Jason Doucette Races Laguna Seca

Saturday, April 12, 2014
By: Matthew Doucette

As some of you might know, we are a fan of cars! And recently Jason Doucette got the amazing opportunity to race on the famous Laguna Seca track in a Formula race car:

Jason Doucette racing on Laguna Seca in a Formula car [Skip Barber].

This was part of Skip Barber's 3-day racing school. The video above is two laps. After turn 11 (end of lap 1), he slows down and motions to let Christina Nielsen (web; facebook) pass which is a required action. She's a professional race car driver in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, who was learning the track for her race 3 weeks later. He says she was pretty fast! I bet!

Here's some notes from Jason:

It's a 3-day school. So I flew in the night before, and left early the next morning to make it back in time for work. The wheel and simulation [Logitech G27 wheel, shifter, and pedals & iRacing] do nothing to give you the feeling that "holy shit, this is still sticking to the road", and the instructors are saying "you're doing everything right, so go faster". At one point the instructor was saying things to people "brake 1 foot earlier", which was causing some to laugh out loud, as though any of us have that sort of control.

Here are my videos:

This is me passing someone else who isn't a pro racer, and spinning afterwards:

This is a pro racer passing me: You can tell after the corkscrew, there are two high speed turns, and she leaves me well behind:

This is me full acceleration through the entire straight away attempting to brake at the last point that they said was possible, but I didn't use enough brake pressure (about 180 lbs). Not that it's hard to do, but if you exceed it, you lock the tires, and you only slow down about 1/2 as much. I could've still saved in on the extra concrete, but didn't try:

And more from Jason:

If you watch laps on youtube with these cars with accelerometers on them, you can see that the acceleration is about 0.6 Gs, which isn't amazing. 0-60 mph is in about 6.5 seconds -- but it's all in one gear. The other 4 handle the rest, and even around the tightest hairpins, you will be going 40 or 50 mph, so the car has acceleration where it matters -- once you're up to speed. Only 140hp, but in a car that's 1/3rd the weight of a normal car. So you can imagine the power to weight ratio. It's about a 450 hp vehicle if it were normal weight. Not incredible, but fast enough.

Braking is about 1.0G. This is quite something. 180 lbs of brake pressure to get that. And if you lock the tires (there's no electronic assists), it doesn't slow as fast. You can lock the tires merely by slightly turning since it puts a slight more weight on one side (I was doing this on entry into the corkscrew where my brain was saying "keep it straight while braking", and I wasn't listening -- I had to watch my videos to see that the wheel was just slightly turned). Also, once you lock them, you have a bald spot, which makes it easier to lock again on the same spot. They teach us the brakes by getting us to go full acceleration and then full pressure to get lock up, so we know where it is, and then back off from there. You'd never do this in your own vehicle -- since the tires are fucked after this. They sound like helicopters after they have a bald spot.

Turning is 1.6Gs. That's double a high (well -- maybe not Ferrari or Viper, but anything less) performance car. I now FINALLY get it when racers say it's not about the straight aways -- anyone can drive fast straight. The instructors even say it (and they are good -- they've won race series and set lap records). The fun is in the turns. It's all about the turns. And getting exit speed on the straights. And making straights where there are none. And sacrificing turns to set up better for future turns to make all of this happen. This is where the pro racer leaves me behind -- on those high speed turns, where I already feel I'm at the limit. But the pro karters that were there were getting tire noise on those turns... which is just the limit you want. Too much noise and you're slipping. A little bit of noise and you're at the edge.

The cars require heel-toe downshifting, to not upset the car. So while you're braking at 180 lbs of pressure, you blip the throttle to down shift while continuing to brake. You don't have to do this, but if you don't, you get engine braking, and that upsets the car -- meaning the springs on all 4 wheels start to get bouncy.

For upshifting, you just have to let go of the gas. No clutch required. As long as you were just accelerating. If not, you need to use the clutch. It sounds complex, but you get a feel for the car very quickly.

I was good enough to get to the point where the instructors told me to go faster (well, they just continually said this). And told me to start trail braking. Normally you brake only (and shift only) while going straight. You accelerate into and out of turns -- acceleration gives weight to the back of the car, even if it's just maintenance throttle, which makes the car stable. This is what's scary when you think you're going too fast for the turn already -- but if you let go, you'll spin, since you will cause engine braking. So, trail braking is throwing some of this away -- you continue to brake, but let off the brake proportionally with the turning of the wheel into the turn. The car should get unstable, and be allowed to slide, so you can rotate the car. Sliding -- not spinning. And when it's pointed correctly, the throttle stabilizes it. The corkscrew apexes should be taken both straight through, and you can see I'm still turning into the first. So, they told me to start trying this -- and that's when the course ended, so I never really did.

I brought my own GoPro, but they have rentals there.

That is all!



About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $190,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.