Setting Lap Records with Doghouse Track Days
On Sept 14th 2021, a group of Miata drivers attended the Doghouse Track Days event at New York Safety Track (NYST) and set new lap records. NYST is two miles of undulating asphalt, and is an equal measure of a car’s performance and a driver’s skill. A track like Watkins Glen is more about car performance than driver skill, and a track like Pineview Run is more about the driver than the car. But NYST strikes a balance, treating cars and drivers fairly equally, and it’s similar to a track like Mid Ohio in that respect. Average minimum corner speeds at NYST are in the low 60s, and there’s a long and uphill front straight, which doubles as an airstrip for small planes.
The conditions on Sept 14th were cool and wet in the morning, cloudy initially, but clearing throughout the day. An 8-9 mph tail wind down the front straight would turn into a head wind down the back straight and help dry the track out. With a maximum of 70 degrees all day, these were ideal conditions. Record setting conditions, if you will.
Lap record classes
The overall lap record at NYST is a 1:27.81 held by Mark Petronis in a C5 Z06 with aero. You can read about that here, and watch his humorous vlog here. Mark says it wasn’t a perfect lap, and the data says there’s a 1:26 in it.
Well, that’s the overall lap record, but it’s unlikely Miatas will ever be in that discussion, but there are other records to set. In wheel-to-wheel racing, you have official classes (Spec Miata, NASA TT5, etc.), but there are no “official classes” for HPDE. Generally, people say “fastest Miata” or “fastest street tire”or some other unofficial classification.
So if there are no official classes for HPDE lap records, chassis and engine generations are at least a good place to start. There’s a database of Miata lap records on Facebook, and the general classification is chassis era (NA/NB, NC, ND) and engine modifications (K-swap, turbo, V8, etc), with a nod to which tires were used. On this day, the lap records were set for fastest normally aspirated BP, fastest forced induction BP, and fastest Miata overall. Who done what?
Alyssa Merrill, N/A-BP – 1:37.908
Alyssa has a 1999 Miata with a few bolt ons, the engine probably makes 120 hp at the wheels. The aero package is good, with a DIY splitter, 3D-printed splitter ramps, and a 9 Lives Racing wing without a Gurney flap. None of that explains how she can go under 1:38 on Hoosier R7s. See for yourself.
As impressive as that lap is, she also did a 1:39.586 on RS4s. Going under 1:40 on an honest-to-god street tire (not a Super 200), in a street-legal NB1 still using the stock ECU, is perhaps more amazing.
Chris Safranski, FI-BP – 1:36.540
Chris has gone through just about every iteration of forced induction, from a M45 supercharger to his current turbo setup. It makes about 250 horsepower and has proven to be reliable over many seasons of tracking and instructing. His aero setup is a little different with a carbon wing and a homemade splitter that pivots upwards when it hits things, but otherwise it’s standard trackable Miata fare. A record forced-induction BP lap on this fine day.
Michael Giurintano, V8 Miata – 1:35.0
Michael’s car was originally an NA with an automatic transmission. He scrapped the driveline, gutted the tub, caged it, and swapped in a LS3. You can imagine it’s not easy to corral 400-plus horses in a small chassis, and so he’s got a homemade carbon fibre splitter and 9 Lives Racing wing to help high-speed stability. Mike knows that a 1:34 is in the cards, but this is an impressive lap time, and the overall fastest Miata ever at NYST!
All three drivers used Aim Solo devices, and so we can see how much the drivers left on the table, and also see how they compared with each other. For theoretical best laps, the track map has been divided into seven sectors, which gives a more granular view of what each driver is doing, and where.
Alyssa’s record lap only had one sector that was her fastest; her theoretical best lap was 7/10ths faster, for a 1:37.200. I know Alyssa would beat herself up for that, but a delta under 1 second is lapping consistently.
Chris’s Aim file included all of his laps together, and so I’m not going to show you all his laps and histograms, it’s just too large for the page. Stitched together, his best sectors showed that he could have done a 1:35.228.
That’s a difference of 1.3 seconds, but Chris didn’t get a lot of clean laps, and was often stuck in traffic. It’s a shame he didn’t mention his instructor status when signing up, or he’d have been in a group with clearer track and potentially faster laps. It’s also worth noting that Chris was on Toyo RRs, and the others were on Hoosiers. The lateral-Gs show the Toyos are at a slight disadvantage, but the data shows it’s pretty close. Toyo RRs are known to be resistant to heat cycles and are a great option for track days.
Unfortunately Mike’s Aim Solo wasn’t turned on for his record run, but I got data from an earlier session that included a 1:35.830, and that’s still damn fast. In the histogram you can see that he had good rhythm in the middle of the 1:35.830 lap, but made some small errors in the last two sectors. Putting it together he could have done a 1:34.574, one and a quarter seconds better.
Here’s all three drivers compared on speed/distance and time/distance. Alyssa is blue, Chris is red, Mike is green.
- A – Alyssa and Chris are both excellent on the brakes, going immediately from full throttle to threshold braking. Notice the sharp peaks and steep the slopes. Everyone reaches min speed at about the same spot on track at 1660′.
- B – Chris takes a different line, and has a higher minimum speed. However, this doesn’t translate into a better lap time because he’s later to full throttle. The end result is everyone is pretty equal in this corner.
- C – Chris’s line (red) has a hockey stick shape, indicating blending inputs, or trailbraking. If you watch his video, it looks like he’s scrubbing speed with wheel angle and yaw, rather than brakes. But whether through the hands or the feet, this is excellent work.
- D – We should put Alyssa’s name on the esses, she owns them. I looked at her data on RS4s and she’s faster here on street tires than everyone else on slicks.
- E – Mike backs up T12 very well, gets his braking and turning done early, and is accelerating earlier. This is how to drive a powerful car.
- F – Despite what looks like overbraking into T13, Alyssa continues to gain time in the autocross section (not the official name, that’s just what I call it). The trend in this flat section is all downhill for the blue line.
- G – Alyssa has a 6-7 mph min speed advantage over Chris and Mike in the final corner. They gobble her up on the front straight, just the same.
I don’t want to sound too much like Alyssa’s cheerleader, because it’s easier to drive a low-powered car to higher limits, and it’s not surprising that a turbo Miata and V8 Miata have more variance in the time deltas. But this was great driving by all three of them, and I challenge you, or anyone, to beat them. In the end, that’s what records are for: breaking. Who’s next?