Thanksgiving Break

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.

Cyclone DDS is a standard-based
technology for ubiquitous, interoperable,
secure, platform independent, and real-
time dat...

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.

Radar and ground truth

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.

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.

Shakedown, and Setup

Did first shakedown and setup session in the new car, this week, I learned a lot.

First lesson, I have amazing support! Courtney came out, Steve was there, Philip was completely awesome, the TPWS team is incredible. And… I totally made the right decision, the car is bananas! I had almost instant confidence, it drove, and felt just like my Cayman R, but on steroids, still can’t get the stupid grin off my face!

Second lesson,  I still love driving in the rain! It was wet out there, not torrential downpours but a light drizzle, the track (Harris Hill Raceway) was slippery, with some standing water, and I did not have a set of wet/rain tires for the car, I was on scrubs. I had a ridiculously good time working on car control with the slicks, on a wet track, in a new car with no setup! Over the course of the day the conditions got better, the sun peaked out, we got some wind, and by the afternoon the track was relatively dry. I was able to put down a consistent 1:24, with a hot lap of 1:23, so not too shabby. I had TPWS, and Winding Road at the track with me, they were both great, TPWS did a phenomenal (as usual) job getting the car ready for the shakedown, and Winding Road helped dial in the suspension over the course of the day, to the point where the car handled telepathically.

The combination of TPWS, and Winding Road on track was really great,  but off track led me to my Third lesson, which I will have to cover in a separate post.

Fourth lesson, always shake the car down, and always give yourself time to get everything repaired properly, as my dad taught me “prior planning prevents, piss poor performance” (he likes alliteration), or stated differently “Luck favors the prepared”. On the last session of the day, we uncovered a leak in the engine bay, likely an axle seal, and had some issues with leaking around the electric steering pump, hopefully its just the reservoir, and not the pump. So… Goal Accomplished better to find this stuff ahead of race, then at the race!

I am going to run the car again at the MVP event for one day next weekend, so we can do the final setup before the race March 2nd-4th. I completed the last bit of my license requirements this week as well, and have everything I need for orientation, and rookie race school. So, it’s time to send out the invite to family, and friends, so they can join me at my first official PCA club race! I plan to run both of the sprints, and the enduro, wish me luck!

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Gearing Up

I bought the car, we are doing race prep, going through every nut, and bolt, from front to back, fixing some issues, and getting it ready for a shakedown this coming week at Harris Hill. I am getting really excited, this will be my first chance to get some seat time before the club race.  We are fixing some of the ducting on the center cooler, and going through all the fenders, front clip, and doors to start, will have to test the cool suit, radio, telemetry, and get a baseline setup dialed in. The amazing team at TPWS  continues to knock it out of the park. They have everything needed equipment, tools, scales, laser alignment, a great team, attitude, and exacting standards.

The other thing, I need to make sure about is safety equipment, more specifically my safety equipment. Helmet, Shoes, Suit. Here is where I landed with the help from Winding Road, I purchased much of this individually, and over time as I progressed. Winding Road has bundles that include everything you need to get started. On top of what I linked below, I purchased a nomex balaclava, and socks. All of the equipment needs to meet minimum safety requirements of SFI, or FIA as spelled out in the club racing rule book.

Image of Sparco Victory RS-7 Racing SuitImage of Alpinestars SP Racing Shoe

Image of Sparco Tide RG-9 Racing GlovesImage of CoolShirt Cool Water Shirt

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PCA License Requirements

Had a very successful trip down to MSR Houston, got to learn a new track meet some great people, see some cool cars, and complete all of the requirements for my PCA license. Now, I need to put in my application, and figure out how to get a car. I hope to rent, not ready to buy yet (my mind keeps changing)  I would need to sell both of my cars (the CaymanR, and the 911) to get into the race car that I want. I need to decide pretty soon, I already signed up for the Club Race at COTA in March where I will do the Club Racing School, and my Rookie Race.

Here is a cool shot of the Red Run Group from this weekend.

I did the arrive and drive with the guys at winding road, and they brought a really amazing setup, the guys were super nice, and very helpful, really great service, I am sure that I will use it again, already figuring out what I will need for March.
And a nice shot of my car in the rain (it rained a bunch, and the track was pretty wet) made for some great learning, it was like a giant skid pad.
Here is a video from the day, was able to put down a 1:52.
 

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Car Transportation – Part1

Such a big topic, how to move the car from one place to the next, lots of options. I am going to outline my plan for exploring the various options: buy a truck (what kind of truck, what is the best tow vehicle) and trailer (what kind of trailer open/closed, steel/aluminum), use some type of service like a car hauler, or through an arrive and drive program.

Almost all of the research that I have done on tow vehicles point to a diesel Hemi as the way to go for a reliable solution to towing pretty much anything. This is where personal preference, budget, and other factors come into play. Right now I do not have a car capable of the towing capacity needed for my car, or possible future trailer. My budget will not allow for a dedicated towing vehicle so if I decide to go down this route, I will need something that can serve as a daily driver as well. Which is steering me more toward a gas, rather than diesel truck, or possibly an SUV. For options around trailers, an open steel trailer is the most economical but will weigh more, and may play a factor in tow vehicle selection, a open aluminum trailer is the next best option as it is lighter and would not require as much towing capacity. Depending on space and storage options, an enclosed trailer seems to be the best options but, storage (where to park it when not used), weight, and cost become the primary factors. The above are examples of what I found on racingjunk.com

The next option would be to find a dedicated car hauling service, the above is one provider unitedroutes.com you would contract with them directly, and are typically charged for a per mile fee. I have been quoted anywhere between $1.50/mile to $0.80/mile, there is generally a nominal load/unload fee as well. I have not explored this option too deeply but may look into it further as things progress.

The current solution I am exploring will be an arrive, and drive it includes the per mile fee, and the load/unload fee but is also bundled with a crew per day cost. I am going to try this out next weekend with Winding Road for a trip down to Houston for an LSR DE. As I am not fully committed with a full blown race car, this allows me to explore multiple options, before committing to purchasing a car transportation solution.

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