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Author Topic: Crash Post-Mortem
steveh
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I recently became the not-so-proud owner of four sections of VIR Armco, after leaving the track surface in T9 (top of the uphill S's) in the rain.

I was getting some seat time in my E36 track car with a coach (no Spec Miatas were injured in the incident, this time) at a DE. No one was hurt, but the car's pretty well smashed.

Two questions for you wise men (and women) who have been there before me:

(1) how did you deal with the psychological after-effects of the incident? I liked the car, but didn't have a lot of $$ in it, so I can deal with that part; on the other hand, the blow to my confidence, and where I thought I was skill-wise, is still bothering the crap out of me.

(2) I am relatively new to track driving and racing (60 track days or so, 6 races this season), and have managed for the most part to get faster without spinning much or crashing (up until now). So I have some decent skills when it comes to going fast and staying on the track, and almost none when it comes to managing the car when it wants to go its own way (other than "turn into the spin" and "both feet in"). Besides days and days on a skid pad (not always available), any thoughts on how you develop crisis management skills on track?

Thanks.

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Crashing is, and always has been, part of racing. Most good race drivers had a time in their careers when they crashed. You really can't push to 10/10 ths, without, occasionally going beyond. Sometimes you get lucky and miss the wall, and sometimes you don't. It is just part of the game, especially in the rain.
The trick is to try to figure out where it all went wrong, and don't do that again. And, don't beat yourself up too much. It was not a matter of if you would ever crash, but when.
wheel

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You just deal with it. If however the next time you go thru that section you find your mind thinking about it pull off the track. I had a huge crash several years back in a club race and while it took me a year to pay off the wrecked hunk I went back out to the same track an blew thru that section without a second thought. Its just part of racing. good luck.
db

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quote:
Originally posted by steveh:
... how did you deal with the psychological after-effects of the incident?

It depends if you know what caused you to leave the track. I've had two relatively expensive solo offs. Both at Road Atlanta.

One was towards the end of the day in a DE. I find it harder to maintain keen focus in a DE compared to racing. I got lazy and was throwing the car around a little more than usual. Dropped a wheel headed down into the esses and backed it into a wall. I knew as I was sliding through the grass exactly what caused the spin.

In the other one, I was heel-toeing my BMW. Unfortunately I was in my Miata at the time. [Frown] Missed the pedal going into 6 and found the tires.

I had video running both times, which helped me confirm my dumbassitude.

For me, it has a lot to do with whether you know what caused the incident and if you learned anything. I did. Both times.

steveh
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Thanks for the feedback. No video, but I've replayed it countless times in my head.

Back end stepped out, over-corrected into the skid, front end bit, hit the grass, and that's all she wrote. The tow truck guys claimed no one has ever hit that particular section of guardrail before.

I pretty much knew as we were plowing through the grass that it was not going to end well, and knew exactly what I had done wrong -- but couldn't do a thing about it.

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1991 Spec Miata

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Dont do the same thing next time?

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Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Fortunately I've only hit something once on the track and got pretty lucky (a fair number of spins though). Unfortunately I've crashed and injured myself in other sports so many times I can't remember what each individual scar is from.

Many other people have said it more eloquently than me but to summarize, mental preparation is a key element. If you anticipate success or anticipate failure, you're more likely to achieve that outcome.

If you're fixated on all the things that could go wrong, you will cause things to go wrong. You want to visualize how everything goes right. I've seen many people crash into something because they're looking at it rather than looking at the path around it. In ski racing, the common adage is don't look at the gates, look at the hole between the gates.

You want a plan for what happens when things go wrong however. Having thought that through, you're more prepared if it does happen therefore you're more confident that you can handle it and are less likely to dwell on it.

Some of the best drivers I know or know of sit in the car in the garage, sometimes with a blindfold on so they don't cheat, and drive the course in their minds. When they look at the stopwatch at the end of the lap, they're remarkably close to their actual lap times.

