Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
5/14/19 8:00 p.m.

I've noticed that on the opening lap especially the first several corners I'm significantly faster than other competitors. Part of this is my motorcycle racing background, you slide bikes around a lot but I believe the other part is the fact that I autocross regular so I have a good idea of what the car is like on cold tires.

I'm currently autocrossing a Formula 500 but in the past I was both road racing and autocrossing my Datsun. The Formula 500 is obviously on slicks which makes it even trickier than a car on threaded tires.

Also looking at the times for opening laps I see people giving up 3 seconds, so it makes me wonder why people don't do more to get the most out of the first lap. Yes I know some cars handling balance doesn't come in for almost a full lap but I'm still amazed that people don't do more. 

Now some people don't have easy access to autocross so I'll share some of the things I do:

 I come to grid with my car fully warmed up, for the first session of the day I'll actually drive the long way round to pre-grid in an effort to get some heat in the drivetrain as well.

Either go out first or in the back (with a gap) so you can have a clear track. Run your opening lap at the maximum speed you can without thrashing cold parts (engine trans etc). 

For the second session of the drive the passing lines while your tires are still cold / not fully warmed up. This gives you an idea of what the first corners are going to be like. The reason I don't do this in the first session is because the track is dirty. 

So my point is learn to drive your car as fast as it will go under the conditions you're going to experience on the first lap. If you do have access to an autocross take your car at least once, autocross allows you to spin the car without going for a ride through a field. 

 

cbaclawski
cbaclawski New Reader
5/14/19 9:14 p.m.

No offense to you personally, but it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people "drive flat out" on the out lap in a HPDE!

It's not like you are going to set a track record from a standing start anyway.  I like to gradually warm up my tires and get them up to proper pressure,  also race brake pad compounds need some temperature to function properly.  It only takes about 3/4 of a lap to accomplish this, so by the final turn I can come out at full speed and am good to go for the rest of the session.

It drives me nuts when someone behind me that I'll be 5 sec/lap faster than every lap after the first is all over my mirrors while I'm at 28psi with cold brakes.  

I have 3 options:

1- point them by and ruin my second lap when I inevitably catch them in turn 3 of lap 2

2- push to stay ahead, and unnecessarily risk unpredictable performance and potential damage

3- do nothing and feel like a jerk for not letting him by.

I don't like any of those choices.

Every Club Race I've ever seen does at least 1 warm up lap before going green, and time trial events generally have an established protocol for out lap spacing...

I'm not saying go 55mph, just 7-8/10th's -- no reason to push the car until it's ready.

buzzboy
buzzboy HalfDork
5/14/19 9:31 p.m.

I would love to autocross my Lemon. It'll be very very slow(41lbs/whp) but it would be nice to feel out it's low speed limits in a non-race environment. I'm worried a lot less about cold tires though. A 14.5hr race isn't won on the first lap.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
5/14/19 9:53 p.m.

@cbaclawski make no mistake I'm not talking about HPDEs. I instruct at PCA events and at every drivers meeting they make no bones about "this is not racing". As an instructor I encourage people to take their time get the car warmed up and getting themselves warmed up. As  driver at track days if I'm going to do a hot out lap (my 47yr old 1200cc Datsun is slow) I grid myself so that I have space.  Again I'm not taking about HPDE.

For SCCA club races I found them to be better than the vintage group I run with now as far as warm up lap pace but really neither one gets the tires up to full temp. You still need to know the limits of cold or semi cold tires. 

@Buzzboy for endurance racing, especially a 14hr one I'd say that yeah it's probably not worth worrying about but what if you could nab 4-5 spots and get your self some clear space? Of course given the number of entries at these events I'm not sure there's ever any clear space on track.

Naturally all this is my opinion of course; I should be happy that people are slow on the first lap as that's what's been allowing me to pass faster cars and put some distance between myself and the people turning similar lap times. 

cbaclawski
cbaclawski New Reader
5/14/19 10:17 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

@cbaclawski make no mistake I'm not talking about HPDEs. I instruct at PCA events and at every drivers meeting they make no bones about "this is not racing". As an instructor I encourage people to take their time get the car warmed up and getting themselves warmed up. As  driver at track days if I'm going to do a hot out lap (my 47yr old 1200cc Datsun is slow) I grid myself so that I have space.  Again I'm not taking about HPDE.

