Saturday, March 26, 2016

Faster Car, Slower Driver

Today 175 drivers showed up for the first NNJR SCCA autocross for the 2016 racing season. This is a new record for attendees at a local event for the club and they did a fantastic job getting us all 5 runs and still be out by 4pm so first and foremost, kudos to the region for being so efficient. The day started out with the 2015 awards getting handed out. Hez picked up his NNJR SCCA 2015 Pro Class Champion trophy driving Bumblestook so big congrats to Hez. I think if he had driven Bumblestook all year he might have been in the running for driver of the year.

Hezron Laluces - NNJR SCCA 2015 Pro Class Champion
Since Hez had to leave early, he ran in heat 3 instead of heat 4 with the rest of STR. This unfortunately meant I had to try and tune the suspension for him without actually driving the car. To make matters worse, I got Lupa washed after the Metro NY PCA event two weeks ago and forgot to tell them not to put tire shine on my race tires. Needless to say this made for a rather exciting first run with a massive (seemingly never ending) spin almost right out of the gate.

NNJR SCCA Autox - 3/26/2016
After a couple of runs, the tire shine had scuffed off the tread, heat was in the tires, and we were able to start to tune the suspension. Based on Hez's feedback, I ended up decreasing rear compression by 1 click, increasing rear rebound by 1 click and we settled for a final tire pressure of 29 psi front, 27 psi rear hot. This allowed better power delivery to the rear coming out of a corner and Hez put in his fast time on his last run. Unfortunately, because I was turning knobs, he really only had his last run to get a decent time in. If he had started on this setup, I think he might have easily been able to find more time out there.

NNJR SCCA Autox - 3/26/2016

When  I drove the car in heat 4, she was good to go and I made no further changes. I think we're definitely very close to where she needs to be. She has very good turn in response, transition speed was good and stable but there's still a slight bit of nervousness in high speed sweepers mid corner so I may try to dial down the rear bar next event. Overall I'm very happy with how she's responding to the off season changes but I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't disappointed in my driving.

To be a fast driver you have to commit to every corner without hesitation and I was truly struggling with that today. For various reasons I've been too spoiled driving Bumblestook on Hoosiers that I've become very uncomfortable with the slip angle of street tires. On top of that I find myself second guessing every brake and turn in point causing me to instinctively get off throttle and lose time left and right. I'll have to fix this ASAP if I intend to at least try to be competitive this year.

Overall, I'd say Lupa has good pace but I just can't drive her to that pace. Hopefully I can shake this lack of confidence soon. In the meantime, I'm sure Hez will be able to put up a fight at the next event.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ready for 2016

Today I brought Bumblestook out for the first time since putting her away last season for hibernation. We identified some important fixes that needed to happen before the season started so I took a day off to bring her to SJF Performance to get these taken care of. The only issue I ran into after being parked for a few months was having to pump the clutch pedal a few times before the clutch would engage. This isn't uncommon for cars that sit for long periods of time but the clutch fluid is also a bit dirty so we'll probably flush it next time. It's working just fine for now.

Bumblestook sees sunlight for the first time in 2016 - 3/18/2016
First and foremost, we had to address the brake issues. At the end of last season, we realized the noise coming from the front brakes was from the brakes being worn so over the winter I picked up a new pair of rotors and Hawk HP+ pads for the Wilwood kit. For future reference, the part numbers I need are Wilwood 160-2894 and 160-2895 and Hawk HB100 N.480 HP Plus pads.

New rotors arrived - 1/22/2016
New front pads arrived - 1/22/2016
When SJF got the rotor off, we got a chance to look at the pads and they were more than worn, they were gone and I was braking using only the backing plate. Makes me wonder if Hez and I even had brakes during Nationals. I think going forward, since pads are pretty cheap (or free if you win Hawk contingency), we'll just replace them at the end of each season.

Old pad (left), new pad (right) - 3/18/2016
The old rotor hats were then transferred over to the new rotors. SJF made sure that all the threads were clean of any residual Loctite and applied new red Loctite and made sure each rotor bolt was torqued to 13 ft-lb.

New rotors and pads installed - 3/18/2016
The brake fluid still looked clean (it's only been about 400 miles since my last brake flush) and the pedal feel was still good so we opted to skip flushing the brake fluid for now. I'll see how she feels at upcoming events and see if we should bleed it but I think we're good. While SJF was working on the brakes, I tried to be productive myself by fixing the wiring on the trailer that gave me so much grief on our way Nebraska last year. Gone are the quick connects. All the wires are now soldered and heat shrink wrapped for reliability and less clutter.

Trailer wiring cleaned up - 3/18/2016
Next thing we tackled were the seats. The Buddy Club super low down rails have been on Bumblestook since 2012 and were starting to show some serious wear. I'd often find my seats to have a lot of play in them. This is not a good thing on a car that generates a lot of grip like a BSP car. Over the winter I ordered Ballade Sports seat rails instead. These are much better constructed and have a more solid feel to it.

Ballade Sport Seat Rails/Sliders - 1/22/2016
Installation was fairly straight forward for the driver side. All the holes lined up just right and at the widest setting, fit the Recaro Pole Position seats just fine. The passenger side was  a different story. They did create an opening in the seat base plate for the floor hump on the passenger side but as you can see in the image above the seat adjuster bar is still flat. This actually hits the floor hump making it impossible to install with the adjuster bar on. SJF quickly though up a solution of cutting the adjustment bar and rewelding it to go around the hump and it worked perfectly.

