Sunday, 29 June 2014

Testing for Summit Point and a hardware fix

After the debacle at Mid Ohio I return to the Skip Barber series for what will be my eighth and last week of the season. I was not looking forward to this week at all after how badly I felt I drove at Mid Ohio.

Then a few laps into testing I realised I had a massive issue with the brake "spiking". I have noticed the brake dragging on corner exit recently and put that down to me leaning on the pedal too much. An issue I planned to correct by adding a dead zone to the brake pedal. But even without any sort of pressure at all I was still getting spiking.

When I added the deadzone through the Bodnar calibration software it made a huge difference. The demo lap below does still have a stiny bit of spiking as I was still experimenting with the values, but it's something I know I can remove now. It's just a question of finding the ideal value.

The lap below is full of errors, with plenty of room for improvement. In particular turn three requires more work to find up to half a second. It's a really difficult corner to get right consistently. It's very easy to pick up an off track in the gravel on exit. The last turn also could be driven much better.

But not a bad start to the week at all.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Time for an intermission; time for Falcon 4 BMS

Not really feeling it at Mid Ohio. I put in a Tuesday race, but in all honesty my heart just wasn't in it at all. I was putting in dreadful times right from Sunday testing into the race itself - the second of two splits. As the highest rated driver I even lost iRating finishing fifth.

I'm taking a break until Summit Point. And even then I'm just looking to complete my eight week season.

In the meantime I'm attempting to make the kind of progress with Falcon 4 BMS that I wasn't able to before. I'm starting literally at the beginning with the ramp start procedure. Once I'm competent and confident with that I'll then move onto the taxiing, takeoff, and landing. And from there navigation.

That alone will keep me busy for some time.

For some technical reason frame rates are pretty terrible, so I'm not sure how well it will, or won't, work with Fraps. I'd like to chronicle my progress a bit, but having said that there are plenty of Falcon 4 videos on Youtube. I'll have to find a different angle to approach it from.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Farewell Zandvoort, and on to Mid Ohio

I would have posted video of a 1.10.7 from Zandvoort Club. I would have, but somehow iRacing "lost" the lap.

I know for sure I drove it, it's down as my overall best time, but it just didn't appear in the session, or under my lap times for the session, and the lap wasn't exported.

It's a little frustrating, but it's not the end of the world, although for one reason or another I couldn't replicate the time before the end of the week.

I just wish this layout would be used again next season. The GP layout is just too long for it. But there's so much clamour for the longer layouts. What people actually mean is they like the long layouts, not necessarily the Skip Barber on the longer layouts. VIR is another example. We've driven the full, excruciating, layout in the Skippy a lot more frequently than the short layouts, which are much more fun.

We now move on to Mid Ohio.

For some reason I feel a bit flat there. I was done after an hours practise - still about a second short of my target time. Perhaps I'll feel more motivated tomorrow.

I did have to turn the force feedback down from 24 to 18. Turning in at turn one it has always felt like there's a "ridge" I have to jerk the wheel over. Which makes the corner much more treacherous. I have no idea what that is, but it does seem to occur with a late braking point. Reducing the force feedback and pulling my braking point back slightly seems to fix it.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Better late than never at Zandvoort

For such a short layout Zandvoort Club is posing some difficult questions for me this week.

I would have liked to have put a lap up on Youtube by now, but I'm stuck on 1.11.0 times. I seem to be expert at repeating that time with low fuel, shaving off a hundredth or two here and there.

But I think I have the approach to two particular sections more or less worked out. If I'm correct I might find as much as half a second there. Of course that's dependant on my mastering that within an hour of practise time. But right at the end, with a full tank of race fuel I did find just over a tenth on the second section.

I might just run out of time this week before I can make real inroads into this track.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A bit more speed next season, but a bit more stability

That Ruf C-Spec just doesn't feel right.

I know that there's at least one Porsche driver that says its accurate, but even with a tight setup it is just such a handful mid corner. Even on corner exit. It just feels "out of balance" all the way through the corner.

And what a complete failure my setup work turned out to be. It wasn't until I compared the setups I'd created to a few taken from the iRacing forum that I realised just how little I understand how to set up. Or perhaps I just don't have a grasp of the peculiarities of iRacing setup.

I have the sense that much like their cars that don't quite drive right you need to "game" iRacing setups.

And I have also come to the conclusion that I need to follow the cars that iRacing has right, rather than choosing a car based on what interests me from the outside. The Skip Barber is almost the car it should be. It's certainly not the beast that it was with the "old tyre model", and early iterations of the "new tyre model". The C-Spec is, in my opinion, a work in progress. I just don't enjoy driving it.

The SR8 Radical, on the other hand, has always been a joy. I always thought of it as a Skip Barber with a higher top speed. That's painting a pretty broad canvas, of course, but it's so much fun. What put me off driving it before was low participation. But even if I don't actually race it next season I've decided that will be the second series I participate in. I need more experience with faster cars.

The rest of C class isn't appealing. The Star Mazda seems messed up, with drivers reportedly drifting around corners. Much fun for those so inclined, I suppose, but not much sense for a simulation. The Lotus 49 is a white knuckle ride. That really only leaves the Radical, after discounting the C-Spec.

But that's how you choose a car in iRacing: based on what the staff haven't messed up.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

It's all about using the whole width of the track

Why couldn't I exit turn four at Brands Hatch at 82 miles per hour anymore?

That was the question that really perplexed me. I seemed to be driving the corner as well as I'd done before, but I was struggling just to reach 79 miles per hour after the first day of practise.

The answer is quite simple, and the reason I didn't understand it earlier was simply because I was pushing to faster times rather than analysing why I was slow in the first place.

