Post-race analysis: drivers

Let’s take a look at some of the telemetry traces of the Triple Apex Racing drivers from the last race.

Danny vs. Danny

The first thing I want to discuss is Danny. I’m usually a couple seconds faster than Danny. I was on Saturday. Then we switched tires on Sunday and everyone went faster. But was it really the tires? In the speed trace below, Saturday is black and Sunday is red. I’ve displayed the top 3 laps each day. Saturday he was doing 3:39-3:40 while Sunday it was 3:36s. What I see here is that he’s driving differently. On Sunday (red) he started backing up the corners. He gets his braking done earlier and gets on gas earlier. Most of the time, his minimum corner speed is higher despite the change. The fresh tires may have contributed a little to his higher speed, but I think it’s mostly because he’s getting better at driving a low powered FWD car with an open diff. His usual car is 911 GT3, so yeah, it’s a little different!

 

Danny vs. Ian

Due to yellow flags, I didn’t get many fast laps. I did a 3:38 and 3:37 back to back. You can see these starting at the 10:00 mark in my video from the last post. In my 3:38 lap, I lose 1 second passing an E36 in T2 when it changes line mid-corner. Then I pass the yellow Miata in T5, messing up my T6 entry, causing another loss of a second on the run up to 9C. The 3:38 could easily have been a 3:36. On the 3:37 lap, I lose a little time making a pass in T2 and then 1 whole second in T3W while I wait for a fast E36 to get around me. So that too could have been a 3:36. Had I gotten a bunch of clean laps, I’m pretty sure I would have been doing a bunch of 3:36s. Could I have broken into the 3:35s? I don’t know. For the most part, Danny and I drive pretty similarly. Below, the red lines are Danny’s fast laps (as above). The black is my 3:37 and the blue is 3:38. This is a speed trace from 7W to the SF line. We have a slightly different way of doing 1W, but the rest is similar enough that you might think it was the same driver.

Randy vs. Danny

So I’m sure everyone wants to know how fast Randy was (green lines below). Faster than Danny (red lines). Where is he faster? You might expect it’s the fast corners, but it’s the slow ones. He gains nearly 1.5 seconds in T9C alone! And he was only 1.8 seconds faster than Danny. T9C is on the far left of the graph. But he’s also faster in T7W and T11. How? Mostly by running over curbs. As the car owner/builder, I don’t really approve of that.

Post-race analysis: aero

At the last Lemons race I did a lot of lightening, which is good, but I also turned the car into a parachute and destroyed our top speed. This race we made two aero improvements.

1. A-pillar deflectors

This is simply a piece of plastic that bulges out a bit. The intent is to have the air go around the window instead of into it. Randy Pobst signed it.

Let’s take a look at the top speed on the main straight before and after the new “aero package”. The top speed went up from 92.0 to 95.4. It’s even more dramatic when you look at the speed trace.

2. Rear wing

Normally, all you have to say is “wing” but I need to emphasize “rear” here because we made an aero joke at the last Lemons race.

Note that we didn’t actually run this on track.  It was just to give Mario and Daniel a laugh when they drove in and saw the wing on the wrong end of the car. Here’s a picture of the same wing installed on the roof. Also, there’s a note I wrote to try to persuade Randy to take a stint in the Yaris.

So what did the rear wing do? The #1 place I felt it did something was in T1. I usually have to brake in T1, but with the wing holding down the rear end, I was able to do a brief lift and then go right back to throttle. You can see how much faster I can do T1 in the graph below (blue is with wing).

The wing also turned T8 into a straight. It’s normally a corner that gives some people a fright, but with the wing on there was no drama at all.

Conclusions

I think the new aero worked. I guess the next question is if we can make it work better.

Randy Pobst is a sweetheart

The Lucky Dog race at Thunderhill was good fun. Ultimately, we didn’t place particularly well, but as we’ve found out over the years, it’s more fun racing for giggles than trying to win. So we were leisurely about pit stops and put some guest drivers in the car. One of those drivers was the Internet celebrity pro driver Randy Pobst. Randy has a reputation as a fast driver but there’s a lot more to the package. He’s very approachable and knowledgeable, and he listens as well as he talks.

