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I got a tip from a guy at work that a local racing club was holding one of their performance driving courses out at Portland International Raceway (PIR), so I finally bit the bullet and signed up. I always thought I wouldn't bother until I can save my pennies for a 55, but considering how I'm driving on the road thanks to this car, I figured it would be good to get some of the aggression out of my system that's been building up in the 10 months that I've owned it.

Apparently this club does 3-4 such classes every year, although their focus is on actual racing competitions. My instructor (who rode with me in all sessions) had been racing for about 19 years. Kind of an older gruff guy, but he knew his stuff. I attended the ground school the night before, and learned about some of the physics behind racing like weight transfer, the tire's circle of traction, etc. Good stuff.

For the track day, we were divided up into 4 groups: Novice, Intermediate, Expert, and Advanced (of which I was in the Novice group since it was my first time on a track). Each group had four 20-minute sessions.

I had the only Benz out of everybody there. Notable cars in my group were a Vette Z06, a modified Denan(sp?) M3, a Nissan 350Z, a couple Mazda RX-8s, and at the other extreme, a Ford Focus. The ones I remember from the Intermediate group were a Ford GT, and a modded 300hp Mini Cooper (no joke). The Advanced group had a couple 911 Turbos, while the Experts were taking their racing vehicles out for test runs (the highlight was a formula car that was literally lapping everybody else).

Our first session went slow, as we apparently had a speed limit in place for the Novices. Just getting used to the track and such. By the end, we were all lined up in a long slow caravan (no passing allowed), and I know that I was ready to let loose.

The second session still had no passing allowed, and before long I found myself in another caravan behind a slowpoke. My instructor said I could take the track exit, and circle around to the entrance where the starter would find me a gap. I did this, and finally was left to my own devices. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. :D Coming down the back straightaway on that same lap, there is a slight turn to the left, which is meant to be taken at fairly high speeds. Unfortunately I misinterpreted this as meaning that not a lot of braking is needed, which isn't quite accurate. I went to turn, and didn't budge an inch, completely understeering right through the turn and onto the grass at about 90mph. Fortunately the track veers around again to the right, so I went straight and intersected it, and crossed over it to the track exit that was right there. I took a second to collect my breath, circled back around to the start area, and was off again. Fortunately there were no more incidents, and I learned a good lesson about braking before entering a turn. ;)

Our 3rd session finally allowed passing, and I finally felt like I was racing. I passed about 6-7 cars, including one of the RX-8s, and passed 3 at once on one of the straightaways. I wasn't passed by anybody else on this session.

The 4th session was after lunch, and the way we all came back from eating, I found myself behind the Z06, with the 350Z directly behind me. I set a personal goal of keeping the Z06 in my sights (yeah right), and not letting the 350Z pass me (doubtful but remotely possible). Unfortunately my 228hp just wasn't up to either task, although I take solace in the fact that the 280hp 350Z took 4 laps to catch up to me and get in a position to pass (we started with about half a straightaway gap between each car). That was the only time I was passed all day (although that M3 was catching up to me by the last lap). Oh, and the 350Z also passed the Z06 (mainly because the Z06 driver was older and a little more conservative).

My top speed was about 110mph, limited mostly by my desire to not absolutely kill my brakes, as I tended to start braking on the straightaways fairly early. Car felt completely stable the whole time. When we'd head back to our cars to get ready for the next session, I noticed a few people here and there pausing to walk around and take a gander at my car. Kinda cool to see.

Overall, it was an incredible amount of fun. I'm not sure if I'll do another track day until I can upgrade my car in a year or two, as I felt limited by the non-sport suspension, small tires, and no manual shifting ability. Still, though, I feel like my little street roadster made a good showing of itself. I can really see myself getting into this on a regular basis...

I recommend everybody try getting on a track with their SLK at least once....
 

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06' SLK350
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Sounds like fun, I was suppose to go to a performance driving school with BMW CCA but convertibles are NOT allowed, hard-tops included. :( Gordon (SLK55) is going to be there, I might go just to check it out but I can't drive. Will have to settle for open track days with my brother.
 

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'14 CLS63 AMG S, '10 GLK350, '03 SL5000
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Ynot said:
Sounds like fun, I was suppose to go to a performance driving school with BMW CCA but convertibles are NOT allowed, hard-tops included. :( Gordon (SLK55) is going to be there, I might go just to check it out but I can't drive. Will have to settle for open track days with my brother.
Yes, I'll be there (Pueblo, CO) on Friday (6/16) for an open track day for instructors and over the weekend to instruct. If you can make it to the Salt Lake City area over the 6/24-6/25 weekend, you can have some fantastic track days at the new Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele with Lappingdays.com http://www.lappingdays.com/
 

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I'm going to the 6/10-6/11 Track day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sponsored by www.speedventures.net. Anyone else interested?

I've tracked at Streets of Willow Springs in bone stock for and fared quite well, being able to keep up with a bone stock 350Z, A4 3.0's, and WRX's. Big surprises are that the Mini Cooper S, Toyota Matrix XRS, 7G (c.2003) Civic Si, and gutted out Civics are actually quite fast. The track is really technical, and even on the straightaway where i gunned it, I couldn't hit past 90mph.

I recommend to everyone that if they desire to track, go bone stock your first time. You should go to a technical track so you don't run into too many problems since you don't really go that fast. You will quickly learn the limits of your car and what area (if any) you will need to upgrade. I found that my stock SLK350 brakes faded by the 3rd run. The body roll with the standard (non-AMG) suspension was horrible. The stock Primacy tires have decent grip initially, but grip will quickly deteriorate once the tires heat up. By the 4th run, I was literally drifting every other corner. And also, drive with the ESP off. The ESP is really annoying on the track especially if you chirp your tires on a straightaway.

