Jul 8 2011

Mid-summer heat: Putnam Park

Another beautiful day at Putnam Park

With the summer in full swing I finally get my second track day this season, a two-day event at Putnam Park with 10/10ths Motorsports.  I let my girlfriend drive the car on Saturday, followed by me on Sunday.  Ambient temps were in the 9oF+ range most of the weekend and the car handled perfectly all weekend with 31psi tire pressures all around (front shock 100%, rear shock 50%).  Hot pressures were somewhere in the 36psi range.

Pre-trackday maintenance involved the usual brake bleed, lubing the caliper slide pins and also changing out the thermostat on the car ($20).  In order to offset some of the costs for the season I had also managed to sell off the OEM rear springs ($25) and stock seats ($125), bringing season costs to a total of: $1,190 + $20 – $25 – $125 = $1,060.  I will need to change the engine and diff oils before the next event, but without any unforeseen problems should be able to close out this season under budget.

With my instructor I kept on experimenting with different lines in turn 8, finally coming to the conclusion that a tighter line coupled with trail braking on entry was the fastest way around.  The laps felt quick, but never matched the 1:26s I got at the last outing, possibly due to trying too hard and overdriving the car.  I will have to dial it back on entry to get on the power sooner and see if that yields the results next time at Putnam.

Miatas out to play!

For the last session of the weekend we got together the remaining Miatas and went out together.  Leading the pack was Aaron in the white NA, followed by Bryce in the red Spec Miata, with me and Bruce (Blue 10AE) closing out the 4-car train.  The starter got on the radio and said “this can’t be good…three miatas going out together” right before the out lap.  The rest of the story can be seen in the following video:


As Aaron lost the rear exiting turn 1, he spun and exited the track to the left.  Bryce was on his tail going into 1 and spun towards the right.  At that point I made a decision that trying to make the corner was probably risky, then promptly took the option to go between both spinning cars.  No harm, no foul…  Nobody was hurt or resulted in any damaged vehicles, and a good laugh was had once we all got back to paddock after the session.  Getting to drive alongside a good group of drivers with similar machinery makes trackdays so much more enjoyable!

Also encountered my first red-flag drill during session 3.  I actually missed the flag at corner 5 and saw the red flag at corner 7 as I exited 5.  Good reason why we practice these sort of drills, just shows that I need to pay more attention to the flag station at 5..

On the subject of entry fees for 2011, the most recent trackday brought the total to $330 + $205 = $535

Now for the sad news…  I will have to end the third season of Project Trackday early this season as I will be temporarily relocating to California in the fall.  If all works out I may look into renting one of 949 Racing’s Miatas to run at Laguna Seca, however that will be seen.  Between now and then I plan on one more test’n'tune at Gingerman on July 19th or 20th, followed by the season closer at Mid-Ohio on August 11th.

Jun 7 2011

New photos and upcoming events

Got around to washing and cleaning the car finally.  The wheels themselves probably took as long to clean as the rest of the car.  See the pictures here.

As for an update on the season and upcoming events, IndySCCA points event 2 and 3 have been completed.  I am still co-driving Tom’s Reynard RF-85 in C-mod, now having finished 5th in class three times in a row  The previous outing was not representative of what the car was capable of due to rain washing out the event after 3 runs, we should be closing in on some trophies in the coming weeks.  Add another $25 to the season entry fees for the autocross and we’re up to $305 for 2011 so far.

Upcoming events include a test’n'tune at Gingerman Raceway on either the 15th or 22nd of June, followed by another run with 10/10ths at Putnam Park on July 3rd.  If you are in the area and want to meet up for the test’n'tune at Gingerman for either the 14th or 21st, feel free to leave a message :)

I will be at Gingerman for the Test’n'tune on Tuesday 21st, and then back at Putnam Park with 10/10ths for July 4th weekend.  Come by and say hi if you can, always glad to meet readers of the blog!

