Time to go racing, this time at The Ridge!

I had my first real taste of high performance driving on a track at Pacific Raceways not long ago. I wasn’t sure if I would love it or hate it, but I had already registered for another PNWR Driver Education track day at The Ridge. Thankfully I loved my experience at Pacific and I was excited to have another go.

I’ve had more experienced drivers explain the differences between the tracks, and each person seems to have their favorite. The Ridge seems to be the overall fan favorite and I can see why. The track has recently been repaved, and it feels like a more modern racetrack. More turns, a wider track, “more technical”, some blind corners following elevation changes and likely safer if you run off the track because you have nothing but grass and gravel to contend with. Pacific has more walls and trees to greet you if you make a big mistake. I need more experience on both tracks before picking a favorite. Pacific is much closer and I felt like I did better by the end of the day at Pacific. The Ridge remained a mystery to me, but one that I plan to solve with more experience. My day at The Ridge was also very wet…it poured the whole time. I look forward to experiencing The Ridge in better weather.

It was a very early morning start (a theme with most of my car events) and I was happy that Shep was joining me for the day. He wouldn’t be allowed in the car while I was on the track, but he got to hang out at the race track all day and experience the sights and sounds of cars ripping around at speed. I also bribed him with basically unlimited treats for the day. Given the rain he had to put up with, he earned it! We enjoyed the 2 hour drive from Seattle to Shelton, fueled with coffee, breakfast sandwiches and go-juice for the Spyder. You can see how prepared Shep was for the wet weather…that is his swim team jacket and it was perfect for the day.

Once again, I’m thankful that a pro photographer, https://www.bouchezphotography.com, was there to capture some fantastic photos. He put up with cold, wet conditions all day to capture these images and I can’t thank him enough! These are all Christian’s photos:

Here are some videos from the day. Not because they are impressive…on the contrary, I was slow and terrible. I’m just putting them here so I don’t lose them.

Here is the first session where I’m mostly focused on just getting to know the trackJust getting to know the track.

The second and third sessions are wetter. I started to get to know the track, but never felt comfortable at higher speed. The car, even with good wet condition tires, still felt unsettled in the standing water. The straight felt dangerous to me given the threat of hydroplaning. More experienced drivers didn’t have as much of a problem but I have not mastered The Art of Racing in the Rain yet. Given how rainy and wet it was, I called it a day after the third session and Shep and I enjoyed the 2 hour drive home.

Cars and Brunch with PNWR and The Shop

PNWR and The Shop…two great tastes that taste great together. This summer, PNWR has partnered with The Shop to host a few Porsche themed cars and brunch. Both were well attended, even though it was raining for the first event. Porsche people don’t mind a little rain, I can’t say the same for the Ferrari club 🙂

The next week the weather was much nicer, but I was too busy chatting to remember to take any photos! Here are a few:

Selfie by Jeff Waibel

Time To Go Racing…For Real!

As much time as I spent around cars, and as many high-performance cars as I’ve owned, my actual track driving experiences is very limited. Limited to zero. Tons of tours, a handful of Driver Skills events, countless cars and coffee events…no real track experience. It’s like the Fight Club line, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”. How much can I know about myself as a driver if I’ve never driven at speed on a track? A big part of what has kept me away is fear. Fear of the expense. Fear of damaging my car. Fear of injury. Fear of getting addicted to it. After my first experience, I’m happy to report that only one of those fears came true…I’m hopelessly addicted.

I’ve gotten to know and admire a number of friends in the PCA/PNWR group that organize our Driver Education / High-Performance Driving events and I’ve met a lot of the instructors over the years. I finally completed my first DE event at Pacific Raceways and it was a total blast. Incredibly well run, fun, safe and I learned so much more about my car and myself as a driver.

The day starts early with a 7am arrival time at Pacific Raceways in Kent, WA. It was a dark and rainy morning and the track was wet. Very wet…standing water in a number of areas. I was very happy that I had my Michelin PS4S tires. They are amazing street tires for the Northwest, but not ideal track tires. Unless of course it’s raining 🤣 Here’s a quick video and you can see how wet it was.

Thankfully the weather gods smiled down on us and the rain stopped, the sun came out and we had a beautiful 2nd half of the day. Dry track…race on! It made for the perfect first time out on the track. I had half the day to go slow in the rain, explore the track, learn some fundamentals and then I had half the day to also go slow on a dry track!

