Thursday, January 24, 2008

What is fast?

Went to TWS in January. It was cold! 35 on Saturday morning, and 27 on Sunday. Glad it was mostly dry, or we would have had a very slow set of sessions.

The cars were happy. Cold air is more horsepower, and more boost if you are a forced induction driver. Thus, the blown Mustangs and late model Porsche had a distinct advantage.

The wife had a dispute with her instructor. She's got a line she likes, where she's confident enough to go fast. He disliked it, and thought it slow, so attempted to impose his view of the track on her. My wife is somewhat stubborn, yet also craves approval. So sh tried his line, was slow and was marked down for it. When we talked to the grid marshal we resolved the matter, and her instructor was cajoled into helping her with her line, but it got me thinking about going fast. I'm seeing it from a different perspective now.

There's three ways I know to drive a track: Slow, pretty fast and really fast.

Slow is obvious: You are not pushing the car or your own ability. It's often very controlled, but you don't learn too much unless it's a totally new track to you.

Pretty fast is just that: Pretty and fast. You hold a fast line through corners, and slide the car around the proper amount to go fast. It's geometrically beautiful (pretty) and feels damn fast.

Really fast is a constant search for grip, from second to second. It's losing the car over and over and catching it over and over. I know I'm at this level when my steering input is erratic, but my foot is pressing inexorably towards the floor. It feels anything but smooth. It's work to drive at this speed, and it sometimes even seems slow. But it's not. Were you to watch a pretty fast driver from outside the car, and then watch a really fast car, the latter car would look more balanced, despite all the stuff going on in the cockpit. It would be faster.

This is the level that we push ourselves, the point where the learning curve has taken us. The great thing is that we can go into some corners pretty fast, resting, and enjoy the perfect meaning of 6% slip angle then blast through the next looking for just that two inches of track we're leaving on the table.