May 10 2011

Track season is in full swing

‘Tis the season.  Started off the month (5/01/11) at Grissom with the 2nd points event IndySCCA auto-x, once again co-driving Tom’s 1985 Reynard RF85.  We ran the same course that the 1 Lap of America entrants ran the day before, with a few entrants setting times faster than the 1LoA guys.  At this point Tom and I are getting quite comfortable driving the Formula Ford, though looking over the data Tom is still faster in the long sweeping corners whereas I have him handily in the slaloms.  My fastest lap of the day was 50.118, good enough for another fifth place in class (eighth overall).  For me at this point it is an accomplishment to just beat another driver in a different CM car for the first time this season.  For reference, the fastest 1LoA time was in the 50.7s, of course those guys are on street tires in street legal cars, but that’s just details :)

GPS datalog from personal best run of the day

IndySCCA Points Event #2 raw times

Tom has been eager to get rid of the Hankook tires and get onto the Hoosier RS25 tires ASAP, so next time out we should be on the right tires and finally able to work away on setup.  The car was weighed and it is (without side panels) 944lbs without driver and fuel, therefore we will need to figure out some ways to remove weight for Tom and get a ballast in for me to get to the legal weight of 1100lbs (w/ driver and fuel).

On Saturday I finally was able to take the Project Trackday Miata back out after a long winter.  I started off the track season with a run at Putnam Park, once again going with 10/10ths Motorsports.  I can’t give Bill enough praise for the top quality trackdays he organizes.  Overall a very productive day, with a total of 73 laps of Putnam Park completed.

The morning session started off with a light rain, and the track was very slippery indeed.  It was quite hard to keep the car on track when cornering on the dry line so I experimented around to try and find grip off-line which seemed to feel much better, with a session best of 1:57.69 (wow that’s slow!).

By session 2 the track had dried out so I was able to get up to speed again and shake off the cobwebs from winter, getting down close to the times I was setting at the end of last year (1:30.85).

After lunch I took an instructor out and we experimented on different lines (trying out high HP lines vs momentum car lines) and found that the lines I had been taking were pretty good according to the timing splits.  Over the winter I found myself wondering what I needed to do to get over this wall I had reached at Putnam, at the 1:30s range.  I figured I just needed to get more comfortable pushing the car and operating it at the edge of grip and slowly test beyond my comfort zone.  I had set myself a personal goal of breaking into the 1:28s for the day, and on the last flying lap of the session I set a 1:28.44.  With the GPS I can now embed the speed/position and lap time information into the track videos!  Below is the video from session 3, with instructor Arte Butler riding shotgun:

Back out for session 4 when the sun finally came out to play I was able to improve on the time, bringing the best lap down to 1:28.11 on lap 52 for the day.  However a few laps before that I had a car spin right in front of me.  Learning from my mistake of lifting and spinning myself at my first trackday I was able to avoid losing it:

On the final session (#5) of the day I went out on my own to crank out some laps, unfortunately the camera battery had died by this point :(  I was starting to push the tires to their limits and beyond.  Towards the end of the session the tires were feeling quite greasy from being overdriven and the car would just slide on entry into all of the corners.  However before that took effect I was able to set my personal best times with 3 laps in a row of 1:26.83, 1:26.88 and 1:26.25 (even though I ran extremely wide in turn 8 and lost over 1.6s at turn 8).  Had I not made that mistake I may have even cracked the high 1:24s!  Had I strung together all of my best sectors I could have lapped a 1:23.2 even, though that just shows me the potential of the car and how much more seat time I need.  Of course it sucks not to have video of my best lap, however here is the next best thing, the GPS lap times.  You can see that on lap 72 (after the best lap) the sector times for sector 1 and 4 (both sectors with long right handers) are well off as the car was just understeering badly once the tires had gotten too hot.

Lap times from the final session at Putnam Park (05/07/11)

I have added the ‘Track Maps’ section at the top of the page where I will post the .bin map files used in RaceChrono for anyone who wants to use them.  This saves you having to go out and map out the track yourselves.  Basically copy the file into the ‘Tracks’ folder, and then when you create a new session you can select the track and the timing will be all set and ready to go.  Also check http://racechrono.com/tracks/?lang=en&country=United+States for other track maps other people have made.

