Driving that line

With seven races behind me, looking back I can say that I have learned quite a bit in these past three months.

While it may look the same from the outside, some major changes happened in my mind that I now plan to translate into on-track performance.

Being a NASA NorCal instructor has more benefits than free HPDE/TT on the days you work. The real perk that few people take advantage of is unlimited access to coaching from some of the best drivers in the country, such as Barry Hartzel, with whom I had several impactful conversations that led to a few insights about my driving strategy.

The video below from a Spec Miata race at Infineon last month is not really remarkable as racing videos go, but it is a good tool to discuss driving technique with your coach and single out habits that I need to change to improve my performance.

2011-06-11 Infineon NASA Spec Miata Race from Alex Maier.

So why are all these people passing me all the time?

If you are an experienced track driver, the answer is obvious: for one, I tend to brake too slowly (i.e. not as quickly as the car allows) and then coast for almost a full second before getting back on the gas coming out of the corners. With eleven corners, this can easily mean a ten to fifteen second loss of time.

Also--and that is less a matter of technique, and more that of an attitude--when faster drivers catch up to me, I tend to back off the throttle and meekly let them by in most cases. While this is certainly a nice thing to do in Time Trials or HPDE, it is not a useful strategy while racing, and something I will focus on in the next race.

"Get mean," as Barry said.


  1. I haven't reached your level yet, nor do I have your experience. I imagine that the fact that you are now playing with people who are serious about getting there first is pretty intimidating. I do see hesitancy in spots where I wouldn't expect it. It looks as if you could carry 5th to the bridge after turn 1, it's fun, really! These Miatas really like turn 6, I'm braking too much at the top, you can squeeze on the throttle earlier and gain a ton.7 to the bottom, I'm working on developing an acceleration curve, if you will. Mygoal is to continually gain, with no lifting, clear through 10. 11, well I finally ran out of brakes there, there is a god, I saw him! Looks good. Geoff

  2. Interesting perspective for sure. And noisy! Would you ever sneak an MP3 player in your fire suit and ear buds under your brain bucket?

  3. Geoff: It really looks and feels different from inside the car and on video. When I am driving, I feel like this is as much as the car will give at times, only to discover that I overbraked :)
    I just spent a day concentrating on getting on the gas sooner and braking later. My plan is to keep focusing on that until I can watch my own video without yelling at myself "Gas, gas, gas! What are you doing? Why brakes? GAAAS!"

  4. Brett: I had that thought a few times, but I have to rely on my hearing to drive. Believe it or not, in all this racket, I can pick out tire noises and sounds other cars are making.
    With limited visibility out of the cockpit, hearing a car that is in my blind spot helps me avoid contact. For now, I just use musician's earplugs on most days to reduce the loud yell of my engine, while still hearing all the important stuff.