When I talk about my track day experiences there seems to be a general consensus of me being an adrenaline junkie. I don’t see it that way. Have a done some crazy things? To others I suppose the answer is a firm, “Yes.” And from the outside looking in it probably does look like I’m hanging my ass way out there for nothing other than the rush it gives me.
Flip the view and I’m going to tell you the only time I feel any zip of adrenaline entering my system is when I’ve pushed things just past the point of control and the laws of physics give me a nudge to back off.
What I’m really getting off on is that control, the point where your acquired skills, the machine you’re on or in, your interface with it and how it all works within the laws of physics… Well that’s where the real magic happens.
It’s how you can have a moment of total Zen like peace up on the pegs of your motorcycle on the Translab going 110kmh and everything underneath you feels like a crash is about to happen but your heartbeat is steady and it feels like you’re flying instead.
First you trust in yourself, then you trust in the machine and finally you trust what you know to see you through. It doesn’t happen overnight and to be fair you may trust yourself in some situations and not in others. I know what to do off road but I’m lost on a track on a motorcycle and weirdly enough, I’ve never even been curious to give it a try even though I’ve had ample opportunity and I’m a huge fan of WSBK and MotoGP.
Taking my car to the track however? Yes please!
I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of my first real track day. Now that day was full of adrenaline because I simply new nothing and what I thought I knew was wrong. I had to learn to think in a completely different way. When to brake, how hard to brake and when not to brake at all and of course the same for acceleration. Your throttle is not an on / off switch. How to settle your car and how badly wrong it can all go when you unsettle your car. Most important of all, being smooth is faster than going as fast as your car will take you.
This was a counterintuitive lesson to learn but I can back it up with data. Now I’m not saying that increasing my horsepower wouldn’t allow me to shave time off of my lap times as I rocket up the back straight. They totally would But they’d be easy seconds. The only real benefit would be I could take on some of the more powerful cars in that section (I’ll get to more on that in a minute) but the simple fact is at the beginning of the year I hit a top speed of 205kmh on the back straight at Mosport. I think my lap time was a 01:48.89 which I thought was a pretty good lap time for my car. This last Monday I did a 1:44.67 and my top speed for the day was 197kmh and interestingly my top speed for that lap was 195kmh. Obviously, the back straight was not where I was making hay. I was quicker around the rest of the course. My skill set had grown and with that my trust of what I could do with my car (well that and new rubber).
Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma. I can for a reasonable investment put a chip in my car that will increase its horsepower from 240bhp to 300bhp but the bottom line is, I can still only enter a corner so fast and I can still only go so fast in the confines of the corners based on track geometry. Now that bit between the corners? Yeah, I can give it a lot more welly there. The cost of course will be to my brakes and rotors. It does however make me think that perhaps I should start with stickier tires and better suspension.
See? It’s about control not about adrenaline.