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ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter)
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/13/21 12:45 p.m.

We made good time on the way down and got to Michael's place around 2:30 on Friday so I could get a test drive of the Miata before the autocross on Saturday. The car was all cleaned up with a performance alignment after the front end rebuild. It started quickly and had a rowdy exhaust. Backing out of the garage the first thing I noticed was the very stiff steering. The car has a de-powered rack because of clearance issues with the motor swap. Thankfully, it lightens up a bit with speed. The car also has very abrupt engine braking. You lift quickly off the throttle and the nose of the car dives like you just tapped the brakes. But boy does this car make you smile! Like I said before, the exhaust sounds great to start with and then around 3 or 4 thousand rpm it does some GM version of "the VTEC just kicked in, yo!" and SCREAMS to redline. It's positively spine tingling and childishly good fun. The good news is that all 6' 1" of me fit in the car without having to modify anything. I think the smaller diameter aftermarket steering wheel helped with that.

After we got back from the driver we got a tour of the rest of Michael's "fleet of beaters". The red parking lot build step side truck looks great. Darth Nader looks like the project that it is. And the Neon ACR is beautifully clean. He and Munchkin did a great job restoring it together. Michael said, "the keys are in it, go for a drive." Who would I be to refuse that? The ACR is like the front wheel drive version of his Miata. A little rowdy, a little stiff, but with a full interior that makes it a comfortable daily driver. I was a little sad inside that we wouldn't be autocrossing it the next day. Driving both cars convinced me that the exhaust on my Fiat needs to be louder to make it more fun.

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Michael and his family while he polished the vintage wheels for the black truck and I figured out a mounting location for the GoPro on the Miata. Unfortunately, I found out later that I had mounted it a little too low to see much of the course for car placement. Thankfully it's a nice vantage point to see where we are looking and how we are steering the car.

Now, the autocross. The Central Carolinas Region of the SCCA has a beautiful facility at the parking lot of the zMAX Dragway. It is positively huge compared to the courses that I'm used to. Here is the layout for the day:

The start is on the right and works clockwise around the lot. It ended up being 60 to 70 seconds long for the Miata. We walked the course a couple of times and talked about where to place the car, how far to look ahead, and what the trouble spots might be. A total of 230 drivers were registered for this event. I'm used to events with 40 drivers. At the driver's meeting we found out that we would be in the first of the four run groups. I ended up as the second car on course. Talk about pressure.

We didn't have times for the first runs. But mine were 64.2, 62.0, and 62.4 and without cones. Michael did something like 70.4, 70.2, and 68.4 with one or two cones on most of them. Official times haven't been posted yet. So we won't know for sure until then. On to the videos. (click the links) I'll embed the best ones after that.

My first run and Michael's.

My second and Michael's.

My third (and fastest) and Michael's third

My fourth and Michael's forth (and best if you ignore the cones he hit).

Now, let's give Michael some constructive criticism based on our best runs, my third and Michael's last. I'm in the white helmet and he is in the dark maze covered helmet.

 

 

Ok, you've watched the videos? These are things that I see that Michael can improve on:

  • Hand position on the steering wheel. Notice how my hands almost never cross the vertical centerline of the wheel? And I control the wheel on the return to straight ahead. Where Michael, you have your hands very close together and at one point release the wheel to let it return to center. This hurts your ability to be smooth with your inputs and to react to the back of the car sliding unexpectedly (remember how I was able to catch a couple of those without spinning?). With your hands further apart you have more leverage on the wheel to control it. This is something that you can practice during daily driving. It's called "shuffle steering". Never let your hands cross the vertical centerline and always have at least one hand fully gripping the wheel. Once this becomes natural you'll find it easier to control the car when you are going faster.
  • Looking ahead. We talked about this while we were running, but it bears mentioning again. The more you can look ahead, the more you are acting on the course instead of reacting to it. It takes practice to get better at it and you can also do this during the daily drive. Keep your eyes up and look where you want to go, not where you are.
  • Slalom speed. Slaloms are all about not unsettling the car and being consistent and smooth with your inputs (both steering and throttle). Notice on the big slalom how I reach peak speed by the second or third cone and stop stop accelerating? Then I'm just steering through the cones until braking for the next corner. You did this really well in your fourth run. You are also very good at keeping tight to the cones. Sometimes too much, and you hit a cone. But that is just experience with the car and where it's edges are.

  • Braking and Accelerating. Notice in the middle of the video of your fourth run when I signaled you accelerate? To get the best time out of the car you need to be at full throttle as much as possible and brake as little and late as possible. And when you do brake, brake hard. Go back and watch both of our runs and compare how hard we accelerate and brake in each part of the course. To be fair, there are times when full acceleration and full braking are not possible (like when you are cornering), but you have room to accelerate and brake harder than you are.
  • Hitting cones. It seems obvious, but they add to your final time. Avoid hitting them. But when you inevitably do hit one, don't get frustrated about it. Yes, that run's time probably won't be your best now, but you can still go full tilt on the rest of course and practice it. Use that time to your advantage. Ignore the scraping of that cone you dragged all the way around with your splitter. Your last run was a good example of this. You hit cones and lost the back of the car a couple times and managed your fastest raw time of the day.

