"I’m still winning races in more competitive events and I think I am still getting better (at least my data says I am!)."
Driving Coach Peter Krause Part I
by Ziva Allen
One of the cool and unexpected perks of publishing a magazine for track day enthusiasts has been the opportunity to talk to people who are not only the heavy hitters in this activity, but who are just plain nice. Satch Carlson, Alan Wilson and David Ray have all been unselfishly generous: willing to give their time and assistance. Imagine how exciting it is to look at your email in-box and find back-to-back correspondence from Ross Bentley and Peter Krause. Well, that has happened, not once, but twice. They are probably the two most highly regarded track day coaches. Ross Bentley publishes Speed Secrets Weekly and Peter Krause is a contributor. Peter has been driving since the mid-eighties and has a thriving coaching business. He emphasizes the sophisticated use of technology and data in helping drivers to improve. We are splitting our interview with Peter into two parts. The first will focus on his business and career and the second will be all about how to use data to improve as a driver. Peter even gives us insight into such enigmatic questions as which is the “best” line through the seemingly never ending turn seventeen at Sebring. This is the turn where the track is so wide that people have gotten lost our there like it’s the Bermuda Triangle. Let’s hear now from our guide through the mysteries of track day driving.
Q. Give us a thumbnail description of your primary business with a focus on track day participant services.
A. My primary business at Krause & Associates is to use the latest technology to objectively measure HPDE, track day and club level driver performance against a proven "best practices" ideal, not against a variable, like another driver. There are plenty of "pro" drivers that can rip off a fast lap and demonstrate to an HPDE or club level racing driver that the car has more in it, but my focus is on enhancing the knowledge base of my clients. From executing fundamental skills REALLY well, to excruciatingly detailed track topography and geometry studies, I work with the driver to instill confidence, lessen anxiety and craft carefully graduated exercises to push beyond, in a measured way, their own belief system. THAT'S when they get quicker, without the addition of much more risk. None of us get to the track as often as we would like, so a lot of HPDE and track day drivers use me to "leverage" their time they have AT the track. The learning curve is SO much steeper (and shorter) with the use of the latest in data and video technology, as well as simulation training, for those predisposed and practiced with this technology tool.
Q. Describe your own driving career. How did you get started? Who were your influences? How have you improved throughout the years? How did data help your driving ability?
A. I started like most of my contemporaries, by autocrossing in parking lots. Cheap, fun and it reinforced those fundamental skills that would build a firm foundation. Won my first autocross in 1984 and then began track days a year later with the Ferrari Club. I had a good business repairing and maintaining Ferrari, Alfa, Aston Martin and Maserati street cars and some of the owners wanted to “stretch them out” in a safer environment than public roads. They brought me along to tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway, Roebling Road, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock and Summit Point and allowed me to drive their cars.
Early influences were my eventual business partner Nick England and many veteran SCCA and pro racers. Ferrari Club track chair and leaders Watts Hill, Jr., Steve Barney and Tom Williamson, IMSA champions Dennis Shaw and Amos Johnson, SCCA Stewards E. Gordon Warren and Bud Merrill, John Burns at Road Atlanta and HSR founder, Joe Pendergast all were early influences. A lot of people took time to help me learn the RIGHT way to do things. I started racing Solo 1 (time trials on closed circuits), then progressed to wheel to wheel by 1988. Around that time, TrackTime and Car Guys, Inc. came on the scene as for-profit HPDE organizations, raising the bar. Together, the late C. Dan Unkefer and I put nearly 4800 HPDE drivers through our classroom programs from 1989 to 1997. It was very intense and very busy, but a LOT of fun!
I was in cars, on-track, more than thirty weekends a year for almost ten years, then about fifteen weekends each year since then, which really helped. Starting in street cars, mostly Ferraris, then racing small-bore production and progressing to larger GT, sedans, then purpose-built sports racers, I do my best to hone my craft. I’m still winning races in more competitive events and I think I am still getting better (at least my data says I am!).
Data reinforced what I was doing well and what I needed to focus my concentration on improving. I’ve gotten much calmer in the cockpit. This is a thinking person’s game, and if you can control your emotions and focus on executing well, the data looks good and you’re FAST! It takes care of itself...
Q. How and why did you become focused upon coaching?
A. I had an opportunity to sell my share of the race preparation, high performance street car maintenance business in the summer of 2007, which allowed me to consider what I really enjoyed in that business and focus on building a new business around that. I felt like private coaching, especially using my accumulated experience analyzing data and video to construct quick, simple and effective strategies to help drivers go quicker right away, was an opportunity that I could have fun doing and satisfy my tech craving at the same time. It was a tough sell for the first few years because I had been giving the information away for free as a club instructor for a long time and because people weren’t used to the idea of paying for this information. I had a lot of visibility at VIR and throughout the country as someone pretty savvy about historic racing cars and how to drive them very quickly, so that helped.
Slowly but surely, I attracted clients who got quicker quickly and others who were already quick. They spread the word that I was “the real deal,” especially being facile with the measuring technology and its interpretation. I don’t use one manufacturer or system, I use them all to get the information my driver and I need to make a good plan to go forward, in short order. I love working with SMART people! Everyone learns and assimilates information differently and THAT keeps me charged up, moving forward and continuously perfecting my craft.
