Monday, April 28, 2014

Street Prepared Index A Class Win - DC ProSolo 2014

After only two days of testing this year it was time to head off to FedEx Field in Maryland for the first big race of the season, the SCCA DC ProSolo.  With such limited testing and only getting the car mostly driving the way I wanted last week, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My goal this year was to win a big event but the DC Pro was not likely to be it because I’ve always done poorly down there. I could never figure out how to deal with the huge grip discrepancy on the surface and the severe off camber turns the lot naturally created due to its sloped location. At best this would be a time to take her through the paces and see what we needed to improve on for the SCCA NJ National Tour next week.

Arrived at DC ProSolo - FedEx Field, MD - 4/25/2014

In ProSolo, Bumblestook competes in Street Prepared Index A (SPA) that is a combined class of Super Street Prepared (SSP), A Street Prepared (ASP) and B Street Prepared (BSP) competing on PAX index. Although the index was favorable for BSP, it would still prove to be a very difficult task to go up against the much high powered cars of SSP and ASP. Mike “Junior” Johnson was favored to win this event in his SSP Corvette that does super mean burnouts. Lee Piccione, the course designer and DC region member was also highly favored. Bumblestook makes the least torque of all the cars in the class but it also a fair amount lighter with a lot of tire under so what I’d lose in straight line speed I was hoping to make up for in sheer cornering ability. 

1.25" ID Aluminum sway bar collars installed - 4/25/2014
We got there just after 3pm on Friday with adequate time for me to add the split collars for the front sway bar so it wouldn’t shift under load, get through tech and do some practice starts. I got through the first two but after tech, and driving around paddock I noticed my brake was feeling a bit strange so I did a relatively abrupt stop from about 7mph and the front driver wheel locked up. We looked at the wheel and notice the caliper was hitting the inside. Upon further inspection, we discovered that the bolt holding the caliper to the bracket was completely missing. Somehow between the last event and getting to DC, it must’ve backed off and fallen off the car.  I thought my weekend was over but within minutes the word had spread that I was having a problem and without me even asking PJ Corrales was already there seeing if he could help. He looked through his box of bolts and lucked out that we found a bolt that would work (7/8”-20 Grade 8). It wasn’t as long as we wanted but it would work for now. Unfortunately this meant that I missed practice starts which ended up being fine because we got with torrential downpour that late afternoon so the practice starts wouldn’t be useful anyway. I slapped on the fresh tires and tried to get some sleep. Lots of tree pollen in the area, woke up at 2am and couldn’t sleep anymore. Saturday wasn’t going to go well I thought.

Bottom bolt holding caliper to the bracket was missing.
Temporary bolt just barely clears rotor - 4/25/2014

Day 1 competition started and after getting the first 2 runs and jitters out of the way, my confidence in her grew as everything just felt perfect. I wasn’t driving a good line but she was doing everything I wanted and the brakes were holding just fine. I wasn’t even looking at the times but after morning session I found myself in 2nd place, half a second behind Lee in his BSP E36 M3. That was surprising! This was only morning session of day 1 and anything can happen so it was too early to tell. It was supposed to warm up in the afternoon so I knew times would start to drop. There was also a chance of rain that luckily didn’t happen until after the event was done. In the afternoon runs, I pushed a bit harder and was surprised to see that I was still holding 2nd place and now only 0.1 seconds behind Lee. I didn’t think he had much more pace in him but after reviewing my own video, I knew I easily had time on both courses in Bumblestook. I got some sleep early and focused. I had to at least find 0.1 seconds the next day and I knew she had it in her.

Day 1 morning SPA grid - FedEx Field, MD - 4/26/2014
Day 1 results - Just 0.1 seconds off first - 4/26/2014

