Ep20. Coffee And Race Engineering With Jeff Braun

Today, we’re talking to Jeff Braun. US-based race engineer. Jeff has over 40 years experience engineering at the highest level in North America. Working with both professional and amateur races. Jeff has the full spectrum of experience. We talk about optimising the setup for the driver, and adapting it for different weather conditions. Should you change it or should you not? What you might find most interesting however is the process and approaches that Jeff adopts not only for his racing, but in fact for everything in his life. Jeff makes his own coffee and applies exactly the same process to that as he does to his racing. It’s absolutely fascinating …

Links mentioned on the show:

https://www.mesavistacoffee.com/

[2:02] Whats with the data sheets with the coffee Jeff?

[10:56] A drivers perceived limit and using simulation at Indy

[29:53] Should you involve the driver in setup or not?

[34:41] Wet approaches and setup tips

[47:06] Where should you start applying this stuff?

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Full Transcript

Samir: [00:00:00] So welcome Jeff.

Jeff Braun: [00:00:01] Hey, good to be here. Good to be here.

Samir: [00:00:03] I’m really excited about this. Thank you so much for taking the time. It’s rare that we get someone with such pedigree, to come and talk to us in a club racing environment, particularly from an engineering point of view.

It will be absolutely. Fascinating to hear about you a little bit more about you. For those who don’t know who you are. And hear about your experiences in racing. So it might be there’s one or two things that we can get as a club racer. One or two take aways that we can wise in this sharing thing? Yeah, actually that’s something, I didn’t know this for.

And really make a difference so that people can get their own racing. And that is a real advantage now. So that’s the gantlet laid down. So there we go to say, you’re an engineer and, you also make coffee as well.

I’ll tell you what, let’s just do the coffee So my understanding is that you make coffee, but because you’re an engineer and you send data sheets!?  Tell me about the coffee, man. This is amazing! .

Jeff Braun: [00:00:58] Yeah. It’s I guess it’s what happens when an engineer gets a hobby and he can’t, separate the engineering from the hobby part of it. I got into coffee. I don’t know exactly how I think I like hobbies with, as you say, with, get with machinery and things like that.

I started with an espresso machine and then I wanted to change the pressure profile and the flow rate and the extraction percentage. I bought a refractometer app, bought a, a, things that I could measure, measure my extraction percentage and things like that. And then I thought, rather than just buy coffee beans, I should roast my own coffee beans.

So I bought a roaster and I put a data system on it. So I could measure temperature versus time profiles.

Samir: [00:01:44] Can you tell the difference? If we keep this at a racing, it can, is the lap time getting quicker? Can you tell the difference with all this sort of science that goes into the coffee? I would assume you can, but equally. Can

Jeff Braun: [00:01:58] you can, and that’s, what’s cool. The analogy to racing holds true. It’s so we’re trying to manipulate a set up too. Do what the driver wants it to be, to me that as a race engineer, that’s the main goal. You can have your simulation, you can have your data, you can have everything that you think the vehicle should do, but if the driver doesn’t like it, he’s not going to go quicker and ultimately you need to suit it to the driver so he can use it to go quicker.

So that’s the race engineer’s job. Find a setup the driver likes. The coffee engineer’s job and roasting coffee is to find that coffee that the drinker likes and just like racing it’s different for each driver or each coffee drinker.

 Some people like one flavor, another like another, some like it stronger, some like more chocolate notes, some like more fruit notes, like wine in a way. And with the roast profile, how I roast it with temperature versus time and what the curve shape is and how you hold it and how long you roast it. In certain areas of the, as the bean is losing its humidity and starting to crack and starting to then caramelize, the bean and bring out the different flavors. How you do that changes the flavor of the coffee completely.

And so I’m starting to learn. If I do this with the profile, with my data trace, then I get more of a chocolatey nutty flavor. If I do this, I get more of a fruit forward kind of fruity citrusy flavor . And then you can start out with different beans. You can have Columbia and Ethiopian. Bali, you can start out with different beans that are able to be, to me, it’s like a race car. If you soften the Springs on a car, it can do some thing, but it’ll be slightly different. If you soften the Springs on your track day GT car, as if you soften your Springs on your Indy car. And so they have the same trends, but it affects different cars or different beans differently.

 So then , I get crazy and there’s big spreadsheets of how this works and how that worked. And I’m trying to learn how I can affect the flavor of the bean, the same way racing as race engineering. I learn how I can affect the handling and the feel of the car.

It’s so much alike and maybe I’ve just found a way to make you can like so that I can relate to it, but that’s the way I relate to the coffee end of it. And yeah, so people started, like I was giving it away just to get some feedback, just like you would from a driver, what do you think?

“Oh, this is good. Oh, that’s terrible. And no, this is great.”

And so I would keep doing it. And then finally, a couple of my friends, the first guy was John Edwards. Who’s a factory BMW driver. He said to me, he goes, I want some more coffee, but I feel bad asking you for it for free. He said, you should sell it.

And I said, I could sell it. And just so I break even. And so I put a website up there and when I have time, I can’t roast all the time. But when I do, I just, do some coffee, send out the data sheet and some pro tips on how to grind it and brew it and things like that. And learn and get better each time I send out, some coffee to people.

Samir: [00:05:24] I love it. I’m on a real coffee sign. I just love that. I love everything about it, what you described as a kind of a mindset. And you’re like almost going to help me. So that way I imagine, because you’re just not come by, I’m putting words into your mouth, but I imagine that it feels uncomfortable to be out of control of some of these variables. And so you putting in something and then you getting an unknown out each time.

