Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What I Learned on Track

#77 Passing on Track: Photo courtesy of OG Racing

Over the weekend of May 6-7, I spent nine 20 minute sessions on track and several other sessions in the classroom at Carolina Motorsports Park, trying to learn how to make the car go faster. That's the easy explanation, which broke down into various components of finding the fastest way around the track. So, in a 14 turn lap, other than accelerating, braking, shifting (up AND down, kinda like the two kinds of music in the Blues Brothers movie "Country AND Western"), track position, looking out for other cars in front and to the rear, and checking car condition from fuel level to air pressures, it was a pretty busy time.

As part of the NASA High Performance Driver Education program, I received my own little green log book, which is used for instructors to write comments and let the driver know what they need to work on the most. Besides sharing some photos and mentioning how much fun it was, I thought you might want to hear what in the world this was all about, and take a look at some of the details that an instructor can teach you. Out of the 44 items to check on, the ones I need the most work on to improve are:

-proper gear
-clutch action
Zack on Track: Photo from OG Racing

You'd think that shifting would be easy after doing it for years, but in this case, down shifting means to do it smoothly while braking into a corner, ideally while also blipping the throttle (hit the gas a bit while braking, with the same foot), so that the car doesn't get unsettled by bad shifting technique. This is something I'm aware that racers do, but I've just never done it before, so at least I know what I need to work on here. Watching the other cars out on track, it was easy to hear when they would rev the engine while shifting and braking into turn 1 at the end of a straight, so besides improving performance, it sounds cool too!

Other items I need to work on that my instructor highlighted were:

-observe redline
-course layout
-ABS/threshold braking
-corner entry speed
-look ahead
-smooth turn-in and track-out
-throttle at exit
-apex execution (that's a cool phrase, sounds like you're killing it!)
-use all the track
-at ease on track

Photo courtesy of OG Racing

Well, that's a good list of stuff to work on too! Overall probably OK for a first timer, and besides those items, there were those other 26 things that I did slightly better too. Hopefully I'll get to do this again this summer. For now, I'm looking forward to the coming weekend with teaching at Saturday's novice autocross school, and then Sunday's autocross competition with the Tidewater Sports Car Club here in Virginia Beach.

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