Monday, June 29, 2009

The little engine that could.

I have to say that my plan of having a reliable and economical race car this year has been working out nicely. Last Monday, JP checked the timing on the Civic and saw that it was set very conservatively. By adjusting it, the engine instantly felt better. In fact, in only a couple of laps, both Carl and I got down into the 1:03's at St-Eustache, something I had been unable to do so far this year (I'm starting to love that G2X lap timer!). Here's a pic by JAG:
Civic at its home track
One of my students had a Maserati GT that I got to drive for a couple of laps. The car pulled nicely. The paddle shift is really fun on downshifts, but not that different feeling from an automatic on upshifts. Here is a photo by JAG:
My first drive in a Maserati
Carl borrowed the car for the weekend so he could run the GT sprint races at ICAR this weekend. We haven't really had time to talk about how it went, but Carl won his GT5 class in both races and finished in 9th and 8th over all, beating more than half the GT4 cars. He told me that he, JP and Fred Pruneau had made several improvements to the car and that he was running lap times of 1:38.5, which is more than 4 seconds faster than we had achieved a couple of weeks ago at the ICAR lapping night. I look forward to hearing the details. Carl said he had a perfect weekend and the car was great. It seems that returning to a stock motor has not made the car that much less fun to drive!

This weekend, JP and I will be heading to Mosport to instruct at their Solo 1 school. If the weather is nice, I will probably participate in the Solo 1 on Sunday as well to get more track time at Mosport. I really want to get more comfortable there. I think the lap timer will help me keep track of how hard I am pushing. I hope the weather is decent, because I don't have any tires for the wet...

Cool cars spotted:
Lamborghini Gallardo
Ford GT
Lotus Elise
Corvette Z06
Audi RS4
Audi S4 Avant
Audi R8
Ferrari 550
Ferrari F430
Ferrari Testarossa
Bentley Arnage
Maserati Quattoporte
GMC Cyclone

Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting lots of track time!

Since my last post, I have managed to get lots of track time. This was exactly what I had hoped would happen when I installed a stock motor in the race car to cut down on operating costs.

On Sunday June 14th, we hosted a Time Attack at St-Eustache. Although I was one of the organizers, I still managed to get a lot of track time. Also, with the Racepak G2X installed in the car, I could see all my lap times in the car.

The event was a success, but I was not as fast as I woul have liked to be, finishing 14th out of 45 cars with a best lap of 1:04.02. Last fall, I had managed a 1:02.8. I am pretty sure I was driving quite well, and I was trying different things, but I just could not get under 1:04. I can't think of many good explanations... Maybe I'm not in fact driving that well... maybe the new suspension is too stiff for St-Eustache... maybe the motor is down on power for some reason. I really don't know.

Anyway, the event was won by a nicely modified Subaru STi and JP managed an incredible lap of 1:01.4. Wow, I'm really beginning to think the guy is a natural. His Civic has the same engine as mine, it's a bit lighter and he has the 4.785 Japanese final drive in his transmission. Also, he was running on Hoosiers, the best DOT race tire there is. Still, 2.6 seconds faster than me is a lot!

I bought one of those cheap USB flip cams at Canadian Tire and taped it to my bumper for a couple of laps. I later returned the camera after the tripod mount broke off, but here's a small video I made with the file:

The day after the Time Attack, there wwas another opportunity to lap at St-Eustache on Monday night. I only got to do half a session before it started to rain and I was still no faster than 1:04.

A few days earlier, we had been invited to instruct by the 944 RacingClub guys at ICAR, the reconfiguralble track they laid out at the Mirabel airport. On Wednesday, I took the afternoon off so I could be sure to arrive at the track nice and early before the event began at 5:00 pm. I was eager to drive this track because they had changed te layout since I was there last year and because I had not driven my own car there (JP had lent me his). This is the new layout:
Track layout
There were several exotic cars there, but I did not see them much on the track. The car felt pretty good, but it was not turning in precisely and decisively. I noticed that JP's car was when he passed me. I'm thinking the only difference in our setups is camber. Anyway, here is some of the video I made:

And here is a pic of me driving the car at ICAR:

On track at ICAR
Carl will be racing there with my car in one week. He might even have time to install the camber kit before the event. Good luck Carl!