Q. Describe your training facility near VIR.
A. I decided in 2009 to buy and build out a 1200 square foot facility adjacent to VIR Raceway in the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park. I equipped it with a small meeting area with plasma screens on the wall, two simulators, fiber optic internet broadband access to be able to coach and meet remotely with clients around North America and the world. While only about 25% of my revenue comes from work I do at VIR and in my facility, it still has been worthwhile as additional space for a workshop to prepare my own car. I use my Driver Development Center as an off-season training facility for drivers from up and down the East Coast who drive or fly in for “virtually coached” sim sessions. I use the great fiber optic internet connection for conducting HD video and data acquisition seminars with dozens of subscribers. I do like the fact that I have a meeting place at the track, but not trackside. It’s quiet, peaceful and conducive for exhaustive review of a client’s data and video, so they can go out and apply what we’ve decided is important to change on the track later on or during the very next day!
Q. How are driving simulators of use?
A. I find simulators to be very valuable tools for those drivers who are interested and comfortable using them. The equipment is good, the graphics visualization rendering is almost photorealistic, which is helpful to me and my clients. I use sims primarily for track familiarization, sitting next to someone on my sim and stopping at each corner to dissect it, something not possible in real life. If I am “sim coaching” someone on my sim, sitting next to them and offering immediate feedback, I can gain insight just by how they move their head and the way they initiate and follow through steering and braking inputs. It’s great insight into their mind.
Boston Red Sox owner, John Henry, has sunk over $85 million of his own money into iRacing, which is one of the preferred software packages that I use. The simulations are SO good that the MoTeC data I can export from a similar car in the sim matches nearly perfectly to actual MoTeC data! Some examples of serious simulation centers around the country that cater to pros and amateur racers, as well as HPDE drivers are Maher Solutions, Tom Pabst and SimRaceway in Sears Point and the now closed Seat Time in Los Angeles.
Q. What is coming next in the realm of data acquisition and the use of data for training purposes? What is the next big technology advance? What is the cutting edge?
A. Using Golf, Karting and Baseball analysis software like DartFish will be adapted and optimized for HPDE and club racing skill development; more centralized “cloud” servers to be able to compare generated performance levels with those in the cloud to guide self-education at the track; heads up displays, shift lights, logger/displays with their own processors to show crunched (math channel) numbers so drivers can make better decisions; and multi camera HD are all coming! Better tech, but more importantly, EASIER to USE, has been the trend over the last two or three years and I see no reason that won’t accelerate. What a cool time to be doing this!
Q. Tell us about your performance driving school.
A. Since my decision to fully commit to providing personal, private, professional analysis and consultation, I have moved away from small group training. I had a lot of fun developing and presenting programs, along with many others, for dozens of clubs and professional schools over the last two and a half decades, but now I focus almost completely on my private client list of drivers for HPDE, track day, club level and historic racing. I have a friend, a colleague, who now advertises his services as a “driving school for one,” basically where the client is the only attendee and they get full attention. I’ve been doing that for many years and the more I do it, the better it seems to work! I don’t have a performance driving school per se. My private client program is much more like a graduate-level program. Think of it as a “Master’s Degree in Speed” or a “Doctorate in Race craft.”
Q. Can you recommend a data acquisition system for the track day participant?
A. I am an authorized dealer and educator for five top lines of data and video equipment for track day drivers. From the simplicity of Traqmate (which I’ve used for nearly ten years) to the easy video/data integration of Race-Keeper and Video VBOX, to the power and user friendliness of AiM Sportline and SmartyCam to the extraordinary, albeit complex capability of MoTeC, there’s something for every budget, level of tech savvy or interest.
The two most popular systems I have sold more of in the last two years are the Video VBOX Lite, AiM Solo DL/SmartyCam HD (for newer, post-2006 cars) and AiM EVO 4/G-Dash/SmartyCam HD (for older, pre-2004 cars and carbureted cars) combinations.
People prize efficient use of time more than anything at a busy track day. They’ve waited longer than they want to get out there and they want to make every second count. They want (and need) a reliable, automated system with the most basic information at a minimum embedded on the video. No post-session processing, no “missing or corrupted videos,” no “I forgot to charge the battery/turn the GoPro on,” et cetera! They want something that works simply and easily so that they can watch their fastest lap in under a minute after they come in from their session.
A smaller group of people are serious engineers who, after reviewing their data-laden videos, want to dig a little deeper and see, for example, strip charts or colored track maps, keyed off throttle opening percentage, brake pressure, maximum g’s or many other measures. It’s all about leveraging these powerful tools.
I really recommend that HPDE drivers choose a few things and look at them EVERY time. Speed versus distance graphs, longitudinal acceleration (braking and acceleration) over distance, just a FEW things. The cleanliness of transitions, making sure you’re in the same gear for multiple corners, IF the speed is similar in those multiple corners. That sort of thing.
That will end our interview with Peter for now. Part II will be very hands on and technique oriented. Click here to read Part II.