Saturday, August 29, 2009
Background on the Jetta TDI Cup series
Check this great film footage out to learn more about the series
Friday, August 28, 2009
To Canada I Go
This morning I woke up excited to head to Canada’s Mosport International Raceway. Thankfully, I was all packed & ready to go this time around unlike some mornings before travel. I fed my fish and began my morning routine of shower, shaving, breakfast, and this morning, reviewing the media information I had gathered for Adam Hoover of VW to go over.
Soon it was 10:00 AM and I was out the door with my father Bruce on the way to San Jose International Airport. When I arrived, I met David Arken and passed out our boarding passes then checked to see if I had everything I needed for this journey, especially my passport so I could actually be accepted into the lovely country of Canada.
I've only been to Canada once before, for the Canadian Grand Prix back in 2003 which was one of the greatest racing experiences I have ever had. The sheer noise of the Formula 1 cars was ear shattering and the standing start the Ferraris and Schumacher made that trip was incredible. I still have a Ferrari flag hanging in my bedroom from that trip.
Today David and I only had to catch two airplanes. Our first was a little out of our way as we flew down to Phoenix, Arizona. At least I got two very awesome people to sit next two. One was Kate, a college rower Kate out of Buffalo, New York who had just visited California for the first time in her whole life. We spent most of the less then 2-hour flight talking which is always nice from time to time.
Things only got better when we arrived in Arizona. I managed an amazing feet: I bought lunch and spent less then $5 on everything (I even managed to get a free water). After lunch I walked up to the counter to get my passport checked and a US Airways employee named Bill managed to get me terrified in one easy step. After looking at my passport Bill informed me that it was not a valid passport and a state of panic came over me. As he turned it around and I noticed, I had not yet signed my passport to make it legal. Bill started chuckling and I even had to laugh. So I signed my passport he stamped my boarding pass and I thanked him for the scare and we were laughing as I walked away.
Shortly after the scare of a lifetime, we began boarding our flight to Toronto. The ramp to the plane was 108۫ !!! I also noticed that all the airplanes on the ground in Phoenix had covered their windshields, probably to keep the heat out. On the way back to our seats, I was thankful I found an empty overhead bin as I had my unabashedly over-sized duffel bag that does not fit conveniently in the compartments.
Dave and I then grabbed our seats and I promptly started my iPhone and blasted some wonderful "hyper crush." The temperature finally began to equalize and as it cooled, I fell asleep but it only lasted for about two hours before my phone was beeping at me from low battery. I shut my phone off and enjoyed the remainder of the flight sitting with my eyes closed thinking about all the different things I have to do this weekend and how excited I was to be driving in Canada - I was going to be an international racecar driver!
Our landing in Toronto was one of the smoothest landings I can remember. I grabbed my duffel bag, backpack and Defnder neck brace and said goodbye to the airplane. As we got to immigrations, I was waiting in line looking at all the workers in the booths and noticed they were sitting in bulletproof vests. Was that really necessary? It would take a miracle to get a gun on board an airplane in the first place. I guess traveling to Canada is pretty dangerous these days…
After being interrogated by a young bullet-proof man, I began the hunt for a rental car. We ended up with a lovely Mercury Crown Victoria! Next we grabbed some grub. A few minutes after Dave and I placed our orders I looked behind me saw the kid that stamped my passport at customs! There was a whole group of customs agents with him - one of them had stamped David’s passport - and they were all sitting right behind me drinking beers. Well I found this hilarious and after talking to them, I think we made their night funny as well. Upon leaving we said goodbye to our new custom agents friends and from there began our half our drive to our hotel. During most of it, I slept and found myself in the driveway to the hotel. We both checked in and passed out, my head filled with dreams about the race this weekend and maybe even checking out Niagara Falls! Cannonball!!!
Monday, August 24, 2009
|From Road America|
My next Jetta TDI Cup race is on the horizon. This Thursday I leave for Toronto - that's Canada people, America's top hat. I've been reviewing footage of the course and studying its turns all week. All that's between me and the road is a bit of packing and arranging a rental car, the bane of a serious driver's exitence.
