Stay the fuck home

Last weekend I was working at the Lemons race at Sonoma. I’ve stopped racing Lemons events at Sonoma because I can’t afford the risk to my car. There are lots of walls, the weather is often rainy, it’s always crowded, and there’s something in the air that makes people drive like ass idiots. Like take this one for example.

This guy has no business being on a race track. Stay the fuck home until you learn how to drive. The event is better off without you. OK, that’s not entirely true. The more the merrier. But honestly, it’s a lot of property damage and an opportunity for serious injury. I’m sure the driver will be much safer next time. It’s too bad the lesson had to be so expensive.

Speaking of the event, I was working at track-out giving drivers a final check before letting them on track. What exactly does this mean?

  1. Check that the car has the correct event sticker. Most people tech their cars properly, but some small fraction forget to put the sticker on, or put it somewhere we can’t see it. It also sometimes falls off in the middle of the race.
  2. Check the driver’s wristband. Some people forget to put it on or don’t realize you have to register the driver as well as tech the gear. I doubt many people are trying to sneak onto the track, but I have to check just in case.
  3. Check the helmet for tech sticker. This indicates the safety equipment went through tech inspection. That doesn’t mean the safety equipment is worn properly…
  4. Check the helmet strap and HANS tethers. Sometimes the helmet strap is loose or completely off. About 2% of drivers don’t have their HANS connected properly. I saw harnesses under HANS, incorrectly installed posts and one or zero tethers connected.
  5. Quick scan of other safety stuff. I’ve seen people wearing plasticky running shoes, helmets that don’t fit at all, drivers too tall for their cages, fire systems with the safety pin still in, drivers without gloves, etc.

If everything is in order, it takes about 10 seconds to check them out, but if I have to have a conversation it can take a while to sort out. We try to keep the traffic flowing on track as quickly as possible, which may mean shuttling cars with difficulties off to the side. It’s a fun way to spend the weekend. Not nearly as fun as driving though.

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Passing Thoughts: Part 3 (Best Practices)

Last week I blogged about the rules for overtaking/passing in a variety of racing series. This week let’s talk about best practices.

  • Assume the other drivers are incompetent
  • Prefer passing on straights
  • It’s not about being right, it’s about being on track
  • “I didn’t see” means you shouldn’t be on track
  • “I didn’t expect” means you make poor decisions
  • When in doubt, stay in your lane
  • Take control of the corner

Back to NASA examples

Let’s go back and look at the NASA examples from last week. This time I’ll give my thoughts on how I would handle each situation. This is the perspective of an amateur endurance racer whose priorities are (1) keep the car in perfect running condition for the next driver (2) drive consistently fast laps. YMMV.

Figure 1: Punt

  • This is probably the #1 most common case of car-to-car contact.
  • Car A: You’ve done nothing wrong per se. As the lead car, you “own” the right to choose your racing line. Furthermore, you’ve left enough room on the inside just in case. But you got hit anyway. You have to expect the car behind you is an ass-idiot and will hit you if you let him. Yes, the rules state that you’re supposed to “drive the line”. You know what, the jackass behind you might not follow the rules. Protect the car! Move left and block car B well before the corner. Don’t let him pass you on the inside.
  • Car B. You’re an idiot. The only way this isn’t your fault is for driver A to give a point-by to the inside and then drive the inside anyway. Unfortunately, stuff like that happens sometimes. The driver ahead may have been adjusting a mirror and you thought it was a point-by.

Figure 2: CDFS

  • This is basically the same as the punt except that the reason car B hits car A is more physical than mental. Yeah, driver B can’t drive for shit.
  • Car A: The problem occurs at point (1). You’ve given an invitation to the driver behind you to pass you in the corner. You’re supposed to give racing room to other drivers. Give room on the outside of the corner.
  • Car B: Don’t pass in corners until you learn to drive.

