I finally made it out to a NASA event, this time at TWS.  I’d been trying to make it to Eagles Canyon with them since I haven’t driven it before, but work schedule conflicts prevented it.  I still wanted to get at least one NASA event in before I left Texas, so at least they’d have me on the books as participating and I could get a feel for the organization.

National Auto Sport Association

I suppose before I go any further, I should explain that this is NASA as in the National Auto Sport Association, not the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  They, as the name implies, are a nation-wide sanctioning body for numerous classes of road course and autocross racing.  They also run a DE (Driver’s Ed, Driving Experience) called High Performance Driving Event (HPDE) which is practically identical to what I have been running with The Driver’s Edge, BMWCCA, Chin Motorsports, and Performance Driving School.

HPDE is the starting place for anyone looking to get on the track and build up to actual competition.  Rather than colors for classification (Green, Blue, Yellow, Red), NASA calls their run groups HPDE 1, 2, 3 and 4.  The rules are nearly identical to the other organizations, with passing being limited to designated straights for HPDE 1 and 2, and open with a point for HPDE 3, and simply open for HPDE 4.

I joined NASA a while back in anticipation of working my way up to actual competition, aka wheel to wheel racing.  NASA is the sanctioning body for the German Touring Series (GTS) as well as Spec-E30, which are two of the most popular classes for BMW‘s to run with.  In fact they seem to draw a larger entry than BMW CCA Club Racing does.  It also helps that you can run a GTS car in a CCA Club Race.

Of course before I can even think of going out for wheel to wheel, I need to get much more seat time in DE‘s.  And if you are bored with non-competitive DE‘s, NASA has Time Trial (TT) classes as well.  These are run essentially in the same manner as the HPDE groups, sometimes even sharing the same session with HPDE-4.  The difference; TT is racing against the clock.  Quickest time in a session wins, pretty simple, although it gets a bit more complicated when classifying your car and making it competitive.

So you can see there are essentially steps to take towards racing, in addition to a required competition school before earning a license.  Based on my experience, I signed up for HPDE-3, which sounded like the equivalent of a “yellow” run group (or “blue” in Chin’s case.)  I also only signed up for one day, since I would be taking the M3 sedan on some already torn up Hankook Z12’s from the previous weekend at TWS.  We’d be running clockwise this weekend, so I’d only be evening out the tire wear.

Upon arrival at TWS on Sunday morning, one thing was immediately apparent: NASA draws a much larger crowd.  I thought TDE events were big, but I’d yet to see this many cars at the track.  The entire paddock was full, as was the infield straight away (which is normally wide open and can be used as a slalom) and even the VIP stands had trailers and campers scattered beside them.

The other thing that was readily apparent was that the racing was the main draw.  The paddock and garage wasn’t full of spotless Maseratis, 911’s, or McLarens.  No it was full of Spec Miata, American Iron Mustangs, and other assorted race cars.  Clearly racing was the main focus and HPDE was just a side show.  I found an empty spot by the pit fence line next to a couple Spec Miatas and dumped my stuff.

After a quick Tech Station inspection I sat in on the morning HPDE drivers’ meeting.  We’d be running HPDE 3 & 4 together, with the TT guys by themselves.  We were given some bright colored stickers to put on our rear bumpers so the faster HPDE4 cars knew they were about to overtake a 3 car, since we were operating under different passing rules.

The rest of the day went like most other DE‘s I’ve been to, we had a couple academic sessions in the classroom as well.  I haven’t run clockwise in about a year, back when I was a Green student, so it took a bit of adjustment.  All in all it was an enjoyable weekend.  Most of the folks around me were very friendly, though I didn’t recognize any faces from my previous track days.

The car performed the same as it had the previous weekend running CCW with Chin, though I thankfully had fixed the loose differential axle bolts and shock bolt.  It still was very understeery and didn’t have a great deal of grip.  Running the course clockwise caused the tires to chunk like last time, only on the left side now.  So at least I had symmetrically bad tires.

Below is a video of one of the sessions, showing a three different angles just for fun.


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