At my last race at Road America in Wisonsin, I had minor breakthrough that I hope will lead to drastic improvements this weekend in Toronto. Don Tebbe, Project Manager for the Arciero Miller Racing group that helps with the TDI Cup, told me to be softer on the wheel. The Jettas are front wheel drive and much heavier than what I'm used to driving. As such, the suspension takes longer to respond to shifting weight than I expected.
The upcoming race is round seven of the ten race series and I've enjoyed (nearly) every moment of my time with VW (just check out the ballin' gear I get to sport. Chicks dig it). Wish me luck this weekend and make sure to follow all of my social networking online - it gets me points!
Facebook Fan Page
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Road America Raceday
We started off today with another 5:30AM wake up. Despite the early hour, I woke up refreshed and looking forward to qualifying. Upon arrival I began unloading my racing gear in the tech tent and saying good morning to the mechanics. I talked to Travis, my lead mechanic, about my tire selection then I went for breakfast in the VW hospitality tent now as it was finally 6:00AM and they were serving food. I had staved off my hunger with some eggs and sausage and noticed that I was feeling pretty sore (I think I’ve been running too much. Never thought I’d say that!).
We started the pre-driving exercises with a qualifying session at 8:00am. As I got dressed, I chatted with snow mobile racer Levi LaVallee, about what he hopes to work on this race. He felt was not using the breaks as much as he should and my words of advice were to smash the brake pedal in three crucial breaking zones and find out what his car can do. We wished each other the best of luck and parted ways to our respective Pirelli VW Jettas.
As I was getting all of my racing equipment situated, Dave and I quickly reviewed my goals and spoke about keeping my mind focused on specific improvements I am hoping to make during qualifying. I had my ceremonial pre track restroom break and intense water consumption just before Dennis announced that drivers need to get into their cars. I finished my last glass of water, climbed aboard my Jetta and strapped in which is quite an involved process. First, I dawn my Defnder neck brace and helmet. Next I cinch my lap belts and finally I yank on my shoulder straps till we are rolling out of pregrid. I started my Jetta and briefly enjoyed the diesel racecar shake. It's interesting to watch the whole dash shake ever so slightly at idle and as soon as you introduce a little bit of throttle the car smoothes out tremendously. Clearly this car does not enjoy sitting still as much as I do!
When we finished navigating the pits and pulled out into pit lane, I reminded myself of my goals and traced my path around the racetrack, trying to visualize the line I wanted to drive. I made 7 laps in my head before it was time to start doing the real things. The green flag waves and the qualifying session began.
I went out and started lapping the car all the while enjoying the cold tires as the car to rotated and easily slipped sideways. It was exciting and got me in a good mood, so I decided to go a bit faster. I ended up going 3 seconds faster then my practice time but that was only good for 18th spot on the grid. Bummer! My data acquisition system also didn’t collect any lap times, which means that I could not compare data with the rest of the field.
Shortly after the race I was introduced to Don Tebbe who works as a Project Manager for the Arciero Miller Racing and my spirits were raised. He told me he could help me go through my data and find out what it was I could do to go faster and I told him I would come find him after the autograph session we had coming up.
I love the autograph sessions. Kids and even older race fans show up to ask for our signatures. The interesting part about this autograph session is the amount of VW guests that come by. Typically I don’t get the chance to meet these people and the autograph sessions give me a chance to chat to them. That and the kids that are too shy to say hello and ask for autographs, so the parent often have to walk up and say “this is for my child” that is standing 5 feet behind them. It's too funny sometimes.
After about an hour of autographs and other drivers yelling at me to hurry it up, we began our journey back to VW hospitality. At that point I learned some sad news. He was enjoyable to talk to ill miss seeing him but I wish him luck.
