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mikeski38

NASA Rookie racers and on track behavior

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mikeski38

I have some concerns regarding a trend I have noticed in the quality of tracktime in NASA norcal race groups. This is my 5th season in Honda Challenge, which runs in race group A in Norcal. Since starting in 2003, I have noticed that we have more cars, and more body damage every year, most out of class contact, and the majority with drivers with provisional licenses. I do not think that the group is out of control, it is the trend that alarms me.

 

The new racers coming into group A are fast drivers, a credit to the norcal HPDE ladder, but that is also the problem. These guys have been racing open track for so long, they have become very good at driving their cars at near 100%, but in the excitement of a wheel to wheel race, mistakes are made, and most have no idea what to do when they are no longer 100% in control of their car. A good example being an accident this last weekend at infineon where a capable rookie driver attempted a very low percentage pass on a much faster car that got stuck in traffic. The overtaking rookie driver cooked the turn 11 brake zone and locked his brakes. Panicing, he steered his car into another car in an attempt to avoid the tire wall. The resulting impact totaled the other car and could have been potentially dangerous without the proper equipment. (thanks NASA for requiring center nets)

 

Upon discussion after the event, the at fault driver explained that he had no idea what happened, "maybe my throttle stuck" was his explanation. Evaluation by a more seasoned driver who saw the wreck explained that he simply locked his brakes. I would wager that this was the first time this driver had ever locked his brakes so severely.

 

I was involved in a similar but much smaller rear end incident with a rookie driver in qualifying. The rookie driver was paying more attention to his brake markers and didn't see the 4 wide episode unfolding in front of us, I braked 1/2 a car early and got popped significantly which could have become a major wreck if I had lost control of my car after the impact.

 

Point being that norcal's HPDE is turning out fast drivers, but not fast racers. Instructors, please further impress upon new racers that they still have a lot to learn. Take advantage of the 4 race provisional period to sit back and watch the racing. Ease into the action, just because you are fast enough to compete, doesn't mean that you are ready to compete. An aspiring racer spends on average 2 years in HPDE, 2 more weekend can't hurt that bad.

 

Additionally, I believe that the penalties for having an incident as a rookie should be more severe. I've seen NASA suspend drivers for improper conduct around the safety crew, why not suspend a rookie for bad conduct around other racers?

 

This post was intended with respect for NASA, its HPDE instructors, officials, racers, and rookies. Please discuss.

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PaulSTI

This is my first post on the forums, so I apologize in advance if I get a little off track.

 

Last weekend was my first NASA event ever, and I had a great time in HPDE-1. I thought the safety protocols in HPDE were excellent and I really felt that the officials had our safety first in their mind. Which made it all the more concerning about the event that happened in the 3rd session of HPDE-1 on Saturday. The black Camaro that threaded the needle and spun out while nearly hitting several cars was clearly out of line and the officials pulled him aside, I'm not sure if they sent him home or not. I hope so, but I didn't bring it up to rant about it.

 

I bring it up as an addendum to Mikeski's point insofar as I wonder what we can do to not let it happen again. I'm sure the driver of the Camaro learned his lesson, but what about the next guy that is at his first HPDE and pulls a stupid stunt? What can we do to protect against him? What can we do to protect against Mikeski's rookie racer?

 

I don't have the answers, but I know that I want to continue to attend NASA events and have fun in a safe enviornment, so I'd like to be a part of the solution.

 

Paul

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andy38

I had the same thing asked of me last year where a rookie in my class commented on how HPDE 4 and Racing were so different. In his race, he took off on cold tires too fast, wiped out and got sent back to HPDE.

 

One suggestion I had was doing some indoor karting - there's all the same elements of racing there, without the danger of incidental contact. I've been working on a NASA Racer discount program with LeMans Karting in Fremont - feel free to PM or email if this is of interest. If I can get a number of drivers that would like to take advantage, we can get a good percentage off racing there.

