<![CDATA[NICO RONDET RACING - BLOG]]>Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:30:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Welcoming the Springtime with a little Triathlon Fun!]]>Sat, 12 May 2012 01:54:10 GMThttp://nicorondet.com/blog/welcoming-the-springtime-with-a-little-triathlon-fun
Well, it has been a few weeks, since I made any entry in here. 

The spring is finally here, and with it, the Triathlon season is really kicking into gear. Last weekend was a feast for tri-geeks (or is that freaks!?): Wildflower, St Croix, Rev3 in Knoxville I think, and the Napa Valley Half. This next weekend is the ITU World Championship in San Diego. Where to go for all this fun?

I love Wildflower, but this year, I decided to stay local and race the Enviro Sports Napa Valley Half Ironman. I have done this race before, both at the current location and at a previous location along the Lake Berryessa in Napa. They both have small lakeside campgrounds, but the course varied slightly over the last two or three years.

Excited to race after nursing a calf injury the last couple of months, I casually arrived for race registration, which only takes place on race morning for this particular event. The casualness of it is only good if you know the course and do not need to do a course preview. The starting race gun only goes off at 8:00 am - late by many standards... yet very welcome. What's the rush with all these 7AM starts, anyway? By definition, Triathletes are always cold! Just allow the sun to get out before we have to scramble in our transition set-up and keep us happy.

Anyway, when the gun did go off, or rather the powerful countdown and yell from the always entertaining race director, Dave Horning, the water was a little agitated around me for a few minutes, and then things settled down. It was a double loop, triangular shaped swim. Just when I got around the first buoy, I got passed by a big guy. Of course, my draft alert bell was triggered! So I pretty much latched onto his feet for the rest of the swim. He was navigating well, and was swimming a good pace. I checked my Heart rate a few times, and it was where it needed to be. Yes, I can check my heart rate while I’m swimming in a race! Telemetry is my game! I was struggling a bit with my shoulders, as I had not swum with my wetsuit all year yet (“Do as I say, not as I do”), but still feeling good with the pull I was getting by drafting. It is important when you draft, not to annoy the lead swimmer. If I touched his feet at all, I made sure not to drag his legs down, just a little bump from my fingers into his soles, if anything it is like bump drafting. Just towards the end, he increased the pace a little, but still comfortable in the draft.

I came out of the water, had a decent T1 (transition from Swim to Bike), and jumped on my Felt B2. Out of the lake, I took it easy to get the legs going. My Polar Power Meter and Hear Rate monitor are very helpful in keeping me on pace because it is so easy to get going too hard right away. I settled into a nice rhythm. I have been working on improving my cadence, and that has made a big difference, mostly on the flats and small hills. The difference is not as apparent on bigger hills because you are relying more on the torque, even when you spin.  

Anyway, I had a great bike despite crazy winds along most of the course.  Oh, and by the way, what's up with that? The last few races I’ve done, it is always mega windy!  Wildflower and Palm Springs last year and now here. Wind always makes it harder, but also more dangerous. I actually kept thinking that I should have kept my training front wheel rather than my HED tri-spoke wheel. The rear HED disc is fine, but the front end getting moved around is what requires a lot of attention. You can give it more power and that stabilizes the bike, but then you are leaving more out on the course than you might have planned to do. Personally, I have seen enough wind tunnel data to realize how a few more miles-per-hour change the wind angle, and make your wheels, bike, and position more efficient. Although at that point you are now pushing more air, and thus yielding diminishing returns. Go figure!

So, after 56 miles and 2:48 hours, I came off the bike. The T2 (transition from Bike to Run) was good and I had a smooth start to the run. With my limited training due to my calf injury over the last couple of months, I knew that I wasn't going to run fast, but did hope for a solid effort. It started really well, my cadence was where it needed to be (there I go again with my telemetry) just my stride was a little short. Also, without the wind speed from the bike, I was now noticing the heat and that also drives your pace down. Almost to the yard, when I went past the 7th mile marker, I had to stop. I was completely spent! Guess what, my longest run this season has been exactly 7 miles. I had been slowly rebuilding the distance as my calf heeled and so 7 miles was all my body could recall for the reserves. It is funny right? That training thing does work!!! I always hear, and agree that the long run and long ride are so key to your training. Guess what? When you don't do them, things just don’t tie up together as nicely as you’d like. So from mile 7onward, I walked to complete the half marathon I started. First the stride was slow, then a little bit faster, and eventually I started jogging again at around mile 11. I was also somewhat recovered with the aid of  the good Hammer nutrition stuff I was getting in. Today it was obvious I had not done the training needed, but my base saved the day.