ProSolo Action - FedEx Field - 4/26/2014
Photo Cred: Perry Bennett
Day 2 started and the temps had dropped significantly. We were now just in the mid-50s versus the mid 70-s the afternoon before. It was going to be very hard for me to get the tires up to temp with so little power. My first two runs showed no improvement and luckily neither did Lee’s. Final runs came up and I was on the right side, reved her up, launched on the light and got some wheel hop but at this point I just nailed the throttle and let the diff do what it had to do. Shift to second and hear a slight crunch. I thought I missed second hear and let off for a second thinking I wasn’t in gear. I roll back on the throttle and feel acceleration. I almost aborted the run because I felt a lost too much time worrying about the gear shift but instead decided to go for it. Go big or go home! Focused on car placement and spotting the key corners and got to the finish. Somehow despite the botched launch and bad shift I found over 0.2 seconds on the right course and I was sitting in 1stplace by a little of a tenth of a second with Lee not finding any more time on his run.  I figure I couldn’t rest. Lee could find time on the right side on his last run so I’d have to up my game on the left side too.  She launched well at the light, took her straight to red line then a quick shift to 2ndthen hard on the throttle up the hill. Get nice turn it at the top and start setting up for the fast cross over. Got on the brakes a hair late and slightly overshot my target turn in point but managed to stay in it. Finish line was in sight and it was now or never. Commit to that corner and gun for the lights. The run felt ok but I wasn’t sure. I turned the corner to go back to impound and saw my friends jumping up and down. I couldn’t hear the announcement but it was clear what had happened. We took the win, finding more than 0.2 seconds on the left side course and finishing with a 0.4 second win. First big event of the year and the first national level win for Bumblestook. It was really the most amazing feeling ever. We won a trophy of course. Hoosier is giving me two tires and Honda $100 for the win.  All that is good and icing on the cake but none of that really matters to how it felt at that moment. The underdog took the win and I finally ended the streak of bad performances at DC the past few years. The best part is that I know she has much more pace once I figure her out some more.

Street Prepared Index A Class Winner - DC ProSolo 2014 - 4/27/2014

DC ProSolo SPA Class Winning Runs - Fedex Field, MD

Street Prepared is as much a car/builder race as it is a driver’s race and I wanted to thank all those that have contributed to putting into reality, the vision of a BSP car made of the best pieces of every generation S2000 at its core. Jeff DeVos (formerly JDV Motorsports, now at Evans Tuning) for countless hours spent working on her over the years, Jeff Evans (Evans Tuning) for all the custom fabrication and tuning and making this crazy ITB setup work, Steve Farkas (SJF Performance) for never settling on “good enough” and making sure my alignments and suspension pieces are all in order, Dave Corsaro for the meticulous job corner balancing her last week, JoeFis racing for the terrific aero work with the spoiler, Brian Karwan (Karcepts) for putting my diff together, ANZE Engineering for the great job rebuilding and revalving my Moton tripples over the winter, Hoosier for making the most incredible R-comp tire (never gonna give you up!), Honda for producing one of the most incredible roadsters ever made. PJ for saving my weekend. Lastly, I’m thanking all my friends of the NorthEast STR group for their support and being the most fun group of people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. You guys push me harder than anyone else.  Farting unicorns unite!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Final testing before the DC Pro

Today I finally got to run her for the first time properly set up...or so I hoped. Well at least this time, things actually did turn out exactly as I had hoped for. The updated tune took care of the hesitation / VTEC switching at part throttle mid-slalom and the power delivery was strong and smooth everywhere in the power band. It was also night and day with the corner balancing and fixed alignment. I did have to make some big changes to the shocks from last week but that was expected since I was trying to get the car to work with the unknown alignment and the shocks settings from two weeks ago were all over the place as a result.

She was very loose and hard to control at first but after I had figured out the right shock settings and tire pressures, I was able to really attack the corners hard. We ran at Lot J at the Meadowlands which is very bumpy so I was able to fully test shock travel and clearance and while the rear does hit the overfender on really large dips, it's so minor it doesn't even leave a mark on the tire. I'll probably remove another millimeter or two to make sure she fully clears but I think we're safe now.

This is one of the better runs. Hit a few cones but you get the idea. It's still slightly twitchy and I made some more adjustments afterwards to fix it but ran out of battery. After I was done setting the car up, I handed the keys over to Dave Corsaro so he could take a few runs and validate if what I was feeling was right. Not sure I've ever seem him smile that much. I don't think he wanted to give me the keys back. I think I got it mostly right. I'll have to do some minor tweaking in DC once I get my morning runs in and put on the fresh rubber but I don't think I'll have to do anything drastic.

MSNE Autocross - Meadowlands, NJ

Can't wait to see how she does at "mount FedEx"!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Updated Tune, Corner balancing, first alignment in 2014 and fixin' stuff!

