Saturday, April 23, 2011

[4/22/2011] Track Report (TMP)

Event: TCI & TMMC Open Lapping
Track: Toronto Motorsports Park, Cayuga
Weather Conditions: +4~7°C, Overcast

Yesterday was my first open lapping day of the season with co-workers & friends. It was also my first time at TMP, Cayuga. The day was very cold and windy! But at least it was dry :rolleyes:

Run 1 - High 1:30's ???
I started my first run with pressures of LF 31.5, RF/LR/RR 32.0 PSI. Damper settings were +3F, +4R from soft, my street settings. Goal of the first run was to get familiar with the track and see how my tires were holding up. The track was very slick at this point and it felt like I was struggling for grip. I was not confident at ALL in T1 because of the speed, lack of grip and amount my car was rolling. I was also having trouble finding a line through T7 because it was a deceivingly long turn. I was also hitting the rev limiter on the straight up to T7. Hot pressures after cool-down lap and 5 minutes into pit were LF 39.5, RF 39, LR 36.0, RR 37.0 PSI. No idea what my lap times were at this point, but I'm guessing high 1:30's

Run 2 - 1:34.xx
Decided to go out again and not change anything. Maybe my line was wrong, or I just needed more guts? My friends put a MyChron beacon up at this point so I started timing. The beacon was running out of batteries though, and everyone was getting intermittent readings. It only recorded 1 of my lap times and it was 1:34.xx I decided to crank up my dampers for the next run. Last week at HANSON +3/+4 might have been OK in the wet with my StarSpecs, but today I was running RA-1's in the dry so I definitely needed something stiffer.

Run 3 - 1:33.xx
Did not change tire pressures for the whole day, but I started to play with the dampers. I set them to +6/+6 and immediately noticed less roll in the car. They also relocated the beacon and put new batteries so I was getting proper lap times readings every lap. I put down a 1:33.xx best on Run 3 so I knew I was on to something. My buddy Tang riding shotgun pointed out that I could be braking much deeper into T10 (after the chicane) and taking T13 wider to get a faster slingshot through T14 onto the main straight. Excellent advice, I would try it out in Run 4. I love having useful passengers in my car!

Run 4 - 1:30.xx
Cranked the dampers up to +8/+8 this time. Noticed tighter turning response and less body roll again, with zero drawbacks. Started refining my line and shift points at this point since I was getting much more confident in my car's handling. I started upshifting to 3rd on the straight before T7 and overall using more of the track. I took Tang's advice and managed to bring my time down to 1:30.xx. Huge improvement on this run.

Run 5 - 1.29.89
Ran the same settings since they gave me confidence. I just tried to be faster this time. It was on Run 5 where I really started to push it. My friend Vinh in his Team Lexus IS300 racecar was on my tail chasing me down and we had an amazing battle for several laps. I started taking T11 in 3rd gear instead of downshifting to 2nd because I was carrying much more speed and confidence. I was getting a lot more consistent with my times hovering around 1:30. Best time for this session was 1:29.89.

Run 6 - 1.28.44
Time for some more experimenting. Dampers to +10/+10. Again, tighter than +8/+8, but I started to notice a very minor amount of sliding through turns. It was absolutely AWESOME to be able to feel the car on the limit of traction through the turns. I don't really know how to put it into words. Had it not been for last week's practice in the rain, I definitely would not have been able to control the car through this type of sliding. I'm not sure if it was my damper settings, or just me getting faster overall, but this time out I managed to do a 1:28.54 and 1:28.44 in the same session, with most of my times being under 1:30. I don't know if this type of sliding is actually the fastest way around the corner, but hell it's fun! My passenger thought I could definitely be going faster though. He pointed out that the car in front was holding me up and that I could still be taking T1 faster.

I really wanted to do a 7th run but at this point I was running with about 1/4 tank left and all my friends were packing up to go home. It was probably a good idea to call it a day. I was happy with my results and quitting on a good note is never a bad thing.

At this point you're probably wondering - where are all the videos? Well here's ONE :p

It turns out the front USB ports on my PC are garbage at charging devices. I'll have to make sure to use a wall outlet to charge from now on.

Other notes:
- Could not for the life of me get my Android Trackmaster to start. I tried playing around with different 1st split marker locations but I think the GPS is inaccurate overall. The MyChron is still way more reliable.
- I really like the view from the rear windshield mount. It gives a wide view of the track and apex, as well as captures my steering input, gear position, and where I'm looking. The only thing missing now is a pedal cam and telemetry!
- Look at how much of a difference a harness makes on the track - my passenger is flying all over the place and this is just warm-up! I'm planted solid. I love my Schroth harness!
- Having a friend or three help in the pits is a HUGE help. I invited 3 friends to the track day and they helped me unload, change tires, and re-pack in exchange for turns riding shotgun. It saved me a ton of labour and allowed me to focus on driving well. Thanks Jeff, Francis, and Tang!

Overall another awesome day at the track. These small steps in driver improvement are giving me a lot of confidence for the upcoming time attack season.

One final thanks to my gf who prepared a feast for the boys when they got home:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

[4/17/2011] HANSON School (DDT) Part 2

Settings for the day:
Tires: 225/45/17 Dunlop Direzza Z1 StarSpecs, 34 PSI front & rear cold
Dampers: BC Racing BR Coilovers 10k/8k, +3 Front, +4 Rear (from full soft)
Note: This is my street setup. I didn't make any adjustments other than slightly increase the tire pressures.

