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  #1  
Old 06-23-2004, 05:34 PM
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So I suppose I should post my track writeup on this board, too...

Well...

I think it's time for a LONG overdue update from this past weekend.

Anyhow, this past weekend, I attended the 19-20 June "Shiny Side Up" Driver's school with the National Capital Chapter of the BMWCCA at the Summit Point Main Circuit. Unfortunately, the demographics of the school were skewed so heavily to experienced drivers that I got bumped into the novice, or C group. (It was, after all, my third driver's school, and people with dozens of schools were getting bumped from the A group to the B group.)

On Saturday, I met with my instructor, a competitive SCCA Showroom Stock C racer by the name of Barry Brown. I highly, HIGHLY recommend him. At least for me, he was unbelievably helpful. While I had brought my old set of Kumho Victoracers with me, I didn't put them on the car and told Barry that I might like to use them later on if, and only if he felt comfortable with the idea. We got out onto the track, and I overdrove the car a bit as I often do while I'm getting myself situated. I REALLY need to work on this as it's a real problem.

By the second session, I'd gotten myself settled down and really started working on the technical aspects of my driving. Historically, I've always had trouble hitting apexes properly -- I tend to be about 12-24 inches late. Fortunately, Barry was making real inroads on this. Among other things, he was able to yell at me any time I didn't look ahead far enough. That's always been a big issue with me. Of course, my judgement still wasn't perfect at this point, as was demonstrated by a somewhat interesting incident when I earlied Turn 4, or the 'chute by about 12 inches. Running that far up the curb literally kicked the car halfway across the track. Fortunately, I kept my foot in it and retained control.
At the end of the day, Barry had me working on what limited race craft one could practice in a driver's school environment with limited passing rules. Backing off a few car lengths behind a slower guy before charging into a turn can be fun--although it can get a little hairy when you have to slow down on corner exit because they didn't give a passing signal. My other problem was predicting other driver's behavior in Turn 1 and Turn 4. By and large I was both late AND trail braking into these turns, something that seemed to make some other drivers a bit nervous. I had a couple incidents where it looked like people saw me coming and started staring at their mirrors instead of looking ahead. Having someone slow to 35MPH in the entrance to Turn 5 is NOT cool. There's a very limited downhill braking zone in which I was slowing from about 100MPH to 50MPH that day. After the third session, Barry told me to put the track tires on the car for Sunday. He did warn me to be a little careful, as I was already the fastest driver in my run group by a fair margin.

Sunday came around, and we went out onto the track with the Victoracers mounted. I took it easy for a lap to get the track pads and the tires warmed up, and then went at it. OH MY GOD! Keep in mind that I was lapping many, if not most of the cars in my group BEFORE I put the track tires on. There were three cars that I hadn't been fast enough to catch up to in a 20 minute track session the previous day (let me just say that it's really annoying when you start reeling a guy in and they throw the checkered flag at you), an S54 M Coupe, a WRX STi, and a Trans Am. Within a fairly short period of time, I had passed all three. Easily. Although I did have a little trouble while accelerating through Turn 2 to make the pass on the STi. Put just a bit too much power down and had to countersteer. Still made made up most of the two car lengths that had remained between us at the beginning of the turn and he waved me by. Immediately after that, I had a BIG oh **** moment following an E36 M3 down the 'chute. He was moving down a pretty good line at a very decent clip, so i was following pretty closely. Unfortunately for him, he ran out of brakes going into Turn 5 and went off the track. I'm VERY glad that I was following him at his pace--if I'd come through the 'chute at my pace and caught up to him there, that could have been bad.

Throughout the day, my speeds continually increased. I was regularly accelerating well into 5th gear, hitting something like 145MPH on the main straight, going to around 110-115 before Turn 3, going through Turn 4 at somewhere between 100 and 110MPH, and hitting at least 125 going down the back straight into Turn 9. I was going so hard that I boiled my brake fluid and started getting pad fade. With TRACK pads. (YES KOBI, YOU WERE RIGHT, I WAS WRONG. I'm ordering Castrol SRF before my next school.)

Take away points from the school were as follows:

1) Cool it while you're getting oriented, dammit!

2) You're really, REALLY fast when you focus on technical accuracy instead of trying to go fast.

3) Keep the eyes up! Make use of ocular driving.

4) One thing I really do need to remember next time I do a multi-day event is to bring my pressure bleeder and extra brake fluid. It would have been nice to have had the chance to do my fluid Saturday evening when it was already moderately toasted. (Note that in addition to cool down laps, I was also driving around the paddock for several minutes afterwards... At least the fluid wasn't boiling AFTER I parked the car.)