Autocross is about racing inch perfect through dozens of closely spaced corners for a few hundredths of a second advantage and while power is important, handling is even more so. Two weeks ago at the NNJR SCCA Test and Tune, I got about 24 runs in and got to shake her down really well to test engine power and reliability but not handling because after the shocks were sent out, I couldn't really tell what my new alignment would be after reinstallation. I think I have the rear tire clearance fixed after hacking up the over fenders last week so now it's time to tackle the very important task of sorting out my alignment.

First up though was to sort out some of the tune issues I uncovered at the last event. Unfortunately there is only so much simulating you can do on a dyno or during a street tune so you can't really tell for sure if everything is 100% until you putting through some real testing. I got in touch with Jeff at Evans Tuning to provide some feedback on the tune and he promptly sent me back an updated tune that turned down the threshold for VTEC engagement and some idle adjustments. I loaded it up and the idle was definitely better and I'll be able to test tomorrow if the adjustment in VTEC threshold helps during the part throttle stuff mid-slalom.

Dave Corsaro has now teamed up with Steve Farkas of SJF Performance to provide combined corner balancing AND alignment services. This is awesome news for autocrossers in the tri-state area since these guys really know their stuff. First up was Dave for the corner balancing.

Dave meticulously setting up the scales - 4/19/2014

Once Dave finished setting up the scales to his liking, we lowered her down to get her first weigh in for 2014 in full race trim with almost a full tank of E85. She weighed in at 2622lbs without the driver. There is definitely some room for improvement in weight there if I can get the fuel load down but I'm not too concerned about that. The main data point here is that she was 2820lbs weighed in at Toledo in race trim without driver with a bit less fuel so she dropped at least 200lbs over the winter. I got in the car dressed like I normally would with my helmet on and Dave found the cross weights to be off by about 100lbs. He made his adjustments and got the cross weights perfect . Front to rear balance of the car was also measured to be true 50/50 as well. There is also about a 1/4" forward rake to the car.

Initial weigh in - 4/19/2014
Corner balanced with me on board - 4/19/2014
Now that the ride height was set, it was off to the alignment rack so Steve could do his thing. I was really curious what the current alignment setting was and why the car felt so insanely tail happy (read as: wanted to kill me) at the last event. I think we all burst out in laughter when we saw the number...a mindblowing 0.3" TOE OUT in the left rear and definitely not nearly enough camber. I still don't know how I was able to drive her into submission and put down a respectable time two weeks ago with these settings.

Pre-alignment measurements...all over the place - 4/19/2014
Alignment done - 4/19/2014
The car sits a bit higher than I might ultimately want but at least for now I need it for clearance. I'm sure we'll do more alignments this year but for now I think this is a good starting point:

-3.3 camber
5.9 degrees of caster
0 toe

-2.5 camber
1/16" (0.06) total toe in (ok, really we ended up with something like 0.04-0.05) but that's basically it.

We also got some maintenance out of the way and changed the diff fluid in preparation for the brutal red line launches next weekend.

Old diff fluid out - 4/19/2014

Of course as we're working on suspension stuff we closely inspect everything suspension related and found that the Ankeny rear bar was touching the Innovative 75A differential mounts. While it wasn't touching it too badly, this isn't a good thing as it can bind and affect handling so we spaced it out a bit and now the bar rotates freely. We we also discovered that my front Gendron bar shifts a bit side to side because I'm missing those shaft collars that I have on the rear bar so I'll have to order up some 1.25" ID ones from McMaster this week and hope it arrives before the DC Pro. For now we've marked it where the bar should be and I'll reset everything once I get the collars in place...easy to do on an open trailer.

Spacing the rear bar mount - 4/19/2014
Tiiiiight tolerances - 4/19/2014
Random photo of the pretty billet Hasport 96A
motor mount nobody sees installed a few weeks ago
Tomorrow I give her the full shake down at the MSNE Autocross at the meadowlands. The weather is going to be sunny with a high of about 60F. Race in the morning with a test and tune in the afternoon should give me adequate runs to dial the suspension in. It's now or never...less than a week left before the DC Pro and it's time to break the cycle of suckage that goes on every time I head down there this early in the season.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 Livery and fixing the overfenders

Just because there are no events this weekend, it's no excuse to just sit around and do nothing. Rad and I had discussed washing our cars today if the weather was good and sure enough we got lucky and it was the first real warm weekend in 2014 despite a forecast for showers earlier in the week. I towed Bumblestook to Tatis Racing home base to get some stuff done!