After arriving back at the tent, I found Don and asked if he could assist me in analyzing my clustered data. I climbed into the VW tech trailer and we began going over data. We soon realized I was working on trying to carry more speed through a corner and Don offered me an amazing amount of advice on how to get the Jettas to turn better. He explained that these cars are not like the ones I have driven in the past. They take a more time to transfer their weight, especially to the rear wheels which are just along for a wild ride since the Jettas are front wheel drive car. It was the light bulb I needed! Now I knew how I was losing the 2mph in the middle of the corner. It was not from breaking or the misuse of the gas pedal, it had to do with how fast I was moving my hands. It was unbelievably exciting to hear.
Soon preparations started for the race and all the drivers filed into the drivers meeting. The VW staff reminded us to have a clean race and Jan also instructed us that blocking was unacceptable and will be penalized. When the meeting concluded we all filed out and began finishing our pre-race rituals. For me that includes a lot of talking to myself and reading over my notes. I put on my racing suit drank my glasses of water and listened to the IMSA Lites zoom by. All of a sudden Steve walked by and said Dale Earnhardt was here. Sure enough I looked over and saw his signature Bow-Tie and 5 o’clock shadow talking to John. I wandered over and said a few words to John about the race and introduced myself to Dale.
As the light disappeared, I climbed aboard for the race that was going to be dark enough we were required to run with our headlights. Dennis made the announcement that it was time for the drivers to start their cars and for us to file out into our starting positions. They pulled us out of the tent, put us in line and lead us out to grid.
We started our warm up lap and began getting our breaks and tires up to temperature. During the warm up lap, I tried to run the line I had planned for the race and I also tried the later entry into 5 like Don had suggested. I managed to keep a incredible amount of speed and also get the car rotated and exited much better.
Finally I pulled into my start box. I kept resetting the car and beginning to get on the gas for our standing start. The horn sounds and I look at the lights waiting for them to turn on. All I see is red as the lights turn on I mash the gas getting the RPM's up and waiting to launch the car. The lights go off and I let go of the break and away I went. Already I felt it was a much better than my last race in Chicago. I edged forward until I was door to door with the car in front of me down the main strait.
On the exit of turn one, Jake Thompson spun which force me to abandon my current position and drive around him as wide as possible to leave room for the car next to me to pass him wide as well. I came back onto the asphalt and quickly looked at the dash to make sure the car wasn’t screaming bloody murder about anything and thankfully it wasn’t.
Soon enough there was another problem. I noticed a clump of cars going wide into turn 5. I prepared myself to dive close to the inside of the racetrack and somehow everybody made it through without any major contact. The pack of cars right in front of me really slowed one another up and I capitalized on that by closing the gap going through turn 6.
By turn 8, however, I saw Juan Pablo Delgado spinning on the exit of the track. Instinctively I drove the car wide through the dirt for the least hazardous way around him. Thank goodness these Jetta's have the ground clearance to get away with it!
On the way through the carousel and towards the kink I put two wheels off to the outside of the exit. Thankfully I did respond how I typically do in those situations and not like I did back at Mid Ohio. I brought the car back on the racetrack carefully and continued to maintain an excellent strait away speed.
We all mustered our way through “Canada Corner” and began our climb up the hill towards the main strait. I checked my mirrors and Nicky Boule was drafting up my rear with a tremendous speed advantage going down the strait. By the time we got to turn one, he had passed me with a fraction of an inch to spare. We went through turn one less then a couple inches apart with a recovered Jake Thompson on my tail, but by this point the full course caution was out. We got into line to see Gunn Tucker off in the dirt outside of turn 8 which was very sad to see however he looked for the most part undamaged and fine which is all that matters.
After two pace laps we restarted and I managed to pick up a tow from Nicky down the strait. By turn three, Jake had tucked in rather tight and managed to get by me going into turn five. From there I stuck to Jake as the rest of the lap progressed all the way to Canada Corner where all I saw was a giant cloud of dust - it was Devin Cates getting deep into the kitty liter. I just drove by it to see the full course caution flags again. So we all filed into line as I watched Jake ahead of me pounding on his helmet upset about his blunder on the first lap.
