2010-10-22

Who's driving your car?


This is the first time a fortune cookie actually made sense. I spent a day today driving around in circles, and not really getting ahead. I felt like I was stuck and could not break through to the next level.

I was running Open class and a race today, a total of 9 sessions, for 3+ hours of track time, all in all.

I drove all over the place, just not on the line, and messed up entry after entry, having to fight the car coming out of so many corners.

Towards the end of the day, April, a kick-ass driver, came over to me and mentioned that she saw me drive sloppily out there and said: Drive the line, and the cars will come to you. So for the final three or four sessions, I concentrated on driving the line cleanly and precisely, lap after lap. I got a bit better, but still far from great.

My main challenge today seemed to be my desire to keep up with the fast drivers -- both in the Open class and in the race. So much so, that I was no longer fully focused on my own driving. Today was a good example of what instructors mean when they say, you have to "be the driver," because today I was not the one driving my car. Every car that passed me, every car I tried to catch, they all contributed, yet I was not really at the wheel.

I wish I got my head out of my ass sooner, so that I could practice a good line longer. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Positives of today: I got a ton of seat time, and nailed the succession of turns 6-7-8 once so well that I carried 100 mph (161 kmh) through turn 8. This was the fastest I ever went there, and the car felt great, solid, pushed out gently almost all the way to the rumbles, yet gripped and shot out straight into 9.

Another good thing was to have practiced in a race setting. Even though I did not place well, I ran practice, qualifying, and two races, and finished them all. I avoided contact and had one controlled off in the second race.

Coming around turn 3, which is a blind turn obscured by a hill, I saw four or five Miatas in a skirmish, and one of them was in a spin, already pointed at 90 degrees to the way we all were going. I was not sure whether I would make it through there before the sliding car crossed my path of travel, so instead I braked, causing the rear end to come around and driving off the track and somewhat up the hill at pretty much a right angle. I backed onto the track and resumed the race. Car was unharmed, as far as I could tell.

Additional positive was getting more comfortable sliding the car on the track. Turns 2-3-4, if taken aggressively, will make your car slide quite a bit. Not in the same way as in a drifting competition, but you'd feel the rear tires slipping a fair amount, while still maintaining good traction. When you are unfamiliar with this feeling, it is somewhat unsettling, and it took me a while to get used to. I think today was the first time I felt comfortable enough to let the car slide around turns 2-3-4 in succession.

I guess all in all, I made some progress, but I have a lot to learn still. My goal for tomorrow will be to remain patient and to be 100% present while driving. Shut off any distractions and be the driver of my car. Concentrate on driving a good line, and have fun doing it!