You are currently viewing archive for October 2009

10/30/2009: Push vs. Pull

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I never really thought much about whether I push up with the outside hand or pull down with the inside hand when turning until my first racing school (w/ Bertil Roos). There an instructor suggested pulling down because it was easier physically/less fatiguing. If I remember correctly one reason given was pulling down works with gravity. This made sense to me and I started to consciously pull down both in race cars, karts and on the street too. Later I read a bunch of different discussions on the topic and found a wide range of theories supporting pushing vs. pulling. When I went to the TDI cup karting qualifier, the lead instructor advocated pushing, and when I further inquired, he said karts or cars, always push because you get better precision/more control.

Here are a few discussions on the topic I can find at the moment:

Regarding the steering wheel - are you a 'puller or a pusher
Hands on the (formula car) Wheel

To summarize, there are supporters of both pulling or pushing that claim each method provides better precision and/or feel, and is easier physically/less fatiguing. Further claims include less body movement, better weight transfer or stiffening the chassis by pushing in karting. More people seem to support the pushing theory, especially in karts, but there are some adamant supporters of pulling too.

Considering there are many respected drivers that support either method, I'm content with thinking it comes down to personal preference. I've since return to just doing what's natural for me, which I believe is something in between.
Category: Safety Gear
Posted by: Mike
I'm going to be posting several safety gear reviews here soon.

First is the Sparco Hurricane gloves. These gloves are actually discontinued but are still in stock at several online retailers.

I got the Sparco Hurricane gloves about 7 months ago and have used them quite a bit in both karts and cars. The gloves are made of Nomex and FIA standard 8856 compliant, which I believe should make them legal for most forms of auto racing.

The fit was my most important criteria in selecting these gloves. I initially wanted a cheaper pair of G-Force gloves, but they did not fit my skinny hands well at all. The Hurricane gloves fit my hands pretty much perfectly from the the fingers to the wrist. The wrist has no velcro strap but is elastic so they stay on my hands well.

The grip provided by the gloves is not that great though. The gloves are Nomex fabric all around with small finger, palm and thumb suade patches. The lack of grip is most notible to me in karting. Most karting gloves I've tried do provide much better grip. Other Nomex gloves with more suade/leather on the underside I've tried also seem to grip better.

Considering the gloves are a single layer of soft Nomex, I don't think they provide good abrasion resistance for karting at all. Nomex gloves with patches on the knuckles may be slightly better, but karting specific gloves should be much better in this department.

The fabric gets linty very easily, but as of yet has stayed durable. The construction of the glove appears very high quality.

Comfort is great. The feel is as good as any other glove I've tried.

Overall, it's a solid glove, but I've I were to get another pair for around the same price I think I would try something else. But for those with skinny hands and doing mainly auto, I think they be a good pick, particularly if you can get them on sale since they are discontinued.

10/23/2009: Ugly F1 Cars

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Think the current (2009) field of cars in F1 are ugly? I'd say they look glorious compared to these beasts!

Ugly F1 cars
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
In September I attended the Volkswagen TDI Cup Karting Qualifier at F1 Outdoors near Boston. The top ten from the event would qualify for the final selection and be eligible for a free ride for 2010 which will go to the top karting qualified driver at the final selection. For details see My writeup's a little late but here's what went down.

I drove up to the Boston area the day before and the drive was horrid; almost 11 hours due to heavy traffic on some stretches and a few wrong turns. I finally got to my hotel close to 10PM and crashed early without eating much all day.

The morning didn't start off too well either. I got up early at 5:30 and left the hotel at a reasonable time to make it to the track at 7AM. Unfortunately roads in Massachusetts don't seem to have street signs, and that combined with my lack of navigation skills meant I got to the track late, last of the 19 registered drivers.

There was a quick drivers meeting where the we went over the format of the day, and Jan Haylen, lead instructor/judge gave a few pointers. There would be three groups, and each group would run four 10 minute sessions. The first session would not be timed, the second and final sessions would be timed for fastest lap and the third session would be timed for fastest 5 laps. The judges said they were also looking for improvement through the day and would be taking into consideration everyone's various experience levels in the karts.