We patiently worked our way around the racetrack to Canada Corner and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Devin Cates had somehow managed to put a dent in the roof of the car and destroy the windshield. They had the car craned into the air getting it onto a flatbed. I passed it hoping that Devin was alright and knowing that we had at least one more lap of caution.
Eventually the pace car shut its lights off and we began to climb the hill. I saw the green and let her rip, leaving the car behind me and holding onto Jake. Sadly, I just marinated in my position for the last three laps. I finished 16th across the checkered flag and I was satisfied.
I realized the last few laps I was not working on smooth steering wheel movements which are why I could not catch Donny. But, considering all the carnage I was happy with getting out alive and with no damage!
After pulling into the pits and parking the car I found Devin and asked if he was alright. He reassured me he was and I headed to check on John as he was just pulling in. I talked to him through his window net for a little bit just before Dale got there. At which point I walked away and let the old friends chat. I got undressed, packed my driving suit and walked outside in time for the end of the trophy ceremony. Then, I grabbed some food ate and head into the driver debrief in which all of SCCA and VW displayed their disappointment with the race. There had been 3 hazardous of track excursions and they announced that they were going to be distributing penalties. Finally, we were excused and I began the goodbye process so we could get on the road back to Chicago and get ready for the early flight home.
I found Dave and we both discussed how happy we both were with how the weekend turned out. We both learned a lot and I found a way to make myself faster that you can't see in data.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Devin Cates Rolling In Canada Corner
Pictures From Road America
Monday, August 17, 2009
Another day at Road America
Today started even earlier then my wildest dreams 5:00am is a wild adventure in my stupor of stumbling out the front door I did observe even at such an early hour. I guess going hunting in the morning is not that un doable. After all, it was 3:00am my time. As we, Dave and I were walking to the car we discovered that Gun Tucker and Andy Lee were staying at the same hotel as us. This proved to be very useful because we were loosing faith in our GPS to get us to our destination. Especially after the nightmare in Milwaukee yesterday, that costs us a half-hour of traveling. Even though our GPS wanted to take us a different way, we followed Andy and found our way to the racetrack, with plenty of time to spare. Along with proving to be, a very scenic route of the countryside and one man's yard filled to the brink with classic cars that unfortunately see nothing but snow. It was very disappointing to find machinery that is on its way to such a grim fate. However, I cannot control what another man does with his cars. Nevertheless, I was cheered up to see Road America down the road. As we entered the facility, it went off without a hitch and we ended up getting a fantastic parking spot right in front of Volkswagen Hospitality. The morning had begun so I started enjoying getting the tech check in going along with getting ready for the track walk. Sure, enough without a minute to spare Jan showed up to begin getting the track walk in order. As soon as they looked around, they noticed that they did not have enough cars for all the drivers. Therefore, for the first time I have to drive for a track walk. Not only did I get to drive but also I did get to drive in the new VW Jetta TDI Wagon. This was enjoyable mainly because I have never driven A TDI road car in a relaxed setting not whipping one around an autocross course. I was actually amazed on how relaxed they are to drive. Even with one of VW hospitality’s staff sent to ride along and make sure that, we did not abuse the car I think but hey after all were just kids. After getting through the track walk and trying to figure out what I know from what I need to learn. Not to mention I got the chance to meet two of the guest drivers, John Prather who is a very successful iracing driver and Jamie Vondruska who started the website VW Vortex. After the track walk, we headed in for the SCCA meeting for our practice session at noon. After being scolded for the contact, they saw in the last event. After that, we went over what we needed to know about the track and from their me and Dave had a long discussion with Jan about how to find my 2/10ths of a second I was loosing in the middle of the corners. From there he enlightened us both and we began planning what I was going to do for that session as we had breakfast. From there we began getting ready for the practice session and we began getting into the cars and our hot (literally) VW racing suits. As we were doing this I got a chance to meet our other guest driver the Red Bull Sponsored Snow cross