If you can figure out what went wrong, great. Determine how not to do that again. If you can't, don't dwell on it. Figure out how to do it right. Have a plan for if something goes wrong but visualize and focus on doing it perfectly every time.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

steveh
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Olson:
Dont do the same thing next time?

Good point. I realize I'm looking for a "program" to avoid making the same kind of mistake again. It may be the simple answer is the best one.

Some of the problem seems to be an intense discomfort with having the car out of whack, which leads to a too quick reaction to try to "fix" it. The really fast guys seem to be comfortable occasionally traveling sideways between corners.

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Thinking in the negative "don't do that" doesn't work as well as "do this". In a nutshell, you make conscious decisions in one part of your brain and a different part translates those into which neurons to fire to move the right muscles.

If you think "don't lift" one part of your brain is thinking the action "gas" and trying to translate that to your muscles. Your brain also hears the action "lift" and has to factor in the word "don't". It's trying to do all of this very quickly. The result, you're more likely to lift or fight it. Thinking in positive terms..."gas" doesn't send those mixed signals. It's easier for your brain to quickly translate to the right muscles.

It's not just new age mumbo jumbo. There's kineseology (sp?) involved.

I'll shut up now. [Smile]

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

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1) Study what happened with the information you have. To the extent that you can understand the cause, you will be better prepared next time. You may not arrive at a definitive answer. Consider the range of possibilities.

2) Move on. Once you have understood as much as you can, then trust that your subconscious will use that knowledge next time you are in a similar situation. If the same situation happens or begins to develops again, then it deserves more attention.

3) Weigh the risks. Every move on track has some element risk. Make your decisions accordingly to maximize your chances, and make the possibility of disaster remote. Weighing risks especially applies to driving traffic.

-Juan

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quote:
Originally posted by Keith in WA:
Thinking in the negative "don't do that" doesn't work as well as "do this". In a nutshell, you make conscious decisions in one part of your brain and a different part translates those into which neurons to fire to move the right muscles.

This is more important than you may think. As you run through it in your mind (in any visualization), and as you create "muscle memory", you have to rehearse what you WILL DO. Keep "don't do this" out of it or that is what will be imprinted.

The skid pad is a good place to work on control, but I often find I spend too much effort trying to make the car loose (it wants to push), and that's not what you want to imprint.

Try some kart racing.

--------------------
Darrell Wheeler
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Steve:
First, a truly interesting and thought provoking thread. While I've never killed a car in a DE, I've hurt two race cars pretty badly. The first was six years ago and occurred as a direct result of the red haze phenomena (mine). The second was in 2007 and was the direct result of the same haze issue - except it was the other guys.

Incident #1 never really haunted me, but it did teach me that you cannot win a race in lap one. The second took a year to get over - although I still occasionally find myself examining how I feel about getting hurt as I sit in grid (especially if there's a long delay).

I can honestly say however, those incidents never cross my mind once I pull onto the track. I believe that's because I make it a point to consciously focus 100% of my attention to the race once I let out the clutch to leave grid.

And that brings me to my $.02 worth. If you can't clear your mind of the incident when you're on the track, you are not concentrating enough to be safe. Good luck.
Rick

--------------------
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Fred Cocca Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Hello & welcome steveh,
Coincidentally, I was getting some seat time in my E36 track car with a coach at my fourth DE who remarked how smooth things were going that we should start to use the curbing like he does in his race car. I upset the balance so badly the first time that I put two wheels off, "put both feet in" and we slid sideways across the track into the trees facing traffic while the coach croaked "steer down the track!".
To respond to your question "(1) how did you deal with the psychological after-effects of the incident?" I reviewed my incident with the coach & DE staff and resolved to improve both my deficient track skills and non-existent off-track skills. I continued my planned DE schedule in rentals while $$,$$$ repair progressed; later got in-car camera. Note I kept the E36 on similar non R-compound street tires for two or three subsequent track seasons. I had numerous of off-track excursions under varied conditions without car damage. Sufficiently confident, I employed R-compound tires at more DE, rented and then bought an SSM.
"(2)... any thoughts on how you develop crisis management skills on track? " I suggest that anyone practice, that you pay attention & take notes in DE classroom, peruse the Ross Bentley "Speed Secrets" book series, and reserve one's experiments (particularly low percentage maneuvers)for slower turns with ample runoff instead of higher speed turns. My $0.02 worth.

