Learning a new racetrack is always a challenge, and always fun. For those of us who have been driving the same four or five tracks for several years, the opportunity to visit the brand new, just-completed Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park was something we had been looking forward to for some time.
Even better, it was an opportunity to help the fledgling New Jersey chapter at their inaugural high-performance driver education event. Several NAAC instructors and members made the trek to southern New Jersey, the land of the Jersey Devil legend and full-serve-only gas,
for the October 21st-22nd track event. Mike Collier volunteered to teach the beginner classroom sessions, while other instructors and candidates helped run the beginner exercises and instructed students on the track.
The Thunderbolt raceway, a 14-turn, relatively flat road course, has little elevation change other than a tricky hill crest at the apex of turn 2. However, a combination of carousel turns (called the Jersey Devil, the Octopus, or the Turtlehead) provided an opportunity for much experimentation to find the best line for any given car. There was an interesting variety of cars present, from Audi 90s to RS4s and R8s, as well as a couple of Lotus Exiges and a 2000-era Champion Racing S4, lightened and making well over 450 horsepower, co-owned by ACNA president Dean Treadway. One of the additional challenges at this new track was that the grass hadn’t taken hold yet, and the facility was surrounded by fine sand. Whenever the wind picked up, huge clouds of sand would briefly obscure the track. According to New Jersey chapter chief instructor Thomas Buttner, the track has promised that a ‘grass whisperer’ would coax the grass to grow in time for next year’s track season, and the FIA-approved fluted curbing at all corners will be completed.
In keeping with ACNA tradition, the New Jersey chapter hosted a banquet the evening after
the first day at the track. New Jersey chapter treasurer Michael Witte was presented
with a new pair of driving shoes; in recognition of his Dutch heritage, they were
Piloti-styled wooden clogs, painted by Rachel Daniels. One of the great things about this
inaugural Thunderbolt event was seeing chapters from different regions come together
to make the event work. The camaraderie that we associate with our chapter clearly extends across chapter boundaries, and we are looking forward to next year’s events at Thunderbolt: May 18 & 19, 2009 (Monday & Tuesday) and October 23 – 25, 2009 (Friday – Sunday). If you’re a confirmed track junkie, or interested in expanding your horizons, I strongly encourage you to attend not just our track event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in April, but also one of these Thunderbolt events.