So if you can control some of the. The process by which these beans are being roasted, that’s going to give you more predictability of a successful outcome. And the other, I think treating it like a science experiment  quite similar, very similar to how most professional racing teams go racing.

And it’s something that I personally see missing quite often. From the club paddock. Is that something you’ve seen or yourself disagree with?

Jeff Braun: [00:06:19] For sure. to me, it’s what we try to do in racing, whether we’re club racing or whether we’re top professional racing is. If you can predict the outcome, then you can better choose which variable you want to manipulate to get that outcome.

And you get more and more experienced along the line as you play with it more and learn more. Part of that learning is you have to understand what the result. And that’s where the data that you get helps because you can quantify it, but there’s also the human element and you have to blend the both of those together.

And so the club racer are a lot of times. Thinks all I’ve no need for data or he says I don’t need the data. I think you’re better off. If you can bring both of those together too, back to the coffee analogy, I need the, is this the roast profile? But I also need the person to tell me whether it tastes good is just because it looks good on the graph.

Doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good, just because the data says that’s better. Doesn’t mean it’s actually going to handle better for that particular driver. So I see a lot of club racers get caught up a lot of times on one side or the other, it’s all data well, but data says, I pulled 0.1 more G but why am I have a second slower.

Because you pulled Point one more G in a peak, but you couldn’t maintain it around the corner or the car didn’t transition very well so it was bad in this particular area. So I think people, need to use both and that’s where the trick comes in because you can’t be all hardcore engineering and you can’t be all just talking to the driver and that’s, what’s fun about it is combining.

Combining engineering with the human side of it. And to me, that’s what I enjoy about race engineering, rather than just, whatever. Structural engineering, where are you going to design a bridge with a 10 safety factor and you’re done, and there’s one answer and every engineer is going to get the same answer.

But when you put the human factor in, you’re not going to get the same answer and that’s what is enjoyable for me.

Samir: [00:08:35] I’d say I agree. And that’s been my experience and pleasure personally as well. So it’s lovely to hear that from someone else because, I used to work a in vehicle dynamics, but then I made some, we used to do suspension and steering development, for , but the nice thing was my role was very much computer-based to be honest, but it wasn’t.

Yeah, there was no point in having a fastest cognitive computer. We went to the fastest call, the best car in reality. And it wastes up is subjective sign-off which we call the guy’s subject value. Like someone would drive it and say yes or no.  What we in the road call world. What we did was quite interesting.

We could, we broke down that subject if it’s into quite discrete driving events so that we tried to objectify some of that. Human input. I lose a bit, which I wish again, I didn’t see so much in racing, because it goes a different track every weekend, but just that concept of continually breaking it down.

But when I’m marrying, those two things up, how do you feel and what do the numbers say?

Jeff Braun: [00:09:35] That’s super interesting. What you just said there. I tell a quick story that happened to me back in,  late nineties. I think it was, I was running Indy cars. It was IRL at the time cart and IRL had just done their split.

We were in maybe the second or third year of the IRL and I worked real closely with the folks at Dallara. I had done there. There Ferrari 333 back in the day that they had designed for Ferrari and got to know them. And the team I was working for helped in the development of the first Dallara IRL car.

So we were at Indy and one of the things they were trying to understand, having never raised the ovals high-speed ovals before, we’re trying to understand why their simulations showed the car should go. This speed around turn one at Indy, but the driver would never approach that speed. And they’re like, why isn’t he, getting to the limits of the car is our simulation wrong is, and we got to the point where it was the feel of the driver.

He was there’s the survival instinct, especially at Indy. When you’re going through that, minimum speed is 220 miles an hour in the middle of turn one. And so they started looking at trying to. Understand that. And we did again, this is pretty common now, but back in the nineties, not so much, we put a strain gauge in the steering shaft to measure steering torque.

There was no power steering, so we didn’t have any, hydraulic pressure or electrical torque to measure. So we actually measured the actual twisting torque in the steering shaft. And then we could look at steering position. And then there was a, as you said, in your example, the subjectiveness from the driver, there was a 10 question rate from one to five.

How did the steering feel? How did the effort feel? What did you see visually? Did you feel the understeer in your hands or in your eyes or in your body? How did you, how do you feel the limit of the car? And then we could look at the data. And if we saw a steering torque increasing and angle decreasing, we knew the car was getting what we call here loose or over-steering. Because the front was gripping and the driver thought too much and he was taking steering angle out.

If we saw steering angle go up and torque go down, we knew what was under steering. He was asking for more turning and he wasn’t getting it cause the front. Steering torque was going down. And so then we started to look at those, the data with his subjective analysis and we understood why he was doing what he was doing.

And that was super important about melding those two, the subjective and the objective, but trying to then understand how we could move the, his perceived limit closer to the actual limit. So we stopped working on making. More grip from a pure vehicle dynamic standpoint, because we could make more grip in the driver, never went there. Because it was something was telling him to stop.

This is too fast. I’m going to crash or I don’t have enough grip or whatever. So we started working on moving the perceived limit of the car up closer to the actual limit. Cause making the actual limit of the car higher was no benefit.

Samir: [00:13:08] How did you do that?

Jeff Braun: [00:13:09] There was a lot of things. Funny enough in seating position. In seats themselves in steering wheel diameter, a smaller diameter made the car feel twitchy or a bigger diameter gave them more feel at the limit.

