1999 Ft Myers ProSolo
Wednesday, March 3rd
Loaded the car on the trailer, and hooked the trailer up to my co-worker Steve's Dodge Durango. (He gets a free trip to Florida in exchange for providing the tow). Load me, the crew chief, Steve, and his two friends into the Durango, and we're off at about 11:30. Weather is clear and cool, a good day for travelling.
Coming through the mountains in Tennessee at about 19:30, it starts snowing (during my driving shift, grrrr) but the snow is gone by the time we hit Georgia.
Thursday, March 4
Georgia is a big state. So is Florida. We hit the hotel in Ft Myers at about 8:00, drop the car and trailer, and go have a nap. Steve and his friends hit the beach. After the nap, we wash the car, and hit the beach ourselves. Summer in March! This is awesome.
When we get back though, Steve has some interesting news. Sometime between when we dropped the trailer and his going to the beach, the Durango burnt a valve. He took it to the dealer when the CE light came on, and a compression check showed 25lbs in #5. Oh oh. He's rented a Neon in the meantime.
Friday, March 5
Spend the morning on the beach. :) Spend the afternoon walking the course, getting the car teched, and setting up our pit space. Roger (the Famous) Johnson provides his truck to shuttle our tires from the hotel to the site, and I get all the rain tires mounted at the BFG truck. (Thanks Roger!)
Everyone keeps coming by to look at the car, compliment me on the article I wrote for Grassroots, and generally snoop around the car. Our tires draw a lot of comments.
The course is tight and twisty, with only one sweeper, and the front straight is shorter than I'd like. Urk. The course designer is not my friend today. :(
Saturday, March 6
I'm suffering from a serious case of the first-race-of-the-season-in-an-untested-car-in-a-tough-class jitters. Hell, who am I kidding - I'm a nervous wreck. I'm up against two fully prepared CRXen, (one with 2 drivers) and two Mazda RX7-Rs, and all of them are driven by "shoes". I'm gonna get slaughtered, fat tires or no.
The first heat arrives. The car is launching perfectly - there's not a single vehicle in ProSolo that can beat us to the first turn - but it's evil loose in the transitions, and I'm driving like Bo and Luke Duke. It cumulates in a spin on my final run of heat one. However, the times aren't as horrible as I first feared, and the clutch and driveline didn't shatter on the launches.
I gotta do something to fix how loose the car is, so I lower the rear ride height to make it even with the front. I had been running the front lowered, but had been leery of lowering the rear, as there's a huge gap between the top of the spring and the upper spring perch when the rear is lowered, and I'm a firm believer that the springs should force the suspension into full droop. (I'll be getting a "tender spring" to fix that when I get back, and I'll also be setting the corner weights properly, on the scales and a surface plate)
The second heat arrives, and the car is transformed. It's still a little looser than I'd like, but the rear is now sticking _much_ better. My confidence soars, and I start pushing the car much harder. My first two are clean, if a little slow, and the next two are a full second faster. I discover that in the single sweeper, I can stand on the gas _right after I turn in_ and the car STICKS - and accelerates all the way through the turn and down the following set of offsets! Yeehaa, this is FUN! If the nose starts pushing out, just turn the wheel in a little more, and those great big g-force tires dig in and turn harder. I LOVE THESE TIRES!
I cone away both runs, but the times are within a second of the leader, within about .6 secs of the P3 leader, and I know I'm leaving a ton more time on course. All of a sudden, this isn't the hopeless cause I thought it was. In fact, one of the CRXs has coned all his runs to that point, and I'm sitting 5th ~ and the times I'd coned away were good for 4th. This is doable!
Back to the pits, rotate the tires, and then home to bed.
Sunday, March 7
I spend the morning talking to Mark Daddio, Neon Master and Shock Guru, and learn a whole bunch about shocks and how to tune them. On his advice, I drop the pressure in the tires from 44 to 41.
Heat 3, and the car is sloppy. At first I think it's just cold tires, but it doesn't improve much once they warm up. It doesn't help that I'm pushing really hard to make up time either. I pull about seven tenths out of my right side time (still slower than what I ran the previous day though) and I've got a real fast one coming up on the left, but then I overcook a braking point, and spend two turns making up for the mistake - and that costs me at least a second, possibly two. Dammit.
However, an Act of God occurs, and the CRX I was leading cones away all his left side runs. I'M NOT LAST!
Monday, March 8
Talk with Steve, and decide to drive myself and my crew chief back to Windsor. He's going to tow my empty trailer back when the truck is fixed. Drive to Kentucky, and call it a night. Car is fine driving 700+ miles loaded with tools. God I love this car.
Tuesday, March 9
It's snowing in Ohio, and it's a foot or so deep. Planned on stopping off in Norwalk to see David's new shop, but the weather is just too poor. The drive from Dayton to Windsor is white-knuckle terror, with black ice lurking under every overpass. Get home, call Steve, and the truck is due to be fixed by Wed PM.
Post Race Analysis
Firstly, the most important thing to fix is my driving. Some of it was rust, some of it not knowing the car and tires, but there's a lot of time lost in silly little mistakes.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.
Secondly, it's vital that I get the car properly corner-weighted. If I had had time to do that before we left, those first four runs would have been worth something.
Thirdly, there's some tweaking left in the car. I'm going to investigate the legality of those Ingalls camber kits (to try and get some more negative camber) there's still a 14b to go on the car, and it (and me) could stand to lose some weight. There's also a lot of time in shocks once I do a proper development on them, and Mark started me off on the right path there.
However, we didn't do too badly. We ran a set of raw times that were just off the winning times in P3, and that would have put us 4th in our own class. Our raw times were also winning times in GS, CSP, and SS - and our actual scored time KILLED ESP. (grumble)
With some careful development work, and a lot of driver training, there's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive by the end of the season, and maybe even earlier.
Furthermore, there's no reason why a DSM couldn't trophy - or even win - ESP at Nationals this year. After finally driving an ESP Talon in anger, I'm convinced that the car is every bit as good as any Camaro or Mustang. Thanks to Buschur Racing and RM Racing, the car is fast, fast, fast.
Hell, I can't wait for the next race!