2000 BFG CENDIV Series Peru

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

So, last weekend was the last autocross of the season for Far North Racing, the BFG CENDIV series finale in Peru, IN. Yup, back to Peru, home of the best concrete in the US of A, and typically, some of the fastest courses we run on. Whoohoo!

I had been (as of yet) unable to get the O2 sensor reading on the ProEFI computer to stop dropping out when it went to WOT, so I broke down and bought an Auto Meter A/F gauge, and an Auto Meter EGT - and immediately discovered that I had been running way, way, WAY leaner at full throttle than I had expected. At some parts of the fuel curve, I was running O2 voltages in the .450 volt range, this at 23lbs of boost, and 18 degrees of advance! But yet, there was no knock to speak of (although the EGTs were off the scale) How this engine survived this long, running that lean, and with no signs of detonation (plugs look fine, other than they're bleached white) is a complete mystery - except that the engine only saw full power for very brief periods, and never saw third gear. Had I run it on a dragstrip like this... kablooey!

So a quick redraw of the fuel map was done, and that pulled the O2 voltages up into the Rich section across the board, and dropped the EGTs down to where they actually showed on the gauge. Peak injector duty cycle is now at about 95% (where they were with the stock ECU) and I think there's more than a few points on the curve now where we're too rich, instead of too lean. So now we're ready to start tuning in earnest.

But even with this rough cut, we picked up a bagload more power, especially at part throttle. The car makes boost at ridiculously low throttle angles now, and I have to be a lot more careful about feeding the throttle in when coming out of turns, instead of just banging it open - otherwise the power hits too hard and upsets the car.

The course was, as expected, wide wide open, to the point of minimalistic. I needed 35 points at this event to take the overall series championship, so the course favouring high HP looked good to me. The SM turnout was a little light, as to be expected this late in the season, but it includes a Neon being built for the 2001 SM season by a couple of Chrysler engineers - one of whom is a fantastic driver. He'll be keeping me honest...

Saturday AM comes, and I'm as sick as a dog. No specific symptoms, other than feeling like I've been hit (repeatedly!) by a large truck. We run last, as in dead last, and the sun is getting pretty low on the horizon. With my head as foggy as it is, I'm having trouble staying off the cones, but I'm still leading anyway. And then my last run, bouncing off the rev limiter through the finish, is clean, which nails it down.

I've got a five second lead.

Sunday AM, and I'm feeling no better. Today's course is even faster, although it's a little more technical, and I'm having even worse cone trouble than before - but when you're running more than two seconds faster than the second place car, it doesn't really matter that much. Power may be a crutch, but sometimes it's an effective crutch.

I wind up winning by 5.2 seconds overall. Sure, we were missing some of the bigger dogs, but it's still a nice way to end the season. And with 100 points for the win, we tie up the BFG Series championship.

This brings our season results to:

  • CENDIV Divisional Champion
  • BFG CENDIV Series Champion
  • 3rd overall, SCCA ProSolo Series
  • 5th place, SCCA SoloII National Championship

and even more telling, we only had one event all year where we didn't trophy. In other words, a fantastic season.

However, all is not sunshine and roses. As well as we did this year, we should have done much better, and our times are not all that impressive when compared to similar classes (ESP, CSP, BSP, and SS) If we expect to maintain (or improve!) this results record next season, we're going to have to step up the bar considerably.

A big part of the problem this year was that the car never really stopped changing all season long, so I never really got a chance to properly adapt to it. Every time I'd start to get comfortable with the way the car handled ~ WHAMMO! - we'd add a bunch more power, or change springs, or change shocks, or something, and it would be a completely new car again. And while every single one of these changes seems to be for the better, it's no good if the driver can't use the extra capacity.

So with that in mind, we're taking a whole new approach for next season. We've got a checklist. And we're going through that list, in order, with the intent of finishing the car before the first race in February. And then, unless there is a seriously compelling reason to do otherwise, we're going to leave the car alone - and learn to drive it as she sits. Luckily, as she sits in February (if we get all we have planned done) she'll be a pretty damned potent car.

And then maybe these little reports will be "won again" instead of "almost!" like far too many have been this season.

Big, big thanks to the following folks:

  • Robert at Forced Performance, turbo guru
  • Jason and John at Professional EFI Systems, for what is probably the best stand-alone ECU out there
  • Michael at ShockTek, for his outstanding shocks
  • Michael at RM Racing, for the best sway bars available for DSMs Paul at Isotope Racing Wheels, your source for Volk Wheels
  • Sign Guy at Signs And More, for great graphics, fast turnaround, and crappy bodywork :)
  • and finally, to David and Tym at Buschur Racing, who continue to provide great service, even though their name isn't on the car any more. A true class act.

Just wait 'till next year!