Archive for October, 2009

Class Act

Posted in Miscellaneous on October 28, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

I had the pleasure of visiting part of the Flying Lizard Brain Trust today – Franz Blam Racing. How lovely that both Franz and Thomas were there when I arrived! Unfortunately, I was seriously off schedule, and was only able to stay a few minutes before I had to get back on the road to my meeting in downtown Atlanta. And, of course, during most of those few minutes, Thomas ended up on the phone conducting very important Flying Lizard business. I didn’t want to appear nosy, so I went with Franz back into the shop while Thomas was on the phone up front. But as I passed I distinctly heard him talking about plans for the 2010 season. I wasn’t sure who was on the other end, but he told me later it was Lizard stuff.

Anyway I was glad to find my way to the shop. I’d talked to them a year ago while shopping cars and they were so generous, it was nice to thank them in person. When I first talked to Franz last year, I had no clue about his own accomplishments in the racing world. Knowing a tiny bit more now, I am honored to have his autograph on my helmet, along with Thomas’, who is a key part of the Flying Lizard recipe for success among his many accomplishments. We talked a little about my car before Thomas got busy.

One thing I’d hoped to ask about was how the ALMS class structure will affect planning, engineering, and strategy for next year. You will not be surprised to know that the whole concept of car classing makes my head hurt! I had to learn enough about how it works to read the SCCA General Rule Book for the purposes of classing my own car for SCCA autocross (which they call “Solo”). What I came up with after reading the book was entirely different from what my car class ended up being. And everybody I asked, all seasoned club members, had a different answer. Even the “tech experts”! I ended up in BS (B Stock) to start, then when I looked at the rules, I realized that my very minor modifications actually required that I run in B Street Prepared (BSP). If I were to go to another district, my exact car might end up in an entirely different class. So that’s my experience with car classing!

However, even this limited experience was helpful in understanding the changes in ALMS classing for 2010. I have also seen this in action working events with NASA, where they have something like twenty classes which race in two groups. The way I understand it, the purpose of car classing is to even the playing field between different kinds of cars to account for power and handling characteristics. Different classes in one race results in a race with an overall winner and winners for each class.

I’ve seen this in action in ALMS this year with the wildly different LMP (Le Mans Prototype) and GT (Grand Touring) cars. This year, in coordination and with approval of the ACO (Automobile Club d’Ouest), we had LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2. Next year? Holy hell here we go. LMP1 and LMP2 will run in a single class to be called LMP (with exception of the endurance classics – the Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans – that will continue to adhere to the ACO technical rules for LMP1 and LMP2).

There will be a new “LMP Challenge” class as well (called LMPC), and one of those vehicles debuted in a display the Sunday after the Petit le Mans – a Courage that will run in the LMP Challenge class next year. This class has similar weight to LMP cars, but lower horsepower (450hp as compared to 500-700hp). The class ran in Europe this year, and will make its ALMS debut at Sebring in March.

For the GT classes, GT1 is going away. No more GT1. GT2 will be called simply GT. The class will include the Corvette C6.R, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Jaguar XKR, BMW M3, Panoz Esperante, Ford GT, and Dodge Viper. For 2010, we can expect to see a second Ferrari team, a fully functioning (we hope) Jaguar team, and some additional Porsche teams, along with the usual (and some new) privateers. The entry of the Corvettes at mid-season this year was particularly exciting, as we saw at Laguna Seca.

New for 2010, there will be a full GT Challenge class (GTC). This class debuted in 2009 at Miller in Salt Lake City. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars from the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama were the only eligible cars in 2009, but for 2010, competition will be open to other versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, with other manufacturers likely to be added in the future.

So to sum up, we’ll have LMP, LMPC, GT, and GTC. Edited to add: I should have also noted that the driving force behind adding the Challenge classes is couched by the organizations in marketing terms such as “value-added” but I think it boils down to making it cheaper so that more teams can participate. The way the Challenge classes are set up in ALMS, they each serve as a “lite” version of the Prototype and Grand Touring existing classes which are on the cutting edge of car-development technology, and thus, very expensive to run in. For anyone who cares, full details are on the ALMS website. One thing is for sure, next year is going to be super exciting!

Hey I saw your latest post on and as usual, it was some great writing. I was so glad to know that you all had time to celebrate together. What a wonderful time that must have been! I imagine like Thomas, you are hard at work preparing for next year. I can’t wait!

One last thought – I wrote previously about mastering tracks and a plan to do that at autocross. Then a friend sent me a link to this video of a bike racer talking about HIS method. Hilarious! Check it out:

And on that note, I bid you good evening!

