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Driving, Setup, Race Craft.....

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Jim Daniels - FIG

Jim Daniels - FIG

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Was great to be at the Runoffs and seeing everyone.  


A theme seems to be emerging from talking to those outside the front 10 rows there and since we got home.... 


Missing basic training like skid pad, hand / foot work sloppy and not able to recognize, no plan or drills in place to correct anything, lack of setup "go to" procedures, lack of any way to "self coach" from video and data. Plus, missing the vocabulary to discuss their program on a basic level.


Some have become students this week, thanks, and others asked me to post some basic tips.  Nothing I can say here is not already at the SpecMiata.com Archives.  http://forum.specmia.../ultimatebb.cgi  But, I know that can be a pain to navigate so I will post a few things here, FYI.


First, off track learning and sim training is invaluable.  I have a full time gig in IMSA Prototypes as program coordinator and driver coach.  We don't set foot at the track less a fairly extensive sim training program.  To do so is just unthinkable.  With how affordable it is to have a really nice simulator at home, just no excuse either.  Then, reading and applying what you learn, again no excuse not to do.  I train the driving part with this book http://www.amazon.co... - going faster  I suggest everyone have, read and apply.  And I explain setup with this one http://www.amazon.co...ywords=milliken albeit Milliken is advanced for SM its still one of the must have books.  Talking to the paddock experts, calling the top dogs etc... is all fine and well and some good can come from it. However, none of the top guys got there from following the "leader" 100%.   Knowledge plus testing and planned driver practice is the only way.



A few tips that I use often.......


A driver has to perform a few basic tasks outside the car if he/she is also acting test driver, spotter, coach, crew chief, engineer, data analyst, shock engineer, car chief etc.....


I know, who has all this folks working for them other than Drago?  Well, every SM team out there even is its one guy wearing all "hats".  Its important that you remember that the driver pounds out laps and the folks wearing those other "hats", professionals preferably, do the other jobs.  If it is all you, you must recognize that and be objective and give each "hat" its due attention.  Otherwise, everything suffers and you end up doing lapping days that you call "racing".  


That said, I hope these "self coach" tips help.


  1. If you can't tell if the car is tight or free, its always tight and you are slow mid turn.

    Release the brakes earlier and roll turn, simply get off the binders a tad early and get use to the sensation.
    Apply the brakes later with no more pressure and release at the same point.
    Apply the brakes later, use less pressure, release early, hold on.
    A good drill for this is to do a lapping day with only 4-5th gear, even in slow turns don't downshift.  Try to roll speed knowing you are dead stick on exit. After an hour or so you will have a revaluation.
  2. I'm hitting all the marks, tracking out etc... but am still slow, must be HP.....

    Is it HP?  That is a major factor so I will spell it out for you.... 127/118 on a dynojet is a number I could run up front with.  Win at RAM, probably not, win at Laguna, they would know I was there.  But, are you 5 seconds off due to being down 5HP NO!  Here is what I do.......

    On every turn I hammer the apex with as much rolling speed my butt says the car will do then, I "self coach" on the exit by trying to see how tight and away from the track out I can get. This tells me instantly whether my butt was right or not.  I use this drill until I carry so much speed through the turn that I drop tires trying to pinch the car off.  Then, and only then, have I found the limit FOR THAT SETUP, TRACK & TIRE condition.   I then go to work finding more grip and balance in the car.  As Drago will tell you, anyone can ride around in the pace car....  In the EP car last week I bested all who was picked to win in the test running low 28s in 3 sessions, found my apex speed at every turn with this simple drill.  We use it at every track on the ALMS schedule to build confidence, keep the driver/car safe and work on setup simultaneously.   Also, rather than argue with the driver I just ask him to do this drill for me.  He gets faster less any of us pointing out what the car can do versus what he/she is doing.  It works!
  3. The car snaps free but my front tires are gaining more psi than the rear.....

    This is all hand/foot training or lack of.  The car is tight, tire PSI does not lie.  The snap free is a simple coordination issue.  We use a term on our team, "hands not feet" for stated free conditions when all data suggest the free condition is driver induced and not setup.  

    Scenario:  The car gets loose at the apex of T1 RAM when touching the curb.  Driver 1 makes a preemptive wheel correction of 2 degrees deviation from the course anticipating the jacking effect and free condition but does not lift and still gains MPH apex to track out. Driver 2 reacts to the free condition with a lift first then 6 degrees of wheel correction that corresponds to the loading of the left front generated by the ill-timed lift.  Driver 2 looses momentum apex to track out and often spins after a traditional "tank slapper" event.     

    The drill we use to correct this is sim only due to the risks.  I use the Legends cars in iRacing with a ton of rake.  We do hundreds of laps on a circle track, left and right, with a very free car.  We  do these drills with two hands, left hand only and right hand only.  When all said and done, the driver's car control and timing is greatly enhanced.  

Who is this guy... (a valid question asked of a Mazda rep at the banquet in RAM).  I co-founded SM (Shannon did one region, David did one region, I did NASA and the other 110 SCCA regions), I founded the MX5 Cup (www.mx5cup.com) after owing the series pre-SCCA and I founded this web site.  I wrote the rules to make SM a class with McMasters and Sanders and am the guy who can't hold a position in SCCA because I insisted SM be a national class.  You know that outcome.  Along the way I won three ARRC SM events (not a shabby driver list if you care to peak), taught a few notables how its done, won the MX5 Cup and this year returned to driving after two open heart surgeries in 2012.  I did not finish well but "they know I was there" in EP.  


Also, I'm a supporter of this site in a behind the scene way plus my coaching biz www.WebLaps.com sponsors the B-Spec forum.


I've helped many of you via my one lap video and data overview coaching, thanks for the support gang!!


I will be at all of the 2014 IMSA - USCR events with Performance Tech Motorsports, look me up if you are in the area....


Also, check me out on the show, www.TheRacingInsiders.com on MavTV.


If you have questions, email or call me as I'm hardly here at the site.  jim@jimdaniels. (com)  901-351-8494 













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"Never Stop Challenging"

Jim Daniels

Auto Sports Consulting / Coaching

My cup runneth over - Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Champ Beta-Tester - Assisted us with beta testing the website. Sponsor / Advertiser - Site sponsor / advertiser... support these guys! Make it Rain - Made Paypal donation of $100+ We have a Winnah! - Won their 1st race... Congratulations! ARRC Champion - Won the ARRC Race in a Spec Miata Series Champ - Won a points based series in a Spec Miata Bona fide - A bonafide Spec Miata driver Instigator - Made a topic or post that inspired other BFG Supertour Winner - Majors Winner - World Challenge Participant in a Mazda  - World Challenge Participant in a Mazda Survive the 25, NASA Thunderhill - Survive the 25, NASA Thunderhill June Sprints winner  - June Sprints winner Grand-Am Competitor - Grand-Am Competitor in a Mazda  (can be GT, and ST)

Michael Colangelo

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Good info, Jim. Thanks.

What can you tell us about your iRacing setup? I tried iRacing 4 years ago and it seemed like the cars were on ice. Others I know had the same experience. Obviously, you're having better luck with it.




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First time that I've seen this post. Really great advice. I'll have to try the 4th gear trick...need to get faster around big bend at Lime Rock.

Dave Gran
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Jim did you mean to link the workbook by Millikan? http://www.amazon.co...ywords=milliken

I bought that one and realized it said it was the companion to race car vehicle dynamics. Which I found here: http://books.sae.org/r-146/

Does the workbook have the same info in it if I'm interested in learning more about suspension setup?

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