WDMS - Chapter 231 - Fall 2014




Tuning and Coaching - A Path for Champions...


I've known Corey quite a while and over the years we've had a lot of long talks about classes of racing, ways to make cars faster, ways to make drivers faster and the best ways to achieve those items. When Corey started to build a Spec Iron car for NASA Texas he and I spoke quite a few times about getting some testing done together but it never really gelled. He and I both have eclectic schedules coupled with families, lots of side projects and the like. Corey ran Spec Iron and did very well in Texas but as we touched base a few times throughout the season (I was chasing a double championship in 2014 as well!) we both knew the car needed more dialing in. 


Now, for some history, Corey is always fast. Always has been. In whatever he gets in, he will be incredibly quick and he gets every ounce of speed out of a car. He has many track records and fastest laps. He has also donated his time to instruct other drivers and help them learn his techniques for going fast (being a pilot, he also teaches people to fly). This was a critical nugget for me because developing a driver and developing a chassis are two VERY different things. I use my DL1 to gather different data sets and display/focus on different data when developing a driver than I do a chassis. With Corey, I did not have to worry about him getting pretty much every bit out of the car, we could simply focus on maximizing the tires and perhaps slightly altering his approach to the laps. Knowing Corey’s skill, I knew we could work quickly. We used Neil’s shock chart from his book (thinkfastbook.com) to talk about the phases of corners, what the car was doing, etc


Finally, it was a few weeks away from the east coast national championships at Road Atlanta (yes, NASA has a champion for each coast, ug, but it is what it is) and Corey and I had another long phone call that culminated in a real deep-dive of the season performance and what he liked and what he didn't. We planned on testing two weeks before Nats at TWS (closest thing to RA that Texas has) and we likely only had one day to get it done. I have a pretty good amount of seat time at RA (both pre and post neuter) and so we could strategize about the track and what we needed where. For our deep dive phone call we learned two things that glared pretty ugly. 


1) The car was "pretty good" in the first few laps but then the back end slowly "went away" as the laps mounted as evidenced by lap times and the amount of counter-steering needed to keep the back end in the back

2) He was educated-guessing at rear air pressure and going by his own experience and looking at tire wear. Judging by that wear, the front was likely close, but the rear, even when changed, seemed to go off in a handful of laps


Once I painted the overall picture of what I was trying to do, Corey admitted he lacked a plan that went beyond the next corner or setting the fastest lap. Just in chatting about my racing and his racing and talking about results, we changed his way of thinking a bit towards the best way to not just be the fastest car for a lap, but be the fastest car for the 45 minute race. We talked about racers we knew and how common it was for folks to be fast out of the gate and maybe setting fast lap, but not being on the podium either by crashing, tearing up equipment, or simply burning the tires off the car. Once we were on the same page for the results we wanted, it was time to test to see where we were and chart a course towards a better setup.


I'm a big believer in data and making changes. Sometimes I make a change based on data and expect a certain result and other times I make a change just to see what will happen to gain data points in whatever direction it takes me. For this test we clearly needed to focus on the rear of the car because the front seemed to be doing fine. We both knew the front could likely use some work as well, but with the rear giving so many issues and a single test day to get a better handle on this, we made the commitment to fix the rear of the car or die trying.


I met Corey at the track early and we got to work. He did a quick warmup session and then I installed my DL1 and tire-temp array on the right rear tire (outboard for this track config). We conferred over his last setup sheet with weights and such and set the rear air pressure to what he usually runs. He was told to push the car, but not overdrive it and harm the rears. I sent him out for five laps and by lap 3 the car was already slowing down. He came in, I made a drastic air pressure change (he was strapped in and asking what I did, I simply told him to go drive!) and he did another five laps and came in. With those two simple baseline plots we had a good starting point. Just before lunch we made a huge rear suspension change and a slight air pressure change and sent him out again. Much better this time as the laps for 4 and 5 were almost identical and quicker than he'd gone here before by a nice step. 



Above: Page from ThinkFast book (www.thinkfastbook.com) and then Corey's right rear tire


Lunch. Corey's wife Lisa cooked up some incredible food and we sat in the RV going over the temp data and me showing him what I was seeing and reacting to. We talked about driving style and driving with 'calm aggression'. In a spec class you've got to be fast with the least amount of work and wear on the tires. The national race would be longer than any race during the season and there HAD to be some car and tire left at the end to either mount a charge or defend from someone else mounting one. We covered a lot of the mental ground of racing. Corey now understood the patience and self-control needed to go fast while keeping tire heat down to keep them alive the whole 45 minutes. It takes a change in setup and a change in driver approach, but he could already see very positive results. 