SJF modified passenger seat adjustment bar - 3/18/2016
SJF modified bar installed. Clears the hump cutout on the right - 3/18/2016
Seats reinstalled on the new rails - 3/18/2016
Side mounts - 3/18/2016
On the general maintenance front, we took off the cover for custom plenum Evans Tuning created for the ITBs to give them a close look and inspect for any bolts the might have started to back off. Everything looked good but I think my intake filter needs a good spray of fresh K&N oil as the filter started to look on the dry side. Engine, transmission and diff fluids were also flushed and replaced.

ITBs still looking healthy - 3/18/2016
Fresh fluids getting pumped in - 3/18/2016
Last but not least, we also took the snow tires off the Touareg and put back the good old summer tire/wheel setup. Bumblestook is now fully race ready for the 2016 race season.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shaking Off the Cobwebs

I wasn't expecting to run Lupa until next weekend but Mark reminded me that the Metro NY Porsche Club was running this weekend at Tobay Beach and with a forecast of 60F and sunny, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Despite losing an hour of sleep due to the daylight savings time change, Mark and I were up before sunrise to get there just as the sun was rising over Ocean Parkway. We didn't really have to get there that early but from past experience, everyone is always a bit sluggish during the first event of the season so we always give ourselves some buffer to avoid having to rush.

Metro NY PCA - Tobay Beach - 3/13/2016
Tobay Beach isn't a particularly large lot so the course was the usual slalom/offsets up, turnaround sweeper followed by a slalom/offsets back. The Porsche club always finds a way to make this particularly difficult though with narrow gates and 30% smaller cones that has always messed up visuals for me. Since I don't get to drive that much anymore, I find determining how far I am from the cones difficult even with normal sized cones so the smaller cones present an even greater challenge for me. I think I got one clean run the entire day haha. I wasn't concerned about that though since my main objective for today was to start working on a baseline setting to make her feel well balanced and predictable.

Porsche club baby cones - 3/13/2016
Without knowing how Lupa would respond to the new shock valving, I set all the knobs to the middle setting, front bar at 5/6 and rear bar at full soft, tire pressures 30psi all around and did my first few runs. It took a few runs to get heat in the tires enough to actually start making changes. At first, the front wasn't biting much so I lowered front compression significantly and increased the rebound a little to get the nose down and I was able to get the turn in I wanted. In the turnaround sweeper, I noticed the balance was slightly off so I raised the rear bar to 2/7 and that was enough to get her the work well getting power down through the sweeper without much drama. The rear was also bouncing back a bit too quickly so I dialed the rebound up a bit in the rear too which made the damping just right.

In grid getting ready to run - 3/13/2016
Tobay isn't really the kind of lot you want to be doing lots of suspension tuning on since the grip level doesn't really mirror any location we'd run a big event on but I'm generally happy with the baseline I set up from today. She's neutral in the sweepers allowing you to get fairly aggressive while powering through it and still being easy to catch if you push the go pedal a bit too hard. I need to tweak turn in and transition speed. She's decently quick and even with my rusty driving, she was putting down respectable times so she has pace but I have a few more suspension adjustments I want to try next week at the Meadowlands and then I think we can have a usable starting point for the season.

MetroNY PCA - Tobay Beach, NY - 3/13/2016

The weather was fact the best first season even I've been to in the 10 years I've been in this sport. The sun was up, the temps were cool and there wasn't an overwhelming breeze from the ocean that usually plagues us year after year. I don't think I could've picked a better way to start the season. Most importantly, it just felt great to be out there again pushing our cars to the limit, having fun and seeing friends that I haven't seen all winter. Hopefully we can finish dialing her in during the next few events and be ready for the first big race in DC in May.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Race Ready for 2016

We completed the final work to get Lupa race ready for the season today. SJF Performance's newer Hunter HawkEye alignment machine was installed and calibrated yesterday so it was time to head over and get Lupa aligned.

First alignment in 2016 - SJF Performance - 3/6/2016
Last year when we aligned her, we had all sorts of problems trying to hit my desired alignment targets. I suspected it was due to some issue with the shocks and sure enough with the fresh shocks in place, we had no such issues anymore.

First alignment in 2016 - SJF Performance - 3/6/2016
Maxing out the front camber, SJF was able to get -3.3 degrees of camber with 0 toe up front. Last year, I ran -2.4 degree in the rear which I felt was too much but the super low ride height made it impossible to get it lower. This year, with a slightly higher ride height, we were able to dial it back down to -2.1 to get better forward traction. To balance this out, I also opted to increase rear toe in from 1/16" (0.06) to 1/8" (0.12) total. SJF was also able to max out the front caster again with a perfectly matched wheel based left and right.

Alignment perfect - SJF Performance - 3/6/2016

Wheelbase - SJF Performance - 3/6/2016

To finish it all off, we also flushed and replaced the engine, transmission and diff fluids. It's now 2 weeks left before the first test event of the year and she's at 100% ready for me to fine tune the suspension settings now that I know everything is fully up to snuff.

Fluid change time - SJF Performance - 3/6/2016