Thursday, April 21, 2016

First track outing with the new Civic ay the AISA school

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The Civic on the back straight
I finally got to try the Civic on the track last weekend at the AISA race school at St-Eustache. As an instructor, I had access to one lunchtime session on each day, so I had to make them count. Before the event, I hadn't taken the time to change the pads and bleed the brakes, as I figured the brake temperatures would not be that bad with only one session per day. I set the tires at 32 psi all around, taped my cheap camera to the bumper and put my phone with the Race Chrono app in my phone holder and off I went.

The first things I noticed when heading out on track was that the car seemed really tall in comparison to my last Civic (it is, of course, much taller). After a few laps, I got used to this, however, and did not feel as if the car were going to tip over any more. As for the tires, I was hoping they would have awesome grip... that wasn't the case. They were OK, but I guess I had been expecting more from the most aggressive street tires out there. I think this was due to having run too high a pressure and just expecting too much from a 205 width tire on a 2700-pound car. The brakes began to fade after only a few laps, but, with help from the ABS, I didn't mind continuing my braking into the beginning of the corners located after the heavy braking zones. Aa far as lap times, I had sort of predicted the car would lap in the 1:02 to 1:03 range at St-Eustache with good tires (my old Civic lapped in 1:00) and hoped to achieve a 1:04 or 1:03 in my first weekend on track. The Race Chrono lap timer app on my phone was working from the start, and there is a rectangle at the bottom which is red or green, to tell you if you are in the plus or minus in comparison to your best lap of the session. Pretty neat. You don't even have to look right at the phone, as you can see the colour of the rectangle out of the corner of your eye. My first lap was a depressing 1:08, but I settled into the 1:05's after a while. True to myself, I achieved my best lap, in the 1:04's, while chasing another instructor's car (a Miata). Here are some of the things I noticed: the gearing of the car was near perfect for St-Eustache, as it was clear that 2nd gear was the one needed for the slower corners, and I could rev out 3rd in two of the high speed sections. It helped that I raised the redline from 7100 rpm to 7500 the night before the event (using the Hondata K-Pro). The power of the car is its best feature. What I really missed was my race seat and harness. Even though the seats in the Civic are excellent, they do not really hold you in place like a race bucket and you find yourself bracing yourself a lot. I was very happy with the pedal position and was managing to heel-toe with no problem. The first session was therefore uneventful and I was satisfied with the car so far.

Before the Sunday session, another instructor, Alex, helped me change the front pads to race pads and at least bleed the front brakes. I also lowered the tire pressures in front (to 26 psi on the front right, 28 on the front left). I went out and the car felt better, mainly due to being able to really lean on the brakes. The ABS barely came on. I was hitting the 1:04's more regularly. The car felt very stable, and the limiting factor seemed to be front end grip. I saw fellow instructor Karl up  ahead on the track of me in a bone-stock 2014 Civic Si sedan, and slowly chased him down. The 2014 Si also has a K24, but it's a heavier car. It does, however, have a better 6-speed transmission and a limited-slip differential. It was a fun session, and I clocked a best lap of 1:04.0. I hadn't achieved my goal of a 1:03, but I wasn't too far off. With a few laps under my belt, I can now set my goal for the season: without any further modifications, I would like to see a high 1:02. How can I shave off more than a second without any further modifications? Tire pressures and driving: I think that I still haven't found the optimal front tire pressures (front right still rose to 45 psi hot) and that I can also improve my driving when I get a better feel for the car.

The school generally went  quite well. We had some quick drivers and some quick cars in the advanced group, as we usually do. One of my students had a new Porsche 911 (991) GT3. When he was forced to sit out one session, he suggested I take his car out for a few laps with his girlfriend (who was also a student) in the passenger seat. He didn't have to ask me twice! Of course, I left the traction control and stability control in "full nanny-mode", and even so, I took it easy. Still, I managed to have a memorable few laps, as the car has so much grip that I could accelerate pretty quickly, even with the constraints I had given myself. The car was just so darn stable and the acceleration was so linear. I found the brake pedal to be quite hard and often thought I was on the verge of engaging the ABS, but I eventually pressed harder, and the car just braked even more. I am not used to carbon ceramic brakes, but I guess that to get the most out of them, you have to lean on that brake pedal. I managed to keep up with one of my students in his C7 Corvette Z06, which was a bit surreal, given the way it accelerated on the straights. Over all, it was a fun time for me.

There is another school in less than two weeks, at Calabogie. I look forward to taking the Civic out on track again. I made a video of my Saturday session (my little camera froze on Sunday and I did not get the better session on film). My friend Dave also sent me a short video of the Civic as seen from the start-finish line, which I incorporated into my video.

The 991 GT3 I got to drive
My old friend Stéphane finally managed to bring out this MR2, which he has owned since the 90's!
A rare photo of me with my car
My old steed was on hand for some testing by Sajan. Even on old tires, he was lapping in the 59's.
Another quick car from my student group
This car stopped by, but did not go on track
Another cool car that never saw the track.

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