Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Make The Car Go Faster

Make the car go faster? That, in a nutshell, is all you have to do as a driver on a track. So easy a Caveman could do it, if he had a car. From my Track Addict app, I was able to get my lap times from a recent track weekend, so here they are, a bunch of numbers from Saturday and Sunday. Keep in mind that the fast guys were way under 2:00 per lap. Each of the 5 sessions per day is split up below. The first session of each day was just following and no passing, and as you might expect those are the slowest overall times. I was thinking that my fastest times would be in the last session of the day, but it was actually in the next to last sessions, go figure. 

Long story short, my best lap on Saturday was 2:04, and then on Sunday the best time was 2:02. Since I started Saturday morning with a slow 3:01 on a damp track with no passing, and that for the rest of the weekend things dried up, I guess I made the car go faster. Mission accomplished! I will point out that a better driver would have been much more consistent with their lap times, so that's what I'm working towards. 

Breaking it down even further, the app splits the track into 5 different sectors. I could show you all 5 split times for all those laps, but that wouldn't exactly advance the human race much further, so I'll just give you my best single lap, and then my best "theoretical" lap made up of best individual sectors. 

Comparing Saturday and Sunday, it was good to see some improvements after getting more familiar with the track. While there were plenty of other variables that affected some of the laps (like being behind other cars) I had fun trying to figure out how, and where, to go faster. Another great tool for learning to go faster is to go to YouTube and find videos of drivers on any one particular track, because you can see how they attack each corner, and compare their speeds to mine. 

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 end...like 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!

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, 2.9 liter, 265HP, 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.