Saturday, October 24, 2020

Track Day Stuff

Here's a few topics related to driving your car on track. I'm no expert, so this is from the perspective of someone just enjoying a hobby and having fun trying to safely drive faster. I won't end up racing at Indy, in NASCAR, or anything, but it sure is fun to drive (safely) on a track. It might be fun to drive fast on your local street or Interstate, but it's not safe and I don't recommend it. 

Like any hobby, you should get better at it the longer you do it. If not, well, I hope it's just fun to do, that's probably a good enough reason for any hobby! Along with that, the more you study how other people do it, read about it, get coaching, or study video of your technique should all help you improve. For me I can relate maybe only 1% to what I see pro drivers doing, as far as how the car is handling, how to best approach a corner, and to have any actual experience driving with other cars around you on track. Maybe with practice I can get up to 2% of what the good drivers do! Two percent isn't much, but hey, that would be a 100% improvement from 1%! BAM!!!

Track Addict App--I bought a free version of this app, and then upgraded to unlimited video recording. This lets me review my driving videos with some basic info like speed, sector times, lap times, etc. In other words, instead of guessing how slow I am, now I can see EXACTLY where I'm slow, and HOW SLOW I am! One feature of this app shows you how much time you are coasting, so once I saw that over the weekend I realized I wasn't being aggressive enough, as in mostly being on the gas or the brake, and not just coasting around the corners. Sure enough, my fastest lap of the day had the least amount of coasting. That alone was worth the huge expense of $8.99 the app cost! If every lesson in life only cost 9 bucks, I bet we'd all be better off. 

Great scenery around the track too

People--Even with technology, I'm sure I learn more from people than from apps, videos, or reading. With a driver coach in NASA HPDE events, the amount you can learn is unlimited, both before, after and during the driving sessions. On one lap I asked my coach about an upcoming corner as we approached it, and got some great tips that way just by asking. 

HPDE--This is not racing, and not really about going faster, as much as it's being SAFE and becoming a more aware driver. More aware of what? Glad you asked! A few of the things to think about on each lap would be how you approach each corner, how you brake, when you brake, when you turn into the corner, when you get back on the gas, how you steer thru the corner, where your eyes are looking, what gear you're in, how the car is performing, look in the mirror for cars approaching, look at the corner workers for any flags, know what all the flags mean, and be aware of as much as possible. That's all, that's all there is to it. Multiply all those things by say 14 corners per lap,  times the 52 or so laps I did over the weekend, and, well, that's a lot to think about!

Gas--This might sound funny, but with all the other moving parts and technical car-stuff to think about, you also have  to have gas in your car. It's a no brainer, but I saw one driver run out of gas during the last session on Sunday, he had to pull over during the session and sit there as the rest of us kept driving laps. It happened right in front of me since I'd been following the driver for a few laps, until he slowed down and stopped on the side of the track. Next time around he was still there, yellow flags were out, so I slowed a bit to get past. Without gas, all the technique and fast high powered cars in the world won't be going anywhere unless you're starting on the top of a big hill.


Brakes--Brakes are like gas, really essential to having fun on the track! Oh sure, you could have fun with no brakes, but it's not going to last long, and there might be some pain at the a really SUDDEN end when you stop by hitting something! As I've heard said, you'd be one of those drivers racing to get to the scene of the accident, your accident because you don't have any brakes. So for driving you have to check your brake pads and rotors, make sure everything is working, and even replace the brake fluid before getting serious. Last weekend I had a backup set of pads with me just in case, but I didn't need them. My plan is to flush the brake fluid before my next big driving event. 

Consumables--At one track event it was pointed out that "nothing you do today driving on track will make your car worth more money!" It's a true statement, which also means that driving will cost you money as your car uses gas, tire wear, brake pad, and other fluids. It's not the cheapest hobby in the world, like sleeping, but it's way more fun!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Weekend Report From Massachusetts

After spending two days on track with NASA Northeast at Palmer Motorsports Park in Ware MA, well, that was a blast! Don't take my word for it, check out a lap of the track right now: 

Palmer Lap

Despite some rain before we got on track Saturday, and the temps being on the chilly side Sunday morning, it was a great weekend. Here's a few scenes over the two days: 

NASA has been running a promotion if you buy a new Toyota Supra, you get some discounts on bringing it out to the track! That explains all these Supras on track!

Palmer was a really fun track, and part of the scene is always being able to keep things running on time if something goes wrong. That's where the classic tow truck comes in, this yellow version was sharp looking with the Fall colors. 

You might be thinking that the checkered flag goes to the winner of the race, and while that's true, it basically just means that the race, or driving session, is over. The flag system communicates to every driver the most important information they need to know. When you see this flag on track, you need to pull in to the pits on your next time around. See, that way EVERYONE'S A WINNER!

