Feb18–VIR–NASA–Part2-CompSchool

Hello FastLap followers, it has been a busy spring so far so I apologize for the delay in updates.

Much of the offseason (Dec-Feb) was spent with final race prep to the 2003 BMW M3 #72 I planned to begin racing. Kill switch, Fire Suppression System, Window & Center Net, Motorola 2way Radio setup (for communicating with Crew Chief & Spotter during races), larger switch panel and a few other race required details along with a full refresh of the suspension components, wheel bearings, etc.

Feb 18th was NASA MidAtlantic’s first Competitive Licensing School of the year and upon successful completion you were allowed to participate in your first races that weekend as a Provisionally Licensed driver. Complete 4 races clean and get your official hard card license, complete 8 races clean and clear yourself of rookie status (R’s next to your #’s & a bright orange rookie plate on the rear of the car).

I passed comp school with flying colors, being challenged by but enjoying the discussions and drills associated with the licensing school. NASA’s comp school is more of a long test day than an actual school like other organizations have. There are certain criteria you must meet before you are even allowed to participate in their compschool, including a fair number of days in Advanced DE, a fully prep’d race car (you can rent one) and signoff by the Race Director for the region.

That Friday Feb 18th was an exhausting day. 4 x 40min sessions on track, 4 x 60min class room sessions, and intentionality little to no break. Students were joined by seasoned racers during the track sessions (on track with you, not in car with you) to evaluate you. The seasoned racers while keeping a close eye on all the students for evaluation liberally “mixed it up” with you during the drills… ie basic harassment to ensure each
student could keep a cool head.

I’ve turned a couple laps here and there totally offline during DE sessions and have had quite a few days experience passing in corners in advanced DE sessions but nothing had compared me for what comp school puts you through.

First session instructions were: 40 minute session, 20 minutes using only the left side of the track and 20 minutes using only the right side, drive at 9/10ths the entire time and no cheating in corners as the corner workers were instructed to radio in cars crossing the center line at any time and seasoned racers
were on track with you driving wherever they felt as they watched the students closely. 40 minutes of driving 9/10ths on parts of the track I’ve never seen before, wow – that was exhausting.

Now an hour of classroom, then on track session #2. Instructions, 40 minute session, 20 minutes on the right, side by side with an experienced racer in a similarly performing car, then 20 minutes on the left, side by side with the same racer — oh and if you (as the student) don’t keep up with the racer, black mark
to you! Nervous driving that 9/10ths with someone next to you? Play it safe and leave lots of room between you and your partner … nope, you were warned, if that happens another random racer would join you by sliding in between you and your partner for some 3 abreast action! It was amazing how quickly you become
comfortable with another car right beside you – this drill was fantastic as it built on the first on-track session.

short break for lunch, more class room and on track session #3 – this time leap frog drills with your partner. Instructions were, take turns passing each other going into Turns 1,4,10,OakTree & 14 (this was at VIR). After 40 minutes of passing 5x per lap I was tired, that is a lot of concentration and your experienced
racer partner didn’t make the passes “easy” either, you had to battle for them with increasingly more effort as the session progressed.

More class room, session 4 was race starts, 2 standing, 2 rolling followed by a 20min mock race … yup the experienced racers were out with us during the starts and race to make it more “exciting”.

Pic of additional class and rookie livery while tearing it up during the mock race at CompSchool.

It was now about 5pm, you are mentally and physically drained from the day of class and drills – time for a written test! first page was a bunch of multiple choice questions mostly with flags, passing rules and at-fault incident rules. The second page was essay situation based – for example, if there was a car off track at the
exit of T3 and an emergency vehicle between T2 and T3 what flag or flags would you expect to see at each of the flag stands 1 and 2.

My class of 12, 11 of us passed. We were told that our class was one of the highest % passing rate for many years. Weak on-track performance noted by either your racer partner or any of the track side “judges” or corner workers, or a non-passing score on the written test would be grounds for failure.

All and all, I felt the NASA-MA CompSchool, for being a 1 day school, did an excellent job of preparing and evaluating student readiness to race. Last year there were many people encouraging me to sign of for comp school and start racing, I’m glad I stuck to my original plan and waited until I had nearly 100 track days
under my belt. Had I tried that school after 40 days I think I would have been completely overwhelmed and failed.

