Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ready for winter

Winter is pretty much here now. It was colder yesterday than any other November 14th in history. I finally got the Saabaru fully ready for winter (rustproofing, winter tires, new windshield) and am enjoying it as much as I did last year (and it hasn't even snowed yet). 

Other people are ready for winter too: 

This 4x4x2 looks like it could roll over the Maserati if it wanted to
Defender 110 in the city
There are still a few classics on the road:
My brother's first car was a Malibu
I see this clean E28 535i quite often in the neighbourhood
Not my thing, but cool to see a Corvair on the road
Nice wheels and "stance"
I find myself more and more drawn to these CLA45's... I wonder how they are to drive.
Looks sharp in silver too.
It snowed on the M3 a little... time to find a storage spot.
My dream winter car and actual winter car
2 Saabs in one shot...
... and again!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Winter is almost here

Winter is coming very soon. There have even been a few snowflakes in the last few days. I got the Saabaru out of storage, but there are a few things to fix before I can store the BMW for winter. I have decided to run the 17-inch OEM Saab wheels this winter, and have bought some lightly used Nokian tires in the OEM size. I've only driven the car for less than an hour, but I was quickly reminded what a fun car this is, especially in city driving, with its potholes and multiple lane changes.

Saabaru almost ready for action
Not the prettiest car, but not too bad
There are other people getting their winter cars ready too:

Do you prefer white?
.. or black?
There are also still quite a few summer cars and classic cars out there, enjoying late fall.

I think these mid-range Z3's have aged well
Not my favourite Ferrari, but it looks good in white with these wheels
A classic Land Cruiser, which can also deal with winter.
The M2 looks mean in black
This classic will surely be stored this winter.
... this 2002 as well.
Not my favourite Z-car, but it was in nice condition in a nice colour
Another summer car that will surely be tucked away soon.

The Acura RSX Type S is becoming increasingly rare.
These BBS style wheels really look great on an E46 sedan... the design has aged well.
More great wheels: I really love Rotiform wheels. Look how they can transform a plain old Golf

Friday, October 26, 2018

The 2018 track season ends on a high note.

Two track Civics in the ICAR paddock
I was really hoping for a last 2018 track event at St-Eustache, but it was not to be. On the two Mondays following Thanksgiving, it rained and Carl decided that it wasn't worth it to have lapping in such conditions this late in the year. This left me with only one hope to get on track one last time this season: a Wednesday evening at ICAR.

I found myself constantly checking the weather starting on Monday... I didn't want to get my hopes up afther the disappointment of the last couple of Mondays. It seemed as if there would be clear skies Wednesday, but when I woke up Wednesday morning, it was raining, and almost snowing. It was hard to imagine that any track in the area could possibly be dry by the evening. Then, after lunch, a miracle: the sun came out. I messaged the organizers to confirm the event was on, and left the office early to try to get ahead of the traffic heading north out of the city.

Sometimes, everything comes together to create an unexpected, memorable time. Wednesday was one of those times. I hit pretty serious traffic, even on my way to the highway, but the car seemed OK, and I had left myself a nice time buffer to make sure I was at the track before it opened at 5:30. I really wanted to be on track as early as possible, as my last time at ICAR, a few weeks ago, I only got to see the track after dark. When you drive on a track you don't know that well (and where you had a major crash only a year ago), it's not easy to drive fast, as you can't see the details around the track. These days, the sun sets at around 6:00 pm, which meant that I could only hope for one session in broad daylight.

After stopping for gas, I was at the track well before 5:00 pm. Even though I didn't have access to the paddocks, I was able to park in a nearby lot and start to prepare the car. I was joined by a fellow Civic coupe owner whom I had met before and we chatted as we checked over our cars. Like me, he needed to add a splash of oil. By the time the gate opened at 5:30, I had checked my tire pressures, added oil and installed my GoPro.

There were only 3 cars ready to roll (myself, the grew Civic coupe, and a Mazda 2 driven by a guy I know whose RX8 is in the shop). We headed out (in broad daylight) and I wasn't really worried about my lap times. I just wanted to refamiliarize myself with the layout and try to figure out how I had been seven seconds slower than Pat in my car last time out... on that occasion, I had managed a 2:04 while Pat had hit the 1:57's. I didn't plan to hit 1:57, but I figured I should be able to get close.

The session went well. Visibility was good and I was basically alone out there, since the other two cars were slower than mine. I managed to dip under the 2-minute mark after a few laps and figured I was starting to string together a few good sequences of corners. The car still understeered loudly in the slower corners, but it felt good over all. Late in the session, my lap timer indicated I was 1.5 seconds faster than my best lap of 1:59, but the checker fell before I reached the finish line, so my potential 1:58 lap didn't register.

I came into the pits and there were still very few cars around, and none seemed ready to go out on track. Normally, I take a break between sessions and add some engine oil, but I figured I would take a gamble that I had added enough oil for two sessions before the first one. I lined up straight away for the next session to make the most of the rapidly fading daylight. I didn't get a good look at the cars behind me, but saw that there was a Ford Focus coming out on track. I was sent out right away, before the other cars even lined up behind me. I was quite happy about this, as I would not have to spend a couple of laps warming up the tires and I would get a second session in mostly daylight. Coming around certain corners, I could see the Focus' headlights in the distance, but it never caught up to me. By my third lap, I was in the 1:57's and on my last complete lap, I caught the Mazda 2 as I managed my best lap of the day, a 1:56.83. The session was almost over and I began to feel a vibration through the steering wheel, so I decided to end my session (and season) there, on a high note.

I had managed to get in my two sessions by 6:20 pm. I was happy to note that the Focus that had not caught up to me was a Focus RS, which is a pretty quick car. I think that running in the 1:56 range will put me square in the middle of the pack, based on what I saw when Pat was running my car in September. On my way home, I could feel the vibration and I am pretty sure it's an axle problem, as it only occurs under acceleration. I got home much earlier than expected, and very satisfied about how my last track event of the season had gone.

Could the evening have gone better? Maybe... it would have been fun to dice with other cars on the track. But I really can't complain: I shaved 8 seconds off my lap time from September and confirmed that the ignition problem was solved by the replacement of the distributor. The Civic will likely only need only minimal work before being ready for the 2019 season. Even though there is still room for improvement in my driving, I look forward to returning to ICAR now that I have a better handle on the track.  I made some  detailed track notes that should help me next year. I still enjoy St-Eustache more than ICAR, but I have to face the reality that St-Eustache will only be open for one more season, and that I will find myself lapping at ICAR more and more in the future. Basically, I have to learn to love ICAR...

My lap times at ICAR:
Best lap in a Super Production Challenge race (2013), 2000 Civic SiR with Integra Type R engine and BFGoodrich Sport Comp II tires: 1:56.50
Best lap with the 2000 Civic SiR after H23A engine swap (2014): 1:52.66
Best lap with 2002 Civic SiR, K24 engine and 6-speed transmission (2017): 1:57.94
Best lap with current car, 2000 Civic DX with JDM Integra GSR engine (2018): 1:56.83

Vince's ICAR track notes:

Turns 1 and 2: you can brake pretty late, downshift 4-3, a bit of trail braking can help get the car rotated. After this turn, you can get on the gas fairly hard, almost flat out through turn 2 to the braking point for turn 3.

Turn 3: Stay in 3rd, early apex it as there is a lot of runoff at the exit. Open up the steering wheel early and get on the gas. After the rumble strips on the right at the exit, cross over the black painted area to get a better line for the esses.

Turns 4-5: shift to 4th just before the turn-in for turn 4. Hard acceleration through turn 4, then lift and let the car settle before the turn input for 5. Roll onto the gas through 5 and cross over to the right to set up turn 6.

Turn 6: remain in 4th gear, you barely need to tap the brakes just to settle the nose for the turn in for this very quick turn. There are rumble strips on exit if you run a bit wide, but they are not bad.

Turn 7: Brake hard, downshift 4-3, don’t worry about clipping the inside of the track early. Look through the corner and get on the gas early, as soon as you can see that you will make the super late apex on the left. It's OK to run over the rumble strips at the apex.

Turns 8-9-10: as you accelerate before turn 8, grab 4th just as you are turning in. Come in close to the rumble strip on the right, then let the car move out left again. When the red and white runs out on the left and turns black, lift or brake for turn 9. Hit the rumble strip on the right to apex turn 9. Cheater/fast line: let the car coast out wide after the apex of 9. Cross over the yellow line on the left onto the green zone, basically outside track limits. Be careful not to come into the area too hot, the barriers are very close on the left! Cross back over the line just after the end of the red and white stripes. Spot the apex of 10 and hit the gas! This whole sequence can almost be done with a single steering input.

Turns 11-13: downshift to 3rd, clip the apex at the left rumble strip and open up the wheel. Turns 12 and 13 can be taken flat out, with a 3-4 upshift before turn 13. 