Pacific Raceways is an older track, and can be unforgiving, but we all escaped without incident. My instructor, John Silk, was a great teacher. He took me out in his car so I could experience faster laps than I was capable of putting down. He was patient and pushed me to improve with each session. Coming out of the long straight and setting up for turn 2 was my favorite part of the track. I was able to carry more and more speed into turn 2 as the day went on and my confidence increased. I hit a top speed of 131 mph on the straight, kicked the backend out a few times coming out of turn 3B (still working on that one) and had so much fun testing my limits and the limits of the car. I can’t wait for my next DE day at The Ridge, another local track that I’m excited to check out.

I’m thankful that a pro photographer, https://www.bouchezphotography.com, was there to capture some fantastic photos. These are all Christian’s photos:

Finding Photo Ops Where I Can

I’ve been working too much lately and I haven’t had enough time for long fun drives. I’m trying to make up for that by searching the city for photo ops during routine drives and chores. I miss the long drives for no purpose other to to enjoy the open road.

Stoping to smell the Cherry Blossoms on the way over to a friend’s house for dinner:

Exploring Sand Point while my kid was on a Nerf battle outdoor adventure:

Totally unrelated, but here are some cute stickers I made for the Spyder. It has become a little kid magnet at car shows with the Martini Livery and they get a kick out of taking a sticker with them:

Musicar Northwest & Avants Event – Bye Bye Bose

There are very few aspects of the Spyder that are underwhelming, but chief among them is the audio system. I know…it’s a convertible. I know…it’s a sports car and I should only care about listening to the engine and exhaust. What can I say…music is a big part of my life, and I love cruising with the top down on a sunny day listening to some new indie rock band. Okay, that’s a total lie…it’s more likely to be Billie Eilish or Taylor Swift…maybe some 90s hip-hop. I did add the Bose upgrade to my build, but the old saying of “no highs no lows must be Bose” still holds true. I was going to just live with it, but the stars aligned and I was introduced to Nick at Musicar Northwest. Nick has posted on Rennlist about these staged upgrades they have for Porsche, from mild to wild in three steps. We started talking about options and it quickly became clear that I was going to end up with another modification to this car. All it needed was this one last thing to be “perfect”…really, I swear.

Fast forward a few months, and Nick mentioned that the Portland chapter of Avants was interested in hosting a TechEd event with Musicar. He thought it would be cool to showcase a Stage 2 install and wanted to see if I was game. Hell yes, sign me up!

The plan was to head from Seattle to Portland super early in the morning and then come back the same day. It can be ~ 4 hours each way, so a bit brutal. I talked Shep into coming along and we turned it into a weekend getaway. We drove down mid-day on Saturday, stopped by Musicar to plan the next day with Nick, left the car with him and then checked into The Duniway Hilton in downtown Portland. We had a great time exploring Portland. We had some great sushi, found a super-sized chess board (I lost) and played in the pool until they kicked us out.

A reminder that you can click on the individual photos or photo galleries for a larger view.

Thanks to “spring forward” daylight savings, morning came earlier than we wanted it to. We fueled up with some breakfast and good coffee, and made our way to Musicar for the event. It had rained a lot on our drive down and the car was a mess. I brought some quick detailer and I expected to spend the next hour cleaning the car. To my delight, the awesome crew at Musicar had already done it!! Winning. I spent the time wandering around the shop and reminiscing about my college years spent selling car audio at Circuit City, Myer-Emco and Audiobuys. The last two were high-end shops in Virginia where we did competition level custom car audio systems. We were living in the dark ages compared to what Musicar is working with. Laser engravers, 3D printers, a woodworking shop that would make a master carpenter jealous and sophisticated interface components that seamlessly integrate with OEM entertainment/communication systems. I was in awe of the facilities and clearly in good hands.

Once Sheri (the Director of Avants Portland) and the Avants crew showed up, it was time to setup the event and prepare for folks to arrive. Coffee, check. Avants swag, check. Amazing pastries…yes please. Here are some photos as we got things ready. Nick opened up the shop so we could get a closer view of the larger, custom projects which can take months and hundreds of hours of effort. That Continental is massive and so are the subwoofers going into it!

Okay, enough socializing…time to get started on my project! As the Musicar crew prepped the car for the install, Nick walked us through their process, talked about the components being used, speaker dynamics and took questions from the group.

In addition to the full suite of custom options, Musicar offers 3 stages of upgrades for cars like mine. Stage 1 replaces the tweeters which can make a huge difference by themselves. Stage 2 replaces the tweeters and the underpowered Bose amp. It adds a more powerful amp, a digital signal processor (DSP) and sound deadening to the doors. Stage 3 replaces all of the speakers and uses a different amp appropriate for that setup. Nick and I both felt that for my use case, a convertible where the top is almost always down, Stage 2 would have the best bang for the buck.

