Decibel (decibel45) wrote,

TDE at ECR, day 2 / wrap-up

I've come to the conclusion that pushing a car to it's limits on a track requires a certain amount of faith. Not faith in God (though that might not hurt), but faith in the car, and faith that the car will actually take care of tracking the correct line without you actively watching it. The more you're looking ahead, the less you can directly see what the car is actually doing. But at ECR, looking ahead becomes pretty critical, through corners like 3 and 6, and moreso 9 and 11 where the outside of the turn has some very intimidating barriers. (track map)

But before you can have faith that the car will follow the line that you've put it on, you have to have faith that it's actually capable of what you're asking it to do. I had that on the second day of TWS; I was actually doing really well until brain-fade and fatigue started setting in in the last session. I also had it somewhat early on at this event, but then I lost it. I think things started downhill with my first spin on Saturday... the lesson I'd finally learned at TWS was that if the back of the NSX starts stepping out, you give it throttle. Of course, that's very counter-intuitive, especially if you're already a bit too hot going into a corner. And it's something I failed to do very well at this weekend (though I did save 2 spins by keeping my foot in it).

Another challenge was dealing with braking. At TWS I could get away with modulating the brakes. This makes it much easier to setup the car for the correct corner entry speed, but heats the brakes more. You do not want more heat in your brakes at ECR! So I was really forced to learn threshold braking. To top it off, ECR isn't very forgiving if you end up off-line.

Add it all up and I ended up getting slower on my second day. I'd lost confidence in the car and to some degree in my ability. Chris even took me out in the car to show me what it could actually do. Unlike at TWS, I was actually nervous at several corners for at least the first 2 laps... all I could focus on were looming hay bales. (BTW, these weren't the nice, fluffy square bales... they're the huge roles you now see in fields. My understanding is that these typically weigh over 1000 lbs) So, it was hard for me to appreciate what the car was actually capable of.

Lest anyone thing the weekend was really a bust though, I had a hell of a lot of fun and did manage to learn a lot. I think I now have a pretty good handle on threshold braking. I'm starting to work on heel-toe, but even without it I was able to pull off some OK shifting. ECR was an amazing introduction to the nuances you get from elevation changes and off-camber tracks.

In the end, I think TDE was very wise to limit this event to non-novices only, and to drop a lot of folks down a run group. I think they should probably keep that practice up. It might also be good to make sure students understand that they really need to have a good, solid feel for what their car can do before running here... that's probably the biggest thing that hurt me. (Of course, if you'd asked me if I felt I had a handle on the car after TWS, I likely would have said yes ;)

The flip-side is that it would be bad to intimidate people away from running at ECR. I suspect it probably requires more base-line skill than any of the other tracks TDE runs at, but it's also a tremendous learning environment. They've had numerous professional drivers out there, and they've all said that it's a very challenging course to learn. But that means that you get that much more fun out of it once you have learned it. I definitely plan on being back there...

BTW, I'm already registered for MSR on May 3 & 4.

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