Saturday, September 16, 2017

FTD and Top PAX - The Beehive 2017

I started this tradition in 2013 where I'd run Bumblestook with 4 drivers (myself included) on her final event of the season for what's basically a fun event with friends. This year was no different and with a tank full of ethanol from Nationals, I wanted to burn it all off in the most fun way possible. This year, the "beehive" as I call it would consist of James, Rad, Hez and myself. We got really lucky today with awesome weather and a course that seemed almost designed for the car. Every corner flowed nicely and was smack in the middle of Bumblestook's power band. To top it off we got 7 runs each for a total of 28 runs. We burned through most of the fuel, got rid of all the OPR from Lincoln and went through 8 gallons of water trying to keep the tires cool.

James getting ready to run - NNJR SCCA - 9/16/2017
This was the first time James was going to drive Bumblestook and although initially intimidated he soon got comfortable and put in some awesome runs good enough for 2nd RAW and 2nd PAX overall. Rad was a dirty boy. He only had one clean run (his first). He's always driven very close to cones to cut distance in his STR S2000 which is normally a good thing but unfortunately, Bumblestook's wider body was giving him trouble. He was just a bit too close.

Hez getting ready to run - NNJR SCCA - 9/16/2017
For Hez though, this was like putting on an old glove and he was fast right out of the gate. He easily took top PAX and FTD after a few runs and only extended the lead with each run. I was a bit inconsistent today but somehow pulled a not-so-crappy run to end up with 3rd RAW time and got bumped out of 3rd in PAX by Evan in the SSR Z06 on his last run so ended up 4th in PAX overall. I'd say finishing off the season with Bumblestook taking top 3 fastest times and 3 of the top 5 PAX times out of 126 drivers isn't too bad. Of course we got a bit of help with none of the SM or SSM cars showed up today. Today was more about sharing the joy of driving Bumblestook and having fun with friends and we all had boat loads of fun.

The Beehive 2017 - NNJR SCCA - 9/16/2017

She wouldn't be a Street Prepared car without some kind of failure this year though. As I was loading her on the trailer we noticed it was leaking some fluid. When the car is running there seems to be a bit of fluid coming out from the front driver side stainless braided brake lines. I've had that line there since Bumblestook was a track car so maybe it just failed. The odd thing is that it's not leaking when the car isn't running and didn't leak when I got to my storage and drove it off the trailer. The brakes are still fully functioning. I guess we'll have to take a close look at this in the off-season and probably pre-emptively replace all the lines just in case. This is a safety issue and I don't take chances with safety. I'm just glad it didn't happen at Nationals. I guess this is Bumblestook's way of telling me she's ready for winter hibernation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Finishing Unfinished Business

Before I start, I want to thank and congratulate Tom O'Gorman for putting in spectacular drives in Bumblestook to take the 2017 SCCA Solo National Championship in BSP. Not only did he take the win in BSP, but the resulting time was good for top PAX  for the Thursday/Friday run groups and 2nd overall PAX (by only 0.05 seconds to Billy Davis in CSP) out of over 1300 drivers. It took 5 years of development and an alien driver but I finally reached my personal goal to put Bumblestook on the top step of the podium for BSP.

SCCA Solo National Championships 2017 - 9-5-2017
Looking at a slice of time and a victory is insufficient to see how much work it took to get here and I couldn't have done it without all the incredible people that worked with me throughout the years. I wanted this build and setup to be done on my terms based on my own experimentation and learning along the way even if it took me longer to get there. There was nothing cookie cutter about it and I am grateful to have worked with people who let me try things even when I frequently went off the beaten path in pursuit of knowledge. This victory is validation that the time and effort you all put in was worth it and what we created is truly a case where the sum is much greater than its parts.

Congratulating Tom on his Championship winning run
SCCA Solo Nationals 2017 - 9/8/2017
Photo by: SoloMatters
I want to thank Jeff DeVos (retired S2K specialist) who did a lot of the early wrenching on the car and putting up with so many iterations of my build. Jeff Evans from Evans Tuning for all his fabrication and tuning skills to get the ITBs to work and give me the most usable and reliable power band we could extract from the F22C within the absolute limits of the rules. If anyone knows how to extract the most power from a Honda, Evans is definitely your man. Evans Tuning was her 2nd home during her early years of development. Steve Farkas from SJF Performance would be her 2nd home in the later years. Not only did he help me fix the remaining reliability issues with the car, continue to maintain her and perform countless alignments to perfection as I fine tuned her setup, he's been a great friend who's gone through extra lengths to make time for me anytime I've needed it. Brian Karwan from Karcepts for putting my diffs together that haven't failed despite insane 8800rpm prosolo launches and his incredible sway bars that were crucial to getting the perfect balance for the car this year. Anze suspension for rebuilding my old school Moton tripples and working with me to get the valving dialed in. There's always room for improvement but I think her pace is very close to target. Joefis racing for the spoiler work. Hoosier Racing Tire for making the most awesome DOT R-Compound racing tires ever made. I also want to thank Hezron Laluces for being a great friend and amazing codriver in 2015-2016. He's a natural, fast and consistent and his driving skills helped me focus on car setup while he continued to demonstrate our increased pace as development progressed. Finally, I want to thank my wife for understanding how important racing is to my life and continuing to support my efforts.

