Road racing is like a big cool video game. It is just
more real. All-wheel drive makes it so easy!Click here for the
Gingerman photos and videos!
I was the fastest car in
the loosely-defined street and street prepared groups. I like to think this
is true because nobody passed me. A supercharged Mustang was holding behind
for a while but my friend's stock Neon on slicks was catching up in tight
Brakes are almost just as important as engine power. Our brakes
suck! Brakes on most cars are underdesigned for open tracking, and ours is
not an exception. When I press on the brake pedal hard I expect the tires to
squeal and the car to stop, but this was rarely happening. Brakes overheat,
brake pads wear out in no time and rotors warp. My rotors are trashed, the
brake pads are gone. Now I understand why you guys spend 1/3 of the time
talking about brakes! Now I can speak you language too.
Always install new brake pads before going to the race track or take a set of
spares with you. My brake pads had about 60% of the thickness left before I
went there. On the way back home the brake pads were scraping the rotors
with those noisy warning plates. The rotors are warped pretty badly. We were
sitting in a restaurant after the day of riding and I asked if anyone was
feeling the table vibrating. The table was not vibrating, but MY ARMS were...,
after holding onto that steering wheel all day while braking!
I am not sure if it is a good idea to buy aftermarket Power-cryo-porter brake rotors.
Unless you guys convince me that they last forever I think I will either buy
or turn the rotors at Murray's. They give a 1-year warranty on them. I will
buy good brake pads though. On second though, if I warped the stock rotors
on my first track day I will definitely warp them on the next track day,
unless, of course, I slow down :( What should I do???
The tires were squealing like crazy. Those Kumho's are nice and they grip well
(especially on dirt, hehe). But they are very-very noisy at the limit. When
I was making turns everyone on the track was turning heads - they were that
noisy! Some people do not like tires that squeal but I do not care, I will
buy those tires again.
I got black flagged four times. Two times for
squealing tires - the guys just wanted to make sure I was okay because I was
making one helluva noise going through most turns - and two times for some
dirt tracking. The conversation went like: "How are you doing out there?"
"Okay", I respond. "Having fun?" "Yep", I go again. "Alright then, go!". I
was surprised at how well my tires were holding on the grass. I was prepared
to keep sliding once I am on it, but I just slowed down and kept going. I
even flew off the track with two wheels couple times but that did not slow
me down too much.
I spun out once and flew off the track with my rear
wheels lifting some dirt. That was on the third lap, before I discovered the
remedy from spinning out. The remedy is simple - FLOOR IT! The car behaves
like a front wheel drive one in turns. Braking or letting off the gas
would make matters worse. Simply turn the wheel out and step on it. Once I
discovered that, the fun began! From that point on it was so simple! I was
feeling sorry for the RWD guys worrying about spinning out and the FWD guys
worrying about the the throw-back once they regain the grip after spinning
out. Keep the gas on and you will be okay.
On the other hand, going
through the turns sideways is not the fastest way. I was told by Gene
Martindale, a former Team Viper pilot (who rode with me and later let me
ride with him in his race-prepped Datsun), that the way to do it is to brake
straight, then let off the brake and pivot, and then start accelerating. You
should be already accelerating before the middle of the turn.
I finally found the balance between the front and the rear tire pressure but
then it turned out that the front tires were being chewed up very quickly on
the outer edge. The only way to stop that was to raise the pressure on all
the wheels but I decided not to do that because the rear tires were already
losing traction at that high pressure. I was risking to reduce the total
overall traction. Instead, I am planning on changing the camber to a more
negative one for the next track event. Lowering the car should decrease the
camber as well.
I checked the pressures on cold tires today and it is 43
psi in the front and 40 in the rear. I found the 3S handling
interesting. I tuned the tire pressures so that I get a more or less neutral
handling during coasting through the turn. When exiting the turn on the
power I get understeer. And when I enter the turn and my wheels are not
straight I get an oversteer and the rear end is trying to come around on me.
I lowered the tire pressure in the rear and the braking oversteer was
reduced, but everything other aspect of handling was also deteriorated. So I
pumped the rear back up. Maybe the way to change the braking oversteer would
be to install bigger brake calipers or better brake pads in the front. This
is when I start to feel like experimenting with the brake force
I discovered that if the car starts to understeer under
power and slide out during the exit from a turn it is sometimes better to
turn the front wheels a little out instead of in in order to get more grip.
This is because the lateral reaction force decreases when the tire slip
angle becomes too large. Turn the wheels out a little to regain the
Gingerman has more right turns than left turns. My tires lost 80%
of the tread on the outside edges mostly on the left side tires. The hot
tire pressure was higher on the left tires by 2-4 psi than on the right
tires. For some reason the rotors were hotter too on the left side by about
50F. I am wondering if this is the effect of the ABS or this is just that
when my car was parked the wind was blowing from the right.
I shot some videos with a $40-dollar Intel Easy PC Camera installed on the side of
the car and hooked up to a laptop. I wish it was turned on when I spun out.
You could hear a lot of wheel squeal and see when I go sideways in turns. I
have five unedited videos 365M in size total. If anyone wants to see them
uncut I could email them one at a time.
My AVCR was trying to give me
trouble. I tuned it perfectly in third gear on the way to the track. It was
set to only 0.8 bar. At the track I noticed the boost and the duty cycles
were creeping up and boosting all the way to 1.05 bar, I am not sure is
which gear though. I reduced the initial duty cycles to -10 across the board
and that seemed to have helped a little. Maybe I should have done that in
all gears except the third? More on the boost controller in a separate
My rear O2 sensor blinkey light gauge seemed low, but my SAFC was
set at +10% across the board, so I decided to take my chances.
I almost ran out of gas on the track. The light was not on yet, but the fuel
pump was sucking air by the end of two closely positioned tight turns 5 and
6. This is where I spun out at the beginning. By the end of the day I was
making these turns into a single long sweeper when I would come at them too
fast. Not the fastest way of doing it but a lot of fun and tire
Guys, learn double clutching. I am glad I learned it earlier this
year because it is critical. Without it I would have been the last car on
The stock exhaust is too quiet for racing. I hit the rev
limiter three times when passing other cars. Maybe I should just move the
rev limiter. ;-)
Open tracking is expensive. We got a group discount for
the track. But the track fee was nothing in comparison to all the other
expenses: a day off of work, hotel, gas to get there, $3/ga gas at the
track, brake rotors, brake pads, car maintenance, wear and tear on the tires
and the car. I busted my PC camera too with a door even before I installed
it on the car. This is why the focus on videos is not as good. I am glad
nothing on the car broke, otherwise I would have to take a night job at
McDonald's ;-) But as a commercial goes, sliding an AWD car through turns -
PS: This report was brought to you courtesy of my RadioShack
digital voice recorder. Without it I would have forgotten half of these
things. They would have been forever buried in that gray stuff in my head.