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Park is repaving the track!  HEARTLAND PARK IS REPAVING THE TRACK!

That news shot thru KCRPCA region’s collective race-fury-infused minds, like a lightning bolt surging through the gloom of a stormy night.  Had we seen the light of hope?  Heartland Park had been absent over the last few years.  Some had lost hope.  But the news that Heartland Park was being repaved, hit many of us similar to waking up to learn the Royals had won the World Series.  There was instantaneous joy.  There was a decade of disappointment and frustration wiped clean.  Grown men were openly weeping as if remembering a lost love.

For me, Heartland Park Topeka (HPT) was my first Driver’s Education (DE) event.  You see, your first DE is like your first romance; you never, ever forget it.  It lives in your mind forever, and it improves over time.  Alpha zero, the carousel, the back straight with the kink – the Nurburgring simply has nothing on HPT, I don’t care what anyone says.

This great news was however met with doubt and many questions.  When will they open?  Can we still have our KCRPCA DE’s out there?  Will the track be the same?  Did they change anything?  If a ‘drag strip’ company buys the track, will they have interest in the road course?

Over the holiday break, Bob Wayman finally announced the real news; an official, no kidding, no fooling around DE has been scheduled for the KCRPCA at HPT.  I sign up immediately.  As a bonus, it also included Friday for even more track time.  The track would retain its original layout, and by all accounts, the repaving was an absolute success and covered every square inch of the track.  “We considered a partial repair, but in the end decided a brand new state of the art surface was what we really needed.” said Jeff Lacina, Road Course Director. They ground away a full 3 inches of pavement.  This was to be replaced by two separate 1.5 inch deep applications of a very special mix specific to our climate and track use.  They did it right.

Since that first DE, I have been to other regional tracks and have steadily been building experience and making small changes to my “racing” equipment.  The first “small” change I made was changing cars.  I now drive a 2003 996.  I have added track wheels and tires, a sport suspension, removed what I could to reduce weight etc.  You know, the usual.  Having almost 4 months to pace around the garage waiting for the first DE of the year, I had plenty of time to plan my triumphant return –finally back at HPT.

Like a child waiting for Christmas, the day finally arrived.  By then, I had everything neatly organized (typical DE stuff – tools, spare oil, brake fluid, jack, torque wrench, pyrometer, OBD-II interface to Harry’’s Lap Timer…seriously, I could go on) and every system on my Porsche checked, rechecked and inspected – including the all important brake fluid flush.  I loaded up the truck and put the car on the trailer at 5:30 a.m.  Just as the eastern sky over Kansas City began to show the first misty hint of light, I departed Overland Park following the old Santa Fe Trail west to my destiny.  I was seeking a brighter, high speed horizon.

I arrive safe and sound, unload and after a valuable eight o’clock driver’s meeting, we were lined up on the starting grid.  It was really happening.  We rolling out onto the track.  It was cold.  It was rainy.  It was windy. It – was – spectacular.

The track was alive again.  It was smooth.  It was fast.  The old hump over the railroad track was gone.  Alpha zero was once again standing proud.  The new corner workers were all at their stations waving to the new parade of cars as they sped past. Even the paddock seemed fresh and new, as it was filled with trailers and gleaming sports cars.  It had all lived up to its glorious billing.

If you were there, you know mere words can’t accurately describe the race course perfection that is now HPT.  If you weren’t there and have ever wanted to experience a world class road course, the fall DE is your next opportunity.  See you there.

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