Cool cars spotted:
Ferrari 599
Ferrari F430
Lotus Elise
Lotus Seven replica
Nissan GT-R
Bentley Continental
Corvette Z06
Acura NSX
Porsche 997 Turbo
1983 Porsche Carrera
Buick Grand National
Dodge Viper SRT10
Aston Martin DB9
Audi R8
Audi S5
Audi RS4

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The racing season is well underway.

We are really in the swing of things now. There seems to be a race-related activity almost every week. I spent last week in Chicago checking out the city where Alex will be living for a few months beginning in August. The city is very nice. It's like a cleaner, more wide open Manhattan and is very pedestrian friendly. We drove 14 hours each way in the Civic. I wish I had cruise control! The car did fine, except that the exhaust pipe broke near the muffler on the way home. Ironically, even with the muffler completely disconnected, the Civic was not as loud as my race car.

What are the cars like in Chicago? There a ton of SUV's, as expected, but also many luxury cars, like Bentley's, AMG's and Quattroporte's. There were not many sports cars. I parked my car for the week and used the very efficient public transportation system.

While I was gone, JP borrowed the Civic for the Spring Classic at Tremblant. He didn't have much competition in his class, but he had a great time and the car performed well. He ran a best time of 2:00.00. One hundredth of a second faster and he would have broken out of his class. What's even more astounding is that he accomplished the exact same fastest lap in qualifying and the race. Is JP some kind of robot?

I was back in town late Saturday and was therefore available to head to the track at St-Eustache for Monday night lapping. There were tons of people. The atmosphere is really fantastic this year. There are a bunch of new drivers, with all sorts of cars, from old VW's and Civic's to new M-cars and Porsche's. I had three different students, two of them with new turbo Jetta's and one with an Evo 10. This presented me with an opportunity to drive the Evo for a couple of laps. It was quite enjoyable: the car felt tight and willing to take a lot. The acceleration was not monstrous, but it was always available. Great car. Here is a pic by JAG of me instructing the owner:
Trying out the Evo 10
I also managed a session in the race car. We hooked up Carl's G2X lap timer. I only managed a 1:04.4 while JP did a 1:03.8. Our Toyo tires had too much tread to be at their optimal performance level. This Sunday, we are hosting a time attack at St-Eustache. I hope that JP can have his car ready so we can duke it out with almost identical cars! It looks like it will be a great event with 50 or more cars. Here is a pic by JAG of me on Monday:

Civic on track
I've just been invited to instruct at ICAR next Wednesday and that should be fun as well. I haven't tried out the new configuration yet. Carl and JP will be there as well.

Carl mentioned he might rent a ride in a BMW for the 25 hours of Thunderhill in December. He asked if I was interested in splitting the 6-hour ride into two three-hour rides. I would LOVE to do this race, but it's simply not realistic at this point financially, as we just bought a condo and I don't have the disposable income. Even if I did, I would prefer to do the event with my own car or a car worth less money than the E36 M3 the guys will be racing. If I can find a cheap flight, I might be interested in crewing or "covering" the event, writing a huge story about it.

Finally, Alex was not happy with the way she looked in the Barbados rally photo which I published here, so I am posting this photo of her from Chicago (Alex near the famous reflective jelly bean sculpture), which is totally unrelated to the world of cars and racing:
Alex and the Jelly Bean
Cool cars spotted:
Rolls Royce Phantom
Bentley Continental
Lamborghini Gallardo
BMW 633 Csi
BMW M Coupe
Audi RS6
Audi RS4
Audi S6 V10
Audi S8
Ford GT
Lancer Evo 8
Lancer Evo 10
Nissan GT-R
Lotus Elise
Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati GT