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IGZOSTD

I have to agree with Mike Lock , although I compete in time trials and not wheel to wheel racing , we have had this problem last year and at the first event at Sear's in tt. It seems some drivers just don't look far enough ahead or drive with their head up their rear . Last season a fast driver flipped , went into probation and came back to the first event and smashed up his car again. Anything can happen ontrack and when it does its at race speed. NASA's training is a good program so thats not the issue. Maybe some other form of restriction or schooling for these drivers , how about a fine that pays for some personal training through the HPDE program during the probation period.

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Goldfish

How about a mandatory driver meeting for all particpants on provisional license status? Structure it similar to Group 4, but reinforce caution, consequences, learning in the racing environment. Would require a provisional license group leader. We might need more consequences for provisional race contact, maybe longer stay in G4.

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mikeski38
How about a mandatory driver meeting for all particpants on provisional license status? Structure it similar to Group 4, but reinforce caution, consequences, learning in the racing environment. Would require a provisional license group leader. We might need more consequences for provisional race contact, maybe longer stay in G4.

 

I like that idea. I'd volunteer.

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nasajerry

Mike,

 

I tentatively accept your roll as a volunteer to work with the rookies. Let's talk. Call me next week and let's get the ball rolling.

 

Now this is what i call extremely constructive communication. Imagine that... on the forums!

 

Jerry Kunzman

510-232-6272

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slammed_93_hatch

I have waited to comment to see what came of it, and i like it.

 

 

I was once one of those rookies that mike is now talking about, the ones driving "over their head" so to speak. In my first race ever on the 5th corner i had contact (with a car in my class). Now my contact was minor, but still contact non the less. I had gone through that corner 2 wide before and 3 wide shouldn't have been an issue, (turn 5 sears point). But it was because i didn't know how my car re-acted on cold tires.

 

I got sent back to HPDE and had a 2 race suspension. Since i tested on Saturday and that is when the contact occurred, i couldn't test until the fallowing race weekend on Sunday. I didn't take this very lightly, was pretty upset about it.

 

My testing instructor, Donnie Edwards, made it very clear that i just need to go out and get around the track. So did my group leader, Mike Quan, and my fellow racers. Also the Race Director, Will Fauls (sp), had a one on one conversation about how to just get past these races and not to get mixed up in anything. For whatever retarded reason everything these guys said was absent in my brain.

 

I re-tested and raced the rest of my rookie races clean.

 

Maybe some more mentoring, or something will help. I honestly don't know what else any one could have done to get it into my head. EVERY ONE was telling me to take it easy, the guys telling me are some of the people i look up to most in racing, and for whatever reason i STILL didn't listen.

 

I wish i could help give some incite, as i was one of the guys Mike is talking about, but i don't. I do think that taking more steps is a great thing though!

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Motormuncher

Mike,

I agree with you regarding the situation at the last event. Will had some stern comments to the rookies and after the drivers meeting I personaly had a lengthy conversation with all the rookies in spece30 about conduct. I think the best way is to up the ante on the penalties for rookie misconduct.

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Dave Bongiovanni

Is the old 'mentor' program we had in Norcal still active?

 

Let's face it...even the best drive like crap when newbies and the smart, experienced driver can watch the show from a safe distance and should be able to deal. If you are side by side with someone and you are not sure whether or no they will take you out, then maybe just back off and wait till you can make a pass stick, or let the other driver go. Part of being an experienced driver is knowing the guy next to you and how to deal with him.

 

These incidents illustrate a problem that can be improved by everyone doing a little. When you see someone driving like an idiot, educate them and offer some incentive to learn. Not crashing myself out was my motivation...in fact someone gave me an old handycam and encouraged me to film my driving...no doubt to protect their own shiny paint.

 

I always felt like I had a track full of mentors when I started...and I didn't always go seeking advice. Sometimes it came to me with without asking, usually shortly after I did something stupid.

 

One more note. Our perception of what is happening on track changes as our driving careers progress. At first we just try not to drive in the dirt. Then we progress to almost keeping up and wondering how they do it... Then we start running with or leading the pack, and really scruitinizing the drivers around us. Did everyone else just start to suck, or are we all getting that much better every year?

 

its not what NASA can do for you...

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