Decisions for 2020 – Back to Basics

The plan for 2020 is to get a lot more track time. I need to work on my technique. Over the last two years with my GTB1, I have only been driving practice sessions, and races. I am looking to see if I can find the holy grail, a completely race ready car that is streetable, probably too much to ask. I want to be able to drive down to Harris Hill, COTA, Driveway, MSR Houston, or Cresson do DE’s or work with an instructor, then drop off the car to do an arrive/drive for long distance races. I want something that has a clear class definition with all of the sanctioning bodies (SCCA, NASA, WRL, AER). Additionally, I am interested in learning the racecraft associated with running in a Spec class. The GTB1 class I have been running with in PCA is a modified class, and can feel a bit like an arms race.

So far my research has led me to two possible choices, which have similar price points, and are philosophically aligned to my goals: Spec MX-5, and Spec E46. Both have reasonable price points both in terms of the up-front cost, and TCO. Both are well defined, with lots of cars on the market. So part of the decision will be build vs buy. I am leaning toward my previous approach which was to buy something proven.

Along side the desire to go Spec racing, and have a streetable track car, I am also going to pursue renting a seat in a couple different classes within the SRO, or possibly even the upcoming Creventic 24hour race here in Austin. There seem to be a number of seats available in TC, TCR, or GT4 cars. I am interested in learning how to drive a touring car, there might be a good opportunity for this, more to come on this topic at a later date.

The GT4 program that Danny, and I were planning is not going to happen, we could not close the funding gap, which was significant. Here are a few stats on what we were able to accomplish between Jun, and Oct of this year. We prospected over 125 opportunities, of that number we disqualified 35 (with the goal of: “get to no, fast”). We closed contracts with 10 partners, and have an additional 3 contracts pending, we progressed 17 deals into contract/negotiation, and built a number of very strong partnerships along the way. These partnership will bear fruit over the course of 2020.

Our goal was a 1-2% conversation rate on 1000 opportunities, at just slightly over 10% of the total opportunities prospected our conversion rate was 12.5%, not too bad. The real challenge was prioritization. I have a full-time job, a start-up, a family, racing, and my health. Adding the sponsorship/partnership activity on top of all that was very challenging from a time management perspective. I am happy with what we accomplished, and learned a lot about the business side of motorsports. I plan to continue down a more focused path for 2020.

After Action Report – Daytona

Overview: A weekend full of learning, and self reflection. Or as Jay Leno, (and my Mom) like to say “a complex learning opportunity”

Goals and objectives: My goal for each race weekend (which I lost sight of) is to be consistent, and adaptable. I was very focused on Turn 6, and the bus stop for Daytona.

Analysis of outcomes: Daytona is an awesome track it has an oval banked section used for NASCAR, as well as an infield road course connected to, the challenge is to balance the high-speed sections with the in field, unfortunately, I did not get to achieve the outcome I was working toward. In the first test session of the morning I had an incident which damaged the car so severely that I was not able to race over the weekend.

Analysis of the performance shown on critical tasks: As is my usual approach, I flew in the day before practice to get settled, and rested. There was an opening lapping session setup for Friday morning between 8am-noon, then it would be official PCA practice, and qualifying. My normal approach is to reflect in my journal prior to stepping into the car, for some reason, I didn’t do that this time (this is where I failed). We went out on stickers, and I ran 6-7 laps then came in and checked tire pressures, I realized that I had not loaded the track into my data logger, and therefore was not getting any lap times, at this point, I should have called it, and come in to reset. However, I went back out, and ran 5 more laps, on the 6th lap a full course caution came out, I was coming into the bus stop and backed out of the throttle because of the caution, as I was braking into the bus stop I lost control, and spun backward into the tire wall, and did a lot of damage to the car. It need to go back to the garage on a flatbed.

The damage was such that there was no way to race the car, so I decided to head home back home that day. It gave me a weekend to reflect on what went wrong. On reflection I didn’t follow my process, focus on my goals (consistent, and adaptable) reflect before each session in my journal to help me keep focused, and raise my awareness level. Most importantly, there were multiple opportunities where I ignored my inner voice, which, I need to spend more time understanding. What is the noise of fear, anxiety, versus the important signals that should be heeded.

Summary: I feel embarrassed, disappointed, unfulfilled, and sad. As I am learning “that’s racing” the highest highs, the lowest lows, and still so much to learn. It has been a really incredible season, and I look forward to 2020. On a positive note, despite not being able to race that weekend I was able to maintain an overall finish of 3rd place nationally for the GTB1 class.