A footnote on "...any thoughts on how you develop crisis management skills ... " Guest speaker & active space shuttle commander responded to my question "In light of all your training, natural skills, hours in a simulator, ground support team versed in contingency planning, what is it that you think accounts most for your successful negotiation of those unanticipated circumstances?" Smiling, he said it was continued flying jet missions around an aircraft carrier at night, where there are so many critical and shifting parameters to manage.
Good luck 2010 season!

tony senese Verified Driver
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I wish I had no experience with this topic... (no wise cracks ALAN!)

Most everything has been said already, all I have to add is that crashing teaches you things that going fast just doesn't.... No matter how you deal with it, you will learn and get better. (No wise cracks ALAN!)

--------------------
Tony Senese
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Scott Zetterstrom Verified Driver
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Others have given you great advise. I just wanted to add 3 things about driving over the limit. When you have pushed it too far:

1. Get the car under control. Worry about whether you are on or off track later.

2. Know when to give up. It is much better to leave the track under your own terms than to leave it in a spin or sideways. Sometimes you just have too much speed to stay on the track. Drive it off. Don't spin it off.

3. If you go off stay off. Then get it under control. Then come back. Too many times people will drop a wheel or leave the track and try to jerk the car back on. This never turns out well.

As others have said, when you are pushing the limits sometimes you're going to find them.

[twocents]

Good Luck!

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Frank Todaro
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I have expertise on this question. In part explains my current run with Spec Miata. prior to this my track ride was a 997 GT3 which I tracked for two years. I kept pushing the limits till i went over the limits with a sticky set of Hoosiers R-6's. took out a 100+ g car at Mid Ohio. before the ink dried on the insurance paperwork I was buying and building my 1999 speck going in the direction of a dedicated track car that I could afford to ball up. Anyone and I mean anyone who takes this hobby seriously and pushes them self beyond driving like your looking for a parking spot, is going to wreck or has already wreck. Its liking trying to learn how to ride a bike without falling off once. learn from it, and move on. Your not a bad driver from wrecking, you just had an expensive lesson.

--------------------
Frank
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TR6
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One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to learn car control and recovery in a safe environment. As someone else pointed out, a skidpad is of limited help because most of us have to artificially "force" our cars to break loose on a skidpad in the same way it would on a track (rear first) since most cars will push/understeer on the skidpad.

I went out this past Saturday when it was cold and wet on my local track and ran my BMW Z3 M Coupe with street tires and traction control turned off. I diliberately exceeded the limit in some turns test my skills and spun it twice and got into a nasty tank slapper once (which I recovered, but it was close). It showed me that I've still got some work to do in this area. So I too am struggling with what is the most effective way to learn car control to be able to save it at high speed on a dry track where things happen much faster than on a wet slippery track. Everytime I ask more experienced drivers, I'm told "seat time". But I think that many newer drivers spend all of their track time driving within the limit of grip of their R-comps. And then when they finally exceed that limit (without realizing it), they don't have the skills to give the appropriate corrections fast enough to stay ahead of it.

--------------------
Greg H.
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Randy Thieme
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quote:
Originally posted by TR6:
One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to learn car control and recovery in a safe environment. As someone else pointed out, a skidpad is of limited help because most of us have to artificially "force" our cars to break loose on a skidpad in the same way it would on a track (rear first) since most cars will push/understeer on the skidpad.