Turns 14-15: downshift to 3rd as you brake for turn 14, which is a late apex hairpin. After you track out, you need to cross back to the left to set up turn 15. If when tracking out of 14, you accidentally exceed track limits on the right, there is no real consequence. As soon as you reach the left side of the track, it’s time to turn in for 15. Constant throttle or a small lift to plant the nose before rolling to full throttle. You do not need to hit the inside rumble strip to apex 15. It’s more important to roll onto the gas as early as possible to maximize speed on the front straight. You should be ready for the 3-4 upshift right at the end of the rumble strips of turn 15.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Breakdown #4

I should have realized it when the rpm seemed to cut coming around the "oval-in" corner at St-Eustache that the distributor was about to fail again, but I stayed on track. Sure enough, a couple of laps later, the car died due to a lack of spark, for the 4th time in the past few weeks... I coasted to the pit lane on the oval part of the track.

Waiting for tow truck number 4
As I was unable to restart the car even after waiting an hour, I called CAA and used my last available tow (until summer 2019!). I had to face the reality that, even though I don't know how much longer I want to keep this engine, I would need to spend a few bucks on a new distributor. There was no point in changing components in the old distributor, especially given that Carl had a brand new one at his home, part of his spares kit ofr his Integra Type R. It was new in the box. My decision was made for me when I tried unsuccessfully to start the car a couple of days after the failure (usually, it would still start after a cooling off period of a few hours). I needed to move the car to the other side of the street if I wanted to avoid a parking ticket the next morning, so I called Carl and told him I would be over later in the evening to pick up the new dizzy. I installed it, tried to align it like the old one, and the car started (after a few attempts).

New distributor, thanks to Carl
 I took the car out on an errand yesterday (buying winter tires for the Saabaru) and it performed flawlessly. I really think/hope the ignition problem is fixed, but the only way to know for sure is to drive the car on track. I like that the Civic is still usable, as a car. I easily loaded in 4 tires, even though the car has all my track stuff in it too. I even did groceries on the way home. The car is much more pleasant to drive with the quieter exhaust, and it's almost therapeutic to drive the car at night when there is almost no traffic. Carl promised he would try to hold one more lapping Monday before winter. It rained Monday this week, so maybe it will be October 22nd.

Clearly the season is almost over...
The car is ready for one last event
I often see this Shelby GT350 in the neighbourhood
I'm not the only one in the area that leaves a track car parked on the street. This GT4 is always in its spot.
A lovely MGA in amazing condition
I often see this cool beige GT3 in Old Montreal
Jaguar XK-RS is a rare sight

Friday, September 28, 2018

Breakdown #3

On my first attempt to lap St-Eustache under 1:02, I had a GPS malfunction and my external GPS was not communicating with my phone. I saw a lap of 1:01.9, but I can't rely on that data.

Civic at the track
I figured I had another chance last Monday, September 24th. My first session was cut short after a best lap at 1:02.6, when a fellow instructor lost a wheel on his BMW. In the next session, my distributor died yet again... I coasted back to the pits. It was again either the igniter or the coil. The car started after 30 minutes and I tried to drive home, but the engine died again after about 3 km. I had to call CAA for the third time in a few weeks.

I changed the coil and the car starts, but I won't know if the problem is solved until I attempt to take it on track again, hopefully Monday, which may be the last Monday night lapping of the year.

Back on the flatbed
I went to check on the Saab winter car. It started right up with no battery boost. The windshield cracked and will need to be changed. The car will need new winter tires, and I will likely install them on the OEM 17-inch wheels, which look cool in my opinion.

997 Turbo still looks cool
Rare 9-3 Turbo X
The Civic parked on the street, as usual
Tasteful WRX STi
A nice M3 on the way to J's school
Alfa Spider Graduate
Rare colour for an E46 M3
The 993 Targa looks better with age

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The only photo of my first sports car

This is the only photo I have of my first sports car: a 1987 Mazda RX7 Turbo II. This was my second car (my first was a Dodge Aries I had bought from my Mom). I never had money to fix it properly and it used more gas than a V8 Mustang. I hade a love/hate relationship with the car because it was so expensive for me to own, given that I was a student. Also, I had not yet discovered track driving, so I never got to enjoy it on track. Do I regret selling it today? Not really, it was not in the best condition over all and if I really wanted another one today, I could sell my Civic and buy one. For a track car, I prefer the Civic.

The RX7 just before I sold it
 As far as car spotting goes, there are fewer exotics and classics on the road these days, but still some interesting stuff:

The best angle for the Civic
Rare aftermarket wheels on a Tesla
Nice wheels on this Civic
The RS3 looks better from the front than from the rear
My first choice for a daily driven dream car
Nice wheels on this 350Z
I would consider a clean WRX like this as my next winter car
Surprising spot: a fire rescue Nissan Patrol
Nice Golf R32 on Porsche wheels