Tubs were actually increased in width around the steering so we can put a bigger steering wheel in there. Steering rack and pinion ratios. All of those things I just described had nothing to do. You can run those in a simulation and it wouldn’t show one bit of difference in the grip level. The car’s making you don’t see it on a shaker rig.

You don’t see it in a wind tunnel, but those are the things we worked on. Aerodynamics a little buffeting of the head made the driver, just not quite as sure what was going on. So we made sure that the little windscreen on the front of the Indy car got the air over his head. We worked on helmet design and little you’ll see, back in the day, the bell had these flat back helmets and they had a vortex generators in the top of the helmets to calm the buffeting down.

Has it made the driver faster because he could feel the limit better. And the perceived limit was higher.

Samir: [00:14:22] The little plastic aero bits for their helmet. Now again, yes.

Jeff Braun: [00:14:26] It’s a good thing that kinda came from it’s. Yeah, it, if the driver perceives the limit, that’s where he’s going to stop. No matter how quick that car is. And a lot of,  to go back to the club level stuff and semi-pro stuff. I do Ferrari challenge, which is a amateur Ferrari 488, a single make series worldwide.

And it’s coaching. It’s all, they’re all beginner drivers, with good driver coaches and. That’s really the coach’s job because the car is much more capable than these beginning type amateur drivers. So this job is to get the driver to perceive the limit better, both from driver coaching, and then from my job as an engineer is different.

If I have a pro driver in the car. I’m working on some things that I’m, that might be different than if I have a more rookie or less experienced driver, because I need him to be able to perceive that limit easier and sooner. So he knows whether he’s about ready to crash or he’s a long way away from that.

Samir: [00:15:37] So one of the things that we use to look at, road car industry was the H point , which is your hip in the car and the position of that. When you on the brakes, if your hip goes up, you feel like it’s falling through the windscreen. you’re point goes down. You feel like more part of the car, you feel more confident. The dynamics would be to be the sun. In fact, it’s just the positioning of your hip point if it was having this off. So it’s really fascinating you say about that, looking at the seats and having that kind of confidence, just that the level of the seat, it gives you a better chance that. But having less of an impact on your H point.

What would you do with the amatuer driver  to try and help them perceive the limit? Are you looking at sort of tire pressures or something? Cause you might not have a lot of time between say a session. You might do a session or you’re testing, for example, I’m just guessing how your day runs, but if you have a session and they come back and they say, I’m not feeling so confident. What’s your approach to that?

 Jeff Braun: [00:16:36] It’s generally to make the car more numb, less twitchy, less sharp. Anything you can do for that. To make it, to make the car Telegraph what it’s about to do earlier.

I find with a lot of track day people, they all have different capabilities and what they can do with their car. A amateur racer, some of them have formula cars with adjustable shocks and sway bars, and they can easily put Springs in it. Others have their daily driver car that they put some shaved down tires on and they can’t really change shocks or Springs or things like that quickly.

So it’s tire pressure is like you said, maybe. And if you can do something that makes the car less sharp, less sensitive, less reactive. Then you get some time to understand what it’s doing. If you turn it into a corner and it just quickly turns in, then you have to react to that real quick. And the less experienced driver can’t make those reactions as quick.

If you turn into a corner and it leans over a little bit and then starts to do its thing. Whatever it’s going to do. It gives the driver some time to understand what’s happening. And that’s where the less experienced driver goes actually quicker with a car where a very experienced driver might say, ah, it’s too soft.

It’s too rolly. It’s too mushy. It moves around too much because he can react to it and he expects that to happen. So like lower tire pressure, softer spring, softer bars. And a lot of your friends might say, Oh no, softer anti-roll bar. So Carl, just roll around and go slower. Maybe, but not right now.

Maybe you go softer. You understand what the car is doing. Okay. It’s always going to understood there cause I feel it now. So let’s stiff in the bars and then you come back, edit and make the car better. But again, in my, just like my Dallara example, there’s no sense making the car better. If the driver can’t use it.

So drivers need to get to the point where they know what’s going to happen with the car before they start trying to make the car better.

Samir: [00:18:47] So what’s fascinating about what you’re saying there is  it’s quite an interesting point because you’re suggesting that you’re adjusting the car to suit the driver, but I feel sometimes that. My club racing, competitors or colleagues or whatever, we’re looking for this one, single ideal setup for the car.

And what you’re saying is that yes, there’s the setup that might be, the ideal setup, but it’s not the ideal setup for you right now. And what we need to do to get your lap time on quicker is to change the set up in such a way that theoretically it might be. Less fast theoretically, or it might be softer in some way. And then we can come and then you get your confidence up, and then we can start to push it back towards moving again. So it’s almost like this is a kind of, you’re treating the sets up, not as a singular objective optimization, what is the ultimate solution you’re using as a tool to get the most out of your driving?

Jeff Braun: [00:19:52] Exactly right. I use far as challenges, another example. So almost in America, almost every driver has a driver professional driver who his driver coach at on the weekend. I’ve been working with two really good drivers here. As driver coaches, Andy Lally, and Nick Yonson, both of them coaching my Ferrari challenge driver.

Each one of those guys will go out with the car in the setup. I have. On the very first practice of the weekend, drive the car to its limit as a professional. understand it, then he’ll say, and our goal is always the habit to understeering for the pro, because that’s safe for my beginning driver.

So we get to that point. Yep. It’s under staring. Good. Then we tell. My driver, his name is Mike Watt. We say, Mike, go out your job now is to drive it to feel that understeer. It’s definitely going to understeer drive it as hard as you tend to feel it. He goes out and he goes, man, I don’t feel it. I just know I don’t feel it.