Next there was a long block of time for kart fitting, which seemed kind of pointless to me, since the Rotax powered CRG karts we would be driving aren't so adjustable and all seemed to have the same sized seat. Fortunately there were some inserts and padding to use which I desperately needed. Since the kart fitting didn't take too long there was a long period of waiting and hanging out with the other drivers and those involved in the series. It was certainly nice to meet people from different backgrounds during this time and after that, most of the nerves started to go away.

Finally the first group went out for the first session and – as I've come to expect in every first session, there were a lot of spins – just on the outlap several karts spun in the first few corners! While the first two groups were on track, I made a point to walk around to a few different spots to get some different views of the karts around the track. The track at F1 Outdoors was pretty impressive. The layout we ran included most of the whole complex and was probably a bit under a mile in length including a mix of sweepers and hairpins. The configuration was very fast with several turns having camber to hold you. The landscaping around the track was equally impressive and the grass around the track was smooth and neatly mowed.

tdi cup karting

Next it was time for me to get in the kart. I took it easy for the first few corners then quickly stepped up to what for me was a moderate pace. I was feeling decent with my pace and got comfortable with the track quickly. I caught up to another driver and followed him for a lap or two – I was slightly faster but not so much to have a easy opportunity to pass. Soon, he pulled over and let me by. I was not sure if he had a problem or wanted to find open track. Regardless, I continued on my way for another lap or so when I braked for a tight hairpin. As one driver passed me on the inside, I felt an impact to my rear and saw a kart spinning behind me! That was interesting. Luckily the karts had a plastic rear bumper so there was no damage or karts flying through the air. I finished the session feeling decent about how I'd done.

The second 10 minute session would be the first timed session. I went out and continued where I left off, carrying more speed through the corners and feeling a little faster. Towards the end of the session though, I was starting to feel it in my neck and this was a concern to me. I had actually been trying to work out my neck in preparation but it is pretty hard to simulate the forces you experience in a high powered kart on a high grip track. After a short debrief, the laps times were posted and I was surprised to see that I was 3rd fastest in my group and only around 2 seconds off the pace of the fastest guys, given my lack of experience in racing karts. I also wondered if I perhaps went too fast, particularly since I knew my neck would give me trouble in the later sessions. In fact, I had set my fastest lap on lap 2, while all other drivers had set their fast laps later on. We had a long lunch break and I got to watch a helmet cam video from another driver in my group who had turned laps close to mine, which was pretty cool.

For the third session I worked on being smoother as this was the feedback I got from the judges. I wanted to show the judges I could adopt to their feedback, I understood that the session would be judged on the average of the best 5 laps, and given that I thought smoother would be less physically demanding, I felt this was the best strategy. I finished the session thinking I had run about the same pace as before, if not faster, but I was disappointed to see that my best lap was over half a second slower, and I was slowest of my group!

I went out for the last session with the plan to absolutely attack the course on the first few laps to set a good time before my neck got fatigued. Given that improvement would be a criteria my goal was to at least improve on my time from the 2nd session. After a spin on my first hot lap, I pushed hard for the next two or three laps and felt like I was going pretty fast, faster then I had all day. The next few laps I dialed it back before I decided to make a final push in the last few minutes. Even though I was tired and could not hold my neck straight in the fast corners at all, I pushed through it anyway. I was so disoriented coming off the corners I could barely see and was frankly surprised I kept it on the track.

Given my limited experience I had no idea how fast I had run, and unfortunately, due to some logistical issue we never got to see our times from the last session. There was a long wait while the judges did the scoring. I truly had no idea if I was among the top 10 qualifiers. Everyone seemed to had done a decent job given their experience levels. Finally, the judges came out from the trailer to announce the qualifiers. The names were read off one by one in random order and I can't say I was not quite disappointed when my name was not called.

The specific scoring criteria was not revealed so of course, I was second guessing myself afterwords wondering if there was something simple I could have done differently to qualify. It was frustrating because I truly believe I was good enough to qualify, but on this day, 10 other drivers had performed better based on the judges standards. Regardless, I've since been invited to the final driver selection event anyway since another driver has backed out. In the end I had a great time and was glad to have met the people I met. I'd love the opportunity to attend the final selection, although I don't have all the funding yet. It's a long shot but
I'll be trying a few things to raise the money for the entry fee. Let me know if you can help or have any suggestions for me!