Figures 3 & 4: Slamming the Door

  • There are two reasons driver A gets into this situation (1) isn’t watching mirrors (2) is sending a message to driver B. If the reason is (1), driver A has no business being on a race track. It’s your job to see other drivers. “I didn’t see” is an admission of incompetence. If you’re so wound up in keeping the car on course that you can’t keep track of the other cars, slow the fuck down. If the reason is (2), you’re a dick.
  • Although the rules state that the car ahead of you must give you racing room, getting hit isn’t worth being right. It’s much better to take position on the straight BEFORE the corner.

 

Figure 5: Attempted Murder

  • If you slam the door on a driver in a dangerous area, you should probably go to jail, not the penalty box. Here’s a video of such.

Figure 6: Punt Redux

  • Car A is well ahead of B and assumes it is therefore okay to take the typical outside-inside-outside maximum radius racing line. That assumption could get you into trouble. If it’s physically possible for the person behind you to ram you, it’s a possibility.
  • Car B, you’re an idiot who can’t drive for shit. Someone let you on the racetrack anyway. Sadly, there are many others like you. What goes around comes around. Enjoy the karma.

Figures 7 & 8: Control Drag Races

  • You’re SUPPOSED to pass on straights because it’s safer. That doesn’t make it always safe. Cars jockeying for position on the way to a corner make contact all the time.
  • If you’re in car B the safest thing to do is maintain your lane and match speeds with car A. If you do that, you control the entire corner. Driver A can see you but can’t turn into the corner until you do. If you drive a slightly later apex than normal, driver A, will be forced to slow up mid-corner while you’re accelerating.

Figures 9-11: Maintain Your Lane

  • Driving door to door with other cars on a racetrack is truly exhilarating., but door to door in a corner is 10x as dangerous as on a straight. When in doubt, maintain your lane. The incidents below occur because someone changed lanes either on purpose or by accident.

Figure 12: Tricky

  • This example is tricky because the aggressive car possibly driving beyond capability is not the one given fault!
  • Car A is not in control of the corner. It could be had it taken the inside line. The time to turn into a corner is when it’s safe, not when you normally do.

Those best practices again

  • Assume the other drivers are incompetent
  • Prefer passing on straights
  • It’s not about being right, it’s about being on track
  • “I didn’t see” means you shouldn’t be on track
  • “I didn’t expect” means you make poor decisions
  • When in doubt, stay in your lane
  • Take control of the corner

Passing Thoughts: Part 2 (Rules)

Every racing organization has its own set of rules about passing. Let’s take a look at some of them in order from brief to verbose. Next week we’ll talk about how the rules are actually used and some best practices as a result.

Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog prides itself on its brief rulebook and the passing rules are no exception.

  • 12. h. Passing. The passing vehicle is 100% responsible for the careful and safe preparation, planning and execution of the pass…period. If you are about to be passed, it’s most helpful to give the passing car hand signals as to which side you will allow them to pass on. But most importantly, you need to hold your line and remember that the other car is responsible for safely getting around you.

Lemons

Lemons is tongue-in-cheek as usual. They don’t specifically define passing rules. The arbitrary nature of the rules and penalties turns off some drivers.

  • 6.0: Penalties: Black-flag penalties are assessed for dangerous behaviors and/or being a douche. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, contact for any reason; wheel(s) leaving the pavement; speeding in the pits; missing/ignoring a safety flag; racing to the yellow or red flag; overly aggressive driving; hitting a wall, cone, tree, safety vehicle, the track restaurant, etc; lack of car control; thinking the line has a deed and you own it; unsportsmanlike conduct; annoying the hell out of us; annoying the hell out of everyone else; etc.
  • 6.1: It’s Always Your Fault: Lemons is an all-fault environment. You are 100% responsible for what happens while you’re at the wheel. Think you’re the hittee, not the hitter? We don’t care. Think you’ve been wrongly accused? See the part where it says “we don’t care.” Your job is to stay out of trouble. If trouble finds you, take responsibility like a grownup and figure out how to avoid it the next time. This ain’t the damn SCCA.

SCCA

Despite being a rather large and complex entity, the SCCA rules are quite brief.

