Tuesday, May 01, 2012

NASA Spring Showdown @ Summit Point

What an amazing weekend.

I went into the 3rd event of the 2012 season with more questions than answers, and having done absolutely nothing to the car since March.  My tires were on their 3rd weekend, something I've never even considered with Hoosiers (they peak early and fall off quickly, typically dying near the end of the 2nd event).

But during the warm-up session Saturday, I knew I had something special.  I'd put the wicker bill back on the wing in fear of rain, but left it as flat as it would go (about -5 degrees).  And without pushing too terribly hard, I managed a 1:27.3, which was nearly as fast as my fastest previous timed lap ever.  Typically I could average a 1:28.5 or so, making me excited about the day ahead.

The one thing I kept doing, though was locking up the front brakes.  That had simply not happened with the higher wing angle, so I developed an unreasonable fear of late-braking, something that ended up costing me a track record.

In the 2nd session I pulled a 1:26.9 lap, my fastest timed lap ever by 0.1 seconds, and I knew there was plenty more.  Due to a scaling issue, I had to add 7 gallons before going back out, but even with that 43lb addition, I managed a 1:26.5 in the 2nd timed session.  Delighted with the results, I parked the car for the day.  No sense taking what was left of the tires away from Sunday.

And then came the weather.  For the rest of the day, intermittent sleet came down, though the temps were in the 50's, resulting in an extremely slick track that gobbled up cars left & right.

At the end of the day, we learned that an error in timing & scoring resulted in most TT drivers losing times from the 2nd session, which meant that my 1:26.5 didn't count.  I was crestfallen, but I got it on video and overlaid the Traqmate data for posterity:

It rained most of the night Saturday, so I figured we'd have a pretty green (and therefore slick) track in the morning on Sunday.  So I dialed in just a tidge of wicker (adding maybe 10 degrees--maybe) and put down a 1:27.2 lap.

Disappointed, I put it back to the original setting and went back out and ended my weekend with a 1:27.0 final session.

I was astonished when looking at data last night.  I had thought that 0.2 second penalty was the result of the wing.  In one lap, I could clearly see that I was ahead of my record, then lost it on a straight-away-- clearly the result of the wing.  But it wasn't.  With the wicker bill at ~15 degrees, I posted the fastest straight-line speed of the weekend at 116.88mph at the end of the front straight.  I didn't trust the brakes, though, and got on them 0.4 seconds too soon, then backed off the brakes about 0.5 seconds later.  Throughout that 1:27.2 lap, I consistently got on the brakes too hard and for too long, resulting in lower apex speeds by about 5mph, particularly at turns 3, 5, and 10.  And if there are 2 turns you don't want to screw up at Summit Point, they're 3 and 10.

I honestly believe that if I'd trusted the car a little more, I could have come in at a 1:26.0 lap.  The 0.4 seconds of unnecessary braking alone would have put me under the track record of 1:26.2.

All of this makes me extremely excited about getting back to VIR in July.  I think I've finally stumbled upon a setup that can take time off my laps, instead of adding to it.

I'd like to thank Elliott Tire, my amazingly supportive wife Katelyn for putting up with the weather, and my son for joining me this weekend.