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Feb18-20 – VIR – NASA – Part1

Mary writes …

The first event for 2011! Kyle was scheduled for comp school to start the new season and I was signed
up for time trials. The plan for me this year is to try to walk away as the 2011 Mid-Atlantic TTB champ!!

Kyle and Barry Battle headed down on Thursday night – he had comp school on Friday. I decided to work and get there in the evening, missing out on Friday’s open track day.

I was so excited for this event after what seemed to be a long wait during the winter (although
technically it was only about 9 or 10 weeks!). However, I was disappointed to learn that I was the only
one running in the TTB class- no one to compete with, and not able to win any tires!

I shook off the dust on Saturday; only doing 2:16 laps when my previous best was a 2:15 last year. I was
getting back up to speed and relearning the track. Kyle passed his comp school and had his 1st race on
Saturday taking 2nd place behind Josh Smith!! Way to go Kyle!! We head off to the awards banquet
after having our own BBQ at the trailer in the paddock along with some cold Coronas.

I push my way through the crowd being prepared to take photos of Kyle getting his 2nd place award
when much to my surprise, I hear MY name announced as taking 1st place in TTB! What?? I didn’t
realize they gave out awards when there is only 1 person competing! LOL. Oh well, I guess I still get to
chalk that up as a victory towards my year end goal! As a joke, I posted the plaque photo on facebook
and was mortified when the continuous congrats started rolling in over the next 24 hours! OMG- how
embarrassing but I had to just let it go….

Day 2- I manage to run a 2:15 during my 2nd session before lunch but I have my eye on doing a new
record of 2:14 before going home. The day seemed to drag a bit, having almost 5 hours to kill until I
return to the track. Kyle has a big 40 minute race in the afternoon. This was my opportunity to learn
the radios. Barry worked the start/finish line and I stood at the fence at T10 (remember this!). Here I
had a view of the ess’s, around oak tree, and most of the back straight. I would be able to give Kyle a
heads up should there be any incidents in those areas. I couldn’t imagine how exhausting it would be to
race for 40 minutes! Kyle does a fantastic job battling through this race, taking 3rd place as a rookie! I
am sure that he will share the details of his experiences.

I am now heading out for what will be my last session at 4:00, knowing that we plan to leave quickly
after I come off track and change my wheels.

Not so much… I was elated when I looked down after my 2nd lap and actually saw 2:14.3!! My best
time ever and goal for the weekend!! Hmmm…if I did that, then I must be able to find .4 seconds more
somewhere on the track to make it to 2:13. Eric Wong did a 2:13 in my car last fall so I know that it
is possible. I’m going for it!! I travel up the ess’s feeling like I am really pushing it as I feel the car get
light here and there. I had felt previously that I was over braking into T10 AND if you remember, I
watching the race from this point of view so I felt that I could carry much more speed through here. I
do a quick tap of the brake and get on the gas a quick as I can. Well, just as I am approaching the track
out, I realize that the rear got light again and I started to spin. The whole thing happened so fast that

I’m not really sure exactly how it went down but as soon as I hit the grass there was no stopping. I went
sliding sideways and right into the tire wall on the passenger side to left of the track. O-M-G! Did that
just happen?? Once I stopped and realized that I just crushed my car, I beat up the steering wheel and
yelled several choice words! The EMT/Tow arrived to drag me back. I was so embarrassed and feared
the shame of my car being paraded around the paddock for all to see my screw up! Ugh!

I felt much better when it was clear that everyone wanted to make sure that I was okay and assured me
that it has also happened to most of them as well!

Against all odds, Kyle and Barry randomly had spare parts (a much needed tie rod), and banged out the
wheel wells to make it possible for Kyle to drive it home 2 hours later. We all did get a good laugh at
how it appeared to other drivers on the highway; all smashed in down the right side.

So we did an evaluation last night to see what it will take to get my car put back together and ready for
the next March event—thankfully I am not experiencing a fear to get back in the seat but rather cannot
wait to go for that 2:13 again!!

Nov6-7 – Summit Point Main – NASA-MA

Hello everyone – welcome to another issue of “Fast Lap” – from your track addicted friend.