Tom's Championship Winning East Course Run - 9/7/2017

Tom's Championship Winning West Course Run - 9/8/2017

The Back Story

I went to my first SCCA National Championship in 2012 codriving Jon Caserta and Tory Benya's STR S2000. Bumblestook was a track car at the time and obviously not competitive in any class so I flew out and drove their car to see what this was all about. While walking around paddock I came across Jason Uyeda's BSP S2000. He would eventually win BSP that year and make cover of Sportscar magazine shortly after. I looked into BSP more and realized it was the perfect class for an S2000 enthusiast. You could run super sticky race rubber and combine all the best parts of every S2000 to make the "perfect S2000" and I got inspired. 

Jason Uyeda's BSP S2000 - Sept 2012
I came home and the first thing I did was remove the wing from my car and created a Facebook album called AP1.2.CR BSP Build with the description "It's going to be a freaking awesome AP1/AP2/CR hybrid". My goal was to take the strengths of each generation S2000 and combine them into one car. Of course the challenge here is that I really didn't really know much about suspension tuning. I had been autocrossing on and off for 7 years at that point but up until then I wasn't exactly the first person you'd talk to about setting up a fast autocross car, let alone a nationally competitive one. I knew it would be a steep learning curve and there weren't much (if any) resources at the time on how to set up a BSP S2000 so I'd have to learn and figure it out on own along the way. This blog already has all the details of the build so I won't go into it that here but 2013 would be he first year of development of Bumblestook in BSP trim. 

I granaded my diff in 2013 just before the NJ ProSolo and replaced it with the ATS Spec III diff that Karcepts was able to quickly get for me. I went to nationals that year with Bumblestook for the first time with Dan Stainback as my codriver and he was able to get into the trophies but it was clear that trying to keep Bumblestook as both an autocross and track car wasn't going to work. Robert Thorne won in his S2000 CR (a.k.a TheBigBadWolf) in BSP and Bumblestook was way off pace. 

In 2014, I fully committed to making Bumblestook a nationally competitive autocross car. She spent the winter at Evans Tuning as we prepped her to the limits of the rules and tried to extract as much power as we could with an ITB setup. Despite a lack of testing, I won my first ProSolo that year in DC. I continued to power through that year not winning anything else and went into Nationals only to finally accept that the AP2 transmission gearing wasn't going to work. Chris Mayfield won BSP that year in Thorne's S2000 and the Mazdaspeed Miatas were starting to get better prepped and the once overdog S2000 only had a 0.3s lead over the MSMs. We needed more top speed to handle a nationals style course and I had ideas on how to make her faster the following year including swapping in an AP1 transmissions for taller gearing. However, two years of basically non-stop working on prepping the car and throwing all my resources at it had taken its toll and I was on the border of quitting racing altogether.

After taking a winter off from any car related activities, I realized how much I really enjoyed and missed racing and I was motivated to try again in 2015 and made more changes to the car. Thorne's CR had left BSP and moved onto SSM and from the looks of things, Bumblestook would be the only S2000 to try and defend the title. I picked up Hez as my codriver mid-season. Once he figured out the car, he was instantly fast and we went to Nationals (his first). We got destroyed by the MSMs that year with Steve Oblenes winning BSP in Anthony Porta's MSM. Hez was just out of trophies but personally I felt I had dropped the ball and failed to continue in the line of S2000s that had successfully won the class. 

In 2016, determined to retake the win in BSP for the S2000, Hez and I did a full season of codriving. I made further improvements and setup changes and Hez was killing it at our local events frequently taking FTD and top PAX and securing the NNJR SCCA driver of the year. We finished 1-2 at both Toledo and DC ProSolos and were coming into Nationals feeling good. Unfortunately, we snapped the axle at the ProSolo finale and the 14 year old steering rack bushings were shot. Bumblestook's normal steering responsiveness wasn't there. Anthony Porta took a decisive win in BSP in his MSM. Hez was able to get Bumblestook into trophies but the MSMs had gotten even faster. They were a solid 2 seconds faster than the rest of the class. It was game over. The MSM was now clearly the top dog in BSP. Disappointed in the loss, I knew I had to at least try one more time. I had unfinished business and I couldn't walk away without feeling like I did absolutely everything I could. 