  • 6.11.1 On Course Driver Conduct
  • A. Drivers are responsible to avoid physical contact between cars on the race track.
  • B. Each competitor has a right to racing room, which is generally defined as sufficient space on the marked racing surface that under racing conditions, a driver can maintain control of his car in close quarters.
  • C. Drivers must respect the right of other competitors to racing room. Abrupt changes in direction that impede or affect the path of another car attempting to overtake or pass may be interpreted as an effort to deprive a fellow competitor of the right to racing room.
  • D. The overtaking driver is responsible for the decision to pass another car and to accomplish it safely. The overtaken driver is responsible to be aware that he is being passed and not to impede or block the overtaking car. A driver who does not use his rear view mirror or who appears to be blocking another car attempting to pass may be black flagged and/or penalized, as specified in Section 7.

ChampCar (formerly ChumpCar)

The ChampCar rules are very similar in wording and spirit to the SCCA rules. But they add a few specifics about driving on the racing line and blocking. They also further define what a complete pass is.

  • 7.2. ON-TRACK DRIVER CONDUCT
  • 7.2.1. It is the responsibility of all drivers to avoid physical contact between cars on the race track. All competitors have a right to “racing room” on the marked racing surface. “Racing room” shall be generally defined as sufficient space on the marked racing surface to allow a competitor to maintain control of his/her car.
  •  7.2.2. The responsibility for passing another car and accomplishing that pass safely rests with the overtaking driver. The driver that is about to be overtaken has the responsibility to be aware that he or she is about to be passed, give hand-signals and shall not impede the overtaking car.
    • 7.2.2.1. The driver being overtaken should, at all times, remain on their racing line unless the car is impaired and is unable to maintain an adequate racing speed.
    • 7.2.2.2. The driver being overtaken shall not block. Any driver who fails to make use of their rear view mirror, or who appears to be blocking another car seeking a pass, will be black flagged and/or penalized.
    • 7.2.2.3. It is the responsibility of the overtaking car to prepare for, plan and execute a FULL and COMPLETE safe pass. The definition of a full and complete pass is when the overtaking car has extended a lead of approximately one car length ahead of the vehicle being passed.

World Racing League

WRL is similar to those above, but adds specific language about the order of precedence when defining fault. They also further define racing room.

  • 2. Racing Rules:
  • a. Contact: World Racing League is a non-contact racing club. To avoid contact, all drivers should maintain racing room at all times and in all situations. “Racing room” is defined as allowing all competitors room to maneuver their car on the racing surface, or more simply put, giving your competitor a lane to race in.
  • b. Passing: Safe and drama-free passing requires that everyone adhere to the following rules. For the purpose of defining at-fault contact while passing, the passing rules are weighted in the following order:
    • Making a pass: It is your responsibility to plan and execute a safe pass, maintain racing room at all times
    • Being passed: It is your responsibility to check your mirrors, hold a consistent line, be predictable, use hand signals and to maintain racing room at all times
    • Position: For the purpose of determining position, a car attempting a pass is considered to have established position once it’s front axle has pulled even with the rear axle of the car being passed.
  • c. Safe pass: A safe pass is defined as a pass where no contact takes place and no car involved in the pass spins or leaves the racing surface, because all parties maintained racing room at all times. If a car is next to you and you deprive him of racing room by causing contact or “squeezing” him off the track, you have violated safe passing etiquette and will be Black Flagged

American Endurance Racing

AER rules are pretty similar to those above, but add that the slower car should indicate which side they want to be passed on that cars in different classes should not interfere with each other.

  • 9. Passing
  • 9.1. Every competitor has the right to racing room, which is defined as sufficient space on the paved racing surface that under race conditions a driver can maintain control of his car in close quarters.
  • 9.2. The car entirely in front has the right to choose any position on track, so long as it is not considered to be blocking. Blocking is defined when a driver makes two or more line changes in an attempt to prevent the trailing car from passing.
  • 9.3. A driver who does not use his mirrors or appears to be blocking another car attempting to pass may be black flagged, and may be penalized.
  • 9.4. Ultimately, the decision to make a pass and do so safely solely rests with the overtaking car. The car being overtaken should be situationally aware of the fact that they are being overtaken, and not make any sudden or unpredictable moves or blocks to impede the ability of the overtaking driver to pass.
  • 9.5. When possible and when it becomes apparent that a pass is going to occur, it is a courtesy and strongly suggested that the car being passed to indicate to the passing car on which side they would like to be passed on.
  • 9.6. Cars who are not racing in the same class are strongly encouraged to work with each other to effectuate a prompt and safe pass. Drivers should be aware that they may come upon a situation where two other cars are in a heated battle in their respective class and should try to accommodate any passing required without holding up that battle. It should be noted that this applies to classes faster and slower than you.