For this run I have upgraded my brake pads (Axxis Ultimate), my tires/rims (Toyo T1R 235/35/19 front, T1S 265/30/19 rear), but haven't touched my suspension. I figure I should wait on the KW V3 coilovers instead of an interim solution with only H&R springs. Any recommendations?
 

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'06 SLK55
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Nice write-up. I very much enjoyed the read.

I too am planning on tracking my car. I just can't seem to make time! UGH.

What you described sounds very similiar to what I just joined. It's HPDE with NASA.
There's a simple $40 membership and track days are about $150-180. You usually get (4) 20minute sessions. You can even get seven session if you sign up for some of their weekday events. Here's some info:

http://www.nasaproracing.com/hpde/index.html

Like said, everyone should track their car at least once!
 

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slk 55
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Slightly off topic but I did a track day recently, thought not in my car. The familiarisation laps were done in a 911 turbo with an instructor alongside, then onton a single seater formula ford (actually pretty slow, just designed to get you used to single seater racing), then onto a single seater formula lotus (pretty darn fast), all of which was meant to build you up to the highlight of the day which was 10 laps around the track driving a formula 1 car (incredibly fast)

What I will say is that I was expecting the 911 Turbo to be a much more fun drive, but found it quite sanitised, I wouldn't swap my 55 for one.
 

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2005 SLK 350
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I would love, one day to try the "old" Nurburgring track but knowing me, I'm sure I would at a point try to hard and I don't have the money to do repairs in the probable case it would really go wrong.

But on a "slow" technical track with a lot of space around it... Yeah !!!! (maybe the Top Gear airfield track would be safer for my baby LOL)
 

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Great thread and write up :) I'm keen to try a track day at least once too... although I think if I got into it I'd probably buy a 'cheap' track day car (like a caterham or something) and keep my SLK for the roads :)

I'm getting the sports suspension and I think that will help. I drove it on the roads and didn't find it too bad to be honest... I did prefer it to the standard suspension, but that's just my choice :)

Finally confirmed the spec of my car today - I've been slowly adding and changing bits as I found out more. I'm now on "the long wait" for it... :(
 

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slk55er said:
Yes, I'll be there (Pueblo, CO) on Friday (6/16) for an open track day for instructors and over the weekend to instruct. If you can make it to the Salt Lake City area over the 6/24-6/25 weekend, you can have some fantastic track days at the new Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele with Lappingdays.com http://www.lappingdays.com/
I doubt if I'm able to make it to Utah, but I'm still helping out with corner work as I promised before so, I'll still be there on Sunday but not doing any driving.
 

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FPF422 said:
Has anybody driven on Laguna Seca ? Loved that track (on my playstation LOL)
Yes, 2 years ago, but not in my SLK55. I was driving my '95 BMW M540i M-sport (4 Liter V8, 6-speed, cockpit adjustable suspension) that I have since sold. The corkscrew is a blast. The rest of the track is relatively routine, although it can bite in several places.

I also recently had the pleasure of "driving" this track and Road America (where I've spun in The Kink and hit the wall) on a friend's $22,000 simulator which has a hydraulically actuated seat and many other additions to the basic track simulator software. If you go into a turn too fast and break the rear end loose, the video display shows that, but also, the seat slides sideways and gives one that uncomfortable feeling of oversteer and you have to correct.

Also, if you go off the track, you can hear and feel the gravel and dirt clumps hitting the bottom of the car! And if you bump a car as on a NASCAR track, you feel the bump and must countersteer to recover. After 10-15 minutes, you are no longer in the game room -- you are driving the car. It is a very impressive simulator!
 

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Laguna Seca is an amazing track (at least on Gran Turismo). I have seen many car clubs hold events there. We should definitely try to get as many benzworld members interested as we can for the next such event. Does anyone know when the next event at Laguna Seca is?
 

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I've driven Seca a few times - very fun track (just not a fan of the dust when its windy sometimes).

-Matt
 

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I've done a couple, well maybe 5 or 6 track days.. including one this weekend.

check out http://video.fotki.com/easty/ for some videos of from a helmet cam with the slk55

SLK55 did you replace the transmission fluid for your track days? I was meant to put some redline in but never had
chance and this time I coompletely cooked the transmission.
 

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Easty said:
SLK55 did you replace the transmission fluid for your track days? I was meant to put some redline in but never had
chance and this time I coompletely cooked the transmission.
What exactly do you mean? I tracked my car once plus have done 5 or so AutoX events. Your post is a little concerning.
 

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Great read

Very much enjoyed your narrative. Makes me want to run my 350 at a track.

Seems like everyone in this thread who has raced their cars lives at or near the US west coast. How about us drivers in the mid-Atlantic east coast? Anyone involved in race days here?

Just asking.
 

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Easty said:
I've done a couple, well maybe 5 or 6 track days.. including one this weekend.



SLK55 did you replace the transmission fluid for your track days? I was meant to put some redline in but never had
chance and this time I coompletely cooked the transmission.

Easty,

How often to you get out to MSR in Cresson???
I have been out there once with the MB club of Dallas and had a blast.

Would love to see your 55 and compare it to my 32 especially on a track!!
 

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gmabli said:
Very much enjoyed your narrative. Makes me want to run my 350 at a track.

Seems like everyone in this thread who has raced their cars lives at or near the US west coast. How about us drivers in the mid-Atlantic east coast? Anyone involved in race days here?

Just asking.
gmabli, I used to live in Boston, and I went out to a couple track days around New England with my Civic. There is Lime Rock Park and some other tracks. You may want to look up local Solo2 clubs (Autocross) and some places that hold track days.
 
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