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:. Racing .:. "HPR May Daze" R/R

School is in Session

For 2010, kicking off the National season here in the Rocky Mountain Division began with a double national at PPIR. Leading up to the event much was ado among the region muckety-mucks about the decision on whether or not to run the oval banking of NASCAR 1 and 2, rather than the pit-out apron of years past. Ideas were posed, hair was pulled, hands were wrung, panties were wadded, and ultimately the decision was made to run the banking, but with a chicane-dealie on the exit of Turn 9 to curtail speeds into T1 and T2 slightly.

For my part, I loaded everything up and headed down Thursday evening, so as to get a full day of testing in for Friday. Having made a raft of changes after a fairly disappointing outing from the previous HPR event, I wanted to see if I'd gotten the car more or less sorted, so as to be able to run well. My excitement/anticipation level was at a new high, since despite the ho-hum PPIR track, I was going to have a big group to run with, and finally, the chance to benchmark myself against one of the best in DSR.

Subscription to wings-and-things was looking good, with 21 cars registered (a lot for us!), including 4 DSR's: Me, Paul Leonard, Tom Gonzales, and (eep) Chris Farrell.

Our only task for Thursday was to unload the car and bleed the brakes, since they were still as I came off track Sunday from HPR, i.e. boiled. Sure enough, both calipers spit plenty of foul looking Motul and some air.

As a wonderful bonus, the PPIR garages were only $75 for the weekend, so we decided to live large and bought the last garage space so we could cast haughty looks out on the commoners outside...ho ho Jeeves, fetch me a spanner! Seriously though, boy, that garage sure was nice for the weekend!

Friday showed us some good weather, windy and warm. The whole day was, thankfully, fairly uneventful.

The biggest "wow" of the day was running up on oval banking for the first time. First time in quite a while I've been a bit scared in the race car. Took me a couple of laps to go flat out through the banking, but once I did it was "oh, well that's not much of anything.". Still, the sensation of looking *down* on your apex, then looking up through your visor around the banking is pretty odd, as is the funny feel of the loading downards through your body, rather than to the side.

Initial runs on the new 20x9.5 fronts were also uneventful. They didn't make a huge change to the car, at least that I could detect, which was unexpected. Initial turn-in felt better, the car really points well. Also felt like I could *lean* on them much more mid corner, get through the corner a bit quicker. Well-used fronts and well-used rears gave a pretty reasonable balance. I took a stab at reducing the ride-height from my initial 1 5/16" setting, but came back with some fairly rubbed rub blocks, so I raised the car back up, and basically left that alone the whole weekend.

Laptimes were consistently in the low 55's, which felt OK. Chris reported he was in the low 54's, so no big surprise that he was quick right away. Top speeds were similar, me around 133, and he just shy of 135.

We lost one of our four DSR's on Friday. Paul Leonard first had a brake issue - which turned out to be no pad material left on the pads. I gave him all eight of my spare Poly A pads, but then a cracked header pipe put paid to his motivation level, so he packed up the Radical, and brought out his BMW to run the Autocross that was running in the PPIR lot outside the oval. Wish you'd been there, buddy.

Saturday was hot. 92* ambient temperature, amplified by the sea of concrete and asphalt around us made for a really warm day. I spent a lot of time trying to stay hydrated. Lots of cars were having trouble with very high temperatures. Tom G. reported his oil in the 280's, and the Speads FB's were all running in the 260's or so. Mine was also high at a steady 248 (measured in the main gallery), but not too worrisome. Even Chris changed over to his larger "warm weather" oil cooler, but reported 199* oil temps.

As a technical aside, one difference there is the measuring spot. The Speads, Tom, and I are all measuring oil in the main engine gallery, whilst Chris has his sensor in one of the oil cooler lines (not sure if it was feed or return), thus explaining some of the difference.

Practice went by quickly and uneventfully, with me testing a bit of fiddling with the shocks (less bump, more rebound) to see if I could do anything about that funny porpoising the car was doing on the infield bumps. A little better, but nothing huge. For qualifying, I put on a fresh new set of the 20x9.5's, which I'd won back in September of last year. Thought I'd really take my best crack at seeing if I could worry Chris at all. They didn't seem to make a huge improvement that I was able to exploit, qualifying with a 54.9 to Chris's 54.3.

I was looking forward to the race start very much. I haven't been off the pole in a long time, running locally, so I was curious to see how other people do it. Chris brought us up pretty slow, in first gear. Green flag dropped, and we were off! We both got pretty reasonable starts, but instantly he began to pull away, and continued to gap me, despite me being right behind in the draft. Damn. We came around the first lap, and he already had a good 4-5 car lengths on me.

As we came off the oval on lap 2, and into T5 (where are turns 2, 3, and 4??), a huge smoke cloud awaited us, along with a nice shiny patch of pavement at the apex. We both slipped and tippytoed through the corner and set off again, the origin becoming clear at T6, as Chris Waterman's Speads sat in the infield with the firetruck nearby, smoking slightly. Tough luck for them again, and as Chris posted later "now that I've had two opportunities to confirm, my theory is correct: being on fire sucks."

