Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thanks for Forcing My Hand, Mike

Yeah, if you read Mike's post, I drove at Dub Deliverance 4.  It was my second track event stateside.  I had fun but I can't do Shenandoah in my sleep like I can Summit Main (yeah, when I was riding with Mike during his morning FATT session, I had my eyes closed and I know all of the turns and lines by heart because I've ridden along so many times on that course.

The first time I rode shotgun on Shenandoah, it felt like it was 100 degrees and with the twists and turns (22 of them), I was either going to lose my lunch or pass out.  In the spring, I was better able to stomach the course since it was a frigid day in March.  Yesterday, the weather was beyond perfect for a Spraugust day.  :-)

The biggest thing for me driving Shenandoah is that there's a very different view and understanding of the track from the left side of the car than the from the right.  Sure, growing up, we learn to mimic the actions of our parents driving, who are there as we attempt to gain our drivers licenses as teenagers.  The problem with mimicking someone as an adult is that there is a better understanding of what the car can do.  I don't drive the Rabbit often, but being shotgun so much, I do know the courses, in a sense; and I know what that car can do, because Mike does it.

What I'm getting at is that I was trying to use his lines.  His braking zones.  This is a bad idea for someone's first time driving the course.  I know that going into 20, he brakes probably 150 feet before he tracks in.  My skill level isn't to that point; yet that was the lead I was following.  I know going into the Karussel, he brakes at this darker spot on the pavement, about 100 feet going into the sloped turn.  Again, not appropriate when I wasn't quite hitting the line.  Like Mike, I carried up in my last run of the day and skid across the top of the concrete and asphalt on the car's belly pan (aluminum sub frame protection FTW), although it didn't result in a four-off like his.

In general, I had a great day.  I had good instructors.  And got to catch up with the usual faces of these kinds of events (like Dubs on the Boards, SCCA, NASA, FATT, H20i...) for VWs.  I know where I have problems following the line (aside from the Karussel and turn 20; I was hitting the others pretty spot on by the end of the day) and I know that I shouldn't be following Mike's lines and brake zones.

The event on the new Jefferson in early June was probably better for me.  I didn't have any experience on that track before.  Mike didn't have any experience on new Jefferson.  It was a blank slate.  Nothing to mimic.  After I got over my nerves going into the Jefferson event, I did great.  I probably would have done great, if not better, on Jefferson if the event venue didn't have to change for logistical reasons.  I knew I wasn't ready for Shenandoah because of its turns.  Yesterday was proof of that.

On September 12th, I go out on Summit Main for my last event of the year.  After yesterday, I know that the turn 1 braking zone for me is the 3.5 marker and not the almost 1 like Mike's.  I know that turn 4 is a PitA.  Hopefully, I'll do better in September.  We shall see.

Dub Deliverance and Friday at the Track

This was originally just going to be a status update, then I realized it was getting REALLY long and had some good information to share with a wider audience.

Exhausting weekend.  Friday I had students in two of the three run groups and during Dub Deliverance I was instructing in nine of the on-track sessions.  I will start with Dub Deliverance and then double back to Friday at the Track.

Dub Deliverance is a great event run by TrackDaze and sponsored by VWAPR and NGP Racing.  This is a great event for anyone who wants a cheap track day because thanks to the sponsorship it is only $55 for participants.  Such a good deal that I was originally going to enjoy my time as a participant, but they needed more instructors and I have this flaw that makes me volunteer to help.  Somewhat sorry I did because I was run ragged on Saturday.

First I was in-car instructing a VW Employee around track in a MkVII Golf TSI (1.8T engine) that had some R bits and pieces on it (most notably, brakes).  I really like the styling of the new golf, although if that car had been a manual it would have made it more suitable for the track (The auto won't let you stay in the power band as easily).  Adding the APR 1.8T software probably would have made that even better, although it is not officially released for the MkVII yet, but I don't think the MkVII Golf (as opposed to the GTI) is in dealership lots yet.  The traction control REALLY didn't like the carousel constantly clamping the brakes as we went around it.

After that session I got a break (Because I wasn't back in time to hop in a Blue group car anyway) but then come green, I was in a MkV R32.  First ever time on track for that guy (and it turns out he was three spots down from us in the paddock).  Even though there weren't assigned instructors, I worked with him in ever run he did that day because I prefer the consistency.  (He skipped one session to let his friend use the car since his friend couldn't get his car ready for the track)  In the second and third blue group sessions I went out with Nate from NGP and helped him with the line on a couple parts of the course. I also instructed one of the cars in the second VW Employee session (Same driver, this time a MkVII GTI).