As ever,


Happy Blogiversary to Us!

Posted in Miscellaneous on October 28, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Well I don’t delude myself by thinking that you read this thing regularly, or even that you have ever seen it at all! And yet? I’ve been at it a year, writing letters to you as if you were my driving coach. I started this blog in October of last year as you were preparing for the Petit le Mans, and I was preparing for my very first track day. And my very first autocross. I had sent a couple of long, babbling emails to you via your management, and I had no clue if you ever saw those either. But I found myself wanting to continue to write to you to tell you stuff, and to ask you stuff. So I did. Except it was kind of weird writing letters that went nowhere. So I made this place for them. And a year later, here we are!

Hi Gina, my one faithful reader!

So anyway, I have a little plan for celebrating our blogiversary, and I hope hope hope it works. With any luck, I will be paying a visit to Franz Blam Racing in Tucker later today.  As long as Atlanta traffic cooperates………..and I better not jinx myself!

It’s late and I’ve got an early day tomorrow so I’ll leave it here.

I hope you are happy, well, and driving fast wherever you are!


Raw Data

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

Well I promised results, and this is rather painful, but if you were actually my coach, you’d already know this by now!

BSP 41 VroomGrrl Porsche Carrera 911 white ALSCCA

I didn’t realize until I looked at the final results that I had HIT A CONE. Pfffft. Must have caught one in my big drift through the hairpin on that last run. I’d taken some solace from the belief I’d gotten all clean runs. So much for that!

Oh, and really? I came in last. The one guy I came in ahead of got one run that was DNF – because his car broke! Le sigh.

OK well I am not going to belabor this. It is what it is, and it ain’t pretty, but what the hell. I’ll be back out there in November. And I will be sure my car (AND PARTICULARLY THE TRANSMISSION) are fully warmed up and ready to go before I hit the course for my first run.

One idea that I’m tossing around is focusing on this type of driving for next year, instead of trying to do both track weekends and autocross events. If I focus on autocross, I can do many more events because they are easier on the car and on the bank account. By attending events of several districts within easy reach, I could come close to driving every single week. THAT would be awesome, and might provide enough continuity for me to actually build my skills, too, which would be super awesome. And without doubt, improving my car handling in AX would make me a much more confident driver on the big tracks.

I am going to seriously consider this. I will always want to be out at the track for the PCA, NASA and SCCA club events, and I might drive Little Tally again next year, but especially given the toll on my car this year and the costs I’m looking at just for basic maintenance after a light track year, I’m thinking a year of autocross may be the way to go. It would be nice to actually make some progress, and, dare I say it, become competitive? Now there’s a thought!

Should I be checking the Camping World Series truck races to see if you are doing any of that these last few weekends? You’re not going to show up in a car at Talladega this weekend are you? Now that might be fun! If you do, don’t be shy, let me know. I’m just an hour from there.

Tomorrow I’m off to Atlanta for a day trip. With any luck, I will get by the Franz Blam Racing shop in Tucker. Fingers crossed. I’ve worked out the logistics so that I can actually plan to have them do some work for me. I can borrow my mom’s car while my Pcar is over there. Easypeasy. Just need to figure out the time and financing. Meanwhile it’ll be nice to see who’s who and what’s what over there.

Road trippin again,

You Know What They Say About Plans…

Posted in Autocross on October 25, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hey Pat,

This will be short because I am whooped!

Beautiful day for autocross. It was a great competition between friendly rival clubs. I got to work grid, which I love! But I wasn’t able to do all the course walking I wanted to. And so that plan to have a plan didn’t exactly work out as I thought it might. But I was able to come up with a plan, and it seemed like a pretty good one. When it worked, it was good, anyway.

However I had some problems with my car. My gearbox started acting wonky going into second, and the skip returned with a vengeance. The gearbox was a real timesuck on my first run. The second was better, and by the third, I’d figured a work-around for the gearbox issue. The skip was a power suck and thus also a bit of a time suck also. I haven’t seen the results but I’m sure my first run was about 90 seconds! And a DNF since I lost concentration and missed a feature. My second run was probably just as slow but clean. My third run, at a, was my last run of the morning. My three afternoon runs were a little better – my best was a The FTD was so I was further off than I like to be. And I came in second to the last of twenty-three novices!

One more event of the season to come.