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Here's an interesting article which is an old email thread between Paul Haney, author of several racing books and sports car racer Guy Cosmo when he was racing in junior formula cars.

I thought it was pretty interesting and for me it brings up the question of, how much of the technical stuff does a driver need to understand to push a car to it's limit, develop/setup a car and effectively communicate with their engineer? I haven't really figured out the answer to that yet.

Also check out the rest of the site, it has some other interesting articles and photos too!
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
The bertil roos rookie runoffs is a once a year event for “rookies.” What exactly constitutes a rookie I'm not exactly sure, but you can only have run a certain amount of roos race series weekends to qualify. However, drivers that have experience in the series but are returning after an absance also qualify, and I don't believe experience outside of racing schools counts. One driver was actually a rookie runoff winner the year before! Thus, I knew it would be a challenge for me, being close to a “true rookie” to finish well, but not unlike many challenged I've already encountered in racing and many more challenges I will face in the future. I could only maintain a positive attitude, work hard, and learn as much as I can.

The runoffs would be on the pocono south course, where my rookie camp was run. This would be an advantage for me since there were a few guys who had never run this course. The format of the runoffs would be a practice day and race day, just like the race series weekends. The winners of each group would win a free race weekend next year, which would certainly be huge for me.

The forecast was rain most of the day friday(practice) and rain in the morning then clearing on saturday(race day). Got to the office friday morning for the practice day and saw a few familiar from my rookie camp plus some new people. It wasn't raining when I got to the office but it was damp outside, however, by the time we got to the track, massive fog had set in, just like day two of the rookie camp. So I was preparing for a long wait in the trailer, but fortunately the fog cleared up as fast as it came in, and after a few laps driving around with the instructors in the street cars, we were on the track soon.

I was in group 2 again so me and another driver watched group one's first session from turn one. There were a few spins and missed corners, but overall it was pretty clean all things considering. We saw some people on it right away but there was a significant gap back to some others who hadn't been in the cars for a while, hadn't been on the track, etc.

By the time our group went out, the rain was coming down moderately, and there were some big puddles on the track. The session went well, I felt happy with my times (although with conditions constantly changing, its very difficult to accurately gauge what's fast), my car control felt good and I didn't feel too sloppy like I did last time in the first session. The biggest issue I had was braking into turn 1, I was locking up a lot and very inconsistent. After talking with some instructors and drivers, I found out I might have been braking with wheels on the slippery grooves that separate the lanes on the oval. In addition, I also felt like I was having trouble maintaining consistent pressure on the brake during my downshift blips in this car.

For the next session, I decided to try left foot braking. I'm not really sure if many other drivers do it in these cars, and i'm guessing it's frowned upon by the instructors, but I always felt it could be slightly faster and easier for me. It actually only took a few laps to get comfortable with it and I felt more consistent under braking so I decided to stick with it. Maybe all those years on video games helped with that. The track was drying this session and I was feeling more comfortable with the car but my lap times weren't improving. I felt a lot of understeer in the car. After the session, I learned that the track was actually more slippery even though it was drier. I also learned the cars weren't setup for understeer as I thought. I failed to adjust adaptively to the conditions - I tried to adjust to what I thought would happen but when that didn't, I failed to realize it and further adopt. After some helpful observations with the instructors, I stared to feel like I was really learning a lot today.

After lunch, for the third session, the track continued to dry and I could feel there was much more grip then in the morning. I was pushing it harder and picking up chunks of time. As with the 2nd session, I was happy with my consistency and comfort level in the car, but I felt my lap times were still a bit off from what I perceived as where I needed to be. After another good talk with an instructor, I picked up a few more pointers, and realized I was placing too much emphasis on raw lap times with the constantly changing conditions.

