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Uselsess babbling no one will appreciate...

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  • Uselsess babbling no one will appreciate...

    Perhaps…..no, definitely the biggest disappointment I’ve had on internet forums is that I have yet to be engaged in a conversation with someone who could talk to me about what a racecar felt like in the hands, the back, the heart . I’m not surprised, just disappointed.

    No, I haven’t driven as many cars as I liked, and those I did get my hands on wasn’t for long enough. But I did get a feel for it, though a minimal one. Most of my recollections jive with whatever Brian Redman tells me whenever he has the time and patience to endure me. He is particularly good at describing the heart part, though he has little use for the technical descriptions. I guess that’s because he just liked to race and all the engineering mumbo jumbo was just a necessary evil. Then again, if you can get Brian to laugh just once, you are no longer the necessary evil anymore.

    Now in the times I’ve talked to Jim Hall, my head would spin for days with equasions involving roll centers and bump steer, none of which I could understand but fascinating just the same. It was only talking about flying R/C airplanes that I could say anything that would hold his interest. He could certainly hold his own in those discussions.

    Mark Donohue was far too analytical about his driving. It was plain he enjoyed what he was doing, but he found it difficult to describe what was going on without the use of a scratch pad or graph paper. I imagine he would be beyond nirvana if he ever had the use of today’s telemetry systems. He would probably find a way to analyze those too.

    And Chuck Parsons would sit on the fender of the car and furiously thrash his hand around in the breeze and make all kinds of silly noises and grunts while trying to tell the mechanics what the car was doing “errrrr..whackka! Klumpa, klumpa…..zicccck!” I don’t know how anyone ever deciphered any of it, but he ran up front most of the time anyway.

    And JR would just laugh and saw his hands, gripping an imaginary wheel, back and forth, and his eyes getting wider and wider with each remembered near miss of the concrete. It never made much sense, nor did I learn much from it, but it was always fun to watch.

    And why did I pay any attention to any of this? Well, I was hoping my life would depend on it in my “what do you want to be when you grow up” little world. It saved my life for sure, but I never got to grow up in the world I wanted to. Or maybe I grew up and it wasn’t the world I thought it was.

    I remember reading Emerson Fittipaldi’s “Flying On The Ground,” a book which not only was ultimately responsible for saving my life, but for converting me from a hazard to into a competitive force. Probably the most useful thing I got from that was an understanding that there were times nothing you could do would propel you to the front, but scoring points and living to fight another day was much better than wadding up the car and being carried off on your shield. I only got hurt one time after I read that, and even then, I knew I was doing something stupid as it unfolded around me. Red mist, I suppose. Emmo didn’t warn me about that.

    Emerson’s book showed me that racing isn’t a testosterone test. It is a thinking man’s game . It wasn’t much use in karts to read how he preserved the tires until the end. Our tires would last half a season unless you cut one banging into someone (something to think about when a tire represented a week’s food).

    Now when I got into F-fords, it became something of an art to get the most out of the tire. Oh, you could get more than one race out of them, but if you got the heat cycle wrong, if you got too much heat into them at the wrong time, you were done and would spend the rest of the race fending off those from behind. Of course, they would cool if you were careful, and you might have enough time to get back into the fight. You had to play it just right. It was a game that I saw Kevin Cogan use to absolutely slay everyone. Later, he used it to magnificent effect at Indy 1986 and had everything set up perfectly. It was probably the most brilliant 500 mile race anyone had ever run without winning. They would have never caught him without the yellow.

    And you had to think about more than just the tires. Going back to karts, the old Mac engines were tempermental pieces of kit (charitable description) and would blow up like a short fused M-80 in the Cozumel Hilton, errrr, plumbing, if only you got the mixture wrong. And the mixture would never stay the same from lap to lap. You get it too lean and Errrrrrrrrrunkkk! Instant seizure. Too rich and the thing would fall off the pipe, go into a blubbering rich 4 cycle and half the field would blow by. So you would spend half the time with your right hand over the carb, ready to choke the beast if it went lean and stick your finger in the drip tube if it blubbered. You were doing this while you had your wheels interlocked with the dirtiest driver on the circuit as you sped into the banked turn at 100mph. It wasn’t all that bad though. So many of the things ended up in the dumpster after every race that parts were no problem.

    Of course, you could eliminate all of these problems if you cut on this and that, officially known as cheating. I could never bring myself to do it.

    And if you were really unlucky, the thing would sieze so fast that the centrifigul clutch wouldn’t have time to let go and the back tires would just stop. I illustrated this to great effect at Road Atlanta. Such good effect, in fact, that I was spitting up red Georgia clay for two days. Well, the earth bank was the early, accidental version of the SAFER barrier, so I suppose I was one of the original crash test dummies.

    Now the karts were pretty benign little creatures. They had a little understeer engineered into them, but a nice rearward brake bias undid that little margin of comfort. If you stood the thing on it’s nose and yanked it towards the apex early, it would lurch dead sideways, seemingly about to come completely around. Since, at the time, the contact patch of the tire was so small, traveling sideways actually got more of the rubber getting grip in the right direction, which helped slow the thing down. It was really just a matter of steering it where you wanted it to go and nailing the right petal. They were pretty underpowered, so there was no danger it would jump out from under you. But you really had to be careful that you didn’t bog it down. That’s what separated the winners from the other guys. There was no power to waste. The juggling act was to use the oversteer to get the thing slowed enough to turn in, but not to waste the momentum you had coming off the corner. This is why I get a chuckle out of people dissing “momentum racing.” It’s ALL momentum racing, even road racing. Even with 1000 horsepower. The reason drivers always want more power is because there is never enough to waste. Not even in a 917/30.

    You could never get away with this in a full sized racecar. They are too heavy for one thing and not forgiving enough for another. The tires would never take it. So, if you were good in karts, you just had the raw basics for when you would first get into a real racecar.

    Now, it was more than just hanging it out and seeing who had the biggest, errrrr, ones. Now you had to take care of the car, the tires, and suddenly, a new demension, the gearbox. Great. It was bad enough to be overwhelmed by different handling characteristics, but now you didn’t have that oil clutch monitoring the engine rpm for you. Now you had to think about the engine more than just hoping it didn’t blow up.
    And on top of that, you had to baby the thing too or you would find yourself haplessly hearing the gears knash themselves into never-never land.

    More if anyone is interested……………………..
    Last edited by Doc Austin; 08-14-2003, 01:03 PM.
    "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

  • #2
    Doc, I've never driven a racing car unfortunately, so I cannot add much to your inquiry. However, your description of Emmo's book struck a chord. When I was a younger chap, I read a book by Jackie Stewart discussing driving techniques - it was race theory applied to road driving. As you know, Jackie could be quite exacting about safety issues, so it tended to drag - to my 13 year old mind - but to this day I still hold a steering wheel with the technique he described. It has saved my posterior a number of times because it enables you to be relaxed and feel the car - that way you can anticipate instead of react.

    There's also a fairly humorous chapter on his son Paul's first driving adventures. Jackie was a taskmaster..

    You may want to check into this book, perhaps it can give you some of the feedback that you're looking for. Come to think of it, I should probably find it and read it again myself. I'll probably appreciate it more now. If only I could remember the title.

    Comment


    • #3
      Is it "Beyond the Limit"?

      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...273759-8963224
      BRAWNDO - THE THIRST MUTILATOR...IT'S GOT WHAT PLANTS CRAVE!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Media Boy
        Is it "Beyond the Limit"?

        http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...273759-8963224
        No. I can see the book clearly - it was a navy blue cover with a picture of Stewart driving a Tyrell. Just cannot remember the title. I read the book back in the early 1980's so I would guess it's from that vintage or maybe the late 1970's. Darn...

        I did a quick check on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble and could not find it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Shadow, I don't remember if I sent you this before or not, but it is useless blabbering of a special nature..........


          http://www.ten-tenths.com/forum/show...threadid=20723
          "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Uselsess babbling no one will appreciate...