The specific components in the Stage 2 kit are:

  • Morel Elate MT350 tweeters. Beautiful soft dome tweeters that make such a difference.
  • The AMP/DSP comes from Audiotec-Fischer and powers 10 channels with a total of 580w of output.
  • The built in DSP allows Musicar to fine tune the system for each car and customer.
  • A MOST interface enables the clean integration with the Porsche PCM system.
  • Various sound deadening materials are applied inside the door, on the door and the door panel as well. This makes a huge difference in the bass response and helps stop the door from vibrating as much, acting like an unwanted speaker in the system.

Each of these components are specified by Musicar and sit in a custom lightweight mounting bracket for a clean installation. While the system likely adds about 10-15 lbs of weight, that isn’t going to be noticed outside of a dedicated track car chasing every hundredth of a second. They aren’t the target market for audio upgrades, unless you include ripping them out completely. My lightweight Antigravity battery saved me about 40 lbs so this is just eating into that savings a bit.

In skilled hands, lots of them in this case, the installation is straight forward. The tweeters drop into the factory locations, the doors come apart easily, and the seat comes out with a few bolts. They need to remove the 8″ driver in the door to install the sound deadening but that is simple enough. They even found a few places where grommets were poorly installed at the Porsche factory and some screws were loose so they fixed those as they went. The AMP/DSP/MOST interface all get installed in the same oem location where the Bose amp lived, neatly tucked away under the passenger seat. It was fun to watch the guys work, and they did an incredible job, especially considering they had an audience of 30+ and the owner of the car sticking a camera in their face the whole time!

Nick has posted even more detailed, step-by-step photos of similar install processes on Rennlist here and a Stage 3 install here.

After the installation was complete, everyone had the opportunity to sit in the drivers seat for a demo. I was blown away by the difference. It’s hard to put into words how effective this stage 2 kit is at transforming the listening experience. The detail, separation, soundstage and bass response are better than custom systems I’ve done. These photos of Sheri, when the bass kicked in, do a better job of conveying the experience than I can put in words. I had high hopes, and this exceeded all expectations. Joyful.

After folks had left, Nick did some custom tuning to create his first top-down Spyder tune for the system. No major changes to the hardtop tune other than to give me a bit more headroom in volume to compete with the wind noise. So now it really does go to 11. I’m the one with the big grin on his face, sporting my new Musicar hat and listening to the tunes while he does his thing.

Here’s a quick video I put together from the event. Thanks to The Actual Tigers for the music, alas this local band is no more. Thanks to Avants, Sheri, Nick and the whole Musicar Northwest team for turning what started out as a basic stereo upgrade, into a really fun weekend event!

Lastly, here is a short video that Sheri captured of my first demo. All smiles when that base line hits (volume up)!!

Update – I’m so happy to see that this blog post made it to the Avants News feed!

Update #2 – I had the chance to do a compare and contrast between my Musicar system and a factory Burmester system. Same car, same source, impartial judges, and the Musicar system came out way ahead. No contest really. Here are two of the folks that went back and forth between cars to test it out having some fun in my car 😂

PNWR Tacoma Winter Tour

Yet another great PCA PNWR winter tour is in the books. This one started in Issaquah and took us east to some beautiful roads along the Cascade foothills. We stopped at Saltwater Park and our final destination was Wally’s Chowders in Des Moines before breaking and heading home. A great day spent laughing with friends, eating donuts and driving fun cars on beautiful roads. While there was fog to start the morning, the rain stayed away and I was able to have the top down all day. Not bad for a winter tour!

Summer Wheels: BBS FI-R!

Seattle can get some freakishly late winter storms, but I decided to take my chances and have my summer tires and wheels put back on the car. The tires are the same Michelin PS4S summer tires that I love so much for the Northwest and the wheels I went with are BBS ultralight FI-Rs in exactly the same fitment as the Porsche wheels. These wheels not only look stunning, they save about 7 lbs per wheel compared to Porsche wheels. That, combined with the lightweight carbon brakes on the car significantly reduce the unsprung weight (weight not held up by the suspension of the car). Reducing unsprung makes the job of the suspension much easier. This helps the car handle better, recover from bumps better and makes the car more comfortable over our crappy roads. Did I mention that they look stunning too? Just look at that custom brushed clear finish that Supreme Power hooked me up with. Bling!

Here is the Right Away Tire crew doing their thing along with some quick shots in the garage…I had to get back to work:

With the workday over…I could take the car out for some real photos to showcase these new wheels: