Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Back on track... no improvement on lap times, but still a fun time

As I like to do, I got an early start on my way to St-Eustache for Monday night lapping. As soon as I hit the road, I noticed that my steering wheel was way off center. I pulled over to check if my tie rod ends were damages (from the car hitting the brick wall the other day) and they looked fine. I guess that my alignment shop forgot to properly center the steering wheel and that I somehow did not notice on the drive home, which seems strange, but I could find no other explanation.

Anyway, since I was in St-Eustache early, I decided to stop at Canadian Tire and get a Torx T30 scredriver bit so I could remove the airbag, which would allow me to remove the steering wheel with a 19mm socket (same as my lug nuts, so I had the right tools in my bag) and put it back on straight. This worked pretty well, although it's still a tiny bit off from being dead straight.

Civic at rest
By the time I got to the track, it was hot... like 34 degrees. I checked the tire pressures and waited for my session. 

When I finally hit the track, the first thing I noticed was that the new steering ratio was slow... 4 turns lock to lock instead of 3.6 is noticeable. All my steering inputs had to be modified to take this into account, so it was hard for me to establish whether I liked the improved feel of the manual steering rack. I took it easy in the first session, and just barely dipped into the 1:03's at the end of the session... not great as fas as beating my goal of 1:02.7, but at least the car felt solid and predictable. Also, I wasn't the slowest car out there, far from it. Maybe everyone's lap times were affected by the heat? One positive is that the exhaust seems a bit less loud now that it's got a nice coating of carbon in it. It's annoyingly loud, but not deafening anymore. No one mentioned anything about the car being near the sound limit, and it doesn't knock anywhere on the chassis.

I was called in a bit before the end of the session to instruct a student. This was his car:

Huracan Performante
One of three on hand that evening!
I got to drive this beast for a couple of laps to show the student around. It is lovely: smooth power delivery, very confidence inspiring, sounds amazing, even when you shift at only 6000 rpm. The student liked to rev higher than that. He was doing pretty well by the end of our session. The car is really fast, even on a small technical track. The steering ratio was very quick, which made it tough to get back to the Civic!

I did get back into my car and went a bit quicker, with a 1:03.6. I couldn't imagine shaving off another second in these conditions. I was getting more used to the steering rack, although I had to plan my inputs for the really tight corners and really move my hands a lot. I don't know if this will have been the right choice of steering rack. At least I still have the old one if I change my mind. I noticed that on some occasions, the engine would sputter when I got on the gas. I think it's an electronic issue, since the check engine light has been on since I got the car back from Pat's (in the past, it came on once in a while, but mostly stayed off). 

In my last session, things were going well and I think I would have improved on my lap time had the sputtering issue not worsened. At one point, the engine would not rev at all past a certain RPM. I don't know if the extreme heat was an issue... Anyway, the best I managed was a 1:03.5. 

I'm trying to figure out a way to see what the electronic issue is, but it's unlikely I can fix it before my next track day at Tremblant in one week. Hopefully it won't hurt the car's performance too much. 

Ready for the drive back home

Monday, July 16, 2018

Back from vacation

Last Thursday we got back from our trip to Paris and Estonia and it was back to work the next day for both of us. It was a great trip, we all had fun, I loved Estonia, we all loved Paris... More details to come.

The day we left on the trip, my Civic rolled down the driveway into the neighbour's stackable garden bricks. I was able to put the bricks back, but it really ruined my front bumper. When I got back, one of the first things I did was take the bumper cover off and do what I could to make it hold together. It doesn't look as bad as it did, but now there is one more thing on the list of small repairs to be done.

I will finally get to try the car on track tonight and see how it feels after all the repairs Pat made to the car. I really hope I can improve my lap times... there are people with similar cars who are 2 seconds per lap faster than me... It's going to be hot, but I will be disappointed nonetheless if I don't improve on my best times right away. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

F1 Week and the Civic still not ready for action

I dropped by Pat's garage to fix a dent on the BMW and got to see the Civic with its new fender rails. The car is not ready for action yet because Pat is just really busy with the garage. Hopefully I'll get it back before my vacation at the end of next week. 

New fender rail is in
... on each side.
As is the case every year, there were a ton of cool cars to see during the week of the Canadian Grand Prix. There seemed to be a remarkable amount of Mclarens this year. Porsche had a major display set up on Peel street. They had many of the brand's best on display: Carrera GT, 997 GT3 4.0 RS, 991 GT2 RS, 911R... all parked next to each other. They had a 991 on display on which kids could place leave their had prints, which Jules and Oscar were happy to do. 

Aventador Roadster
991 GT3 in a subtle colour
Ultra rare: Carrera GT
997 GT3 4.0RS
Jules leaving a hand print on a 991
... Oscar too
991 GT2 RS
And another
Mclaren and 991 in Old Montreal
The usual suspects at the LH Hotel
Mclaren with 2 more in the background
Cool AMG C63 coupe
One of my favourite Mclarens: the 650S
I like the colour combo on this MR2
These Acura Vigors have become extremely rare
New Aston Martin Vantage
An older race-spec Vantage
Mclarens on display in Old Montreal
A rare C7 Z06
Yet another 991 GT3
Retro-themed Montreal police car
My buddy Mazen's BMW 340i

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mechanical Restoration of the Civic

Following Pat's assessment of the car when I asked him to change my axle, I bought a bunch of parts (luckily nothing over 80$) and dropped the car at his shop earlier today.

