Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Last Weekend at VIR

Well, ok, not actually last weekend, but the weekend before...

A scant week after my final HPDE of the 2010 season, I headed down to VIR for my penultimate Time Trial weekend of the season. The neat thing about doing back-to-back events is that (assuming the car isn't broken) there's very little to do between events. Just pack some food, hitch up, and go.

The other neat thing is that the brain stays in performance-driving mode. Going a month between events gives you too much time to cool down. Too much time to look at video and data, over-analyze both, and settle back into a routine of drinkin' beer and watching TV. But a week? Just enough time to still be excited about the previous week's activities, just enough time to assess what the car is telling you.

I pulled 3 whole seconds off my previous best TT lap time at VIR. And that previous best was in July, just over two months ago. That's huge. Yes, I pulled 25lbs out of the car, but all of it from the wrong side to be helpful. In fact, the car is now wildly imbalanced, almost 185lbs off to the left, with only the left-front wheel carrying over 600lbs at rest.

And my 2:24.873 lap probably wasn't a fluke or a trick of the timing beacon: I'd managed a 2:24.9 earlier in the weekend. Traqmate says there's a 2:24.1 out there, which means there might actually be a 2:23.8. Either way, it was only good enough for 3rd place on Sunday (1/10 of a second out of 2nd place--argh!).

And I'm learning a lot each time I do a TT. I'm learning that once I've blown my own mind with a hot lap, it's time to be done. No more scrounging for that last ounce of performance, as I did twice. Both times I went off in big dramatic fashion, and both times my sessions were disqualified.

I'm also learning that a "full day" of TT can comprise 1 or 2 sessions, that the hardware can last a lot longer than initially expected because of the shortened days, and that there's a lot of room left to make the car go faster. I'm still 40lbs overweight for the class, and can make a few mods to the car without jeopardizing my classing.

And finally I'm learning, each and every time I get in the right seat, something new about instructing. I've now had two students go "off", both because they weren't really listening to what I was saying. They got mired in their own thoughts, fears, and desires, and tuned me out. Concentration exercises (e.g., forcing the driver to identify something unique about each flag worker) help get their focus back where it belongs, but each new student is presenting a new set of challenges that I'm having to solve on the fly. It's scary, frustrating, and a lot of fun.

So I can now claim four Time Trial events (each weekend is two separate events). And in that short period, my first podium finish. Three weeks from now I'll be at Summit Point for the final weekend of the 2010 season. If I can put down consistent laps, I should be just able to get 3rd place again. Wish me luck!

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