I oversteered into the tire wall, but more importantly, I learned WHY I oversteered into the tire wall.
What would you do if you had a whole race track and a professional driving coach to yourself for a day? I’ll can tell you what I did; I worked my ass off. As part of our business-consulting-for-driver-coaching deal, my coach made a stop in Atlanta to coach me for the weekend. Racing Analytics got us on track at Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) (where their shop is located). I worked so hard and I saw so much progress! And I learned a lot, too.
The biggest thing I learned was that my car had something wrong with the suspension all along. In my first session on track, as I was warming up and gradually picking up my pace, the car snapped oversteered on me faster than I could catch it. I shot right myself into the tire wall. (Lucky for me, the damage minimal, so we quickly pulled the fenders back out and got an alignment from Racing Analytics, and I was back on track.) Towards the end of the day, my coach talked Brad into driving my car. Brad assumed it would feel just like his, since they are, after all, spec cars. My coach seemed to have a hunch that might not be the case. When Brad came in, he said, “Now I see why you hit the tire wall. Your car is twitchy and really lose. I think something is wrong with it.” There was no time to dig deeper before our race on Sunday, but my curiosity was piqued. What did that mean for me if there was something wrong with my car? (It turns out a lot. More on that in a minute.)
My hands are getting faster! Progress!
When I posted the recap of my last event, I was feeling dispirited and frustrated by my lack of progress and my race car breaking. I figured I could either sit around feeling sorry for myself or I could channel my frustration into something productive. I went the productive route and channeled my frustration into lots of simulator practice to see if I could get to the bottom of what was holding my driving back.
I didn’t even know if I’d be running this event until 5 days before we were scheduled to leave. Racing Analytics had to rewire my entire car after they discovered the body wiring harness was damaged because a previous owner had spliced into it and crumpled it up under the dash. They got the work done in plenty of time, but when the car finally started again it had an engine knock that inexplicably went away the next day. This required more work to assess the engine’s health, which was mysteriously totally fine. I picked the car up on a Sunday, and we left for the track the following Friday.
This event had a different format from any of the other NASA-SE events I’d previously raced in. There was another race in a different NASA region going on the same weekend, so fewer racers than normal registered for this event. The officials decided to put all 54 racers that did sign up in one race group, which would have a “qualifying race” and a “points race” each day, making the event a four race weekend for everyone.
My car made it through one practice session, one qualifying session and almost all of one qualifying race before the electrical gremlins returned and ended my weekend. On one of the last laps of Saturday’s qualifying race (which was to set the grid for the points race later that afternoon), my car spun off track, stalled, and refused to refire for the rest of the weekend. Even though I now have two more empty spaces on the points sheet, I was on track long enough to see that my practice paid off, and that I was, in fact, making progress again!
Qualifying before the car died. “What’s a girl gotta do to get a clean lap in around here?!”
Sometimes, bad days make for exciting YouTube videos, like last time I raced at Robeling. This time, bad days made for no video at all. After running about 30 events in two different Miatas, I had a mechanical failure end my weekend for the first time. This is my second “bad day” event at Roebling in a row. Intellectually I’m not superstitious, but emotionally I feel like Roebling is my unlucky race track.
For most of my adult life, I identified myself as “not a competitive person.” I was a nice, thoughtful, collaborative, easy going person. Competitive people, I thought, were aggressive, confrontational people who would throw you under the bus and do anything to get ahead. That definitely wasn’t me. I wore the “not a competitive person” label with pride.
And yet, somehow I fell in love with wheel to wheel racing, a sport that involves battling door to door with other cars for the same scrap of asphalt. Racing is arguably one of the most competitive things a person could do. How did that happen? It turns out I was a competitive person all along, but being competitive didn’t mean quite what I thought it did.
This is an easy way to gain positions.
The week before this race, I watched the Speed Secrets “Improve Your Racecraft” webinar with Ross Bentley. One of Ross’s suggestions in the webinar was to use a “trigger phrase” to get yourself in the right mindset for the race start. (Ross’s is “Watch this!”) When he put it like that it seemed like telling myself, “Let’s see what happens,” which was probably not what Ross was going for. I wracked my brain think of something better. The next day, a t-shirt that I’d bought from an Instagram fundraiser showed up in the mail. It said “Be Epic” across the front. I decided that was perfect.
It turned out to be perfect for this event, too. We had sunshine, pouring rain, mud, and lots of cars spinning across the track (including me) and going off the track (including Brad). In spite of all that, Brad and I both got our best Spec Miata results to date and loaded two happy race cars onto the truck at the end of the weekend. That’s pretty epic, if you ask me.
Hanging out with the cool cars at AMP.
Because I’m either crazy or a total badass (or both), I decided to run this race at Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) the very next weekend after my race at CMP. To tip the scales a bit to the crazy side, this event was on a Sunday and I had hardwood flooring installers scheduled to by at my house at 8:00 am the next day to start installing new floors in my whole second floor. This meant I spent the day before the race moving three bedrooms’ worth of stuff downstairs to clear the way for the new floors. But Brad and I needed to make a trip to AMP that weekend anyway, because we needed to drop Brad’s race car off at Racing Analytics (whose shop is at the track) to diagnose the mysterious misfire that developed at our last event. Why not get a few races in while there?
Fortunately, this one-day event was pretty easy to squeeze into my schedule. AMP organizes this really handy race series for Spec Miatas and other momentum cars with a manageable schedule and lots of track time. The day starts at 9:00 a.m., (which is super late compared to most amateur race series) and includes a practice session, two qualifying practice sessions and two races and is all wrapped up by 3:00 p.m. I’m planning to squeeze in as many of these AMP races as I can manage this year.
What’s the rain line? Stay out of the puddles.
This is really a story about Carolina Motorsports Park’s (CMP) strange pavement. The asphalt at CMP is made up of small, very pointy, sharp rocks. On the track’s surface, the tar has worn away leaving all the tiny pointy edges of the rocks sticking up, making the track less grippy and harder on tires. I knew all this going into the weekend. But what I didn’t know, and what no one else knew either, is what this track was like to drive on when wet. Somehow it hadn’t rained on a race weekend here in recent memory. This was the weekend it finally rained on us at CMP. And we all learned that CMPs grip levels don’t seem to be correlated to how wet the track is.
I was invited to be a guest on Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets podcast! This was an incredibly fun opportunity to talk about my unusual background as a racer, why I race, and how I’ve been trying to integrate my background as a creative person and user experience professional into how prep for races.
Check it out on the Speed Secrets website!
Brake failure, mid save.
In racing, there are good days and bad days. You’ll often here professional drivers tell the video cameras, “Today just wasn’t our day and our performance on track didn’t reflect what we’re capable of.” I always want to hear more about bad days because I’m always looking to learn from other people’s experiences, and you often learn the most on the worst days. But between sponsors and egos, it’s hard for racers to talk about bad days. However, in the spirit of this website, I’m going to tell you all about mine – even the embarrassing parts.
This is a difficult topic to write about, which is probably why I couldn’t find anyone else who’d written about it when I went looking for information. And that’s why I’m writing about it, because I know I’m not the first woman to have gotten behind the wheel of a race car and felt like a total fraud. Or the first person, because some of the things that made me feel like an impostor have nothing to do with my gender.
Spoiler alert: this story has a happy ending! After I figured out I was experiencing impostor syndrome, I did my homework on it and got to the root of my fear that “I don’t have what it takes to be a ‘real deal’ race car driver.” As it turned out, I was holding a few inaccurate beliefs about talent and abilities that were getting in my way.