Sunday, August 28, 2016

Final testing before Nationals 2016

One of the biggest differences between Hoosier A6 and A7s is that the A7s aren't fast right off the bat. They need to be scrubbed in to get maximum performance. Today, during our final local event before heading out to Nationals we did just that. We slapped on the fresh tires we'll be using for Nationals to give them a good scuffing and heat cycle.

Scrubbing in Nationals tires - 8/28/2016
Not surprisingly, a large number of drivers showed up to today's event in hopes of having one last bit of testing/practice before heading out to the big show. A total of 150+ drivers were in attendance and there was no shortage of top level national drivers present. The course featured two extremely sharp 180 turn arounds that put Bumblestook squarely at a disadvantage as we lack the torque to rocket out of these slow speed corners.

RAW Results - NNJR SCCA - 8/29/2016
PAX Results - NNJR SCCA - 8/28/2016
Despite this, Hez and I managed to end at 3rd and 6th overall in RAW times and 6th and 9th in PAX. Given the way the course was laid out and the fact that the top 10 drivers PAX times were all within a very tight 0.5 second spread, I'm very happy with this result. The tires are now in prime condition for competition next week. Also, the 0.2 second gap between Hez and I is the closest we've gotten at a local event which validates that we both have sufficient pace to put up a fight against the rest of the BSP cars in the country.

NNJR SCCA - 8/28/2016

We're coming into nats in the best form we've ever been. The car is 100%, we're 100% but we know we'll have to give 110% to make it all count in Lincoln.

Monday, August 22, 2016

All systems are go

After the fresh alignment, fresh fluids and new front brakes, Hez and I attended the NNJR Porsche Club of America's autocross to make sure everything was operating as expected. Lupa was there at this event driven by Clyde so I finally got to see both my cars in action together for the first time. Lot J at the meadowlands is quite bumpy and Mark Labbancz did an incredible job making a course that minimized the bumpiness as much as possible and was well balanced. I'd say it was arguably the best course we've seen in that particular lot.

The fleet - NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016
Just before the event started, we got hit hard with heavy rain and our first two runs were sketchy at best. Super wide Hoosiers and standing water don't really mix well. We both went around the course gingerly as there was no need to risk the car for a local event this close to Nationals. The course dried up by our 3rd and 4th runs and we finally got the brakes to bed in and the tires scrubbed nicely.

Fast cars/driver duking it out - NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016
Photo by: Jake Namer
In the afternoon, the gloves came off and the battle was on between the fast cars/drivers. Dan had his SM STi there codriven by him and Jake and it was incredible seeing Bumblejockey Hez fighting for RAW time against a SM car. Only a tenth of a second split for the top time of the day. Bumblestook felt 100% on point and we're looking forward to the final practice/testing this weekend before heading out for Lincoln later this month.

RAW Time results - NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016

NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

More Seat Time with the NNJR PCA

For the first time, Bumblestook and Lupa were racing at the same event. Clyde's trying to get the rust off his driving as quickly as possible and today's course had a great balance of speed and technicality to help him further explore the limits of the car.

NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016
We got rained on quite a bit just before morning runs and Clyde was surprised at how well the Bridgestone RE71Rs respond even in very wet conditions. Thankfully though, the sun immediately came out and we only had to endure 2 runs in the wet before things dried up and he was able to get runs at full grip conditions again. Considering his reference for competition grade street tires is about 3 years old now, he's still trying to wrap his head around how effective the new generation tires are at maintaining grip. I think he's getting more confidence in the car and I'm glad the way I've set her up is meshing well with Clyde's driving style.

NNJR PCA - 8/21/2016

Clyde also did a pretty crazy thing and picked up a limited edition Evasive Motorsports spec Black/Red Recaro Pole Position driver seat that I had been eyeing for Lupa as a gift. It has a black velour headrest, black jersey sides, a red suede center and classic double red stitching I'll have to agree that this will definitely help make driving the car a lot easier and it looks absolutely badass. I dare say it's better than the Mugen S1R bucket seat.