Recommendations: I will trust my instincts, listen to my inner voice, and stick to my process of self-reflection before I get in the car.

After Action Report – Road America

Overview: A successful weekend, won the Triple Trofeo! Took P1 in class for the second sprint race, and the enduro! I came in one day early to work with David Murry, and then during practice the following day worked with Tom O’Gorman.

Goals and objectives: As has been the case this year my goal was to be consistent, and adaptable, and take what the track would give me. Particularly hard at this track in that it is 4..04 miles. The challenge turns 1, and 3 need to be driven perfectly every lap.

Analysis of outcomes: Road America is a big boy flow track, few technical sections, very high speed, it tested my ability to be consistent. David was able to help me find a theme, and technique that could be applied to every turn which netted a huge gain in lap times. I then spent time with Tom working through putting all the rest of the tenths of seconds together, ultimately shaving 7.5 seconds total off my lap time over the Test, and Turn, and practice sessions. The process I have adopted from David Murry, and Tom is to spend time reviewing video, after each session, taking notes, and walk into the next session with 2-3 areas of focus. Once, I am able to get consistent then pull data, and work through fine tuning adjustments, which at Road America was maintaining rolling speed through the corner, or not over braking. Both coaches gave incredibly thoughtful, and actionable feedback.

Analysis of the performance shown on critical tasks: Flew into Milwaukee on Thursday, then drove up to Plymouth, WI where I stayed. On Friday the weather was excellent starting in the 50’s and going up to low 80’s we ran 5 test, and tune sessions, where I netted a 5 second gain over last years lap times. Saturday morning was practice, with qualifying in the afternoon, working with Tom I was able to gain an additional 2.5 seconds over two practice session. The qualifying session was challenging, I tried something and it didn’t work. In qualifying we were going out under the green flag which means you can pass on the out lap. I tried to jump the field by passing all the cars in front of me while straddling the blend line, it was awesome I had the whole track to myself, unfortunately race control didn’t like it, and made me serve a stop, and go. After rolling through the pits, I had to find a gap we tried for one, didn’t work, rolled through the pits again to take out some tire pressure, and tried for another gap, and found one on the last lap, I was able to take P2 in qualifying bu 0.2 seconds.

On Sunday we had a warm-up, and two sprint races one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. In the first race two laps in, I made contact with one of my competitors which knocked me out of the race with a bent wheel. Charles from Gradient Racing heroically went over the entire car, fixed the bumper, and put smart strings on it, and got me back out for my second sprint race. In the second race I was able to pick up 6 positions in 5 laps starting P14, and finishing P8 overall, and P1 in the GTB1 class.

Monday had a warm-up session, and 90-minute Enduro scheduled for the afternoon. The weather continued to be excellent cool, and dry. We bought a new tire for my LF which was damage during the first sprint race, so that I had a decent set of tires for the 90-minute race. The Enduro race was later in the day, so I opted to go back to the hotel, and take a rest, came back to the track to watch the finish vintage group race, and grab lunch. My lap time during the second race qualified me for the pole position during the Enduro. There were a couple incidents during the race, one of them being very significant with a car rolling over outside of turn 8, this caused a black all where they cleared the track for 10 minutes, went back out with 3 laps remaining, and was able to maintain my position, and finished P1 in class.

Summary: I really had an incredible experience working with both David, and Tom. It has been critical for me to build up the language necessary to discuss the technique required to get the most out of the car. Working with two different coaches helped me to develop that language very quickly. Both Tom, and David gave me actionable, and measurable feedback, which I was able to translate into execution. I used iRacing extensively to prepare, running over 500 laps in simulation. I stuck with my process, watching video, taking notes, comparing telemetry after every day, picking small specific, and measurable goals, that supported my outcomes.

Recommendations: I need to take the technique that I learned while working with David of turning in earlier with slower hands on other tracks to see if that will help me carry more rolling speed through the corners. The technique that I worked on with Tom is being more intentional when the platform, and my feet are stable, I can be very decisive with my hands.

#soufiyard

As usual things are pretty busy, was able to take a small break, and get to the track this last Friday night. Edge Addicts runs an awesome event called COTA Under the Lights that starts at 3pm, and runs until 11pm. It got dark around 9pm, and both Danny, and I were able to get a session in the dark, turn 7 is epic. We made some good memories!

My old computer died, need one to get ready for Road America. So I finally decided to upgrade, got some pretty good kit, makes for a nice workstation, and looks rad with blinkenlights too.

