Thursday, June 20, 2013

Some help from the A-List

The last event was a lot of fun. Not because of the great competition. Panda broke before the event, Matt's miata blew out a tire on the first run, and Leafy's miata died on course... twice. My car was the only one completing all the runs in a reliable fashion. It wasn't fun because of the weather either, although it didn't rain it was sweltering 90+ degrees. It wasn't even fun because of the trophies. All my competitors broke yet I still only took second.

The fun came from handing my car to Eric, a top caliber driver and watching him demonstrate what the car could do. He had been the co-driver for one of the broken cars and is a national trophy winner for the last 3 years. Last year he took 2nd in E-stock at the National championships. Although it cost me an easy trophy, I got a ton of good advice.

Advice on the car: It drives well, with slight push at high speeds. It's great to have confirmation that the handling is good and that I shouldn't be looking for time there. Based on his times vs the top drivers of the day, my car is about 1.4 seconds slower than it should be in the hands of a top driver. This is about 3% of the total time for the race, so when we look at my pax percent scores, (generally around .91) add .03 and you get an idea of what my driving capabilities are. This also means that one only needs to find 1.4 seconds to make the car competitive at the national level. Adding the LSD and fatter tires should account for at least half of that, and .7 seconds worth of power might be within reach for a light weight N/A build.

Advice for the driver (Me): Go faster! Eric didn't actually tell me this, but it was instantaneously obvious from riding with him. Several areas I was just dog slow and didn't realize that the car could hold much more speed. Riding with him a second time also showed me the right line for the turn-around, something I had been getting wrong regularly on elements like that. He also picked up on and confirmed that I have a problem with memorizing the course, which can lead me to stop looking ahead and to not drive the course as it is and as I am currently positioned. Reassuringly he said that this is a common problem, though exactly how to to break out of the bad habit is not entirely clear. He also said that I tend to move my hands too much, shifting them on the wheel unnecessarily.

As for my times, the official result was solidly mediocre (for me), but the fastest scratch time was possibly the fastest I have ever driven, and within 2 seconds of his time. The cones on that run were +3, but it was all at the same point where my back end swiped the outside of a clams-hell. Just one small error, of questionable speed value. If that time had been clean I would have been 35th in overall pax and if one wants to imagine I had a car that was as fast as it should be (i.e 1.4 seconds faster assuming Eric drove as well as the top driver of the day, or perhaps 1.0 seconds if he wasn't on the top of his game) that would put my skills around 20th to 25th of 150 drivers.

But of course that's a fish tail about one that got away. I did hit the cones and my actual time puts me at 55th, with an actual skill estimate of 42-36th of 150. There's always next time, and it's clear that I should be setting my sights on the top 25, and on qualifying for brackets at the match tour.