Feel free to leave a comment on which format of data you prefer in the videos between the two posted above.  I don’t have any way to get OBD information so throttle/brake and RPM data is not possible.  The G-meter is not particularly accurate as it is based on integration of position data and not measured from an accelerometer, hence I’m not sure whether to leave it in or not.  The more compact data still allows the viewer to see the shifter position, which is the direction I’m leaning towards.  I will look into raising the camera position a bit more, as it sits it is a bit too low for my liking too.

Oct 25 2010

Closing out the season on a high note (Part I)

Finished off the 2010 track/auto-x season on a high note with a trackday at Putnam Park on Saturday, followed by the IndySCCA workers invitational auto-x at O’Reilly Raceway Park on Sunday.

Lets begin with the Saturday recap:

I was a bit anxious for the first time running in the yellow (intermediate) group, especially when I noticed a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Porsche Carrera GT in the same group!

First session I requested for an instructor to ride along and give me some feedback on my lines.  I always prefer for an instructor to critique my driving at the start and then sometime towards the end of the day to determine if I am making progress.

Got to the cold pits and realized I had forgotten my tire pressure gauge, the instructor just suggested I go out and focus on my lines.  Cold tires and cold track (ambient temp of ~65F) so it wouldn’t matter too much to get the tire pressures dialed in either way.  Turned out to be for the best as I realized that the Dunlops behaved extremely well at these low pressures!  Recall I had used ~33-34psi cold at the last time out to get them to work the way I wanted, this time I was at ~27psi cold, working up to ~34psi hot.  I was happy enough that I did not mess with the tire pressures all day.

The instructor rode along for a couple of laps, corrected my lines through turn 7 and 8 (tighter through 7, turn in from a bit wider and more gradual on 8 ) and then I was back out to finish off the session solo.

Worked on my lines and consistency through the session and didn’t really have too much difficulty in traffic (didn’t have to constantly watch the mirrors, and the pace of the yellow group meant I could drive at my own pace without being held up much).  The yellow group also allowed for passes anywhere so there were a few times where I got to practice driving off the racing line.  It feels a bit uncomfortable in terms of approaching a corner knowing you are in an unfavorable position, but driving off line is just something I will need to get more experience and practice with.

On the 3rd session I had the instructor ride along for a few laps again.  He commented that my consistency had improved and that I should try trail braking into corner 7 to prevent scrubbing too much speed on entry.  A couple of laps into the session we were approaching turn 2 when a car had spun and was facing backwards in the middle of the track.  I hit the brakes, seeing the spun car and two cars in front at a complete stop, but in the end felt it was still safer to go straight off into the grass than try to make the complete stop.  No harm, no foul, but a 4-off meant I was on my way back towards the pits.. Back out again having had a brief inspection and a talk with my instructor, I was working on getting these corners down with trail braking and letting the rear to initiate the yaw under braking.  The more times I tried the more comfortable I was with the idea of not totally braking in a straight line.

Here’s some footage from midway through the 3rd session after the pitstop.

I will get more video footage and lap analysis (lap time analysis) when I get some more free time.

Finished the day with two more sessions, working on consistency, trail braking corners 2 and 7.  The final 0:30 session was black-flagged mid-session due to a Corvette breaking down on the exit of 7 and stranded just off the course.  The session was restarted with 15 mins to go and I finished off a great trackday, safely bringing the car home to end the track season.  I don’t know what the lap times were yet as I didn’t have a timer/stopwatch on hand, but it definitely felt quicker than the last outing.  I’ll guess perhaps a high 1:28 lap.

So that wraps up 6 track days this year, over 3 courses (Putnam, Autobahn, Gingerman).  Lots of experienced gained in this last season and am relatively happy with my progress to date.  Still a lot to learn though!  Hope to make the pilgrimage to Mid-Ohio in ’11, and we’ll see if Bluegrass Motorsports Park (Sparta, KY) ever opens.  I already have some plans for off-season modifications to the car, but thats a discussion for another day…

Entry fees:  $1,110 + $245 = $1,355

More videos and recap of Sunday’s worker invitational autocross to come…

Sep 9 2010

Video analysis: Putnam Park

Just a comparison video of a lap from the 10/10ths @ Putnam back in May ’10 on the stock 14×5.5 wheels running older Azenis with a lap from the most recent lapping day at Putnam Park.  This is not intended as a direct comparison between wheels/tires, as there are simply too many variables to take into consideration (considerably more track experience, different ambient conditions, etc).


