2011-10-31

The big breakthrough

I have just come back from an awesome weekend at Infineon Raceway, where I have made an incredible breakthrough. Suddenly, I am going full six seconds faster around the track than my previous personal best!

What is most amazing is that it took no effort, and I was not even aware that anything was different until I looked at results.

I went out in Group 4, and kept running up on trains of cars, so that I even had to go through the pit lane just to get some open track. Back in the paddock, I plunked myself down on the steps of the trailer and proclaimed that Group 4 was full of Sunday drivers today and that I am not even sure I wanted to run in that group again that day. Kurt, who was listening to my bitching said, "Give yourself some credit, you were flying."

"Who? Me? No way, I was as slow as ever," I said and that was the end of that. I went out in Time Trials, then Mario asked me what my times were. I had not yet looked, so we went over to the tower to look at posted results.

To my great surprise, my name was not all the way at the bottom of the list, and the time next to it was 2:10 -- four seconds faster than the time I posted twelve months ago, and which remained firmly out of reach for me all of this season.

I hugged everyone in sight, and especially Mario, who has been coaching me for a number of events now, and helped me get more comfortable driving closer to the limits of the car. Two-ten! I could barely believe it. Much less so, because I did not feel like I went particularly fast at all. But indeed, it was not the Group 4 drivers being slower than usual, it was me being faster!

With more of Mario's coaching, I was able to knock off three more seconds off my time, arriving at a 2:07 lap -- which was my goal for the weekend.

I was fastidiously logging my runs with a data acquisition system, and asked Mario to drive my car for a few demo laps, so that I could compare my driving to his. He drove at a comfortable 8/10ths pace, which did not require much correction or countersteering and turned a 2:03 time. Later, using the logging software's ability to combine your best sector times from your entire logged laps into one theoretical one, I learned that had I consistently nailed every sector, I could have achieved a 2:05 that weekend.

So my next goal is to continue driving at this pace and to commit that to muscle memory so as to build a foundation for my next improvement.

One change that I notice in my driving is that fear and self-doubt that kept holding me back are now entirely gone, and I can enjoy my passion for driving more than ever before. If this trend continues, I should be able to resume racing not too far from now.