Monday, July 31, 2017

What Happens in Atlantic City...

It's been probably 10 years since I last ran with the South Jersey SCCA. I think the last event I did with the club was back at an event at Atco raceway in 2006! I've got nothing against the club but the events are usually a bit too far for me. With perfect weather in the forecast and so few events more local to me, I figured it would be worth a trip down to Bader Field in Atlantic City to get some valuable seat time anyway.

SJR SCCA - Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ - 7-30-2017
This was my first event at this site and it was quite nice. There was ample paddock space and being right across the water from downtown Atlantic City was both strange and interesting. The venue, being a former airfield, had very abrasive surface with decent grip once the sand had been cleared off by the 1st heat drivers. I'd compare the grip level to Poconos Raceway but it is pretty brutal on tires so I'm glad to do this event on street tires and not more expensive Hoosiers. There's a fair bit of runoff if you spin but you will end up in the grass and travel a pretty far distance if you do. This scared me a bit despite the grass being dry since at least on the fast section, the other side of the grass was the Atlantic Ocean so I wasn't about to test the limits of my car and my skill over there.

Being used to the highly efficient northeast clubs of NNJR, Philly, DC and NER, the more lax feel of SJR takes a bit of getting used to. Things take a bit longer than usual; first car off wasn't until around 10:20am, we had lots of timing issues resulting in extremely long heats (3 hours...yep) and so many reruns but overall I still enjoyed driving there. Adopting a 3 heat system would help immensely but being that the course is what you expect from a runway venue featuring lots of slaloms and transitions, you need a lot of workers to cover the cones so that may not be feasible unless a lot more people show up. The half-height cones don't help either.

Lupa takes the STR win - 7-30-2017
My first run was strange. Despite fixing the alignment at SJF a few weeks ago, she was still feeling really loose. The rear would spring up too quickly during transitions. I increased rear rebound and that made a world of difference and now she would properly slide, squat then pull out of the corner. The front felt unpredictable though in a way that I couldn't describe. I decided to check the front rebound and was surprised that the left side was at the correct setting (nearly full stiff) but the right side was set to full soft. This explained the imbalance. I don't know how this happened. It's been a long time since I changed the settings. I don't know if someone turned the knob while my hood was up at some previous event as a joke but I'll definitely need to double check the settings going forward. I made them both equal again and finally Lupa was feeling like she should. I was able to push a bit harder and trust that the front would bite. I put down a good enough clean run to get the STR win and beating Hez for the first time (he ran his own car) but that's really just because he kept hitting cones and I was in a better prepped car so I definitely didn't outdrive him.

James was the real winner here taking FTD and top PAX in his STX BRZ so big kudos to him. While I did lose some time from backing off a bit in the sketchier parts of the course, most of the time lost was definitely from not taking smooth arcs and pinching myself too much in key corners. I'll need to work on this before Nats so I don't bleed off too much speed in these critical areas. This course really helped highlight that issue so that was a big lesson learned!

SJR SCCA Autox - 7-30-2017

The drive home was an insane 5 hours including a short stop for dinner thanks to summer beach traffic so I was exhausted but 5 hours enjoying some top down awesomeness in an S2000 and listening to music isn't too horrible in my book. It could definitely have been worse. I'm taking a pause with the next event not coming up for me for me until 3 weeks from now where I'll be doing some final testing of Bumblestook before heading out to Nationals. Really happy with how Lupa is feeling in general though. Hopefully I won't have to fiddle with the knobs much more at future events and I can just focus on improving my driving once more.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Testing with Dave at NNJR SCCA

Nationals is only 6 weeks from now and this is the first time this season I've been able to take Bumblestook out for some home region testing with the NNJR SCCA at the Meadowlands. I asked Dave Corsaro  to codrive with me for this event so he could help me quickly dial the car in. Although we had the threat of rain, first heat ran mostly without a hitch in the dry but then the skies suddenly opened up just before our heat.

NNJR SCCA - Meadowlands, NJ - 7-23-2017
Our first two runs were done completely in the wet and it was a pure exercise of car control as Bumblestook wanted to drift more than she wanted to go straight. The course started drying up by my third run but just as Dave was about to go for his first dry-ish lap, the skies opened up again, wetting the dried parts of the course once more. Thankfully though we got a break and it finally did stop raining and a combination of winds and hot conditions allowed us to take our final 2 runs in the dry. 

Dave about to go out for his first lap in wet conditions- 7-23-2017
Dave identified a slight push in the car in our 5th runs and wanted some more front bite so we took out some front compression. I took my final run and the car felt much better. I dropped a good chunk of time and the course was now completely dry (well at least the racing line was). Dave finally got to drive Bumblestook at full speed for the first time and set a good raw time but nicked a cone in the slalom. Unfortunately that was the extent of our testing. The pace was definitely there to compete for the top spots but we ran out of runs. I may try to raise the rear bar a bit at the next event to get just slightly more rotation. It's tricky to tell based on today's data as the conditions were constantly changing. Overall though, I think it was a successful day. Her power delivery with the new tune was smooth, the new alignment seems to be balancing the car well and the handling is ballpark where we need it to be so it's just minor adjustments from here on out. 

NNJR SCCA - 7-23-2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Extracting Power

Bumblestook was already making good power but it was more towards the top end. In autocross you spend a lot more time in the midrange so the focus has always been to make a fatter, more usable torque curve from around 4000-7000rpm which is why I decided to swap from the PLM header to the Toda Torquie-Kun. In order to make sure Bumblestook would run optimally, I didn't want to take her out without first getting her on the dyno for a retune so I took her over to Evans Tuning today so Jeff could make sure she was running right.

Jeff Evans tuning Bumblestook - Evans Tuning - 7/15/2017
The tank was still full of E85 from Toledo which was ideal. We did a baseline run without making any changes to the old tune and it showed a massive 20+ ft-lb torque drop midrange. This would've been very noticeable (big time bog) if I had tried to run her without retuning. Turns out the VTEC crossover was too low for the way the Toda header flowed so he raised it a little and after a several pulls and adjustments to the fuel map Jeff was able to extract about 10 more ft-lbs of torque and 10-hp in the midrange over the old tune/setup.

Dyno Tune - Evans Tuning - 7/15/2017
It's important to note that comparing dynos over different days and conditions even of the same car isn't really worth doing so the increase is a data point but take it with a grain of salt. I think the important thing to note is that the power did indeed shift more towards the midrange (there's actually a noticeable bump in the graph that wasn't there in the old tune) at the cost of a slight loss of power at the top end. I think that's more than a fair trade off. I will note however that the previous tune was done during the winter and we're retuning in the middle of the summer so in theory the old tune should've produced better numbers to begin with so the fact that we're seeing gains while tuning at much warmer and humid conditions is very promising. We'll be testing her out next Sunday to see how all the changes work out.

Mounting fresh tires - SJF performance - 7/15/2017
I also stopped by SJF Performance so Steve could finally mount the fresh set of tires we'll be using for Nationals on my 2nd set of CCWs. Hopefully I'll be able to scrub these in some time in August before we head out for Lincoln.