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Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Z06 Goes to Spring Mountain

Nan and I have had the joy of attending the Corvette Racing School at Spring Mountain on two occasions with Bill, Don, and Shirley.



Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club is a first-class racetrack but the owners have designed it to be a complete racing experience. It’s like a great golf resort – but with race cars instead of golf carts. Although the site is in the desert, the facility is set against a mountain backdrop just 55 miles West of the Las Vegas Strip. Spring Mountain boasts the longest road course in North America with over 6 miles of challenging racetrack and more than 50 unique configurations. Well-staffed, it offers professional racing instruction, race mechanics, race car sales and service, great hospitality and (my favorite) the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School.

So, when Rick Sing, a Club Member of Spring Mountain, invited us to join him and his wife, Kristy,
for a weekend there, we instantly accepted.

The plan was that we would take the Z06 for me and Nan and drive it on the track for the first time. Rick and Kristy would track their Radical race car which is stored at the track. We would drive to Pahrump early on Friday morning, drive the track Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday, and then return home on Sunday.

Friday morning the Z06 was packed with my racing helmet, neck brace, and fancy Jake driving shoes, our luggage, a bottle of good wine, and some refreshments. We rendezvoused with Rick and Kristy at their house and began the 300-mile drive to Pahrump. The commuter-style drive north on the I-15 through Riverside and over the Cajon Pass into Apple Valley was uninteresting. To entertain ourselves, Nan and I played the Sirius XM Radio, channels “50s on Five” and “60s on Six”, playing “Name that Tune” by trying to guess the name of each song and the artist(s). After a few hours we stopped in Barstow to take on fuel and off-load recycled coffee.

Life got more interesting once we made the turn off the I-15 in Baker on California Route 127. The next 56 miles was through endless, vacant, rolling desert on a two-lane road until reaching Shoshone. Rick had made the drive many times, and assisted by his radar detector, we felt the opportunity to experience some speed. Rat-racing through the desert at 90 MPH, mile after mile, extinguished any boredom from earlier in the day. Whenever we encountered the need to pass someone going the same direction, we were hitting more than 110. Passing at any speed in the Z06 is a breeze – the supercharger and eight-speed transmission provide all the performance you could ever need.

We rolled into Spring Mountain just in time for lunch at the clubhouse.




Next, we went to one of the classroom buildings to collect helmets and driving suits for Kristy and Nan.

The weather was perfect on Friday afternoon with cool temperatures and calm winds. The traffic on the track was light giving us plenty of room to drive unmolested. The mechanics at Spring Mountain had prepped and fueled Rick’s Radical. Rick and Kristy got strapped into it while Nan and I boarded the Z06. I selected the TRACK driving mode for maximum performance, and double checked that Traction Control was engaged (ask Dave Regenhardt why this is important!).



On Friday we were assigned the West course – the shortest of three tracks and the one with limited straightaways.



With the Radical leading and the Z06 following, Rick showed me the course and the driving line. We enjoyed two stints in this configuration.


I was using the Corvette’s PDR (Performance Data Recorder) for the first time. The system uses a forward-facing camera in the rear view mirror for track video and overlays it with loads of information such as: gear selected, RPM, MPH, G-force, brake pressure, water and oil temperatures, steering angle, and more. The part I noticed the most was the “skid” indicator – I was paranoid that I would slide off the track and scratch my newest toy! Below is a shot from the PDR




I was tempted to push the Z06 harder. But I decided that it is one thing to go all out in the Ron Fellows School Corvettes (and burn up their tires, brakes, and clutch) and quite another using your own, precious, car! (The skid marks where other cars had left the track reinforced the wisdom of my decision!)  Even in my caution it was easy to appreciate the performance GM has made available in the Z06. The torque is readily at hand in abundance. I left the car in drive, and let the transmission decide when to shift. Upshifts were crisp and at or near redline. The down shifts came with the satisfying “rev matching” that I could never reproduce in a manual shift car. I learned that Traction Control doesn’t guarantee that you won’t slide; it just makes the sliding manageable. The clearest realization was that this car has performance capabilities way beyond my driving skill. And that fact was just fine with me!

I decided that two stints were enough for the day, especially right after eating lunch! We parked the Z06, Kristy and Nan went to the club house for afternoon refreshments, and Rick suited me up for my first ride in the Radical. 


If you aren’t familiar with the Radical (I wasn’t) this thing is a real race car. Radical Sportscars is a British manufacturer of racing cars dating back to 1997. They have produced a succession of cars and Rick’s is the best-selling model in history – the SR3. With over 1,000 units produced, it comes with a carbon-steel space-frame chassis, and uses a Suzuki Gen-3 four-cylinder 1500 cc DOHC motorcycle engine producing 225 HP at the wheels. A few inches off the ground, ridiculous power-to-weight ratio, open cockpit, removable steering wheel, in-cockpit adjustable brakes, fire suppression system, and electronic recording system – this sucker has it all!




As soon as we got strapped in, the marshals released us onto the course. Before the first lap was over, I was comparing my ride with Rick to the flight I took with Don Kingery in the Alpha Jet in 2014.


Rick knew the car and he knew the track. The tires were warm after one lap and Rick was determined to make every corner count. The G-forces were impressive pushing me from side to side through the corners alternating with forward and back surges as Rick dove into corners and rocketed out the other side. My helmet was banging on the roll bar and my left hand was frozen in a death-grip to the grab bar inside the cockpit. Rick had a full command of the controls – my favorite part was his skill with the paddle shifters – making a sound that I had heard at the IMSA races. Round and round we went gaining speed and clipping seconds of time off each lap. It was a miracle that my lunch stayed put! Finally, I could tell that we were taking a cool-down lap and soon we were back in the pits. Wow! We took a break and joined Kristy and Nan in the clubhouse for an afternoon snack.

Since it was early afternoon, and we mostly had the track to ourselves, we went out for a second session. It was every bit as exciting as before, but this time it felt even more crisp and slightly faster. As we drove back to the pits to put the Radical up for the night, I thought to myself, “This was a very good day”! Don Kingery would have approved!

After showers and some recovery, the four of us were off to the Pahrump Valley Vineyard and restaurant for dinner. Saturday morning brought more good weather and fun. Breakfast at the clubhouse was delicious. The students at the Corvette school were scattered around the dining room, planning for their day ahead. Today the Z06 would take a rest and Rick would be putting the Radical through its paces again. Since the Corvette School was using the West course, Rick would be driving the more challenging Villeneuve course with its multiple long straights, elevation changes, and variable curves.



I found an ideal spot in the top of the tallest observation tower and used my iPhone 11 Pro to record lap times and capture videos. Rick’s driving skill was constantly improving, and the lap times confirmed it.


After a while Rick came into the pits and we all went “shopping”. The Corvette Racing School has some nice themed apparel. But Spring Mountain also has a sales office for turn-key, ready to race, cars.




After lunch Rick was back on the track joined by a group of Porsche cars – RS GT 2s and similar models. As the day wore on, more and more Club members were out on the track for a good day of performance driving.

We ended the day at dinner at a nearby golf resort and on Sunday we made the drive back to Carlsbad.The total trip distance was 641.7 miles and we averaged 21.6 MPG at an average speed of 71 MPH -- which is staggering to think of especially at the speeds we were driving!

Special thanks to Rick and Kristy for a really fun weekend and for sharing their Club membership with us!










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