As for the video,  I broke up the lap into 3 ‘sectors’:

Sector 1 contains the high speed ‘sweeper’ turn 1 followed by a slightly tighter turn 2, running through to the full throttle turn 3 and the long left hander (turn 4).  IMO, turns 1 and 4 definitely require maximum grip to get through quickly, whereas turn 2 relies on trail braking to rotate the car.  On the Dunlops I was able to have a much higher entry speed into 1, and also maintain a higher speed all the way thorough turn 4.

Sector 2 consists of the quick turn 5, a kink at turn 6 and then the very slow turn 7 leading to the downhill run to 8.  Increased grip here is of benefit at turns 5 once again allowing for higher entry (resulting in higher speeds all the way into braking for 7).  More grip at 8 helps mostly at the entry, however the uphill climb results in a compression of the front allowing for plenty of mid/late corner grip.

Sector 3 is all about grip!  Steering through turns 9 and 10 it is clear that the Dunlops have an advantage as they are able to carry higher apex speeds, resulting in a corner exit speed out of 10 approximately 5-7mph higher.  The 1.5s difference in two corners alone is quite significant.

The time differential is a combination of the increased grip but also me getting more comfortable with going around corners faster.  I’m not 100% sure the lap from 5/8 is the fastest of that day (probably not, considering I was shaking my head on the exit of 10 in displeasure), but the 1:29.7 is the fastest lap I caught on camera for last weekend even though I did go faster at the end of the day.

Sep 6 2010

Lapping day @ Putnam Park

Turn 10 at Putnam park

I don’t know where I got this target benchmark of 1:30.x for my time at Putnam Park.  I believe it was a time I read off James’ laptimer when he did some chase-cam footage for me last time I was there.  So with that in mind, my goal for the weekend on the new wheels and tires was to beat a 1:30.x lap.  I have to apologize for the lack of photos/video from this weekend as my camera battery died early on in the day, resulting in only half a session being recorded. :(

With it being the first time out on new wheels and tires I was back to square one in terms of setup.  I started out with 34psi (cold) all around and set off to my first session at 9:30am, ambient temperature in the high 60s.  Immediately it was clear that the Star Spec tires had a lot more grip than the Azenis they replaced, as I could comfortably carry more speed in the corners.

I had an instructor ride along in the second session to give me some pointers around the track and to pick up some speed.  Gained lots of useful advice on how to approach some of the tricky corners, especially corner 2, 4, 8 and 9 (thanks Aaron!), then jumped in a spec suspension’d Miata for a ridealong to watch and learn.  I experimented with allowing the car to slide out towards the track out kerb instead of driving towards them.  This allowed for much higher corner exit speeds.  Lowering the tire pressure resulted in better cornering, allowing me to turn the wheel less and scrubbing less speed off in the corners (especially turn 2).  I can still go faster through some of the corners if I trail brake into them to start the car rotating, something I will need to keep practicing.

For the 3rd session I lowered the tire pressures to 32psi in each corner and set off.  The turn in and cornering grip felt even better and I was able to further reduce the steering angles to accomplish the desired line.  Marla was on board and timing my laps with a stopwatch and clocked several laps ranging between 1:29.7 and 1:30.4 in a row, only interrupted when I approached traffic.  Onboard footage for the first half of the session below:

I had beaten the previous benchmark of 1:30.x, but only barely. I also started to experiment with carrying more speed into the corners and minimizing braking.  During the 5th session I missed the turn in for corner 4 by a split second but decided to just ride out out without lifting the throttle anyways, ended up dropping the rear right wheel beyond the track out kerb and spun it around, across the track, ending up on the inside of turn 4 after a full 360.  Surprisingly calm feeling after spinning the car, just wish I had it on video to review…

On the subject of video review…  I was a bit displeased with my lap times as I felt I was going much faster but only managed high 1:29s, but after reviewing the old footage from Putnam (on the Azenis and old wheels) I realized that I was running 1:34s before, so a 5-6second/lap improvement is definitely something I am happy with!  There is still much more room for improvement but I’m sure it will come with more seat time.