For the next 6-8 laps or so, I managed to stay more-or-less in touch with Chris, as he was being very careful through the oily turn 5, and was probably playing a bit of cat-and-mouse with me anyway. Made for lots of fun, trying to stay close, but in the end, he motored away. That left me to run my race, which was only punctuated with some inadvertent or assholeish moves by the Speads cars as I lapped them, one pushing me off the outside of 5 -- as the corner workers put it "5 black is off....with assistance". He tried the same thing on the next lap, so I cut back inside and quickly cleared him. The other failed to notice me coming up to lap him, so I had to dive below the white line on the oval, which turned out to be relatively uneventful.

Thus finished the race, with Chris somewhere around 30 seconds or so ahead at the checker. Best lap times were 54.3 to my 54.9. Tom finished the race, but at a reduced pace due to his overheating problems.

Post-race check of the car showed that the new fronts were wearing evently and slowly. Despite the high ambient temperature and enormous track temp, not a sign of overheating or blistering, and in fact, the wave on the rubber looked almost ideal. Very encouraging on that front. The big bummer was that the car had eaten yet another chain. Chris popped over on his bike to chat, and after filling him in on the problem, he noticed right away that it was due to the large keyed nut working its way loose on the left-hand-side of the diff, quipping that he only knew to look since he'd had one come all the way off and catastrophically fail! We took it all apart, fixed it up, and the chain was 100% for Sunday.

Sunday was about 20* cooler than Saturday, much to the relief of everybody. Cooler temps mean that all those with marginal cooling were able to breathe a sigh of relief and go racing at full tilt again.

I went out for the morning Practice session to make sure the newly reassembled chain was going to be OK, and to see what I thought about yet another fiddly shock change, to see about dealing with those bumps. All was well. Chris and Tom sat it out.

I ran just a very quick qualifier as well, only about 5 laps. I saw a 55.0 on the dash very early on, and called that good enough. Once again, it was good enough for outside pole next to Chris, with the next closest car another second or so back.

We rolled out onto the pace lap like normal, though I noticed the cornerworkers telling us to slow down a bit. Sure enough, there must have been a mess behind us, as the first start was waved off. We drove around and tried again.

Green flag flew, and as yesterday, Chris immediately jumped ahead. I did my best to tuck into his draft. He said he had to lift slightly that first lap, and I was close enough to pull an over-under routine in T5, as he defended the inside line. However, I then had the outside again for T6, tried the same thign, and this time didn't have enough to get myself side-by-side. And, that was about it for my challenge. Chris steadily drove away, and again, I just motored home, sore neck and sore shoulders from that darned oval. Chris lapped up to 3rd place, me about to 5th or so, content to watch Tom duke it out with an FM the last few laps of the race, which was fun to see.

Best race lap times put Chris at a 54.2, re-setting his own track record, and me about 1 second adrift, with a 55.2.

Thus finished another National race weekend in my short National career - two good finishes, and only two more to go, and it's Wisconsin Ho!

Technical Review
Soooo, plenty o' technical review from the weekend, as Chris was an absolute fountain of information for me, both in terms of driving, Stohr setup, and on-track comparisons.

The first interesting note was our top speeds - about 2mph or so apart. He was seeing high 134's, me just barely edging into the 133 range. Had I more time and confidence, backing down on the Dauntless flap may have helped me make up that difference. For future reference, a 15/48 combo, the same I use at HPR, is nearly perfect for this track with the '08 gixxer.

Second is the observation of just how quickly he pulled away at low speeds - a clear indication of just what power-to-weight ratio can do for these cars.

On the car/reliability side of things, the new routing of the dry sump vent to to the oil filler cap was a 100% success, almost no mess from the overflow bottle this weekend. As for the diff, a bunch of blue loctite and some auth-or-i-tay on tightening that nut should put an end to the car's problem of eating chains, once again, thanks to Chris.

Despite the enormous heat, temperatures on the car were high, but tolerable. Into the 220's on water, and into the 240's on oil, but never higher, and stable from mid-race onwards. So, it appears the car is cooling well enough, but the real test will be Miller in August, when it is 100* or more ambient temperature.

The brakes were a total nonissue the whole weekend. Thank GOD.

Back to the suspension side of things, I made a startling realization looking at the bellcranks on Chris's car. Despite the two of us running the same springrates, our wheel rates are wildly different. He's running the softer/original rear motion ratio, whereas I made the update to the 1:1 rear late last year. Also, for the first time I noticed that there are two available ratios on the front bellcrank, and after confusing myself a bit, realized that the inner position (where everybody else has it) is the 1:1, higher motion ratio. My car is configured with the softer front motion ratio, meaning that my front-to-rear spring split was MUCH different than Chris's. So, I'll be experimenting with the normal 1:1 ratio up front, since that may explain why I've been unable to run the car as low as it seems like I ought to. We'll see what that does to the balance, however. Watch this space ;)

For Next Time
So, with one more weekend behind us, what have we learned?
  • Don't be afraid to take some wing off the car when you don't need it, for top speed
  • Soften the damn car on bumpy tracks
  • Let's see what the different motion ratios offer up front.
  • The new Goodyear for DSR is an excellent upgrade, if for no other reason than it really evens out the wear on the car
  • I'm not a total wank behind the wheel ;)
Overall, the car's balance was just fine, just perhaps needed a bit of tweaking for the bumps. We're headed back to HPR on Friday to see how the new fronts and new "baseline" feel on a known-quantity racetrack, so it should be good to try a few things and see where it leads us.

Onward to the June Sprints!
The Full Race, Sunday (WMV Format, 1.4GB)

First few Laps of Sunday (YouTube)

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