Rumble at the Ridge
Preparing for my 3rd & 4th Lucky Dog races at the Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton WA was a tall task. Unlike my first races at Pacific Raceways, I had never done a track-day or even walked the Ridge before I showed up to race. That unknown element made we want to prepare so I found a version of the Ridge in rFactor 2 and practiced as much as possible to try and get a feel for each turn. I also watched a lot of video of an open wheel car lapping so that I could get a clear view of the track undulations and try to formulate my plan of attack.
A Tale Of Traction Control
I showed up early Friday and ran a 20 minute practice session in the racecar to get a feel for the track. The car felt great and I ran the session with traction control off. I was getting a lot of power coming out of the corners and my video study paid off, I had a decent feel for the track right away and wasn’t getting lost as I made my way around. When I started my stint on Saturday, I left the traction control on because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting overconfident in my car control. This was a mistake. The conditions were perfectly dry and the car had a bunch of traction but was bogging down in corner exits and I was getting very little power to the rear wheels. I was super slow and getting passed by a many cars that I was passing weeks before at Pacific Raceways. To compound that fact, most of the drivers were much more aggressive at the Ridge, because there is a lot of runoff around most corners. About an hour into my stint I got frustrated and got on the radio with my team to ask about turning off the traction control. Joey, the car owner/racer/lead team mechanic let me know that when I am driving the car I am in control and to “go ahead and switch it off.” Once I was able to get the TCS off, the car started responding the way I was expecting and the lap times started to tumble. Now I was in the race! Unfortunately, I had already wasted an hour of racing with TCS on and we were too far behind to be competitive. In Sunday’s race, I would not make the same mistake and turned TCS off in the pits before I started my stint.
“I left the traction control on because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting overconfident in my car control. This was a mistake.“
Hustle the Car
Sunday’s race couldn’t come soon enough. I had one point of focus to try and improve and that was on hustling the car. Ross Bentley’s Performance Driving Illustrated says “hustling” a car, means “looking for opportunities to get to 100% full throttle, if even for a fraction of a second.” I am working on carrying more speed into each corner and trust myself to be able to catch it on the exit if I go a little over the edge. One way to get analytical with this is to assign numbers to each corner from 1-5 with 1 being extreme understeer, and 5 being extreme oversteer. Then after a session you can see what the car is doing corner by corner. If you end up with all 3’s or you don’t know the answer then you probably aren’t pushing the car to the limit.
Sim Racing Academy Head Coach Ross Bentley says “hustling” a car, means “looking for opportunities to get to 100% full throttle, if even for a fraction of a second.”
Sunday’s Race went a lot better than Saturdays. Our first team driver John P. did a great job and by the time he finished his stint we were sitting in 17th overall. I was pushing hard during my stint and passing a ton of cars. When my stint was done, we sat in 7th place overall, 2nd in B class. Our third driver John K is very fast and he started setting down blazing laps, one after another. It was starting to look like we might be in serious contention to win the B class!
The Brake Pedal is Your Friend
Then disaster struck. We were in 4th place overall when John started complaining of a soft brake pedal on the radio. Then two laps later his brake pedal went completely to the floor and the car did not slow down at all. We were lucky the car didn’t fly off the and John didn’t get hurt. He brought the car into the pits and it turns out we popped a brake line. Brake fluid was everywhere and it took us over 10 minutes to fix. Just like that, we were out of contention for a podium. Although disappointing, you need to roll with the punches when endurance racing! The positive takeaway was the team learned we could compete for wins in B class. We’ll get a chance to prove it at the 24 hours Race at Oregon Raceway Park next month!
– Conor Murphy, Performance Engineer, Sim Racer Academy