Putnam is notoriously hard on tires but the Star Specs do extremely well...

Just a few other observations on the new tires… When I tried out running lower tire pressures (lower than 32psi cold) the car would have a tendency to hop in the corners a bit.  Although this was the only way to use the entire contact patch (based on visual inspection of the tread wear), it resulted in less than ideal feel and worse grip than when I had higher tire pressures.  I will need to get more negative camber in the alignment to use the tires properly!  Overall, I think 32-33psi cold felt just about right.  The tire squeal is a much lower pitched than the Azenis, instead of a high-pitched squeal it is more of a low howl.

New wheels got plenty dirty and picked up lots of rubber bits

Total season entry/registration fees:  $815 + $250 = $1065.

May 28 2010

Upcoming events, auto-x review

Just playing a bit of catch up on the posts for the blog.  A couple of weeks ago I ran in Tom’s ’99 Miata Sport for the IndySCCA points event #2 and came in 3rd again, though I am struggling to come to grips (no pun intended!) with the way the slicks behave in the dry.  The car feels less responsive than my NA partly due to the suspension setup and additional weight, but mostly the width of the tires that Tom runs on the car (225 tread width).  I will have to adjust my driving style to compensate for that in following rounds.  I may have to try and force myself to turn earlier than I think I need to in order for the car to transition correctly when I actually want it to.  For those keeping track of season entry fee costs, the auto-x adds another $20 to the tally.   Adding in the cost of running the trackday at Putnam Park ($245), the season cost so far is already at $355.

IndySCCA Points Event #2 in Tom's '99 Sport

I also found someone to trade turn signals with on my car, opting to go back to a stock look.  The turn signal inlets are gone, replaced with some stock indicators from a 94M Miata, with the daytime running lights modification.

New turn signal indicators replacing the turn signal inlets

As for upcoming events:  The next one will be a trackday at Autobahn Country Club (Joliet, IL) with 10/10ths Motorsports on 6/19/10.  The daytime will be run on the North course (1.50mi), with evening running on the full 3.51mi track.  I will need to finish up some work on the brakes and remove the A/C system before then.

Aerial view of Autobahn Country Club

May 11 2010

Cars of 10/10ths @ Putnam Park 5/8/10

Just some pictures of car spotted around the paddock at the 10/10ths Motorsports trackday @ Putnam Park 5/8/10, enjoy!

Misc. CarsMisc. CarsGulf MirageGulf MirageGulf MirageGulf MirageCorvetteDiasio D962 Misc. Cars911 + M3Corvette Z06ACR ViperACR ViperNSXTrackday driver

I’ll get some on-board footage online once I get some time to view and edit it. Here’s a teaser in the meantime…

Chase camera footage (courtesy of James Ackerman):

Oct 27 2009

KYPCA Pumpkin Run 2009 – Day 2


Note: I don't have any pictures from Sunday on track so all the pictures in the post are ones that were taken Saturday...

Back early on day 2 to prepare for another day I arrived around 7:20am just as the sun was coming up.  It was still pretty cold but the forecast was a dry and sunny day for the entire day.  First thing I did was to check the brake pad wear, especially in the fronts.  Being this was the first time I had asked so much of them I wanted to make sure that there was still plenty of pad material on there because I knew I was going to ask more of them on the second day.  Surprisingly there wasn’t much brake wear at all, so all I can say is that I am extremely pleased with the performance and durability of the Yellowstuff pads.  (This was again verified at the end of Sunday, and I’m confident these pads have plenty more track time left in them)

The morning started as usual with a class session, and then back on track where for the first time we tried yet less braking between turns 3-4 and holding 4th gear all the way through from the exit of 2 through hard braking for turn 7.  This was a vast improvement from staying in 3rd all the way through 4, upshifting on the exit and then back down to 3rd on the entry to turn 5 as I was forced to keep the momentum in the car to prevent it falling out of the power band.

