Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review : Turn In Concepts/MSI Collaboration Front Control Arm Bushings

A few weeks ago, Turn In Concepts made a post on NASIOC asking for some prospective testers for some new bushings they are developing.

Knowing the difference between driving the Camaro with the lower control arm bushings near the end of their lives and when I would replace them with new 1LE bushings, I have been considering an upgrade to the control arm bushings in the WRX for a while. In street prepared, offset bushings are allowed, and I'd been thinking about doing just that, but hadn't really done a lot of looking. While I've replaced many of the suspension bushings since last year, the control arms, trailing arms and lateral links are still on the "figure out what to do" list. So, I decided to toss my name into the hat. TiC contacted me a few days later to confirm my address and the bushings were on the way.

I immediately scheduled an install with IAG Performance so that I could have the bushings in before the next (and last of the season) Autocrossers, Inc. event. The bushings arrived on a Thursday, and were in the following Monday afternoon.
special delivery!

getting ready to press out the old bushings and put in the TiC/MSI ones, photo by Boris Petrovich

sad stock bushing next to the TiC/MSI bushing in the housing, photo by Boris Petrovich

all buttoned up, photo by Boris Petrovich

The install was relatively painless, except for a tweaked bolt that didn't want to come loose on the driver's side. It's difficult to say what caused that problem, considering the control arm/ball joint separation from last year, plus the fact that I bought the car used. In any event, that was the only hangup with the actual install, and had I not had a full plate before the AI event (league game, class, hockey class, etc.), I may have even attempted to do it myself. When time is of the essence, however, I prefer to leave things to the professionals.

I can't say I felt much difference in the car's handling on the way home. The WRX is generally a handful on the highways around here anyway, since it's got such an aggressive alignment, and the roads are fairly rutted. To be fair, my car is pretty set up anyway, and a small adjustment such as the rearward of the control arm bushings may not be immediately evident.

So, I took it out to the Maryland Renaissance Festival that Saturday (AWD is a necessity to get in and out of the parking field after weeks of rain), and then to the last AI event in Waldorf on Sunday. ESP was running first heat, and it was pretty chilly (mid 40s) when we arrived. Pat was driving his Camaro, and Rod McGeorge showed up with a new '12 Boss Mustang that he'd be sharing with Big Mike Snyder, but beyond that, there wasn't anyone else running ESP-Pro. Adam George was partaking of the AWD-turbo Kool-Aide by driving the Eskandari STi (STU-prepped) and Brian Burdette was driving a BSP-prepped 350Z. Still, Pat isn't called "Mr. October" for nothing, and having driven that car last month, I now understand how formidable it can be when driven properly.

My first run was pretty bad. I hadn't driven the WRX in anger since Nationals, and the rear tires still had tons of OPR all over them. Combine that with "cold," and "not really paying attention during the course walks," and yeah, this is what you get.


I was happy to not spin when the rear end stepped out across the bumps I hadn't noticed, and then I was pretty irritated with myself for the DNF. I don't know what I was looking at through that turn, but it wasn't what I should have been looking at. I only noticed the cone I was on the wrong side of at the last second, when I jerked the wheel to the left and tried to hit it to stay on course.

So, second run, I had a passenger, so I guess I sort of switched into a different mode. She just wanted to see what I was doing out there, as she drives a stock Miata on street tires, and really only does autocross for fun. Her primary motorsport is offroading (as in Baja). In any event, I improved my raw tire significantly (41.8) and ran clean and on course. I was still a few tenths behind McGeorge at this time.



I was really struggling with coming out of the turnaround, though the car felt great everywhere else. I figured I was coming in too tightly, and so not just slowing down too much for the turnaround, but also impeding my ability to just jump on the throttle and let the diffs do their thing.

Third run, I had another passenger -- an FS 335i driver from Russia -- and then on fourth runs, I got down to a 41.5, just under 0.050 back from McGeorge. At the time, Mike Johnson was top in Pro class, McGeorge was second and I was third. Pat, as usual, was have cone problems, and was back a little ways. When Mike Snyder ran in the second heat, he would get down to a clean 41.1 in the Boss.

So, come the end of the competition, and the AI "screw around time" was about to commence. I wanted to push the WRX a little harder, and Adam wanted to ride along. I think he was feeling cheated from his last ride along, which was in the rain at FedEx Field. So, after a "bleh" first fun run, where I was really just getting heat in the tires (and getting the pressures back to where they should be), I belted out a run that I was sure could have won the class.

Of course, the timer was spazzing, and we both knew it wasn't a 67. So, one more run, and I know it wasn't nearly as good as the previous, but it was still a 40.8.

The only things I've changed on the car since Nationals and the Packwood ProSolo are these bushings and the addition of the gauge pod. While the gauges are pretty and all, the bushings are the things that I was testing here. Did the car feel better than it did at Packwood, which has a more comparable surface (asphalt) to the Blue Crabs lot? Hard to say, considering I seem to just now be starting to harness the car's full potential. It did seem a bit better in the slalom, and less pushy in the off camber sweepers, but how much of that was just driving? I did finish better on index than I have in a while locally, so there is that.

So, I did the only other thing I could, test wise. I cajoled Pat Griffith into taking the WRX out for a few runs. Keep in mind that every time he's driven my WRX, he's not only won ESP, but has done so convincingly. The last time he drove it, he only got one run in before the rain, and he won over me by a second. That, like Packwood, was on asphalt (FedEx Field), and so a comparable surface to Blue Crabs Stadium.

He takes one run to reacclimate himself to the car (it's not like driving the Camaro), and then one run to get the cones out of his system. One the third run, it looks damned near perfect, and when I ask him what the time was, he balks then, grinning, tells me it was a 39.9, on par with Junior's raw time in the ASP C6 Z06 in the morning heat, and, had he done it during competition, easily good enough for the overall PAX.

When asked what he thought of the handling versus the last time he drove it -- again, keeping in mind that the only changes to the car since then are the gauges and the TiC/MSI bushings -- he emphatically said, "It's better."

Ultimately, I think for myself, I would want to change the forward control arm bushings as well. Again, I know how changing the bushings in the Camaro made a huge difference in the crispness of the handling, but that was also a stock class car without any other bushings. The WRX also has the Whiteline steering rack bushings, which certainly help with steering feel and input, but after driving the Subaru a little bit more on the street, I am starting to think that the improved steering feel isn't just in my mind. In terms of adding to the NVH of all the other bushings, there is little additional noise or vibration (which I only experience below 1800rpm anyway), except for slow steering, such as backing out of or pulling into a parking space. Then, yes, there's a little more "creaking" than I had with just the steering rack bushings, but nothing else.

Depending on the weather next weekend, I may try to take the car to Virginia Motorsports Park for another event, and more testing. We'll see how things go for that idea as the week progresses. There isn't a Capitals game that weekend, so I'll need something to do with my time. Until then, I've got to arrange for installation of the TiC rear trailing arm bushings I got from their 1/2/50/100 Facebook promotion! :)


Hopefully, by the end of the winter (and maybe even before the Washington Auto Show), I'll have all new suspension bushing throughout, plus a smaller battery, a master cylinder brace and a few other street-prepared legal upgrades.

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