For SCCA club races I found them to be better than the vintage group I run with now as far as warm up lap pace but really neither one gets the tires up to full temp. You still need to know the limits of cold or semi cold tires. 

Naturally all this is my opinion of course; I should be happy that people are slow on the first lap as that's what's been allowing me to pass faster cars and put some distance between myself and the people turning similar lap times. 

True enough about non-full temp on the warm up lap, but at least it's something.  I was really talking about the guy who "lays a wheel" coming off pit row and is at 10/10 starting with turn 1of the out lap in a non-race environment.

Unfortunately I've learned the limits of cold tires/brakes the hard way!(pretty embarrassing to spin on the out lap - trust me if you haven't ever done it!)  Just my opinion too, but I'd much rather drag the brakes a bit and get everything where I want it before I start pushing hard.  I'm constantly trying to improve my times and just don't see the benefit on a lap that will be 10sec slow anyway!

I've only run with PCA once, and it's been a while, but don't you guys typically run the first lap of every session double yellow?  Like I said it's been a while so maybe that was another club, or maybe a regional thing...   

To each his own, It's all good fun regardless (Once it's not fun anymore, I'll find another hobby!)

jr02518
jr02518 Reader
5/15/19 12:07 a.m.

Tom,

I am an auto crosser who has, in the past, wondered why road racers do not take advantage of our events on a more regular basis. Now that I am getting a taste if track events, I am so glad I have the years of events, that I do, under my belt.

We in Southern California are very blessed with event sights that provide locations and layouts that are at least as large as the Nationals.  They are 60 to 70 second, or larger, that are never quite the same from event to event. Learning to read the elements and transitions via the walking the track teaches you to feel the surface and it's condition.  You also get to know the tarmac and concrete. Funny how government spec mix of gravel is effected by the size and smoothness of the aggregate.  Then you also get to become accustomed to the transitions of taxi ways to the runways.  That they might have a mix of asphalt surfaces and concrete helps with the education.

First it does rain in Southern California, sometimes.  We run rain or shine and relish getting seat time in the wet. Softening up the suspension, by disconnecting the rear sway bar does mean lying down in the wet but you only have to adjust one side of the bar.  We also get to work with standing water, flowing water and just damp.  We compensate for the cones moving around, in the flowing water, by doubling them up. Those you don't want to hit, not that they cost you 4 seconds as a penalty, but much like going 4 wheels off at the track, it can make a mess of your car.

Now, they do not let me walk the track at Buttowillow, but I know they want me to keep off the brown stuff with my car.  Learning all this in the parking lots, paid dividends. On cold tires.

 David   

cbaclawski
cbaclawski New Reader
5/15/19 1:01 a.m.
jr02518 said:

Tom,

I am an auto crosser who has, in the past, wondered why road racers do not take advantage of our events on a more regular basis. Now that I am getting a taste if track events, I am so glad I have the years of events, that I do, under my belt.

 

Personally, I'd love to do more(I've done it once) autocross.  There are events far closer to home than the nearest track, and require a much smaller time commitment.  I think Autocross skills transfer better to the track than the other way around, and I'd certainly improve as a driver and learn a ton about car control by doing them.

Why don't I attend?  

Driving is a hobby for me, I'm not particularly competitive about it, I do it because it's fun.  Downtime in between sessions BSing is part of that.  Spending more time shagging cones on blistering hot pavement than I do driving just sucks all the fun right out of it for me.  It feels more like work.  Tedious, uncomfortable work at that, and certainly not how I want to spend my free time.  I'd be fine paying more to enter, but I work enough during the week.  Maybe that makes me a pretentious jerk that I don't autocross because I refuse to pick up cones, but that's the truth.  Maybe it's just me, but I bet I'm not alone...  