We know it’s there. He’s just not confident enough to drive it to that point yet for some reason. So I might actually make some changes to make the car even more. Under-steering. And then he goes out and he goes, Oh yeah, I feel the understeer now I feel the understeer. So now we know he’s getting to the limit of the car.

It’s not his limit anymore. He’s actually got to the limit of the car, which is great. Cause now he’s driving at some level higher than he was before. Now we’ll start to take a little of that under steer away now. Okay. And I’ll feel it again, Mike. I, yeah, I feel it now under steer too much. It’s slowing me down.

I’ll take a little bit more away. And we’re approaching as the weekend goes. Hopefully if things go well where the pro driver would actually like the car and that’s gotten the driver better along the path, as we’re, as he’s chasing that understeer. But if he’s not feeling the understeer and it’s a massive understeer for the pro, he’s not getting to the limit of the car and he’s not driving it hard enough.

So that’s the approach. I will take there. And so we’ve given him actually a worst car. But he’s goes faster with a worse car. And ultimately we’re all trying to just go faster. I don’t care if the car is worse, but the combination of driver and car is better.

Samir: [00:22:15] That’s really fascinating.

 you talked about its, not just the engineering.  at some point , you have to win the driver over. how much is Mike involved in that consciously or is it something you do. On his behalf . how much is he aware of what you’re doing?

 Jeff Braun: [00:22:32] I think, I’ve been fortunate to run quite a few amateur club level. I call them semi-pros. Because anybody who’s. Who’s paying for a racing program is professional in some way, because they’re approaching it in a way where they want to get better. So it’s a professional approach. Maybe they don’t make their living at it, but they’re a, semi-pro, it’s a professional approach to their hobby. So those guys, they all have a different, they all come at it from a different way.

And this is where I think all of these guys can benefit. They’ve all made enough money to be able to afford their level of racing, which is. By definition means they’ve reached some level of success in their personal life or their business life to be able to afford this. So they have some skills much like back to the coffee thing.

I only know one way to do something from an engineering standpoint, whether it’s coffee or anything else. a guy who was a, I dunno, a accountant probably has some skills that he could apply to racing and he might understand. Different parts of that. He might want to be more involved in that. Mike, my Ferrari challenge driver is an electrical engineer and has a company that does radar systems and things like that.

So he’s an engineering mind. So he understands, he likes to understand certain levels of what we’re doing. Why when we stiff in the front anti-roll bar, does it make it more under-steering. And on one track, but less on another track, depending on the grip level. He likes to understand that to a certain level, not at a pro level, but so it’s not hard to get him to buy into it.

Here’s what we’re going to do. Here’s why we’re going to do it. And the great thing about it is. If you understand even a little bit, I’ve made the front anti-roll bar softer, it should, understeer more. Okay, what will that do? What, how will that change? The feel of the car will it’ll roll over more and you might feel it not as crisp in the transition in the bus stop chicane or something.

And then they go out and they start to become attuned to that. Oh, I do feel it rolling over more. I, Oh, I don’t like that, or, Oh, that’s better because I get an idea what’s going to happen. So understanding what the change is and having the engineer explain it to the driver, I think is important because then it makes the driver better at helping the engineer because he’s Oh, I really, boy, I just don’t like it.

When it rolls over, then you’re at the next race and I’m, and I say, okay, I’m going to soften the rear anti-roll bar now to get grip off the corner. And they might be like, Oh, I don’t think I like softer. Remember when you did that two races and go on the front and it rolled over. I don’t like that. This is different than you explain it.

But the driver starts to become involved in that. And that’s important to be a better driver and to help with your engineer.

And if you don’t have an engineer, if you’re a club racer off there doing it yourself, You are your engineer. You almost have that conversation with yourself. Okay. Driver, what’d you feel? I felt this. Okay. Engineer, what would you do? I would do this. Oh. But if I do this, it’s going to feel like that to the driver. And it’s, you’re talking to yourself, but you’re working through that same process.

Samir: [00:25:59] No I’ve spoken about this before, but as a, as an engineer and a race and myself, I sometimes get a bit over-analytical.

Yeah. So I struggled  separate the two and Ross, Bentley very famously says drive stupid. I just stopped. I just stopped being the engineer, and just be the driver in it. And I quite liked your yours suggested nervous, almost. Having this person, you’re like, you’re having a conversation with yourself, but we get to hats and you can come.

Jeff Braun: [00:26:25] Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s a good, that’s a good approach. And it’s, it just becomes even on a super professional level where you have paid drivers that I’m working with, high level, highly paid guys in your you’re on a big budget supported team. It’s the same thing you got. If the driver isn’t bought in or doesn’t understand or doesn’t agree, he can’t, he doesn’t necessarily have to agree that it’s going to work, but agree that he’s going to try it and he could see some benefits.

It get, gets back to engineers on a pro level. Have. Sometimes different philosophies. A lot of engineers I know, will say, I’m not going to tell the driver of what I expect the change to do. And I think that’s wrong. especially at a pro level of, they’ll say, he’ll just give me the feedback that he thinks I want to hear.

If you have a driver that’s doing that, you have the wrong driver to start out with. You need somebody that will go, that I can say. Here’s what I think is going on. Here’s the change. Here’s what I think is going to do to help you in the areas that you said you needed help. Here’s the potential downside.