Fall means cool temps, extra horsepower, and patience to make sure you have adequate temp in your tires before you try to go “flatout”.

Fortunately patience was mostly on my side along with a set of quick hands. –you’ll see in the video I get a little too greedy with the throttle coming out of T5 – according to the data that “catch” and consequently poor entry into T6 cost me ~.2sec — oh how I would have liked to have come home with a 1:20.x lap…next time!

I hadn’t driven Summit Main since May – I was there for Hyperfest in August but only turned 1 lap before a broken brake pedal sensor put the car out of service for the weekend. Having driven so many nice, smooth tracks with plenty of run off, Summit Point felt a bit more intimidating (and a lot bumpier) than I remembered.

Here is the FastLap video for the week –

I wanted to continue my tech discussion this email with a note about “time dilation” and toss in a bit of projective imagery.

(I’ll keep this short – I’m not actually trying to teach a class here!)

Paraphrased and tweaked slightly from the dictionary definition to line up with what we experience on the track. Time Dilation is the point of view that the clock is ticking at a slower rate than the local clock. When we all first started driving we were “overwhelmed” with everything that was going on at the track and by how fast everything was happening. As we gained experience on the track, things started to slow down — now we had time to look at every flag stand, check our mirrors more often and look further ahead (eyes up, eyes up!)

I’ve read about levels of time dilation beyond time slowing down enough to “become comfortable” driving “at speed”, but never experienced anything near the levels I’ve read about until the past few events. Driving, watching flag stands & watching your mirrors becomes second nature and now you have extra brain cycles — with those brain cycles I’ve been working to intentionality slow time even further providing the ability to look further and further ahead.

Heading down a straight into a corner – you look through the corner to the track out, you envision your car entering the turn, hitting the apex and tracking out all before you’ve even reached the braking zone. Now you have laid out a “ghost trace” trajectory of where you want your car to be, the attitude you want the car to have during each segment of the turn – and time is moving as if you are watching a movie in slow motion – you feel the car sliding beneath you but since it is all happening in slow motion you stay relaxed because it is easy to compensate for a mistake or the unexpected “at this slow ticking of the clock rate”.

I had a car spin off the track in front of me at the apex of T3 this weekend – what I’m sure unfolded in a couple tenths of a second seemed a life time – I casually watched the rear end of this WRX get light, come around, and slide backwards into the gravel trap – to me it felt as if I had all the time in the world to react – analyzing the trajectory of the WRX and being able to determine with good certainty that it wasn’t going to come back onto the track, requiring an evasive maneuver. I simply slowed a bit extra for the turn, watched the WRX slide off the track, drove by the incident and never tensed up.

You can practice time dilation and forward projecting imagery while on the street – it will make it that much easier to implement on the track.

Mary participated in her first TimeTrial Event this weekend. She was very nervous (as I was before my first TT) – I kept reassuring her she would do great and would soon be looking forward to her next TT weekend. 🙂

After a close battle with a Pontiac GTO – Mary took 3rd place in the TTB class both Saturday and Sunday with a fast lap of the weekend of 1:26.49! Way to go!

An on the topic of practicing on the street, then applying to the track. This coming weekend we are headed to VIR with Audi Club. Since this is a non-competitive HPDE event I plan to take the left foot braking I’ve been practicing on the street and begin applying it on the track. Wish me luck! I’ll report back next week how the experience went.

And here are a couple pictures courtesy of Scott Cain – http://kart53.smugmug.com/Racing


For those of you who were at Summit Point this past weekend, hope you had a safe drive home – to those of you who weren’t, hope I see you at the track soon!

Oct30-31 – NJMP Thunderbolt – NASA-NE

Another great weekend at the track and another new fast lap.

This time @ New Jersey Motorsports Park – Thunderbolt Circuit

I really like this track, it is fast and the massive amount of run off is confidence inspiring. This past weekend was a NASA-NE event and I participated in my 2nd Time Trials event.

Since the car was built for NASA GTS3 class, no specific attention was paid to the “points” classification of time trials – consequently I fall into the TTS class which is an “unlimited” modifications class where the only restriction is your weight to horsepower ratio.

