As part of our continuing series “Time Trial Techniques,” three exceptionally quick TT4 drivers agreed to share their tips and tricks with Speed News and anyone cognizant enough to learn from them.

These drivers have championships, regional TT and race wins to their credit, even at tracks far from their homes. It takes a great deal of ability to go into a track cold and come away with the gold. Even if you review video and practice beforehand by driving the tracks on a sim, taking the win from someone who calls a given track “home” is the mark of a champion.

They were forthcoming with their approaches to Time Trial competition, and we’re grateful to them for the time they took to answer our questions.

Andre Eisenbach, NASA NorCal

Q: When you go out for a TT session, what is your plan of attack?

A: Unfortunately, despite my “autocross up-bringing,” I’m rarely fastest on my first lap out. Usually I need two or three laps to get that golden lap. In Time Trial, especially in my NorCal home region, traffic usually becomes an issue after three or four laps. Thus, it’s rarely possible to set a fast time after about lap three. This massively shapes the plan of attack. It means that after the out-lap, I aim to get in one “banker lap” that at least puts me on the timesheet. At the same time, I gauge the speed of the cars in front and try to set up a gap that will allow for full attack on flying lap two.

Q: Does your approach change as the temperatures change throughout the day?

A: Absolutely, especially on hot days. The later time slots are usually not viable for achieving the best possible time. So very often I use those sessions only for shake-down laps, practice laps for the next morning’s sessions, or to work on specific corners.

Q: What are the small things you can do throughout the day to maximize the car?

A: Look after your tires. This entails selecting which sessions to run at all as well as how hard to run them. If traffic or weather changes make it difficult to set a great time in a session, maybe pull off early, or slow down a bit to maximize tires for other sessions.

Other than that, the team at EDGE Motorworks does a great job listening to my feedback after each run and incorporates it into small setup changes. Slightly different tire pressures, an adjustment of the rear wing, a tweak to the sway bars or small ballast changes to ensure the post-run weight is as close to the limits of compliance as possible.

Q: How do you keep tabs on your competition?

A: Oh, boy. I’m a data- and results-driven person — read: nerd. As such, I’m already looking at results, videos, compliance sheets etc., for racers that competed at the just announced venue for the 2021 NASA Championships at Daytona. TT4 is a great class that attracts a variety of makes and models. It is very interesting to see the strengths and weaknesses of various cars and also to look beyond the local region to see the amazing times people are putting up.

For example, doing all the research and analysis in the run-up for the Mid-Ohio Championships, we knew our car would have to be able to do a lap time to be successful, long before we got there. For a while we didn’t even think that was possible in our cars, but alas, I did manage a 1:32 in the end.

Q: What role did car construction play in your success in this year’s championships?

A: Car construction played a huge role for the Championships, in both good ways and bad.

EDGE Motorworks built an absolutely fantastic, easy-to-drive competitive car that’s been able to compete locally and nationally at various racetracks. The car is easily controllable at the limit and really instills a degree of confidence that allows the driver to push the car hard. This is especially important for Time Trial, because you have to be able to push the car right from the get-go and make the first two to three laps count!

However, the car also had some issues with the ABS for example, which caused us to miss out on winning my first Championships event at COTA. These issues briefly came back to haunt me, sending me off in a giant dust-cloud during a TT session in Ohio. Wiring issues plagued us as well, with the car not starting at times, even seconds before grid roll-out at some sessions.

Q: How did you choose your car for TT4 competition?

A: The car basically chose me. As I was looking to expand past Time Trial into wheel-to-wheel racing, a used racecar became available for purchase. It happened to be a car I’ve already seen compete and already knew the car had tremendous potential.

Q: How does Time Trial help you in your racing?

A: Time Trial is my place of comfort. I really enjoy pushing for the fastest possible time and trying for that one perfect lap. I also enjoy the fact that mistakes are not cumulative. In other words, if you mess up one lap, crossing the start/finish line starts a brand new lap and gives you another opportunity for that golden lap.

Thus, the move into racing for me was actually specifically to push myself a bit more. As my EDGE teammate put it: “Your fast-lap shenanigans have no power here.” Expanding into racing was a personal challenge to expand my skills. So I’m actually having to train myself to “dial down” the Time Trial skills for racing, aiming for more consistency, tire management, traffic management etc.

