Race Day In An Entropy Sports Racer
Two weeks ago Charlie Greenhaus has been very kind to give me a ride in one of his Entropy Sports Racers. My actual schedule was unorthodox - I ran half of the Sprintduro on Saturday and qualifying and qualifying race on Sunday, but for all practical purposes we can consider these three sessions practice, qualifying and race.
Arrive And Drive
After losing 3 engines this year I really appreciated the arrive and drive format of driving ESRs. Entropy Racing even takes care of fueling cars between sessions. The only thing I did to my car was figuring out how to mount my AIM Solo to it (there is a great spot on the side tubes of the cage approximately even with the steering wheel).
I ran about 50 minutes of the 2 hour Sprintduro. The sprint part of the Sprintduro was 25 minutes long which I mistakenly thought was 35 minutes long. At about 35 minutes into the race I realized that going for that long in a race requires some endurance. Not as much as real endurance races, but I did start getting fatigued after half an hour of racing, and I normally can stay on track for an hour straight easily.
Part of the reason why racing requires more endurance is that the driver is putting more mental effort into fighting other cars, especially in well subscribed classes. Whereas in a DE or a time trial I would relax once I ran a great lap, in a race there is often no such opportunity.
Last year I raced my Civic with IMG and while it was a great experience, I only had one or two other cars that I raced in any given race. Once I got past those cars, or they got past me, racing was effectively over and I was just running laps.
This time I was one of 5-8 ESRs in the field. I qualified mid-pack but had a poor start and ended up toward the back of the pack. I then worked my way through most of the pack, eventually fighting for class lead.
The awesome thing about identical cars is once I passed one ESR there was another one just ahead. Once I caught up and passed the second one, there was the third one up ahead. The entire race was filled with racing.
This race day convinced me to get a Spec Miata, whereas before I thought close racing was potentially fun but also frustrating. Now I think that close racing is the real racing.
Close Racing Is Stressful
I found out that with identical cars it took more effort to stay ahead of the car I just passed. It becomes very important to not make mistakes - for the duration of the race. In turn this requires maintaining concentration and composure for the entire duration with very few breaks.
With close racing I found out that I needed reference points for things that I did not previously use reference points for, like shift points. Whereas in a time trial environment I can stare at the tach for as long as I want on straights waiting for it to reach redline, in a race I am looking at cars ahead and behind and I cannot be looking at the tach.
If I never look at the tach to shift, forget about looking at gauges. Warning lights are absolutely essential in a race environment.
As I mentioned, I passed a bunch of cars, culminating in me running side by side the entire length of Pocono North infield with Charles Turano who is the driver to beat in the ESRs. Not only was there no car to car contact, I was never squeezed off my line or anything like that. This courtesy and respect are signature traits of IMG.
Driver Skill Varies Among Racers Too
A surprising thing that happened was me passing most of the field. This happened despite me only running my fourth ever session in the ESR and some of the other drivers having quite a bit more experience in these cars. I have barely any racecraft-related experience and I passed people simply by running sufficiently late apexes and applying some basic reasoning as to where passes can actually happen (safely).
This discovery was the second part in me deciding to race Spec Miata - I figure I am not going to beat good drivers in pro cars, but I have good chances of beating not so good drivers in pro cars or good drivers in budget cars. While I used to think that with a budget car I would be at the back of the pack, now I think I have good chances of being in the middle if not toward the front.
Data Is Useful
I am a big believer in data. I use it all the time to get seconds out of whatever car I am driving. Data is what moved me from lower intermediate to advanced driver to now instructor and coach. Most of advice I give to other drivers is either directly rooted in data or can be traced back to data in some fashion.
As I became more experienced I developed the ability to feel the car, to the point where I can tell a lot without looking at data. But data, specifically realtime delta, is still incredibly useful for validating theories and doing so instantly.
One theory I had regarding ESRs was that the infield into oval turn at Pocono North was a late apex turn, as it is in just about all other cars. When I really got a good line through that turn with early power application I saw huge benefits in lap time. However, early power application requires restraint in the braking zone for that turn. By being too aggressive with braking it is easy to come into the turn too fast without sufficient rotation which costs lots of time on the oval.
The second use of data is keeping track of driver consistency over time. As races are about distance covered over the long term rather than any single lap, being consistent lap to lap is often better than running a great lap but nuking tires in the process or overdriving and losing confidence.
I was tracking my lap time throughout the race and seeing the lap times within certain range of the best lap confirmed that I was running good pace and generally doing the right things.