FUUUCK. I only had one camera working on Sunday when Randy was driving and it was pointed to the rear.

When Randy got in the car I told him to “bring it back whenever”. Given that he drove it until the end of the race (~60 min), I think I believe him when he said he was having a lot of fun. Apparently the Yaris reminded him of his old 80s Golf. Randy wasn’t the only person who had a great time in the econobox of doom. Lemons veterans “Crazy Mike” and Steve “Chotus” Warwick also drove and loved it. Mike was an “official” Triple Apex Racing driver this race and Steve was a stud driver, piloting some 4 or 5 cars on the weekend. That reminds me of a quote.

I never had a 10, but one night I had five 2s… and that ought to count for something.

— George Carlin

Every time I race the Yaris, it reminds me of why I built it. I love driving and hate wrenching. Despite appearances, the Yaris is a great driving car. It’s also cheap to run and tougher than it looks. It got side swiped twice during the race and just shrugged them off. The one annoying feature of the car is inside wheel spin from the open diff. That’s something I may address in the off season.

Look for some video and telemetry posts in the near future.

Aero Thoughts

I haven’t looked at the data yet, but here’s my seat of the pants impression of what it did.

  • The wind deflectors on the A-pillars did something. There seemed to be less noise in the cockpit. Did they improve top speed? I think so. In the last Lemons race we lost a few mph on the main straight and I think we got that back.
  • The wing probably added useful downforce in T1 and T8. I always take T8 flat out, but this time it was a really boring flat out. In T1, I usually brake lightly, but this time I would just breathe the throttle off for a heartbeat and then go right back on. No brakes needed. That allowed me to make some passes on higher powered cars.
  • The interior of the car still smells a little of catalytic converter, so I think some fumes are getting in from the rear. I want to fix that somehow.

I won’t know if these impressions are correct until I check the data. I’m fully prepared to be wrong!

Thunderhill Ready

Before the last race, I did a lot of lightening. The biggest win was getting an extra set of doors and gutting them to metal skins. While they weigh 50 lbs less each, they leave a larger hole and have no mirrors. That probably negatively affected our drag as top speed was off by 5 mph. Lap times were about the same though, probably due to better acceleration. Since there wasn’t much to do to get the car ready, this weekend we added some features that may improve our aerodynamics.

In the picture below, you can see a white piece of plastic on the A-pillar. This bulges out a little which we hope will deflect some of the air outward, so that the window doesn’t act like a parachute. The plastic is very heavy and shouldn’t move even with high air speed.

I also added a wing to the rear. This is a present Mario gave me that we had at one time installed on the front of the car as a sight gag. Now it’s installed in the correct place with mounts I hacked together. It’s more sturdy than I would have thought. No idea if it works, but even if it doesn’t give much down force, maybe it helps prevent air from the tailpipe going back into the cabin. Or maybe it creates lift and gives us carbon monoxide poisoning. Who the hell knows?

The last piece of our “aero package” is an air dam that I will attach once we get to the track. It will be interesting to compare data from the May Lemons race to see if top speed improves on the main straight and if we get any extra grip in the fast corners.

The only thing I’m concerned about at this point is the rear tires. The 8″ rims aren’t fully covered by the wheel wells. I guess I’ll order some fender flares.

Race Prep: Lucky Dog Thunderhill

The last race of the year for me is just 1 week away. I love racing on the 5 mile track and I love Lucky Dog Racing League. I just checked the supps and was met with a bit of a shocker. At some point I believe this race was advertised as running the second day in the reverse direction, but somehow that changed. That’s a real bummer. I was looking forward to that. Or maybe I’m mistaken and that came to me in a dream. Sometimes I confuse dreams for reality. I have a funny story about that…

I don’t follow politics at all, but early in the Obama presidency I remarked to a friend that I thought it was a really smart that Obama’s VP was blacker than he was. That way people wouldn’t assassinate him for fear of the next guy in line being even more threatening (or whatever). That was something I dreamed because apparently Joe Biden is actually white. Back in the 70s, Saturday Night Live used to do skits where Garrett Morris played Mondale as VP. The joke was that Mondale was so easily overlooked that nobody realized he was black (Garrett Morris). Anyway, I had somehow confused Garrett Morris, Walter Mondale, and Joe Biden. Then again, there are people who would say that Obama is actually whiter than Biden… so maybe I had it right all along. I try to steer well clear of political content on this blog, so apologies for this short political interlude.