Back to our example, it’s going to make more front grips the softer bar, but it’s going to be rolly and maybe not transition as good. And let’s see what the trade-off is. Is it worth the trade-off and they can go out and run and they’re attuned to what you’ve told them. The change is going to do. And if you’re your own engineer.

Yeah. Obviously, you know that already because you’re, you made that change for a reason and you know what the downsides, and then you’re a tune to it. Then you can come back and give excellent feedback, hey, was it softer in, was it Rowley and sloppy in that transitions? Yes, because he was tuned into that.

Okay. And you told them that possibly could be the, a downside, but he might say. But that’s okay. Because it was so much better in that long sweeper. I didn’t have the understeer it’s let’s keep it like that. And then, so the driver gets bought into the whole thing and part of the process.

Samir: [00:28:31] Yeah. I think your approach is really nice because.

The focus again is on the driver’s confidence and trust and belief in not only what you’re doing, but everyone’s in this together. And the other approach, which is, yeah, are all I’ve changed. I’ve changed this on the car and yet they haven’t and then they go out and they’re trying to check it out. It’s just, it just corrodes.

It’s as I’ve seen engineering. Comedy almost, I got here. What the hell are you doing here? We don’t try to like big up one each other, it’s just yes, I can improve as a driver. Yes. You can improve as an engineer. Let’s just get on with it and do the best we can.

Okay.

Jeff Braun: [00:29:07] You just brought up a great point. The driver also, if he knows what’s going on. I, there might be times when I say, look, I can help you in this corner with this change by doing this, but it’s going to be worse in the break zones. So if you can modulate the break better or break a little lighter early on, because it could tend to lock up.

We can maybe mitigate the bad effects of that. So you change your style a little bit here and I’ll be able to help you over here.  We’re actually, I’m headed right after we get done talking toward VIR to go do a test. And one of the tests we’re doing with Mike, my challenge driver is he’s going to alert transition from right foot braking to left foot braking.

Whoa. We think that’s a better, he’s been right for breaking for his whole racing career. Five, six years since he started racing. And we think if we can get him to left foot brake, he’ll go quicker. But it’s going to be that, what is it? Two steps backwards to go three steps forward. It’s going to be hard at first and you’ll go slower, but we think that’ll eventually help.

And one of the big aspects of that is his ability to control the platform of the car by left foot braking. And so he’ll actually make the car handle better based on how he drives it. And so drivers who understand that they can change the handling of the car. If it’s not doing what they want, they can change it with their breaking.

They’re accelerating how they use the steering wheel. And so it’s not just the engineer that changes the handling of the car. It’s the driver. And there’s been points with a right foot breaker, for instance, where I will say, look. It’s much easier for me if you left foot brake, because I can give you a better car overall.

If you foot brake, and you’re going to continue to do that, I got to run these giant front Springs to keep the car from hitting the ground or to keep it from getting too much rake in it or whatever. And you’re not going to have the mid corner grip that another guy would, if you can, let me go softer and be balanced the car with your feet on the brakes and the gas. You’ll go quicker, but if you don’t want to do that, it’s harder for me.

Samir: [00:31:26] So what’s the benefit of left foot braking. In your example, here,

Jeff Braun: [00:31:30] that you can control the platform of the car

Samir: [00:31:33] when you say on the pitch

Jeff Braun: [00:31:34] the pitch platform, right? .So if you left foot brake, you can come off the throttle onto the brake, squeeze on the brake, hold the nose of the car.

Especially if you have a, almost every even GT car has a pretty powerful splitter nowadays. So you’re making some pretty front good front downforce. If you right foot brake, the splitter of slams on the ground makes a lot of downforce. You turn in, it turns in sharply, you jump off the brake, the front pops up and you get lose all your front downforce in it under stairs.

Okay exaggeration, but that’s the idea.  If you’re, left foot braking, now you can control the height of that splitter with your foot, with the brake pressure. So you can keep on the brake, like trail brake into the corner, but still pick up a little throttle. And if it’s a little under-steering, you can actually give a little more break.

If it’s little oversteer, you can come off the brake a little bit, raise that splitter up and you can balance. The mechanical and aerodynamic aspects of the car with your foot. And so those guys will have an advantage and certainly makes the engineer’s job better, easier. And not that’s the goal, but if I’m making a setup just to counteract the drivers, Harsh reaction on the brake into a corner when he lifts off the gas, the car pitches due to the engine braking, and then he slams on the brake and then he jumps off the brake. Cause he’s got to now get quickly to the throttle. I have to control the pitch of that car mechanically and that most likely hurts the grip I can make overall grip. I can make.

Samir: [00:33:17] Yeah, I’ve got a question for you. I’ve got a question about, a wet setup.

So what’d you do anything to change the car when it’s wet?

 the reasoning behind this is that, I hear a lot of, paddock folklore I want to do. And it normally involves winding all the clickers off the dampers, softening the arb, maybe disconnecting any anti-roll bars that you have, running a slightly different type of pressure than you would normally in the dry.

And I don’t really know why people do that. So what was your experience of wet setups? Do you do anything different and how would you approach it?

Jeff Braun: [00:33:53] Okay, so now I’ll add my part of folklore or tribal knowledge or whatever. And I’m not gonna pretend that this is absolutely right.

It works for me, but maybe fortunately, most of my races, the long endurance races I do even, normal it’s a two hour and 40 minute races. We rarely get a race where we know where it’s going to rain the whole time. So if it’s, if it could be on and off, we’re doing Sebring 12 hours, we’re doing 24 hours a Daytona.