For the last session I realized it had started sprinkling again and it looked very slippery watching group 1. I went out and got a feel for the track and what the grip was like. As the session went on, I realized the track conditions were improving significantly. An instructor had given me a benchmark laptime for the conditions group 1 was in, but after matching that time I knew there was more on the table. I ended up beating that time by a little over half a second, but I also knew I didn't get a perfect lap in due to a few small mistakes and that I could still pick up speed in a few places. Overall, I was very happy with my progress for the day.

The next day started with a short drivers meeting, then straight to the track for one warm up session, qualifying, and two races.

The warm up was damp but but drying and the forecast was clear. We saw a lot of spins in group one, in fact, one guy managed to spin four or five times! This didn't seem too smart as there were much more strict penalties for four-offs on the race day, including time holds and eventually after a certain amount of penalties a disqualification for the rest of the day. For my practice, I made sure it was pretty uneventful; the track was almost completely dry and had more grip then the day before, and I was able to improve further on my times even without pushing ten tenths.

For qualifying we saw group one lay down fast times. As the groups were relatively equal, I knew I'd have to put in a lap way faster then I'd ever run to get a good position in my group. After a few laps I put down a 57.6, a bit faster then I've ever done, but I knew it wouldn't be good enough for pole and I knew I had a bit more speed. When I pushed harder, I eventually spun in the hairpin. I kept it on the track and ended up facing backwards. While turning the car around, I went off track, and managed to splash into a huge puddle! The feeling of cold water and dirt splashing all over my body felt horrible, but also motivated me. Fortunately I didn't get a black flag, and on my next flier lap, I surprised to see a 56.99, faster then I thought I could run. I knew that time would be hard for me to match again, and I tried for the rest of the session but didn't nail a perfect lap and could only get in the low 57s. I knew my time was good but when we got out of the cars I found out someone else had managed a blistering 56.8x. I would be starting second, and it was going to be a good race with most of the field in the 57s.

Group one's first race had a lot of close racing, and eventually, the guy sharing my car got into the back of another car when a pack of cars checked up heading into the hairpin. Fortunately, our car only needed a new nose cone. The other driver was not so fortunate; the car was undrivable and had to be replaced, and the race had to be red flagged to clear the car and allow for a green finish.

For my race, I started on the outside pole and quickly dropped to the inside after the green to prevent loosing positions. After only a lap or two, the leader had a massive lockup in turn one, but managed to make the corner and although I was a little too far back to capitalize, I closed up right on his gearbox. Through turns two and three I stayed right on him and he did not get a great run out of that section, so I popped out and managed to pass going into the hairpin. It was a risky place to pass but fortunately he left me some room and I went into the lead. From there, I was concerned about getting drafted by and passed into turn 1, but fortunately, I got a pretty good run of 7 (which was giving me trouble earlier) and the drivers behind were not able to close up too much. I eventually saw 2nd and 3rd battling for position, which allowed me to pull a little cushion, and I then pushed for the rest of the race to maintain that gap and managed to win the race! It was a boost in confidence but I knew the race that mattered was still to come.

This time, group 1 had a clean race and soon it was time to get back into the cars. Since I won the last race I'd be starting from the pole, and I can't say I wasn't nervous, like I was in the same situation for the rookie camp. I felt confident that I could match the pace of anyone else on the track, and starting from pole I felt it was my race to lose. I got a good start and went into turn one half a lane from the inside, and held the lead through turn 3, with the whole pack close behind me. This was already better then my first race from pole during the rookie camp, where I lost the lead before turn two. But going into the hairpin, I let the pressure get to me and looped the car, making pretty much the same mistake I'd made during qualifying. In a second I watched the whole field stream by while I helplessly attempted to restart my car and get back on track. My chances of winning were gone like that. There was no reset button and no new race to join in 15 minutes. I then had to pit for a stop and go penalty and rejoined the race way down. I was extremely disappointed with myself but knew I had to finish the race. The race turned into a lapping session all by myself, but by the end I managed to catch up to the tail of the other cars and salvaged a 4th place finish.

Although disappointed about the result of the last race, it was still overall an enjoyable weekend and most importantly, a huge learning experience for me. I now know better then ever what I need to do in a racecar. I know places where I've improved and places I needed to improve. I don't know everything, but I think I'm starting to learn how to learn much better, if that makes sense. Because of that I feel that I am becoming a better racer.