NASA

NASA has the most detailed rules on passing as they have several examples and rulings in the appendix. It’s very useful to read this section even if you have no interest in racing with NASA.

  • 25.4 Rules for Overtaking 25.4.1 Passing General
    The responsibility for the decision to pass another car, and to do it safely, rests with the overtaking driver. The overtaken driver should be aware that he/she is being passed and must not impede the pass by blocking. A driver who does not watch his/her mirrors or who appears to be blocking another car seeking a pass may be black-flagged and/or penalized. The act of passing is initiated when the trailing car’s (Car A) front bumper overlaps with the lead car’s (Car B) rear bumper. The act of passing is complete when Car A’s rear bumper is ahead of Car B’s front bumper. “NO PASSING” means a pass cannot even be initiated. Any overlap in a NO PASSING area is considered illegal.
  • 25.4.2 Punting / Passing in Corners
    The term “punting” is defined as nose to tail (or side-of-the-nose to side-of-the-tail) contact, where the leading car is significantly knocked off of the racing line. Once the trailing car has its front wheel next to the driver of the other vehicle, it is considered that the trailing car has a right to be there. And, that the leading driver must leave the trailing driver enough “racing room.” In most cases, “racing room” is defined as “at least three quarters of one car width.” If adequate racing room is left for the trailing car, and there is incidental contact made between the cars, the contact will be considered “side-to-side.” In most cases, incidental side-to-side contact is considered to be “just a racing incident.” If, in the case of side-to-side contact, one of the two cars leaves the racing surface (involuntarily) then it may still be considered “a racing incident.”
  • 25.4.3 Right to the Line
    The driver in front has the right to choose any line, as long as they are not considered to be blocking. The driver in front loses the right to choose his or her line when the overtaking driver has their front wheel next to the driver. Note: This rule may be superseded by class specific rules. As an example, once the lead car loses the right to choose the line that driver cannot “squeeze” another vehicle off of a straight away claiming the “three- quarters of a car width.”
  • 25.4.4 Blocking
    A driver may choose to protect his or her line so long as it is not considered blocking. Blocking is defined as two (2) consecutive line changes to “protect his/her line,” and in doing so, impedes the vehicle that is trying to pass with each of the two (2) consecutive movements. Drivers are encouraged to check with the Race Director for a full explanation before the start of the race.

Passing Thoughts: Part 1

There are basically 3 kinds of passing: HPDE, endurance, and sprint. HPDE passing is generally done with a point-by even if not required in the run group. Cars aren’t supposed to be racing and the drivers may not have full safety gear (e.g. HANS devices) or roll cages. That said, there are crashes that occur in HPDE sessions due to poor passing etiquette. If you’re the faster car, wait until it’s safe, like on a straight. If you’re the slower car, you’re supposed to drive predictably, which means staying on the racing line. Let the faster car work around you. You can make some room or lift, but not so much that you become unpredictable or put yourself in a dangerous situation. Here’s my favorite video of HPDE passing gone bad.

 

Endurance races are sorted out over many hours. Position doesn’t matter nearly as much as running consistently fast laps. Cars running at different paces should make way for each other. A slower car can help itself by orchestrating a pass and then holding on to a fast car for as long as it can. Passing in endurance races is not that different from HPDE. The main differences are (a) more traffic (b) more driving off line.

