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.

Keeping Focused, and Balanced

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.

After Action Report – Road Atlanta

Overview: Another successful weekend, two podiums, qualified on the pole with the fastest laps all weekend! I was able to work with the incredible David Murry again, the work in iRacing really helped me pick up the track quickly.

Goals and objectives: My goal was to qualify in the top 5, then take what the track would give me, the weather conditions were going to play a big role in the outcomes for the weekend.

Analysis of outcomes: Road Atlanta is incredible, so much elevation change, a really fun flow track, my fastest, and favorite section was the S’s starting at turn 3. David Murry was able to help me find so much time through minor adjustments, he gave me some incredible advice, and feedback which really helped my confidence.

Analysis of the performance shown on critical tasks: I flew into Atlanta on Wednesday, then drove out to Gainesville, GA which about 20 minutes from Road Atlanta. On Thursday it was open track with lots of short sessions, between each session I would debrief with David Murry, go over video, take notes, and come up with some new goals for the next session. On Friday we had the PCA practice sessions, and fun race. Saturday morning was qualifying, I was able to secure the pole position with the fastest lap running at a 1:33.0. I fell behind in race 1 after about 5-6 laps, but we caught up to the back of the field, which allowed me to take advantage, and get back into second position, unfortunately that is when I had a tire blow out on my left rear. Race 2 I started on the pole again, fell back again, really needed to focus on Turn 7, I dropped into 4th position after a miscue during a local yellow, that quickly turned full course caution.

Sunday morning it rained like crazy, which I love! Was able to get out, and warm-up on slicks in the rain!! After some thunderstorm warnings, race control, and the scrutineers decided to move the race from 90 minutes to 60 minutes. It started to dry out over the course of the race, and I was able to get on the podium in P3.

Summary: I stuck with my process, watching video, taking notes, comparing telemetry after the day, picking small specific, and measurable goals, that supported my outcomes. I learned Road Atlanta very quickly, and was able to compete at the top of my class with very seasoned drivers. A big part of the weekend was to work with the amazing Rick Curtin, Gradient Racing Crew Chief, he has been doing this for a long time, and had tons of advice, and an excellent perspective, and attitude.

Recommendations: We need to look at a different tire size for the rear on my car, which will require some setup changes to the car, will likely do that over the summer, prior to Road America.

If you know, you know – T12

Practice, Product, and Progress

I’ve been spending time in iRacing learning the line, got both of David Murry’s excellent Sebring, and Car Suspension webinars, as well as reviewing playbacks from the VRS datapacks. I really look forward to working with David directly on the Test/Tune day before the weekend at Sebring. I was also able to spend some very productive time this week out at Harris Hill with Andris of Gradient Racing. More seat time, and getting everybody familiar with the car is always a good thing

David Murry in the BGB #38

Over the holiday, I got a lot of work done on the trackNotes app, it is nearly ready for an alpha release. I am using creator, for the front-end, and firebase for the backend. I put together some wireframes for another app I am developing called setupBoard, that will work either standalone or together with trackNotes. Regarding my work with Kubeflow, it has gone very well, I was able to train against my dataset with multiple models, distributed across three cloud providers: GCP, AWS, and IBM. Inception v3 is the current leader with predictions of 85% accuracy against the ground truth in testing. I am going to test a couple more models: Random Forest, a TF Boosted Tree, and a DNN Classifier. Once I have another round of training, and testing I will start working through AI assisted hyper-parameter tuning to see if I can get the error rate any better. At that point I will switch gears and start working on the front-end.

setupBoard wireframe in creator.ionic.io

On the health front, I was having a hard time finding someone who could help me with both my nutrition, and training. I was referred to Phil Gephart who immediately exceeded my expectations for his knowledge, and professionalism. Phil is awesome! He worked with me to switch around my macros, added some supplements, changed up my training program, I am already seeing some incredible results with a 3% drop in body fat within the first week!