When I’m learning a new track, one of the things I try to do is find a fast instructor who knows the track better than I do and see what I can learn by following them. Even better if that driver is in exactly the same car, in this case an E46 M3. I had the opportunity to be a classroom instructor for GVC BMW CCA in early August. Friday was an open track day for instructors so made the most of the opportunity to enjoy this world class facility. This was only my second time to the Glen, but I think I will make an annual pilgrimage out of it.
This video shows a full lap behind a faster car. I’ve been working with the Garmin Catalyst system to focus on specific areas of the track which have the greatest opportunity for improvement. In this session, I was working on carrying more speed into T2 and all the way up the climbing esses as well as my line through T9. The key for me in increasing speed in T2 is a good entry and apex in T1. That gives me the confidence to stay on the throttle. T9 is a different story. I need to find the right place on the track to turn in, and then find the visual reference to repeat it and be able to teach it.
The video shows that I am still working on carrying more speed out of T1 and not scrubbing into T2. I could probably carry more speed into the Karussel with a wider entry. I’ve been working on a double apex for the toe of the boot so I know there’s a bit more speed in the traditional line. I’m still struggling to find the right turn-in reference for T9. You’ll see the faster car take a bit of an earlier turn in and find a wee bit of camber on the table top. I tried that later in the day and got my fastest lap of the weekend which was a 2:15.05.
If you know the track well, what do you see in the video that I missed?
I’ve driven a lot of laps on the Summit Point Circuit. A lot. I have data on 700 or 800 laps, and have probably driven another 1000 more, but I never managed to drive anything under 1:26.6 before. For the last five years or so, I’m usually performing CI duties, working the grid, or banished to the skidpad most of the time and don’t spend much time concentrating on my own driving. This past July, I had the opportunity to coach with NJ CCA and had lots of track time to myself.
I’ve been selling the Garmin Catalyst system for a few years now and so I thought I’d listen to the Coach and see what I could learn. The data gave me the confidence to brake later, harder, and less, carrying more speed at the apex and thus more speed until the next corner. My best lap came at the end of the session and I was close to the predicted optimal time, even with a late pass into turn 10.
Even after more than 12 years of teaching this stuff, I’m continually amazed how much of this game is mental. Once I broke through the 1:26 barrier, I was able to consistently beat it most of the time.
It’s not often that you get to drive a new circuit at your home track. But for our recent HPDE at the Summit Point Shenandoah Circuit, we got to do just that by driving counter race for a session.
The Shenandoah Circuit has a couple of different configurations in the normal (counter clockwise) race direction. Most of these involve adding chicanes or extra corners in the Pistol Grip section which just make an already busy track even busier. If you don’t want to drive the Karussel, there’s the inner apron, or the outer apron available to you. You can also cut off the Karussel entirely by taking the bus-stop cut over to the Corkscrew under the Bridge. I wanted to try something completely different. So for the first session on Friday, I had the instructors drive the track clockwise with the corkscrew to bus-stop cut over. As you can see from the video it was a very different track.
I have a greater appreciation for the elevation changes in various parts of the circuit, and also a sense of just how many of the turn entries and exits are off camber. And on a predominately right handed circuit with off camber entries, I realized I sit too low in the car now and cannot see the majority of the right hand apexes. Given that no one in the group really knew the line, it was a great learning experience and will be repeated in the future. I think next time, I’ll have the instructors and advanced students drive this direction for a half-day on Friday.
I have the opportunity this month to have two events on the same track. At the beginning of June I instructed with PCA at the Shenandoah Circuit, Summit Point Motorsports Park, and at the end of June I return with BMW. I’ve always wanted to see if I could gather data to answer two common questions: How much faster will I be on track tires? And, how effective is coaching an experienced driver?
So the answer to the first one is fairly straight forward, but since this track can have several different layouts, let’s establish some controls. We will not use the banked Karussel, but instead take the inside apron. We will run the Old Ram cut-off instead of running through the hot grid, and we will drive the Range Straight instead of the Range Esses.
I have 75+ days on this track and data on several hundred laps, that until now, were always on max performance summer tires (treadler 200 or greater.) My best recorded time was 1:44.73. At the start of this first weekend in June, I did a few sessions on Falken 615Ks (treadwear 200) and then switched to Toyo RRs (treadwear 40.) The best on the Falkens was 1:44.87 (so 0.14 sec off of my best). The best on the Toyos was 1:42.96, an improvement of 1.77 sec over my best, and 1.91 sec better than the Falkens on the same day. Average the two together and that’s a 1.84 sec improvement or just about 1.75%. So, just by spending money on better tires, I was faster, but that doesn’t mean I was better.
Armed with my new faster tires, I then asked one of my fellow instructors, Paul Bylis to ride along and coach me. I listened to his advice for a session, and then went out on my own again. This time, my best lap was a 1:41.97. A further improvement of 0.99 sec. So now I have a rough comparison of the value of coaching (which for me is free since I just have to ask for it) vs. spending money on more expensive tires.
The Catalyst tells me I’m still leaving a three fourths of a second on the table.
On Monday, it was my privilege to be able to instruct at the Ferrari of Washington track day at Summit Point. It was a beautiful fall day, with great people and wonderful food. Thanks to all who pulled this together.