I-70. This not-for-profit track is owned by car clubs for amateur races — SCCA, vintage and motorcycles — and driver education events put on by CECA and various car clubs — Porsche, BMW, Miata, etc.
The initial investment at HPR focused on the track which already enjoys a national reputation among car clubs and SCCA racers. There are 15 turns over dramatic elevation changes making for “blind” uphill runs, off camber and decreasing radius turns, and a straightway .where highest powered cars can reach 150 mph.
While the paved track is spectacular, HPR postponed infrastructure needed to complete the project. Much of that will be remedied this year. New for 2010 will be:
|A permanent 40 x 40 shade structure, with drop down canvas sides, much needed for drivers meetings, classroom sessions, etc.|
|Local PA system for drivers meetings or music in evenings.|
|Dedicated men’s and women’s toilet facilities.|
|Enhanced food service (Mo’s is no mo, Byers General Store is on-site concessionaire for 2010).|
|Playground for kids.|
|Fueling station to include 100+ Octane racing fuels.|
|Revamped medical center in nearby Strasburg.|
Long term HPR hopes to erect garages at the track, a hospitality center or clubhouse, and otherwise to continue to enhance the experience for amateur motorsports enthusiasts - that’s you if you’ve read this far!
CECA will run two events at HPR in 2010, both Saturdays: June 26 and September 25. In addition, our local FCA may be invited to do “parade laps” at upcoming SCCA race days or other such events.
Pueblo Motorsports Park
PMP is owned by the city. In addition to an entertaining 10-turn 2.2 mile paved road course. The track is longer and faster than the other tracks, with blind turns and moderate elevation changes. In addition, the straightaway doubles as a drag strip on Saturday nights and there are dirt tracks for motorcycles and 4-wheeling ATVs. As a word of caution, the track is often in use for drag races the night before club event, which can make the grip on the entry to the straightaway unpredictable until after reconnaissance laps.
The track PMP is drivable, but much in need of repairs. Vandalism and neglect have made this a less attractive venue each year. The good news is that the city has approved $150,000 for needed maintenance and appointed an Advisory Board to oversee patching the track and access roads, cleanup and financial management.
Despite PMP’s deferred maintenance issues, the track is quite entertaining, with elevation changes and a long straightaway, definitely worth a visit. CECA’s first event for 2010 is at PMP on Saturday, May 8 -yes, Mothers Day weekend. Lady drivers welcome. Instruction and help is available.
PMP is located off Highway 50 (Exit 101 from I-25) and about 10 minutes west of the interstate. Without construction or traffic delays, the track is just under two hours driving time from Denver. Unlike most other tracks, the paddock is in the infield. There is no tunnel entry (like at PPIR) so the paddock area can’t be accessed while the track is “hot.” Entry and exit are permitted between run sessions, so delays getting in or out can be up to 20 minutes.
While there is plenty of hard-packed or paved paddock and grid area, there is no shade and temperatures can be extreme in July and August. There are no garages and no concession service, fuel or water on site. Restaurants and gas are close by on U.S. 50, but, again, both entry and exit can be delayed at the gate which is closed while run groups are on the track.
Pueblo, especially in the Spring and Fall, is really a fun track. It is much less technical than, say, the former Second Creek Raceway or Continental Divide Race Park. It is faster than all but Pikes Peak International Raceway (depending on how PPIR is configured). Bring chairs and shade, sunscreen, water and food. It is worth the drive.
Colorado State Patrol Track
On South Table Mountain in Golden is the training track for the Colorado State Patrol. While less entertaining than High Plains Raceway, this track is easy to learn and very close to Denver. Unlike most racetrack “road” courses, this track is more like a typical paved highway with a gravel shoulder for training officers in off-road emergency maneuvers. The track is narrower and lined for two lanes of traffic so it can be used for training Troopers in overtaking cars or dealing with oncoming traffic. The track is normally run counterclockwise and is 1.4 miles long, shaped like a big triangle, with a square chicane on one side. One straightaway has a big rise with a drop where high horsepower cars can lose traction and over-rev the engine.
CECA will be at this track on Saturday, August 28, 2010.
This track will typically be CECA’s lowest registration fee track with shortest commute for Denver area enthusiasts. Less than fifteen miles from downtown Denver, this track is reached from Exit 263 off I-70 to Colfax, west to Indiana, merging into Golden Road, then north to Quaker Road and east up the hill. The final ¼ mile is a gravel road.
There is no grandstand, no concession service, no water, no shade, no garages and no fuel. This is truly a minimalist track, but conveniently located and not a very technical or “busy” track; a good starter track which is easy to learn and drive.
