Sunday, December 20, 2009

Good Movie

I saw a good movie today. It was called "Love The Beast" and was done by Eric Bana. He's a racer from way back, and is devoted to his old car, a 72 Ford XB (Australian model; I was not familiar with it).

The film chronicles his journey with the car which he acquired at age 15 and restored, at least twice. The last restoration was into a pure race version, which he and his mates took to a road rally in Tasmaina in 2007. Driving flat out, he crashed the car.

The film was interesting because it explored the relationship we form with inanimate things. Commentary and interviews were done with Jay Leno, Dr. Phil and Jeremy Clarkson.

Leno was of the opinion that had Bana done the work on the car himself, he'd not have crashed it. Either he would never have raced it (since he valued it so much) or he'd have known the car better and thus would have not wrecked it. He also said he ought to fix the car regardless of expense.

Clarkson said "If your wife got a cold would you toss her over for someone else?" Pretty funny.

Bana said, in the wake of the wreck, that he would have to race a car he was not attached to in the future.

Therein lies the conundrum, I think.

In order to be a good driver, you need to be in touch with the car at a wholly different level than most folks are. You have to know where the tires are, to a fraction of an inch. You need to know how much body lift it has at high speed, so you know how much understeer you'll get.

The problem is that as you get to know the car, it takes on a personality. We expect machines to be perfect, since they are machines. They do the same thing the same way, every time. Except that we put cars in such highly variable situations that sometimes they appear to act differently, and thus more "human." It follows that you'd take pains to not hurt it.

Yet, you must drive at the limit. You're not competitive if you don't, and what's more you're not being true to the sport. A car is essential to racing as a bat is essential to baseball. The problem is we don't get attached to bats.

So we have an interesting conundrum. You have to be close to the car to race well, yet be willing to take chances.

I'll figure it out eventually, I hope.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Rules

The NASA time trial rules are out, for 2010. There are a few changes that affect my class, but nothing big.

The big thing is that I need to lose weight. In order to be perfect, the car needs to lose 200 pounds. That includes me. Thus, every pound I lose is one that I don't have to strip from the car.

The blue car is mostly a race car now. It is no longer street legal, and I start it only once a week to run it around the neighborhood to keep the diff from rusting. I can strip it with impunity.

The AC will go, along with the condenser. The passenger seat will become a race seat. The carpet will come out. Radio and speakers. Battery will become a race battery. The side window glass will go too.

After all that, I will still have to lose some weight. This is a good thing, and I'm starting an aerobic training cycle. I hate doing it, but it needs to be done. Helps blood pressure too and breathing.

I've not got too much to say this time around, except that driving has become more of a meditation. For the first time last time I was out, I was able to forget the slip angles and other analytical details and just drive. In the rain, I found I just had to in order to get faster. It's very hard, and I admit reductionist thinking has a real place in racing, but I think I prefer a more holistic approach. Once I know a track, I can let it fade into the background and just enjoy the drive. I come off the track relaxed rather than tired. That's progress.