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Old 04-02-2014
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GEORGE GEORGE is offline
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Crossover From Mx5 to R/T

So Yesterday Chris Brassard was in my office and we got to talking about his racing a Mazda Mx5 last year and then after so many races in a street car, he jumped into an R/T and said Whoah!
The seat is uncomfortable
The view is different
The inputs to the driver are totally different. And confusing.

How can drivers switch from one type of car to another and get up to speed quickly. Or, for that matter, never get up to speed.

Thought for this day


George
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Old 04-04-2014
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Re: Crossover From Mx5 to R/T

This resonates for me in the opposite direction you mention, meaning after racing the open wheel cars for 11 years I went down to Sebring and raced in the MX-5 Pro Cup undercard race at the 12 hour race week, having virtually no time racing an MX-5. I've driven them on track during schools doing lead follows but have never raced in one.

Boy was it humbling. My downfall was downshifting from 5th to 4th into turns 1 and 17 and going from 4th to 3rd in turns 10, 13 and 16. The open wheel cars sequential shifter eliminates incorrect gear selection. For uplifts no clutch is required and minimal clutch usage on downshifts. The MX-5 having 6 forward gears and a loosely defined shift gate has many options other than the one you want and requires a clutch pedal all the way to the floor on both up and downshifts. It was difficult to focus on keeping the car balanced and on target when you're worried about being in the proper gear, and that's where I found myself more often than I'd care to admit.

Had a comedic battle with a Playboy Cup participant who was having even more trouble than I was. During a close battle he missed an upshift coming out of 13 and I drove around him and then I missed a downshift coming out of 16 and he drove back around me. We exchanged this comedy of errors at different corners for several laps before he buggered his gear box and wound up stuck trundling around in 4th gear.

Over the course of the week I got somewhat better at it, but in the heat of battle bad habits made it hard to remember to get that clutch all the way to the floor and be patient moving the shift lever into the next slot. It's been a long time since I've felt that incompetent in a race car.

The BFG R-1 tires had lots of grip but allowed very little slip angle. They were great until you exceeded their happy place and then you were massively scrubbing speed. With no skill set managing the car or tires it was an uphill battle pretty much all the time.

The cure for most of these ills is seat time. The Skip Barber and Smarty Cam folks were still working out the Smarty Cams data connection for the MX-5 so video with data was not available. When it is drivers will be able to sit down with testers and quickly evaluate exactly where and how they are doing well and where improvements can be made.

Suspect it would take a couple more race weekends for me to learn and adjust to the cars as I know the likes of Chris Brassard, Jim Craige Brian Hixon and many others have done it. Everyone has their own learning curve. The MX-5's are fun but I've never felt the pull to change over and still don't. My hats off to those who have made the switch quickly.

Ultimately it's sorting out the differences of the cars and adjusting your driving style and habits to them in ways you can quantify. I was so worried about shifting that I had little capacity left for car balance and tire management. More seat time would help but I'm happy to go back to the open wheel cars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GEORGE View Post
So Yesterday Chris Brassard was in my office and we got to talking about his racing a Mazda Mx5 last year and then after so many races in a street car, he jumped into an R/T and said Whoah!
The seat is uncomfortable
The view is different
The inputs to the driver are totally different. And confusing.

How can drivers switch from one type of car to another and get up to speed quickly. Or, for that matter, never get up to speed.

Thought for this day


George
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Last edited by dalyduo; 04-04-2014 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 04-05-2014
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GEORGE GEORGE is offline
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Re: Crossover From Mx5 to R/T

Thanks Pat
You hit the nail on the head. The sequential shifter takes one BIG thought process out of the drivers mind. He can concentrate on Line and Braking and almost make shifting an afterthought.

My co owner on the Caterham had a HUGE incident at Watkins 2 years ago when he was on the short course and came in to turn 11 and downshifted into 3rd (or so he thought) spun and hit the guardrail quite hard. Enough to ring his bell and question getting back in the car.
He blamed it on the car for a long time until I had driven about 15 races with no problem.

But I find the H pattern shifter takes an extra thought process at each corner and "Just like tire grip" something else in the brain has to give way so I can shift smoothly. Ususally braking or the perfect line.

Makes you wonder how great the guys who could go from NASCAR to F1 to Can-AM to INDY were. Like Parnelli, AJ, Mario


George
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Old 04-05-2014
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Re: Crossover From Mx5 to R/T

Since there were no sequential or even 6 speed boxes back in the AJ, Mario, Parnelli era I suspect it was a bit more uniform jumping from car to car. Dirt track cars were direct drive and most of the others probably didn't have more than four speeds. Taking nothing away from them in mentioning it, just pointing out the increase in gears and types of gearboxes that challenge us to keep up.

There's a YouTube video of Alexander Rossi driving a vintage 1967 ex Jim Clark Lotus 49 around COTA and in that video you see and hear him struggle with matching revs during downshifts a few times almost spinning the car. He's a terrific driver but you realize all the cars he now races have sequential boxes with paddle shifters that match the revs on downshifts so he never practices that skill set.

As we age the ability to process multiple data streams becomes more challenging. Sadly, things take a little longer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GEORGE View Post
Thanks Pat
You hit the nail on the head. The sequential shifter takes one BIG thought process out of the drivers mind. He can concentrate on Line and Braking and almost make shifting an afterthought.

My co owner on the Caterham had a HUGE incident at Watkins 2 years ago when he was on the short course and came in to turn 11 and downshifted into 3rd (or so he thought) spun and hit the guardrail quite hard. Enough to ring his bell and question getting back in the car.
He blamed it on the car for a long time until I had driven about 15 races with no problem.

But I find the H pattern shifter takes an extra thought process at each corner and "Just like tire grip" something else in the brain has to give way so I can shift smoothly. Ususally braking or the perfect line.

Makes you wonder how great the guys who could go from NASCAR to F1 to Can-AM to INDY were. Like Parnelli, AJ, Mario


George
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Old 09-12-2014
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Gerardo Gerardo is offline
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Re: Crossover From Mx5 to R/T

Quote:
Originally Posted by GEORGE View Post
How can drivers switch from one type of car to another and get up to speed quickly. Or, for that matter, never get up to speed.
George,
I've had your question on the backburner for some time, so today I'll reply.

I enjoyed Pat's comments, and would like to add I think it has a lot to do with experience in each car, and experience overall. If a driver has a lot of experience in both MX-5's and Formula cars, it should be easy to transition between the two, given a short warmup to re-calibrate. Or, if a driver has many years of expert experience overall, learning new cars (or new tracks for that matter) takes much less time.

Yes, the H-pattern shifter vs. a sequential can be a real challenge. But, my point is that if you have a lot of experience in both, swapping between the two is pretty straightfoward.

A couple winters ago I tested my client's USF2000 car for the first time. At that time, those cars were still using a 4-speed h-pattern gearbox. I was able to shift it easily as if I had driven it for years. I give credit to my years driving the old Skip Barber school cars with their 4-speed h-pattern non-synchromesh boxes.

When switching between cars that are vastly different you'll adapt to differences in power delivery, weight management, brake response, overall grip, shifting, etc. Each of these adaptations are truly a matter of experience.

Age of the driver is less a factor. Even older drivers can catch up on experience and switch cars more easily.

Good question. Would love to see more replies on this one.
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