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.

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.

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.