You can’t slip on Porsche 944 oil when the 944s are behind you!
Exactly a year ago, I started writing an article titled, “How to trust your learning process when it seems different from everyone else’s.” It was a post about trusting the process when the process doesn’t seem to be working. (By “the process” I mean the process of slowly working away at something over time and eventually seeing results.) I never finished it because I didn’t have any proof that the process did work. Lots of things happened in the year since I started that piece, but one thing that didn’t happen was getting faster at Roebling. No matter what I did, my lap times were stuck in the 1:31s, which was perpetually about eight seconds slower than the front of the pack.
Until this event, where I ran a 1:28.7, which was 2.3 seconds faster than I’d ever gone before. In racing, that’s an eternity. The curse of Robleing was broken, and somehow I unlocked a year’s worth of progress in a day. Aside from that progress, it was just a good weekend. The weather was finally warmer, and I spent less time huddled by the heater in the trailer and more time outside laughing with friends. I finally had the kind of weekend I imagined I’d have when I first decided to become a race car driver. Continue reading
There I am, with my new sparkly car numbers, amid the chaos.
I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about going back to Roebling Road Raceway. I’m not usually a superstitious person, but it was hard not to feel like this track was cursed for me. I hadn’t finished a race without incident there in over a year. In that time I’ve had my brakes fail and gotten punted off the track, missed races due to mysterious electrical gremlins and crashed into the woods. But I was also determined not to let Roebling get the best of me. All I wanted out of this weekend was to just participate in the races.
My weekend started out well. I ran the test day on Friday, and I started to feel comfortable and relaxed on this track for the first time ever. I had fun and improved my driving on Friday, and was able to repeat the performance in qualifying the next day. In the first few laps of Saturday’s race I had fun battling for positions and was feeling like maybe, just maybe, the curse might be broken. But this is racing, and even if you do everything right to stay out of trouble, trouble can still find you. And once again, the curse struck. A Porsche 944 blew a motor right in front of me and dumped oil all over the track, sending cars sailing in every direction. And one car sailed right into mine, smashing my carefully repaired right rear quarter panel and bashing in the glittery numbers I’d just applied to my door.
What is it going to take to break the curse?
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.)