IMG_2131Something clicked in this first session early on going into turn 7 and it made a world of difference.  I experimented with braking late and turning in just the same time I was starting to release the brake (before the front could decompress) and the turn in was so sharp that I had to turn the wheel back a bit.  The following lap Mike told me  to treat turn 1 like “an autocross sweeper” and I did the same late brake and turn in before the front decompressed, and ended up coming in to turn 2 so fast that I had to really adjust my braking into the corner.  Finally I was starting to use the load transfer characteristics of the car instead of trying to fight it…  The remainder of the lap I focused on hitting the points at the higher speeds I was now achieving and using the load transfer to my advantage.  Mike was very happy with the progress and mentioned that I had now “opened a whole other door” and was “on another level now”.  He mentioned that he had wanted me to get to that point at the end of day 2, and was happy that I was already there so we could keep on moving the yardstick further.

We discussed staying in 4th gear all the way from midway down the main straight until turn 7 and then I took a ride with him to see how it was done.  The goal was ‘Momentum Driving’, and it was extremely important since the Miata was so down on power compared to the rest of the field.  I noticed that exiting turn 2 Mike was able to keep his car at 4300+rpm and therefore had good power out of the corner.  My goal was to exit the same corner at enough speed not to get bogged down in 4th coming out of the corner.

Session 2 we worked on momentum driving and I focused on looking for a visual cue for turn 8 (which had been the corner I was still early apexing a bit because I couldn’t see the apex or exit until 3/4 ways through the turn due to the rise.  Finally I found a good reference point and was able to start consistently hitting the apex.


Coming into turn 1 I was braking late, using the load transfer to turn in and then just a light push on the brake to get more front bite into turn 2.  Going through 3 I lined up for 4 and then braked not to slow down but to settle the front end before turning into 4.  Braking into 5 to get front turn in and then flooring it to hard braking for turn 7, turning in early to clip the apex and flooring it to the entry of 8, taken in the outside middle of the seam on the track, turning in and waiting for my visual cue before getting on the gas.  On the brakes into 9 towards the outside middle of the seam, crossing over to the inside of the seam through 9 (not using the inside curbing) to look for the curb to the right of the pit entry, getting my rear left on that and then the front right over the apex of 10 to do it all over again.

In session 3 I was held up late in the session in the turns for a few laps by a 996 Turbo and Mike told me to stay behind it, testing my ability to follow and on my lines (not watching the car in front’s lines).  I had hit all of the cues and was not letting another car in front get me distracted or off my line even though I was having to brake 150ft earlier into 1 due to the car ahead.  Once we ended the session we stopped in the pit to discuss the session and Mike gave me the go-ahead to do the final session solo.

Cleared for solo in session 4

Cleared for solo in session 4

The final session of the weekend was a combined session with both Green and Yellow groups running together, and was 35 minutes instead of the usual 25 minutes.  Having watched a Yellow only session I was a bit concerned about the number of cars on track synchronously (28 cars on track for the yellow group alone), but as they pulled into the paddock several cars packed it in and called it a day.  Start of the 4th session I was just going to go out and do my own pace but making sure I kept an eye on faster cars coming up, and I felt once I got into a rhythm it really wasn’t a problem at all.

Mike suggested I get a feel for how the car feels different through the turns without the extra weight of an instructor in the car, especially on the left handed turns where there was no long that extra mass on the inside of the corner.  It was definitely different not having the extra weight, the car was accelerating faster (no surprise), and was quicker through the left turns (4 and 8 ) but it felt more on edge on the right turns (as I was going quicker and also because the CG of the car had been shifted).  At one point I peeked down and saw I was hitting 100mph into braking for turn 1…

Late into session 4 (maybe 5-10 minutes until the end) my fuel gauge was starting to creep towards empty and I was following a 944 around the track.  I wasn’t much slower or faster, and over an entire lap I felt I was maybe about on parity with it even though it had the go in the straights to pull away.  I contemplated on pulling into the pits and calling it a day but I was confident that there was enough gas to run out the session.  A lap or two later as I was exiting 10 the 944 spun in front of me, and in hesitation I lifted off the throttle too quickly, inducing a big oversteer moment.  In my lack of experience I instinctively tried to countersteer to catch the slide and got into a huge tankslapper.  Once that happened I knew I was in for the ride, put both feet in (brake + clutch) and hoped for the best…

