Had a very relaxing holiday break, lots of time with family, and a little travel, it was great to disconnect for a little bit, reflect, and plan the new year.
Driving – Rally, Spec MX5, TC, and GT4 in short, I am going to get a bunch of seat time in a bunch of different cars, I am going to sign up for Rally Ready Driving School, I am building a Spec MX5 and plan to run that in a bunch of different series, and will see if I can rent a seat in one of the new Honda TC cars, and find a ride in a GT4 car (ideally a Porsche).
Startup – 30 Customers, find a Co-Founder, working on both have a really exciting opportunity that will hopefully land, and have started talking to potential people that I can share the business, and workload with, I am really looking forward to it!
Health – Cut (Half), Body Composition, I almost hit my goal of cutting myself in half before the new year, when I started my weight loss journey with OptiFast I weighed in at 330Lbs, I am now 170Lbs, and am on pace to get to 165Lbs (or half my body weight) over the next month. From there I will focus on my body fat percentage, and work on my body composition.
Looking forward to a hopefully relaxing week, spending time with my family, and working on pushing some of my projects forward. Here are some of the things I have on my list.
Road Surface Detection I have been working on a real-time AI/ML solution for predicting coefficient of friction based on the input from an optical camera. I am using an NVIDIA Jetson Xavier AGX (thank you ADLinkTech) , I have trained a SSD_mobilenet, and but would like to see if I can get some better performance (lower latency), and improved accuracy, so I am porting it over to the Google Cloud AutoML Vision Edge, this will allow me to test a bunch of different ML models automatically without having to run it through my ML pipeline based on Kubeflow, I am excited to see the results.
CAN bus CDDS, and FogLamp Part of the solution I have been developing uses CAN bus data to do validation, and verification. I’ve been using FogLamp to help manage the data streams, as part of this solution, I am going to continue work with Eclipse Cyclone DDS, and the ROS2 implementation, the plan is to get all of the sensor data from CAN bus to CDDS, then use FogLamp to send everything northbound.
Simulation Environments A lot of my testing happens in simulation, I started out with IPG which I am very happy with in terms of performance, and accuracy, however, I like to keep my options open, and have been working on porting my base model to the Simulink Vehicle Dynamics Blockset, while I was at it I decide to survey the landscape a bit more, and see what other platforms are available, it looks like some of the game engines are starting to provide robust simulation environments, so I am also testing Unity3d Simulation.
Spec MX5 Going to start working on the build sheet for my spec MX5, found a really nice donor down in San Antonio. I am going to drive her as a street car for a couple more weeks, hoping to get out to Harris Hill Raceway once or twice, to work on my heel-toe.
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.
Family, work, racing, not necessarily always in that order, very hard to keep everything in balance. Over the last few weeks, I have prioritized getting ready for Road America, my race there is coming up over the Labor Day weekend, really looking forward to it. It’s been pretty tough to put it at the top of the list with all of the other responsibilities, and other activities I have going.
I had the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on this topic with Ross Bentley on his incredible speed secrets podcast this week.
Work has become increasingly demanding requiring more frequent travel, the partnership, sponsorship component of preparing for 2020 is a significant time investment, and the startup is gaining real traction with some exciting opportunities on the horizon. The near constant question I get is “when do you sleep?” Everything is a compromise.
I start by taking care of myself first, having a routine is the thing that helps me most, I guess I am a creature of habit, but breakfast, and training is how I start my day, when I am running, cycling, or swimming, I am able to organize my thoughts, and build a game plan for the day, it helps me get prepared, and regulates my mood, and anxiety level.
I have to focus on work through out the day, once I am home in the late afternoon, I make an effort to turn off technology, and spend time with my family, playing with the boys, making dinner, I love that we always sit down to have dinner together, and getting everybody ready for bed. Once the boys are in bed, I am able to have dedicated time for the startup, partnership, and work in the sim. On the weekends, time with my family is the priority, there are few opportunities during the afternoon, and evening to make progress on the startup, or work in on Road America.
Here is my method for working in iRacing, I am a big fan of data, so Virtual Racing School is a huge asset, I have a subscription that allows me to look at all of the data packs, and compare my times, with their excellent analytical tools. Additionally, I work with David Murry, and his webinars, he has a turn by turn breakdown of Road America that is incredibly detailed. I attempt to use the same approach for working in the sim, as I use when actually at the track, I take notes, look at video, and data, and then create a checklist of items to work on. This approach helps me feel prepared, and confident coming into the weekend. In addition to all of this preparation I have made it a goal for the season to work with a coach each weekend. I will be working with David on Friday, and Tom O’Gorman on Saturday.
A quick update on the partnership, and startup front, I was able to spend some time this week with Joe Speed from ADLink Technology, he has graciously offer the use of one of the NVIDIA Jetson Xavier DevKits, and Amit Goel from NVIDIA’s embedded team sent over a carrier, this is really going to accelerate the development of the models that we are running in the car.
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.
At the end of April when I got back from Road Atlanta, I put the finishing touches on my application for the Department of Transportation Small Business Innovation Research program. I focused on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Automated Driving Systems (ADS) Test Data Interface. I have not revealed too much about what I have been working on but this may give you an idea. The SBIR program provides a Phase I grant of up to $150,000 to produce research, and a report on the topic, and opens the opportunity to pursue commercialization funding under Phase II of up to $500,000. Since I am attempting to bootstrap this is very attractive
I am continuing work on the development of a Vehicle Dynamic Simulation environment, having a discussion with Doug Milliken, I was able to get tire test data directly from Pirelli, which is an excellent development. I am in talks with IPG for large-scale testing, and was able to join MatLab Startup Program. Everything is moving in the right direction.
In other news, I am getting ready for Mid-Ohio, in a couple weeks this will be the second race for the Pirelli Triple Trofeo. I am planning to work with Tom O’Gorman while there so I can pick up the track quickly. Spending lots of time in iRacing, and going to participate in the David Murry webinar this coming week. Some really exciting news is that I am currently running 3rd in GTB1 nationally, which is pretty awesome!
I am working on putting together a GT4 program with Danny Soufi for 2020 to run in the SRO GT4 America. It will be a lot of work, trying to figure out how to get a bunch of sponsors onboard to help us fund the program, and working out how to get the car, looking at the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport,