San Diego, CA- I’ve just arrived back home to sunny and warm San Diego, California after two solid test days at Autobahn Country Club in Chicago, Illinois. The team and I decided to go testing to improve on our results from Rounds 1 and 2 of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda. The Streets of St. Petersburg was a learning process for all of us and it really showed that there was work to be done all-around. Going into Autobahn, there were a number of items that we wanted to work on. The 3 main items were the overall setup of the car, improving my speed and consistency, and developing my communication skills with my engineer.
The setup of the car was something that we wanted to test after St. Pete just to get a better handle as to what exactly did what on the car. We had nearly 12, 30 minute sessions during our two days in chilly Chicago. We were making changes to the car each session whether it was tire pressures or ride heights. It was very insightful on my end to feel exactly what each setup change did to the balance of the car especially in the high speed, long duration corners which are similar to that of Barber Motorsports Park (the next track we visit). It was also great to have some tighter corners on this course which are similar to those at the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Streets of Toronto. All in all, we have quite a few tools in our back pocket that I feel will be very helpful in the coming races.
Simultaneously, I was focusing very hard on running consistent laps that were also competitive to that of our baseline time. This year’s field is extremely competitive, bringing drivers from all-around the world. The spec Mazda engines in the USF2000 cars also creates very tight racing. It is not only essential to be able to run fast, but to also be able to do this for nearly 20 laps in a row. I’ve been told that consistency comes with comfort. I am getting more and more comfortable as I put down more laps, and the speed is also starting to show. We practiced some longer runs and I found myself within a couple tenths of my own laps each time I came around, while still being able to run near our baseline. It really brought me back to the training with RaceCraft1 that I did prior to going across the pond for the Team USA Scholarship. I feel that as time progresses, I will only continue to improve my own skills in the car.
The last major item that I wanted to work on was my communication skills with my engineer. Being able to relay accurate and detailed information to an engineer is essential. Relating back to running consistent, if I am unable to consistently drive a lap, it is hard to judge the true balance of the car. I have to be able to run consistently, feel what the car is doing, and accurately relay all of this back to my engineer. Doing this is somewhat of an art and is actually quite hard to master which is exactly why it was great to practice this in these private test days. I found it easiest to break up the corner in 3 separate sections: corner entry, middle, and exit. Then from that, feel the balance of the car in each section. Finally, assess what is happening and why. With this process, I found it to be a much more accurate way of communicating with my engineer, and as a result, better benefit from changes that remedy a problem.
I strongly believe that if we can apply everything that we learned and tested here at Autobahn to Barber, we will have a great outing and result. Unlike the Streets of St. Petersburg, I will have a number of on track sessions before getting into qualifying. We wrapped up our series test days at Barber back in early March, and now we have two promoter test sessions along with two official practice sessions before we head on track Friday morning for qualifying. This really gives us quite a bit of track time before getting into the most important parts of the weekend. Our Mazda Engine from Elite Engines felt very strong at Autobahn and our Cooper Tires were working great which gives me even more confidence heading into the race weekend.
We will be posting updates via our social media channels (hopefully with this Soul Red car at the pointy end of the field) so be sure to check in! Let me know what you liked and what you would like to hear in our future blogs.
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