5) I learned another very important thing this weekend: When you nail a turn, you'd better remember that you'll be going faster at the entrance to the next one. I forgot that a few times and it definitely added to the pucker factor.

6) My instructor said that in his student evaluation, he'd advised them to never, ever consider bumping me into the novice group again. it wouldn't surprise me if I really frightened some of the folks out there.

Barry also gave me a bunch of advice outside of simple in car technique. He strongly recommended that I start getting my butt out to Fridays at the Track (FATTs), as I would get a lot more track time--especially if I decided to try to become an instructor in the relatively near future. Free track time is DEFINITELY something I could use. A day at the track is pretty damned pricey before you even factor in the entry fee. He also encouraged me to consider getting into club racing in a couple years, and gave a great deal of advice on how to go about it.

All in all, this weekend was an absolutely ****ing blast. I just wish I was still out there.
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  #2  
Old 06-23-2004, 05:49 PM
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Old 06-23-2004, 06:04 PM
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Good write-up, Nick!

Sounds like fun.

Regarding your brakes... can you clarify? Was the pedal always firm under foot, and then there was fade? If so, it was just your pads fading... a rock-hard pedal, but no stopping. A mushy pedal is boiling fluid... and it never gets better.
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Old 06-23-2004, 06:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racerdave
Good write-up, Nick!

Sounds like fun.

Regarding your brakes... can you clarify? Was the pedal always firm under foot, and then there was fade? If so, it was just your pads fading... a rock-hard pedal, but no stopping. A mushy pedal is boiling fluid... and it never gets better.
The answer is that I had a combination of both.
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Old 06-24-2004, 05:02 AM
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Nice write up Nick!! I plan to get out there and try that one of these days… that’s if I can find a weekend where I’m not autoxing.
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Old 06-24-2004, 05:12 AM
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Nick... the brake fluid I like to use in my shifter kart is Motul RBF600... it's a synthetic DOT 4 fluid, but is NOT silicone, so it's compatible with other fluids. I've been happy with it.

Andy, keep autocrossing... the more experienced you get there, the easier the transition to the track. It always amazes me how good autocrossers have no trouble adapting to the track, but how good track drivers often have a LOT of trouble adapting to autocrosses.
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Old 06-24-2004, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by racerdave
Andy, keep autocrossing... the more experienced you get there, the easier the transition to the track. It always amazes me how good autocrossers have no trouble adapting to the track, but how good track drivers often have a LOT of trouble adapting to autocrosses.
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Old 06-24-2004, 06:38 AM
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There are a couple things to be aware of as you transition into track driving, though...

Autoxers do tend to upset the car a bit too much. You'll have to change your braking technique so you get on the brakes more smoothly (hence minimizing dive, weight transfer, and maximizing braking), throttle management is very different, and turn in needs to be smoother as well.

I'm just going to put SRF in... The incremental cost, sadly, really isn't that high.
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Old 06-24-2004, 07:37 AM
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That's why I said "good" autocrossers.
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Old 06-24-2004, 08:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racerdave
That's why I said "good" autocrossers.
:asshole:
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Old 06-24-2004, 09:54 AM
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I resemble that remark...

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Old 06-24-2004, 10:38 AM
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The big difference, though, is that you will NEVER brake anywhere near as hard at an autox as you do at the track. It’s a big adjustment and it’s tough to wrap your head around the idea that you’ve GOT time when you’re blazing down the straight at 145MPH.
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Old 06-24-2004, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
The big difference, though, is that you will NEVER brake anywhere near as hard at an autox as you do at the track. It’s a big adjustment and it’s tough to wrap your head around the idea that you’ve GOT time when you’re blazing down the straight at 145MPH.

That's why I like autox so much... you're brain is working so fast you don't have time to think!! I'd probably just scare myself if I allowed myself to think during a run.
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Old 06-24-2004, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy
That's why I like autox so much... you're brain is working so fast you don't have time to think!! I'd probably just scare myself if I allowed myself to think during a run.
You'd like the Jefferson Circuit, then. It's like an autox, but with passing.
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Old 06-24-2004, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
The big difference, though, is that you will NEVER brake anywhere near as hard at an autox as you do at the track. It’s a big adjustment and it’s tough to wrap your head around the idea that you’ve GOT time when you’re blazing down the straight at 145MPH.
I definitely agree with this, as well as the auto-x drivers being rougher on a track at first. I've seen several autocrossers driving too rough in a limited HP spec class like Spec Miata. Yes, they're fairly quick, but they'd be quicker if they were tidier. It's not as much of a "pitch-and-catch" type game. You need to smoothly address the "friction circle," while still paying some heed to my sig.

