Penny-pinching car geek's guide to racing, track days, and car build. DIY projects, product reviews, and interviews.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Track Day Report - 12/03/11 - Calspeed Karting

I have a plathora of hobbies.  I'm not always into all of them, but I take all of them seriously.  My two other big hobbies are martial arts and practical shooting competitions.  They all have something in common with driving.  I think you'll all know what I'm talking about.  I love the focus.  I love the never-ending search for perfection.  And I sure as hell know that before you reach this type of zen-feeling, you need to be proficient in the basics of the craft.  This past event, I felt that.  Not the actual, euphoric feeling of enlightenment, but the feeling that I'm beginning on my way to that feeling.

After some problems with my storage unit, I finally got in and hauled my kart out to the track.  Calspeed again.  I am growing to love that track.

Because I have no idea what I am doing, I did not get the damage from my last event fixed.  So the first hour or so, Stu fixed my kart.  Oh boy I'm glad here is there to help.  I probably would have given up on karting altogether by now if it were not for him.  Furthermore, knowing that I'll be out at the track again no matter what I do, except of course, completely destroy my kart, is priceless.

Boy was it windy.  And cold.  I did 4 sessions that day.  Tom, a cool guy that drives with us, took my kart out to see how it does.  He said it handled well; so no excuses for me!

For the first few sessions I was still spooked from the last crash.  I tried my best to not look at the walls.  Last thing I need is destroying my kart again.  Stu commented: you're still spinning?  Yes, I did spin a couple of times.  That prompted me to clean up my driving.  I did the same thing I did to improve my autocross times; slow down. 

"X" does not mark the target for you to aim at,
but to avoid and look out for unpredictable behavior!
One of the things that kept me from driving faster was dealing with other karts.  My friend Chris who has written on this blog tells me that is 80% of the fun.  Not for me, at least not yet.  When I hear a kart behind me or see it in my prehiperal vision, I lose concentration.  Worse, when a kart actually passes me, I tend to focus on it, remembering details like "oh thats a TAG."  "oh, that is a shifter."

One of the sessions, a shifter guy spun out on his warm-up lap.  I think I could have totally avoided it, but being the newbie I am, I spun behind him.  After I pulled my kart behind the tire wall and helped him pull his, he said "Sorry about that."  After a few seconds, he added "Can you give me a push?"  I did, and there I stood until I could be picked up by the track staff.

Anyways, I finally got to go on the novice session.  Less karts.  I caught up to a lot more people, even some guys in a TAG.  I was finally able to focus on my driving.  I worked on looking ahead, and tried to adjust braking, turn-in, and acelleration points on one or two corners at a time.  It felt great.  I started to get that feeling of being in the groove.  I did not start losing concentration at the straights, and when I did encounter other karts, I found myself able to focus much better.  In particular, I worked on the entry to turns 1-2, which are two minor left handers leading up to the 'Kornakuva' turn.  (who names these turns?)  I worked it up to the point where my foot is still on the gas until the entry to turn 3.  Stu and a bunch of friends I drive with said I looked much better.  Its good to end the track day on a good note.

The biggest lesson I got was to not fixate and look ahead, no matter what.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gear Review - Aisics Matflex Wrestling Shoes

I used to wear converses when I drove the old Miata.  With my kart, I was going to stick to these cheap wal-mart shoes I bought which had a fairly thin sole.  When I crashed last week, I thought about that choice again and bought these shoes, which I believe are a bit safer.

I wanted something with a bit more ankle support and maintained great feedback.  Dedicated karting shoes may have been the best choice, but my past experiences with racing dedicated shoes have not been that great.  They'd fall apart after some hard use (for instance, running around the paddock).  Maybe it is because racing apparel manufacturers don't have much expertise in making shoes.  Who knows.

I read online that wrestling shoes lasts longer and has great feedback.  So off to the store I went.  My shoes cost me about 50 dollars.

Three things: the shoe is very well ventilation.  My last event was very windy and cold.  My feet got somewhat cold, but that didn't seem to affect my driving that much.  Secondly, some parts of the shoe seem to be able to give me some abrasion protection, but the vent mesh probably won't hold up that well if I slide a lot on the wrong side of my feet.  However, if I do end up somehow sliding on my feet, it will probably be on the beefier parts of the shoe.  Lastly, the ankle support is only so-so.  Much better than the shoes I was using before, but it is only a mid-top.

One more thing.  The sole of my shoe has these bumps, which I thought was for gripping the wrestling mat.  It bothered me a bit at first, but I got used to it.  I had no problems walking and running around the asphalt.  I wore them all day, including the drive to and from the track.

The build quality is great.  Aisics probably knows how to make shoes better than most racing equipment manufacturers do.  And it shows.  I believe it when they say these will last longer.

It also has these flaps that secure by velcro that help you sort out the laces.  This is helpful as it keeps the laces out of the way so they don't get caught on your pedals.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.  If you want to save some money at the expense of a little bit of abrasion resistance, get a pair of these shoes.

Track Day Report - 11/25/2011 - Calspeed Karting

This is what I get for posting late.  I don't remember that much about this day, and I've already gone to another practice session since then.  I'll have to post back-to-back reports now.

That day, we went to the Auto Club Speedway's karting circuit.  A course layout is here.  This was more of a horsepower track, and it was important to know which part of the track was grippy and which was not.  Track times changed a lot depending on the air and surface conditions.

I spent this day getting comfortable with driving the kart, and getting over the fear, much like the day before.  More importantly, spent this time trying to at least vaguely understand where the limits of the kart is.  Looking back, every minute of seat time was very valuable because I needed every bit of it to help me get more comfortable with the kart.

The memorable part of the day was when I crashed, crashed decently hard by karting standards.  It happened on the exit of turn 9, the "silk."  This corner has a lot of runoff space, and it can actually be taken at full throttle in my kart.  Well, I tried that, and thought I had nailed it.  I expected to use every inch of available space.  I noticed I might have misjudged it, and right when I glanced at the wall, my front left wheel just barely touched it.  The kart bounced off and it spun me so that I was pointing to the left, which changed the direction of my momentum.  I plowed into the tire wall hard.  My upper crotch went right into the steering wheel.

The damage?  Front left spindle bent (again), bearings inside front left spindle broken, left side tie rod broken, rod end broken, steering shaft bent.  We also discovered that the rear axle was bent at the next event.  I have no idea how the axle damage happened.

Lesson learned: never never never look at anywhere but where you want to be.