First Year Seminar and Turn 2 Racing

For the first time ever, I’ve decided to teach a class on “High Performance Driving”. This is a First Year Seminar at UC Davis. FYS courses are a mishmash of topics designed by professors on virtually any topic. They are meant to be a fun diversion away from the more stressful courses. Since they are taught voluntarily, the content is usually something the teacher is passionate about. The courses are actually open to students of all levels, but first years and transfers get first choice I think. For the last few years, I’ve been teaching an FYS course on “Nanowrimo”. I’m doing that again, but that is quite literally a whole other story. For some reason, I thought I should try teaching a course on driving without actually doing any driving.

Serendipitously, a driving simulation business, Turn 2 Racing, just opened up in Davis. I applied for a mini grant for the course and the university gave me $500 so that the students could get some seat time on the simulators. Thanks UCD! The students are going to love this. Here’s a picture of the setup. See farther below for a brief review.

Course Details

Learning Objectives

If you’ve never designed a course of instruction, an excellent place to start is with the learning objectives. This should be a short list of things you want the students to remember 1 year later. Here are mine.

  • Communicate using the vocabulary of drivers and engineers
  • Describe the racing line in mathematical and conversational terms
  • Identify common driving errors from watching video
  • Interpret telemetry traces to diagnose driver and car problems
  • Dispel common performance myths using data

Syllabus

Here’s a brief description of the content for each week. On the first day of class, I’ll discuss with the students what things they most want to learn. After that, I may adjust the syllabus to make sure the most popular content is covered. Well, except if people want to know how to modify their cars to make them look cooler. I have zero patience with ricers. RICE isn’t an ethnic slur. While many of the cars with Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancements are Japanese, the stupid shit wannabe racers do to their cars transcends country of origin, ethnicity, gender, etc.

  1. Introductions, the racing line
  2. Power and grip
  3. Oversteer, understeer, balance
  4. The unusual properties of rubber
  5. Getting started in simulation driving
  6. Understanding telemetry traces
  7. Common errors
  8. Advanced driving techniques
  9. Getting started in the real world

Turn 2 Racing

A couple days ago I took a trip to visit Turn 2 Racing. I had been chatting with the owner via text to plan out the FYS visit and guest lecture, and I thought I should finally meet him and look at his shop. He let me try a couple of his rigs. Here are some random thoughts.

  • The owner is a really nice guy who is very passionate about sim racing, karting, and technology. He’s definitely the right person to be venturing into this area.
  • Nearly all of his business comes from Sacramento rather than Davis. But UC Davis school isn’t in session yet, so the large population of car enthusiasts on our campus have yet to arrive. I hope his business thrives in Davis, but I wonder if he’ll end up in Sacramento.
  • All of his rigs are custom built with high-end equipment: direct drive wheels, load cell pedals, triple monitors, external and headphone speakers, etc. Two of the rigs have platform motors that rock, roll, and rumble the seat to give you a feeling of driving a real car. His kids rig is sort of like my home rig.
  • Since most people who drop into his shop have no idea how to drive a race car in simulation or the real world, he has to make a lot of setup choices to reflect that. By default, all of the cars are set up with nannies. Also, the brake pedals are all mushy.
  • Each rig is set up slightly different from the others. I tried 2 of them, and they drove differently from each other and much differently from my home setup. I prefer a really firm brake pedal and a pedal geometry that allows me to heel-toe while keeping my heel planted on the ground. It wasn’t possible on his rigs. But just like the real world, you have to adapt to the car you’re driving.
  • I didn’t try the Formula rig or kids rig because they are 2 pedal systems with the brake pedal way over on the left. While I have done a few karting sessions, I haven’t learned to left-foot brake.
  • I’m really looking forward to bringing the class here. I think they’ll have a blast and the physical experience will improve the theoretical work we do in the class.

19 thoughts on “First Year Seminar and Turn 2 Racing

  1. I would have loved to have been a student in that class!

    My SIM lacks motion, and from what I’ve experienced, I’m glad. I do use triple monitors and iracing. Just used it to prep for my first days at Sonoma, and really appreciated knowing what was behind all those blind corners in advance!

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    1. I found the motion unsettling. It didn’t feel particularly natural. But that may be because I’m so used to driving without gravity in the virtual world. I think I would need a few sessions on it to see if I liked it or not. But the main problem I had was the way the brake pedal was set up. That’s an easy fix though.

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  2. I’d pay out-of-state tuition for this. Objectives 3 & 4 are hard to learn, and I haven’t found any good “courses”, so to speak, that teach how to evaluate video. The few things that I have found tend to be for an audience that is already somewhat proficient at evaluating data or are experienced drivers, making it hard to understand what exactly I should be looking at in the video to identify, for example, which driver input was the wrong one.
    I’m working through a couple books on telemetry, but it can be tedious at times to just read examples showing various plots. Some interaction would be beneficial.

    Additionally, how does one go about finding a local driving simulation business (are they even common). Having recently sold my fun car I’ve considered sim racing to fill that void, but as I understand, it’s an expensive plunge to get something that’s reasonably useful for simulation not just a “video game”.

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    1. Simulation rigs aren’t that expensive. If you use Assetto Corsa or iRacing, which are the two I recommend, you don’t need a very powerful computer. You can get a G29 for $225.

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      1. It’s not so much the expense as it is not knowing whether or not I’d enjoy it, or if I’d find it frustrating and not use it.

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  3. This class sounds so good I regret that I’m not a student anymore and that I live too far from UC Davis.

    Do you plan to share any materials from the class and/or recordings? The chapters about “The unusual properties of rubber” and “Understanding telemetry traces” sound particularly interesting.

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      1. I was wondering if they transferred OK.

        Have we gone over them? We have not.
        We probably should but our season ended and we’re in Winter mode.
        Time for car upgrades! Or repairs at least.

        I look at my video and shake my head. I haven’t driven much for the last year. Both on the street and on the track. I only got around three hours on track this season and probably about six on the street. I’m so rusty I squeak. I am getting closer to setting up a sim rig, but I’ll be too busy to use it over the Winter.

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      2. You didn’t send the gpk files, meaning I can’t zoom in and see the differences among the racing lines, but I can infer it well enough. There’s one spot on the track where most of your drivers are taking the wrong line and it amounts to 1-2 seconds.

        I haven’t driven much this year. Or last year. Sucks.

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    1. I can send you those. I’m a RaceStudio noob, I have no idea how their crap DB is laid out.

      \Where on the track are you seeing the bad line?

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      1. I don’t know the turn numbers. I’ll make a short blog post about “the most important corner” to show you (if you don’t mind).

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      2. Not at all.
        I’m just glad we haven’t been featured in one of your many posts on poor driving.
        Yet.

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