The MkVII GTI had nice power and was a manual.  The only problem with that car was it had completely stock GTI brakes and the driver who took it out the first session REALLY worked them so they started to fade about half way through the session and we had to pull it in.  The same problem happened with my green students R32, his brakes were still stock and his last run of the day he had to pull off early due to fade.  The very last session of the day for green/blue combined I ended up riding with a different student (despite REALLY wanting a break and wanting to start packing up) but he was a more passive driver (who still needed constant direction around the track, but at least he wasn't trying to drive into the hairpins 20 mph too fast or anything.  After that I was so wiped out I skipped my last track session and just loaded up the car.

Chrissy was also driving the car through the day in blue group but I will let her summarize her experience if she so chooses.  I also took the car out in two yellow sessions to get myself some extra track time, unfortunately, one had a bad start.  My brakes are sometimes a little inconsistent when cold, but they seemed to have enough heat in them from the other turns I went into leading up to the carousel.  Unfortunately, they weren't quite warm enough and I ended up hitting the carousel a little fast.  The car bounced a bit, slid up the hill, my skid plate scraped along the rim and I was shot out into the grass headed straight towards the tire wall. (see video below)  Fortunately I was still slow enough, especially with the added friction from scraping against the concrete, to avoid the wall.  And that was the second time that weekend I was four off (I was only driving one of the two times though, more on that later).

Now for Friday at the Track.  In Group 1A I picked a student in a MkV GTI who I had met at a previous Friday at the Track.  He was a great student who took instruction well and improved through the day.  He still needs to work on his threshold braking and cleaning up his line a bit in the back section.  For Group 1B I ended up working with three different students.  An E46 325i, a supercharged BRZ and for a very brief period, an Evo MR.  The Evo was a check-ride.  Another instructor had given him straight fives for two sessions straight and I was checking him to move him up to group 2i for the next event.  I told him I was just going to observe and only intervene if needed.  He didn't break hard enough for turn 10 on main.  At that point there isn't anything you can do because if you brake going into the turn you end up on the inside wall.  As we were starting to head out in to the graven, I just started yelling "Straight straight straight" so we didn't catch the front wheels and either roll the car or dart towards the inner wall.  The car started to slow in the gravel but one of the ruts in the sand jerked the wheel a bit so we started wiggling across track.  Once we were in the inner grass he gained just enough traction to gradually steer it away from the wall and we missed the tires at pit exit by about 2 feet.

So, we pulled into the pits, talked about it and talked to the pit control and headed back out planning on taking it slower.  He went a couple more laps, but had to pull it in after feeling a vibration and just parked it for the rest of the event.  He was actually much more shaken by it than I was (I was eerily calm during the whole thing).  His line also was sloppy when I was in the car with him so I think maybe nerves got to him knowing it was a check-ride.  So, I didn't put him forward.  So...that was my Friday and Saturday, how was yours?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Track track and more track

I have had a busy year so far.  So busy that I keep losing count of the number of days I have had on track.  I have met some great people and been building up my instructing resume at the same time.  To think, just last year I was a student and now the roles have reversed.  I had expressed my interest in instructing last year and BSR invited me to their instructor clinic this past winter.  From there, things have almost become a blur.

I started going to the Friday at the Track events, and emailed the TrackDaze guys to get started with them.  Then during one of the Friday at the Track events, they said the SCCA event the following couple of days needed additional instructors so I volunteered.  All of that happened before my first event instructing with Track Daze and while originally they had planned on putting me through their own mini instructor clinic but instead they had to just put me to work due to a shortage of instructors that event.  I then decided to show up for their VIR event as well even though I originally intended to skip it.

After that I was put in touch with the head instructor of another organization (Hooked on Driving) that was looking for more instructors for their VIR event.  So I made the long trek back down to VIR to audition for a recurring gig instructing for them.  That event went well and so at that point I had four organizations under my belt that I was already instructing for.  Another SCCA, Friday at the Track, HoD and Track Daze event later and I was pretty content with my schedule.

There was then a call for help for a teen driver education event (Tire Rack Street Survival).  If you have a teen driver, send them through the program!  It was a long but rewarding day.  Audi Club North America Potomac-Chesapeake Chapter was running that specific event and they said they were also in need of more instructors for their next event coming up.  Again, I am a sucker so I volunteered for that as well.  That event was half of a day of exercises like was offered during the teen driver education event, and then half a day of a normal track event.  Had a blast, met some more great people, and even got a nifty hat out of the deal that says Instructor on the side (Thank you Criswell Audi).

So, now my schedule for the rest of the year is pretty well set and I hope to have the BMW on track by the August 24th event and if not, by the SCCA event in September.