Also I agree with the brakes. That's one reason why I'm not a real advocate of upgraded pads on a pure autocross car. Yes, for multi-driver cars or those in really hot climates it can make sense to avoid fading. But any friction advantage, or even fade resistance, is pretty meaningless (IMHO) because of the limited time you're using the brakes *hard*. Plus, stock pads almost always light-up quicker on cool days that seem to be common in the early and late season up here in the upper MW.
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Old 06-24-2004, 12:21 PM
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Also I agree with the brakes. That's one reason why I'm not a real advocate of upgraded pads on a pure autocross car. Yes, for multi-driver cars or those in really hot climates it can make sense to avoid fading. But any friction advantage, or even fade resistance, is pretty meaningless (IMHO) because of the limited time you're using the brakes *hard*. Plus, stock pads almost always light-up quicker on cool days that seem to be common in the early and late season up here in the upper MW.

I had always heard this too. However, I was reading the article on Danny Popp in this month's GRM and found out that he runs Hawk HP+ pads on his dedicated autox Z06. I haven't had a chance to see him again since I found this out, so I haven't had a chance to ask him about it... but don't the HP+ pads take a while to warm up before they bite well (at least this is what I hear)? If that's true that wouldn't seem to work very well at autoxing.

I'll probably see Danny this weekend and will ask him why he chose the HP+ pads and ask him how they bite. However, I'd like to see if you guys have any insight into this.

I'm really curious because I have been thinking about going with a pad that would shorten my braking distance (without needing to be warmed up)... either the HPS or the HP+ pads.
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Old 06-24-2004, 12:32 PM
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Andy, I have never, ever, ever been in a situation at an autox where I couldn't engage ABS. If ABS comes on, that means that your brakes have exceeded the grip capacity of your tires. Ergo, no pad upgrade is needed.

You'd be better off going with thinner, smaller rotors. You DON'T need more braking.

Edit: Yes, I'm aware that's not stock legal.
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Old 06-24-2004, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
Andy, I have never, ever, ever been in a situation at an autox where I couldn't engage ABS. If ABS comes on, that means that your brakes have exceeded the grip capacity of your tires. Ergo, no pad upgrade is needed.

You'd be better off going with thinner, smaller rotors. You DON'T need more braking.

Are you saying that the distance from a 60 to 0 stop with OE pads would be the same distance with high performance pads?

I'm pretty sure the distance with the high performance pads would be shorter. You don't agree?
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:02 PM
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No, I don't. More brake torque is useless if you can't apply it to the ground. High performance pads really don't become useful unless your OE brakes suck ass, or your speeds are ludicrously high. Neither of those apply to your car.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
No, I don't. More brake torque is useless if you can't apply it to the ground. High performance pads really don't become useful unless your OE brakes suck ass, or your speeds are ludicrously high. Neither of those apply to your car.


You're not on an autocross course right now, Andy, so you have some time to actually think about it. If you can lock the brakes (engage ABS) what could you possibly do with more braking force? I can see someone wanting to use other pads for feel, but that's about it.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:27 PM
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Plus, you're talking about 60-0, straight-line max stopping force. How many autocross courses have braking zones like that? There are some times you're using them, for sure, but not like that, for that long of a time. I really don't think HP pads account for much time on an autox course.

IMHO

Edit: Yeah, what Clyde said.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:28 PM
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Now, it is true that ABS engagement isn't a strict gauge of maximum brake torque--after all, proper braking technique will let you slow down faster than you would if you jammed on the brakes. But the OEM pads give you far more braking torque than you'll ever need at an autox.
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Old 06-24-2004, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Nick325xiT 5spd
Now, it is true that ABS engagement isn't a strict gauge of maximum brake torque--after all, proper braking technique will let you slow down faster than you would if you jammed on the brakes.
ABS will not slow you faster than threshold braking, but to trigger ABS, you have to go beyond that point.
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Old 06-24-2004, 05:09 PM
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I'm not a very good or dedicated autoxer, but it seems to me that shortening one's braking distance is about the last thing on the list of things to do when you want to decrease your lap times. The order I've learned (for the track at least) is:

1. Getting on the throttle earlier in a turn.
2. Carrying more speed through the turn.
3. Decreasing braking distance.

That's in order of decreasing effectiveness, with decreasing brake distance a very distant third, because of the amount of straightline speed and distance each one affects.

--Andre
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Old 06-24-2004, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ·clyde·
ABS will not slow you faster than threshold braking, but to trigger ABS, you have to go beyond that point.
My point, although it was poorly worded, was that a deliberate engagement of the brakes will get you a much higher maximum torque, as you will give them the chance to to more than simply lock up.
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