I hit the exit hay bails on 10 hard going backwards, but I already knew what I had done wrong..  Getting off the gas in panic was the first mistake, but secondly I should have been more conscious of the track layout and known that 10 was the only corner with a guardrail to hit, so I shouldn’t have even tried to save the slide.  Shortly after the track crew, ambulance and Mike were alongside, and I was asked if I was hurt in any way (no.).  Mike mentioned the damage was minimal but I really didn’t want to see what damage I had done..  I drove the car back to the pitlane, sat for a minute and then came out to see the damage.  The rear finish panel and the passenger tail light was cracked, but other than that no other parts would need replacing.  Mike mentioned that if that damage had happened early on Saturday we would have just duct taped the broken plastic parts and kept on going all weekend.  No mechanical damage whatsoever.  How lucky was that!?

Assessing the damage once I got home...

Assessing the damage once I got home...

Headed up to the tower for a debrief/report of the accident and then I headed back down to pack my things for the long trip home.  Plenty of time to think over what had happened.  I came to the conclusion that it was a rookie mistake to get spooked at an incident happening right in front of me, but other than that I had made huge strides over the weekend.  I can’t wait until summer ’10 rolls around so I can do it all over again!  This will be the last event for the 2009 season for Project Trackday and all I can say is this has been such a blast so I would highly recommend to anyone who has the interest and means to get into this sport to not be scared away by how much it can cost.  I pulled it off for under $4000 even though at times it seemed like it was improbable, and I had the best summer/autumn ever getting to drive this car around.  I competed in 5 autocrosses and completed 1 weekend trackday (with over 200 minutes of track time).

During the offseason I will be doing some repairs to the car, and depending on the budget I may be upgrading the suspension (shocks and springs) or wheels/tires (going to a 15″ rim to open up my tire compound options).  As for Project Trackday 1.0, I completed my goal so this portion of the project is complete.  Next season I will be keeping track of how much running a season (entry fees, repairs, etc) costs to give people an idea of how much it costs to run a car through these events…

’09 has been a blast, see you in ’10…

Oct 26 2009

KYPCA Pumpkin Run 2009 – Day 1

Paddock at Putnam Park

What a weekend!

I set out earlier this year to attempt to buy and prepare a car to take to the track for under $4,000 and now I can finally say that I have completed the goal that I set.  Spent all weekend at Putnam Park Road Course in Mount Meridian, IN learning the track and the behavior of the car and it really has put a lot of things in perspective for me personally.  I’ll try to sum up the weekend over this and the following post…

Left to head out to Putnam early Saturday morning, arriving about 7:20am and got the car in queue for on-track tech inspection.  Everything went fine and I was back in grid awaiting registration by 7:50.  The event was broken down to 5 run groups; Instructors, Blue, Red, Yellow and Green (in order of experience).  Met my instructor for the weekend (Mike, who by my luck happened to be the most knowledgeable person in the Miata community I have ever come across) at the drivers meeting  and then headed up to take the first session of class for the Green group.

After the class session I met up with Mike and prepared to head out for our first session on track.  It was cold and damp conditions so we decided to try out a wet line so I could get a feel for it.

In the cold pits awaiting the session start...

Car #17 in the cold pits awaiting the session start...

The amount of grip in those conditions on the wet line was amazing and judging by the rest of the cars on track for that session it was apparent that they were trying to learn the course on the dry line, so it was relatively straightforward to pass several cars in that session.  The session lasted 25 minutes but they were extremely useful as I had never experienced the difference in grip levels in the wet between a dry and wet line.

