“My Girlfriend’s” Miata: Part 6 – Gingerman Raceway Baseline Test

“My Girlfriend's” Miata: Part 6 – Gingerman Raceway Baseline

by Daniel O'Donnell

As luck would have it, the girlfriend had to work out of town and the semi-local track that we do all of our testing for the Professional Awesome Evo, Gingerman Raceway, was hosting a weekend track day. This would be the perfect opportunity to take the Miata, with or without her knowledge, up to the track. With tech and driving support from PA Motorsports owner, Grant Davis, it looked like the perfect opportunity to take the car around this wonderfully challenging racetrack to get some data on what the Miata could do. With the roll bar, seats, brakes and cooling system ready to go, it was also a great time to track test these systems to ensure everything was up to snuff and baseline the car for future improvements.

For complete transparency, this track day took place in April. I know, I know, we’re almost done with summer and this article is just getting released, my apologies in advance. April is a critical detail for this story though. Gingerman Raceway is in South Haven, MI and South Haven is right on Lake Michigan. West-Central Michigan in April can have some of the most beautiful and terrible weather, usually in the same day, heck, even in the same hour. Turns out, we experienced all the extremes.


Take note West Coasters, this is what a Midwest track day in the spring looks like. In 30 years I'll be telling someone else's grandkids, lord knows I won't have any of my own, that “when I was a kid, I had to drive to my track days through 3 feet of snow and uphill both ways!”

I’ll spare the details, but the 3 hour trip from our home base in Lafayette, IN took us through rain, sleet and lake-effect snow. A Miata is not the place you want to be during a late spring blizzard… on the interstate… at night… and for the last hour of the trip I prayed to the race gods to let us arrive safely so we would be able to enjoy the perfect mixture of good ole’ Mazda engineering and freshly re-paved racetrack. The gods were listening as we made it to our hotel safely and, as a side benefit, the snow had scared off most of the other track day participants. This left us with more track time than we could possibly want.


Even with a bit of snow on the ground, Gingerman Raceway is a beautiful place to be. A smooth flowing course that throws challenges at you one after another. I always feel like there's secret speed waiting if I learn a better line or make some adjustments.
Gingerman is also the site for many track tests of the Detroit auto manufacturers and magazines as The Motor City is just a few hours away. Additionally, Chicago is about three hours away, making Gingerman one of the Midwest's premier track destinations.

Gingerman Raceway is a challenging, but safe track, making it the perfect choice for both testing and fun times. It is 2.14 miles long with 11 corners and mild elevation change. For our Californian readers, I would describe it as similar to Buttonwillow in the sense that it is technical and tough to feel as though you got the perfect lap. I always leave scratching my head and wondering to myself, “that was ok, but what can I do better?” Unlike Buttonwillow, it is in a beautiful location. Situated on 300 acres of rolling, green land, with a stocked pond and near a quaint little tourist town that has lovely accommodations and terrific food, you couldn’t ask for a better place for a track to be built. Also, it doesn’t smell like shit, so that’s a plus.


This picture is a more accurate representation of Gingerman in the spring and summer. Luckily the snow didn't stick around, which allowed me to really push the Miata to get a good lap time set as a starting point for future performance increases.

Our track day would start off with snow and rain, but with a forecast calling for clear weather later in the morning that would last for the remainder of the day. A little chilly with temperatures starting around 30 F, but warming up to a balmy 40 F in the afternoon. Not wanting to sit around and do nothing, we decided to take the Miata out in the wet to shake down the car and also to help to create a dry line.

This is a good time to point out a few minor additions we brought with us to the track to improve the driving experience and datalog our lap times. First, a CG-Lock seatbelt “tightener” was purchased to get some of the feel of having a harness in the car, without sacrificing the all-important streetability of the Miata. The CG-Lock is used to keep your seatbelt tight against your hips, which locks you into place and reduces the need to brace yourself during turns. Second, an external, Bluetooth GPS receiver was purchased to get accurate lap times. A Garmin GLO was purchased for its high sample rate of 10hz, as well as the ability to lock onto GLONASS satellites in additional to GPS. GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of GPS and the more satellites, the more accurate the positioning of the receiver. This was partnered with RaceChrono, an Android app used on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which honestly blew my mindhole wide open with how incredibly well it worked. Finally, a LRB Speed aluminum aero undertray was added, but you’ll have to wait for a future articles for info on that.


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