2011-07-03

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.