Speaking of dreams, wouldn’t it be awesome to get Randy Pobst to drive a stint in my car? Well, it turns out, he’s going to be at the race and he’s going to be driving various cars. I immediately sent an email to HQ to sign up for this, so it may happen. That would be a dream come true. If it does, I’ll be sure to post some video and telemetry analysis. I’d love to see how much better Randy drives.

Prep

As it turns out, the Yaris requires minimal prep, and there really isn’t much to do between races. The car is amazingly robust and simple.

  • Change oil and filter
  • Change front brake pads
  • Swap doors (I keep the ones with windows on when parked)
  • Reinstall fire bottle (I just had it recertified)
  • Reinstall window nets (I had them out for the Lemons race)
  • Pack

So what’s the packing list look like? Some things are large and bulky, like tires, but I also have lots of “kits” that aggregate related items, which makes packing and storing simple. I can generally get everything ready to go in a half hour.

  • Stuff
    • Jack, jack stands, wheel chocks
    • Fuel jugs, fire extinguisher, splash pan
    • Chairs, table, ice chest, EZ-up
    • Tires (see below)
  • Kits
    • Tool box (sockets, box wrenches, gloves, etc)
    • Power tools (impact, drill, air pump, light, vacuum)
    • Spill kit (absorbent litter, brush, scoop)
    • Brake kit: pads, fluid, catch can, brake tool
    • Service kit: oil, filter, funnel, paper towels, glass cleaner
    • Radio kit (UV-5R radios and accessories)
    • Race kit (tire pressure gauge, pyrometer, log books)
    • Telemetry kit (RumbleStrip, AiM Solo DL, Yi cameras, memory)
    • Fix kit (nuts, bolts, tapes, adhesives)
    • Electrical kit (multimeter, fuses, wires, crimper, etc)

Tires

The Lucky Dog Racing League is now sponsored by Hankook, and part of that arrangement is that the Hankook RS-4 is THE tire for the racing series. In order to get on the podium you have to run that tire. Ultimately, this is a fine thing, because it saves money on average. The RS-4 is a great endurance racing tire that has a combination of grip and longevity that is hard to beat. In very rough terms, they are a couple seconds slower than the cheater 200s like the RE-71R, but last 2-3 times as long.

Given that my car isn’t 15 years old, meaning I may get classed in Super Dawg, and is slow even for a C class car, it’s unlikely I will get anywhere near the podium. So the tire rule doesn’t really impact me. That’s good because I have several tires to burn through. This is what I’m bringing to the race.

  • 2 Federal 595 RS-RR 225/45/15 on 15×9 rims
  • 2 Federal 595 RS-RR 225/45/15 on 15×8 rims
  • 2 Hankook RS-3 225/45/15 on 15×8 rims
  • 2 Bridgestone RE-71R 205/50/15 on 15×8 rims

 

Race Report (-ish)

Recently, the Lucky Dog Racing League started an online racing league using iRacing. iRacing is actually a great platform for private leagues because they do all the hard work for you. All you have to do is to decide who (public or league only), when, and how (track, cars, weather). You do have to pay $0.50 per hour and everyone also has to pay their monthly subscription. But as someone who has tried cheaper solutions, this is well worth the price. I contemplated starting my own league based on Assetto Corsa because they have some important tracks that iRacing does not (e.g. Buttonwillow, Pacific Raceways, The Ridge, Portland International). A hosting service is only about $5 per month, and with that you can hold as many races as you want and nobody has to pay any subscription fees. That sounds great, however some tracks have only 8-12 pit boxes, so unlike iRacing, you can’t host races with 40 cars. That’s a deal breaker, but there are other important reasons I won’t go into that make iRacing the better choice for league racing.