I thought that these wings were just aerodynamic bits to make the car go faster and stick to the track, but I can see I was WAY OFF, it's a coffee holder!

More than driving, taking part as a High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) student means paying attention during classroom sessions when you're off track. Here's our instructor Ed explaining how to be a better and safer driver. 

Sunday morning, it was around 32 degrees at this point, and the deck was a little bit slippery! Things warmed up by the time we hit the track, and it was a great day!

Sunday tech inspection for cars that didn't run on Saturday included this distinctly colored car #63. I saw him a few times on track driving in my HPDE 1 group. 

It's yellow, and it's a McLaren. I didn't get a chance to see this car on track, but I know it's fast. 

Next to the McLaren, here's a Lotus, another quick British car. 

Brought to you by the fine folks at NASA Northeast, and Palmer Motorsports Park, Ware, MA. 

OK, one more British car, a Caterham. Based on the Lotus 7, this has got to be a BLAST to drive. My instructor Chris said he rode along in the Caterham and was amazed at how it handled. 

Two other Caymans, the Cayman R on the left, and a Cayman S on the right.  The blue car was in my driving group, the white car was in a more advanced group. 

Joe Casella welcomes everyone on Saturday, and we had a great weekend with NASA NE thanks to Joe. 

Camping out, waiting to drive again.  Over the weekend, I was on track for 10 sessions, most were 20 minutes at a stretch, and then the various other groups, racers, and time trial drivers would get their turns over the two days. Here's the NMS Cayman, it's a 2009 base model, 2.7liter, with new OZ wheels and Hankook Ventus RS4 tires. For my first time on track with this car, it was nice! Other than putting in some gas and checking the tire pressures, no issues. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Let's Get This Thing* on the Road!

(*by saying "Thing" in the title, we are NOT putting a VW "Thing" on the road)

Today we're kicking off a driving weekend at Palmer Motorsports Park in Massachusetts, so this will be my first track time with the Cayman. So far I've got some good wheels and new tires for the track, and I've stocked up with some oil for an oil change, and got an extra set of brake pads ready too. What amazes me is that in all the car-driving-story-telling-and-writing world, I bet 90% of the time folks will go on and on about making a car faster, work on getting more horsepower, yet forget that when you go faster you also need to be able to stop better! In other words, even the most powerful car in the world probably needs to be able to stop too!  

Current weather reports are for a good amount of rain Friday and Saturday. That's OK, a little rain never hurt too bad, but some dry driving Saturday afternoon and Sunday would be even better. The track at Palmer is a curvy one, lots of guard rails and rock faces, since the track is carved into a hill. That translates into taking it easy as far as I'm concerned, and keeping things safe at all times. With this type of track day, and being out there with at least 31 other cars, we'll only be allowed to pass each other in certain areas, so that keeps things on the safer side. 

Here's a list of current "things" that will be driving in my group. There's a total of 32 drivers so far, with the Toyota Supra leading the way, followed closely by the Mazda Miata. Brand-wise, Toyota-Scion has the most entries, with BMW and Mazda trailing. Looks like a good variety of cars will be on track, so let's make sure those drivers pay attention and avoid any contact!
































Focus RS























Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wear Your Helmet To Work Day October 16!


While 2020 has been a wild year, one thing hasn't changed, and that thing is Wear Your Helmet To Work Day! The automobile enthusiasts at Grassroots Motorsports Magazine have this little celebration every year, and this year it's Friday October 16th. You can read all about it at GRM WYHTWD

Monday, October 12, 2020

Cars and Coffee, Manhasset NY

Plenty of Porsches, how about orange!

 This COVID virus stuff is getting old, so I was happy to hear about a Cars and Coffee event being held close to me in Manhasset last Sunday. Sure enough, I drove over there and there were CARS!!! And, there was COFFEE!!! Together again, at the same time...CARS AND COFFEE! I wore my mask, and enjoyed walking around and taking these photos, and then I even splurged and bought a hazelnut latte, the world's greatest drink! Probably only about a billion calories, but you only live once. 

I learned that both the Porsche Club of America, and the BMW Car Club of America have personalized license plates you can get in NY, so how about that! Among all the awesome cars from those brands, there was also a few Ferraris, a Lamborghini, one Aston Martin, and one of the brand new mid engine C8 Chevrolet Corvettes. Overall, a great way to start your day! Here's some cool cars:

Acura NSX

The New C8 Mid Engine Corvette!

New Corvette!

Spoiler Alert!

Audi R8, with a V10 motor

Friday, October 2, 2020

I Bet You Didn't Know There Was An RV Hall of Fame!

Neither did I until today! Located in Elkhart Indiana, the Recreational Vehicle and Motor Home Hall of Fame has a museum that you can visit too. Check it out at RV/MH HoF

I was following the NMS-South race car trailer upgrades, and then ended up researching various trailer manufacturers. One trailer builder is located near Elkhart IN, and there on the map I spotted the RVMH Hall of Fame. Wow, the things you can learn on the Internet. Or by looking at a map. 

