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Old 11-01-2012
alangbaker alangbaker is offline
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Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

I took a 2-day advanced course this week (Mon-Tue) at Laguna Seca, and made a very expensive (dollars/equipment only) mistake, but I think that the important thing is to learn the lessons from the actual series of mistakes I made.

First, the situation:

Our last lapping session of the course, I was a little late getting ready to leave the pits (ironically, because I was attaching my GoPro, but I didn't remember to turn it on!), and so I was already a bit behind the curve. So following me out closely were our two lead follow instructors. And it must have been pretty obvious to Thomas that I wasn't driving as well as he'd already seen me drive, and he immediately took the lead between two and three and signalled for me to follow his line. Unfortunately, as unprepared as I was, I fell back a little and so I was immediately trying to catch up. Then I early-apexed four, didn't identify it and ran two wheels onto the dirt, then turned back on too early and too abruptly, and ended up hooking the car into the tire wall on driver's right. About the only thing I did right was that I at least got it all locked up to scrub speed and get the car fully turned around, so that I hit with the left rear corner first. So no damage to the driver; big damage to the car and a big bill for me to pay.

But the only value I can take from this is evaluating what my mistakes were that led me into that wall. So in reverse order chronologically, but from least important lesson to most:

1. When you put two wheels off at speed, there's no rush to get back on. If I'd just stayed relaxed with my hands and eased out of the throttle gently, there was lots of road straight ahead for me to have come to a complete—and completely safe—stop, if need be. I think that I was fooled by my experience of a road car in similar circumstances where we are actually so much farther from the absolute limit that we can get away with more when things go wrong. But more important was:

2. When in doubt, focus on line. I braked earlier for the turn and when my braking was done I picked up the throttle as I started to turn in, and guess what: not only does radius equal speed, but speed equals radius and so half a car length early on the turn-in became half a car width wide on the exit. And if my eyes had been looking further down the road, I would probably have identified being too early and simply not put the throttle down as hard and ended up making the corner on the asphalt (or at least the trackout rumble strip). But MOST important was:

3. Don't drive fast until you're ready to drive fast. I was out for my last session of an afternoon that had already seen two long (nearly half hour) sessions, and I wasn't even through my warmup lap. I wasn't through even a THIRD of my warmup lap. When the instructor car pulled away, I should have just let him go. Thomas was right that I wasn't driving the way I could have (and should have) been driving with regard to line, but I was wrong to take him up on his offer to help at that moment. We were going to be out there for another half hour session and there would have been plenty of time for me to bring myself up to full concentration and THEN to work on being more consistent and precise.

Fortunately, I wasn't hurt at all, and there was enough time for me to get a couple of laps in a replacement car to remind myself of what I was supposed to be doing out there, so the only permanent damage was to my VISA.

We are, all of us, going to make mistakes from time to time. So when they happen, look back on the entire chain of events, and make sure you learn all the lessons that you can learn.

Remember the lessons and keep racing.
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Old 11-03-2012
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Chuckleski212 Chuckleski212 is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

Glad you are alright Alan!
Every winner has scars.
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Old 11-03-2012
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dalyduo dalyduo is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

Pro racer and long time Skippy instructor Jim Pace always stresses the importance of driving off track under control rather than trying to save a mistake and fly off track out of control. As you correctly report and were probably told after the incident, If you'd opened your hands up and eased out of the throttle you'd have likely gone 4 off but also likely have saved the car from damage.

You now have an internal reference point and seat of the pants sense of how quickly things can go wrong at speed when you ask too much of the car. Your eyes may have also gone to the place you were afraid of hitting rather than the place you wanted to go. That is a very common occurrence that usually ends badly as the car almost always goes where the driver is looking.

Glad you're OK and even better that you've thought it through and greatly reduced the odds it will happen again... Good job.
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Old 11-04-2012
alangbaker alangbaker is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

That was the most frustrating thing, DD: I had it running parallel to the track with two wheels off and I just needed to be more patient about putting it back on the road.

But thanks for the good thoughts!
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Old 11-04-2012
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dalyduo dalyduo is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

There are so many variables that can affect a moment like that and quickly put you in the wall.

How grippy or slick the rumble strip is. How much drop off between the rumble strip and the dirt or grass. How high or low in the rev range you are. Where you are looking and how gentle or quick you are with pedal changes.
When things go wrong it's easy to make a reactive lift off the throttle or a big steering correction without realizing it.

Video can be a big help as it will often reveal things that you don't know or remember doing. It's humbling but always better to know the truth.

Not suggesting it was anything more than you say it was. Just saying learning to manage those variables comes with seat time.


Quote:
Originally Posted by alangbaker View Post
That was the most frustrating thing, DD: I had it running parallel to the track with two wheels off and I just needed to be more patient about putting it back on the road.

But thanks for the good thoughts!
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You draw 'em a picture and they eat the crayons... (Duck Waddle commenting on the creative ways some people interpret driving instruction.)
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Old 11-04-2012
alangbaker alangbaker is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dalyduo View Post
There are so many variables that can affect a moment like that and quickly put you in the wall.

How grippy or slick the rumble strip is. How much drop off between the rumble strip and the dirt or grass. How high or low in the rev range you are. Where you are looking and how gentle or quick you are with pedal changes.
When things go wrong it's easy to make a reactive lift off the throttle or a big steering correction without realizing it.

Video can be a big help as it will often reveal things that you don't know or remember doing. It's humbling but always better to know the truth.

Not suggesting it was anything more than you say it was. Just saying learning to manage those variables comes with seat time.
I know. And I appreciate it.

It's just frustrating personally because one of the things on which I like to pride myself is my calm under pressure. I definitely rushed my recovery when there was no need and I thought I'd already had that mental talk with myself after I had a similar spin during my three day at turn 6.

Still: I'm out there trying to learn and I really think I did...
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Old 11-04-2012
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dalyduo dalyduo is offline
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Re: Learning lessons from expensive mistakes.

It's great to set the personal expectation bar high but you also have to be realistic and forgiving in order to learn and move on.
The margin for error gets smaller and smaller the faster you go. As your speed increases you have to learn how to react in those smaller margins and every one of your off course excursions teaches you more. None of us want to write crash damage checks but if you're exploring the limits on a regular basis, it's going to happen.
As you learn from your mistakes also forgive yourself for making them. :-)
You're probably doing better than you than you think you are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alangbaker View Post
I know. And I appreciate it.

It's just frustrating personally because one of the things on which I like to pride myself is my calm under pressure. I definitely rushed my recovery when there was no need and I thought I'd already had that mental talk with myself after I had a similar spin during my three day at turn 6.

Still: I'm out there trying to learn and I really think I did...
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