It's disappointing to carry out so much work on the car without gaining any performance advantage. The work he is doing is basically a mechanical restoration of the car. In fact, if you look at all the work I have done to the car (OK, there hasn't been that much...), I have kept my promise to just drive it "as is" for this season and just fix things.

Still, I have managed to fix almost all the things that I hated about the car. Basically, everything I physically had to touch on the car was either was low-end or broken : cheap rubber base model shifter (replaced by 9$ Ebay shifter), cheap, oversized and old Acura 1.6 EL steering wheel (replaced last week by smaller Acura RSC leather steering wheel), cracked elbow rest in door panel (replaced by a non-cracked one), unsupportive OEM driver’s seat (replaced by a used OMP WRC race seat), broken parts in the instrument cluster (replaced by an Acura 1.6 el cluster). 

The car is not at Pat's shop
The other things that annoyed me most were the exhaust banging and rattling (to be replaced by Pat with the Ebay exhaust I bought last fall), the idle that was all over the place (fixed by Sajan at Calabogie) and the driver's side window, which does not roll up properly (may be fixed when Pat repairs the window frame).

Hopefully the car will be fixed in time to hit a couple more Monday nights before our summer trip in late June...

There are also several things I have to take care of on the BMW, the most urgent being a small oil leak that seems to be coming from the oil level sensor (which I changed last year, but only started leaking a few weeks ago) and the fact that the temperature creeps up on hot days when you sit in traffic (cooling fan clutch?)... 

Otherwise, there are many cool cars on the road these days:

Lovely spec early Miata
First-gen Viper still looks good
Focus RS looks like a rally car in white
A rare early 2000's AMG C32
One of my favourite cars you can see on the road, becoming more and more valuable
Also rare, not as valuable, Ferrari 328
It doesn't look modern, but it looks good
This M Coupe looked like somebody's track car.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Second Monday at St-Eustache

My second Monday at St-Eustache did not go as well as the first one. I was hoping to improve on my best lap of 1:02.7, given that I had a pair of brand new tires, but it was not to be. I could only manage a best of 1:03.1. Looking at the data, I did not seem to be faster anywhere, despite the new tires. What's my excuse? Maybe the tires are too new and have too much tread, which makes them "squirm" and overheat quickly... it's hard to know. Clearly, there was a problem with my right axle, and I had to cut my last session short as a strong vibration appeared when I turned left.

The car remains fun and easy to drive, however, and I was able to get home without any problem. I went to see Pat Boyer to install the new axle yesterday evening, and he discovered several other issus with the car that will need to be addressed at the same time. The most glaring issue was the terrible condition of the front subframe, which is perforated due to rust. The front frame rails also have holes, but luckily, the parts I need to fix that only cost about 100$.

He also suggested I change some motor mounts and bushings, but none of these items is particularly expensive. At least I was able to replace the huge and ugly rubber-coated Integra steering wheel that came with the car. I found a smaller leather Acura RSX steering wheel for only 50$ with the airbag. When I installed it, I realized the airbag was not compatible with my car, even though my car had a JDM RSX steering wheel when I test drove it. It turns out the North American RSX had a dual-stage airbag, while the JDM one had a single stage one, like older Civics and Integras. The solution was to use parts from both airbags and now I have a much nicer steering wheel in the Civic.

Anyway, the car will be out of commission for at least a few days while I get together the parts I need to fix the most urgent items. Stay tuned!

Cool duo spotted at St-Eustache on Monday

Thursday, May 17, 2018

First Monday at St-Eustache

I headed out to Monday night lapping at St-Eustache for the first time this year. The car was basically as I had left it after renting it out at the Calabogie race school. I put the almost-corded 2016 Hankook RS3's on the front and the fresher RS4's on the rear. I hoped this setup would allow me to improve on my best time so far of 1:03.0, which I had achieved on even older tires. 

In my first session, it took me a while to even get under 1:05 and I ended up with a disappointing best time of 1:04.3. I was still having fun, despite the lousy lap times. The car felt good, other than that the front end was not gripping as I would have liked. 

My second session was not much better, and I clocked a best lap of 1:03.7. In one of these sessions, I was closely following a Scion FRS and we even swapped places for a while. It was quite fun and I had a talk with the other driver afterwards. Carl pointed out that my car was leaking oil while parked and I was trying to figure out where it was coming from. Marc N. theorized that my oil filler cap was not sealing, and it seemed like a realistic theory, so I have since gone out to buy a new one. 

In my last session, I somehow managed to find some speed, probably due to the track cooling down a bit. I achieved my best time yet with this car, a 1:02.7. While looking at the data, I could see that I was not particularly fast anywhere on track. It's hard to predict how fast I can ultimately go with the current setup. With my old coupe, I had managed a 1:00.5 with a 1.8 Type R engine. If I want to dip under 1:01, I need to shave off 1.8 seconds... that'a a lot. Can I get a full second just by switching to fresh tires? Can I get the other 0.8 seconds with cooler temperatures, or better driving? If it doesn't rain on Monday, I will head back to the track with fresh tires and see how much that helps. My new goal for the season in so go under 1:01 at St-Eustache. Can it be done? Stay tuned...

The Civic beside two real Type R's
Carl's Civic is a lot bigger than mine
Ready for cation
Here are some of JAG's awesome photos of the evening.

Back straight
Back straight
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With the FRS
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