  • Cutting corners. Particularly the second to last corner pictured below. I think you needed to swing wider like I did to maintain momentum versus cutting the corner like you did and loosing speed. I'm not sure how to tell you to improve this. The best I can say is that it comes with experience. The goal is to keep the car going as quickly as possible most of the time. Do what you can to keep the car moving. And look at the videos of our runs to compare how those corners went.

Michael, you asked me after my fastest run how I learned to drive as quickly as I do. I didn't know at the time, but I figured it out on the long drive home. Video Games! I've played Gran Turismo since GT2 and Forza since Forza3 along with a host of other driving games. I never really had a steering wheel and just used a controller for most of them. While the experience doesn't quite translate to a car without a steering wheel and g-forces I did learn to look ahead. And I learned how cars with various drivetrains and power levels react when you drive them at the limit. Obviously, this isn't quite as practical for you with a family and full time job as it was for me as a kid. But it is where I learned.

Thanks again for letting me drive your cars and spend the day with you and your family. Mrs. ShawneeCreek (Andrea) and I had a wonderful weekend. I hope the comments above can be helpful to you. As we demonstrated, your car has a lot of potential for you to grow and learn into without having to change any more parts. However, it would be nice to reduce the steering effort (maybe an alignment change?) and reduce the severity of the engine braking. Regardless, keep having fun with it.

And one last picture of Michael hitting a cone, just because I have it.

- Sean

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/13/21 2:59 p.m.

Eyes farther ahead

Relax

Hands farther apart

Eyes farther ahead

Relax

Don't let go of the wheel

Steer with your arms, not your shoulders

Eyes farther ahead

Smooth hands turning and returning

Relax

Talk yourself through the course, saying things like "relax, good, eyes up, good, smooth hands, good" etc. Don't beat yourself up over mistakes. They are teaching you something.

 

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/13/21 6:34 p.m.

When I get home,  i need to really read and study your post,  Sean. Cant seem to grasp it from a phone from a cruise night. 

But thank you for the wonderful weekend,  and even better writing!!!

When I get my head wrapped around it...

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UltraDork
3/13/21 9:52 p.m.

I wish I was as good at instruction/diagnosis as Shaun. I might be able to match his times, but I don't think I could pick out all of the nuances he did in four 70 sec. runs. Duster, you got a great tutorial here.

ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter)
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/14/21 10:03 a.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Thank you for the compliment, but I can't claim to be a great driver or a great instructor. I am however, an engineer. I can analyze the data (times and video) and point out what I see based on my experience. And I still have a lot to learn and skills to develop further.

- Sean

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/14/21 10:48 a.m.

In reply to ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) :

Im starting to comprehend your feedback. I KNOW hands, vision up.

Watching you drive vs me deive, looking at the front end and hand behavior,  and listening to the muffler, im starting to get ideas and concepts. 

Gonna have to watch it a few more times....

TVR Scott (Forum Supporter)
TVR Scott (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
3/14/21 12:27 p.m.

As a beginner autocrosser like you, I have found it a humbling experience.  As long as the car is reasonably sorted, this is a race that is all about the driver. 

I try to just focus on my own improvement, and not worry so much what the leader-board says.

So keep at it!

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/15/21 5:25 p.m.

Ive been rereading and reawatching. Another thing i noticed is you mor roll into the throttle and stomp brakes,  where im doing the opposite. Your way is far smoother to watch and hear,  which HAS to contribute to times, as its not nearly as unsettling to the car.

Definitely making a conscious effort to practice shuffle steering and eyes up on a daily basis. 

 

Thanks for being my mentor,  sean. More than i know how to say.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
3/15/21 6:11 p.m.

Sean, what a great report.   Michael is lucky.  What's the chance that Sean will do the whole NC auto season? devil

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
3/15/21 6:15 p.m.

Michael,  watch this 11 part video series  Autocrssing with Dick Turner

I had this on vhs back in the day.   A few things are dated but the physics remains the same.

The video has good visual and video examples of apex, slalom approach, braking and steering.

ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter)
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/15/21 7:26 p.m.
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) said:

Ive been rereading and reawatching. Another thing i noticed is you mor roll into the throttle and stomp brakes,  where im doing the opposite. Your way is far smoother to watch and hear,  which HAS to contribute to times, as its not nearly as unsettling to the car.

Definitely making a conscious effort to practice shuffle steering and eyes up on a daily basis. 

 

Thanks for being my mentor,  sean. More than i know how to say.

Excellent catch. You might also notice that when I do stomp on the brakes the steering wheel is generally pointed straight ahead, that way the back end doesn't step out on me when the weight transfers to the front of the car. Theoretically I could brake a little later and slowly release the brakes as I begin turning, aka trail braking. But that is a skill I have yet to learn.

Good. Keep practicing. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel and the less you will have to think about it.