I have always been a big fan of AMD, went with a Threadripper 2, and a newer NVIDIA card, I usually try to buy the previous generation, or mid-level spec, and give myself room to upgrade. This machine has 32-core, and 32GB of memory with a 2070RTX. I can expand up to 128GB of memory, and add another 2070 in the future if I decide to do some more development outside of the cloud.

We continue to work on proposals for partnerships, hope to start closing the gap by the end of this month, will hopefully be able to share more soon on that front. Training has been going really well, stepped up to 4-days per week about a month ago, and have already dropped another 10Lbs.

Current Focus – GT4 2020

Over the past couple weeks I have been working on building a GT4 program with Danny Soufi for the 2020 season. We plan to run gt4america with support from Gradient Racing. I have been working together with Danny, Ashley, and many others on getting on sponsorship program together, thus far we have had really positive feedback. I can see a couple deals on the horizon, that will allow us to run a successful season. The sponsorship program we are structuring is unique in that we are including back-end marketing analytics integration with Segment. It is a ton of work, and challenging to keep everything balanced, with my day job, training routine, and family commitments. I am using HubSpot to keep track of all the deals, leads, set tasks, and follow-ups, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find, and interact with prospects.

I have also been continuing work on the startup, recently visited Detroit, and attended the excellent IPG local open house, was able to interact with their customers, and partners, and garner their support for my endeavors of commercializing. Very exciting to have them onboard as a partner, looking forward to our next steps.

The next race that I am preparing for is a little far away Road America over Labor Day, I was sitting first nationally in GTB1 after Mid-Ohio, but have slipped down to 3rd having not participated at Watkins Glen, and will likely drop back further with VIR this weekend. Going to stay focused on my training program, and preparation routine, the goal is to take the Triple Trofeo.

After Action Report – Mid-Ohio

Overview: A clean sweep, took P1 in class all weekend, set the GTB1 track record, and won the worker’s choice award! I continued my approach of working with professional coaches, and was able to work with the exceptionally talented Tom O’Gorman.

Goals and objectives: My goal was to be consistent, and adaptable, and take what the track would give me. I knew I had a couple areas to work on from my time spent in iRacing.

Analysis of outcomes: Mid-Ohio is a fun track, with great flow, and cool technical section. Tom was able to help me find a lot of time through turns 4, and 9. We spent time reviewing video, taking notes, and then by the last practice session pulled data, and started making fine tuned adjustments to my braking, and turn-in. He gave me some incredibly thoughtful, and actionable feedback, that will help me regardless of the track.

Analysis of the performance shown on critical tasks: Flew in on Thursday, got the car, garage, registration, and tech inspection sorted. On Friday we had the practice sessions, and fun race. It rained on Friday afternoon, so we opted to skip the practice starts, as it is a high-risk, zero reward session. Saturday morning was qualifying, I was able to secure the pole position with the fastest lap running at a 1:32.0. I was able to lead race 1 from green to checker, and got really comfortable working my way through lap traffic, and was able to keep consistent lap times throughout. Race 2 I started on the pole again, and led again from start to finish, was able to get more experience working through traffic, and focus on my goals in Turn 4, and Turn 9.

Sunday morning it was dry, and cool, the perfect time to go for a lap record! We stuck with a set of scrubs that around 6-7 heat cycles. Went out with a little extra tire pressure so they would come in fast, and on the third lap, I put down a flyer, coming in at 1:31, nearly half a second faster than the previous lap record. The 75-minute Enduro race was later in the day, so I opted to go back to the hotel, and rest up. We needed to execute a perfect pit-stop, with fueling to maintain our position, with just me, and Brendon from Gradient. It went off flawlessly, the official even said “like a fine-tuned machine” My tires got better throughout, my lap times were consistent, and went down over the course of the race, and I finished in P1 at the checker.

Summary: I really had an incredible experience working with Tom, he went above, and beyond sending me personalized preparation materials. He gave me actionable, and measurable feedback, took the time to get into the data to help me fine tune, and then wrote up a very thoughtful set of notes. I used iRacing extensively to prepare, and attended the David Murry webinar. I stuck with my process, watching video, taking notes, comparing telemetry after the day, picking small specific, and measurable goals, that supported my outcomes. A highlight of the weekend was to work with the amazing Brendon Poulin from Gradient Racing, he is very professional, experienced, and was an immense help both in the car, and out.

Recommendations: I need to get more confident putting the power down, consistently as I track out, particularly in Turn 1, I need to work on faster hands, and being more decisive on turn-in.