Monday, May 04, 2009

90% of this game is half mental

Apologies to Yogi.

I'm going to seek professional help with my driving. It seems that I've hit a plateau, in that I can't seem to reduce my lap times much more.

I've had bad experiences with coaches in general. The best one I know is my uncle, who is a strength trainer with experience reaching back to the 60s. The worst ones I've seen were the guys that coached at my high school. It's a wonder more kids did not end up injured.

Coaching is tough. I've been a weightlifting coach, which is pretty easy. You generally work one-on-one, and so you can tailor your motivational style and communication to one person.

Racing coaches and teachers are a special lot. They don't have to teach a team; their problem is more one of deception.

The racing line around a track is always the same. It may vary a little by car, but the shortest line is the same. It might be sufficient to say "drive this line" and be done. If you were teaching Michael Schumacher. The deception is in the simplicity. We're all turning the same corners, so it should be easy!

For the rest of us, it's a matter of communicating in a way that the driver can understand. Also, it does no good to talk about the turn you just went through. The coach has to know the track well enough, and account for the time delay of voice communication well enough to communicate about the turn coming up.

As with all motorsport, some hardware also helps. I was looking for a coach that was comfortable with data acquisition. I need to see my braking, acceleration and line in a way that I can improve.

To that end, I've chosen Jason Hart as a coach this season. He's an outstanding racer with a great set of qualifications and a broad set of communication skills. Everyone that has taken instruction from this man has come away faster. I'm looking forward to it.
Back from the coaching session. The short version was: I had a great time and knocked two seconds off my previous best time. I'm within a second of some of the really fast guys now.

The slightly longer version: I had a great time, overheated my transmission twice, and knocked two seconds off my lap time at the track we practiced at. Most importantly, I learned how to pounce on a turn.

Normally, when you go through a turn, you lift from the gas, transition to hard braking, ease off brake, turn in and get back on power at once. Jason taught me that a little extra pause between brake and power can get the car turned in much better and lined up better, so when you apply power you can hit it harder. When you time it right, the feeling is of "pouncing" on the turn. It's really cool.

His comment to me was: "Normally, I say that if you want to spend $1000 on your car, you should spend $1000 on yourself and take more training. In your case, you ought to spend $1000 on your car and get the transmission cooler. One less thing to think about and you can go faster." This was after I short-shifted most of the day to keep the tranny together.

So I did it. Bought a cooler, fabricated some brackets, and hooked it all up. I got John to help me wire it in, since I had no experience with that part of it, but I now have something that sounds like an overdriven aquarium pump behind my left quarter panel. The plumbing held on a road test yesterday, so we'll jack it up and check for leaks more throughly, then take it to Hallet in two weeks. I can't wait!