Memo Gidley Secrets of Speed ...
Memo Gidley Secrets of Speed #2: Making Those Practice Laps Count
By Memo Gidley
In the last article I talked about how to psyche out your competition before you even hit the track. Now I will tell you how to make those practice laps count. The first thing is to make sure that you and your kart are ready to hit the track as soon as it opens. Once you get to the track the only things left to do should be warming up your motor, setting your air pressure, setting up your computer, putting on your gear and going.
Once on the track, the mistake most drivers make is to treat practice days as just a way to get laps. I shake my head when a driver or team says that they aren't going to change anything on their kart and are not worried about lap times because "It's not a race weekend!" Usually, that is just an excuse that means they are too lazy to work on their kart.
Although getting laps is one important element of good practice, there are others equally as important. The most important part of a successful race weekend is making the proper changes to you kart quickly and efficiently. Anybody that has raced knows that a race weekend is very busy and you are always looking for time to get changes done in time for the next session. So, if you go out the first session and your kart is pushing badly, the most important thing is to fix it. Change some geometry, change the seat position, whatever, just change something! You want to pretend that your next session is in half an hour and that you need to get all your changes done quickly in order to get back out on to the track as soon as possible.
Also, remember to check you tire pressures when you first came in off the track. Checking tire pressures is something you need to do immediately after you come in from every session to be sure that your hot pressures are correct. The whole idea of setting your pressures cold and then checking them hot is so that you have a better idea of where to start them next time. If one tire comes in 3 lbs high, you need to start that tire 3lbs lower next time.
Taking notes is also an area that people on practice days overlook. The whole reason to take notes and log changes on a practice day is so that you have a set-up book for track and driving conditions during the race weekend. Not having a data system is not an excuse to not take notes. It is critical to note changes, weather, track conditions, and your kart and motor set-up. A well organized notebook for the race weekend is like having a cheat sheet on a final exam--an unfair advantage!
The night before, I like to have a pre-written schedule of some of the changes I have in mind or things that I need to test that day. If they are handling changes, I schedule those to happen when my tires are low in miles. If it's motor stuff, you can test those as the tires get some miles on them. The reason for doing it this way is that new tires have such a big affect on the handling of the kart that you don't want to tune when the tires are worn. But with engine changes, it's not really as important because you can still compare acceleration if the tires are fresh or not.
What I do is usually start the day on a decent set of tires to test or dial the kart in. After spending at least half the day dialing in the kart and engine, I will always bolt on a new set to simulate a qualifying run for the ultimate best time and balance. I might then fine tune the kart a little more if I think I can still make the kart better for a qualifying run. The last thing I do is run a simulated race run to check for the balance over a long distance. For the race run, I usually run a little longer than the normal distance of a race just to work myself a little more.
The last thing I will stress for a good day of testing is to keep your body hydrated and fed. The more energy and better refreshed you are, the more efficient and more you will get done at the track. So take the time to snack and have lunch and keep that Cytomax® bottle handy to drink whenever you get a chance.
Remember, the idea with testing and practice is to push your body and mind harder than normal. So, following these simple suggestions will make you a stronger and faster driver. And keep your competition thinking about you.
Memo Gidley is the co-author of the Memo Gidley Secrets of Speed how-to book series including titles on Shifter kart, Two-cycle kart and Four-cycle kart racing. For more information check out www.mgsecretsofspeed.com or email email@example.com.
-Stars of Karting