At Infineon Raceway
NASCAR Nextel Cup Road Course
View seminar photos
Once More Around the Track
By Stewart Tabak, Seminar Chair
Once again, a beautiful August day in Sonoma found a small yet enthusiastic group of CAOC members attending the annual “Vehicle Dynamics & Handling Seminar” at the challenging Infineon Raceway (aka “Sears Point International Raceway”). As was the case last year, the consulting firm of Boster, Kobayashi & Associates from Livermore sponsored the day-long seminar – thus allowing CAOC to team up with the Russell Racing School for an event which was both educational and enormous fun.
The morning session consisted of presentations from a tremendous trio of knowledgeable individuals, with Larry Knapp of Stockton providing indispensable moderating. First, Thomas Braun from the Boster, Kobayashi firm gave a terrific PowerPoint presentation of case studies and described the technology being advanced by major auto manufacturers with “black box” data recorders in passenger vehicles. These data-recording devices are becoming more common, and the capability of the boxes has become so advanced that a clear understanding of the presence and utility of these devices is necessary for attorneys working in the accident reconstruction/analysis arena. As he did last year, Tom demonstrated both the depth of his knowledge and ability to deliver the information in a cohesive and interesting manner.
Khaldoun Baghdadi from the Walkup, Melodia firm in San Francisco gave an excellent presentation entitled the “Do’s and Don’ts in Crashworthiness Cases.” Another repeat attendee from last year, Khaldoun discussed some of the mandatory steps for a practitioner when undertaking one of these cases; he also talked about some of the lessons learned in handling crashworthiness cases and the various ways to maximize the likelihood of success when dealing with the difficult issues presented in these cases.
The group then heard from Mark Wolocatiuk who is the chief instructor with the Russell Racing School. Mark brings an enormous amount of knowledge and experience to the table by virtue of his many years of racing, coaching, instructing and driving numerous types of vehicles. Mark dug into his stash of model cars in order to effectively demonstrate how different types of cars will result in varying handling characteristics – and what to expect when dealing with such things as a rear-engine, mid-engine or front-engine vehicle. He discussed the different dynamics involved when confronted with various types of weather and also stressed many of the safety and survival techniques which the Russell School uses to instruct teenage students (as well as older teenagers) in the street survival classes.
After a catered lunch we were put through the paces under the watchful eyes of Russell School staff. There were in-car exercises which demonstrated “panic” threshold braking; one course which allowed the students to react to a sudden obstacle to straight-line driving; and a skid-car which replicated driving on ice or other low-friction conditions. So as to appease the competitive nature of the dozen attendees, the stop watch came out and all participants were timed through a challenging course which included stopping/starting, slalom maneuvers, and maintaining car control – stressing that being “fast” was not necessarily the same thing as being “quick.”
Finally, the day concluded by taking a couple of hot laps around the 2.26 mile road course in Russell-prepared Mustangs at speed, with expert driving by one of the Russell instructors. Car control was at a premium here as the attendees got to experience the thrill of speed, handling, drifting and cornering – causing everyone to leave with smiles and satisfaction after a well-spent day at the track. It was a great way to pick up 6 MCLE credits and have a terrific experience at a wonderful facility.
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