practice analysis 16

learning curve
You never stop learning. In the AsiaCup Series, drivers have all the help they need
ennis, golf, soccer, cricket, baseball…
You name it, the winning players have
a coach, someone they trust and listen
to. In motorsport, it is rare. Not for the
AsiaCup Series racers, though where it
is now a fundamental part the championship.
A racing driver is like every person on the
planet. They will always benefit from having a
good teacher, one based in an ideal environment
to learn. That is what Meritus.GP provides in its
AsiaCup Series with its team of specialist driver
coaches to guide and educate the drivers, and help
them improve.
The benefits to the driver are obvious, not
least because they are studying where, and more
importantly how, they can go quicker. For the
coaches too, the process can be fulfilling.
Firhat Mokhzani, Managing Director of Meritus.
GP, is one of the founders of the team’s driver
development programme and race engineering
data schemes. His role means he has coached
and overseen many drivers since the idea was
implemented. “There’s a personal buzz,” he agrees.
“You see these kids, they are so young and full of
potential, so it’s really rewarding to see some of
them fulfill that potential. That’s the great thing
about this – you know almost immediately when
you’ve done a good job. It’s either the stopwatch or
the look on the driver’s face. Or both!”
Almost all of the drivers in AsiaCup are in the
early stages of their career. For some, Sepang in
June was their first ever race in a car… For all
drivers, though, the event starts the same. A
booklet with the programme of their weekend
schedule highlights the key moments and what
their job and responsibilities are. Basically, it tells
them where they must be, and when. The coaches
have found it works better in writing. Punctuality
is something that becomes more important the
higher they get in racing.”
The competitors also get a track guide, which
includes a circuit map, to make their own notes
about gear selection and corner numbers, that they
can refer to with their engineer.
One of the directives, or mission statements
given early in the whole process is simple, and
straightforward, as Denny Quinn, Meritus.GP
Team Engineer, explains: “Coaching is teaching
a driver not to ‘be fast’, but more importantly, to
understand ‘how to be fast’. This means building
a mutual relationship with the driver. It is
important to listen and establish the trust. This
understanding factor is important, it’s the only
way to progress.”
For those with experience, progress is finding
and focusing on those key areas to improve. A
tenth of a second saved here or there can add up
over a lap. Then it’s about refining and reproducing
that performance every lap.
For the first timers, there’s a lot to digest. Armaan
Ebrahim is one of the driver coaches, a former race
winner in Formula BMW Asia and F V6 Asia. He has
also raced in F3 and F2 in Europe, and Indy Lights
in America. He explains the procedure for a new
driver. “The main focus is for them to keep it on the
circuit and learn, getting the basic feel for the brakes
and steering. After that first session we’ll look at the
video, download all the data, look at the telemetry
and we’ll look at the video in more detail, see that
the lines and shifting points are right, their braking
technique, things like that.
“We’ll compare their data with the fastest one
(so conditions are the same), but also their laps
themselves – and see how consistent they are, what
they are doing differently each and every lap. The
main focus is to get consistent – so that they know
what they are doing naturally – rather than
outright speed. Because, once they figure out
what they are doing, and exactly where to put
the car, then the speed will come.”
Making progress
Ross Jamison, Formula BMW Pacific Champion
in 2008, is another driver coach with personal
experience of the AsiaCup Series cars, winning
his title with Meritus.GP. “The car logs about 50
channels, so that’s a lot of information for you
to put up on the screen for the drivers. Some of
them genuinely understand it, and get into the
information quickly. But there have been occasions
where you have drivers that just don’t get what
you’re showing them, so you have to spell it out.”
Some take to the new information straight
away. “It’s much easier to make progress if they do
understand what they are shown,” Hong Kongbased Jamison says. They understand what all the
little lines on the screen mean. That’s when they
start to develop their own thinking without you
having to tell them what to look for.”