The TTS class limit is 8.7:1 (8.7lbs for each 1rwhp), that is car weight with driver at the end of a session. My #72 car with me in it and 1/4 tank of fuel tips the scales at 3100lbs and dyno’d 297rwhp (call it 300) with current mods. That puts me at ~10.33:1. SIGNIFICANTLY below the Weight to HP limit. I could drop 500lbs or add 50hp and still run in TTS class!

My purpose of TimeTrials this fall wasn’t to be competitive in TTS but use it as a stepping stone to racing next year with the following two objectives:

1) Practice getting into the “Race Qualifying” mindset quickly. 1 or 2 warm up laps, then GO GO GO. This is significantly different than the DE routine of slowly bringing the pace up through the session and frankly through the day. In qualifying you head out cold and in 5 minutes you need to bring it up to a 9.5/10ths or 10/10ths level AND drive that perfect qualifying line, often times having only one chance at a flying lap – gotta make it count!

2) Experience in an environment that does not require point-by’s. In the dedicated TimeTrials run groups no point-by is required, if you catch someone, simply make a sensible pass. This turned out to be a pretty big step, since all along in DE’s I 100% knew that the car I am about to overtake is aware I am going to pass them because I sat and waited (Alan, hahahaha) for that point by from them. The first few passes were a major leap of faith in the other driver.


Even with an “uncompetitive” car from a weight:hp standpoint in TTS I managed to take 1st place in the TTS class both days by nearly 3 seconds to the 2nd place finisher in a class of five cars, one of which was the NASA-NE Regional TTS Points Champion for 2010.

For those 1st place finishes I earned my first “Racing Trophy”, two free tires from Hoosier through their Contingency Program – (that’s $600 worth of tires!) AND set the NASA TTS lap record at the track!

This was weekend 4 of our “5 different tracks in 6 weekends Fall Run”. It has been a great learning experience in car development. The changes I made to get the car to work at VIR didn’t work so well at Mid-Ohio, nor did the VIR or Mid-Ohio setup work very well at Thunderbolt – I didn’t make any changes at Watkins Glen because I was simply learning the track that weekend.

YAY for an OCD-Datalogging personality and the .xls session log book I keep so I’ll be able to quickly dial the car in for a specific track next year and waste less practice time figuring out what works. I’ve forwarded my .xls session log book to a couple of you, if any others are interested in a copy because it sounds like something you may want to start keeping for yourself, please let me know, I would be happy to share a copy in our mutual efforts to improve our cars and personal driving capabilities.

For those of you who were there, hope you had a safe drive home – to those of you who weren’t, hope I see you at the track soon!

Sept3-5 – VIR – PCA

Mary writes:
VIR……I couldn’t wait for this event!

I have only run this track 2 other times- 1st time in Nov when I was still quite “green” and the 2nd time was Zone 2 over my Bday weekend in June when we jumped in after Watkins was cancelled.

Kyle reminds me that my best time on this track is only 2:25- that is with all stock. Interior/Exterior-street tires included. The weather in June was dreadfully hot- forecast is cooler now and I have upgraded to Kyle’s old AST5100 suspension and new H&R front sway bar (noticed a big difference). I just want to go fast and do better than the last time!

1st day out- easily drop to 2:23 my 1st session out….I’m thinking-no problem- I think I can drop lots of seconds. 2nd and 3rd session- nope- doesn’t happen. Now I am very frustrated. I realize that if I can do a passenger ride, this will clearly help me see what the best line is that I should drive. I confirm that John Sullivan is going to drive my car to show me what it can do on Sat morning.

John driving #67 as we watch Kyle disappear after he wizzed by us!

John drives- he says he likes everything- the transmission is great, the brakes are awesome, but wtf with the tires-he is sliding like I was around each turn and suggests that’s the problem.

Kyle takes my car out for a few laps and agrees-too much sliding- he only made it to 2:22.

Then I switch to Kyle’s used Conti Scrubs…oh my…now I drop to 2:19! And the car looks so good with the black wheels! I think I need to get a set!

Now I am feeling like I can compete in my group. By the last day, last session- I manage to hit 2:18. A very successful FUN weekend!

