Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ending the season on a high note

It's been fun developing Lupa for STR since returning from Nationals but for the last event of the season, it was time to bring out Bumblestook for one last time this year. We still had over half a tank of ethanol in the tank and practice tires that needed to get all used up before winter hibernation so this would be an all-fun, no-stress kind of event.

Hez going flat out - NNJR SCCA Autocross - 10/17/2015
Photo Credit: Perry Aidelbaum/
The course was fun and fast but with the temps hovering around the high-40s and windy, getting and retaining any heat in the tires would prove to be a challenge. The conditions definitely favored narrower street tires but we wouldn't let that stop us from having maximum fun.

Me enjoying Bumblestook - NNJR SCCA - 10/17/2015
Photo Credit: Perry Aidelbaum/
We broke away from the usual 3 heat format to go to a 4-heat A/B/A/B format which we haven't run in this club since the Englishtown days. This was nice because it allowed everyone to get some afternoon runs. We did 3 runs in the morning heats and 5 runs in the afternoon. In the morning, with only 3 runs we barely got the tires to feel even remotely warm but it was good to settle back into Bumblestook's pace. It felt great to be back in the seat of, what for me, sets the bar on how S2000s should drive like.

Andrew and Tamra's Factory Five 818 ("The Bug") unfortunately broke down at the beginning of the afternoon heats. Since we found we had enough fuel left to burn and it was the end of the season, I figured we could share the fun and have them hop in Bumblestook to continue the tradition of the year-end "Beehive". They did well in the car with Tamra, the 2015 CSPL National Champion, kicking my butt in only her 2nd run.

The Beehive - NNJR SCCA - 10/17/2015
I think this fired Hez up to turn his speed up to 110% and set Fastest Time of Day (FTD) in only his 2nd run in the afternoon and backing it up by going even faster with each subsequent run. I can't wait to see how Hez will do next year after being able to drive Bumblestook for a full season.

Hez takes FTD - NNJR SCCA - 10/17/2015
Hez takes FTD - NNJR SCCA
We ended the event with just one bar left of fuel left on the gauge (and oddly didn't fuel starve). The tires had well over 150 runs on them and had been stored sub-zero with no protection over last winter which makes Hez's effort to put her into the top spot even more amazing. STR action is definitely fun and we'll see more of Lupa next year but Bumblestook today put an exclamation mark on why her status as the primary "A Team" race car in the stable isn't going to change anytime soon. No worries there, I know where the priority should be.

I can't even begin to describe how much fun it is to drive Bumblestook. The statement "maximum smiles per second" is probably the best way to put it. She puts up a good fight. Sometimes she's on top, sometimes she isn't but one thing's for sure, you don't get out of the driver seat without a big smile on your face and that's what makes it all worth it. I couldn't think of a more perfect way to close out the 2015 racing season. 

The Beehive 2015 - NNJR SCCA - 10/17/2015
Meadowlands, NJ

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Double Header...winner winner chicken dinner

We had enough testing on different surfaces that it was time to go back to home turf to go up against more regular competition to see how she would stack up. I wanted to continue dialing out the slow speed push coming out of turnarounds so we dialed the front bar down from 6/6 to 5/6 (rear bar at 5/7). I also raised front rebound up a click to keep the weight on the front tires after hard braking coming into a sweeper. We ended settling on 29/27psi tire pressures and this greatly helped with transition stability.

NNJR SCCA - 10/10/2015
Hez and I codrove as usual and Jon came up from PA as a third driver to give her a test run since he would be running Lupa the next day with the Philly SCCA. After some tweaks to tire pressures, we were getting happy with the handling. Jon was able to get Lupa to 3rd fastest STR time, only 0.3 seconds off the top STR time.

NNJR SCCA - Meadowlands, NJ - 10/10/2015

I wasn't going to be able to make the Sunday event at Warminster so Hez and I swapped cars and he drove Lupa down for the race with the Philly SCCA. This time Hez, Rad and Jon would be codriving.

Jon driving Lupa
Philly SCCA - Warminster, PA - 10/11/2015
Warminster is known for being very transition heavy so they opted to run a 1psi pressure differential front to rear (29/28psi) to get the rear to swing around faster. Jon ended up taking the win in STR and ended up 5th in PAX overall out of 140 drivers, collecting enough points to secure the Philly SCCA 2015 Driver of the Year award (congrats Jon).

Philly SCCA - Warminster, PA - 10/11/2015

I do have to double check the rev limiter settings. She's hitting redline like a stock S2000 which isn't right since the redline should be set to 8500. That makes it even more fascinating that she's doing so well since we're leaving plenty of speed on the table if we're not able to rev her up all the way.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lupa's first win

This past week we were threatened to get hit dead on by hurricane Joaquin but somehow the storm system moved far off shore and so I seized upon the opportunity to take Lupa out to the Meadowlands to do more testing instead of just sitting home to watch Netflix and chill.

MotorsportsNE Autocross - 10-4-2015
The major problem we had today was the cold. Temperatures in the morning hovered in the 50s and the strong winds at the Meadowlands coupled with overcast would make it difficult to keep heat in the tires. Luckily, there was very low turnout today and with Hez and I codriving, we were able to get almost back to back runs, keeping the temps right in the sweet spot. The course was nice and long and had both fast and tight elements. It lacked a bit of flow in the 2nd half of the course making it not the best course possible but it was good practice and more importantly ideal conditions for testing car setup.

The first thing I noticed on my initial baseline runs was that transition speed had improved a lot with the increased bar settings front and rear but she was still a bit too stable and on the pushy side. I reverted the rebound changes I made to the front shocks at Nassau Coliseum and put them up 2 clicks again. This helped keep the weight up front after braking to get better turn in. We then fiddled with the tire pressures, running a bit higher pressures in the rear. Our times kept improving and Hez laid down a nice class-winning run on this setup (Go Bumble Jockey!).

Although Lupa was working, I didn't like the higher rear pressure setup since I prefer equal or lower pressures in the rear so I wanted to do a bar change but the quick driver changeovers made this very difficult. I also felt that a bar change was warranted as she was still not rotating in the tight corners under power the way I wanted. We got a short break in the action due to a minor incident and we were able to quickly adjust the rear bar up to 4/7 and then brought the tire pressures equal all around. Unfortunately, the downtime had cooled the tires and the pressures had dropped to 28psi in the front. We didn't have time to add more air so we set the pressures to 28psi all around. This new setup worked great, she was rotating better around the tight stuff but introduced a bit of instability in the high speed transitions. To get the rear to settle, I lowered the rear pressures to have a 1psi split front to rear and achieved what I felt was a good balance. Personally I feel a good test for car balance is when even small pressure changes in the tire pressures can change the balance of the car very easily.

It's hard to gauge Lupa's true pace when we're not at an SCCA event with other fully prepped STR car so it's very easy to dismiss a win as an artifact of just having low turnout but thankfully Evan was there in his BS National event winning Corvette to use a reference point and Hez was only off by 0.2 in PAX against his fast time which isn't bad at all considering we actually ran in the earlier heat when the course was still not very clean and the sun hadn't come out yet so that's very encouraging.

Lupa taking her first win
MSNE Autocross - 10/4/2015

In short, she's feeling pretty awesome. She transitions really well and does so in a very stable, confidence inspiring way. You can get very aggressive with the the throttle early, and power out of sweepers. In the tight stuff, she can tuck in nicely with just enough rotation to let you dance around under power. The direction so far is great and I'm very pleased that we're slowly approaching the similar balance characteristics to Bumblestook (minus the added power and insane grip of Hoosiers). For the next event, we'll be running higher pressures but with the same 1psi different front to rear since both Hez and I felt a bit less responsiveness in the tire at these lower pressures.

On a personal driver note, I pretty much hit a cone every run. This is oddly very encouraging as over the years I've found myself driving less and less and as a result I've been getting further from the cones. Hitting cones means I'm actually trying hard enough to get close and I can go faster. I'll have to clean up my driving though if I want to actually do well in real competition. Right now I'm just too focused making sure the car feels and behaves exactly the way I want.

