In 2017, John Drysdale, a newcomer to racing, partnered with veteran driver Steve Phillips in "The Rocket", an e36 BMW M3 with a S54 engine swap from the e46 generation of M3. "Four seconds" is the true story of a novice race car driver working to cut four seconds off his lap time in his rookie season of amateur GT racing at Atlantic Motorsport Park, in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Part 6: Tough Lessons
by John Drysdale
Sunday June 25, 2017 was my second ever race day. It has been about a month since I had driven the car, but like riding a bicycle, everything came back, and in the cooler morning temperatures, I was able to qualify with a solid 1:15.3s (Steve did a 1:14.8s lap but could not catch a break in traffic). That was only 0.7 seconds off my target time in the car. Obviously I was a prodigy, and a lightning fast learner. Or maybe not. More on that later.
I distinctly remember this lap because I went into turn 1 with a little more speed then intended (my butt dyno was like "WTF ar you doing man?!?) and just carried it. I suspect that is where much of my gains originated from. Experience from the first race day a month prior had also help me get more comfortable pushing the car. I was still too conservative in places, but I was getting there.
More than lap times
I think it is important to step back and reflect that the concept of focusing on lap times in racing is a bit silly. Call it a rookie mistake. Sure, it is a way to measure my progress... call it a ruler of sorts. However, lap times are only a small part of the puzzle. More important then that ultimate fast lap is consistency. A 1:14.5 is no good to me if the next lap is a 1:20. Two 1:17's would win the day, ignoring passing. It is said that the mark of a good driver is consistency. In his IMSA days steve had many pro drivers in his car. He told me that Andy Lally for example, could go out and hit times as requested by the engineers with pinpoint precision. "We need you to do a 1:14.2 Andy." and he would do it. "0.2s faster for the next 3 laps please." Done. Now, racing cars is his day job, but you get the point.
With my decent qualifying time I was third on the grid, 2nd in GT3. A good start kept me hot on the heels of the much faster cars in-front. On my second lap I even did another 1:15.3, just to prove it was not a fluke.