Imagine twenty-five sports cars. Imagine over forty automotive enthusiasts. Imagine Texas roads which make sports cars smile. Imagine fine dining as well as small-town home cookin’. Imagine combining all this into a four-day experience. What you now have is the Raging Bull Texas Stampede (RBTS).
This is the seventh annual Stampede and personally my fourth year to attend. I’ve attended hundreds of driving events over the years. I’ve discussed hundreds more with other enthusiasts. I’ve even researched drives throughout the country and read many different experiences. Nothing can compare to the Stampede. Many other drives encounter great roads. Many are well planned. However, it’s the level of planning, the safety precautions, and even the intricate maps which supersede everything else. The “Tourmaster” is behind all this planning, yet always in front leading the way. We, the Stampede participants, are incredibly thankful.
I will assure you, and assure you again, that on the Stampede you will enjoy almost every ounce of performance in your car while on public roads. (Obeying all traffic laws of course!) I mentioned the safety precautions. Slow is now what has come to mind for most of you, but you need to read the beginning of this paragraph again. The list of precautions is huge and for the most part there to allow you to drive faster while staying safe. Of course, as usual, a good part of this is not being stupid and just driving within your limits. This is made easier by the fact that to attend you must be older than 25 or have had some legitimate racing experience.
Here’s how it went down…
Thursday. Since many couldn’t meet until Friday morning, Thursday was an “unofficial” day for the Raging Bull Texas Stampede VII. We met that morning, hoping the rain was done and the roads would soon clear. Unfortunately the forecast was for rain all day and through Friday. Soon the drizzle began again. While a bit disappointed, you could still see a twinge of excitement in everyone’s eyes. Well, almost everyone. I brought my dad this year. Being a retired pilot, I knew he was familiar with speed and more g-forces than we would experience over the next few days. What I didn’t know is how he’d handle not being the “pilot”. I might have seen a little apprehension in his face that morning. We had eight cars and another meeting us a few miles down the road. Luckily that morning’s drive was intended to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Austin hill country. We did exactly that…for the entire 200 yards of visibility. We had hope though, as we were to visit Harris Hill Road’s 1.8 mile, 11-turn track.
H2H track images courtesy of Bill Jurasz.
Luckily, for the most part, the rain held off while at Harris Hill. A few others had joined the group for the afternoon that couldn’t make the morning drive. The track was wet but still a lot of fun. We started off with some classroom instruction by a couple great guys (think BMWCCA / PCA / pro-racer types). Next we headed out for some lead/follow laps, alternating 2nd position behind the instructor car. While these weren’t hot laps, they were far from one-handed coffee drinking laps. After that, everyone had the opportunity to ride along in an instructor car or as a passenger in their own car with an instructor at the wheel. I took advantage of that and moved over. My dad sat in the back, and I sat in awe at how smooth and effortlessly my Infiniti G35 was flogged around a wet track. I got a few suspension setup tips, and I learned a few different lines which were amazingly helpful on a wet track. It was beautiful. I then was fortunate enough to be one of the participants allowed to do hot laps in my own car. So I spent a good 15-20 minutes trying to recreate the earlier laps with the advantage of two less people in the car. Apparently my car also had an extra helping of oversteer which was mysteriously absent when the instructor drove. All in all, even with the rain, it was a great day. Then it was to the hotel and a great dinner with plenty of words like coil-overs, torque, and boost-controllers.
Friday. A monsoon apparently came during the night and was hovering. We gathered for the drivers’ meeting where the true identity of the Tourmaster was revealed as he stressed safety about cold performance tires and wet roads. We started off in a heavy rain and worked our way to the middle of nowhere, where we primarily would remain for the next 2-3 days. I really mean nowhere. There’s nothing out there but freaky albino deer, turkey vultures, and amazingly smooth twisty roads. Throughout the day, we all came to terms with the wet roads. Some, me included, even began to enjoy them as our tires surprised us with remarkable levels of grip. After 264 miles, with only a couple short breaks and a wonderful Italian lunch, we arrived at our destination. Hickville. Redneckville. I can’t remember the name. The lodging and dining options were limited, but to the Tourmaster’s credit, the roads nearby were just too good to not subject us to a few visions of The Shining. Regardless, there was food and a bed there, and that was all that mattered.
Saturday. An early morning was met by a certain yellow Corvette Z06 (Big Bird) being washed in the freezing cold by a cut-off hose while a few of us went for a quick run up and over a mountain and back. The roads were a bit damp, but the mountain road was sublime. Afterward, at our drivers’ meeting, our spirits were high with a forecast of sunshine for the rest of the weekend. The roads were soon dry as we bombed away toward a Tex-Mex lunch and a quick visit to the Mexican border. By this point, Big Bird had to have had at least 4 baths. That afternoon, we drove a 17 mile stretch of near-perfect pavement and high-speed sweepers. The road ended at a highway with (gasp) traffic which led to our hotel for the night. So we did what any good enthusiasts would do. We turned around, drove back 17 miles, turned around again, and drove the 17 miles a third time. On this last leg of 17 miles along with 70 or so twisty mountain highway miles back to the hotel, I let my dad drive. Keep in mind; he’s never had a sports car. The next thing I know, he’s throwing the gear lever around, smoothly pitching it into turns, gunning it out, and catching the car in front of us. Impressive. That night we had a wonderful steak dinner and a few of us hosted some of the great officers and airmen of our great United States Air Force. Wonderful conversations ensued. Raffle drawings were conducted. Someone won a set of Toyo tires. My dad won a DVD player. It was the perfect end to the perfect day of driving.
Sunday. After another drivers’ meeting and Big Bird’s 505th bath, we were back on the road. It was an absolutely gorgeous day again with even more roads almost devoid of any traffic. Only as we neared our lunch break did we encounter any other vehicles. So we just relaxed and enjoyed the pretty country as we approached some great BBQ. It felt like the old west…but with cars. As we ate, many stories were told of how we each conquered the Raging Bull over the past few days. Some said their goodbyes and went on their way. The rest of us caravanned for as long as possible before peeling off one by one toward home.
The drive home on I-35 was long, but we blended into traffic at what seemed an obnoxiously sloooowwww rate. My dad and I discussed the many great people and cars we met and admired the past few days. My dad even began to ask questions about which new cars handled well, had good acceleration, and would be good in the Kansas City and Colorado snow. We made it home and my parents went on with their usual retiree travel, heading for Phoenix for a couple months. The next thing I know, my dad and I were swapping emails with thoughts and links to car reviews and stats. Well good, at least he has an idea what he wants. I figure once they go back to Kansas City in a couple months, he’ll take his Civic out of the garage, sell it, and buy something fun.
Nine days. That’s how long it took. Nine days later he bought a 2010 Subaru WRX Premium. He wanted good handling. Its all-wheel drive system and suspension has it covered. He wanted good acceleration. 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. Covered. I guess the Civic will still be in Kansas City in March to sell in better weather.
Watch out in Maricopa County, Dad. I hear Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a tough one.
Most images link to the full photo gallery.