For 2017, gloves had to come off. I made the final changes to the car to try and find as much as pace as I could. The car was checked and double checked. Anything that might have a chance of failing or aging, was replaced. The mild winter had allowed us to make lots of progress and the car was ready for testing as early as the end of January. Unfortunately, this year had other plans for me. Various issues had caused me to miss all our early season events and Bumblestook didn't get to see daylight until the end of May where I was only marginally able to scrub off OPR from the previous year. We went to Toledo for the ProSolo. That was only the 2nd event in the car for 2017. She was undrivable and horribly pushy and I had to make some quick changes to try and figure out her new concrete setup. Thankfully I was able to squeeze out the lead and take the win..only my 2nd ProSolo win in the car. I changed the header and visited Evans Tuning to retune to try and get more midrange torque but it wasn't until July before I was able to take her out again bringing on Dave Corsaro to drive with me to help provide some feedback on car setup. Unfortunately, my bad luck would continue and rain would prevent us from getting any useful testing. We had one dry run which was good enough to determine a front bar adjustment was needed. Finally a few weeks ago, we got our first (and only) real dry weather test. I think I had figured out a new setup (at least on paper) and put Hez back in the car as a proper reference and I knew then I had figured it out and the car was properly fast. 

Despite all this, I knew that we were still going to be underdogs. The MSM was still the faster car. They're lighter, make as much power and more torque than an S2000 in BSP trim and I suspect are easier to drive at the limit. If I wanted to get Bumblestook to the top of the podium I'd need to put in a proven fast driver in my car on top of making sure the car had optimal pace. I had reached out to Tom O'Gorman a few months earlier presenting him with the challenge/opportunity to try and dethrone the MSMs in the most prepped BSP S2000 in the country. Things eventually worked out and the codrive was secured and I had to focus on making sure Bumblestook wouldn't fail him. 

He took a run on the test course for the first time and mentioned that she was a tiny bit too loose going through sweepers. I lowered the rear pressure a bit and sent him back out for a second run. At this point, Bumblestook was feeling on point and on his third run he put down a scorcher run of a 33.0s on the test course, a raw time that was already faster than many of the cars on the course that should be faster. I ran the car again in the afternoon only enough to scrub in the fresh competition tires and shut her down. All the testing was complete. It made no sense to risk the car any further until competition days so I cancelled the rest of my planned testing for the following day. 

Day 1 of competition was a nail biter. Tom had secured a lead by the 2nd run but on his final run, Chris Edens had crossed the line to take the lead. A few seconds later, Tom crossed the line and narrowly took the lead back by 0.024 seconds. Tom told me later that that run should've been faster but he made a small bobble in the final run up to the finish. I checked the data. Sure enough, his pace was 0.7 seconds faster up until that bobble (going into the final chicane). Bumblestook was a bit too loose for this course and had I known earlier, I might have tried to soften up the rear bar a bit  to bring some of that stability back. 

Day 2 we were on the west course (corn side) which had lower average speed than the east course. Bumblestook's balance here was much better and Tom put in an early lead and backed it up with an even faster 2nd run. On his last run, Chris Edens in his MSM would get close to Tom's 2nd run time but at this point Tom had already won. Tom was on course and didn't know this so he was still going at full speed and finished an incredible run to take the win by 0.66 seconds. He ended up top PAX for the Thu/Fri run groups and just 0.05 seconds shy of top PAX overall out of 1300+ drivers (which he clearly had the pace for if it wasn't for the day 1 bobble). 

Tom O'Gorman takes the BSP win - 9/8/17
SCCA Solo National Championship 2017
Photo by: Solomatters
Overall I'm ecstatic that we finally completed the unfinished business and took the BSP win back to the Honda S2000. Realistically and based on Tom's feedback I suspect that the MSM is still the overdog in the class and while I provided Tom with the best S2000 we could get him in the form of Bumblestook, his raw driving talent is what gave the ultimate edge to secure the win. Yes, there's probably some additional suspension tuning to make her easier to drive and possibly marginally faster but that's probably true for all cars. I don't know where I'm going from here in 2018 but I feel like a big monkey is finally off my back and I'm super happy for Tom's win (his 3rd national championship in 3 different classes) and I'm extremely proud of Bumblestook. On her final test, with all eyes on her on the center stage, she stayed together and gave everything to let Tom get the job done.

Bumblestook is my race car. 
There is nothing like it and this one is mine. 
My race car is my best friend. It is my life. 
I must master my race car as I must master my life. 
My race car, without me, is useless. 
Without my race car, I am useless. 
I must drive my race car hard.
I must negotiate corners faster than my competition trying to beat me. 
I must reach the finish before they finish. I will!