            [QUOTE]Originally posted by Doc Austin
            [B]Perhaps…..no, definitely the biggest disappointment I’ve had on internet forums is that I have yet to be engaged in a conversation with someone who could talk to me about what a racecar felt like in the hands, the back, the heart . I’m not surprised, just disappointed.


            Does riding in the back of a two-seater sprint car driven by Jack Hewitt count? My hands ached from holding on, my back felt itself being driven into the seat as he stood on the gas, and my heart has never been the same since! The coolest thing I've ever done; but then, I was only riding.



            " more if anyone is interested........"

            Bring it on!
            It really IS all good!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Doc Austin
              Shadow, I don't remember if I sent you this before or not, but it is useless blabbering of a special nature..........


              http://www.ten-tenths.com/forum/show...threadid=20723
              Thanks Doc. Brings a tear to my eye, I was almost run over by this car at my first race. Beautiful model.

              Comment


              • #8
                Perhaps…..no, definitely the biggest disappointment I’ve had on internet forums is that I have yet to be engaged in a conversation with someone who could talk to me about what a racecar felt like in the hands, the back, the heart . I’m not surprised, just disappointed.
                Doc,

                I can. I drove a super modified for one season in 1975 here in California. We raced a couple of time at the San Jose fairgrounds on the ½ mile dirt, once at the old San Jose speedway, several times in Roseville and at Altamont speedway. The thing that best describes what the racecar felt like in my hands, my back and my heart for me can be summed up in one experience. The track at Roseville was a small one-groove ¼ mile asphalt bullring. We towed the car up and after arriving late we had to scramble to make it out to qualify. I had never driven on the track before although I had watched a race there a couple of years earlier. We had a 350 cubic inch Chevy with Hillborn injection running on methanol, our car was without a starter so it had to be push started. The access to the track was out the pit gate, up and over the hump made by the banking and onto the front stretch, all 300 ft of it. Now the way I started the car was to be pushed down the straight, mash the gas, wait until the oil pressure came up and then flip the switch on the magneto, the engine would fire and I would motor away. Up until then we had run on larger tracks so I always had a taller gear in the rear end, at Roseville we had like a 650 or something ridiculously high. The push truck started our push well back in the pits so by the time I came over the hump and onto the track it was time to hit the switch. Let me tell you, I have never felt anything like it. The car immediately went sideways, lit the rear tires, pushed me back into the seat so hard I couldn’t move my head forward and made the skin on my face feel as if it was being pulled back off my cheek bones. I made my qualifying run, not fast enough to make the main event but I did win my heat race that night and lead the semi main until something broke.

                Altamont speedway is where I learned how to 4-wheel drift the car on asphalt, that is a sensation that is unequaled. You can feel the car in the seat of your pants break adhesion, you crank in a tiny bit of opposite lock, and gently apply throttle until you are flat out and sliding up to the outside wall. The first time I did it I thought “oh s**t” I’m going into the wall but the car hooked-up at the last second and launched me down the straight.

                I only raced 14 times with limited success, a couple of heat race wins and a 4th in a main event but the experience is something I’ll never forget. Being on the track with other drivers and beating those other drivers is a feeling I have not been able to duplicate. I just didn’t have the dedication to spend 40 hours at work a week and another 80 hours working on the car, so now I just watch and enjoy and smile because I know what the drivers are feeling.

                Farkle

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've got seat time in F/Fords and a Late Model Sportsman dirt car...does that count?
                  ...---...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jeff Chiszar
                    I've got seat time in F/Fords and a Late Model Sportsman dirt car...does that count?
                    Only if you tell us about it.

                    And Farkle......great story.
                    "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Shadow101
                      No. I can see the book clearly - it was a navy blue cover with a picture of Stewart driving a Tyrell. Just cannot remember the title. I read the book back in the early 1980's so I would guess it's from that vintage or maybe the late 1970's. Darn...
                      Possibly 'Principles of Performance Driving', circa 1985, written with Alan Henry (who can be seen in the photos in the book at the wheel of a Ford, demonstrating bad techniques...).
                      "An emphasis was placed on drivers with road racing backgrounds which meant drivers from open wheel, oval track racing were at a disadvantage. That led Tony George to create the IRL." -Indy Review 1996

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                      • #12
                        Porsche.....there is no substitute

                        I certainly never got enough of racing 911s and all the Porsche sillyness I still go through is probably a good indicator of how much I enjoyed the cars. They had a hilarious tendancy to be stupidly tailhappy, with around 40% of the cars gross weight actually behind the car’s rear wheels.

