Driver Q & A: John Carson

How did you get started tracking your car, and get involved with performance driving dynamics in general?

When I was a kid, I used to live near a go-kart track. I didn’t have my own Kart, but my Dad worked out a deal with the track owner that allowed me to come in several times a week and do laps. Ever since then I’ve always loved going fast. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I was into Sport Compact Drag Racing back when the big shows were the NHRA Sony Explode Series, IDRC, and BOTI. But, then my car got stolen, and I called it quits for a while and focused on other priorities that I had at the time. Then one of my friends got an Evo, and I just loved it even after just riding in the passenger seat. Reading all the magazines that covered events like Redline Time Attack and seeing Evos dominate, just made it a no-brainer for me. Plus, the cars just take very well to very little modifications, and the cast iron 4G63 block is a work horse. I always had the intention of competing with the car even before I stepped foot on a track! Time Attack to me is like drag racing with turns, except it requires more balls and more driver skills. I always did alternative sports and dare devil type stuff growing up as a kid, so the adrenaline rush associated with Time Attack and High Performance Driving Events just made sense to how I’m wired.

So how many track days do you have under your belt, and how has your experience been so far?

About 25 events since August 2010. In 2011, I was the 2nd runner up overall for Modified Class for Extreme Speed’s Evo Competition, which was my very first year doing competition. I just kept showing up, even though my car wasn’t competitive at the time, and I was still very green driver wise. I got one 2nd place finish, one third, and a string of fourth and fifth place finishes. In 2012, I was 2nd runner up overall for Extreme Speed’s AWD Competition in Street Class with a three first place finishes, and three third place finishes. There were over 33 competitors in Street Class alone. I also have two first place finishes in Extreme Time Attack’s Street AWD Class, and was the 2012 Street Class Champ and Street AWD winner at Redline Time Attack’s big return at Buttonwillow in November 2012. So far in 2013, I have one first place finish at Round 2 of the 2013 XS AWD Comp at Buttonwillow, and one 2nd place finish at Round 4 at Chuckwalla. For RLTA 2013, I have three 2nd place finishes in RLTA’s Street AWD Class so far.

What was your scariest moment at the track?

At Buttonwillow I went off at about 105 MPH right at the exit of the esses at an angle which I was pretty much parralel with the track. The car tail whipped hard in the dirt and I fought to hard to keep the car under control and keep it straight. I shot back across the track toward the inside wall just before Sunset and the pit entrance. As the car was back on the pavement I was waiting to feel the car take a set, I then eased on the brakes when I got back on track and stopped the car from going toward the wall. That was probably the closest call I have had.

What is your biggest pet peeve when you go to the track?

People not giving point by’s, or hitting traffic when I’m trying to put in a hot lap.

If you could recommend any one thing about tracking driving, what would it be?

Start in a lower hp car, and with mid grade performance street tires. It teaches you to scrap for every bit of speed, and be smooth, versus just blasting between corners. I tracked for over a year with less than 300 whp, which in the AWD Turbo world, is not a whole lot of power. If you already have a high hp car, ask your tuner to tune a specific track map in which the hp and boost is dialed down. If a relatively low hp AWD Turbo Car still proves too much for you to develop as a driver, go with an even lower hp car like a Miata, which has a very low cost of ownership with Mazda Motorsports providing wholesale prices on parts. It will teach you good momentum dynamics in a way that is much harder to learn in a high hp car. If you think you can handle the “power”, are your lap times telling you otherwise? You might actually go just as fast, or faster with less power. Watch lots of in car video of the tracks you are about to visit. Read books about performance driving and set-up, and practice techniques like heel toe, left foot braking, trail braking, etc whenever you can, and when it’s safe. Get a lap timer with data acquisition. Talk to people with a good driving track record and lots of experience. Get at least one good instructor and or mentor. A good class for would-be AWD new comer’s is Extreme Speed’s AWD Enthusiast Class.

Any parting words for the track heads out there?

Drive fast, drive safe. There are people that love you back at your house.

Leave a Reply