You are very welcome.

sleepyhead the buffalo
sleepyhead the buffalo Mod Squad
3/16/21 2:01 a.m.
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) said:

Michael, you asked me after my fastest run how I learned to drive as quickly as I do. I didn't know at the time, but I figured it out on the long drive home. Video Games! I've played Gran Turismo since GT2 and Forza since Forza3 along with a host of other driving games. I never really had a steering wheel and just used a controller for most of them. While the experience doesn't quite translate to a car without a steering wheel and g-forces I did learn to look ahead. And I learned how cars with various drivetrains and power levels react when you drive them at the limit. Obviously, this isn't quite as practical for you with a family and full time job as it was for me as a kid. But it is where I learned.

- Sean

So, Shawnee... dunno what your current "game"/"console" setup is (and same goes for Dusterdb).  I'm intrigued by the "controller" + "racing game" = speed, equation.  It's something I've been mulling over for some time, although a bit more complexly than that.  Using a hand controller seems like a much lower cost than a "sim rig" setup... and could provide a significant portion of the requisite "processing speed" increase that Dusterdb and the rest of us could find value in attaining.

I wonder what a "minimum investment" setup would be... that could potentially involve Munchkin (or selfishly, one of the sleepykids)?  Mario Kart?  Something old-ish, rehosted on a RaspberryPi?

ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter)
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/16/21 5:10 a.m.

I've currently got an Xbox 360, Xbox One, and a PlayStation 3. For the Xboxes I've got games like Forza, Forza Horizon, Grid, and Dirt (rally driving). The PlayStation has Gran Turismo. Honestly, I haven't turned on the 360 in forever and could give it away with the games I have for it.

I'm not sure how good Mario kart would be as a teacher. The physics engine isn't very realistic, and that's before you mention the power ups. Still a fun game, though.

I really like the Forza and Forza Horizon series as a place to learn. The physics are good, the skill of the competition can be changed across a wide range, the stability aids (ABS, traction control, and stability control) can be turned off and on, it has the ghosted "racing line", and it has a rewind feature. You can use that rewind to try different approaches to that same corner or passing opportunity, or retry that corner where you just spun out. It also makes gameplay a little less frustrating.

magic!

Also: codriver slot open for the 16th at zmax!

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
4/5/21 4:38 p.m.
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) said:

Also: codriver slot open for the 16th at zmax!

Hmmm....  maybe I could get my car up there and we could switch back and forth.....

In reply to wvumtnbkr :

Im game! Ride alongs/buy you that dinner i owe you!

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/13/21 7:13 p.m.

Started watching the dick Turner series tonight. Eye opening and possibly didn't catch even jalf.

Also, reading and rewatching seans writeup. Getting my head ready to make the most of Saturday with prodarwin. 

Excited. Goal is hands, smooth inputs, and vision up.

 

Think i need to find a small samuel l Jackson meme to print out that says "eyes up motherberkeleyer" to tape to the bottom of the windshield.....

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
4/14/21 7:24 p.m.
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) said:

Started watching the dick Turner series tonight. Eye opening and possibly didn't catch even jalf.

Also, reading and rewatching seans writeup. Getting my head ready to make the most of Saturday with prodarwin. 

Excited. Goal is hands, smooth inputs, and vision up.

 

Think i need to find a small samuel l Jackson meme to print out that says "eyes up motherberkeleyer" to tape to the bottom of the windshield.....

Or just literally tape the bottom of the windshield.

 

I am not making it this weekend.  I gots another project to work on as I'm sure you saw...

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/14/21 7:51 p.m.

In reply to wvumtnbkr :

I did! 

Ill miss seeing you, but enjoy! And outline the swap in small, easy to understand words so i can follow later with this car.....

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/20/21 3:30 p.m.

Another month, another autocross. 

Prodarwin came and was my codriver this time. Hes faster than me, just like everyone else. He fonished mid lack in xs-b to my DFL. 

The course this month wasn't nearly as fast as the last one. Which, for me, made the gap from DFL to next to DFL narrower. Im happy with that. 

I was much smoother this time. No spins, which is a first for me. I also tried to keep a steady speed through the sloloms. 

My first run, i really focused on hands and vision. It was my best feeling run of the day. Afterward i slipped into the standard ape-like driving ive been doing (habits are hard to break) and got steadily worse trying to get faster. I need somehow to work on the mental part of my game here. 

It also felt like the tires had progressively less grip each run. Wondering if the rs-rr tires are just not consistent, and amplifying my driver problem. 

I have been working eon the street at it, and getting better with hands and vision up to an extent,  but nowhere near natural or Shawneecreek level. 

and dick Turner makes sense in my living room, and none in the sea of cones....

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/20/21 5:24 p.m.

You kept your eyes up and you thought about your hands and that's a solid improvement. Don't think about going faster. Think about going smoother. You're on your way!

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/21/21 6:31 a.m.

In reply to AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) :

Point taken!

Prodarwin thinks that the car is under wheeled and outclassed in tire. I cant say hes wrong. However,  i have a LOT to go before they become my limiting factor. 

But, if any of yall find 15x9 in miata fitment (not 0 offset. +36 i think) for a good deal, let me know. 

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
4/21/21 8:21 a.m.

What size tire are you running?

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/21/21 8:38 a.m.

205/50/15 on 15x6.5 rs-rr 

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