 

(at least I'm honest about it and don't just show up and not do it)

Klayfish
Klayfish PowerDork
5/15/19 5:51 a.m.
Tom1200 said:

 

@Buzzboy for endurance racing, especially a 14hr one I'd say that yeah it's probably not worth worrying about but what if you could nab 4-5 spots and get your self some clear space? Of course given the number of entries at these events I'm not sure there's ever any clear space on track.

 

No, in my Lemons races on the east coast there isn't much clear space, especially on the opening lap(s).  The lessons you learn in autox regarding car control at or just over the limit can transfer over to endurance road racing, but not much else IMO.  You're going to start on cold tires in Lemons anyway, as there are quite a number of pace laps before you go green, so you just have to be smart on the first few laps.  No offense, but I just roll my eyes at people who are swerving back and forth during the pace laps, trying to get heat in their tires...these aren't NASCAR slicks we're running.

I agree with the previous post.  I used to do a lot of autox many years ago.  But I stopped because it's simply no fun.  Spending hours standing on the tarmac to shag cones so I can spend what amounts to a grand total of 3-5 minutes driving through a parking lot no longer gave me a thrill.  Don't get me wrong, the runs are fun, but the tradeoff simply wasn't worth it.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
5/15/19 6:14 a.m.

I like autocross because I like instructing and hanging out with my buddies. That I can get a few runs and hopefully beat said buddies is a bonus. 

I do like the ability to make low risk mistakes that doesn't really exist on track and I encourage my track friends to autocross and my autocross friends to track. 

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
5/15/19 6:22 a.m.

Lemons and AER have 200TW requirements, those tires don't need much heat put into them to come into speed, light scrubbing on the formation lap that merely moves the car 4-7" and by turn 6 you're up to speed. 

 

My motorsports confession is that I'm notorious for spinning karts on cold tires. To the point that it's brought up in driver's meetings to not attempt to pass me on the outside after the Apex on the first 2 laps. 

bcp2011
bcp2011 Reader
5/15/19 8:42 a.m.

I've done autox a long time ago when I was in high school and driving my Camry... Now I only track, mostly due to seat time.  I just can't justify spending a day to get in 3-4 runs that lasts, if I'm lucky, 2 minutes?  But that's another topic all together...

Anyway, I wanted to chime in because when I first started doing track days my instructor basically told me to slow my hands dramatically, and that he saw this problem often from people who've done autox as the goal is to be smooth and not manhandling the car to a corner.  In the subsequent years I've heard the same thing pretty much from all the other instructors that I've talked to and classes I've attended, which is that autox teaches some bad habits for road courses.  Maybe there are benefits to it as well, I'm not good enough of a driver to know and I basically have no real experience in autox, so I'd be curious to hear from someone who's well versed in both to chime in on the benefits and potential downsides to doing both.  

 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
5/15/19 8:48 a.m.

In reply to bcp2011 :

That technique works really well in autocross, too.  Which is why people should get out and diversify their high speed driving- both autocross and track.  Add in the occasional kart track day, too.

bcp2011
bcp2011 Reader
5/15/19 8:59 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Agreed - any experience where you're controlling a machine is probably helpful, including two wheel ones.  

But that then goes back to my first point, which is seat time.  My better half affords me 10 days a year for the hobby - so that's either ~1 hr of driving for autox, or ~20 hours for track.  Easy decision with that restriction.  :)

Lof8
Lof8 Dork
5/15/19 9:44 a.m.

What group are you racing with that is taking things easy on the first lap?  Sounds like a bunch of Bob Costas.

Klayfish
Klayfish PowerDork
5/15/19 10:22 a.m.
Lof8 said:

What group are you racing with that is taking things easy on the first lap?  Sounds like a bunch of Bob Costas.

I guess it depends on what you call "taking it easy".  LeMons is an endurance race, made up of 13-16 hours of racing over a weekend.  You're not going to win the race on the first lap, but you sure as E36 M3 can lose it on the first lap.  So while we certainly don't do pace laps when they drop they drop the green flag, there is an early period of at least feeling out the car, getting up to temp, navigating traffic with some courtesy, etc...  The race pace will pick up by a second or two as the morning goes on.  If that makes us Bob Costas, well just call me Bob.  Also call me someone who gets lots of track time because I'm on track and not in the penalty box or garage.

