William Blake said that only blockheads copy each other, but obviously he’s never tried to set up a racecar, real or simulated. While working on setting-up the Dallara for the iRacing.com Indy 500 event, I was struck by some of the detailed advice Dale Jr had made on the iRacing forums about setting up the COT, which was a great ‘teach a man to fish’ kind of moment.
But I also relied upon some other advice I stumbled upon on the Buddy Fey blog site called ‘The Race Engineer’ (http://buddyfey.blogspot.com/). I hesitated to post the advice here for fear of being called-out as a plagarist/blockhead, but a couple of things convinced me that it is ok. First, they are not his words, but those of a colleague of his named Jeff Braun. And second, many of Jeff’s thoughts were passed along from his unnamed mentor, who I’m sure inherited them from someone else.
I can hear the late great Ian Dury now…
”There ain’t half been some clever bastards.
Probably got help from their mum,
who had help from their mum.”
In any event, here is a summary of Jeff’s wonderful setup advice:
1 – The driver is in charge of his setup.
2 – Resist making changes until the driver really has a good feel for the car. It has to “talk to him” first.
3 – Physics does not change when you cross state lines. Go with what you know.
4 – The secondary effect of a change can be the opposite of the primary effect. Never make a change without considering the secondary effect.
5 – Use a data base to increase your understanding of your car quicker and with more accuracy.
6 – If a change does not have the effect you thought it would, than you are missing some effect that you did not consider. There is not some weird phenomenon going on, you just don’t understand the circumstances of the particular situation.
7 – When in doubt, go back to your base setup and start over from there.
8 – Never copy another faster team’s setup. You need to know why yours does not work, so you can be better next time.
9 – If a change works the way you thought it would, you did not learn anything. You did become faster, which is always a good thing. But, when the change does not work as planned, you have a great chance to become smarter. Grab on to that and figure it out.
10 – When recording changes in your notes, write down why you made that change, your thinking on what you expect it to do, and why. Then, you can go back later and see what your thinking was for making that change and decide where your thinking was wrong. This may happen months later, as you get to know the car better, but it allows you to see where your mistake was, not just that it was a mistake.
He also posted some general setup problem solving tidbits from his mentor:
1 – What’s right is right and everything else is wrong to some degree.
2 – What is REALLY happening here?
3 – Nothing happens for no reason.
4 – Everything is attributable.
5 – If X is true then Y must also be true. If I can’t prove that Y actually does as I predict, then I don’t know anything at all about X.
6 – What I am certain is correct can change instantly in the light of what is REALLY correct, whether I like it or not.
7 – Just because I don’t want to believe it, doesn’t make it wrong.
7a – Just because I want to believe it doesn’t make it right, either.
8 – Knowing what is wrong is every bit as important as knowing what is right.
9 – If it isn’t all the things you think it is, then it is something else. (Sherlock Holmes)
10 – You only know something if you can prove it. Everything else is “I suspect” or “I guess” or “I wonder if” or “it is my theory that…”
11 – The right answer is still the right answer even if you didn’t think of it.
12 – The right answer is still the right answer even if you don’t have any idea of why it works… but find out later for sure, because the underlying principles will always apply.
13 – Asking other people for answers is perfectly acceptable, as long as you never believe them.
Lots of wonderful advice there. But don’t thank me; thank Buddy Fey. No, thank Jeff Braun. Or his mentor. Or his mentor’s ancestors. We may copy each other, but I wouldn’t go calling them blockheads. Besides, Benjamin Franklin said, “a learned blockhead is greater than an ignorant one.”