Why would I write an article on feedback? Why would you read it? Let’s examine these questions from top down. Name one top line driver whose engineer and/or chief mechanic says he doesn’t give great feedback. At that level, everyone can drive, what separates the field is the fastest guys are also the most technical in how they relay what’s going on with the car to their engineer.
Perhaps looking at the issue from the bottom up will help. When I started shifter karting, I used to go out with a buddy of mine who was a good driver but was horrible initially on giving feedback. So, we’d go out for a session, come in, I’d ask him how is kart was and he’d reply, “It’s not good, it’s sliding.” Well ok, sliding where? What part of the turn? Which end of the kart, front or back? I think you get my point.
To jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, in my second year of racing Opel Lotus in Europe I was lucky enough to be teammates with Derek Higgins for a handful of races. I learned a lot from Derek especially since Derek’s dad, Vince, ran Jackie Stewart’s Opel Lotus team the year before for drivers Gil DeFerran and David Coulthard. We were in our hauler for our first team debrief and I was struggling to convey what the car was doing to my team manager when Derek grabs a track map and writes T/I, M/C, and EXT (Turn-In, Mid-Corner, and Exit) on every turn and hands it to me stating, “This is how my dad broke down every session with Gil and David last year. Go through this map, corner by corner, and write down what the car is doing at each of these points of the turn and we’ll go from there.” This is one of the more productive events of my racing career and I haven’t looked back since…
It is appropriate that I am picking October to talk about ride heights. I just finished a street race in Lancaster, CA and will race the SuperNats is a parking lot next month and parking lot tracks are the only place I seem to really mess with ride heights. The initial premise is fairly simple, raise the chassis (ride height) to gain grip and lower it reduce grip. How you use it gets a little more interesting…
The Set-up Sheet or Track Sheet. However you want to refer to it, in my opinion, this is the key to being consistently quick everywhere you go. There are a number of reasons I say this. The first would be that you don’t see any professional racing teams that don’t use set-up sheets. Now your response could be that a race car is a lot more complicated than a kart but trust me, there is plenty of stuff to keep track of on a kart.
The second reason I am a strong advocate for set-up sheets is they help you remember what changes you made which comes in handy both when the kart is fast or slow. To provide a more pertinent example, I was talking with Rhod Beachner, owner of 2 Wild Karting, whose son Ryan won the S2 ProKart Santa Maria race. He was joking with me saying, “you want to know what we changed on that car…, nothing.” More to my point he then strongly suggested to Ryan that they better be taking notes somewhere so they can remember that set-up for next year.
Having said that, the Set-Up sheet is only as useful as the notes you put on it and to that point I have written a separate article on how to give consistent, accurate, and understandable feedback., even if it just for you. (Click here to read the article preview) In the meantime, I’ll walk you through what I do with my Set-up Sheets to give you a starting guideline. My goal would be that you adapt some kind of system, even if its this one, use it systematically, and notice an improvement from weekend to weekend or race to race…
In January of 1990, on 4 days notice, I signed with PTM Motorsport and flew from Phoenix to Zandvoort, Holland for my first test in an Opel Lotus car (150hp, 990lbs, wings and slicks, 0-60 in 4.2). Up until this point my racing experience included Off-Road, two summers of KT100 kart racing, and three driving schools including some time in a Formula Mazda.
Whenever I moved up to a new car/series, the first thing I always did was warm the tires, get on the biggest straightaway, and floor it to see what I was in for. Well, this was a big jump and I freaked the bejessus out of myself. So, I spent the next few laps carefully getting used to the speed, finding my braking and turn-in points, and then came in to take a break and digest it all.
The team owner rushed up to the car and said, “What the hell is wrong? Is the car OK? You’re going really slow, you’re in the wrong gears in all the corners….” My first thought and my reply was, “Everything is fine, I’m just learning the car and the track, I’ll be up to speed in a couple of sessions.” At that point the team owner said, “No, you need to come up to speed in 3 laps. Everyone else in this series will, and we race at a lot of places where we you won’t be able to test beforehand. 3 Laps!”
….3 Laps? Are you kidding me? Is that even possible? Not only is it possible it is actually extremely beneficial. The quicker you come up to speed and learn the track, the quicker you can start working on your set-up and look for the subtle nuances in the track that will gain you time. The guys that learn the track the fastest will get a head start on setting up their kart which will be a distinct advantage as the weekend goes on since you can’t afford to be off or “miss” a session these days.
So, how do you learn a track in three laps? Let’s break it down…
First of all, hopefully you’ve either read or heard of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, a story of a driver told through the eyes of his dog, hence my title. Great read but will not make you quicker in the rain. The following will however.
I know that the sight of rain clouds on the horizon of a kart track strikes fear in many a competitor. You can see it in their face and can see it in the poor turnouts on rainy race weekends. It shouldn’t. Rain shouldn’t be viewed as a threat, it should be viewed as an opportunity. Rain is the great equalizer, the leveler of the playing field. Who builds your motor etc. all goes out the window in the wet. Being successful in the rain can be broken down into 5 simple components: 1) a good rain set-up (which I outline in the free trial of FIRESTONEKARTINFO, click here to receive yours), and 2) four basic on the track tasks I outline in this month’s FKI…
There are a few specialty tools in karting that are a must-have. They make your karting life so much easier you wonder why it took you so long to buy it in the first place. This month’s Kart Tool of the Month – the Bux Circlip Tool – ranks highly if not first on this list. The Bux Circlip Tool takes a job that may be one of the most difficult in karting – installing circlips – and makes it so easy, safe and quick to perform it’s not even funny. As you will see in the article on rebuilding your own top end earlier this month, installing circlips is not only tricky to perform, but very difficult to describe. There is a definite technique and art to installing a circlip and it is very difficult to do so without scratching the outside surface of the piston (or the inside for that matter). Add the constant threat of the circlip springing out of the piston and flying into oblivion never to be seen again and you can see my point.
The Bux Circlip tool eliminates all of the above. After reading the directions to quickly set the tool up for your piston type*, using the tool is literally this easy: 1. Place the circlip on the end of the installer (pictured on the left above) making sure the circlip opening is in line with the groove on the installer handle, 2. Place the adapter/sleeve assembly (shown on the right in the picture above) of the installer snugly into the wrist pin bore. 3. Insert the installer into the sleeve with the groove facing up (12 o’clock position) and slide the installer through the sleeve until the installer bottoms out and snaps the clip into place as shown in this link: http://www.fastech-racing.com/bux-circlip-tool.html. That is it! It will literally take you 15 seconds a side to install your circlips with no risk of losing the clip or scratching the piston. The Bux Circlip tool has single-handedly taken one of karting’s most difficult jobs and made it one of the easiest. At $39.95, you will seriously wonder why you didn’t buy one yesterday! You can find the Bux Circlip tool at Fastech-Racing. So, go online (http://www.fastech-racing.com/piston-tools/) or call Fastech (888-333-4181) today and save yourself time and aggravation for years to come.
* Tip: Carefully remove some of your old circlips and use an old piston to set the depth of the adapter/sleeve assembly to your piston type. Then practice installing an old circlip into the old piston to make sure you have everything set properly. I found this very helpful.