Autocross is an option. Most courses are set-up with safe run-out areas. Taking a slalom too fast usually results in oversteer in most cars. (But I admit I have a hard time comparing an autocross slalom to anything I've experienced on a road course.) Oversteer in a Miata is easy to create if they place a tight corner right before the finishing lights. More than once I've spun almost 360 trying to fly through that last corner and timing lights with it floored.

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Ross Bentley wrote a bit on this which I thought was really interesting. Since cornering at the limit requires sliding the car somewhat, he recommends intentionally forcing the car to load up the suspension and start sliding early. That way you're anticipating it rather than suddenly the car lets go when you're not expecting it. (Now if I could just learn to do that reliably. [Smile] )

I've driven with a bunch of different clubs and some I can actually practice some of my race driving skills while at others, they'll have none of it. With some clubs, if it's a spot where you have good safe runoff room and the track is clear, they don't really care if you go off a few times as long as you don't keep interrupting the session and re-enter safely. Retired runways are good for that since you should have plenty of extra pavement at both ends.

With other clubs, they might black flag you if you do anything that looks even remotely sketchy.

--------------------
Keith Novak
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Danny Steyn Verified Driver
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If you are not crashing you are not finding the limits.


For over the limit practice in a safe environment, where its almost impossible to kill the car, seriuosly suggest that you all consider a trip to Sweden for ice driving with mercedes AMG, BMW, AUDI or PORSCHE - they all have schools there. Sounds expensive, but its not so bad

Getting there - say $8000 - just have to get to Germany - they fly you to Sweden
4 days - of driving, inclduing accomm, meals car, everything - approx $5000.

Gives you approx FOURTEEN hours in the car sideways for the entire time, pushing the limit

Most fun I have ever had behind the wheel of a car

Lots of pics and videos here at
AMG Ice Driving in Sweden

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Danny
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Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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I did think of one other thing...

At a local performance driving school, they have these rigs attached to trainer cars that can unweight any or all wheels so you can learn to slide it at low speeds rather than high speeds. Don't know how common those are at other driving schools but I've heard it's a great way to learn. It's easier to focus on how to correct major oversteer at 25mph in a big parking lot than 85mph looking sideways at a wall. [yep]

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Keith Novak
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$13,000 to drive in the snow?? damn dude fly to vermont rent a car and go to the mall parking lot after they close.

--------------------
Steven Elicati
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David Dewhurst
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We have lake ice racing in Wisconsin all winter. I went for a ride with Loshak a couple years ago in his Evo that had $300.00 tire per corner without studs & couldn't believe how the thing threw you back in the seat. Then the serious "studs" got it going & they really throw ice in the air twenty/thirty feet high from all four corners. [thumbsup]

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Have Fun [Wink]

David Dewhurst
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Danny Steyn Verified Driver
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Oops - risks of typing from your phone - airfare to Germany $800 - not $8000, unless you like sitting up front!!!!!!!

--------------------
Danny
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Also ice is groomed every night with zamboni type machinery - so you are always on absolutely perfectly smooth sheer ice. No grooves, no braking stutter bumps - just sheer perfection.

Its like the difference between waterskiing in the ocean vs. skiing a glassy cove early morning on a lake on a windless day. No comparison!

--------------------
Danny
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2009 SARRC Champ, 2009 SEDiv ECR Champ, 2009 FES Champ
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Frank Todaro
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Just go visit buffalo new york for a weekend. I came from that neck of the woods and driving in the snow is good practice and a good approximation of driving at the limit. I took my road test on a motorcycle in the snow back then, that is driving at the limit.

--------------------
Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott Zetterstrom:
Others have given you great advise. I just wanted to add 3 things about driving over the limit. When you have pushed it too far:

1. Get the car under control. Worry about whether you are on or off track later.

2. Know when to give up. It is much better to leave the track under your own terms than to leave it in a spin or sideways. Sometimes you just have too much speed to stay on the track. Drive it off. Don't spin it off.