Evasive Motorsports Spec
Black/Red Recaro Pole Position

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fixing brakes and more prep for Nationals

During my last visit to SJF Performance we discovered that the front brakes were done for. I immediately placed an order for new brakes. This time, I switched to Wilwood rotors made from their proprietary Spec37 iron alloy (part numbers 160-11839 and 160-11840). I was told that the premature brake wear was likely due to us exceeding the temperature envelope of the brakes. These rotors are designed for much heavier use and should help manage heat better. They're also slotted which should help keep the pads clean and avoid a lot of the grooving that happened on the old rotors. I went with another set of Hawk HP+ pads (HB100 N.480) and ordered new brake hat bolts just in case the old ones needed replacement.

New rotors, pads and bolts - SJF Performamnce - 8/20/2016
Wilwood Spec37 performance rotors - 8/20/2016
SJF made quick work of replacing the rotors and pads. The old bolts were still in good shape so he just cleaned them and reused. We'll just keep the fresh bolts as spares. The bolts were torqued to 150in/lb (12.5ft/lb) and red loctite was applied to all bolts. The new rotors have more vanes and smaller gaps between them and is a pound or two heavier. I presume the added weight is needed for thermal capacity and more efficient braking. Even though the added weight does kill some performance in the form of more rotating mass, it should give us better stopping power and many races are won/lost in the braking zones.

New pad left, old pad right - 8/20/2016
New rotor left, old rotor right - 8/20/2016
New brakes installed - 8/20/2016
With the brakes out of the way, we took the current set of "practice" tires off the set of wheels on Bumblestook and mounted some fresh Hoosiers. These will be our tires for the championship and we'll scrub these in either next weekend or on the practice course in Lincoln. The four tires we'll be using were all won by Hez during the past two ProSolo wins so thankfully we didn't have to shell out cash for new tires this year.

Fresh tires getting mounted - 8/20/2016
Finally, since we don't leave anything to chance, the engine oil was replaced with some fresh Amsoil. This is probably a bit overkill considering it's been only about 100 miles since we replaced the oil earlier this year but with the car being run so hard and running on Ethanol, we do this before Nats just for peace of mind.

Oil Change - 8/20/2016
Last year we also made a silly mistake of not removing OPR from the tires between competition days so I picked a Dewalt brushless battery powered oscillating tool. I had SJF dull the edges and corners off the blade we'll be using for scraping so it doesn't cut into the good rubber but still be able to separate the OPR effectively from the tires.

DeWALT Oscillating Tool - 8/20/2016
Oscillating blades - 8/20/2016
Tomorrow we'll be running with the NNJR Porsche Club to bed in the brakes and test out the new alignment. The other set of wheels with the tires we'll be running at the ProSolo Finale are on the car. Those were our Nationals set from last year and tomorrow's event will be a good way to scrub them in nicely and clear out any left over OPR from last year. It is now only 11 days until we leave for Lincoln and we'll have just two more events to give her a final shake down.

Monday, August 15, 2016

MSNE Autocross 8-13-2016

Two weekends ago Clyde came out for his first autocross after 3 years. He sold both his S2000s back in 2013 and I only usually get to see him during winter karting events where he usually kills us in lap times. He took his STi to that event but I seized the opportunity to offer him Lupa to run at Nationals this year if he was willing to drive her all the way to Lincoln. I didn't think he'd go for it at first but a few days later he reached out to me and he was able to register for Nats just before the deadline. There's still some logistical issues that may prevent him from going but it would be awesome to see both Lupa and Bumblestook at Nats this year.

Lupa on loan to Clyde - 8/12/2016
I handed off the keys to Clyde last Friday so he could attend some events this past weekend. Unfortunately he probably picked the worst weekend to get back into it as soaring heat and intense humidity made driving difficult. He went to the MSNE Autocross on 8/13/2016 to get used to her and was able to keep finding time with every run despite overheating the tires (he forgot his tire sprayer).

MSNE Autocross 8-13-2016
Photo by: Vincent Valentine
He ended up mid-pack but I'm confident he can get up to speed within the next 2 events. Jumping feet first into one of the most hotly contested classes in Solo after 3 years of hiatus is no easy task. Still, it's good seeing him back out there in a S2000.

MSNE Autox - 8/13/2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pre-Nationals Checkup

If there's one thing for sure, no matter how meticulous you are with alignments, you need check and adjust your alignment regularly if you're pushing your car hard enough. Bumblestook was last aligned before I tucked her away over the winter and after over half a season of hard driving, she was long overdue for another one.