Now that I think about it, I've known plenty of people with RVs or MHs, from my parent's used one they travelled in when they retired, or my friend's family that had a classic back in the day, and all the autocrossers and race car folks that travel in their own RVs to camp at events too. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

I Bought an Aston Martin for 75 Big Ones!


Checkered Flag win for Aston Martin LM GTE Amateur 2020. 

Yes, it's true, I just bought an Aston Martin for 75 big ones! Big, I mean HUGE, or really, SMALL, like, for 75 cents. As in, 75 US Cents, less than a dollar. You can't afford to NOT buy an Aston Martin for 75 cents! 

Well, I didn't exactly get a car, oh no, you certainly can't buy an Aston car for a few pennies. I bought a share of Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings for 75 cents a share. Worst case scenario, my HUGE investment goes to zero and I'm out the price of half a Coke Zero. Best case, who knows, it might actually ZOOM to the top of the investment world to maybe 76 cents a share, even the upper 77.5 cents a share! I'll be not only RICH, but RICHIE RICH RICH!

The real story with Aston Martin is that earlier this year they sold public stock, and unfortunately there's this little economic situation around the world, and the stock price has basically gone way down. Also this year, an investment group led by Canadian Lawrence Stroll bought a controlling interest in Aston Martin, and next year we'll see a real Aston Martin Formula 1 team racing around the world. They're going to rebrand the current Racing Point team as Aston Martin. Who knows, maybe with my one share of their stock they'll be interested in asking a real shareholder to drive the race car! Or accept a free car! Probably not!

Oh, Mr. Stroll also has a son named Lance. Lance Stroll is currently one of the Racing Point drivers, so we'll be seeing him drive for Aston Martin next year. Kind of handy when your dad owns the team! Here's the current Racing Point F1 team website: RACING POINT F1 TEAM

While we're talking about Aston Martin, we'll see some of their classic and some new cars in the next James Bond movie, if movies ever open again near you! This past weekend the Aston Martin folks had a great 24 hours at LeMans, taking first place in both the LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am classes, so congrats! Check out the 24 Hours of Le Mans at: 24

Monday, September 14, 2020

Twenty Four Hours in 2020

It feels like we've been working on the car since our last race in February and FINALLY we were able to get back to the track. The Lemons folks have been fine tuning their COVID precautions the last few months and everything flowed pretty well this weekend. It was really nice to see all the racing friends and tune out everything else in the world for a couple days. So, our second ever continuous 24 hour did it go? 

Our deluxe paddock spot for the weekend.

We got the car loaded last weekend so it was ready to get to the track Thursday evening. Paddock space was set up and we prepared for running some test sessions on Friday with an hour in the evening to check out the night time setup and lighting. Fortunately our friend Robert was driving for us this weekend and brought his semi-truck rig to give us an awesome home base. He races on a regular basis so he was our hot-shoe ringer this weekend. Additionally, friend of the team James came up from Florida Thursday evening as well to participate in his first ever wheel to wheel event, so he balanced us out on the experience spectrum. Kyle and Luke rounded us out for a total of 5 drivers. 

Friday we got to it by giving everyone a session in the car to get comfortable and checking off a few last minute items. We made it through Lemons tech and BS inspection with the usual assignment of "A" class and 0 penalty laps. We have not placed better than 11th over all and have never beaten the top B class car at any event, so while we'd love to get B class, we know the reliability of the Miata will keep us in A. We got a pretty cool Star Wars themed stencil this weekend on the hood. 

This is the way.

Friday night we set up a projector in the trailer and reviewed some video and helped prep our newest member with some more last minute tips and tricks. Everyone was feeling good and ready but we knew the car was running a little rough. Suspecting a fuel issue, we prepared to send Kyle to the parts store Saturday morning so we could swap in a new fuel pump and fresh o-rings on the fuel injectors just out of caution. 

Three hours before the race, good time to tear it apart.

With all hands on deck, we jumped into action Saturday morning around 8am. We may be a "Bunch of Idiots" but when it comes to race weekend, you'll be hard pressed to find a more efficient and skilled team in the Lemons paddock. Everyone was buzzing, knocking out tasks left and right. Glass cleaned, transponder installed, injectors removed and new o-rings installed, the fuel pump came out and replaced in no time, tire pressure and lug nuts checked, everything was double checked. I suited up first and we got me on track just after 10:30 in preparation for the 11:00 green flag. 

Last year's headlight rig is back for more duty.