Setting up for turn 9 on the wet line

Setting up for turn 9 on the wet line

By then the misting rain had stopped and the track began to start drying slowly.  I took a ride with Mike during the instructor group in his car and he planned on showing me the race (dry) line and talking me through the points on the track (turn in, apex, exit) that I should be going for in the next session.  Another Miata came up and then the two instructors decided to have a little fun while I watched from on board.  First thing that struck me as impressive was how these guys were able to go into the braking zone less than half a car length apart and trust that they would brake at the same time…

Mike's car in the paddock

Mike's car in the paddock

During the second run we worked on a dry race line and my goal was to hit all of the turn ins, apexes and exits.  We also adjusted some shifting points on the track to increase the speeds through the corners.

Getting ready to head back out for session 2

Getting ready to head back out for session 2

Late in the session I was starting to feel that the car was really down on power in the straights, and then one lap later going down the straight I could barely get the car into 4th before going into the braking zone for turn 1.  One turn later I saw the black flag and steam started pouring out of the hood…  We immediately pulled off track and the session was red flagged with only a few minutes remaining in the session.  A hose somewhere had clearly blown and all that steam was coolant spraying onto the hot exhaust pipes.  After a quick inspection, I got a tow back to the pitlane to assess the damage.

Getting towed back

Getting towed back

After checking carefully it was evident the coolant loss was coming from near the back of the engine, and after a bit more probing I found the bad heater hose that had cracked.  Luckily Mike just so happened to have a spare on hand (not to mention a trailer of Miata parts!) so I was able to replace the faulty hose during lunch and not miss any track time.  Topped off all the fluids and the car was ready to hit the track again.

Busy at work during lunch to get the car ready for session 3

Busy at work during lunch to get the car ready for session 3

After lunch I headed back up to the classroom for the second classroom session, and then just as soon we were back on track for session 3.  Finally the sun had decided to peek through a bit and the track was completely dry and finally warming up.  The lunchtime repairs worked perfectly and the car ran well for the remainder of the weekend.  In session 3 we focused on consistency in hitting the key track points and tweaking the line as to suit my car in particular.  By this point it was clear that all of the times I had been complaining in the past about the car understeering/etc was not really that important.  What was much more important was how to set up turns to avoid getting those problems in the first place!  If the car was understeering in a particular corner and I had been doing exactly the same thing as the previous lap when it was just fine, it wasn’t because the tires were getting greasy or the pressures were changing.  I was simply coming into the corner faster because I had gotten a better line through the previous corner, and needed to realize and adjust my inputs accordingly.

Here we go again... Session 3 is about to start

Here we go again... Session 3 is about to start

Back to the paddock I was left with a lot of things to think about.  The first session I may have hit 80mph into braking for turn 1, but now I was easily hitting 90 and braking later and harder for the turn, focusing on setting for turn 2 that came immediately afterwards.  I was able to hang if not pass most of the cars in the group between turns 1 and 10, but as soon as I got on the main straight they were gone, right until the braking into turn 1 where I was back on the tail end of the cars.  The main point was still consistency lap after lap, especially through turns 5 and turn 8.  I could hit all the points at a bit lower speeds when I was stuck behind following, but when I was in the open road I was still early apexing and missing apexes on occasion.  Mike said I had hit every single track in, apex and out on the track quite a few times, but I had not done every single one on a complete lap yet…  The only corner I was consistent and hitting the cues every time was turn 9 and 10 because the course is very flat around that section and it is very easy to see where the car needs to be well before getting there.  During the break the course was closed temporarily due to a large shunt by a Porsche GT2 coming out of turn 10, causing significant damage to the rear end.


GT2 at turn 10 into the hay bails and guard rail at high speed

Quite a bit of damage

Quite a bit of damage

It was a stern reminder of what can happen at the only corner on track without significant runoff.  I had been very comfortable at turn 9 and 10 since session 2 and was very consistent through it so I made sure a crash there didn’t phase me and affect my driving through the corner.  The final session of the day I was finally able to string together a handful of laps where I hit every cue on the track.  Some real progress and I was able to leave day 1 of the 2009 Pumpkin Run with some good things to build upon for day 2.  Already 100 minutes of track time and I was ready to get some R&R before doing it all over again.

Turned out to be a beautiful day to be on a track

Turned out to be a beautiful day to be on a track

Down the main straight

Down the main straight