We’re doing those kinds of races and it’s going to be on and off. Then it’s easy for me. I won’t compromise the set, the dry setup. I’ll put the rain tires on, pump them up 4 PSI, from whatever my dry tire pressures are and send it. That’s easy. Now, there are some situations though, for a challenge I’m doing some LMP, three sprint races where you might know it’s going to just it’s a 45 minute race. It’s going to rain all the time. What do you do?

The first thing is for me, you’re thinking softer. So after spring softer bars, as you pretty much described, actually I’ll back up. It might not be so much in Europe, but in America, there’s this weird thing that happens when it rains during a practice day. Everybody stays in there under their tent and doesn’t go out and run.

And I don’t understand

Samir: [00:35:19] in my experience, such as it is, I think people, don’t like running in the rain necessarily. And so you’re guaranteed to have a free track if it’s raining. But, I personally still think it’s valuable to get up and running.

Jeff Braun: [00:35:34] That’s what I’m saying. If you’re. Okay. If it’s the morning warmup before the 12 hours of Sebring and you have a $10 million budget and you have to win this race for your sponsor, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain in the race, but it’s raining in the warmup. Yeah, don’t go out. It doesn’t make sense,

But if you’re a semi-pro driver, who’s out doing it for the fun of it and a hobby and trying to learn. Man, relish the rain practice, go out and feel the limit of the car, feel what it’s doing. if you do that, Then you can also work on some of your setup. What happens when I disconnect the rear bar in the rain or the front bar? Does this car respond well to it? Does it roll over too much or does it not make any difference?

Samir: [00:36:23] The irony there is that, because people find a kind of routine, it might experience, they find a sort of a process that they go through when the weather changes and they don’t really change it. And so that. And again, we’re getting into, you get to a situation where a not taking the scientific approach of this is an experiment.

Let’s try lots of different things and find out what we want. We trying to go the route of, just give me the answer and that’s the one optimum solution that we’re always gonna use do. it’s the same thing again, you know

Jeff Braun: [00:36:54] exactly. You have to learn what works for you, but in general, if you have, okay, it’s. Raining out. And you’re one of these guys that saying, I’m great. I’m going to go learn in this practice or this track day, I’m going to go learn. What should I do?

 I have this thing I call the 51% rule. What I’m about to say works 51% of the time. So 49%, it could be the other way.

But in general, 51% of the time, if I didn’t know a car and it was raining and I was like, Oh Jesus. But now what do I do? And it had a rear anti-roll bar. I would probably disconnect the rear anti-roll bar. I would wind some brake bias to the rear. If you have that available. I would, if I had adjustable shocks, I might take some of the low speed bump out, wind that out a little bit, maybe a little rebound too.

Depends on the car. If it’s a big roll the car to begin with, maybe you don’t need to do that. I would pump the tires up 4 PSI. I don’t care what tire you have. Four is a good number. It always seems to work

Samir: [00:37:58] ways to pump them up and the target pressure. So

Jeff Braun: [00:38:01] not a bad, yeah, exactly. That’s for sure up. So that’s a good, that’s a good thing. And, and go send it and try it. If you have a car with wings, here’s where I’m going to get in the controversial part of the, of a rain with a car with wings.

I always see people, Oh, it’s raining out. Oh, it’s going to be real slippery. I got a pile down force on it, put the rear wing up, put the front wing on a pile, downforce on it. And I love that when people do that, because I normally beat those guys in the rain because I’ll either leave the wings or take wing out.

Samir: [00:38:37] Oh,

Jeff Braun: [00:38:37] I actually looked that in the rain, in an Indy car race, that where I was engineering at road America. So road America pretty has a pretty good long straightaways, four mile track raining like crazy. I took some wing out. We started, I can’t remember mid-pack and drove it to the top three in four laps.

 I’m willing to say that it’s this, that I’m crazy. A lot of people say that, but if you go around the corner in the rain and you have a lot of downforce in the car and the rain and you have another car with low down force. Do you think the high downforce cars just going to actually be able to pass.

The low downforce car in the rain, like on the outside of the corner in the rain, because he has more downforce. I don’t think so.

The rain has lowered the grip to a level, take it to its extreme. Let’s say we’re on an ice skating rink with a high downforce car and a low down first car. You think the high downforce car is really going to handle that much better on a turn on sheer ice.

Not really, the rain is just an intermediate step between a dry track and an ice skating rink. So what I was able to do is pass them all on the straightaways, which is easy in the rain. You just go flat by them because they got too much drag. You get to the corner you’re ahead of them and they can’t pass you.

They can’t go around the outside of the corner. They don’t get enough speed in the middle of the quarter to pass you down the next straightaway, because you have no downforce on. So you’re going fast down the straightaways. And I’ve always found with that, Indy cars, prototype something with, with wings where you can change it. To actually take wing out in the rain and you’ll race better.

Samir: [00:40:21] Its a nice idea, isn’t it? Because the end of the day, on the streets, it’s easier to pass and you can pass them that way because the Delta from that though, any advances that they may have in the corners, it’s nullified if that’s how you kind of thing anyway.

Oh, I know. It just takes more than one slip and they all start anyway. So yeah. Okay. That’s a nice, that’s a nice one. .

Jeff Braun: [00:40:44] We talked about getting the buy-in. That may be the most difficult buy-in it’s you’re going to do what

you’re going to take down for. D don’t you see the track? It’s really slippery. It’s yeah. I just trust me. And they’re like, yeah, no, I’m not doing that.