All said and done, here are the splits : 1.2 mi swim: 34'56" Good enough for 36th overall, followed by a 3'25" T1 23rd position, then a 2h48'42" 56mi bike, 8th overall, then a 1'20" T2 good enough for 9th, and then a 2h32'33" 13.1 mi. I don't know the ranking on that... but it is not impressive! Total time was 6h00'57".  45th overall and 7th in my age group! Thanks to all the fast people down at Wildflower that allowed saving a little face with these results.

Nevertheless, I was pleased with the result, foremost my calf held up, and I really think it is now strong for good. I knew that I hadn't put in the training, but I planned on using this race for a fun training day. I got caught in the competitive spirit, particularly when I realized how strongly my bike was coming along.  I was counting the leaders at the turn- arounds and there weren't many. They gradually became fewer at each turnaround on the bike, but then I had to watch them all pass me again on the run. But truly, I'm confident that even if I had really eased off on the bike, I wouldn't have run much better, so no regrets! It was a fun, hot, hard day doing my swim, bike and run and loving it!


<![CDATA[Virtual vs. Reality: The Palatov D4]]>Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:40:55 GMThttp://nicorondet.com/blog/virtual-vs-reality-the-palatov-d4
Last week was an excitingly busy adventure. It started with a day in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), where Simraceway was showcasing the latest simulator hardware.

Later in the week, we filmed the first chapter of Virtual vs. Realilty. I was joined by a couple of journalists to drive the very interesting Palatov D4. The testing was done both on track and in the simulator to see how close they could get. Since I'm responsible for the “reality” accuracy, I will focus on the real side of the experience, and let YOU be the judge of the virtual one in the simulator.

Last week was an excitingly busy adventure. It started with a day in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), where Simraceway was showcasing the latest simulator hardware.

Later in the week, we filmed the first chapter of Virtual vs. Realilty. I was joined by a couple of journalists to drive the very interesting Palatov D4. The testing was done both on track and in the simulator to see how close they could get. Since I'm responsible for the “reality” accuracy, I will focus on the real side of the experience, and let YOU be the judge of the virtual one in the simulator.

First, it looks very good, but it also looks very small! The reasoning behind the very short wheelbase is that you actually can store the Palatov in its own custom made trailer, and tow it with pretty much any car to the closest track near you. That’s practicality!

The D4 with the Hayabusa engine is the small kid in the family. Weighing in at 900lbs, it is light but not insanely light when you think that a race-readyF3 is just about 1000 lbs. With 172 horse power, the power to weight ratio is pretty good.

After a normal quick systems check installation lap, and some ride height changes to keep the Palatov off the many Infineon bumps, I get back out on the track, and quickly start enjoying the engine choice. Ever since my Toyota Atlantic days, I really enjoy the sound of a small, high revving 4 cylinder. It is definitely a good choice in this car. The gearbox, straight from a motorbike as well, is super smooth and easy. Well, at least as easy as sequential gearboxes go.  Do stay tuned on that, as I hear that F1B's Rolling Speed might do a review on those. On the other end, I think that the slack in the double chain drive made the upshifts quick, but not as quick as a straight cut racing gearbox. The brakes are really good. Actually Dennis Palatov explained that they reduced their efficiency on purpose. Since there isn't a whole lot of mass, it brakes really well, but the problem is that being as short as it is, it becomes very pitch sensitive, and really needs a lot of spring rate to keep the front end from slamming down under braking. That makes the chassis difficult to drive really fast and aggressively. It is very easy to drive fairly quickly, but hard to reach for those last few tenths of a second. It doesn't really like trail braking or quick lifts in the middle of the corners to reduce under steer. Your best bet is to have a pretty tidy entry and then drive through a moderate under steer through the corner until you can revert into a forgiving over steer on power, particularly off slow corners. High speed corners demand quite a bit of steering effort, but not a lot of lock, so it was not a problem. One very pleasant surprise was the almost complete lack of helmet buffeting.

At the end of the day, the Palatov D4 was designed to be the perfect track car... and it does that. It will easily post times that will demand a lot of car and skill in order to be beat. In other words, it can probably beat anything that "you can drive to the track". To go faster though, you will need a car that has to be towed in by transporter, and then you’ll have to drive hard! No guarantees, though. Give it a try on the simulator!


<![CDATA[Talking about fun cars: Audi TT RS]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2012 01:24:53 GMThttp://nicorondet.com/blog/talking-about-fun-cars-audi-tt-rsGetting to drive the cool new Audi TT RS before the general public is one of the perks of being an instructor at the Audi Sportscar Experience at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway.

It has been a few weeks since we got the new TT RS, and many were curious about how good it was going to be. I'll be honest. A few years ago, not many Audi cars got me excited, but lately that has changed quite a bit, starting with the R8 and now the TT RS!

