Monday, February 19, 2024

Another Weekend at the Track! Show Me the Data!

Legends racecar.

Last weekend we headed out to Carolina Motorsports Park for two fun-filled days on track with the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). For the first time in the NMS-North car, we fired up a shiny brand new AIM Solo 2 data logger and boy did we do some logging! Yes, I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK, I sleep all night and I work all day! If that sentence doesn't ring any bells, you need to find the Monty Python Lumberjack song on YouTube quick!


Har de har har! Seriously, the data logger can help show me where I can go faster. As you drive each lap, it also shows you lights so that you know if you are faster or slower than your best lap so far. Kind of groovy technology!

This is a Radical brand of racecar. These things are mighty fast on track!


Each of the two days we got in four 20-minute sessions with other drivers, not racing or going for time, just doing laps and working on our own driving skills. This kind of driving is known as High Performance Driver Education, because it's broken up into beginners that have a coach in the car and progresses to drivers with more experience that can drive solo. The other progressive part is that as you go through their four levels, each level has less restrictions on how you can pass slower cars. Beginners can only pass on long straights, and the top-level folks can pass anywhere on track. This is a GREAT way to keep things safer on track and make sure that all drivers are engaged and aware of the OTHER drivers. 

A couple of cool looking racers.

Bottom line, I managed to drop several seconds off my best time, by not really paying attention to the timing on course, and then looked at the times later. For each session I set different goals, like "go faster in the kink at turn 10" or "don't go so slow at the kink in turn 10." With 14 corners, our group coach suggested picking only a few spots to work on for each lap and use the repetition of driving 7-8 laps to work on those specific spots. I think that was great advice, and of course I worked on more spots than just the kink at turn 10!

Lots of Mustangs, Miatas, BMWs, and other brands of cars, but I only saw one HULK.

If you're going to go, go in style!

By then looking at the data, I could identify more places to try and improve, and for me it was more time to gain in the slow corners. If you can go faster in the slow corners, then you're carrying more speed into the following element (straight or another corner.) If it's a long straight, then your higher speed keeps you faster all the way to the next corner, since even a caveman can step on the gas pedal. Getting faster/smoother at braking and cornering and exiting was my main focus. I could say "braking and entering" but that might sound criminal...and believe me, my slow driving IS criminal! Har-de-har-har!

My car uses just premium, but you can get a racecar that uses race gas if you want. That's $10.99 a gallon at the track. 

Besides having too much fun driving for two days, the rest of the time I was also having fun checking out other cars on and off track and talking to other drivers. Oh, and with the huge number of drivers, there were a ton of cool tow vehicles, trailers, and high-end rigs to check out also. Well, more than a ton!

AIM data showing my best lap times on Sunday morning. It was a chilly 36 degrees, and the cool air gives you more horsepower since the air is denser. The right column just gives minimum and maximum speed per lap. 

While I wasn't competing in wheel-to-wheel racing, I will go ahead and claim a new NMS-Racing lap record at Carolina Motorsports Park, since Brian said he hasn't gone any faster than my best time on Sunday, 1:51.02. Given enough practice, I can go faster than that also. To keep this in perspective, I saw the times from the Time Trial drivers, and the best time there was a 1:34 something, so that's miles faster than me. 

I analyzed all the data and have finally determined that this picture shows the reason why my car is so needs a better driver!

One final data point, by combining each of my best 6 sectors per lap over the two days, my fastest "theoretical" lap would have been 1:49.158, nearly two full seconds faster than any single lap I managed in reality. There's always something to improve, and like Ken Miles says in the Ford vs. Ferrari movie, "the perfect lap is out there, but no one has driven it yet" or words to that effect!

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