Last year I entered a contest to get 2 laps of my driving reviewed by famed racing coach and ex-IndyCar driver Ross Bentley. I sent him a link to this video, from the middle of my Championship race of 2014. Here is what he had to say:
Olaaf Rossi – Road Atlanta; NASA Mustang
February 17, 2015
I thought I would start off by listing the things that I typically look and listen for when reviewing video:
• The line – are there any obvious changes needed?
• Hand/steering movement
• Pedal movement (if in view) – foot speed, transition between pedals, timing, etc.
• Driver head movement, looking for movement indicating where driver is looking
• Listen to engine sound, and how it relates to throttle movement
• Tire sounds, possibly indicating how close the car is being driven to limit
• Consistency, lap to lap, corner to corner
• Smoothness, indicated by hand/steering movement and car/chassis movement
• Adapting to track conditions
• Race craft – positioning to other cars, passing maneuvers, strategy, etc.
• Relationship of video to data acquisition information (if available)
• Comparing speeds and/or RPM at certain parts of the track to see what made an improvement
• Errors – responses to them, learning opportunities, why they occurred
There could be other things that pop up when I’m reviewing a video, but these are the main things I look for. I hope that the list might help you when you review your own videos. So, here are a few notes I made as I reviewed your video:
• Overall, your hand/steering movement looks great. It’s smooth, and in the two times that your car stepped out a little (turns 3 and 7 on the second lap), you were quick to catch it.
• I didn’t see any line issues. Too bad, because it’s nice to find some “low hanging fruit” with a change in line, but I’m not seeing it. Of course, I’m not driving your car, and your car may want something a little different – so don’t be afraid to experiment.
• Entering turn 1, is the release of the throttle quick enough? It sounds a little like you slowly release the throttle, which is something I see/hear a lot of drivers do (it’s a habit from driving on the street). You may be releasing it quick enough, and I just can’t hear that from the video (and it’s hard to tell from the speed of the throttle graph). But think about it, and be aware of it next time on track. You want to stay on the throttle as long as possible, then quickly release it and go to the brakes. I saw 126 MPH show up both laps as you entered turn 1… if you stayed at full throttle a fraction of a second longer, and then quickly released it and went to brakes with a faster transition from one to the other, could you see 127 MPH? That’s something to think about the next time you’re on track.
• Could you carry another MPH or two entering turn 1? That was one place on the track where your hands looked, well… almost too calm and smooth. That makes me think the car would take a little more speed entering the corner. With turn 1 at Road Atlanta, you have to turn in with slightly too much speed, and know and trust that the car will gain grip as you hit the hill just before the apex. From the video, it looks like you’re entering with the right speed for that radius of a turn, if it was flat. But because of the elevation change, you can carry more entry speed and trust that the hill will help you out.
• On your second lap, you didn’t use all the track on the entry to turn 6. Was that because of the car behind you? Did you need to leave room there, or would it have been better to use all the track?
• The section from the exit of turn 3 to the braking for turn 5, down through the Esses… Your goal should be to take that at full throttle, with no breathing of the throttle. I can’t tell from the video whether that is possible or not in your car, but that should be your goal. In many cars I’ve driven at Road Atlanta, they tell you to breathe the throttle – it feels as though you’ll fall off the track if you don’t lift a little through there. But every time I’ve just kept my foot flat full throttle, the car took it. Yes, I had to change the timing of where I turned in when heading down the hill, but it stuck. Don’t get me wrong – your car might not be able to take it, or you may not want to take that level of risk. And that’s okay. My job is to challenge you. And to remind you that sometimes when you breathe the throttle in sections of track like that, you change the balance of the car, and it actually then has less grip. If you stayed at full throttle, the car would be better balanced, and it would stick. Sometimes. So I’m challenging you to do that, safely. Trust your gut, but challenge it.
• Obviously, on your second lap, you got loose exiting turns 3 and 7, which cost you a little time. What caused that? Was it your brake release? Did you stay on the brakes just a little too long, possibly because you felt you were entering the corners with a little too much speed (that wouldn’t have been a conscious decision, but instead, something you did without thinking, subconsciously)? There’s nothing really wrong with either of those situations, but is there something you can learn from them? Yes, they cost you a couple of tenths of a second, but the most important thing is what you can learn from them.
That’s it. Like any driver that has gotten to your level, there are not going to be one big area where you’re going to find half a second or more. It’s going to come from a few places, where you pick up a tenth there, a tenth there, half a tenth here, and so on. I think if you work on your corner entry speed in turn 1, be aware of how quickly you come off the throttle, and work at hustling the car through the Esses, you might find a few more tenths. And once you find them, some other things will become apparent to work on. Because there’s always more!
Let me know if you have any questions.
"The one thing I didn’t mention in the report is this: After reviewing the video a number of times, writing my notes and report, I went back and re-read your original email… and realized that you’re relatively new to the sport. That didn’t show in the video. From the video, I would have guessed you had much more experience. You’re very good!"