Lof8
Lof8 Dork
5/15/19 10:57 a.m.
Klayfish said:
Lof8 said:

What group are you racing with that is taking things easy on the first lap?  Sounds like a bunch of Bob Costas.

I guess it depends on what you call "taking it easy".  LeMons is an endurance race, made up of 13-16 hours of racing over a weekend.  You're not going to win the race on the first lap, but you sure as E36 M3 can lose it on the first lap.  So while we certainly don't do pace laps when they drop they drop the green flag, there is an early period of at least feeling out the car, getting up to temp, navigating traffic with some courtesy, etc...  The race pace will pick up by a second or two as the morning goes on.  If that makes us Bob Costas, well just call me Bob.  Also call me someone who gets lots of track time because I'm on track and not in the penalty box or garage.

I do some Champ racing and I agree with you in that scenario of endurance racing, but the question was for the OP.  I can't tell if he's describing a DE (where going 100% on the first lap is pretty dumb) or some kind of club sprint racing.  If you're doing real, non-endurance racing, you need to be going fast at the drop of the green.  I also do some local roundy-round racing on occasion.  If you're not driving 110% aggressive from the green flag (or even before the green flag), you're left in the dust.  I'm genuinely curious what kind of racing the OP is describing here.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
5/15/19 11:55 a.m.

First and foremost like everyone else here I do this for fun, I like to do well but as long as I get to scrap with some friends and happy. I also love to bench race; if you can't tell be my posts I am Chatty Cathy at the track (pretty much everywhere else as well).

@BCP211 your instructors weren't far off, I've found in general that the average autocrosser tends to be rough with the steering and pops off the brake pedal abruptly. The better than average autocrossers don't have this issue or not for long. The thing is on certain sections of an autocross course the fast way may well involve yanking on the steering wheel like a gorilla, yes it upsets the car but because you're going 14 mph it doesn't matter. Basically making a super smooth U turn is going to be slower than making it as fast as possible. The fastest autocrossers while being super aggressive are still smooth.  I also find as an instructor those autocrossers who are rough with their inputs end up as faster autocrossers after doing a track day. I could give 9 pages of explanation on the differences but it basically comes down to low vs high speed corners and the fact that there isn't going to be a long straight after a set of corners. Additionally the time the car spends transitioning for a corner is mere hundreths of a second vs road racing were it could be a full second so upsetting a car/scrubbing speed on a road course could cost you tenths vs a few thousandth at autocross. For autocross having the car snap left right gains you tenths, due to changing direction more rapidly, even though you scrubbed of a couple of thousands on the transition. On a road course you seldom need to make those kind of rapid direction changes. Think of autocross as a series if accident avoidance maneuvers, they don't need to be pretty they just need to be fast.

As for standing around; yes even in our region where we get 8-10 runs it's a lot of waiting but that's why the social aspect is so big.

I'm not advocation people take their road race cars to every event but take it to at least one. I'm also aware that some cars won't lend themselves to this; gearing to tall, pwerbands very narrow etc.

As to PCA the first laps are indeed yellow flag but you can still get a feel for cold tires. This doesn't mean drive the entire first lap 11/10ths you can get a feel in some of the slower sections. I should also note at track days I tend to encourage people to brake a little early and leave margins on the really high speed areas. I might drive the Datsun flat out for 2 laps over the 4 sessions during the day. Note my version of flat out is 4 wheel drifting the car everywhere but I have a cage, fuel cell, fire system in the car and I'm wearing 3 layers of nomex and a HANS device. Flat out for a street car is, in my view, maybe 75% of that.

The vintage group I run with is VARA and they're an excellent group. They're very aware the the main goals are be safe and have fun. As I'm better than most on cold tires I just feel like the warm up laps are on the slow side. I don't do much weaving back and forth to heat up the tires, I try to find spots where I can safely use the brakes hard and I try so slide the car on the tight corners. For me this approach seems to work better than snaking back and forth.

