2013 was the second year of racing the Reparto Corse sponsored 325 BMW in the National Auto Sport Association's Spec e30 class. NASA is a club and we race for trophies. The class is called Spec e30 becasue everyone uses the same BMW 325 model and all the specifications are tightly controlled. The motors are stock and make about 155 horsepower. We can go over 130mph on the bisggest tracks. We use the same tires and suspension setups. The cars are stripped of amenities and safety equipment is added. We have a full rollcage, racing seat, six-point safety belt harnesses, wear fire proof suits, gloves, socks, shoes and underwear. A full face helmet with a head and neck restraint attachment is required. The racing is kept relatively inexpensive because of the spec rules and is relatively close for the same reason. Driver skill is the biggest factor. We race on road courses that have both left and right turns as well as elevation changes. This particular race was at Watkins Glen Internaitonal, one of the fastest and best road courses there is. The Glen is located in the Finger Lakes in western New York. It was home to Formula 1 for the United States Gran Prix for many years, and is one of the places road racing was born in America. The Glen is a very special place for racers.
You might wonder how car racing is related to bike fitting and/or custom bike building. Well it's not in a mechanical way, but in order to go fast I need to be comfortable, confident and balanced. Balance is not something that we think about typically in a car, after all it has four wheels to provide a stable platform, but anyone who has stomped on the gas and been pushed back into their seat or hit the brakes hard enough to make their car's nose dip has experienced what happens when the balance changes in their car. To go fast I need to balance the car at all points; especially when braking and turning to enter a corner, transition to the throttle during the corner, and when accelerating out of the corner. Driving efficiently requires using all my senses - looking as far ahead as possible, and keeping my center of gravity balanced through manipulation of the controls - my hands on the wheel for steering input, feet on the pedals for braking and accelerating, and coordinating the shifting sequence up and down the gears between my hands and feet with the gear lever and clutch pedal.
When we're on the bike we're on two rather than four wheels so we think of balance laterally - left and right. Since we're sitting and our contact points are our hands on the bars and feet on the pedals it's hard to sense where your center of gravity is front to back. When I do a bike fitting I am searching for the correct position to balance your weight from front to back. If your center of gravity is incorrectly placed on your bike you'll find out when your muscles start to fatigue and you get sore. The symptoms are the pain that can get you in your lower or upper back, neck, shoulders, knees, and where you sit. To adjust a rider's center of gravity I need to adjust your saddle location and then adjust things to suit your reach to the bars. It sounds pretty simple, but like balance in most things it isn't always easy to acheive!
I hope you enjoy the race video. Normally I'm closer to the front and I've made a few podiums, but I was struggling with my balance for the whole weekend leading up to this race on Sunday afternoon. As a result I had a crummy qualifying session. I started 14th out of about 18 and just to make it more of a challenge I had a poor start that dropped me even further back. We race for a set time (usually 35 minutes) rather than for a certain distance and unfortunately this race had a long stop because of an accident on the first lap that blocked the track at the last corner - thankfully the drivers were ok. With all that I had a good race and moved up to 8th by the time the checkered flag came out. Best of all, I came away feeling a whole lot more balanced and am really looking forward to the 2014 season! FYI; Our class starts together, but there are other classes on the course at the same time (Porsche 944s, Porsche Boxters and Miatas) that we need to negotiate so you'll see one or two of each in the video as I chase the cars in my class.
Want to learn more? Want to check out the track? Give me a shout. I instruct at the club's High Performance Driver Education classes.