3. If you go off stay off. Then get it under control. Then come back. Too many times people will drop a wheel or leave the track and try to jerk the car back on. This never turns out well.

As others have said, when you are pushing the limits sometimes you're going to find them.

[twocents]

Good Luck!

Could not agree more with that. Managed to go off at Lime Rock at Big Bend (turn 1) into the tire wall**. Review of the in-car video pointed to too much steering input at turn in. Just too much too fast and out to the left the rear end went!

Thinking about the re-entering aspect of an off I'm reminded of how many wrecks there were in the TDI Cup race series this year from this very point. The drivers were cautioned/chastised/cajoled by the instructor each and every time someone did it but these guys continued making bad decisions.

It's one thing to take yourself out but another entirely to take you & any number of your competitors out with a boneheaded decision to re-enter at the wrong point.

** 15 minutes into my first session and first time at the track. And in regards to what I did mentally after that? Kept thinking 'Brake, smooth right input, hold, more right input, unwind, gas, track out...'

It kept me from "reliving" the incident until I was out of the car and could further analyze with a clear head.

Get back on that horse!
B

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I agree with a lot of what others are saying. And while most my expeince is outside of a track. I will say find a SCCA rally or rallycross and see if you can rent a car for the day. If your realy serious about becoming a better driver at the limit, then drive for a day completly over the limit. [Smile] Make sure what ever car you get is same config as yours. Meaning FWD, AWD or RWD in the case of SM. That will get the same basic handling characteristics.
Just my 2 cents.

B Wilson Verified Driver Series Champ
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If I were running this though my head post incident (which I've been known to do [Smile] ), I would be kicking myself more for the over-correction than dropping the wheel. dropping a wheel is going to happen a whole bunch when at the limit, so learn how to deal with slides and spins better, i.e. the grass (or wall) is your a$$ and the pavement is your friend!

-bw

--------------------
Bruce Wilson
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quote:
Originally posted by Back-n-Black:
I agree with a lot of what others are saying. And while most my expeince is outside of a track. I will say find a SCCA rally or rallycross and see if you can rent a car for the day. If your realy serious about becoming a better driver at the limit, then drive for a day completly over the limit. [Smile] Make sure what ever car you get is same config as yours. Meaning FWD, AWD or RWD in the case of SM. That will get the same basic handling characteristics.
Just my 2 cents.

I've done some rallycross and will probably do more this year (if I can find a suitable beater). RallyX teaches car control skills on low-grip surfaces but bear in mind that the fast RallyX drivers use techniques that you don't necessarily want to use on a track (e.g., Scandinavian flick, left foot braking, etc.). But it is a lot of fun!

Frank Todaro
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It is a question we all will or have faced. I put my 997 GT3 into the wall at Mid Ohio. I spent several hrs looking at my traqmate data and going over in my mind what happened and why. For me, it was important to figure what i did, Why I did it, so that I could make a better decsion next time. In other words learn from it. Then, I went out like two weeks later and drove my brother car. Got right back on the horse. a week after that I built my 1999 spec Miata and have not looked back. Shit happens in this hobby, you are not a bad driver. Just get back on the track.

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Frank
Member: No Pain Racing

CP Verified Driver
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Year : 1999
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Good advice above about the positive thinking. I too wrecked my car this season during a rainy qualification session on a Saturday. I was down on the apron at NHMS between turns 1+2. The car snapped around so fast that I didn't have time to correct or even know what happened; suddenly I was going backwards across the track up towards the wall. It was weird because the apron had the best grip compared to that portion of the oval that we usually race on in the dry which is the reason I was down there, albeit with no track camber to help me out. It took what seemed like 2 minutes to cross the 5 lanes going backwards into the NASCAR wall almost square. I was watching it get closer and closer in the mirror thinking "why the hell haven't I hit it yet?" Lots of things go through the mind in these situations. Then BAM!

