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First Season - Reflections


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#1
Tom Hampton

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Well, we wrapped up the NASA Texas season this weekend at TWS.  I've only been to TWS three times, but man I love that track!  It will be a sad day when it finally (really, truly, no shit) closes for good.  Its the only track in the region where we use 5th gear. I learned what its like to drive on a track that LOVES stickers while on totally old, dead, tires----slick and messy.  I spent more time on Friday counter-steering than actually steering INTO the turn.  Chris followed me around once, pushing me and describe his view of my car as "un-driveable".    It wasn't fast, obviously, but it was educational.  I learned what it means to have fast hands---catching a loose Miata at 110 mph is a different beast than at 60mph.  I got backwards once, and caught it two other times in big-time sideways drifts. Yeehaw!  Then on Saturday I set a new PR by 2 seconds, and then beat that by another 10th in Qual on Sunday.  The time wasn't "that" fast, but the only way to get "fast" is by getting fast-er. 

 

This was my first race season.  As many know I got my license in January at MSR-Houston, and I raced every NASA Texas weekend all year.  I have no prior racing experience: I didn't race carts or bikes as a kid.  So, other than a few years of DE, I was a pretty novice driver (still am, of course).  I generally finish about 2/3rds down the sheet.  I managed to win $50 toyo bucks at my "home" track, finishing dead middle of the pack.  I entered the weekend 11th in points, mostly due to consistent participation.  Nevertheless, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat proud of being 11th on the sheet---with a chance for 10th based on the weekend results. 

 

Man what an awesome time it was.  Every track except MSR-Cresson was new, and every race weekend something was totally new to me (sticker tires, totally old-dead tires, new tracks, new configurations, rain and all other conditions besides dry, from full to zero track-side support, etc).  I learned so much every session, every weekend...its hard to process it all.  It will take a while to put every little lesson away.  

 

With the exception of the engine, I built the entire car myself.  I was also proud of the fact that my homebuilt car passed annual tech on its first pass with no issues to fix.  I also didn't have any mechanical failures all year, until I lost a hub yesterday on about lap 5.  At the time I tought it was my belly pan flapping in the wind.  I finished the race and discovered the failed hub in the paddock.  The hub was the original donor hub, and has been driven in DEs since 2010, and lasted this full season.

 

So, now its on to planning for season 2.  I need to set some goals, and figure out how to achieve them.  I'm not giving up on the NA6.  I couldn't afford it anyway, but I love driving the car.  I'd like to finish in the top half next year (generally 15th or better in our normal fields).  But, both the car and the driver need better prep to move up.   I'm not moving to a new platform until someone tells me that I'm a better driver than the car.  Nevertheless, there are some simple things to do to the car that I will take care of over the winter.  There's no reason to leave performance on the table, just because the driver isn't maxed out either. 

 

My wife will never see this (unless I cross-post to facebook), but I couldn't have done this without her support and presence.  She makes sure I get all my safety gear on every session, and helps with the pre/post session mechanical checkouts.  She makes all the meals, and she tries to feed the Xfactor boys when they look hungry.  its impossible to overstate the value of having your spouse be a participant, support your race efforts.  She's the first and last to cheer every session, every day, every weekend. 

 

Also, thanks to Chris Haldeman, X-Factor racing, and Cricket and Squirrel for all the support on and off the track, before, during, and after every race.  In my opinion there's no one better than the X-factor gang.  After a big off on Friday, Squirrel worked well into the dark to replace the LR-LCA long-bolt and fix the setup on my car Friday night.  It isn't the same experience without them there.  I'm fortunate to live 1.5 miles from the X-Factor shop and I drive past it on my commute to/from work.  I generally stop by on Friday's because I get off work a little early.  Can't beat a little dyno tuning on a Friday after work---even if its a go-cart, sprint-car, or drift car.  There's always something crazy on the X-Factor dyno---rarely is it a Miata. 


  • Jason J Ball, MPR22, Jim Drago and 3 others like this

-tch
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#2
Steve Scheifler

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Great story Tom! I wish more DE drivers would try a similar path.

I didn't see any mention of a data system. If you don't have one yet it is probably the best upgrade you can do for next year, doubly so if there is someone faster willing to share data with you or even someone equal but with different strengths.
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#3
Tom Hampton

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Steve-

 

Yes, I do have a data system.  It is a Racepak G2X that I bought used from Cy Peak several years ago.  I don't have steering/throttle/brake hooked up, yet.  But, I do have brake switch and WOT inputs.  One of the upgrades for next year is to add STB analog inputs.  I also have front/rear facing gopro's with the G2x dash in camera view which makes it easy for quick and dirty post-session review. 

 

There was a plan for Chris and I to switch cars for Sunday warmup, yesterday.  I had the data and camera ready to go....and, *I* was suited up.  :spin: 


-tch
Build: www.tomhampton.info

video: vimeo.com/tomhampton

Support: X-Factor Racing

 

I didn't lose, I just got outspent!

Beta-Tester - Assisted us with beta testing the website. Donor - Made PayPal donation Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver

#4
Tom Hampton

Tom Hampton

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I will add that while every weekend was educational, almost to the point of overload....the two most educational days from a pure car control point of view were Sunday, in the rain, at MSR Houston three weeks ago, and Friday at TWS in the completely dead tires mentioned above. Both of these situations were really sketchy, and the car was crazy loose.  Both days really quickened up my hands and taught me the right instinct for the desired steering angle, and the feel your are looking for when you correct to catch a loose condition.  For you fellow novice drivers, NEVER pass up on a rain session. 

 

 

We had several rain weekends this year, but I was more timid in the first few.  At MSR-H I just went for it, and managed to qual P11 for Sunday's race in standing puddles and actively raining conditions. 


-tch
Build: www.tomhampton.info

video: vimeo.com/tomhampton

Support: X-Factor Racing

 

I didn't lose, I just got outspent!

Beta-Tester - Assisted us with beta testing the website. Donor - Made PayPal donation Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver




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