I won’t digress toward the fun factor of the R8. Let’s focus on the TT RS. The design of the first TT leaned more toward an attractive "girl’s look". The modern TT and TT S each evolved as less cute and more stunning than their predecessor. The TT RS in comparison is the most downright muscular of the evolutions.

The impressions start as soon as you slide into the seat. Although Audi has always treated us with high quality interiors and ergonomics, you can feel a higher refinement here. The plastic used on the dashboard (yes it is plastic!) feels slightly rubbery and warm. The steering wheel is fatter "`a la" BMW M. The seats are phenomenal in feel and cocooning, yet offering the right amount of support for a spirited drive on the road. However, not quite enough for the race track. Then again, what does? A molded seat in a carbon fiber tub?  Maybe, if done right.

The one I'm driving is equipped with the manual 6 speed gearbox. The one everybody loves but nobody buys according to market research. The pedals feel good, although the brake/throttle could be a little bit closer for my size- 43 feet. The hydraulic clutch feels very smooth, like all modern Audis, and is quick to engage which is good and bad. Many drivers slip the clutch excessively. That long throw makes it worse. Then when you have a powerful all-wheel drive car, you want the clutch to be the "weak link" rather than the transmission, and you are not going to get all 4 wheels spinning on dry pavement.

The new 5 cylinder turbo feels so seemless; I actually had to look at the boost gauge to feel the turbo. I love the efficiency of turbo cars, but I still miss the direct connection between your right foot and the wheels that you feel with a bigger motor (Lexus LFA anybody?). That being said, this car is really fast! The gearing is quite a bit taller than in the TTS and despite not having the magic upshifts from the S-Tronic, the top speeds are much more like the R8 4.2 FSI V8, not quite like the 5.2 FSI V10.

Audi really did a great job with the calibration of their Drive Select System. Despite the "front wheel drive build" this TT RS is awesome through the mid-corner. It still under steers on the way into the corner, and the very big front brakes which really help the car slow down efficiently without overheating do not help in that department. For the track only, I would like a touch more rear brake bias to help the Turn In, but for the road, it is perfect. I never felt the ABS to be excessively intrusive despite Infineon's less than perfect braking zones. 

Back to the Drive Select, you actually can feel the outside rear wheel being driven harder than the rest, particularly over 3A, which is where the car is completely unloaded. This is the kind of thing that I have only felt in a Mitsubishi EVO, but the TT RS has much better composure, staying really nice and flat. As I said before, a little bit of composed under steer on the way into the corner, but then you can pick up some gas surprisingly early and get deeper into it, really delaying the under steer on power, both off the slow corners (7A and 11) and the fast ones (6). It is interesting that once you are over that initial limitation on Turn In, the chassis feels like it could take some more in. Did anybody say aftermarket tuning? Just kidding!

The damping is really good, and behaves well over the compressions; I just can't seem to be able to ever stop playing with the sport button. It always amazes me how quickly the behavior of the car changes, literally, at the touch of a button! OFF and you get a touch more pitch, roll, and give over small bumps. You then switch ON, and you feel every oscillation including paint thickness on the track! Every road car should have something like this!

The Overall quality of the car is phenomenal. The Quattro GMBH touch. Some of the wind noises which you accept from the TT S for being so light are completely gone. The feel of the power steering is very positive. The only thing that I ended up wishing for was more brake pedal feel. Not brake power, brake feel. But to be fair, I had just driven a brand new R8 5.2 FSI V10 with ceramic brakes... and those felt fantastic (best ceramic brakes I have ever felt).

Now to finish up, the practical side of things. Of course, this is not a wagon but you have a surprising amount of storage room, particularly when you fold the rear seats. Yes, yes, rear seats! Just like in a 911, not really usable but for young children, but perfect for that storage on the way to the airport, or even to the trailhead. I'm confident that I could fit my mountain bike in there!

Speaking of which, I need to get out and ride! 


<![CDATA[Welcome 2012!]]>Sun, 04 Mar 2012 01:11:41 GMThttp://nicorondet.com/blog/first-post
Well, it looks like this winter we got a good dose of summer and I certainly made the most of the weather to enjoy the outdoors. Winter time is typically the time that I start the base training for my triathlon racing for the upcoming year. Of course, work at the race track is still ongoing - racing in the rain is often part of the picture in the Northern California winters. So the training comes in handy in staying strong and alert. This winter however, we've had great days of sunshine and very little rain. The road and the dirt have been good playing grounds. Welcome all to 2012 and to my blog. I'll be sharing some insights on all things cars, triathlon, racing and whatever else may pop into the horizon. Enjoy!