For the first time ever, I’ve decided to teach a class on “High Performance Driving”. This is a First Year Seminar at UC Davis. FYS courses are a mishmash of topics designed by professors on virtually any topic. They are meant to be a fun diversion away from the more stressful courses. Since they are taught voluntarily, the content is usually something the teacher is passionate about. The courses are actually open to students of all levels, but first years and transfers get first choice I think. For the last few years, I’ve been teaching an FYS course on “Nanowrimo”. I’m doing that again, but that is quite literally a whole other story. For some reason, I thought I should try teaching a course on driving without actually doing any driving.
Serendipitously, a driving simulation business, Turn 2 Racing, just opened up in Davis. I applied for a mini grant for the course and the university gave me $500 so that the students could get some seat time on the simulators. Thanks UCD! The students are going to love this. Here’s a picture of the setup. See farther below for a brief review.
If you’ve never designed a course of instruction, an excellent place to start is with the learning objectives. This should be a short list of things you want the students to remember 1 year later. Here are mine.
- Communicate using the vocabulary of drivers and engineers
- Describe the racing line in mathematical and conversational terms
- Identify common driving errors from watching video
- Interpret telemetry traces to diagnose driver and car problems
- Dispel common performance myths using data
Here’s a brief description of the content for each week. On the first day of class, I’ll discuss with the students what things they most want to learn. After that, I may adjust the syllabus to make sure the most popular content is covered. Well, except if people want to know how to modify their cars to make them look cooler. I have zero patience with ricers. RICE isn’t an ethnic slur. While many of the cars with Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancements are Japanese, the stupid shit wannabe racers do to their cars transcends country of origin, ethnicity, gender, etc.
- Introductions, the racing line
- Power and grip
- Oversteer, understeer, balance
- The unusual properties of rubber
- Getting started in simulation driving
- Understanding telemetry traces
- Common errors
- Advanced driving techniques
- Getting started in the real world
Turn 2 Racing
A couple days ago I took a trip to visit Turn 2 Racing. I had been chatting with the owner via text to plan out the FYS visit and guest lecture, and I thought I should finally meet him and look at his shop. He let me try a couple of his rigs. Here are some random thoughts.
- The owner is a really nice guy who is very passionate about sim racing, karting, and technology. He’s definitely the right person to be venturing into this area.
- Nearly all of his business comes from Sacramento rather than Davis. But UC Davis school isn’t in session yet, so the large population of car enthusiasts on our campus have yet to arrive. I hope his business thrives in Davis, but I wonder if he’ll end up in Sacramento.
- All of his rigs are custom built with high-end equipment: direct drive wheels, load cell pedals, triple monitors, external and headphone speakers, etc. Two of the rigs have platform motors that rock, roll, and rumble the seat to give you a feeling of driving a real car. His kids rig is sort of like my home rig.
- Since most people who drop into his shop have no idea how to drive a race car in simulation or the real world, he has to make a lot of setup choices to reflect that. By default, all of the cars are set up with nannies. Also, the brake pedals are all mushy.
- Each rig is set up slightly different from the others. I tried 2 of them, and they drove differently from each other and much differently from my home setup. I prefer a really firm brake pedal and a pedal geometry that allows me to heel-toe while keeping my heel planted on the ground. It wasn’t possible on his rigs. But just like the real world, you have to adapt to the car you’re driving.
- I didn’t try the Formula rig or kids rig because they are 2 pedal systems with the brake pedal way over on the left. While I have done a few karting sessions, I haven’t learned to left-foot brake.
- I’m really looking forward to bringing the class here. I think they’ll have a blast and the physical experience will improve the theoretical work we do in the class.