One such newcomer is Worawong Komarakul,
better known as ‘Plu’. The Thai driver had seven
years’ experience in karts, but the Sepang races in
June were his first in a car. After those four races,
he had a remarkable four podium finishes, and
eight new trophies for his collection – for the four
third places, and four rookie winner finishes.
“I learned so many more things about racing,” Plu
says of his accomplished AsiaCup Series debut. “One
of those was data – such an important thing for
racing formula cars. In all of my sessions it felt like
there were a million things to remember and fix.
“I missed some days of school to come racing,”
he admits, “but at the same time it felt like I came
to an academics camp! The math and science that
I was taught in school – that I once thought was
completely useless – I saw it in action here, helping
me with my driving and the car.
“The Asia Cup series taught me – with a handson experience – why racing is as such an all-round
sport,” he concludes. “It requires skill, fitness,
commitment, and more to ‘play’ – along with the
athlete’s ability to learn and apply knowledge not
just to themselves, but also to the machine.”
Practice makes perfect
While Plu picked it up immediately, others grew
in speed as the event continued. Indian Ebrahim
again: “Every corner has got to matter,” he says.
“If you are good everywhere, it will make a big
difference. For example a driver will come up and
say, ‘I’m three seconds off’. So you look at the data,
and you see it’s not all in one section… It’s one or
two tenths in every corner, and with a slower speed
between the corners, it all adds up over the lap.”
And that is when the data sheets count the most.”
The final lesson is very simple: no-one is perfect.
Drivers will make mistakes. The thing to learn is
to not make the same mistake twice. They will all
jump the start, stall the engine, miss their braking,
speed in the pits, not observe flags and make other
misdemeanors. It’s all part of the learning process.
Charted territories
Firhat Mohkzani, Managing Director, and one of the brains behind the drivers’ development
programmes and race engineering data, explains a typical data sheet that will be studied and absorbed
after a session. The driver can recognize where improvements are needed to post faster lap times.
Key to trace
n Steering input
n Speed
n Brake Pressure
n Throttle
The screenshot above is of a typical analysis window that we use in
AsiaCup. The different lines from top to bottom respectively show:
The vertical dotted line towards the left side of the page shows the
cursor position and the car position on track during the lap. In the map
window in the middle of the page, the position of the cursor correlates
to where the blue and red dot intersects on the map window.
The panel titled ‘Measuring values’ shows what the values of all the
sensors are at the cursor position (the vertical dotted line) of the analysis
window. The values marked in bold in the table correspond to the values
that are illustrated graphically. In this case, it’s just the five values that
I described previously though you can see there are many more that
could be graphed out if so desired.
All along the bottom in the red band is information that shows the
event (ACS1.14 = AsiaCup Series, event one), the date of the data (0621
= June 21), the initials of the driver (JP = Jake Parsons), the run number
(02), the specific lap number (7L = lap 7) and the recorded lap time
(2:17.83 min = 2m17.83s) of the outing that is displayed on screen.
This is an illustration of the
same data as in #1 (which is a
race lap from AsiaCup 2014,
race 2) but overlaid with the
qualifying lap of the same
driver for the first event.
In this graph, you can see
an additional line in the center
of the screen that slowly
separates from the center line of the screen as the lap progresses. This
is called the time difference line. This makes it easy to spot quickly
where the driver is losing out in terms of time from one lap to another.
Differences in throttle application, brake application and steering
angles between the faster blue graph against the red graph all
contribute to this time loss.
It is possible to zoom into specific parts of the lap in order to get a
detailed look as I have done in the graph (Trace #3).
A lap of
2nd gear
With entry speeds nudging
200kph drivers hit the anchors
just before the 50m board.
The braking phase continues
deep into the corner forcing
drivers to manage braking
and cornering performance
(longitudinal and lateral grip).
