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Discussion Starter #1
[Posting this argument in order to solicit the wisdom of more experienced track drivers...]

For the past 3-4 years I've visited car message boards almost daily, and from day one I've been amazed at many people's willingness to bandy around track times as if they were pieces of empirical data. E.g., someone wants to know how fast a particular car will circuit a particular track, responses are provided, and times are accepted as somehow meaningful.

My beef is this: In a sport where 10ths of a second mean a whole lot, isn't the need for empirical data a necessity?

Let's say I buy the new 997. (It'll never happen, but let's just say I do.) I jump on this board, say I ran it at Sears Point, and wow, its times are really underwhelming. Dandy. Fine. But how often and how stringently would I be challenged on the following:

- My driving skills: Truth be told, I have only six DEs under my belt. I'm not a good enough driver to ring out the car to the best of its ability. How many other people quoting track times can finesse every 10th of a second from any given track? The question is ever-more-important in the online age, where few of us meet face to face, and only know each other by what we choose to post online.

- My attitude: This is a huge variriable. One person's 10/10ths is another person's 8/10ths. One person might take the time attack very seriously, while another person might want to preserve his car, god forbid the inevitable should happen.

- Conditions: Full sun? Full shade? Partial clouds? Light rain? First run of the day? Last run? All huge variables, no?

- Testing equipment/Testing procedures: Doesn't the scientific method tell us that when conducting comparative testing, one needs to use the same equipment, and exact same procedures? Yet track times can be garnered from a growing number of devices, everything from cheap wristwatches to expensive GPS equipment. Variables (including those incurred by human error) can run rampant. Where are the controls?

In sum total: What do track time quotes mean unless they were gathered in a strictly controlled testing scenario: One driver of incontrovertible skill, driving a familiar track at 10/10ths, running all pertinent cars back to back on the same day and under the same conditions, with all runs being tested with the same equipment and according to the same procedures.

These are just my relatively newbie thoughts on the matter. Please poke holes in my argument.
 

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first time i ever went to the track was at Streets of Willow, a fairly tight track. I was in a Porsche GT2 and experienced guys in S2000's were considerably faster.

Basically, you are 100% correct. Even asking someone who has driven both cars in similar conditions can give inaccurate results because certain cars feel faster or slower than they really are and skew the driver's perceptions.

-Steve
 

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This is very true.

The largest variable is always the driver, for whatever reason. As you note, some people will want to back off in order to not ball up their car.... which I can totally understand. Nothing smart in getting in over your head and totalling a car. The other huge variable is tires. A crap car on sticky race tires will outcorner that "faster" car on street tires.

I ignore most track time claims.
 

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I think you're absolutely right. Even your ideal scenario of the same driver running the cars back to back wouldn't be conclusive. A driver might well drive one car better than the other, based on his experience and driving style. So you would probably want 10 or 20 top drivers. And of course all cars would have to be on the same tires, comparing times between cars with street tires and R-compounds is meaningless.

It's a similar problem with magazine numbers. Comparing slalom speeds between a car on all-seasons and a car on race tires is nonsense.
 

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Not too many holes to poke - when we're discussing amateurs with street cars there isn't much to really learn from such discussions. Even the TopGear times, which are the closest example to a standardized approach that I can think of (same track, same experienced driver, same timing equipment), are carried out in varying weather conditions, and can't be directly compared to one another.

And even when you have a single driver driving two cars on a single track, the laptimes don't tell the whole story. I was doing similar times last weekend in my Elise as I used to do in my SpecMiata. Does that mean that the cars drive similarly? Or that they provide the same subjective experience? Are they equally "fast"? Heck no, on all counts.

At least such things as 0-60 and 1/4 mile (which don't mean much to me) are relatively reproducible. The Gs that magazines report are probably somewhat less so.

But bench racing is fun - and BS'n one another about whose car is faster has been a part of the car-guy-lifestyle since the first steam-engined horseless carriage. "Check out the size of my boiler." "Oh, yeah, well my steam whistle is longer than yours."
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you all. It looks like my argument is tenable. Hopefully, it will inform track time discussions once the Elise rollout is in full swing, and the car becomes more and more common at HPDEs.
 
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