Experiments in Coaching, Part 1

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 line. 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.

Part two of this experiment is to let the Garmin Catalyst Coach me and see what further improvements can be made. The Catalyst tells me I’m still leaving a three fourths of a second on the table. To account for differing conditions at the end of the month, I’ll set a new control time, and then let the Catalyst coach me. Stay tuned.