Getting ready for alignment - SJF Performance - 8/7/2016
As expected, some of the settings had drifted over the past few months simply from the G forces generated by the car under extreme cornering. I had reduced front camber on the front right and toe settings were quite a bit off norm. Despite Bumblestook's good pace yesterday at NNJR SCCA, she wasn't running at optimal settings. SJF redid the alignment to incorporate a few changes I wanted to make to have the front end work a bit better. The new alignment settings are:

-3.6 camber
4.9 caster
0 toe

-2.5 camber
0.06 (1/16") total toe in

This is pretty much what we started with early in the season but added another 0.2 degrees of negative camber up front. Looks like we'll also have to replace the tie rod ends after Nats. There's a bit more play that we'd like. It's minor but this is definitely on the list of things to do when we get back.

Alignment in progress - SJF Performance - 8/7/2016
Next up, the diff fluid was flushed. I know we really don't need to replace diff fluid this frequently but it's a cheap and effective way to be able to check the health of the diff. The fluid looked very clean. No metal shavings or excessive carbon buildup at all were found on the drain bolt. The driveshaft bolts were double checked and confirmed that they have not slipped since we installed them and finally we checked the front brakes.

Front brakes done - SJF Performance - 8/7/2016
Hmm, besides the rotor being purple from all the heat generated from braking  yesterday, we did find that we had managed to go through an entire set of front pads in just 93.6 miles. How do I know it's exactly 93.6 miles? Because when we replaced the brakes at the beginning of the season, I reset the trip meter to find out how many miles we ran the car each year and it read 93.6 miles as of this afternoon. It's probably got about one event of brake pad left so I'm going to replacing the pads and the rotors again before nationals. I guess it's true that races are won in the braking zones because killing brakes in less than 100 miles was achieved with a fair amount of winning.

As a side note, the lights on the trailer were also replaced as the old ones were no longer functioning correctly. The brake and turn lights were working but not the running lights. I got some new replacement lights and they're working great so the trailer is now 100% sorted for the trip.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


The last event we did with Bumblestook was at the Toledo ProSolo about 6 weeks ago. In the meantime, I got her on the dyno to fix the burbling/power issue when holding certain RPMs and was mostly just taking a nice mental break from racing. Hez did a few events in Rad's STR car to stay fresh. With only 4 weeks left before we head out to Nationals, it was time to let Bumblestook get some exercise and finish up our testing. It's almost showtime.

NNJR SCCA - 8/6/2016
My main goals this weekend were:
  • Mentally get my head back into autocross
  • Verify if the tune indeed fixed the random burbles we'd feel at certain RPMs
  • Make sure she continues to feel ready for battle
  • As a driver, I wanted to focus on early aggression and making fast runs right out of the gate
In Grid - NNJR SCCA - 8/6/2016
With a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, the NNJR SCCA opted to switch from the usual 3 heat layout to a 2 run group, 4 heat layout. This meant we'd get 4 runs in the morning and 4 runs in the afternoon. Our first runs were basically throw away since the tires had lots of little rocks on them from storage and the course was still very dirty. We then kicked up the speed and Bumblestook responded. I instantly felt comfortable driving her again and the early aggression paid off as I found myself outpacing Hez for the first time in quite a while after morning runs were done. 

Morning results - 8/6/2016
In the afternoon, Hez, after having his coffee and donuts turned into a driver possessed and started knocking out blazing times working his way up the ladder. In his last run he sealed the deal and took fastest time of the day (FTD) and top PAX out of all drivers despite a few bobbles. This is encouraging as it means she had even more pace left in her. We ended up 1st and 3rd in RAW and 1st and 11th in PAX and thankfully the rain stayed away until we had packed up and left the venue.

Final RAW time results - 8/6/2016
Final PAX results - 8/6/2016
Bumblestook once again proved she's battle ready and the tune did in fact work perfectly. We were able to lay down power without issue and her balance continues to be spot on.

NNJR SCCA - 8/6/2016

Overall I think we achieved the goals for today's test. Despite a slew of heavy hitters not holding back, Hez was able to continue to be fighting at the top. Bumblestook felt absolutely incredible. I was able to find pace early. As far as things to work on before nats:

  • I have to continue to work on finding more pace and close the gap to Hez
  • Hez has the pace but needs to work on getting to that pace in fewer runs

We'll continue our testing in 2 weeks but for now it's time to get her back to SJF Performance for her final alignment before Nats.