It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do a project log. It’s been a real busy couple of months, karting-wise, but I’m not complaining in the slightest! To be honest, I’ve never had more fun in my entire life!
One of my teammates, Josh Stanford, volunteered himself to be my chassis tuner to help improve the setup of the World Formula kart after I finished fourth in my first regional race. We’d been noticing some improvements in the kart handling here and again, but given how competitive we had been during the finals of the first Gold Cup race, we’ve really been waiting to take the performance up a notch or two.
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been taking notes of the changes that we’ve been making to the chassis during all of the practice days and club races. Using written notes, recording and some new data-logging software, we’ve been able to start to create a more solid baseline setup that I’m comfortable with to put down more competitive laptimes.
It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than we were.
Taking pictures and video have been helpful, because I’ve been having to make some changes to my driving technique over the last few months. One of the main issues that we’ve been finding has been my driving posture, and how it was affecting the kart’s handling.
In the past, I’d lean too far forward in the kart, which would take grip off the rear and make it handle loose. To be honest, it’s been a bad habit from my indoor karting days, where the crappy handling of the karts would cause you want to lean farther forward in order to get better turn-in. (Or to get the damned rental thing to turn in at all.)
A large reason that I was having trouble sitting back, is because I didn’t have strong core muscles. So, in order to work on improving my body posture and also just have stronger fitness to put down more consistent laptimes, I’ve started working with a personal trainer, James Lundy at Snap Fitness.
James has been super helpful in improving my general health, and helping me start to develop the lower core muscles, which naturally help me sit farther back. (I’ll get more into driver fitness exercises in another post).
Over the last two months, through working with James, changing the physical seating position in the kart, and having Josh yell at me to keep leaning back, I’ve noticed a drastic improvement in the kart handling. Just by changing the way that I sit in it, it’s been causing me to develop a much more relaxed driving posture. Therefore, I end up with more positive steering inputs, and just generally a better feeling kart.
I just have to keep training my body to do it correctly, each time.
What I’m the most excited for is the installation of the new data acquisition system for my kart. I’m using the AIM Mychron 4 datalogger and related GPS add-on*. What’s exciting is that the AIM system gathers GPS positioning data to monitor my speed, acceleration and other useful data that has been helping me figure out where to find more time.
I was able to get the system installed on my kart prior to a club race over the last weekend at my home track, PGP Motorsports Park,
I just started to using the Race Studio Analysis software last night, but I’ve already been able to find some really encouraging information that my driving is improving and the setup changes that Josh and I have been throwing at the kart have been working.
After taking a look at the data that we’ve gathered over the last month, I’ve found over a second a lap in average laptime around PGP. (And that’s after having to weight my kart up to make Gold Cup Class weight.) I made my personal fastest laptime over the weekend with a 1:09.3, which is getting much closer than the 1:10.6s, that I was doing in World Formula at the beginning of the year.
Here a practice lap of PGP in the counter-clockwise direction, just for a general idea of what the track looks like.
*Youtube is doing that weird camera warble thing when it gets shaky video. I guess the sidepod is not a good place to mount it…
Anyway,to put that 1:09.3 laptime into perspective: At PGP Motorsports Park, the fastest lap that I’ve heard about in a World Formula kart was in the mid 1:08s. Now, I don’t know what weight that kart was running, nor do I know the status of the engine, but it does give me a good reference point to shoot for. What’s really encouraging about that for my session data is when I look at two figures:
- My theoretical best laptime, which combines my best sector times together over a session, regardless of the lap they were run (1:08.9)
- My best rolling lap, which combines the best rolling sectors times from the last sector to the next following lap (1:09.1)
While this means that, yes I was leaving some time on the track, that I am definitely getting much faster!
Now that I have the sector time reports configured, I’ll be able to compare timing changes and improvements via practice data and other sessions out on the tracks that we’re racing at. I just have to remember to set the GPS beacon, when I head out on the track for the first time. Otherwise, I don’t get any useful information.
I’ve also been working on developing some good pre-race rituals, which help me get into the proper mood to go racing, like listening to music or going to relax in the kart van before getting out on the track. As silly as that sounds, those things really help me focus a lot, so I just trust myself to keep doing it.
With all of the changes, the kart is actually a lot more fun to drive than it was before. I’ve got some other cool new changes coming to the kart in the next few weeks, which I’ll talk about in another post. All and all, it’s encouraging to know that things are finally starting to head in the right direction! (touch-wood)
*Note: FINALLY. I’ve got a chance to start working on the types of blog posts that I started this blog for in the first place. I’m so jazzed. This is the sort of racecraft analysis that I’ve been wanting to be able to do for years. By having the proper tools, I can finally data-nerd on how to improve my laptimes in ways that I never could before.
I’ll do some more posts in the future about some of the insights that I’m discovering using karting data, once I understand Race Studio a bit more.
In the meantime, I’m going to post the video that was created by local Pacific Northwest racer and GrandAM driver, James Colburn. This video helped me figure out how to create the proper sector time data in the AIM Race Studio Software for PGP. Thanks, James!