However, every once in a while, it’s really nice to mentally engage Time Trial hot lap mode to reel in a competitor or to try to put a gap in between myself and the competition.

Anthony Zwain, NASA NorCal

Anthony Zwain

Q: When you go out for a TT session, what is plan of attack?

A: I have been lucky to learn from some great drivers and “mentors” in my time. So I was taught early in my NASA driving back in the HPDE3 and HPDE4 days to always have something to work on each session, just one or two things to focus on and try. When I am at a track that’s new to me, I usually try to work on the most important corners of the track to help me reduce my lap time.

If it is a local or familiar circuit, sometimes I will try a new line or technique through a corner to see if it may help or I learn something from it. There is almost always a plan. If I feel it is the best session for putting down a fast lap, then I try to drive as smoothly and perfectly as possible, hitting all the marks and being consistent. Try to go for the quickest lap I can put in, of course.

Q: Does your approach change as the temperatures change throughout the day?

A: No too much, to be honest. Of course, the car may change and track conditions, too, with the temperature change throughout the day. But mostly the focus stays the same, with consistent and good driving. If the lap times aren’t there due to temperature or track conditions, there is still information to be gained. Changing tire pressures or car setup may be needed, but usually I keep the car the same so as not to upset the balance for another or more “optimal” session. All the competitors have the same conditions to deal with after all, so making the most of each session is the main focus.

Q: What are the small things you can do throughout the day to maximize the car?

A: On our team we try our best to prepare the cars in the shop prior to the events for each individual track we attend for consistency and repeatability. But we do make slight changes to the cars to try to suit the driver’s preference throughout the competition. That may consist of ride-height adjustments and corner weights, alignment setting or sway bar changes trackside. But mostly we try to limit the changes and perform data review to see where we can find “more time.”

Q: How do you keep tabs on your competition?

A: Locally we do pretty well and our team drivers are mostly competing against each other in Time Trial, so that is easy. We all share data and learn from one another, which helps us all to be competitive at a national level. Our team is fortunate to have placed first and second in the Time Trial National Championships in 2018 at COTA, and the same in 2019 at Mid-Ohio as well. When trying to compete out of region, it is harder to know your competition.

NASA does a great job of running different regions and also keeping documentation of the event results. So normally we monitor the lap times and competitors that are winning in their region to see who we have to go up against. NASA Time Trial fields some very good and competitive drivers in a lot of regions, and we are lucky to get a chance to compete against some of the top drivers in our nation.

Q: What role did car construction play in your success in this year’s championships?

A: As a shop owner and car builder, hopefully a lot! But seriously, it comes down to mostly the driver. At Edge Motorworks, we try our best to always be pushing the limit of the rules of the class and finding new ways to maximize the performance of the cars within the technical specifications.

Anthony Zwain in the No. 38 EDGE Motorworks car at Mid-Ohio.

In 2018 and 2019, we brought cars from NorCal to different regions of the country and had to do our best to ensure our cars were legal for the class and highly competitive as well. In 2018 we hadn’t planned on dyno’ing low on power like we did in Texas, but our team driver Shaun Webster was able to overcome that by driving well and winning the Championship anyway. I was working and supporting many cars at that event and was unable to drive myself. Similarly, we had issues in 2019 with Andre Eisenbach’s car. We brought and prepared a front-running car, but then had issues with the ECM when we arrived in Ohio and had to use our backup unit, which ended up being not as powerful. Andre was still able to put in an incredible weekend and with the Time Trial and Super Touring 4 classes, winning both National Championships. I placed second to him in Time Trial. So having a good car is big part of the equation, but the driver is still the most important factor.

Q: How did you choose your car for TT4 competition?

A: I have been competing in NASA Time Trial since about 2008 I believe, back in the days of the lettered classes in Performance Touring. I have always been most interested in classes that I felt provided the most bang for the buck. With all the amazing NASA contingencies, naturally TT was a good place to help me keep competing on a tight budget — special thanks Hoosier Racing tire! They have been instrumental in my continued racing for all these years. I really started being competitive on a national level in my MINI Cooper in TTF in 2015, winning the Western States Championships at Laguna Seca and then the Eastern States Championships as well in PTF at VIR.

