One of the great things about winter in North America is that many of our guest contributors are snuggled up inside putting together some really valuable information for you!
That's what Matt Romanowski has done this week. I love this article! So many drivers who have data acquisition systems only used them during the season, and particularly during a track event. In this week's article, Matt shows you what do with your data system in the off-season to help your driving.
Enjoy! – Ross
Winter for the folks in the Northern US is a time when we don’t get to drive our track cars, but we do get lots of time to think about it as we watch the picture-perfect snow fall. Or while we shovel it. Lots of shoveling it.
While anyone who has followed Ross’s advice a bit knows this is a great time to work on our mental strategies of driving with great mental imagery, virtual laps in our mind, and preparing our habits, it’s also a great time to look at our data and use it to plan for the next year.
One of the simple things we can do is to grab data from sessions across the year and look to see if we can find patterns in our driving. Do you have a habit of “hobby horsing” with the throttle on corner exits where you apply too much throttle too soon and have to back out, only to increase it again? Do you have a habit of coasting into corners? Do you see a trend where you tend to crab into corners, start your turn in a little early, wait, then fully commit?
A little bit of time spent reviewing things like these can really help you find areas for improvement and help you to plan them out for the coming driving season. Just like you do track maps and note what to work on in the next session during the year (you do that, right?), you can start planning those things now. Goals like work on trail braking into turn 1 more, better throttle commitment over the crest, looking through the corner, and so much more are great to start planning now. Pick specific corners or areas to work on and start getting the mental strategies to achieve your goals.
You can also use your data to review information about the tracks you visit. With a little bit of work you can build track characteristics about all the tracks you visit throughout the year. These characteristics can be all kinds of things from very simple to very complex. Simple things like track length and fuel mileage can be helpful to plan how much fuel you need for the event. Just think – no more end of the day scrambles to the gas station to get your car off E so you can make it through the last session.
You can also look at things like how high of a G-load you pull in each direction, the number of left and right corners, highest and lowest speed on this particular track. Maybe these metrics give you some insight into which tracks are more similar (or different) than you thought and help you with some setup strategies. Things like the percentage of time you spend in corners, the length of the longest straight, etc. can all help with your plans on how to approach the track mentally, physically, and setup-wise.
Another great thing to do is to look at your performance at each track. Break the track down into corners and then study where you have the most room for improvement. The old Pareto Principal (80/20) Rule is a great way to start. One thing that is a great measure of your performance is to look at your minimum corner speed in each corner and see where you have the greatest variance.
In doing this, you might also start to make mental connections between different corners at different tracks. One way many professionals quickly learn tracks is to see parallels between different corners. Maybe you start to realize that turn 1 at Summit Point reminds you of turn 6 at Mont Tremblant. Are there corners at your tracks that have similar parallels?
You can also use these season data reviews to plan for next year. Maybe in looking at the minimum corner speeds, you realize your gears are not optimal (if you have the ability to change them). For folks who drive Formula Vees where they have a long and short box with different ratios, these sorts of studies help you make sure you are choosing the right transmission for the track.
Hopefully this gets you thinking about new ways to use your data and how to prepare for the upcoming season. You’ll be better prepared and have actionable information when you get to the track.
– Matt Romanowski
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