As pix will show- Sally Herod and I had great fun chasing up the Ess’s. She kicked my butt- but look forward to the next time.

And as always, Rob Talastas ALWAYS makes every event a great time with along with friends

Thanks to Paul Z for arriving early enough to grab our awesome spot, and cool to hang again with Tomasz, and of course meeting Dejan. Lastly, hanging out for happing hour with the entire Miata crew.

The only thing that I missed was taking Alan Herod out with me as being one of his “star students” as he describes- hopefully I can make him proud!

Here I am winning my DE session and getting the checkered flag at the famous Oak Tree turn!

Kyle’s car is wicked fast and looked so awesome out there! It was cool to see him doing so well!

August 27-29 – NJMP-Thunderbolt – PCA

With the multiple changes we made to the car during August I was anxious to get the car on the track and re-learn how to drive it! Especially considering I’ve never driven a car with any level of aerodynamic downforce.

After getting special permission from the event coordinators, Barry Battle Pro-Driver in the GrandAm Continental Tire Series buckled in piloting the car as I rode shotgun to shake down the car. WOW! I couldn’t believe how planted the car felt in the high speed corners. For example, the last turn on Thunderbolt leading to the main straight, previously I had to lift a bit off the throttle before turning in, no longer. The car took the corner FLATOUT with no problem!

A few minor suspension adjustments later I sent Barry out by himself to see what kind of fast lap he could throw down. As I listened to the car roar down the main straight past the elevated watch tower, around T1 and T2, then close the gap on other cars out in this “advanced” run group with unbelievable speed I was so excited to get to drive this thing myself. A couple laps into the session I see Barry coming around the Jersey Devil headed through the Esses toward the main straight I notice no traffic in front of him for the first 4 turns on the track. Finally a clear lap and Barry proceeded to lay down the quickest lap this car has ever done. Post session checking the datalogger, 1:30.3! 4/10ths of a second quicker than the current NASA GTS3 lap record! We’ve built a beast!

The car drew alot of attention as it screamed past Porsche 911 Turbos, GT3’s and the like! It looked and sounded great while doing it!

Saturday morning I climb in the car, ready to see what I can make this car do.

My previous fast lap at this track is a 1:40. I glance down at the MyCron3 lap time after my first hot lap, a disappointing 1:42. Lap by lap my confidence in the car and newly added aero grows, and a I get used to the new differential gearing and ability to put power down out of the corners I watch the lap times come down lap after lap, 1:38, 1:36, 1:34, 1:32! Whoohooo we are flying now! 8 seconds quicker than my previous visit in June!

As the weekend continues I continue to get quicker with a fast lap of 1:31.3! 6/10ths off the current NASA GTS3 record, but still a second off Barry’s pace. I’ll blame it on my race rubber being cycled out and holding me back in the corners, hahahah.

August 2010 – Build Update

No track days in August, a) it’s been very hot here, b) my car spent most of the month at RRT Racing.

The goal for August was to get the car built prepared in NASA GTS3 race trim (sans some minor race required/specific items like fire system, kill switch & window nets). This included an aFe Intake, SuperSprint Headers, a customer RRT Racing single exhaust, Shark Flash (to re-tune the car for the bolt-ons and 93 Octane guel, raise the rev limiter a bit, and disable the rear O2 sensors to work w/out catalytic converters).

SuperSprint Headers

In addition the AST5100 single adjustable suspension was upgraded to AST5200 double adjustables, added front and rear Ground Control Adjustable Race Sway Bars, a custom racing differential built by Dan from DiffsOnline, AIM EVO4 CAN bus data logging and MyCron3 display.

Ground Control Rear Sway Bar

To top it all off the first phase of an aero package including an Aeromotions R2.static wing and custom front splitter.

Wing (Pre-Mounting)

Wing In-trunk Mounting Brackets (the wing is so solid you can literally push the car around by the uprights)

Front Splitter

Gregory Mark one of the engineers responsible for designing the Aeromotions wing flew down from Cambridge, MA to assist us in tuning the wing and determining the maximum angle of attack before stall. He taped short pieces of yarn under the wing, attached his portable USB camera and watched as we drove the car up and down the street, adjusting the angle of the wing.

Preparing for initial wing stall angle testing