Sprint races are very much about position. Passing is aggressive. You see a lot more dents in sprint races than endurance or HPDE. I’m an amateur driver who pays for everything. So I’m not inclined to do much sprint racing. Turn 1 is often an adventure, but the jockeying for position can lead to wrecks even before you get there…

In the next few posts, the focus will be on how to pass and be passed. In the past 5 years, I’ve done over 20 endurance races and there’s only 4 times I’ve had contact with another car. I recall each one. No real car damage, and none were black-flagged, but they could have been.

  1. Driving an MR2 with asymmetric suspension (a quick paddock repair with the wrong model year parts). It lurched to the right in every left-hand corner. It lurched into another car and swapped a little paint. Avoidable by not going 2 wide through corner.
  2. Passing on the outside of a corner, the slower car tracked out to set up the next corner and we rubbed doors. Avoidable by making myself more visible.
  3. Rear bumper hit when I slowed for a yellow flag and the person behind me did not. Possibly avoidable.
  4. A car behind me went off track and drove into my side. Not avoidable.

Upcoming… rules vs. best practices, the inside line, favorite strategies

Backing up the corner

When you first start driving on track, the most common phrase you hear is in slow out fast. That’s generally a good idea for safety and lap times. Some drivers think they can go faster by holding more speed, but if they have to lift at the exit, it’s an overall loss. Another misconception is that one can reduce lap times by braking harder and later. This is only true for the novice who has no confidence in braking.

When people talk about advanced driving techniques, the most common topics are heel-toe shifting, trail-braking, and left-foot braking. All of these are physical things one does. All can improve lap times. They are considered advanced because they take some physical coordination and practice to apply. Doing them badly can get you into trouble. But the upside is lower lap times and a greater feel for the car. Myself, I trail-brake almost every corner and heel-toe shift every time. I don’t left-foot brake because I haven’t practiced it enough.

What about advanced techniques on the mental side? That’s the topic today. I want to talk about backing up the corner. You may have heard that phrase before and wondered what that was about. It means getting the braking, turning, shifting, and throttling done earlier in the corner. This technique is especially important for low powered FWD cars like mine.

There are two things to consider when backing up the corner, the mental discipline to do it, and the physical ability to execute it. Let’s talk about the mental side first. You must first recognize the nadir of the corner. As far as I know, that’s a term I made up. If every corner has an apex (top) it should also have a nadir (bottom).

The nadir of a corner is the point of lowest speed.

Where exactly is the lowest speed in the corner? Usually at the place where your cornering G-forces are highest. If you think back to your traction circle, the traction of your tires can be used for braking, cornering, accelerating, or some mixture. So max cornering is not under braking or accelerating, but strict cornering. If you’re trail-braking into a corner, which you should be doing most of the time, the maximum cornering should be at the time you’re taking your foot off the brake and moving it to the throttle (assuming you right-foot brake). If you want to back up the corner, you need to move the nadir earlier on the racing line.

That seems simple enough, right? Just do everything a little earlier. Well, it’s not that easy. If you want to be on the typical racing line, you’ll need to get the car pointed straight earlier. Simply braking and turning earlier will see you hitting an early apex and running out of track at the exit. You have to rotate the car early in the corner without losing speed. That means you have to slide the rear of the car out, countersteer to keep it on line, and add throttle before you’re fully straight.

Let’s take a look at what that looks like in telemetry. You’ll probably want to click on this image to see it full size as it’s pretty large. The track is Laguna Seca. The panels are speed, RPM, throttle, and time going top to bottom.

Point 1 is turn 1. The blue driver has shifted to 4th gear here. That’s why there is a 4 in the RPM panel. The time panel (bottom) shows there isn’t much difference switching to 4th briefly vs. banging off the rev limiter. When I saw this, I drove in 4th for my second stint as it’s nicer to the engine.

Point 2 is turn 2. The two drivers have very different approaches to this. The red driver does a double apex while the blue does a single. As you can see from the time graph, the double apex loses a bit of time and then makes up for it. Double vs single apex isn’t really the conversation today. Instead, I want to focus on the three 90° corners that follow. As you can see from the time panel, the red car gains a lot of time here.