First order of business was to fix the rubbing on the over fenders. Looking back at some GoPro video I took facing the rear wheel, I could see that I only had two choices...get wider over fenders or cut what I had. The latter is cheaper and something I can do with limited time so I set off with a dremel and hacked off a good 0.5-0.75" off the the bottom. So far it looks like it should be fine but I'll only know for sure next weekend. Last weekend I also managed to cross thread one of the bolts holding the overfenders on when I reinstalled it so I had to cut that bolt of too.

Cutting over fenders for clearance - 4/12/2014
Cutting over fenders for clearance - 4/12/2014
Always that one bolt to make your life miserable - 4/12/2014
Next up was to clean her up so I could put on some new decals that I had Kamil from Clean Cuts Vinyl make. I think it's also been well over a year since she got even a simple car wash so it was time to give her some TLC, remove some cone marks and get some wax on there so she can look pretty when she wins.

Most of last year's decals off and Rad helping me vacuum the interior - 4/12/2014
Too lazy to unload her from the trailer so I'll just wash it there - 4/12/2014
New livery and contingency decals going on - 4/12/2014
Tramp stamp(s) - 4/12/2014
Representing my NorthEast STR roots - 4/12/2014
Farting unicorns unite!
Her name's up front too this year! - 4/12/2014
Matching size class letters...still need the ProSolo decal
Battle ready for 2014! - 4/12/2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

NNJR SCCA Test and Tune

It was finally time for the first event of the season for Bumblestook. The forecast for the day was sunny and low 60s but that would be in the afternoon. In the early morning hours before the sun went up, the temps were just above freezing and with that no grip.

NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - 4/6/2014
NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - 4/6/2014
Photo Credit: Jose Lozano
On my first run I got through one corner before she spun. I also noticed a bit of rubbing on the over fender so I went back to paddock and tried adding more rear negative camber and stiffening the shocks. I went out again and the car immediately spun. JDV luckily had some foresight that I might need to remove my overfenders for a variety of reasons so I simply unbolted them and I was able to take runs without any rubbing.

NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - 4/6/2014
Photo Credit: Jose Lozano
No Overfenders - NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - 4/6/2014
Photo Credit: Jose Lozano
Now that I could attack the corners I was slowly building heat in the tires and making the Hoosiers work. Since I didn't get a chance to get an alignment in the off season, I had no idea what the alignment was and it was clear that the balance was very off. I made drastic changes to the rear, softening the Ankeny blade rear sway to full soft (super easy to do thankfully), lowered rear pressures and after some more shock adjustments all around, she was drivable but still very loose. At this point, I wasn't going to make any further adjustments since without a baseline alignment set, these were all settings that I'd have to throw out anyway. Instead I wanted to focus on pushing the car to stress test the engine and get the cobwebs out from my driving. By noon, the temps had gone up enough to get the tires fully working and I was able to put in respectable times. Surprisingly, despite these issues, I had managed to put in the 4th fastest raw time overall.

NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - Meadowlands, NJ

NNJR SCCA Test and Tune - 4/6/2014
Photo Credit: Jose Lozano

Overall findings:

Pros (things that are working):

  • When she pulls, she pulls hard
  • The plenum for the ITBs are working great, experienced no heat soak despite letting the car idle and running for almost 4 hours straight
  • I remembered how to drive
  • She's putting down fast times despite being a bit wonky
  • This is a much better starting point than last year
Cons (things that need fixin'/adjusting)
  • I need an alignment badly!
  • Rear tires are rubbing. I need to trim the rear over fenders.
  • There's still a bit of part throttle stuttering going on especially in slaloms, need to talk to Jeff about this.
  • There are only 3 weeks left and only 1 event left (for me) to fix and test and adjust the car before the DC ProSolo :(

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bumblestook BSP Build 2014 Complete

The "max prep" BSP build continued throughout the winter. The Moton triples on Bumblestook were purchased used and last revalved by PSI in CA but that was two years ago and I started noticing a bit of leaking on one of the shocks. It was time to get them rebuilt and revalved. I sent them over to ANZE suspension in long island and Angelo promptly took care of it. He found that the valving had diverged quite a bit between each shock and I asked that he also soften up the shocks a bit so she could be more compliant around bumpy courses. I also got new front lines to be 6" longer to get a bit more clearance from the sway bar.