Above: 3 sensors on the rear tire and then a camera as well....all to find out what the heck is really going on!


After lunch, another good sized rear suspension change and another air pressure change and lap times fell further and we started doing longer runs and the car stayed consistent. We took another long break, ate some more of Lisa's awesome cooking and looked over the data as well as the vid of the rear tire in action. And we talked and talked about driving style...how it differs from saving the car to using the car. We talked about small changes in how a driver gets off the brakes, how a driver slightly reduces slip angle to keep tire temp and wear down, how the laps need to be driven with the least amount of steering angle (he who turns the wheel the least, wins!), etc etc.


Final session and I made another smallish air pressure change and sent him out with specific instructions to push the first two laps then back off and go into conserve mode and minimize slip angles, but still try and put down fast laps. Lisa and I sat there as he circulated on this final long run and it worked like a charm. He did a 12 lap run and his final lap was his quickest. He came in grinning ear to ear and said he’d never had a car that felt that strong after that many laps and he said he knew it would just keep getting quicker. YES! We made HUGE changes and were running far off what the typical setup said to run…and it was working beautifully. We had found our setup*!! (see caveat below)


As I looked at his final string of lap times I could not help but feel good. THIS is exactly why I do what I do. I run into plenty of drivers who are fast and won’t listen to anyone else. They feel they know best and their ego is just right in the way of progress. Corey is fast and still craves that magical perfect lap that he knows will never happen so he strives to learn and keep pushing. I had a really good feeling about him going to Nats now.


I had really wanted to go with Corey to help him at the event, but my schedule precluded that from happening so we were going to have to settle for some phone-in support and I told Corey I’d do whatever I could to help him win.

Sure enough, the first obstacle was to figure out if new tires were faster than heat cycled tires and so upon his arrival he sent me a list of the tires he had and the sessions he had remaining over the three days and I sent him back an excel spreadsheet of what tire to run when and by the night before the big race we’d have our answer. Sure enough, we kept talking and texting throughout the weekend and finally it was Sunday and time for the big one. Corey had done extremely well and put the car 2nd on the grid.

The Race: Corey got a fantastic start and was never really challenged for the win. From a standing start, Corey (the old street racer that he is…) got a phenomenal launch and pushed for a few laps, and from there kept the slip angles low and maintained the gap. The race was 24 laps and Corey, even though he was slightly lowering his shift points to take it easy on the car, still set his fastest lap on lap 21. While several of the top 5 cars cut a slightly faster lap than Corey, they all did it within the first 10 laps. Corey sailed under the checker with more than a 2 second lead (a big lead in a spec racing!) at the end. 

Corey was interviewed at the end of the race and again after the podium celebration.

"The Latemodel Restoration team performed fantastic and stuck to their strategies and it paid off with a big win and a National Championship. The LMR team would like to thank: Lisa Rueth for all the work and sacrifice it requires to be the wife in a championship team. Jeff Brooks for being a best friend to Corey and an even better crew chief. Robert Boudreaux for volunteering out of the blue on short notice to bring his cherished friendship and knowledge and luck to this team, and of course Paul Costas of Witchdoctor Motorsports for sharing the 20+ years of racing knowledge to give this team the best shot at victory" ~ Corey Rueth,

I got the “thank you” phone call from Corey just after the podium and in a gap between interviews and he was talking as fast as he drives. I could hear his grin and he relayed that he never felt like he used all the car, how he was pushing, but not overdriving and how the car just got better and better as the race went on. I could not have been more proud of him adapting to the new setup and driving style and making it all work perfectly.  THAT is what a champion does.

Great video of the race from Corey’s two on board cameras: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LT170V7Xz0&feature=youtu.be


*Caveat = Lots of folks ask about tire pressures that I've helped folks find and although it might be a finishing number for the driver/chassis that got tuned, it is likely (at best) just a starting point for another driver, even if that driver is in the same car and setup as the one I tuned. Driving style has a dramatic effect on tire temps and as I believe, tire temps drive the setup. I have never made changes to a car that the tires liked, that didn't also result in a happy driver. So, even with Corey's car setup perfectly for him, dropping another driver in the car would likely end up with non-optimum temps unless they drive almost exactly the same.

If you'd like to see how fast tire temps change, please take a look at this video where the temps are listed just below the speedometer ( https://vimeo.com/30574720 ) and if you'd like to know more about setting up a car based on tire temps, then please read this chapter: http://www.witchdoctormotorsports.com/ch192.htm