Looking at the speed graph (top panel) it looks like the red line is shifted left compared to the blue line. This is especially apparent at points A-D. This isn’t a GPS alignment issue. It’s the red driver backing up the corners. Unfortunately, I don’t have a brake sensor on the CAN bus, but one can infer that the red driver must be off the brakes much sooner than the blue. He doesn’t necessarily get to full throttle sooner than the blue driver, and in some cases later, but he’s applying the throttle sooner. The points marked W indicate wheel spin in the RPM graph. The red driver is clearly trying to maximize throttle and steering because he’s at the limit of both (sadly, the car has an open differential).

How important is backing up the corner? Like other advanced techniques, it’s something that can drop lap times when done properly and a bit hazardous when not. It’s fun to work on. Like other advanced techniques, I suggest working it out on a simulator rather than a track session, and never on the street.

How expensive is racing?

Back to back racing weekends? An endurance race at Laguna Seca with Lucky Dog followed by a sprint race at Thunderhill with the SCCA… Being able to race on world-class racetracks is not something I take for granted. I’m living a dream and I fully recognize it. It saddens me that not everyone has the chance to do these things. Auto racing is an expensive hobby. But exactly how expensive is it? Let’s investigate with my B-Spec Yaris as an example of a really cheap car to build and run.

Initial Build

The initial build cost me about $7000. I saved a lot of money getting the cage built by students at an Evil Genius Racing fabrication workshop. Sometimes I think $7k for a hobby is too much. But it’s also a completely legal street car that gets 45 mpg on the highway. So it does have some utility. Note that none of the costs below figure in my time. I spent and continue to spend many weekends working on the car.

  • 2007 Toyota Yaris $3040 (used)
  • Cage fabrication $1080
  • Fire system $370
  • Kill switch $40
  • Interior net $90
  • Window net & mount $90
  • Driver seat $100 (used) & bracket $100
  • Harness $140
  • Seat brace $200
  • Roll bar padding $60
  • Steering wheel quick release $130 + adapter $70 + wheel $30
  • Convex mirror $20
  • Front tow hook $12
  • Crash bolts $20 (for alignment)
  • Hood pins $10
  • Cold box $50 (cold therapy unit used from ebay)
  • Exhaust pipe fabrication $20
  • Wheels $400
  • Cold air intake $300
  • TRD suspension $520
  • Fuel testing port $80
  • Numbers $50

Operating Costs

In addition to the initial build, there’s the stuff that costs money on a regular basis. This includes alignment, motor oil, filter, diff oil, brake pads, brake rotors, brake fluid, and gasoline. Less regular, but still expected, are things like the engine, transmission, clutch, and body work. All of this amounts to about $65/hr. But we haven’t gotten to the big ticket items: event fees and tires. Endurance race fees are roughly $100/hr and 200 treadwear tires are about $25/hr ($500 per set and they last 20 hours). Sprint race event fees are about $300/hr and tire costs are $200/hr ($800 per set and they last 4 hours).

Endurance racing: $190 / hour

Sprint racing: $565 / hour

Other expenses

The build and operating costs do not include my personal safety equipment, cameras, radios, or telemetry. That stuff adds another $2500 or so. Those items are good for 10 years and can be carried from car to car. In addition, there are expenses for transportation, room, and board. I camp at the track and subsist on sandwiches, so those expenses are pretty low.

Arrive-n-drive fee

I haven’t loaned my car out for sprint races, but if I did, it would be something like $1200 per weekend and more if they wanted trackside support. I charge people $200/hour to drive my car in endurance races. Given the $190/hour plus other expenses, I’m not making any money at this rate. Here’s some of the races on the 2018 schedule I’m considering. I plan to do 5-6 events. Drop me an email if you’re interested. I always enjoy driving with new teammates.

