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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

R&D Progress and the dramatic reality of racing

As I reflect on the last few races in the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Japan with the #90 OGT! Racing Porsche 911, I cannot help but think that you can't make this stuff up if you tried as a work of fiction!

Round 3 - May 3rd / 4th - Fuji Speedway
Total Attendance: 83,000 spectators

Round 3 of the series took place alongside SUPER GT in May at Fuji Speedway. We arrived to the track after a win in the season opener followed by a strong 3rd place finish in round 2. Great momentum and excitement throughout our organization and good progress on the R&D side of this project with Freescale made it an excellent start to this long-planned-for program.

Practice sessions on test day prior to the qualifying day were decent, but again in the rain. After a tactical mistake in opting not to use 2 sets of new tires in qualifying as the track conditions improved considerably near the end of the session, as most other teams had done, prevented us from improving on our time set early in the session. This resulted in qualifying in 4th position for the race.

This was the first event for which we mounted Freescale's next-generation 360-degree surround view digital camera system. It consists of 4 cameras, each capturing over 90 degrees around the car in each direction. The system runs on Freescale's i.MX6 chip and Denso cameras.

The ruggedness of the system, which we first tested several days prior to the race weekend, was fantastic. It is completely immune to the severe vibrations which are natural to the motorsports environment. Another potential issue was the interference of many other electronics onboard the car, which can always present issues that are oftentimes best described as "gremlins," and make the best engineers scratch their heads in defeat. None of that with this system. Even in pouring rain, the system proved impeccable.

Unlike the poor weather on the previous day, race day welcomed us with beautiful sunshine. Just as in Okayama, we had over 50 Freescale eco-system attendees on each day coming to support our team and to  learn about the R&D program.

To cut to the chase on the racing front - we had a good start from 4th place and quickly passed the 3rd place car going into turn "B" chicane. But then, my error caused the below incident, which fortunately did not damage the car. It took time to get back to the track and we had to pit for a new set of tires, effectively ending our contention for any kind of position.

Usually, this kind of accident is caused by some amount of steering input to unbalance the car, which in a Porsche is immediately punished by the rear floating up and to the side, since the heavy engine is in the back. In this case though, you can see that steering was not the issue, but rather a loss of sight of the correct braking point by me, which resulted in a natural instinct to apply stronger pressure to the brake pedal, and not visible in the video, but the telemetry data showed that rear tires were on the very edge of adhesion as they rotated at around 150km/h and decreasing while the car was traveling at a much greater speed. Being able to maintain this on the edge would in fact result in maximum braking, but as I downshifted the rear immediately stepped out. This was possibly caused by some centrifugal forces within the drivetrain. Essentially, in theory, the car was so much on the edge with all the traction being used to stop the car, just a small application of force, like a finger poking at the side of the car, would have probably unsettled the car enough to take it into the spin.

PCCJ's aggressive points structure - 20 points for 1st, 18 points for 2nd, 16 points for 3rd, made this an extremely costly mistake for our team and wiped out my lead over the next place car in championship contention, which was something like 14 points going into round 3.

Round 4/5 - June 9th/10th - Freescsale One Make Festival at Fuji Speedway

Freescale became the title sponsor of the annual One Make Festival held at Fuji Speedway. This is an event with a variety of one-make series racing over the weekend, including the Porsche Carrera Cup. Some others series included small formula cars, Lotuse Elises, and Honda Civics.

The event was combined with Freescale's Designing with Freescale event (DwF). These are seminars held all across the world - over 200 annually. Usually, the attendance is from the dozens to about a hundred eco-system engineers learning about the Freescale and eco-system hardware/software tools to help them enable integrate the Freescale solutions in their products.

Despite rain on Saturday, thanks to Freescale Japan's awesome organization, 340 eco-system engineers attended the seminars and had 170 family and friends join in the fun of watching racing.
On Sunday, over 200 engineers attended with around 200 family members and in addition to in-depth technology seminars, took part in go-kart racing and even a parade run around Fuji Speedway. I imagine this was most people's first ever experience driving on an actual race track - and everyone seemed to have a blast!

The race was relatively straight-forward. After the previous day's disappointment of picking the wrong tires, we started in 9th position on the grid as a result of a relatively decent time that we set during the Rd.4 race near the end on dry tires. As the lights went out, we slowly but surely continued to pass cars to end up in a podium position for the Championship class.