I had a similar, but less extreme issue with turn one. Then when I looked at an external view I discovered I was about half a car width off the track edge at corner entry. But I was still focussed on pushing that I just put it down to how you have to deal with how corner entry bends there. I didn't think enough about why I was struggling to be hard on the gas at the apex.

It's the same problem at turn four. I'm not using enough of the track width on corner entry, which compromises the apex.

Even then I could drive a fast lap time for the week. But that extra foot or so of extra track width use is what pushed me into the "really fast" bracket. And that's what I need to really reinforce with my driving. It has to be an integral part of driving the line - using the whole width of the track until it's second nature even in the more difficult corner entries.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Skip Barber at Brands Hatch and the benefit of smooth driving

I have found it next to impossible to replicate the 1.40.7 at the weekend. The lap is quite smooth - with the exception of a moment exiting turn three - and what's pleasing is that I'm using all of the track, apart from some corner exits where I could have gained significant time with a little more ambition.

But Brands Hatch and the Skip Barber might have to wait for another time. This week has become more than a little frustrating, and I feel the more I drive the more distant I become from what I want to achieve. The time is immaterial compared to the technique I'm looking for.

I'm left wondering whether the experience with the Ruf C-Spec last week encouraged the smoothness I went into Sundays Skip Barber testing with. I've definitely become much more sketchy since then with it.

Rather than struggle through the rest of the week I will return to Okayama and put three test sessions into the C-Spec, most probably working on setup from the ground up with a proper schedule of setup changes.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Taking a step back before hopefully taking two forward

Now this one has me completely at a loss. Or at least I think I know what the issue is.

The 1.40.7 I did at Brands Hatch on Sunday now seems a world away. At the time I thought a 1.40.5 was well within my reach, but in the two days since then I've spent much, more more time in the mid 1.43's.

The exit from turn four down the long straight to turn five eats up almost a second on average. At the point iSpeed announces my previous best exit speed of 82mph I'm struggling to hit 79. But I think it's more than just that rather tricky corner.

I think I'm making a mess of turn three and thereby losing time entering the sector that includes turn four.

I know what I need to do for both, but I seem to have wandered from the whole idea of the line, brake and turn in points. I really have to just take it back to basics and concentrate on getting my line right, then feeding in more speed.

That said, I did my first race of the week, and though my times were appalling I did get a sixth place finish in a fairly high strength of field race, squeezing in a modest increase in iRating, and a good improvement in Safety Rating.

The championship points total of 57 is short of the 75 I look for, though, but if I'm to improve on that I need a good solid day of progress tomorrow before the next race on Thursday.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The first test of a new approach at Brands Hatch in the Skip Barber

At the end of last season I put in a week of testing at Brands Hatch in the Skip Barber.

I'd come to realise that at the start of weeks I'd put in a fast time, then as the week went on I became progressively slower. I was pushing too hard. And a big part of that was a lack of structure to what I was doing.

About eighteen months previously I'd put in two weeks at Laguna Seca, and concentrated on markers; brake, turn in, apex and corner exit. I'd finally come to realise just how important it is to really understand a track, not just jump in and drive it. That's where consistency comes from, hitting the same points over and over.

I didn't improve on my personal best at Brands Hatch by all that much, two tenths if I remember correctly, but I had a much better understanding of the track, and through a really considered and thoughtful approach I understood what I needed to do to improve my lap times.

Another realisation that I've come to, is that most of the time, when I have the line and markers worked out, I should just turn off the sector times, forget about the deltas, and just drive, with the aim of being consistent, without the constant pressure and concentration on whether I'm picking up or losing time.

Here is the best lap from that week long session. There's about two tenths at least to be gained in hitting Stirlings - the second last corner leading onto the straight - better. I dont use the rumble strip on exit, which is down to a lack of confidence, having spent much of the week trying to hit that corner right.

Next week the Skip Barber series returns to Brands Hatch. It will be the first time I've been able to look at the reference laps I produce at the end of a race week, so that will be a test of the theory that I can save myself a lot of time re-learning the same lessons with a fifteen minute "track walk".

Two days of testing, a little practise on Tuesday, then into the first race of the week.

There are more questions than answers at Okayama in the Ruf C-Spec

I don't know whether I set the weather incorrectly for yesterdays C-Spec testing, or I just forgot how to drive it overnight, but I was almost two seconds down on a 1.32 time yesterday.

Quite a bit of that time was spent on the tyres. That has always been a particular issue with iRacing setups. I spent a long time adjusting temperatures a couple of years ago, only to discover that garage temperatures had no correlation to pressures, after following the iRacing setup guide which with hindsight is just plain misleading in talking about real world setup relating to the sim.

I was under the impression things had changed considerably, but even disregarding temperatures and going on wear, the outer part of the tyres always heat up and wear less than the middle and inners - and by some considerable margin. From the top to the bottom of the camber range there is a difference in temperatures, but there's still nowhere near an even span, and wear seemed hardly affected at all.

Perhaps I'm just not fast enough to detect the subtleties, but quite often settings just don't seem to matter at all. For example the anti-roll bars don't seem to make a difference at all. If they are I just don't feel it. The springs likewise.

It might just be that I should make adjustments in a different order during initial setup. This time I went with dampers, then springs, and then ARB. Perhaps I should go with tyre pressures, camber, ride height, brake bias, caster, toe, anti-roll bars, wing, adjust ride height again, springs, and finally dampers.

But that will have to wait for another drop week in the Skip Barber series, and week nine, Okayama in the C-Spec is coming up at the end of the month, so I may just have to go with what I have there.