The exit of T1 is all about setting
up T2. If you apex too early, or
get too eager with the throttle,
you’ll arrive at T2 too far to the
left hand side of the circuit and
ruin your average speed the
whole way to T4. T2
2nd gear
A second gear corner, T2 drops
away from the car at the apex the circuits constant undulation
is part of its charm. Drivers need
to nail the throttle early because
there is no lifting between the
apex of T2 and the braking point
at T4 - any speed deficit at corner
exit is maintained for the next
500 hundred meters or so! T3 6th GEAR FLAT T3 is a non event in the dry. It
is “easy flat” as drivers would
say. In the wet it is a little more
difficult. During heavy rainstorms
T3 develops a number of cross
circuit rivers which cause lots of
oversteer and raised heart rates
inside the cockpit. T4
The home of the AsiaCup Series
is the Formula 1-standard Sepang
International Circuit, which has
hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix since
1999. Who better to take us for a quck
lap than Ross Jamison, 2008 Formula
BMW Pacific series champion, and
now Meritus.GP driver coach.
3RD gear
The cars arrive approaching the
rev limiter in 5th before braking at
the 50m board and firing down
two gears. A traditional racing line
arcs through the corner - drivers
apex mid corner and use all the
track width at the exit. T5
5th gear
T5 is the first real high speed
corner at Sepang. Taken in
5th gear, the cars accelerate
through T5 hitting speeds well
over 150kph. A little like the T1/2
complex, T5 is all about setting
up T6. The entry point is very
wide and the racing line gradually
tightens into the apex just before
the transition to T6. The aim is to
create the widest angle possible
as you enter T6. ratios, they’re all about carrying
good entry speed, loading the car
quickly and picking up the throttle
early for a fast run to T9. T9 2ND gear One of the slowest corners on
the track, T9 is taken in 2nd
gear. A good overtaking spot,
drivers should always beware of
a kamikaze dive on the first lap!
T9 has a slightly late apex. This
enables drivers to straighten the
exit phase and fire the car up the
considerable gradient into T10/11. 3rd gear
4th / 5th gear
Although they may look like two
corners on the track map, inside
the car, T7/8 become one, double
apex corner. Taken in fourth or
fifth gear, depending on gear
5th gear
As you enter T13, also flat in 5th
gear, you hug the inside white line
and don’t let go. There is a handy
slip road on the infield section
which makes a good braking
marker for T14. 6th GEAR FLAT Like T3, T10 is a non event in the
dry. The cars are “easy flat” from
the exit of T9 to the braking point
at T11. T10
An extension of T5, T6 is fast
and huge amounts of fun. In
qualifying trim, T5/6 are both flat,
a very satisfying feeling! If you do
happen wash off the circuit at the
exit, you’ll be welcomed by some
very uncomfortable gravel traps.
5th gear
The whole way through T13 the
car is laterally loaded. As such,
when you hit the braking point
for T14 (the slip road) you also
straighten the steering wheel to
give the tyres the grip they need
to slow you down. It’s then a
matter of getting the car to pivot
quickly and getting back on the
power early. Any speed lost out of
T14 is carried all the way down the
back straight. 4th gear T11 can be very frustrating. Firstly,
as you approach the corner, the
apex is blind. In addition, even if
you judge the apex perfectly, the
corner proceeds to slope away
from you (off camber) - it try’s to
suck you onto the kerb and spit
you into the gravel. T6
Overall Impression A circuit much loved by drivers,
Sepang has something for
everyone. The 5.4 km loop has
a great mix of corners
providing a technical challenge
for drivers and engineers alike. 5th gear Taken flat in fifth, T12 is another
very speedy corner. A smooth
approach helps to keep the car
settled and stable ready for the
T13/14 complex.
3rd gear
The back straight is the perfect
place to take a breather, adjust
your brake bias (if necessary)
and check your mirrors. Drivers
arrive at T15 in 6th gear and hit
the brakes about 60m from the
corner. From here, you pop down
three cogs and take a slightly late
apex to ensure a good exit onto
the main straight. And that’s a lap
of Sepang.
Hosts F1 and MotoGP.
Minimum track width: 16m.
Longest straight: 927.5m.