The next year I also had an E46 M3 I used to compete in the last year of TTB. The car was competitive without having to spend too much to get it there. 2016 proved to be not as lucky when I was at Watkins Glen competing at the Eastern States Championships. I ended up fighting at the top of the classes, but also crashed the car in the final PTB race and could not get on the podium for PTB or TTB that year.

But we used the good parts from that car to build a competitive TT4 car, which went on to win the 2018 Championship at COTA and placed second last year in TT4 at Mid-Ohio, plus many regional wins and championships as well over the past few years. TT/ST4 I feel is a fun and competitive class to run in that still has enough rules and restrictions to help keep the cost of the cars reasonable. We get a lot of competition locally in this class, which keeps it fun and exciting!

Q: How does Time Trial help you in your racing?

A: I feel it helps immensely. I came up through the NASA HPDE program and learned a lot from the various group leaders along the way — a big thanks to Morgan Combes and Albert Butterfield. At one event, our regional HPDE4 leader asked if any of us wanted to try to move up and try Time Trial, so I did. Immediately I was hooked. The camaraderie of the group and atmosphere around it was addicting. I felt it helped me learn more as a driver than any of my other experiences to that point.

The format naturally helped me progress and learn from the faster drivers gridded ahead of me despite what class they were in. When I first started racing back in 2008 in Spec E30 as a rookie, I was at least able to be competitive lap-time-wise, which I attribute totally to an amazing Time Trial group and drivers I learned so much from. I was surprised that my very first race practice I was running good lap times. I even stood on the podium finishing in third place! There is no question that without my Time Trial experience I would not be as competitive a racing driver as I am today.

Chase Johnston, NASA Texas

Q: When you go out for a TT session, what is plan of attack?

A: To win! Really though, I just sit, close my eyes and focus prior to the session. My entire plan is to get the best and fastest lap possible. Learn the track, hit my markers and reference points, understand the track surface, how she’s responding and go home all in one piece with a smile.

Q: Does your approach change as the temperatures change throughout the day?

A: Temperature does impact the way the car handles. The approach will change, If the temperature is hot, I will spend less time on the track. Once it gets to a certain temperature, the car’s potential for the fastest lap drops significantly. When the temperature is cooler, I know my car will perform better. Typically, the first and second sessions are the money.

Q: What are the small things you can do throughout the day to maximize the car?

A: Learn who you’re driving with. Position is key, in my opinion. NASA does an incredible job, especially in the Texas Region setting everyone up and getting ready for the green to drop. I know that some of my friends and competitors will stay out an entire session and some will knock it out in two to three laps. I know how long is too long, and when I need to set my flyer or throw it away.

Q: How do you keep tabs on your competition?

A: Facebook! Honestly though, I love my competitors. It’s so funny that most of us in the same class are in a group chat together. It’s fantastic. The camaraderie we have with one another, either it’s pushing one to get their car completed, or rustling one’s jimmies. We all do our best to get each other out there and for all of us to stay running mentally and physically.

Q: What role did car construction play in your success in this year’s championships?

A: The long-term construction of the S2000 played a big role in making sure my car was properly prepped for my class at all times. But practice is what made me successful this year. I drove at every event I could, getting as much seat time as possible. I learned the track and pushed my personal limits at each lap. Fortunately, I have a great group of friends who assisted me in learning from my data where I could improve, go faster, lift sooner, push myself and the car, and I would implement it during the next session.

Chase Johnston having a go at it in his TT4 Honda S2000

Q: How did you choose your car for TT4 competition?

A: I didn’t. The competition chose me. My instructors growing up through the ranks competed in B, and what’s now 4, and well … you grow up and want to be faster, better, stronger than your instructors, right? They ran TT4, and as for building the car to be competitive, it fit the budget great.

Q: How does Time Trial help you in your racing?

A: I’m not an ST racer, I just run in TT, or as we call it, HPDE5. I love it, and have no plans to run ST.

Although, TT I would assume plays a large role, if you can learn to set an incredible flyer during qual, I would assume that a starting front runner makes life easier on the podium. Although, bump-drafting sounds fun.

For this up and coming season, I’m really excited. I have joined G Speed, a Corvette specific race preparation shop that offers parts and service here in Cresson, Texas. They also have many customers who race with NASA. It’s mind blowing the amount of knowledge from the entire team here.



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