I pushed through until about 1:00 when we had a red flag situation for an accident in the kink (turn 10) that left one car on its side. Fortunately everyone was okay and they just needed us all to stop so they could get the emergency vehicles there quickly. Once they cleaned up the incident, we went ahead and pitted me to get James in the car. We were ready to pull him earlier than his scheduled 2 hour stint since we know it can be tough to last that long on your first race, but he radioed back that he wanted to keep driving so we left him out. He kept up a great pace and at 3:15 we got him out and put Kyle in the car. Kyle ran us until about 5:15 when he came in and Robert took over. 

Showing James some in-car from a previous race to get an idea of what to expect. The trailer makes an excellent movie theater!

Around 6 a massive down pour hit the track. Again, the team sprang into action, called him into paddock for our one non-pit lane stop to swap our fresh tires so he would have lots of tread to keep pushing a fast pace in the wet. In about 3:30 we had him in and out. 

The team stands by for a pit stop.

We heard the track was going to go full course yellow to provide supplies to the corner workers, so we brought him in early at 7:00 to align with the full course slow down and got Luke in the car. Luke very shortly got the second big deluge right around when something was interrupting the track radio system. Without the ability to clearly communicate between all the corner stations and emergency vehicles, racing cannot continue, so all cars were pulled into paddock while they worked out the issue. Luke rested in the car and drank some water for almost 30 minutes until he could resume his stint.  

Aside from pit lane, the track was very dark, making good headlights essential.

Luke took us until about 10:30, when we put James back in for his first night session. He carried us flawlessly to 12:30 when I got back in the car. Around 1:30-2:00 Kyle let me know over the radio that I had taken us into second place overall. Not a call I was expecting to hear at all since I really was struggling with traffic and dealing with the blinding headlights at night and had felt pretty crappy about my night driving. That call kept me going until 2:30 when Kyle took back over and I went to sleep. 

Crew gear on stand-by for pit stops

Thankfully Phillip, Adam, and Chris were there to support our pit stops over night so the drivers could sleep. It made all the difference. At about 4:30 Robert got back in and carried us to 6:30 or so. We managed to wake up Luke and he hopped in and carried us back into daylight. Around that time our pit strategy jumped us into first place overall! Knowing we were fighting for an overall win, we scrapped our plan to rotate tires again and adjusted our driver strategy.

All our SCCA friends and teams in paddock.

We hoped Luke could take us to 8:50 so Kyle could stretch us to the end and eliminate one pit stop, but unfortunately the fuel just wouldn't hold out. Kyle got in about 8:40 with a full tank of fuel and we told him to push hard so we could get Robert in with just a splash of fuel to really push the pace until the end to fight to keep the win. Unfortunately, around 9:30 there was an incident on track that triggered a full course yellow and it allowed the eventual winner to take a final pit stop without losing nearly as many laps. 

Luke charging into the morning.

We kept Kyle out until 9:30 then pulled him in, topped off fuel and let Robert push until the end. Unfortunately we fell back to 2nd on the stop and had 2 laps to make up. Robert was able to pass the lead car once, but the car didn't have enough pace to get past them again. Right at the very end he putted into paddock with an ignition issue, but with less than 10 minutes to go we sent him back out to limp it home and hold onto 2nd, now down by 3 laps instead of 1. 

Drivers left to right: Robert McManus, Brian Nixon, Luke O'Hara, Kyle Ray-Smith, James Tolson

It was a wild ride, but the car held up and the team executed nearly flawlessly all weekend and we got our best result ever of 2nd overall! We came so close to the win it was a bit frustrating but we are ecstatic to have beaten so many other cars with our little 1.6L engine that might put 100 hp to the ground.  Consistency, clean driving, teamwork, and communication all add up! I am so proud of all the work we've put into the car and what we can achieve. We've rebuilt our own motor, set up our own suspension, completed a ton of wiring and custom fabrication, plan and execute strategies, and manage all our own maintenance. We'll get back under the hood in a few weeks and we hope to take the fight to the field at Road Atlanta in December. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

BMW: The Ultimate Driving Experience

The BMW folks are coming back to CitiField with the 2020 version of their Ultimate Driving Experience, from October 30 to November 1st. NMS loves this event because we get to drive someone else's brand new cars, and they usually want you to drive them just one way, "faster." The COVID pandemic has cancelled a lot of driving and other events around the world (you might have noticed this!), so we're really happy to have more opportunities to drive this year. While the main goal of these manufacturer events is to sell cars and get more customers to try out their products, we've always had a blast at similar events no matter who was sponsoring them. While you can always go down to your local automobile dealer and ask for a test drive, it's just way more fun to participate in one of these events when they set up some driving challenges like off-roading, autocross, or just flat out stomp on the pedal straight-aways! You can read all about this event and sign up to get info when the registration is open: In previous blog posts we've written up our experiences with Ford, Jaguar, Abarth, and Lexus, so we'll see how this year's BMW event stacks up!