Pre-race prep

Round 1 of the Lucky Dog sim series was at Okayama. This is a track every iRacer knows because it’s part of the track rotation in the rookie ranks. I don’t think I’ve raced it since I was an iRacing rookie back in 2013. And I haven’t been using iRacing much since mid-2015 (I got into DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa, and Overwatch). Getting ready to race in the Lucky Dog series meant I had to put some time into iRacing, the Global MX-5 Cup car, and Okayama. Whenever I do virtual training, I keep a log of my best and optimal lap times for each ~20-30 minute session. Here’s what my log shows about my lap time progression over a few days.

  1. 1:47.286, 1:46.880
  2. 1:46.936, 1:46.514
  3. 1:46.883, 1:46.361
  4. 1:46.578, 1:45.889
  5. 1:46.163, 1:45.595
  6. 1:45.764, 1:45.273
  7. 1:45.620, 1:45.079

How did I drop 1.5 seconds? It’s mostly about learning the track better. I improved every session, which begs the question: how much faster could I go? Probably not much faster. A couple tenths. If I wanted to go faster than that, I’d have to spend a lot of time tinkering with setups. I generally drive the baseline/default setup. I know that there’s a few tenths or even a half second in the optimal setup, but I find that work tedious, so I rarely do it. Sure, I could download a setup someone else crafted, but part of me thinks that’s a form of stealing even if they’re giving it away for free.

As part of my pre-race prep, I also wanted to know who I was racing against. So I looked up some of the drivers in the league. iRacing rates every driver with iRating, which indicates their general skill level based on race results. My iRating is currently 1907. It’s not that good and not that bad. The names in the league that I recognized had iRatings between 900 and 2200. That indicated I would probably be running up front. However, it is possible to have a low iRating because you were a victim of rookie race carnage and didn’t do much official racing afterwards.

Race day

The race was set up with 20 minutes of practice, 10 minutes of qualifying, and 30 minutes of racing. During the practice, I set the fast time at 1:45.9. There was a pretty large range of driving ability on display with people crashing here and there. That doesn’t happen often in the real world because people tend to be more cautious. In qualifying, I never got a clean lap and settled for 3rd. Given that the #1 driver did a 1:45.5, which was 0.1 seconds faster than my practice sessions, it wasn’t likely I was going to catch him even with a squeaky clean lap.

The race started as lots of races start: with an incident in Turn 1. The #2 driver got hit and had to go back to the pit for repairs. The carnage behind us meant that me and the #1 driver got a couple seconds gap on the first lap. Over the next 10 minutes or so, we lapped well off our best times as we jockeyed for position. We went around a lot of corners 2 wide. I think we were both having a great time and built up a decent lead. During this time I noted that my advantage was in the fast corners and his was in the slow ones. My guess is he set up his car to oversteer more. That would get him rotating better in the slow corners but maybe not have as much grip in the fast ones. Alternatively, it may have been technique. The last corner on the track is a slow one, so I knew that if I was going to beat him, I’d have to be ahead in the middle of the track where I was faster. Another thing I noticed was that he braked a lot later than me. I’m not used to driving with ABS and as a result, I tend to brake more gently than I probably should.

Somewhere about halfway through he made a little bit of an error and I took the lead on the straight that followed. On the next corner, he went inside of me, misjudged the braking, and hit me. I had set up sort of wide for the corner, not really taking a defensive line. Given the previous 50 corners we had negotiated without incident, I figured we would do the same here. But I brake earlier than he does, and when he saw that, he probably thought he could dive inside. Two wrongs don’t make a right, they make dents. After that, neither of our cars were the same. Our lap times suffered and our 15 second lead eroded a little every lap. Towards the end of the race he had a really bad corner and nearly lost it. My gut instinct was to slow down to make sure he was okay. I think I even said “hey, are you okay?”. What I should have done was speed past him for the win. But I didn’t and he won by 0.4 seconds a lap later. That’s fine with me. I don’t race to win. I like that spirit of competition, but I don’t chase trophies.

Post-race thoughts

As entertainment, a virtual race with 15 identical cars can’t compete with a real race with 150 unique cars. However, it’s a heck of a lot less expensive than real racing, so the fun per dollar is hard to beat. More importantly, the worst health risk is RSI, not burning to death. While there isn’t much passing, it’s still good practice for race craft. I haven’t decided if I want to race in the league every week. DiRT Rally 2 is coming out in a couple weeks and I love driving sideways.