My wife is a PhD student in history. Yeah, that’s right, I’m 52 and my wife is a graduate student. We’re in the Boston area for two weeks, and while she’s studying in the Harvard archives, I’m off playing with cars.
Wait, don’t get the wrong idea. She isn’t a trophy wife. I’m not that old, and she’s not that young. She’s actually 6 months older than me and started her PhD at 50. I think that’s pretty cool, but this is a blog about racing, so let’s go there.
I’m racing in a Lemons event at Thompson this weekend, and it turns out there’s a Track Night in America event at nearby Palmer the previous day. So being the “gotta have the track sticker” kind of people we are, my brother and I decided to hit Palmer the day before Thompson.
The drive from Boston to Palmer is mostly boring, but once you leave the I90, you pass through lots of quaint little villages with historic buildings and bridges with bubbling brooks beneath. I wanted to stop and have some tea and biscuits more than once.
The event was well organized with minimal fluff or hassle. Mario arrived in his RV with Miata in tow at 4:00, just in time for the Advanced/Intermediate drivers meeting. Amazingly, we went to the meeting, unloaded the car, and got me on track by 4:20. While I had never driven Palmer before, I had done some laps in rFactor2 a while ago. Not all maps are created equal and my memory of the virtual track wasn’t all that clear, so it’s hard to make an accurate assessment. So instead I’ll make an inaccurate one.
- There’s a lot more elevation in real life. This is pretty much true of every virtual track. It’s much harder to sense elevation in 2D.
- The real-life camber seemed greater in both the on-camber and off-camber turns.
- Geometrically, it is not a difficult track to learn because most of the corners are pretty tight and very long.
- Because of the changes in elevation and camber, every corner has a different level of grip.
- The track is more of a roller coaster than just about any track I’ve ever driven.
I put in two back-to-back 2:03s. Here’s the faster one.
In just about every session, someone drove their car into a tire wall. Or maybe it just seemed that way. Palmer isn’t very forgiving of people who don’t know their limits, and the short distance from track to tire wall to boulders means that small missteps become big missteps.
So how do I rate Palmer? I’ll put on my Professor garb and give grades.
- Location: B – It’s a little out of the way and there are some narrow, low-speed roads. But at least the scenery is pleasant.
- Facility: C – It’s functional but minimal from the sheet metal buildings to the mostly gravel parking lots.
- Track: B – I love all the elevation and camber, and there are a few interesting compromises. But the corners are all pretty tight and very long.
- Safety: B – The course has very little runoff anywhere. The tow trucks were efficient.