Friday, May 22, 2009

Race Strategy, Part 1

Racecar Engineering magazine has had several well-written articles over the last few years covering race strategy. They are intriguing, but they focus on the Formula 1 challenge of how to run a specified race distance in the minimum amount of time. There's validity in this, but the US series for Indy cars, NASCAR, and sports car racing under Grand Am and ALMS offer full-course yellow flags with pace cars, rules on when the pits are closed and open, rules on when drivers must be changed, rules and practical decisions on tire life and fuel load, even "waveby" rules on being allowed to pass the pace car. And, in the sports car series, there is more than one class in the race. Clearly, there is more to a successful strategy than the quickest time to distance.

I'll be upfront here - I'm not telling what my strategies are, or even the processes that led to them. But, I will offer a few comments to kick off the brain cells.

  • "Seat of the pants" calls made on pit lane, no matter what your experience level, are rarely as good as the calls made by someone who has thought through the possible scenarios and how to react to each possibility.
  • The best race strategies may seem counterintuitive at first review. Not that I'm advocating contrarian thinking just for the sake of being different. That rarely works. You have to know WHY you want to be different, and not get so caught up in the uniqueness of your new strategy that you can't predict its potential weaknesses.
  • The race will be unpredictable and your strategy will likely have to evolve. When a revised situation presents itself, do you already know how you will adapt to it? If not, you're back to seat of the pants.
  • It helps to develop tools and methodology. 'Nuff said about that.

Here is a pop quiz question:
If the race is 250 miles or 2 Hr 45 Min (whichever comes first), how does your race strategy change for a time-limited race?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Race Engineer's Blog begins

Hello to all. And at this point, probably hello to a very few folks. Welcome to my blog.

I'll be sharing all sorts of stuff, on what will probably be an irregular basis. Who knows what will eventually emerge, but at this point I visualize:
  • Technical discussions about race cars, most likely focused on anything other than the engine.
  • The race engineer's role in racing, testing, and at the shop
  • Day-to-day life as a race engineer. Travel, reviews of actual events, career, etc.
  • Personal views on racing topics
  • Developing trends of all sorts

Race engineers are notorious for not sharing what they know for fear of a competitor taking advantage of it. I'm also like that to some extent, but I'm comfortable with explaining more than most. I've left a trail of information and tools with former race teams. I won't mislead anyone by posting outdated or false info.

That's about it for now. Away we go!