Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rolling Along

I dropped the car off at Gabe's house on Friday morning so he could take it to the IAG tuning session on Saturday. The trip home was a bit on the awful side, as I ended up huddled against the window on the MARC train because the 'tard next to me couldn't keep his ass in his own seat as he leaned over the aisle to talk to his friend. So, with that in mind, I didn't want to ride a shuttle bus to the rental car place and walk from there. Instead, I decided to walk the 3+ miles from the train station home, but I was in flip-flops that aren't made for walking long distances. The blisters I got, especially on my left foot, were hideous enough, it was painful to walk even around the house, and so I ended up not leaving for Atlanta until close to 8PM.

I stopped just south of Blacksburg and slept for about five hours in the Camaro. I love sleeping in the Camaro; the seats are more comfortable than many hotel beds. I had my blanket and my Hoosier bear, so waking up at 5:30AM was a chore. :) I got down to Kevin's just past noon, took a shower, and then once Shuman showed up, we headed down to Atlanta Motor Speedway in his Miata with the top off.

Meredith Najewicz had offered up a ride in her husband's STX-prepped BMW, and when I arrived on site, several others asked if I wanted to drive their cars. In the end, I caved to Mark Davis's needling about "best 2-of-3" and signed up to drive his ES MR2, the car formerly owned by Brian Priebe. We walked the course with Steve Waters and Tommy Pulliam, and then settled in to watch the first heat.

The first phone call with regards to the WRX came about then. I saw that it was JJ calling, which had me concerned as I figured any call regarding the car would come from Gabe. He said they'd started warming the car up, and that it was running warmer (about 10 degrees) than it really should. I asked where the dashboard temperature gauge was, and he said about halfway up. I remarked that the only time I'd seen it higher than the quarter mark was in Wendover, after our Saturday competition runs, so something was definitely up. He said it could be an air pocket in the system (though how that would have gotten there is a good question), as initially, no heat was blowing through the vents. Mainly, he wanted to know if I still wanted them to put the car on the dyno.

I told him to go ahead. The car was fine when I had them do the pre-dyno inspection on Wednesday, and it was fine when I dropped it off with Gabe on Friday. The only place Gabe had driven it was to the shop from his house, and I seriously doubted that he blew something up on that trip (though anything is possible, I guess). In the unlikely event that something catastrophic happened, it wasn't my only means of transportation.

Then, I had to go drive the MR2, with the question of the WRX lurking in the back of my mind.

My first run was tentative, as it's been a while since I've driven an MR2, and I was tired and couldn't quite remember the course. Turned out that even driving conservatively, third gear was necessary for a good chunk of the course, and I told Mark that when I came in. Needless to say, he then proceeded to crush my time on his first run.

Gabe called then, and told me that they were done with the tuning, somewhat early. I asked if they did a race gas map, and he said no. I guess it was partly because of the hotter-than-normal engine, as well as the fact that the blowoff valve was evidently working for all it was worth already. I'll find out more about that later. I told him I couldn't really talk, since I was in the middle of my runs, and I'd get back to him later.

Second run, I dropped a good bit of time using third gear through the back part of the course. I was still tentative towards the end of the second slalom because I really didn't know where to start slowing down and downshift, plus Mark's car doesn't have ABS, and so I didn't want to lock the brakes up. Mark goes out on run two and nips me by a tenth or so again.

Atlanta Region's Pro class only counts the first three runs, and so the next run was the last one for all intents and purposes. Even with a passenger, I managed to drop down to a 52.0, as I got on the brakes a bit earlier in the fast slalom, and didn't push out into the marbles through the following sweeper. I knew I still had time out there, and watching Mark's third run, I thought for sure he had me, but he coned it and gave up. He had to sit on his 52.5 from run number two.
photo by Perry Bennett

So, for the last (not-counted) run, I asked Mark if he wanted to ride with me, and he jumped in. Shuman had pointed out to me something about how Mark took a particular turn, so I tried to mimic it, and while I'm not sure how well it worked (segment times or some kind of data acquisition would have been awesome at that point), I did end up dropping another half-second, while Mark's final run was a bust with cones.

In the meantime, Gabe had texted me the results from the dyno tuning:
"Driving impression: the car feels awesome! 224hp 286tq. Throttle is a lot more sensative. Pulls a lot harder. No overheating on the drive home. I adjusted the shocks and the feels much better on the street."

I wasn't particularly happy with the numbers, but I didn't know what to expect either. When I got home, I did look at Greg McCance's ESP build to see what his numbers are, and mine are in line with that. I guess that's good. :dunno:

Anyway, I called Gabe back during the break between heats and told him to check the coolant level once the car had cooled down, and top it off, then check it again in the morning. He put coolant in it when he got back to his apartment, based on the fact that the reservoir looked low. And since it was okay in the morning, he took it to FedEx Field to run the DC Region event.

He said it was certainly handling more in line with what he likes (throttle off oversteer), and that he doesn't want to mess with the rear swaybar right now. I'd asked about removing it, since that's what the spring rates were for (no sway bars at all), and he says, if anything, he'd want a bigger front bar. Travis Finlay had this to say when I quipped, "Why don't I get yet another engineer's opinion, so I can have three different ideas?"
prodarwin: no front bar + big rear makes it drive like a FWD car
prodarwin: except with rear inside spin on sweepers
prodarwin: no rear bar + big front makes it drive like a RWD car with more traction
prodarwin: that being said... I paxed 17th with the front bar disconnected
prodarwin: then again, that event I was 1.519 out of first
I don't know what to think. I figure I can drive the car pretty fast no matter what, but I'd rather not dump money into it if I don't need to.

So, Gabe evidently finished just about 0.4 behind Kenny Sorensen, even though he felt pretty good about the car. He thinks he just wasn't pushing it hard enough, though he's certainly not happy with the two seconds he's behind Burdette. I wonder how I would have fared.

My next event right now is the Toledo ProSolo, and I really don't want that to be my very next event in the car. I'm kind of looking at doing the Commonwealth Games in Danville, though I'm not particularly enthused about the site or the possible course design. Harry Hogenkamp's offered up his WRX wagon for a rallycross at Summit Point, and that could most definitely be fun too, but I probably should look for some seat time in my own car to be on my best game for Toledo. After all, I haven't been back there since the disaster of 2005, and I'm not particularly looking forward to dredging up those memories.


  1. lol at the first picture. i see those things everywhere on the science building. brings back memories from staying late in the night XD

  2. Nothing about the ride home? ;)

  3. You mean getting pulled over for a trailer with an expired registration? One that expired over a year ago? With the registration sticker sitting somewhere in the abyss of Shuman's Civic... which was right behind us? ;)