Moton Tripples at ANZE suspension - 1/16/2014
Moton Tripples at ANZE suspension - 1/16/2014
That was installed back on the car with the 1000lb springs and we also replaced the rear sway bar from the Gendron to the Ankeny blade so I could more quickly adjust it between runs.

Ankeny blade rear sway bar - 1/21/2014
I ordered a set of four 18x12 (8.5" backspacing) CCW Classics that would serve as my new rear wheels. I ordered 4 to mate them with my existing set of four 18x11" CCW Classics to make two sets of wheels. This way I could have a practice tire and a competition tire set.

CCW Classic 18x12" - 1/31/2014
Over the winter I also discussed adding ITBs onto the car. Jeff Evans had an idea to use some relatively inexpensive ITBs and modify them (heavily) to work with the car and build a custom plenum so it wouldn't heat soak. We didn't really know if we were going to be able to extra any more power but since I was already going all out, it was worth a shot.

Aeromotive FPR on custom bracket installed - 2/19/2014

Bumblestook firing up on ITBs first time - Evans Tuning - Mt Bethel, PA

A few days later, I went to the shop to watch her get dyno tuned. She wasn't 100% ready yet since the intake hadn't yet been finalized but we'd at least get to see how she'd do on the new setup. We got lucky that after months of constant snow storms, we got a sunny and marginally warmer day so we took the dyno outside so I could get better photos and video.

Getting ready to dyno - 2/22/2014
Bumblestook on dyno - 2/22/2014
Jeff Evans Tuning - 2/22/2014

Bumblestook ITB Testing - Evans Tuning -Mt. Bethel, PA

She eventually put down 244hp/169tq which is roughly what I made last year on the custom IM setup. However, my previous numbers was taken during a very cold day and before I switch to tapered Science of Speed TB so it was likely that it made slightly less power before. We couldn't really do a proper back to back to see the difference since it's a non-trivial thing to swap back and forth. In general though, it seems the power should be roughly the same and without being able to do anything to the internals, I think we've hit the NA power wall for the S2000. The throttle response improvement was significant though but I didn't get a chance to drive her since she was missing an intake. Jeff and JDV eventually made the intake I ran last year work with the ITB setup and they part throttle tuned it without me. I also changed the motor mounts from the Innovative 75A to the Hasport 94A poly mounts. The vibration is borderline ridiculous but that motor is definitely not moving anymore.

After almost 5 months of hanging out at the shop, I would finally get a chance to drive her and take her home. I know how Bumblestook feels very intimately so when I finally got on the fast pedal and felt that response the first time, my mind was blown. She felt incredible and between the reduced weight and more responsive engine, I could already tell she was a faster beast than last year.

Bumblestook first drive 2014 - Evans Tuning - Mt. Bethel, PA
In race trim - 3/22/2014
ITB setup done - 3/22/2014
Dat Ass Tho - 3/22/2014
Taking her home - 3/22/2014
New Shorai battery getting charged - 3/23/2014
Last year I accidentally let the Shorai battery completely drain. It hasn't been able to fully charge since then and has been having problems starting Bumblestook up so I also ended up buying a new one since I didn't want any electrical issues. With the build complete she's now ready for testing, suspension tuning and more importantly for me to learn to drive her 100% this year. Let the 2014 racing season begin!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Starting the 2014 BSP Build early

Since all the events for the season were done, I dropped the car off at Evans Tuning where she'd spend the winter getting transformed into a fully prepped, no compromise BSP car.

Dropping her off at Evans Tuning - 11/9/2013
JDV started work on her putting in all the parts that I had ordered.

CR Tonneau Cover - 11/19/2013
Added some vinyl to cover the only yellow portion in the middle - 12/16/2013
Rear fenders getting cut to fit more tire - 12/18/2013
3RAuto lightweight from brake kit - 12/28/2013
Rear CF overfenders on - 1/4/2014