Skid Pad Day!

Last post, I talked about my plans for a skid pad event with UCD students. No plan survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the enemies were an ignition switch in the Yaris and my inner ear. The Yaris ignition switch broke for unknown reasons. We tried fixing it and then hot-wiring the car. But there’s only so much time you can spend mucking around with cars when there’s an event to host. So we decided to abandon the Yaris. Sadly, that meant we weren’t going to be able to do the cafeteria tray shenanigans. Damn it, I was really looking forward to that. It’s a good thing I also brought the Z3. There were also a couple student cars there including a new Supra, an is350, and an Audi S4. The Z3 is an absolutely fantastic training car. It handles predictably and has enough power to be interesting but not enough to be worrying. I used the Federal Evoluzion ST-1 tires I had previously because they are highly durable and give good audible feedback. I also brought a pair of 500 TW all-season tires for the rear to make oversteer easier. It turns out that the 300TW/500TW imbalance was enough to make the car oversteer quite a bit, and the loss of the cafeteria trays wasn’t really missed.

How successful was the event overall? Let me sum it up this way. I needed to teach 3 of the students how to drive a manual transmission. By the end of the day, they were oversteering through corners. No, I didn’t teach the racing line or in-slow-out-fast. We focused on the only thing that really matters: driving the limit. You hear it in your ears. You feel it in your hands. You let your brain record those inputs and teach your muscles how to drive the limit. You can talk all day long about how it feels when the steering goes light, how the tires change in pitch, or how to make steering corrections. But ultimately, you have to drive the limit before you really understand how to drive the limit. If you want to correct oversteer, you have to experience oversteer. Doing that will probably see you spinning. A lot. And did the students spin? Of course they did. But they also recovered sometimes. Mission accomplished.

As for me? Being a passenger while novices learn car control ended up making me car sick. I spent part of the afternoon sleeping in my truck while I recovered. I hate getting nauseous, but it was worth it.

P.S. The next day I went to Pick-n-Pull and yanked some ignition switches from a couple of Toyota Camrys. Turns out that the same switch is used in a bunch of different Toyotas of the period, but oddly enough, not the very similar Scion xB. I figured this out only after pulling it. Doh. It’s a good idea to do the research first rather than second. Here’s a picture of the new unbreakable key.

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