Wednesday, July 04, 2012

From a motorcycle racers perspective. "Whats your Favorite Race Track?"

I was asked the other day what my favorite track was and why? There needs to be a metric for determining what makes a track good bad or ugly.  In the seventh grade we as North Americans at least  learn to categorize things.  There are so many categories for reasons to like or dislike a race track. One would almost have to create a points rating or a metric for categorizing tracks and after thinking about it I could not stop thinking about it. Ive been racing sportbikes for two years now and have built time on 20 + tracks so my attempt to make a rating system starts by listing pros and cons of each track all from a motorcycle perspective of course.   Ill leave out tracks that have banking like Iowa speedway, Indy, Knoxville Speedway and Daytona. I have videos of most of these tracks listed below on youtube

 Like or like to hate?  Most people I've met would love to be on any track no matter. Maybe you can add to this list at the bottom? What are your thoughts for a Metric?  What track to you despise?
AutoBahn (Joliet) is a favorite track and comes with two track options a north and a south course. It's the closest track to me in Chicago and I have friends that are members there. There is even a connector making a 27 turn course. (I have videos on youtube of the full course) North Course by itself is sketchy at T1 and should be taken at 80 percent. it is possible North course T3 could offer more run off and less guard railing. In the wet there is often standing water and they do have a drainage problem. The blend line is idiotic for both north And South course and the track designer should be embarrassed and ridiculed. They should spend some money and add pavement for a new way to enter both courses. South Course is flowing and technical. Many complain about the acceleration whoops form the cars hard acceleration in T6 but I like the bumps personally. I think those bumps makes the track more interesting. T3 and T13 and T14 could use more room for crashing and less guard rail. For those reasons Autobahn can't make the top three.
Barber needs to be scaled up in AutoCAD 30 percent. I love Barber despite that! It's probably the most expensive track to rent for track day organizations. Is that true? Its got great traction in the rain but there are some standing water spots even rivers crossing the track in the rain. You will hydroplane each lap to win in the rain. Get used to that if you want to go fast in the rain at Barber. T1 could use some more run off maybe? Museum and paddock make Barber A Class! Barber the race track makes one forget that Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Birmingham. Maybe I should not have mentioned that?
Blackhawk Farms Beloit IL is narrow, deadly dangerous in their T2, T4, T5 (Trees) with zero traction in the wet due to all the Mazda Miata's that turn upside down there probably even the weekend before your there. They can't move the trees because the acreage is protected by some wetland bull sh*t. It's sad and probably an excuse. If it were my land I would poison the trees that I wanted to remove and after they die yank them the hell out. Many people are learning to walk again due to T2 there. The Helicopter comes fast and that's good I guess. It's technical and challenging which is great! Takes a butt load of laps to figure that track out proving to everyone it's hard and a challenge to learn. The track management is cool tho and they try very hard to please the motorcycle folks. They recently spent some money on a new building and did some much needed repairs to the track.
Grattan in Grattan MI  The road Course there is like a motocross track scaled up and paved. And freshly paved at that.  Technical and flowing as well. Is there an ugly place to crash? Could use some sand in run off places I guess.... High marks for Grattan. It even has some interesting blind spots which is a plus in my book. Grattan can be run and raced backwards which gives it even more high marks. Oh Crap.  I forgot to mention they have a motocross track and a swimming pool there too!  I dont have as much time at Grattan as I would like since this track has to be the top of my list.
Jennings GP Jennings FL -Darn cool track. It's technical and flowing with killer traction in the wet because the filler is washed out from the aggregate which leaves little rocks sticking up for plenty of room for water to escape. Since there are no cars on that track there is little or no oil from the upside down cars spillage. You can go fast there by only using brakes two times per lap. Jennings can be a bit sandy (but consistent sand) due to the location and sand and there is no elevation changes.   Jennings needs a MX track to go with their Motard Addition.  I understand they don't do Motard there any longer tho.  Sad!

Topeka's Heartland Park Raceway is an awesome track especially since they made improvements for the last AMA race that went there. Fast technical and flowing track. Great in the wet little or no places for standing water. Plenty of run off everyplace. T1 takes some balls at an expert race pace.
Mid Ohio has some really cool rolling hills. Not a great place to crash in that T1. Great Facility with the paddock and emergency crews.
Putnam Putnam is a technical fast flowing track with plenty of room for passing. Good to Great traction in the wet. Not too much for standing water either. The only real problem with Putnam is that last turn. Loosing the front there you may put you in need a helicopter and poop in a bag for life. 85 percent there for sure. no camping at Putnam and hotels can be on short demand. I've camped in the hotel parking lot before... Don't forget to join the hotel guests for your continental breakfast after camping in a hotel parking lot! That last turn dilemma and subsequent wall .... for that reason alone Putnam can't make my top three.
Robeling Road Savanna GA - T1 could use more runoff and it's a bit too flowing everyplace else making it not as technical as one might want to make for better places to overtake. The track managers are "Red Neck Ugly People" which reminds me of the love scene in the movie Deliverance.
Elkart Lake's Road America could use a bit more crash room in T1 and Canada Corner (remove one mountain and place it at T1) Problem with crashing @ Road America is it's set up for Cars (like many tracks). If you crash in T7 for example there is a 3 to 4" step up from Grass to Rocks and that can damage a spine. Traction in the wet on the paved patches sections 'sux arse' in T5, T6, T8. I crashed in the wet on my sighting lap in practice in the wet there in May and I was just putting around. The long strait's are a little boring and offer in my opinion too much time to rest and for tires to cool. Maybe that's good? Emergency Crew at Road America is top notch!
Road Atlanta Braselton, GA- Top ratings for Road Atlanta from me. I was there racing motocross in 1979 as a kid and have great early memories. It offers multiple configurations and with new T12 it's not so deadly. Plenty of room to crash everywhere. Maybe flipping off at T5 you could hit something.  I grew up 30 minutes from this track in Lilburn / Stone Mountain GA

I list my favorites this way
1 Grattan I wish CCS raced at Grattan. Ill try to be there for the WERA weekend July 2012!
2 Road Atlanta
3 Barber

 What's your favorite track?  Post below.