So back on topic; it's purely a case of I think drivers would benefit from being more comfortable on cold tires. It's the same as people who drive the perfect line on every lap of every session, if you're going to pass someone how do you know what you car does off line (HPDE drivers most likely don't need to know what the car drives like off-line).

Now if what I'm suggesting starts to take the fun out of racing than just ignore what I'm saying. At the end of the day it's about fun with friends.

 

Cousin_Eddie
Cousin_Eddie HalfDork
5/15/19 11:56 a.m.

Can some moderator fix the title of this thread? It's making my head hurt.

Lof8
Lof8 Dork
5/15/19 12:23 p.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

So, the scenario you're describing, where drivers are not being 100% aggressive on the first lap, is a vintage racing group.  I can understand why some of those guys are being careful with their older and sometimes more valuable cars.  I don't think your analysis applies in most forms of auto racing.  People are usually out there to win.  If the main point of your post is that autocrossing can help in other forms of racing, sure, I agree there. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
5/15/19 1:56 p.m.

Lof8 I'm not advocating someone try a Saturday night bull ring maneuver, especially as yes some of the cars are very valuable, but whether SCCA or vintage I see some folks who it's clear they are just uncomfortable on cold tires. What leads me to believe this is what I see; drivers going slowly for a lap but then 5 laps in they are driving like they're possessed. They're unwilling to go side by side on lap 1 but on lap 3 they're willing to go 3 wide into a chicane. It could be defective logic on my part but I don't get why drivers are minimal risk adverse on lap one but they're totally OK with high risk on lap 5 of 10? I'm not talking F5000 cars, these are mostly sedans, I'm also not advocating driving like it's the last lap of the Indy and your battling for the lead. Let's be clear Banzai Bob amateur driver is the absolute last thing I'd want. One should neither be driving like they have a death wish nor like they are scared to death.

All I'm saying is there may be an easy way to improve for not a lot effort; rather than driving 50% on cold tires why not get comfortable enough to drive 80-90%.

@Cousing Eddie; if someone wants to change the title I'm fine with it.............I didn't exactly spend a lot of time on it.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
5/15/19 2:07 p.m.

Id love to be on track someday, and I will keep this information in mind. 

cbaclawski
cbaclawski New Reader
5/15/19 5:15 p.m.

So back on topic; it's purely a case of I think drivers would benefit from being more comfortable on cold tires. It's the same as people who drive the perfect line on every lap of every session, if you're going to pass someone how do you know what you car does off line (HPDE drivers most likely don't need to know what the car drives like off-line).

Everybody should know what their car drives like off line.  It's an important part of learning IMO.  Nobody is perfect, and controlled passing or not, you will eventually be in a spot you would rather not be.  Maybe a mistake, maybe a late point by, point by w/o a lift, etc.  Best to have some idea what to expect.

wspohn
wspohn Dork
5/18/19 3:40 p.m.

I used to love standing starts when we still did them in vintage (except when the car sitting in front of you flubs the start and stalls as you try to avoid running up his butt).

The first corner was close enough to the start finish line that you would go through it significantly slower on the first lap than at full race speed on subsequent laps.  All the racers that were new to the track would dutifully take a wide line as they had been told at driver familiarization, and some of the guys that knew the track as well.  Since the speeds were lower on the first lap, I could take a totally different line and as the other went wide, I would dive inside of them and pass two or three of them going into the first corner.

Similarly, when we ran WW2 air base circuits without defined edges and boundaries, I could sometimes pass people just in front of me by taking a very tight line while they went much wider and therefor tracked a longer line. When we got to the apex of the corner, they were indeed going faster, but found me slower and right in their line, having just nipped past them, and then blocking for the next corner.

 

Our Preferred Partners
xCWBtd5yFq7RZqfmYa7EDllMxo4CTmsb18M6ulfmw6LvY2eP67XwOrejiNxFpL7e