Quotes from Daniel Erickson and Mundill team personnel following his Star Mazda test at MSR Houston Raceway, Texas, from Tuesday December 1 to Thursday December 3. DANIEL ERICKSON: "Tuesday was wet so we didn't achieve much. I did about 20...
Quotes from Daniel Erickson and Mundill team personnel following his Star Mazda test at MSR Houston Raceway, Texas, from Tuesday December 1 to Thursday December 3.
"Tuesday was wet so we didn't achieve much. I did about 20 laps to get a feel for the car's controls and to see where the track went, but there was no point trying to go fast in those conditions.
"On Wednesday it was dry, but cold -- about 10C -- and quite windy. I started the first of the day's four 45-minute sessions on some fairly old tyres while I got used to the car and the track.
"After 18-20 laps my times were around 1m 30.5s. That was a fair way off Mundill's best time for the current specification car of 1m 25.3 (MSR Houston doesn't have an official record for Star Mazda cars because it's basically a club racing facility) but I wasn't looking to set a quick time at that stage.
"The team didn't address my driving early in the test; we just worked on the car to see what it was doing. Jeff didn't fill my head with "You gotta be doing this and that" while I was still getting the feel of the car.
"I felt comfortable in the car right from the start of the test.
"Next I went out on a set of tyres that weren't quite so old, and with some more laps my times improved 2.5 seconds to around 1m 28s. I was pretty pleased with that.
"After a short break in the Mundill workshop (the team is based right at the circuit, which saves a lot of time!) I went back out onto the track. On the same tyres my times dropped into the 1m 27s.
"By that point I was getting an idea of how the car drove, so the team put on a set of tyres that had only done a qualifying session in this year's Star Mazda Championship. They also took some wing angle off at both ends to get more top speed.
"On those tyres I got down to a 1m 26.2s lap, which was pretty pleasing. There was probably a high-25 there, but I still hadn't spent enough time in the car to get the best out of it and drive it consistently every lap.
"I was still finding the limits but I kept pushing the car hard, and the more I pushed the better it worked!
"On Thursday I started with the same tyres I'd finished Wednesday, and went a couple of tenths quicker. Their grip was starting to disappear, so I came in and the team put on my first (and only, as it turned out) new set of tyres.
"Within a few laps I'd got down to high-25s, so I kept pushing and dropped another couple of tenths. I came in for another small set-up change to get rid of understeer on the exits of the faster corners, and when I went back out again I did a 25.4.
"I came back in for made another set-up change, went back out and got down to 25.4 again. After a further set-up change I did another mid-25, but I had to come in when the engine temperature came up because the radiators were still taped over from the cold morning.
"By then it was time to go to the airport, so that was it for the test.
"I think that my driving style is more suited to a car with wings than a Formula Ford, which you have to throw around a bit to get the most out of. The Star Mazda didn't move around in braking zones anything like a Formula Ford!
"Overall I'm happy with how the test went, all things considered. I'm sure that with a little more time in the car and another set of new tyres I could have done a lap in the high-24s at least.
"After this test I'm confident that I can be competitive in the Star Mazda series, but first I have to get a budget together. Now that I've returned home I'm focusing on that."
JEFF HILL (MUNDILL CO-OWNER):
"Daniel did a yeoman's job throughout the test.
"We spent much of Tuesday waiting until the track was dry enough to get a few laps in on rain tires. Those sessions were simply a familiarisation of the car and the track, but unfortunately the track conditions prevented him from really getting much benefit.
"Wednesday was a lot better. The weather was still quite cold, with wind gusts up to 22mph (35km/h), but at least Daniel was able to get a full day's driving.
"I suspect the only difficulty he had early on was trusting the downforce generated by a car with wings, compared to the cars he has driven previously.
"It's difficult in perfect conditions to learn to drive a racing car that generates aero downforce, but it's even harder with the wind gusting because the downforce changes from corner to corner and lap to lap.
"By the third session Daniel's lap times were very impressive considering he was driving on old tires on a cold 'green' track on a windy day. In particular his car control was excellent.
"By the last session, which was the first time we gave Daniel tires that were capable of producing reasonable lap times, he was in the low-1m 26s range. That's my target for a successful first test in good conditions, but Daniel's times were quite remarkable considering the low grip level.
"As a result of Daniel's performance that day we considered the real possibility of him setting a new track record the next day.
"On Thursday Daniel got within a tenth of a second of our record on a track that was still a half-second 'slow', according to a top IMSA Lites driver who knows MSR Houston very well.
"I am confident that if Daniel had driven for the full day he would have done a 1m 24 with just a little more work on one section of the track.
"No-one has gone below 1m 25 here since we switched to radial tires!
"Australia should be proud of Daniel and really get behind him so he can show what he's capable of in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship."
HUNTER WRIGHT (MUNDILL RACE ENGINEER):
"Daniel impressed all of us [who] got to work with him. It was obvious early, even though it was his first time in the car, [that] he had excellent car control.
"After he become accustomed to the car we got to dive in and start working with him on what was needed to [go] faster. The lap times came down quickly as Daniel displayed his natural talent and his excellent ability to apply outside input to his driving.
"It was really encouraging to see how quickly he was able to adapt and implement new things that we were throwing at him. Encouraging enough that at the end of the second day we all felt that even though it was his first time in the car we could get him to set the fast time ever [for] the track.
"So the next morning before Daniel had to leave for the airport we squeezed two sessions in. It was again displayed that he obviously has the talent to be competitive, as he was able to [set] lap times that compare to the fastest of the track.
"The more promising part is the manner in which he accomplished that. Some of his minimum corners speeds were faster than any we had seen here, 6.9mph (11.1km/h) faster. That and the fact that in the toughest and fastest braking zone of the track he was braking 9.6ft (2.93m) later than we've seen done before is amazing.
"For his introduction to the Star Mazda racecar it was a very, very promising test.
"It was great to get back out of the shop and on track. It was even better to be able to work with Daniel and get the results that we did."