I’ve looked at some of the video I took and I used one angle that allowed me to see my hands, which I think were way too busy. I only got two runs, and again, no sound. But here they are on a YouTube video:

OK I’m outta here. More another day…


Goals and Plans

Posted in Autocross on October 24, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

First, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your most recent column for Panorama (link to Pat’s Panorama Raceblog on the right). As I figured you would, you stayed out of the fray on the Joerg vs. Jan business, but still managed to express some of your thoughts about it, which I really enjoyed reading. I always wonder what must be going through your minds as these things are happening. It’s neat to find out after the fact. Kudos on a really great and well-written column, and again, on a great year in the car!

I guess I could have asked in my last post if you ever named your cars. I was never much into naming them, but at some point, I selected the name Cruella for my “race” car. That’s Cruella de Porsche to you! Ha! So it’s late Saturday night, and I’ve just come in from packing up the car for autocross tomorrow. It’s a big day for the club, the annual North vs. South battle, where our folks go to their club for an event Saturday, and they come to ours on Sunday. I had to forego the Saturday, just couldn’t spend my whole weekend in the car.

Instead, today I spent some time checking the car over, warming it up well to check oil and tire pressure, and all that fun. Then I took a break to go with my husband to a sports bar to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide game. It was pretty boring until literally the last minute when Tennessee scored a touchdown bringing them within two points of the Tide, then regained possession on the next play when Alabama fumbled, and worked their way downfield to within field goal range. Fourth down, four (FOUR) seconds to go, and it came down to this field goal. If they get it, they win. If they miss, Alabama wins. Amazingly, Alabama blocked the kick and won the game. By the skin of their teeth! Other than that, it was actually painfully slow.

Then it was back home to do chores, get my duds ready for tomorrow, and get the car packed back up track-style. I actually did it kind of backward, but for a reason. I got the car stuff done during the last of daylight, got my snacks and clothes and other things ready to go and packed into the car just at dark, then finished the night with some exciting bathroom scrubbing. Hey, it had to be done, and I’d rather be up late tonight doing it than having it still ahead of me when I get home from the track tomorrow.

ANYWAY. Good lord. So tomorrow. I hope to show some improvement. Drive like I’ve found some cojones. It’s weird, I have definitely improved generally over the year, but I feel constantly like I should be doing better. I realize part of this is the expectations of those around me. People are not shy about sharing them with me, all “OK well what’s the problem? JUST DRIVE FASTER!” I will be at the starting line, and the starter will come over and say, “OK now get it! GRRRRR!” trying to pump me up. I have been hearing this stuff all year long. And before everything I do, I find myself thinking, “OK, maybe THIS will be the day….” and I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe it will be the day what, that I drive faster than lots of other people? That I surprise everybody by all of a sudden driving like a rock star? That’s a bit much on the expectations!

What am I not doing that I should be doing? What is the big secret? What is the big trick I’m missing?

Well there you go then. I’m glad I wrote about this because…there is no secret, no big trick. I really think it’s a matter of seat time and comfort level with pushing limits. Logic and reason (and several people who ought to know) tell me that when I am ready, it’ll come. I have had people in the car with me, the best help I could hope to have at autocross, and I love getting real-time tips and realizing immediate benefit in seconds shaved off my times with each tweak. And their feedback is always the same, and it’s the same at the tracks, too: just keep at it – seat time, seat time, seat time.

That said, it would be so awesome to kick a little ass and take a few names!

But I’m not going to focus on that. I’ve already got my focus honed on a goal, and I have my morning planned out. I am going to approach the course walk with much closer attention, and I am going to work on that part of this whole thing which challenges me most: the part where you get your head around the track and you make your plan and you execute it. THAT right there is something I could do that would definitely improve my times. And it’s not that I haven’t been doing it, but I haven’t been as intense about it as I know I could be in terms of making a plan and holding it in my head. I have said before that I have some cognitive issues with space and my place in space and directions and all that – and boy howdy does high performance require good spatial thinking!

So, I am going to use some aides. I am going to take notes. I am going to draw the course down on a note pad, and I am going to PLAN my attack. Again, this is nothing new. I have done several course walks at each event, and stopped along the way to plan approaches, braking points, directions on options and things like that. But I have never really committed to a plan for the whole. This time I want to see if I can get a plan for the whole course and hold it in my head and execute it. Making the decisions ahead of time and simply executing them should theoretically be much faster than making these decisions on the fly. Seconds, tenths, hundredths of seconds count here. Having decisions made ahead of time will also allow me to make thoughtful tweaks to things instead of feeling like I am going by the seat of my pants. I will have a plan, and I can adjust it if I want or need to. But at least I will have a plan!

No matter what anybody else does, or where I end up in the results, if I manage to get my head around the track as I know I need to, as I know the best drivers do, if I get a plan in place and execute it, then I will have met my goal and I will be a happy girl.