                        On just about every turn, the car would turn into the corner, roll back onto the suspension and set down on the outside rear wheel. I suppose the resultant oversteer was made controllable only because so much weight was on top of the tire needing the most grip, but even a Porsche factory engineer couldn’t explain it to me in terms I could understand.

                        Once the car had rolled back. It would generally raise the inside corner up a little, and if you did it right, the inside front wheel would actually pick itself up off the ground and give everyone a little wave. The tail would sometimes wiggle around before everything go settled down, but it was surprisingly benign in the way you could feel it progressively coming on. It never surprised me, even once. It wasn’t the best thing you could do for the tires, driving around sideways in a lurid, smoking imitation of a sprinter on dirt, but the best 911 drivers made it look easy.

                        After playing around with different techniques, I talked with Alan Johnson and he (along with his multiple national titles) convinced me it was best to get all the braking and downshifting out of the way before the initial turn-in, and then balance the car with the throttle. All of this worked fine unless you got too much throttle in and the back would come around. Then, if you lifted, you would get into even more trouble. But generally, the 911 was forgiving and progressive enough that you could catch it without a lot of drama. It sure felt pretty wild, but everyone who watched said it didn’t look so bad.

                        I guess that’s just the way they were. Now, I never said any habits I learned in 911 served me well in less forgiving formula cars. More later if interest dictates it……………….
                        "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Great post Doc.

                          I need some time to type....later.
                          Rest in Peace, Miles Nelson

                          Never forget, 'Mackie' was here.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ensign14
                            Possibly 'Principles of Performance Driving', circa 1985, written with Alan Henry (who can be seen in the photos in the book at the wheel of a Ford, demonstrating bad techniques...).
                            That's it. Thanks ensign14.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Looking back, I was a pretty stupid kid who was either suicidal or....well, just plain stupid.

                              The 911 was really a progressive step up from the karts. The feeling of power was sort of the same but the sensation of speed was deceptively diminished. I don’t think it’s unfair to say they weren’t quite as entertaining to drive because of a number of things. First, none of your own personal ancillaries were hang out in the breeze and in impending harm’s way. It just wasn’t quite as scarey, helped by the fact it wasn’t my money heading for the aarmco or dirt bank.

                              And it wasn’t nearly as instinctive and carefree. At least not initially. There was too much to do. You had that gearbox thing and extra petal to worry about and all the wonderful new gauges and idiot light you would ignore as you just drove the crap out of it until it blew it up anyway. The 911 had it’s gearbox right around the rear axle centerline, or just aft, so the extremely long linkage made the feel of the shifter somewhat numbed and imprecise. The hariest time I had in one was selecting first gear instead of third on a downshift. The 911 was tailhappy enough to deal with when things went right, but with the rear wheels nearly locked and the tach off the scale, there was so much going on, screeching tires and tortured, spinning metal, that it is a little surprising there was much left after a backward trip through the California desert. It was just something else karts never taught me how to deal with.

                              Technically, it was partially a measure of my own inexperience and the simplicity of the cars that there wasn’t much, as a driver anyway, to setting them up outside of tweaking the swaybars and dealing with the rest on the track. It was just a new little something that gave you a little control over the car’s balance besides what you did with your hands and feet. It was really a logical progression because there wasn’t a cascade of new data and unknown variables flying at you at a rate you couldn’t digest..

                              After the newness of unfamiliarity and outright spookeyness wore off, it was easy to just throw the thing around carelessly in confidence that you (thought) you knew what you were doing. Hey, nothing to it at all. This is easy. It won’t be long before Emmo is reading my book.

                              But then, that was before the world changed overnight. before the day I first sat in a mid-engined formula car.
                              "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

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