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.

2011-10-18

When I can't contain myself, there's a seat for that

October has been a sucky month for some of my racing friends. Crashes, injuries, or plain old cancer, it appears like universe is feasting on pain.

Determined not to add to the feast, I am now researching better seats for my race car.

You see, the secret to limiting damage from any impact is to dissipate the impulse over as large an area of your body as possible, i.e. not just your hip and shoulder, or hip and ribs, but every square inch of your body that is available on that side. That is where the containment seat comes in. Here's what I am looking at.

This here is a custom-built seat, manufactured by Joie of Seating in sunny North Carolina, which should fit into my little car just fine.

The idea is to tow the car to the local dealer so both I and Wasabi can be measured and we can make sure there is enough room for the new seat. While my roll cage in not ideal, because it does not go into the driver side door, and thus constrains the space available for the seat, it helps that I can fit in a smaller size seat, so there is hope that I can fit this bad boy in.

This here is a RaceTech seat, built in New Zealand, and comes highly recommended by Kiwi, who's been in more crashes than I probably have driven total races on track. It costs slightly less, but is also not custom-made. However, the local dealer will be able to fit me, so that I get the seat to best support and protect me. It is made of carbon fiber, which is kinda cool, and also helps with weight. On the other hand, I will be bolting in weights in the car once the passenger seat is out, if I want to be sure not to get under weight, so that's not really a concern.

What is unclear is whether it'll fit inside my car. So that means that Wasabi will have to come with me to the other dealer too, most likely.

There are of course more seats out there, and I have just begun my research. Do any of my readers have good or bad experiences to share, or recommendations for me to check out?

2011-10-07

Would you like some sexy with your conference?

This week I had the questionable pleasure of staying at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. In and of itself a modern hotel with all sorts of neat amenities, it left greatly to be desired in the good taste department, even by Vegas standards.

The main impression I got from the hotel was of an expensive bordello. There were pictures of female bodies everywhere, frequently headless or revealingly "dressed" in suggestive poses and lighting, catering to the straight male gaze and making it clear to me that I was not the intended audience.

Statues in the conference hang out area had female forms arching their backs and thrusting their breasts forward. A large picture on the wall of the hallway leading to my room for example had more or less disembodied legs of a woman wearing patent leather red high-heel pumps, with another 2-3 pairs scattered around. "Fertility symbols" of the big-breast/wide hips type displayed in the showcase along the conference center hallway. And the list goes on.

The whole hotel was made in the style of what Jersey Shore cast would think as high-class chic. Marble and shiny metal everywhere you look, coupled with bold geometric patterns and objects'd'art looking like they came straight from a Pier 1 sale table. Who cares that sharp edges hurt? We'll even make our spring loaded door handles rectangular so that you can really feel them cut into your hand each time you want to go take a piss.

Speaking of which, even the bathroom wallpaper had reclining ladies for a pattern. Because you can never have enough naked female bodies for decoration. It's like anal sex and lube. Just when you think you used too much, it's about right.

For a subtle variation on the bad taste theme, please enjoy the clashing patterns of the bedroom wallpaper and the cabinets.

The french restaurant that hosted an evening reception on the second day of the conference, had "chalk" paintings on the wall, as if on a blackboard. That was really neat, they had wine, food, and portions of the swine pictured. Aaaaand... you guessed it! -- more neckid ladies. To be consumed (by straight men) with the rest of the food and beverages. Nothing like a bit of objectification to go with your food.

If you know me at all, you know that I am actually not at all against raunchy sexy things. I love them as much as the next man or woman, but it has to be in context. If I come to a professional conference, I really don't hope to be bombarded by sexually suggestive imagery from all angles, all the time.

I may write to the organizers of the conference, but I am having a distinct feeling that they won't care.