  • January 13-14 Laguna Seca, Lucky Dog
  • February 16-18 Sonoma Raceway, ChumpCar
  • March TBA Buttonwillow (a 24 hour race!), Lucky Dog
  • May 19-20 Thunderhill 5 mile, Lemons
  • June 2-3 Pacific Raceways, Lucky Dog
  • July 7-8 Portland International, Lucky Dog
  • July 13-14 Laguna Seca, Lucky Dog
  • July 29-30 The Ridge, Lemons
  • September 15-16 Oregon Raceway, Lucky Dog
  • September 29-30 Buttonwillow, Lemons
  • October 27-28 Portland International, Lucky Dog
  • November 17-18 Autoclub Speedway, ChumpCar
  • December 8-9 Thunderhill 5 mile, Lucky Dog

The only race I’m actually signed up for at this time is a Lemons event at Thunderhill. We conceived of a funny theme in the last race and now we need to do it. Since the Yaris has a complete sound system, the plan is for drivers to listen to an audio book on tape during their stint and then quickly summarize it between driver changes. At the end, we’ll have a video of racers giving a synopsis of a novel. I’m calling this the Auto Book Club.

 

Race Report: Thunderhill

I had originally planned on doing a pair of posts about the Laguna Seca race but then I decided to go SCCA racing 5 days later. This was my first SCCA race, so my first opportunity at real racing with higher quality cars and drivers. I was a little nervous because of that, but the practice and qualifying were like an open passing day in an HPDE so it seemed there was nothing to be worried about. The race was another story.

I was the only entrant in the B-Spec class. I believe this was the only B-Spec entry in California in 2017. Depressing. I had originally built the car to satisfy several different goals (1) SCCA legal (2) rally legal (3) street legal. It is all those things, but as a compromise, it doesn’t do any of them that well. The class has matured a little since I built it. I can now use better suspension, a rear anti-roll bar, K&N cold air intake, and more camber. Refreshing the build will probably cost $1500. And it still won’t be that competitive. The class is getting faster by opening up the restrictor plates in the faster cars. The Yaris’ engine can’t get any stronger. And with 170,000 miles, it’s not a very good example of the breed. Building a competitive car will not only cost a few thousand dollars, but also a lot of labor in moving as much weight to the bottom right of the car. I talked to one of the competitors at the race and he told me to put in a fake battery and put lead shot in the frame rails. I told him the class forbids such things and he looked at me like the noob I am.

Yeah, I suck at racing.

This point was further brought home during the actual race. Turn 1 saw the usual shenanigans as several cars kicked up dust as they went off track. This also happened in turns 2 and 3. I decided to stay well back from that crap and let the pack get ahead. A sweet yellow Lotus 7 had a similar idea. Later, as we approached T5, one of the Miatas that had gone dirt-tracking caught up with us and decided it would pass us on the inside. This is not a passing zone. It’s a sharp left at the top of a hill with a 40 mph top speed. I watched in horror as he locked up all 4 wheels and started skidding into me. Both the Lotus and I tried to evade him, but we ended up making contact with each other.

After a few uneventful laps, the race was over. When I returned to the paddock, they sent me to impound to discuss things. We all agreed that it was 100% the fault of the Miata driver. Although he agreed, he didn’t come over to apologize. See, he’s a real racer, and apparently they don’t do that. I looked him up later. He’s a career mid-pack SM driver whose been racing SM for at least a decade. Why would an experienced racer ruin the weekend for 2 people who were so obviously off pace? Because he has more money than sense I guess. How else do you explain driving like that? The race stewards levied some points penalty on him and asked us if we were satisfied with the result. Hell no. How about if he writes us checks to cover body damage? Oh, and then kick him out for a year. That would do it.

I feel terrible for the Lotus driver. He kept saying “I should have known not to bring the car to an SCCA race”. I guess it was his first experience with the SCCA too. What a first impression! I’m not sure either one of us will be back. It’s not just the incident that makes me say this. It was a very long day for very little driving. And it wasn’t cheap either.

I don’t think I have the sprint racing mindset. I like driving on racetracks and exploring the limits of driver and car, but I don’t need to win a corner if it means risking the vehicle. Endurance racing fits me much better. Now that I know that, I’m reevaluating my priorities. I was planning on focusing all my attention on going to the Runoffs at Sonoma in 2018. I’m not so sure now. Why spend thousands of dollars updating the vehicle to do something that doesn’t fit my personality?