On that note, I bid you good evening. I’ll be back tomorrow night to report on the day!

Ready to Vroooom!

Top Ten Questions for Pat Long

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hey Pat,

Now that things have quieted down a little in the racing season, I thought I’d toss out a few questions that have been rattling around in my head, things I’d like to ask you. So here we go, my Top Ten Questions for Pat Long:

1. So what does a professional race car driver do once the big season is over? How does it play out for you, I wonder? Porsche is marketing the new Panamera like crazy and I know you have been involved some with that. I imagine Porsche has its own slate of manufacturer responsibilities and things they expect from you. And I guess that’s just the beginning…I get the idea you are not laying around drinking Mai Tais! But what are you doing?

2. Do you coach other drivers? If so, how do drivers go about hooking up with you for that?

3. Do you ever get scared behind the wheel? Driving a new car, a strange car, a strange track, facing a wreck, going in hotter than planned or getting looser than planned? What scares you in the car, and how you deal with fear in the car?

4. What about the project car you teased us about earlier in the season, the one you were going to show us when you were at Long Beach?

5. How do you feel you do at balancing professional and family/personal life? What things do you do to achieve that balance? I imagine your family and friends might get some more of your time in the off-season. And your girlfriend! It’s got to be tough to build new relationships while you travel so much.

6. Are you involved in any charities?

7. What kind of things are at the top of your personal professional agenda, I wonder? I know you have your own business, Patrick Long Motorsport. But I mean separate from the demands of teams, corporations, manufacturers of cars and other products you’re involved with, what are your goals these days? I’ve read your comments about wanting to be a well-rounded driver who can drive anything, and I’ve watched your foray into NASCAR with interest (awesome job!). Are you meeting your goals? Setting new ones?

8. I’m still curious if you ever take any kind of “lucky charm” along when you race, or whether you have any superstitions or pre-race rituals as you get ready to take the wheel.

9. What would be your top three driving tips for a beginning high performance driver in a 21 year old air-cooled rear-engine RWD 1988 911?

10. What kind of physical conditioning do you think most benefits you when you are in the race car?

BONUS QUESTION! What do you think about the fact that a wacky 48 year old woman in Birmingham, Alabama is keeping a blog called “DEAR PATRICK LONG: LETTERS TO MY IMAGINARY DRIVING COACH”?

Feel free to answer in the comments.

And speaking of comments, what would it take to bring my one faithful reader out of the woodwork to say hello in the comments? A prize of some sort? Is there more than one of you out there reading this thing with any regularity? VroomGrrl would love to know!


Fun Run

Posted in Autocross, Me, The Car! The Car! on October 18, 2009 by vroomgrrl

Hi Pat,

It’s been a super busy time, but I’m hanging in there with the car schedule. Yesterday was my local PCA FallFest which involved a little car show, fun run, and barbecue. It was hosted by a company owned by a guy who has something to do with TRG – perhaps you know him. He was a fantastic host – his facility is gorgeous and we had a great time there. Incredible art collection, by the way.

The fun run was fun – I went in the first group which promised a “spirited” drive. Spirited it was! However, there came a time when my bladder forced me to take a detour. I lost them and picked up another group, then lost them and picked up a guy who was lost. We fired up the GPS and got back to the starting point around the same time as everyone else, no harm, no foul. Turns out we got most of the drive accomplished, and it was pretty damned fun on some twisty, hilly back roads. The guys in my group were a leetle nuts, and a bad influence! Haha!

For the last part, going back to the start point, I was behind a gorgeous red 1989 944. That thing had the most awesome growl-to-a-scream exhaust note, I told him when we got back that I didn’t care about the rest of the cars, I had as much fun as I possibly could have listening to his gorgeous exhaust the whole way! And I meant it.

Tons of photos HERE.

And a video I put together:

Next Sunday is my local SCCA chapter’s tenth points event of the season. My car feels like it is skipping again and I am not sure what I’m going to do about it. It should be OK for autocross. Then, who knows.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying her temporary garage!

Another big week ahead at work. There’s stuff I feel like I “should” have done today, but for some reason, yesterday whooped my ass, all that fun-having! I had to have some time to catch up with myself around the house. With a replay of some Monteray Historics racing on SpeedTV, I did some cooking, cleaned up, then detailed my stove and refrigerator, and now I’m doing the ever-exciting laundry! Woo! Must have clothes to wear this week, after all. Ah, the mundane things in life. ANY. WAY. Great weekend, big week ahead, I’m outta here!