racer and Snowmobile freestyle rider Levi LaVallee, who is a really laidback individual along with doing not to bad of a job getting around with a broken ankle. Considering he actually got pins pulled out of his ankle to race in the TDI cup this weekend. After we finished our conversation Dennis, the head of VW mechanical tent made the announcement to get into our cars. As I got in I was reminded by the tape on the steering wheel that I needed to bed the break pads. Even brake pads have a break in procedure that is critical because if you do not do it right the pads glaze over and you do not have the maximum breaking potential. Which was unfortunate because their goes 7 minutes of my session you cannot rush. So on the out lap I began the process of bedding the pads and began being the slow one bedding the pads on the side of the road. After the first two laps of casually coasting around the racetrack, I hit turn 14 and giddy upped! After the first lap, I noticed that my data logger was not logging lap times. This means that all the data was a waste if I did not get it fixed so I pulled into the pits to see if Arron the data person for VW could pull off a miracle fix. However, it was all in vain and I was sent out with a hopeless review of this sessions laps. I began falling into a rhythm and trying to work on making the biggest improvement in rolling the car into the turn. I was fighting the urge to over break the car that was haunting me this whole season. Except it was the only thing I have left to improve on which was my sigh of relief. All I began doing was trying to get my exit speeds as high as possible and find the smoothest way around the racetrack. After a few more laps, I saw the checkered flag and began the slowdown process and saluting the corner workers. After arriving in the VW Tech Tent, I could not believe my time and found myself in 23 positions. The most discouraging spot I have ever found myself in during racing but the just means that I was trying something different that was not working. However, I was very discouraged but thankfully; VW had the cure for my condition with an (Blank) mile run. As we began the run, I was excited because I was wearing my lucky shorts and from their found myself compelled to run harder then I ever had. I was rather impressed with how I managed to run harder and faster then I ever had. The hour and a half or so went by and from there I finished the exercise with one pissed off eye. My eye was having some sort of allergy attack and was itching and red. Therefore, I was terrified of waking up with pink eye and not being able to see in the morning qualifying. However from their Dave and I started are trip back to Sheboygan and during the drive I saw something that made me laugh uncontrollable and helped pick my spirits up. I grew up with Cadishack and some how we were driving by Bushwood Country Club. I could not believe that somebody actually named something after that place especially considering the only thing that came to my mind was a quote during a movie, “BBBBBBB BUSHWOOOD A DDDDDDD DUMP” I was laughing insanely. However, it is funny how sometime the small things that cheer you up. From there Dave and I had dinner at a place called Urban which turned out to have one of the most fantastic burgers I have ever had. Not to mention the service was wonderful and I enjoyed looking around the building at the almost Victorian architecture. This was exciting because it was reminding me of my childhood and growing up in the Victorian house we had in Los Gatos. Diner didn’t last as long as I thought it would and from their we wandered around Sheboygan a little longer and then returned to the hotel and began the falling asleep process to get up tomorrow at 5:00 am yuck. Oh well that’s racing, later everyone
Sunday, August 16, 2009
August 13, 2009
Sadly today started way too early. My father misunderstood what time I needed to get up this morning and burst through my door at 5:00AM. Cringe!
From there the trip began. At
After lounging in some “power chairs” (La-Z-Boys with power outlets – jackpot!) we boarded and I got a window seat that overlooks the wing. The mechanics of the wings and all the flaps, ailerons, and slats and how they move in unison fascinates me every time, but this Southwest 737’s had an all the more exciting vapor trail that arked over the wing on takeoff and landing. Shortly after takeoff, the vapor trail was on longer there and I spotted the fire in the
I managed to get a few precious moments of sleep and the flight went by quickly. We landed, grabbed some grub and our rental car, and watched the old brick buildings pass by. At times like these I catch myself just wishing that I had more time to sit around and explore the wonderful places my racing career is taking me to. Alas, maybe next year it will prove to be much more relaxed (I doubt it).
Shortly after getting into
As for now, my belly is full and it’s time for sleep. Just like every East Coast race this season, it is an early day tomorrow. Until then arevaderche!