I’m not, you gotta be crazy. So it, it takes the right driver. That’s the case where. The best scenario is if you’re your driver, if you’re the driver and the engineer at the same time, then you can try to convince yourself of that. And at least go try it. But anyway, I’m not saying it’ll work for everybody, but, I’ve had some success with it.

So what I can usually do in a case like that is I try to convince the driver of that. If he’s you gotta be crazy. Yes. And then I’ll be like, okay, let’s just leave the wings then it’s okay. At least I know what I had before I still have now.

Samir: [00:41:32] Yeah. So the softening thing is quite, it’s quite interesting because, I th I think you’re right.

I think this is pick the 1% answer here. It’s it depends. One of the things that does smell cherry and also circumstances, in fact, a good friend of mine, and she said this to me fairly recently, and it’s just like Samir the tires don’t like surprises.

Jeff Braun: [00:41:50] Boy. I agree. Completely

Samir: [00:41:53] in the wet extending what she said, extending that in the wet, they like surprises less.

Oh, you’ve got less window of grip or the consequences of losing grip. More that in the dry, you haven’t gotten that sort of sliding friction that you would normally have in the dry. So the consequences of getting that bit wrong is more, in the dry, so therefore give yourself a chance by reducing the surprises that the tire can see by make it softer.

Going all the way back to what you were saying about making the car drivable.  You’re taking that energy out over you’re pivoting for the drivers to give you some,

Jeff Braun: [00:42:34] I agree. It’s, to me, I look at, from a data standpoint and from just a field standpoint and a general concept is. How hard and how quickly you load the tire.

And so if it’s really slippery and this and everything we’re saying about the rain is the same direction you would do. If you got to a low grip track, we have a track, we have a couple of tracks. Laguna Seca is worn out. Nisa repave. I hope they never repave it.

Cause I w it’s it has its own character it’s, but it’s super low grip. So you’re gonna, and to do the same types of things toward a range set up. When you go to Laguna Seca than you would at Watkins Glen, they just repaved a couple of years ago, probably the grumpiest track in all of North America, you do a different thing.

So you have those same tendencies and what you need to do is. Load the tire more gently over a longer period of time. Because if you load it instantly, it just takes off it can’t grip. And so in the rain, you need to load it gently over a long period of time. How do you do that? Softer is one thing. A driver can have a lot of effect on that, how he loads the tire, how quickly it turns the steering wheel.

And so I like to take things when I’m trying to figure that out. And you’re like, Oh, okay. So now what did he say?

What’s when I, when it’s grippy and not grippy, take it to its extreme. I use this example of think if the track is grippier and you’re thinking, what should I do. Think what you would do if your tires were made out of one side of Velcro and the track was made out of the other side of Velcro and it just stuck like crazy. What would you do?

Or if it’s real slippery, Think, what would you do if you suddenly, the racetrack was suddenly frozen over ice on slick tires, what would you do? Who was ice? You don’t want to shock load that tire. Turn the steering wheel real hard and put the brakes on. It’ll just take off sliding.

Think about what you do when you walk on an ice skating rink with their shoes, you’re very gentle. You put your foot down, you wait for it to pick up some grip and you don’t go running and cutting like a football player. You’ll fall down cars. So that kind of gives you a,  I can’t tell you with your BMW, M three on this pearly tire that you should take two clicks the rear rebound out when it rains.

I don’t know, but if you have a concept and understanding of the direction, you can make that choice yourself by taking it to an extreme and thinking about what you would do in each one of those extremes that helps you pick a direction.

Samir: [00:45:21] Okay. That’s actually, that’s a really good. Really good thought. And that’s something that’s really applicable for any, anyone listening as well.

Have you got any final thoughts for people listening?  The virtues of coffee where we started, I still love, I just love that.  Final thoughts. Have you got for people listening? You might’ve been through and how can I like maybe apply some of this stuff? Where should I start? Maybe I am  engineers themselves, or maybe talking documented Springs or whatever here, helping me run the car.

How could we do something different having, that you’ve seen work in a professional world that, you don’t often see in a club world, you say, you know what, guys, you should just have a look at that.

Jeff Braun: [00:46:03] Yeah, I would say the one thing I see from semi-pro teams, even some of the pro teams, but is a, is the free things.

That a lot of the people who don’t have a budget, whether it’s, a lower budget protein all the way down to the guy, that’s going to his first track day, the free there’s a lot of free things out there that you don’t have to have a budget for.

Note-taking, I made this change to the car on this day. It was this temperature and it felt like this, maybe they don’t even have a data system, so I don’t even want to have data, but it felt like it understood more or it felt like it was moving around more. I did like that. I didn’t like that.

Samir: [00:46:48] Taking that kind of driver feedback.

 Jeff Braun: [00:46:50] I think it works. It depends on the driver. Some drivers like to have a track map and they write notes on the track map. Some people like to have it. Questions asked if you have a buddy or your, you have an engineer who’s talking to you, they ask questions and then the engineer writes them down.

Whatever the most important thing is that you get the information somehow in whichever way works best for you. And your team, not that you are regimented in some way that works best for me or some other pro engineer, because then it becomes a chore and it’s like, Oh, I gotta write this down.

This. And I don’t really understand why I’m doing this. Take the notes. That mean something to you that you can refer back to. And you’ll start to build your database of understanding of the car. That’s absolutely free. You don’t have to have a $10 million budget to do that. It’s the same thing with planning ahead before the weekend.

