Raceline USA at Chuckwalla: Part One
Words by Matt Willis
So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted to the site. Tim has been working most of the events since the beginning of the year, as I was busy with family trips and visiting relatives – something I usually do around this time. I’ve been following along with the coverage and I’m bummed that I haven’t been able to attend some of the recent shows; but hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things here soon…
In the last month or so, I was running around with my head cut off…in between work, school and visiting the family on weekends, I was trying to get my car ready for one of the first open track days of the year. I refreshed and reassembled my motor and got it running a couple days before the event. I dusted off the brakes and put in some HP+ pads, and got the car re-aligned the Saturday prior.
I decided to attend this particular event because I was told the track – Chuckwalla Valley Raceway – was a fairly easy course to practice on, and it wasn’t quite as far away as other Socal tracks like Willow Springs and Buttonwillow. After checking all the bolts, belts, fluids and hoses on the car, I got a few hours of sleep on Saturday night and then headed over to pick up Tim around 4AM. We loaded up the gear and headed out northeast to Chuckwalla. The track is right in the middle of nowhere (a place called Desert Center, east of Palm Springs), at which point you keep traveling about 50 miles east or so and then you might get a glimpse of it. No surprise that its way out there – the land is cheap and the climate is always good – it only makes sense. But the drive just felt really long. We got to the paddock around 8AM – I quickly checked everything over again and then went to the driver’s meeting shortly thereafter.
I had minimal track experience – and none in my Civic – so I ran in the lower classes to get my feet wet. I was probably among the slowest out there, in part due to lack of experience and mostly due to unfamiliarity with the car. I did get into some pairings but I stayed clear of the faster guys to try and study their driving habits. The car ran great – at least better than I expected. The track is a blast. The banked turn – four if I remember correctly – is just awesome. You can stay on the throttle the entire length of the turn. I spun out on turn nine – a fast uphill switchback that, if you’re unprepared, can really throw you off. Before my final run, the lower alternator bracket had come loose causing the unit to shift back and forth, so I stayed off track to fix it for the drive home.
Overall…I had a blast. Many of my favorite cars were out there running strong, so that was great to see. I also met Danny from JDM Zip Ties, who was gathering coverage with Tim while I was out on the track. He got some great shots, so be sure to check out his coverage as well.
On with the shots…
That’s it for today. Thanks for looking…more to come soon! – Matt