Note for spectators: the paddock area is inside the track, so entry and exit to the paddocks is available about every 15 minutes, when the track is “cold” for corner worker changes or change of run groups.
La Junta Raceway
The local airfield has been recently renovated to update this 1.6 mile, seven-turn road course, located a few miles north of La Junta along the east side of Colorado Highway 109. Because of its airport genesis it has no elevation changes in its 7-tunr layout. La Junta is run clockwise and has a very high speed “sweeper” following the main straightaway.
It will likely not have any events in 2010. A combination of political uncertainty in La Junta, the opening of closer-to-Denver High Plains Raceway, and the need for repairs to this track will likely keep it off the 2010 schedule.
While the track is enjoyable, it is three hours from Denver and local amenities are certainly rural in character. The track has no water or fuel, no concessions, and traditional porta-potties, but plenty of paddock space and ancient shade trees. Good lodging and restaurants, all modestly priced, are available on U.S. 50 in La Junta. This is a simple, fun track with limited challenge, situated on the eastern plains in agricultural Colorado.
Pikes Peak International Raceway
Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) is located in Fountain, Colorado. Exit number 122 from I-25, about 15 minutes south of Colorado Springs.
This track has been closed for last few years, but will be open, at least on Saturdays, for open lapping over the infield course which combines with part of the NASCAR oval. The PPIR owners have plans for a road course separate from the infield of the oval and then to open this for amateur club rentals. Availability for 2010 will be limited. CECA has no events planned at PPIR for 2010.
The car clubs that use PPIR rarely use the entire oval track. Instead, the west, south and part of the east sections of the one-mile oval are combined with the infield road course to produce a 1.34 mile road course track, always run counter-clockwise. The front straightaway is banked seven degrees and is reached by exiting the slower infield. This straight becomes a drag race area where higher horsepower cars will pass slower cars. To reduce the dangers of carrying the long straightaway speed into the south end of the oval, where banking increases to 10 degrees, most open track and driver education groups will set up orange cones to force the cars down off the higher-banked end of the oval. Following this high speed, lower banking “sweeper” the cars again gain speed on the back stretch before hard-braking into the infield.
The drivers education events use only the infield of the track for paddock, grid and all spectating – never the grandstands on the outside of the track. In the interior there is rooftop viewing from the two-story classroom and press building from where the entire track can be seen. A tunnel under the south end of the oval provides access for cars and spectators to the infield.
PPIR is easy to learn and a fun introduction to banked-track driving. It has two long, catch-your-breath runs and the infield consists of only 3 turns plus a brief “esses” run before getting back on the banked oval. The simplicity of the track makes it a great first-time track for introducing you and your Ferrari to performance driving.
Like the other local tracks, spectators are generally welcome at the various club sponsored drivers education events without admission fee and are permitted in the paddock and garage area. After signing the usual exculpatory agreements upon entry, guests can roam through the paddock and watch and hear the cars grid and run on the track.
Not surprisingly, the facilities at PPIR are deluxe in comparison to these other tracks. PPIR was built to host IRL, NASCAR and CART races and to handle 40,000+ spectators. The paddock area is entirely in concrete and asphalt. There are a substantial number of garages with overhead doors. The concession facilities are open for most events. The classrooms are large and air-conditioned. There may or may not be fuel at the track, depending on the event.
Aspen Sports Car Club (ASCC) Track (formerly Woody Creek Raceway)
This is a private race track in Pitkin County, a few minutes away from the Aspen Airport. This track is three to four hours away from Denver and Colorado Springs. Before it became a private club in 1994, it was operated as Woody Creek Raceway. The Club has just this year changed its policy to make the track available for a commercial “winter driving school” and for rental by car clubs for drivers education events in the summer.
ASCC is a 1.1 mile paved road course with minimal elevation change, several blind corners, and one long straightaway.
ASCC is available some years, depending on ASCC Board, for car club rental. While CECA has a long tradition of hosting here it has not been able to secure the track for 2010.
It has ample paved paddock area and porta-potties. It has a separate go-cart track which is scheduled to be available this year to car clubs, with rental go-carts available. There is a large tent area next to the grid and ample viewing space from an elevated area just east of the track, where the entire track can be seen. The track has stoplights at most corners which can be operated like traditional flag signals from a single tower that overlooks the track and the grid. These lights can replace the need for corner workers at an event. There is no food or water at the track.
The clubhouse is off-limits to weekend participants. Club members often will stage a brief race during the day of a car club sponsored drivers education event. Their spirited racing provides a brief and pleasant recess for the participants.
