The Driver’s Edge

MSR Houston with The Driver’s Edge

David and I spent this weekend driving MSR Houston with The Driver’s Edge. It had been many years since TDE had run at MSR Houston, so relatively few of the participants were familiar with the track. As I had recently run the 24 Hours of Lemons Gator-O-Rama, I was familiar with MSR Houston. While I had 3+ hours of seat time at the track, that was with 100+ cars on track and with open passing, so I was rarely able to choose a technically correct line. This weekend provided me a fantastic opportunity to refine my line and understand the track in my car.

I had one real concern for the weekend. My only time on that track had been laps with open passing. I had never had to wait for a passing signal on that particular track – rather, I passed whenever I felt I could pull it off. My concern coming into this weekend was that I’d fall back into that habit and end up passing someone without a signal. Thankfully, the racecar (even the Triumph) and full gear feels significantly different from my still-street-car MX-5 in just a helmet.  As a result, I was behaving as I would at any other HPDE, waiting for passes.  I didn’t always wait patiently for these passes,  but I waited…

The Driver’s Edge was relatively new to this track at the time. I was one of the few who knew the line. As a result, I had many passengers on my sessions, and rode with other students in blue and yellow, helping them learn the line.  I love teaching and I love instructing, so this really increased my enjoyment of the weekend. I was able to share some tricks with some of the blue drivers, but saved a few tricks for my friends in red. MSR Houston can be demanding, technically, and some of these tricks are more appropriate for those with better car control and more seat time.

I did have some particular frustrations at that track. Texas World Speedway is a bit of a power track – there are enough long straights for power cars to leave me behind, even if they don’t carry as much speed through the corners. If I give a pass to a power car in red run group at TWS, I’ll never seen them again. Harris Hill Road is the opposite, a momentum track – the straights are so few and so short that the power cars with poor handling end up giving me a pass. MSR Houston is a great balance. It has some good, long straights, but also has a lot of fun, tricky twists. While this makes the track a lot of fun, it means it can be frustrating for a great handling car with very little power. The power cars don’t want to be caught behind me on the straights, so they don’t want to give me a pass. But then I end up stuck behind them through the corners.  If  I slow on the straights to build up some space, I’m caught by another car. It can be difficult to find space for myself, space to enjoy those fantastic, technical twists.

I really enjoy MSR-Houston. Hopefully I’ll find more events there to run this fall.

TDE @ H2R

Last weekend was TDE at H2R. My favorite track with more people than I could imagine. It’s a bit of culture shock to see that many cars parked around the pavement, on the grass, everywhere the cars can be put. And to see that many people in the clubhouse, on the grounds.

Thankfully, the TDE participants have a lot of respect for boundaries. They only came into the garage if they needed to. As a result, I used the garage almost as a sanctuary. I could go there and be away from the hustle and bustle, to have a familiar place that wasn’t busy. It was windy up on the porch, too, so few people came up there. I’d sit up there with Bo and Amber and whichever other H2R staff member was helping with the lights at the time and watch the cars go ’round the track. That was a fantastic way to experience the “busy” while managing to be somewhat isolated from it.

This was my first time to run in the red group with TDE, and I had an unfair advantage. Most of the TDE regulars have only occasionally been at H2R as TDE rarely runs there. They don’t know the track. I’ve been there so many times with my car in so many configurations and driving so many other cars. I’m very familiar with the track. I noticed many cars position themselves a bit behind me and just follow for a few laps. I figure they were learning the line from me, and I enjoyed that. I hope I was sufficiently consistent and accurate to be helpful.

I did manage to wear out my brakes in my first session on Saturday, but I knew that would happen. Bo and I swapped out the pads – he did the rears and I did the fronts – and all was well. In other mechanical issues that weekend, an S2000 had an oil seal problem and needed a tow back up to the garage so it could be fixed. I went with Bo (in the Audi) to go fetch the S2000 and learned a bit about towing and Bo’s expectations from the trip. A friend of mine also had a problem with his BMW that necessitated the car being towed home and repaired at a shop. Said friend has an SMG transmission in his BMW and isn’t very familiar with manuals. Still, I loaned him my Miata as, well, he needed a car. He seems to have figured out lightweight flywheel + racing clutch and is able to get around without stalling the car most of the time. He did say, though, that he refers to the process of entering the car as “folding.”

Overall I had an enjoyable weekend and I’m looking forward to going back to H2R next weekend.

By admin on 27 January 2010 | Track Time | A comment?
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Wet Weekend at Texas World Speedway

David and I were out at Texas Word Speedway this past weekend, running counter clockwise. While Saturday started out dry, rain rolled in about mid-day. While I have run in the rain, both on tracks and autocrossing, this was my first time to stick around though this much rain with conditions changing the way they were.

On Saturday, rain only came through once. Our third session of the day was quite wet. By our fourth session, the track was drying, with about half of it still wet and about half dry. My car is currently on some rather poor tires – the treadwear rating is 400! It takes only a few minutes of track time on a warm, dry day for the tires to get a greasy feel. As a result, for the first two sessions, I had fun with grip for about 5 minutes, then had fun re-learning limits as I continued to drive. The poor tires plus the rapid overheating meant I gave a lot of passing signals, but that’s ok. I also gained a lot of experience learning to control my aggression on track. I tend to brake late and try to carry speed through corners, so I over-drive easily. These tires have forced me to pull back a bit, go back to the basics of “slow in.”

In our third session on Saturday, the first rain session, we were all re-learning our limits. My car was being extremely oversteery, so I went to hot pit to make some setup changes. I softened things up, but the car still slid easily. By our fourth run session, the last of the day, the track was drying. In its part dry, part wet state, my tires did very well. The wet areas were just enough to keep the tires cool, and the dry bits were fast and fun. This was my favorite run session of the day.

On Sunday, the rain came and went, as the day went by. The track stayed damp for most of the day. One of the artifacts of Texas World Speedway being an older track is the surface has been repaired and patched over time. These different surfaces have some, but minimal, effect on a dry day. But in the wit, the traction difference was startling at times. Entering corner 6, I just let the car slide. I felt like I didn’t have a hope of actually having grip unless I went extremely slow, so I just let the car slip. Then, as the car approached the apex, it hit a patch. Suddenly, the front tires had a lot of grip. The back would shoot sideways, until the back hit the patch, and suddenly it flipped back behind the front. At first, I didn’t quite understand what was going on and it concerned me. Once I realized what was happening, I had fun with it. I’d let the car drift heavily through the turn in, and the car slipped hard then snick back in behind itself quite suddenly. As this happened, I’d smile at the corner workers, who’d smile and wave back at me.  They knew just what I was doing.

All-in-all, it was a challenging weekend, but a fun one.