2011-08-15

Back to school

After much thought, I have decided to step back from racing for a while, and to go back to perfecting my driving. I will be back when I can comfortably turn a 2:15 at Thunderhill on a bad day. That way, I will have people to race with when I come back, instead of turning expensive TT laps all day long.

Being the woman of action, I immediately asked for advice and coaching from some of the great drivers at my club and was able to improve my results by full seven seconds over the course of one day.

I rode with two great Miata drivers, Barry H. and Darsie E., with Barry driving my own car, and I also received in-car instruction from another awesome driver Mario L. who yelled "Gas! Gas! Gas!" and held my right knee down so I would not lift too soon for turns. As a result, I picked up 12 or so mph of exit speed in T1 and T8, cleaned up my line in T9 somewhat, and got to the point where I am almost topping out of 3rd gear in T2.

What made the difference was a combination of several factors:

  • Watching Darsie and Barry get the car around the track fast and noticing the calm in the cockpit.
    The unhurried, relaxed way these two get the cars around corners faster than I ever have, making small corrections here and there, but basically just doing their thing without any drama... I would think of that, and immediately, serenity would descend, and I'd be in the groove.
  • Seeing (and feeling) my own car do great in fast turns and stick at speeds I have never thought possible.
    Knowing that I have a tool comparable to what the good guys work with makes a huge difference. Now at the slightest stir of uncertainty going into a fast turn, I can say "I know she'll stick. She'll do it." It is remarkable how much faster I can go now, just knowing that.
  • Mario's comment that I had good car control.
    I have never heard anyone say that to me before, and I doubted my ability to control the car. Feeling out of control was preventing me from pushing the car to the point where I may need to correct, effectively keeping my performance down out of fear of screwing up.
  • Finally, observing Barry's driving style and realizing that there is nothing wrong with not sawing at the wheel.
    You'll laugh, but let me tell you something. I have many friends who are fast drivers, and all of the ones I observed in-car happen to have this "pitch-and-catch" driving style. I however am more of the smooth and precise kind of driver, the "set it and forget it" type, if you know the jargon. It was really making me uncomfortable, thinking that I had to become the master of the chaos to go fast. Now I see that there is a way to go fast that doesn't go against my nature, and it's really empowering.

So now suddenly driving is much less stressful, and I have made more progress in two days than I have in a year. Somehow, driving even became more fun, even though I thought I was already maxed out.