Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I had a great Thanksgiving. It didn't start out great. I awoke to rain clouds, thinking that my lapping day at St-Eustache might be cancelled. It wasn't. I went to the track to get the race car ready for some lapping. I threw on some 2-year-old Kumho V710's that were near the end of their lifespan.

I headed out onto the track for the first time in a few weeks (it had been even longer since I'd had a fully functional car). Three of the Honda's that had done really well at the last Solo 1 event were there too. At that event, I had been over 2 seconds off the pace due to power loss from the engine. The engine had since been fixed and I had full power.

There were quite a few wet spots on the track in my first session and I was quite cautious out there. The car felt a bit squirelly. For the second session, I bumped up the tire pressures by 4 psi to take into account the cold weather. Indeed, the pressures barely went up 5 psi in a 20-minute session.

The effect of the pressure increase was dramatic and the car felt great. I had a couple of slides and a spin in the esses, but nothing too hairy. After the session, I checked the tires and one of the fronts had a small chunk missing from the tread. When I removed the rear to swap it to the front, I saw that it had also chunked. I did a 3-way rotation to have the best 2 tires in the front. In the following session, the steering wheel began to vibrate and the grip was falling off. This culminated in me going straight off at the Caroussel when the brakes locked up. I drove a bit on the grass and rejoined the track. I pitted at the end of that lap to go get some different tires. When removing the front left, I saw that it had pretty much delaminated. The tread was gone over 2/3 of the tire, showing nothing but cord in most areas. That's what the end of the season is for: killing almost dead tires.

Changing wheels at the track
I threw on some used Hankook Z214's and the car felt fantastic again. I had the confidence to go flat out through the oval-in (where I totalled my 91 Civic in 2004) on one occasion, but the car understeered and it ruined the entry into the dogleg. In my last session of the day, I decided on a particular lap that I would not lift through that corner. I realized that when you decide early and commit to not lifting, you can focus on other aspects of the corner. I went through flat out, making small corrections with the steering, and it felt safe. I don't know if it was faster than part throttle, but it was quite satisfying. In that last session, I easily caught and passed one of the three Honda's that had crushed me at the Solo 1, so I feel that I must have been putting in some pretty good laps by that point.

I left the car at Trac and headed to my parents' to meet Alex and the family for Thanksgiving dinner. On the way, I called Pat and he told me that the blue Civic was already ready to be picked up. I convinced Alex to make a detour after the dinner for that purpose. We went to get the car around 10 pm. I was excited. Pat told me about a couple of issues and that he thought the car felt a bit slow. When I drove it, it felt as expected. The original exhaust system is probably a bit restrictive, but the car feels responsive and makes decent power. Things to fix: the exhaust rattles at a certain rpm (Pat admitted he forgot to put on two exhaust rubbers though), the driver side headlight still only works intermittently and the alignment is quite scary. Also, the rear tires sometimes rub when I go over bumps. There is a grind on the upshift to 3rd at high RPM, but I guess that it was unrealistic to expect perfect mechanicals for 800$. Hopefully, I can have most these items fixed in the next few days so that I can make this Civic my primary car. I'll start with the headlight and by changing the faulty speakers (the seemingly easy stuff).

All in all, it was a very satisfying day. The race car is running strong. The street car is running (period). I can't complain.

Cool cars spotted:
Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
2008 Subaru WRX

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