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2015 Solo Nats...Lincoln NE....

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  • #16
    Just chiming in for a recap:

    I've been running my G35 in ESP although my season was delayed when I had signs of a headgasket failure early in the season. The car had overheated at the end of last year due to a radiator cap failing (and I wasn't checking coolant as regularly as I should have) so I think the problem became worse when I first tried to run it earlier this year. The delayed start meant that I didn't have as much setup time as I had planned, and also some issues with Panda in the middle of the year set things back even further.

    Coming off a close second at the Wilmington Tour (after coning away the win), I thought the car would at least have enough pace to run close to the front. With Koni having the trailer at Nats, I made preparations to get my shocks checked out, run higher spring rates, and hope the balance stayed the same from Wilmington to Lincoln. At some point during that, Mike Lane offered up the Penskes from is BSP 350z, so I took him up on it and swapped them in first thing before the Pro Finale, where I was running the car in SM (since I didn't have enough events in ESP to run that class).

    In the first heat of the Pro, I attached a makeshift spoiler to test some aero that I hadn't had the chance to run earlier. This was the beginning of a long chain of mistakes as it utterly ruined the balance of the car. In the second session I pulled the aero and the balance was restored, resulting in improved times, enough to at least run with the front of ESP despite being on my worst set of tires. "Great" I figured, "if I can balance the aero I'll get more grip and keep the balance." So, that night I bought some plywood and fabbed up a splitter. Sunday with both aero pieces resulted in much better driving, but no improvement in time. Review of the video showed I was fighting the front end for grip, and without rotation on the high speed sweepers I was just scrubbing time, despite driving better.

    Wishing I had more time, I booked a test and tune session and ran the car with the rear spoiler cut down an additional 3" and the front splitter. Ran the car there in mixed conditions, but was keeping up with one of the front running SSR cars. That gave me a lot of confidence to say the aero was working, as the car was balanced going into Nationals competition. I knew better... the T&T course and the surface for Nationals are slightly different, and there are often balance changes between the two. NEVER settle for balance on the T&T course. I've told this to countless people, but figured I'd be OK starting on the very transitional West course. I figured wrong..

    Tuesday at Nats we started on the West course, which I figured would be the strong side for the G vs the Mustangs. I had the course memorized and imagined driving through the course and spotting every key cone until I could do it quickly without even thinking. The prep worked, and I started off with a moderately quick and clean run, putting me in 2nd at the time, but about a second off the pace of Brian Peters. "OK, just clean up your lines and push harder into the braking zones", I thought. This didn't fare well, and I tagged a cone on the run out. Knowing this, I pushed a bit too hard to try and see what I could get away with, but the time overall ended up slower. Into the third run, I had told myself that if I wasn't close to the top, I'd pull the aero and just drive it, but kept second guessing myself until my codriver made the executive decision to start pulling things, and could only get the spoiler off for his run, which unfortunately screwed his final run up. With the splitter removed for my last run, I went for the start launch only to realize I left the VDC on! It took about 9 tries, but I was able to get traction control off by the first hard pin, but by then it was too late. The balance of the car was better, so that even with a slide through the showcase sweeper (ring of fire or something) and VDC on for 1/3 of the run, I was only 0.8 off my first run. By this point, I had to settle for my first run, and had dropped back to 3rd. Going into day 2 on the high speed East while sitting on a first run was a bit disheartening, as everyone was saying that course was all power, and the G is easily the least powerful car in the class.

    Wednesday was pretty much a day to just go for it. I didn't go to Nationals to trophy, so it didn't matter to me whether I had a clean run or not, I just wanted to get a top time on a course that I was handicapped on. On the first run out I hit my marks pretty well and realized I could carry more speed through some sectors than I had imagined, but came in with a clean time, 3rd fastest in the class but still a full second off Peters, who had checked out by then. Run 2 I nailed a cone early and like Tuesday, just pushed through some of the risk-reward sections to test the waters (resulting in a 2nd cone). The time dropped, despite losing some time in the "truck stop" and pushing wide on the exit. Into the 3rd run, I just wanted to be best of the rest, and dropped in a high 52-second run which would be 3rd fastest for the class that day, and less then a tenth out of second. Probably should have switched to the high-rev map and gained a couple mph... but just another lesson for next time. In the end, I had to settle for 3rd best in ESP, and despite being happy with how I drove and how far the car has come in just 3 months, I'm a little disappointed to have been 2.8 seconds off the top spot. Next year is a new year, though, and there's definitely some room for improvement for both the car and driver!

    In SM, we struggled to find balance as the car received a new subframe and had the front suspension pulled just before Nats (car has bee eating strut inserts). Since I had been concentrating on the G, I left it to Dave and Todd to do the repairs and maintenance. Apparently when the car went back together, none of the alignment did! Having to chase the car a lot during the Pro, they were set back to 2nd and 3rd as I tried to help chase down their handling issues. Thankfully Steve Ekstrand lent me a set of scales to re-corner the car after re-aligning it. Getting all the front camber back in and un-binding the swaybars, the car went back to normal and the team went into Thursday on the East course with confidence.

    On the high speed East, Panda was right at home. The car accelerates with the best of them above 40mph, and it was obvious the car was in its powerband the entire time as it was constantly on the 70+ limiter, even on the way out and through the initial 3-cone slalom. Some hiccups occurred as the car died while idling after Todd's last run. A quick diagnosis showed the alternator had died (for some reason a common issue on my car) so we swapped to the battery from my G35. Despite being on battery only, Dave dropped the hammer on the final run to secure the only 50.x time in class, with a 0.7 second lead over Todd going into day 2. I think with a slightly cleaner run and more power (car was misfiring a bit without alternator power), Namer's time in SSM was attainable.

    The West course more closely resembled our home course at Devens, which is pretty much all slaloms and offsets. Once there, Dave wasted no time securing the lead, dropping the only 59.x in class. On run 2 I told him he needed a mid-58 to run for PAX over Billy Davis (who we're normally running against on PAX), which resulted in a dirty but faster 59.1. Into the last run, the alternator belt tore off (probably just not tensioned properly, or the quest alternator didn't line up right) and Dave was once again on battery power, meaning his final run was only slightly faster than his first. Todd managed to keep 2nd as Aaron Shoe slowed down to clean up his last run, securing an all-East Coast podium.

    I was glad to see some new builds out there, and Jason's car was looking fast when it was running. I think there's a lot to be said about the amount of development it takes to win the class, though, as the top cars still appear a bit more composed than the rest. A few of the newer builds seem to be a handful to drive, but on paper should be a lot faster than my car. With some time and experience, I expect the field to tighten up at the top. Until then, I'll be tweaking things bit by bit to keep Panda where it is

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    • #17
      Good write up and great driving.

      It takes a bit of work to keep an SM car up and running. The closer I get to where it should be competitive, the more work it is to maintain.
      Chicago Region SCCA SM # 688 http://www.scca-chicago.com
      TSSCC SM # 688 http://www.tsscc.org

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