I saw stars for a few seconds and the gauges all popped out of the dash at me. Broke an ear off the rear diff housing, popped an axle out of the diff, killed the bumper cover, rear tails, crinkled the quarters/trunk lid and shortened the car by about 12". I took a lap or two to gather my thoughts, put the gauges back in the dash and feel out the car. 20/20 dictates that I should have come into the pits because the car was seriously hurt/bent. But I didn't get black flagged and the car drove pretty good so I kept going with qualifying and ended up turning a really good time on lap 12.

I later heard that the Chief of Tech was screaming at Race Control to bring me in but they said the times were good and the car looked alright. After just having the cage removed this week it appears that the damage was total. The rear cradle is bent (we knew that), the trans tunnel was visibly buckled under my elbow and up under the dash as well. Poor car [crackup]

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We found a new rear housing and got it all back together that night woth lots of gorilla tape and zip ties. Six of us worked on it for 6-7 hours and drank a few cases of beer I think. Special thanks to LTD Racing! I somehow pulled one out of my ass for the race on Sunday starting DFL and somehow finishing 2nd.

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I found a new donor car with 6x the mileage on it and have been swapping parts from the old one to the new one for the last 3 months straight. Not the cheap and easy process that I was expecting [shame]

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Getting to my point: try to determine what happened and then get right back on the horse if you're physically able to. I think if you dwell on it for too long, you'll only prolong the recovery process. Any doubt or hesitation will just hurt in the end in this sport, mentally and/or physically. The other option is to slow way down and gradually build up your confidence again while getting used to being a backmarker until you've got the confidence to push yourself and the car again. Different strokes for different folks. It took some coaxing from my peers (and wife) that afternoon to go find the parts I needed to put the car back together to make it raceable. I'm glad they pushed me to get going and thank them for their continued support [thumbsup]

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-Cy
Supported by LTD Racing & Speed Shack - New England's Premier Auto Accessory Store
Rt1 AutoMile - Norwood, MA
http://www.speedshackonline.com

steveh
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Thanks again to all for the thoughtful and encouraging replies.

After pulling the crumpled bits off the front of the car, it looks like it was not as badly damaged as originally thought (no real damage further back than the front of the engine bay). With help from the guys at Entropy Racing, I found a $500 E36 donor and am transplanting the front of the donor -- fenders, wheel wells, bumper, radiator, etc. A little paint, and it will be as good as it was.

So it looks like Franken-Bimmer will live again. First non-race (non-SM) stop this year: VIR, the scene of the crime, to get back on that particular horse. Maybe even in the rain....

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1991 Spec Miata

Motor City Hamilton
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Go purchase Skip Barber's book, Going Faster. There is a great section in there on finding the line. Some guys think you have to spin the car to find the line. Danny Sullevan, in the book, talked about creeping up to the line and how to do it. Fewer crashes, less risk of hurting yourself... just a safer way to learn.

Also, your crash was in the rain. That's a whole different dynamic. Little mistakes tend to turn into big mistakes much quicker and with less of your control. I have raced in the rain where the line changed with each lap - new puddles showing up each lap.

steveh
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Good suggestion. I have "Going Faster" and have read that Danny Sullivan section several times.

The "conventional wisdom" is that rain driving is good because it makes you go slower and makes it easier to find the limit with less downside risk. While I still agree generally with the CW, I found out the hard way that going fast in the rain can have some pretty serious consequences.

After replaying the incident in my head over and over, I have no doubt that it was my over-reaction to the initial loss of the rear end that got me in trouble, and the fact that I was already moving pretty quickly that guaranteed it would be big trouble.

It's the good news/bad news I alluded to in my initial post -- good news I can drive pretty fast in the rain at VIR; bad news, if the car gets away from me, I may or may not have time, or not be able, to get it back.

So this season, for racing and DE, I plan to step back a bit, re-learn some of the fundamentals without worrying about where I am in the pack, and then start to step it up again when it feels right.

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1991 Spec Miata

   

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