Monday, April 30, 2012

'The new Design Engine logo' Vinyl Graphics GSXR 600

Design Engine has updated it's logo in order to bring the several design engine sites together. There is the jobs forum. then the design engineering blog then the school itself  Notice the new logo on each of those pages.

 One of the cool things of working at Design Engine is how much each gets to learn. From Social marketing to brain storming to vinyl wraps. Everything in an engineer or designers life is about learning anyway and we just find ourselves constantly learning. Whether it's swimming at a better pace, steady more controlled moves in yoga or smoother faster lines on the race track it's always about how fast can you reason through problems and ultimately how fast one can learn.  That is what we are about at Design engine learning (as we teach designers how to learn new software) and in this project we set out to learn how to design and apply vinyl graphics so that possibly next fall we can administer a course utilizing all we have learned. Illustrator, design iteration process, vinyl wrap combination.  Back to the new logo....

To kick off the new logo we showed it off first on the design-engine Suzuki GSXR600 race bike which is competing in 600 Middleweight, Supersport, GTU, Heavyweight, Superbike and GP Midwest Expert races in the Champion Cup Series CCS expert series for 2012.  The images tell the story.

Illustrator looks like model for the GSXR600 Sharkskins  Hotbodies
the Adobe Illustrator line art 2012 design 'looks like model'

We started the vinyl wrap project by looking at  race bikes from current and previous years.  A little internet 'see whats out there' research never hurt anyone. We liked nothing we saw out there and we wanted to do something unique yet utilize a design that would leverage the illustrator/vinyl strengths. In our research we noticed people were doing a sort of  different tribal looks with vinyl applications like Huntly Nash's #75 race bike graphics from last year and the Michael Jordan Race Team bikes that have been wrapped over the years.   or the AMA Safety First Police Race bikes of 2005 - 2008.  All very busy graphically. We wanted to explore the use of vinyl graphics without getting too much graphically. Hope you enjoy a glimpse into our world from this picture log.

applying vinyl to the upper faring

The Vinyl we used is a 3mil cast vinyl.  It is stretchy stuff.  We used a Kawasaki heat Gun to heat up the more compound areas and we were especially careful not to stretch and distort the vinyl where graphics are concerned. 

Max with the printed artwork

Max is pictured with the printed Adobe Illustrator vector art all all ready for application to the race plastic.  Yes we made a mess but nothing the super-dope Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner can't handle (that product's latest iteration was designed developed using Pro/E and copied by Dyson by the way) And yes, we work in trade sometimes.

 the rear cow completed (white number plates for expert)

Notice the white bleed out to Red and the round number plates.  We wanted to showcase the new logo coming out of the white portion , something one can't easily do with paint. The finished product has white on top and bottom and a red in the middle sections.  We thought the round number place stands out this way.

Suzuki GSXR vinyl template Illustrator
 'Template File' (what we send to print)

Typically a printer will want an Adobe Illustrator file PDF complete with layers.  One layer for the color graphics and another layer for a magenta die cut line.

Vinyl Graphics on compound Surfaces designengine
using masking tape to obtain the flat for the compound surfaces

One challenge with vinyl graphics is simply applying the vinyl without the vinyl sticking to itself. Another challenge is getting the air pockets out properly.  Yet another challenge is understanding what flat pattern to utilize from compound surfaces such as found on motorcycle race plastic, not to mention applying those graphics to the farings.  We used a hot glue gun to help the vinyl stick on the b-side of the faring surfaces.

A spot of bother as they say in England

Nothing a heat gun can't untangle. This section of the upper faring defiantly does not lend well for wrapping.  This is where the frame sliders go if we used them... and we don't use them.  If I had a hand in the design and development of the race plastic there would be some changes.

If you are interested in one of the Design Engine Illustrator workshops consider taking our one or two week Adobe Illustrator intensive to learn the basics of Illustrator, develop graphics for your project then learn how to apply your printed vinyl graphics.  We intend for the class to occur in the Fall of 2012 and will probably utilize several instructors.  The curriculum is not set nor has been set but do send in your inquiry so we can use your input to plan the course dates and structure.

Whats next?  We are still busy with Vinyl Graphics this year!  Design Engine has two Yamaha Zuma Scooters for it's employees and out of town students to enjoy.  You guessed it, they are being wrapped too.  Oh and the Design Engine YZ450's too.  

 The completed race bike at Heartland Park Raceway in Topeka KS

Bart Brejcha CCS GSXR600 2012 graphics designengine
 The completed graphics T4 Blackhawk Farms Raceway BFR

 Special thanks to Max who is learning the seemingly black art of vinyl wrapping compound surfaces!   I know he was joking but when Max said he was going to wrap the coffee maker I cried in laughter.  If he doesn't wrap the coffee maker I will!