Some things to think about over the winter:
  • My front shocks are already at full soft compression. Even though they're working well with this setting, maybe I should revalve them and remove some of the gas pressure so the dial is more in the middle
  • I need to raise the car about 0.25". The springs have settled to a very low ride height that I don't like. She needs more height to let the suspension work.
  • We need to shift the front subframe so we can get a proper alignment and squeeze out another 0.1-0.2 degrees of front camber.
  • Ugh, I wish we had the faster AP1 steering rack (can't do anything about this)
  • After checking out Skaria's 18" Advans at the last event at Nassau Coliseum, I think I may go with an 18x9 and run a 255/35/18 to get an even more crisp steering repsonse. 
The season's almost over but I'm glad I was able to get even this limited amount of testing done to Lupa before the winter. She's very close to what I envisioned in my head and she'll only get faster from here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tekonsha P3 brake controller on the Touareg

This post isn't really about Bumblestook but rather her support vehicle, The Egg (Touareg). When I first got the Touareg for towing, I opted to go with the Tekonsha Prodigy RF. It's a wireless brake controller where the brake controller electronics sit in a weather proof box on the trailer itself and you have a wireless controller to set the power. I chose it because it's super convenient and you don't have to mess with the VW electrics but it has a few limitations:
  1. Since the brake controller is on the trailer, I can't actually tow a different trailer if I ever had to since the Touareg effectively doesn't have one installed on it
  2. If you use the hazards, it actually disconnects power to the brake controller as it flashes 
  3. It takes up space on the trailer tongue that could instead be used to bring another spare tire! (This is the main reason motivating me to make the switch.)
To address this, I decided to switch to the Tekonsha Prodigy P3 which hardwires into the brake controller wiring already present in the Touareg if you have the factory tow package installed. Why didn't I do this the first time? Well for starters, the Touareg was new and I didn't want to drill anything. I also was weary of the difficulty as many DIY threads on this on indicated that the plug would be all the way up in the console and difficult to get to. However, now that the Touareg is a bit older and I have fewer reservations about popping open panels, I figured I'd give it a try.

Important VW wiring to make a wiring harness
To make things easier, rather than splicing the P3 into the factory wiring, it's recommended to instead use some readily available wiring parts from VW to fabricate your own wiring harness. I ordered these from ECS Tuning. You need one 4-pin connector housing (manufacturer part number: 1J0972782, ECS part number: ES311294) and two wires with flat connectors and retaining lugs (manufacturer part number 000979228E, ECS Part number: ES1009146). You cut these two wires in half and you end up with 4 identical length "half-wires" with flat connectors on one end. These four wires go into the four slots in the 4-pin connector housing. I then soldered the other end of these wires to the wiring harness included with the P3 using the following pin diagram and sealed everything with heat shrink tubing.

PIN1 - White - Ground
PIN2 - Black - 12V
PIN3 - Red - Brake lamp signal
PIN4 - Blue - Trailer brake output

This pin mapping is found in Tekonsha's bulletin on on wiring up their controller for a VW Touaregs and Porsche Cayennes which is available as a PDF online. In that manual it says Pin3 should be connected to a relay but it's been determined by the guys on clubtouareg that for T3 Touaregs (post 2012?), you do not need the relay. 

Touareg to P3 wiring harness done - 10/3/2015
The next part I thought would be the hardest...trying to locate and fish out the OEM brake controller connector under the dash. I was expecting the worst and for it to be all the way up in the A-pillar but instead I got a nice surprise, it was dangling right behind the panel where the ODB2 connector sits. As soon as I pulled the panel (held by two Torx20 screws), I looked up and there was the connector hidden in the foam wrap that I then cut to expose to OEM plug.

The foam behind the purple ODB2 connector hides the plug
Cutting open the foam reveals the 4-pin female connector
The next part was super simple. I just plugged in the male connector from the Touareg to P3 wiring harness I made and mount the bracket for the brake controller under the dash just past my left knee angled up so I can the display and operate it easily.  I put the panel back and routed the wiring as much as I could behind the dash and then plugged the wiring harness into the back of the P3. I'll probably clean this up with a wire loom later but for now it works quite well.

Tekonsha P3 installed - 10/3/2015
P3 operational - 10/3/2015

Trailer hooked up and operational - 10/3/2015
Big thanks to Steve at SJF Performance for letting me use his shop to work from and letting me borrow some tools to make the install a bit easier.