I got bumped into the advanced group which only had 6 cars (Elise, S2K, 318, A6, RS4, and myself) due to overcapacity in intermediate. I'm glad this happened because I could be on the track with more experienced drivers AND had less traffic to worry about at the same time.

1st Lapping Session (No Video):
This was actually the first in-car session of the day and I had a lot of rust to shave off... but because I did my homework, I didn't make any anticipation errors in terms of the track layout. I knew each turn because of the immersive visualization process I did in my Obutto. But as Chris previously mentioned, elevation changes and track surfaces are something that you can only feel out at the track... the roughness of certain areas and the elevation differences were greater than I had expected.

I don't remember too much from the first session other than a really close call I had with the Elise. I entered the double right hander near the portable after the uphill too hot for the wet/snowy track so I tapped the brakes mid-turn. Of course, my rear end broke loose and Randy (my instructor ) was yelling "COUNTER-STEER, COUNTER-STEER!!" but I was too late - I spun 180 degrees and as my car was turning backwards I saw the Elise make the EXACT same mistake - he entered a slide heading straight towards me! Luckily he stopped about a car length away. Close call... woke me up for the morning :) (I actually go off-track here in my 2nd Lapping Session)

Afterwards, Randy invited me for a ride in his M3 for instructor lapping. He wanted to show me just how lazy I was being with my steering input by driving DDT "Dorifto" style to drill home the point. His driving was ... holy shit batman scary. We were booking every corner way faster than I was comfortable with for the wet track, and he was going through them all SIDEWAYS!!! I tried to watch his steering while holding back my breakfast. Per steering input, he had about 2-3 inputs for every 1 input I had and he was always modulating the throttle at the same time. I learned a lot after this ride, but I also wanted to puke...

2nd Lapping Session:
This took place right after the Skid Pad excercise from Part 1. At this point I was full of confidence because of what I achieved in my final skid pad run. My new found skill came into play almost immediately during this session where I nearly lost control several times, but managed to save it with quick steering and throttle inputs. I have a nice chase with a BMW 318 and Lotus Elise starting at around 3:17 in the video.

Here's the result from the last bit of the video ... luckily just dirt and no rocks, washed right off afterwards :p

3rd Lapping Session:
The track started to dry up which is good. I managed to go a little faster this time, but still tried to keep things reasonable given the conditions. To be honest I was not confident taking the first straight at higher speed, despite my instructor saying it was OK to do so. The driver of the BMW 318 was much quicker this time because the track dried up - I couldn't catch him...

4th Lapping Session (no video):
It was snowing really hard at this point and the track was quite wet. This session I just tried to hit the line and try drifting further out towards the pylons after the swoop (a line recommended to me by the driver of the S2K) to get a straighter chute for the back section of the course. I have video but I won't bother posting it because it's very short and boring.

After this session, Peter Hanson asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him in his CTS V6 (rental) on all-season tires :D He drove much faster than Randy, and because he was trying to go fast and not drift, it was slightly less scary and nauseating. Again, watching his hands and feet when I could, I noticed he had very high APM (actions per minute, for those non-SC players). He cut the curbs HARD, he had 2 wheels on the grass coming out of a lot of the turns and he took the first straightaway flat out while sliding through the kink. It was freaking awesome.

5th Lapping Session (no video):
I took it easy on this one since it was about 3:45PM and I had been up since 6:00AM driving hard all day. No word of a lie I was pretty tired by this point and there was no sense in making a costly mistake. I just sat back and enjoyed the empty track :)

Other Stuff:
I wasn't able to use the dome lamp mount that Adam preferred because I noticed that it was just wobbling way too much. I had to use the gauge pod mount entirely for simplicity. Also, the electrical tape fixed most of the rattle, but not all of it especially at lower speeds. I'll have to play around with it this week. In the future I would like to try the rear windshield mount to capture my steering input, and think of a way to get a 2nd camera rolling on my pedal input. Also, because of the school's strict policy on NO lap timers I couldn't test my Android Trackmaster app.

Well that's it for my track report! I hope those who were on the fence about high performance driving school now have a better idea of what it's like.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

[4/17/2011] HANSON School (DDT) Part 1

Event: HANSON International Driving School
Track: Mosport DDT - CCW w/ 2 kinks
Weather Conditions: +3°C, wet with mixed snow (!)

Today was 'shakedown' for the upcoming track season! I showed up bright and early at 8AM for registration. I checked the weather the night before and it said it was going to snow .. but looking at how clear the skies were, I figured weather network was j/k, right? :D

WRONG!! By the time class was over... conditions were absolutely RIDICULOUS. Blizzard in the middle of April WTF?

Well .. it turns out that this was a true blessing in disguise. The cold and wet conditions were PERFECT for learning the limits of my car simply because they came much quicker (and by some miracle, precipitation stopped during my runs). Combine that with an awesome instructor (Randy S.) and that's a recipe for a day of REAL learning ;)

By far the most useful excercise I went through today was on the Skid Pad. My car has always understeered and I've learnt to deal with it over the years by braking earlier. This excercise taught me that it was indeed possible to get my car into an oversteer situation if done properly. I hope the first few runs aren't too painful to watch :p

Part 2 with lapping footage still to come, I'm tired after a day of hard driving ...