Thursday, July 26, 2018

Wettest track day ever at Tremblant

Yesterday I attended the wettest track day I’ve attended, ever. It rained all day, non stop, sometimes at a medium rate, sometimes heavy. It also rained the whole way there and I arrived at Tremblant later than planned, just as the instructor meeting was beginning.

The drive to Tremblant was nerve wracking… I have almost new tires on the Civic, but still the car was hydroplaning on certain sections of highway 15, due to massive water accumulation in the ruts that have formed over the years. I guess it’s a combination of wide tires and a light car, because when I rode with my students in their much heavier BMW’s, they did not seem to hydroplane as much.

Anyway, the unloading and preparation of the Civic, although quick, already left me soaking wet. As I headed out for the first session of the day, I could not help to laugh as I very slowly made my way around the track. I didn’t set up any data acquisition or the camera, because it was pointless in such terrible conditions. There was so much water on the track that it was impossible to avoid deep puddles and rivers, no matter what line you took. It was not like regular wet driving… there was hydroplaning every single lap… I’m not exaggerating.

After 2 full sessions and the lunch break, I headed out again in very heavy rain. After 2 laps, I came in. I wasn’t having any fun and I didn’t see the point of continuing. I spent about 45 minutes trying to get my driver side window rolled up (they make you run window down at that club, no negotiation. I was comically wet by this point. When I got some help and finally got the window up, I decided I was not doing this again and loaded up the car. My students were running solo and doing well, so I got permission to leave early, and I was home before dinner.

Windows closed, but water still getting in...
How did the car perform? The ECU problem never came up. The car felt stable. It takes on massive amounts of water in these conditions, I think through the floor, firewall and trunk. I don’t think it’s a major issue, I don’t plan on ever using the car in such conditions again, as I don’t see the point. I just want to go drive the frikkin car in normal conditions for once, not 35-degree heat, not massive rain storms… I guess I just have to be patient.

Civic ready to head home
Here is what I remember about the extreme wet line:

River across the track coming up to turn 2. Just drive straight through with wheels straight. Luckily, turns 2 and 3 had no water accumulation. 

Apex of 5 full of water, use the outside half of the road. 

Lots of standing water beore and after turn 6.

Turn 7 is fine, but after the turn, you have to keep to the right of the track to avoid huge amounts of standing water. As you approach 8, there is so much standing water that there is no way to avoid it. This was the scariest part of the lap.

Decent grip in turn 8. On the run up the hill to 9, there is another river running across the track and you will probably get wheel spin. I decided to time my 3-4 upshift with this area, and take my time shifting. After that, the left side of the track allows you to continue full throttle. 

After the hump, there is a big patch of standing water just before the braking zone. I usually lifted before that patch, then braked in the usual braking zone. 

Turn 10 is pretty normal, except there is a big puddle right at the apex, so leave a few feet from the dry apex. 

Turn 11 and 12 have good grip. 

Before turn 13, there is a massive amount of water on the track. The braking zone for 14 is fine, as is the corner. There is a lot of water at paddock bend, and the regular apex is submerged. After the bend, you can accelerate decently well before the big, early lift for turns 1 and 2.

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...