Submitted by Bob Perritt
Finally, the race season is about to begin in our region! Or is it? I know I should have done the ice racing at Mosport (Canada). Looks like those conditions might be here for the start of the season. How does one practice for that? Easy, buy a beater 5-speed for the winter and have a blast! Oops, my beater turned into a Chumpcar this winter. Anyone selling a '94 or '95 BMW, let me know. Wait! Well, maybe. Yes, I'm an addict. Can't have too many BMW's (four), but one's mama's car; that is, it's a street car—for now (ha-ha!)
We weren't able to make Winterfest Sebring this year (close to being ready, but not quite). We were actually installing new suspension in #57 along with a few other things—you know, that off-season stuff. Working on the car is fun but driving is so much better, so missing track time, we do the next best thing: IRacing!
IRacing is live practice, time trails, qualifying and racing on the computer with other people. One's simulator could consist of three screens, computer, steering wheel (of course) with paddle shifter or manual stick and pedals. One can practice heel/toe and left foot braking without destroying your car. Well, you do destroy your car on IRacing, but it gets fixed for free and quickly—just hit the escape button, and you're back in the pits. Too many crashes get you kicked out--kinda. They start you out with a rookie's license in a Miata. Once you have enough points built up by not having accidents or going off track, you get bumped up to class D (classes A-D). Now, your skill rating comes into play and you get to race with other people with similar skill levels. Once you have been classed, you get to purchase different cars (really fast ones) and time on different tracks. I tried to run tracks on which we plan to race this year to keep current with layouts. You want to be able to close your eyes (while not driving) and visualize the track turn by turn. Track layout is something you need to know like the back of your hand: No second guessing where the next apex is.
We did a track in Japan and it was a blast; some of my friends found me practicing and joined. We ended up racing for 4 hours that night (until about 2:30 a.m.). One of the guys hosted an event at VIR for a couple of hours and we got to run GT3s. Talk about fast! That car and that track were fast! FYI, VIR did repave their track and we hear it's even faster this year. Sorry, back to practice, practice, and more practice. A saying here is: "Perfect practice makes for better more often!" So, the practice we get from IRacing helps keep our eyes up, coordination in tune, and our adrenal spiked.
I just spent time racing at Summit Point— IRacing, of course. The hosted event actually got setup with foggy conditions. I was not sure how that was going to play out, but it sounded like a great way to test myself on knowing the track. There were many obstacles (crashed cars) on track; I was able to participate incident-free. Glad I knew this track well.
Back to preparing your car. IRacing gives you the ability to adjust ride height, camber, caster, toe, spring rate and shock settings for each track. It's not the same as your car, because you can't feel what the car is doing, but, after your session, you can view your laps and everyone else's. In this way, you can see what those changes might have created for you. And it keeps you thinking about your racing setup in the off season.
So, in the off season, you still need to be focused—keyword is "focused"—on what your car needs. Take the time to go over every item on your car. Something as simple as a brake light switch failure can keep you out of a race. So, develop your check list and abide by it. Have a spare parts box or two, carry those nuts and bolts. You might not need them, but the guy you are racing with that weekend might. That's what we do at the track—keep all of us racing together. That's what's it all about: Racing with your friends and being safe.
See you at the track, Bob #57