So many people, it’s expensive to go run your car on a racetrack. It, you have to pay for the weekend, transport, their tires fuel your time away from home and family. It’s expensive. You want to make every second that you’re at the racetrack count. And so plan ahead. Okay. I have a practice from eight to eight 30.

And I’ve never run this tire before. What am I going to do? And write down. It doesn’t have to be a 20 page Excel spreadsheet. It can be some notes on a piece of paper, but practice one. I’m going to go out of these, this pressure. I’m going to run three laps to get the tires up the temperature. I’m going to come in the pits and have my buddy bleed them down to the hot pressures I think are good.

And I’m going to go out and run four hard labs. And then I’m going to come in and write down how I thought it handled. In the second session. I’m going to do this and this, and it’ll change during the weekend, but at least go in with a plan. So you don’t just go out and drive some labs to come in.

Fran now, where do we do? I don’t know. There are five minutes left. I better go run a lap. And you just, and again, that’s free. You don’t have to have a budget to do that, and you can get leaps and bounds of people that. Don’t have a plan and don’t write down what they’re doing. And so to me, that’s the dope.

Those are the things that I would, that I see club racers missing an opportunity, and they don’t have to have a budget. A lot of people like to look at it, Oh, that guy has got better tires. He can afford two new sets a weekend. I can only afford one. He’s going to beat me all the time. Man. Don’t use that as an excuse, come up with, do the free things that you can afford.

Better than that guy. And you might overcome that extra set of tires that he has that you can’t afford.

Samir: [00:49:29] Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. I think that’s great advice. The planning ahead is usually isn’t it. If you think about it, it’s I know what I’m going to do. It’s just one liners, isn’t it?

I’ll try this. Even if you necessarily stick to it or something happens or obesity, you’ve come through that process of going well, I’m trying to get organized. And if I do that then onto the know something more. that’s something that’s going to help me, in the future.

Jeff Braun: [00:49:50] My test plan is always start out. The first session plan is pretty good all the time. The second session plan it deviates a little. The third one is a little more by the time I get to the qualifying session, it’s probably doesn’t look like what I wrote down in my plan, but I have some options. If this happens, I’m going to try this. Wow, this track’s really slippery. So I’m going to need this and this ready probably. And if this happens, I might do this. And Oh, I don’t have those Springs. I got to go borrow those from a buddy or something. I’m probably going to need those. If you just do a little thinking and a little bit of planning, you’ll be prepared for anything that crops up or better prepared than the next guy. And that’s all we’re trying to do. We, just beat the next guy.

Samir: [00:50:37] Absolutely. And, I think I’d say, that’s all you need to do is now,  Jackie Stewart used to say I drive as slow as I can, to win.

Do the minimum, engineering or minimum, whatever you need to do to win.

Jeff Braun: [00:50:49] Exactly. And then my last year piece of advice I always say is just, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in racing since I was five years old. And I’m 63 now and been making a living at it for 45 years, and.

It’s a great way to make a living. Sometimes it gets a little bit intense with the team you’re on or the sponsorship pressures or the expectations. And I always love going back like this Ferrari challenge is fantastic for me because it brings me back to why we went racing in the first place. To have fun.

My driver Mike is not doing this because he’s going to make it as profession. He has a big company that he runs and does just fine doing that. He does it because he enjoys it and he would rather do that than, I don’t know what sail a boat, play golf, whatever, and it needs to be fun. Make it fun, make it enjoyable and it’s a great sport. And if you’re a person who wants to make it a career, you can make it a career. That’s what I did. I started out racing. Go-karts when I was five years old. I didn’t even know you could have a career in racing. I didn’t even know you had to have a job. I was a five-year-old. What did I know?

But I, I could, I turned it into a career, but you don’t, it doesn’t have to be a career and it better not ever if you’re paying for it yourself, it better never be a job where you have to do it because then you’ve got something backwards.

Samir Abid: [00:52:15] You make really a good point . A lot of the stuff that were talking about, the planning, the feedback, looking at data, raising sponsorship  for some people, I think I do find it a chore. And if it becomes a chore just don’t do it. But it’s not going to stop me from saying, if you do want to get better, this is a way that could work for you. Remember it’s about having FUN!

Jeff Braun: [00:52:37] Right?  And some of the fun for a lot of people . Is the challenge of driving. Some of it’s the challenge of making the car better.

 I actually  drove for a long time and all at the time I was 17 or 18, I actually, and this may be just because I wasn’t a good enough driver. So I using this as an excuse, but I actually got more interested in making the car go faster. I remember being underneath my triumph, Spitfire, changing the anti-roll bar position before a practice session. At a SCCA, which is the, American club racing series underneath there changing my anti-roll bar.

And the log speaker came on, I was in a class called G production and said, gee production to the group. I’m like, Oh man, I wish there was somebody else that could drive this, they could be putting their helmet on so I can finish this anti-roll bar change. Cause I really want to see what this is going to do. And at that point it dawned on me that maybe I liked the engineering part better than the driving part.

Now. If I had some skills as driving, maybe it would have changed my opinion, but, so you can move however you want in racing, but it better be fun. Cause if it’s not fun, you’ll never want to go any further.

Samir: [00:53:48] That’s absolutely brilliant. Thank you, so much. It’s been genuinely really fascinating to have you on the show and I hope people have really enjoyed listening to what you’re saying so thank you.

Jeff Braun: [00:53:59] Thank you for having me. It’s always fun, to, to talk racing. It’s, I’ve always said it’s the next best thing to actually doing it.

So maybe some time  you and I Samir will be at the track at the same time and we can, go racing together.  thank you.