Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A different kind of race

The race car is heading to Calabogie this weekend for a double race weekend. The driving will be shared by Carl and Pascal St-Cyr, one of the other instructors in our group. It will be his first wheel-to-wheel race and I'm glad to be able to provide him with a car for the occasion.

The Civic continues to do everything asked of it. Unfortunately, I was unable to install the final drive that would help the car accelerate a bit better, as it was incompatible with my differential. I did install a Cherry Bomb glass-pack that made the car much quieter on the street (and a bit quieter on the track). I took it for a spin Monday and, with dead front tires, managed a best lap of 1:04.1. Tires make a bigger difference than they used to when I had more power. The car is now utterly dependent on handling now to turn fast lap times. I was almost always on the track Monday and I had five different students (Elise, AMG C55, E46 M3, E90 325 and Mazda Protege). After driving an M3 for the third time on track, I still think it's a great car. I was disappointed with the AMG... I thought I would hear the engine more. The Elise is extremely competent, but not foolproof. Pascal and I exchanged cars in the last session. His Civic has 202 whp, a lot more than mine, and it showed. It was on Falken Azenis performance tires and the difference in compound, even compared to my shot race tires, was obvious under braking. Pascal drove well, as I noted on the lap timer that he was only 0.3 seconds off my pace.

Here are a couple of Jeremy's photos of me in my car and in Pascal's:

Back to back Civic drives
Pascal's Civic
I noticed the handling of Pascal's car was quite different from mine. After the front end grips, you can feel a fraction of a second later that the rear wants to rotate. It's unnerving at first, but you get used to it. It turns out he has a 24 mm rear sway bar (I have no rear sway bar). With my Civic, the car takes a set, and that's pretty much how it's going to behave through the corner. I don't know which setup is ultimately faster. We are now running 800 lb/ft springs in front and 1000 in the rear and it's not at all scary as I feared it would be. The race car is indeed still confidence-inspiring and easy to drive.

I saw a Nissan 370Z up close for the first time. I like it. The size and proportion is just right. I don't like the headlights, tail lights or door handles, but those are just details. I saw a Ferrari 348 on the road. I still love the way it looks. I wonder what it's really like to own one...

I've been focusing on a different kind of racing these days. My friend/coach Nico and I are planning on running a 21 km mountain race (running with our feet!) on October 17th. Nico's father in France, who is a mean long-distance runner, has put us on an 11-week training program that started yesterday. The plan has us running 3-4 times a week until the race, sometimes for two hours. The race should take us about 3 hours, due to the big elevation changes. One thing I like about running these races: money is not an excuse, as it is when racing cars. You are the engine. If you suck, it's your own fault. I bought some neat mountain running shoes last weekend (La Sportiva Wildcat) and tried them out twice so far. They seem to have a lot more grip on the steep trails and inspire much more confidence than my road-biased shoes. I hope to be able to stick to the plan and complete the race in October with a respectable time.

Cool cars spotted:
Acura NSX
Ferrari 348
Lamborghini Gallardo
Maserati GT
R32 Skyline GT-R
Porsche 997 turbo
Jaguar XF-R

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