The ASCC track is reached by going northwest out of Aspen on Colorado 82, toward Glenwood Springs. Just past the airport is a sign for “Woody Creek” and the exit road is to the east. After crossing the bridge, stay left at the fork in the road. Climb the hill and look for the sign for a left turn to Aspen Sports Car Club. About a half mile down the road (don’t turn) is the nearly blind right turn for access to ASCC’s paddock and clubhouse area. Enter here.
Total time from the town of Aspen is under ten minutes. From Denver or Colorado Springs, in summer months only, the drive over very scenic Independence Pass shortens the trip to Aspen by almost an hour. Still, this track is not a day trip track and overnight lodging is recommended.
In addition to CECA organized events, there are several other car clubs and organizations that have similar events open to Ferraris. Here are the best of the rest.
Leslie Howard and Quick Chick Racing (QCR) Events
Leslie Howard has organized open track events over the past several years, first through the Cobra Club, then for National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and most recently, “drivers education” events in conjunction with the U.S. Speedway Series (USSS), amateurs who race retired Indy cars. Typically Quick Chick Racing has only two Colorado events, but these are two-day or even three-day events. Unlike CECA, QCR holds its events at Pikes Peak International Raceway, combining part of the banked oval with the interior road course. PPIR has garages for all participant cars, paved paddock areas, concession stands, even air conditioned classrooms and real bathrooms – a very classy venue.
QCR events are open to any car that passes tech inspection and has at least factory seat belts. Convertibles do not need roll bars. QCR often has a formal driving school and local FCA members have worked as chief instructors and staff instructors. There are usually several Ferraris at these events.
QCR has required a driving suit in addition to a Snell-rated, auto sports helmet, and both can usually be rented at the event. Drivers as young as 16 can, with parental consent and a valid drivers license, participate in QCR events. Just like CECA, there is a mandatory drivers’ meeting and cars are assigned to run groups based on horsepower and driver’s experience.
You can read about QCR events (and the QCR line of clothing for women) at www.QuickChickRacing.com and Event sign-up forms are available on the web site.
This loosely-run organization was originally operated by the local Mercedes Club and sponsors three to four events a year at one or more local tracks. Their events are usually run without corner workers or an ambulance and with “tech yourself” attention to track worthiness of the participating cars. Participants self-select their run group and can drive in more than one group. There is no requirement for clothing but helmets are mandatory. There is no restriction on taking passengers. The club has no instructor staff.
The director of the Multi-Car club events is Randy Williams, 303-799-4806 email@example.com.
Other Marques and Organizations
There are many sanctioning organizations that are open to Ferraris but the focus is on wheel-to-wheel racing, not the open track, driver education experience. These include SCCA, Nostalgia Racing, and Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing, for example.
Some other car clubs run open track events and will allow other marques to participate. These include the Z-car club (Datsuns and Nissans) and the BMW club. Both give priority to their own members but then fill out the field with other cars if possible. Some clubs are open only to members and the club marque vehicles. These include Porsche, Audi, Corvette and Miata.
Here are the contacts for those clubs open to Ferrari participation at their track events::
Z-car club: Gary Bracken, 303-969-9964 firstname.lastname@example.org
BMW: Gary Mayer, 303-618-6102 email@example.com
Track events are safe, fun and inexpensive opportunities to drive your prancing horse on a paved road course in a controlled, “drivers education” event.
You owe it to your car
(and to yourself)
to do one of these events.
CECA provides well organized opportunities to drive your car, safely, like it was built to be driven.
So come drive, or first make a lunch outing and come to watch. Beware; this is addictive.
FCA / RMR’s CECA Board Member
Detailed maps and driving directions for four of these tracks can be found on the Porsche Club’s web site. http://vista.pca.org//rmr/ select “Local Events” and then “Track Maps and Info” for maps and directions to Pueblo Motorsports Park, Continental Divide Race Park and La Junta Raceway. Note that the maps at that web site (and those published here in the newsletter) may contain inconsistencies as to number of turns or precise length of any road course.
Pikes Peak International Raceway has its own, highly evolved web site (www.ppir.com) which has directions, a track map and ticket information on the professional events it will host, but it doesn’t list the weekend rentals to car clubs for driver education events.
The State Patrol web site has an aerial view and description of its track, at www.csp.state.co.us/academy/actrack.htm. Because the track is “not open to the public,” there are no directions on their web site to find the track
The groups that sponsor driver education events are listed on this web site, together with links to sponsor web sites and how to get on their mailing lists.
Not ready to run your Ferrari on one of these tracks?
First visit an event, watch the cars on the track, maybe hitch a ride with another Ferrari owner. It’s the safest way to improve your driving skills and explore the handling of your Ferrari.
-- A special thank you to FCA Member Kent Miller for the information contained in this page. --