2000 SCCA CENDIV Divisional Championships

(As originally posted to the Talon Digest)

As reported earlier, we've been in a total panic trying to get all the new improvements to the car installed, tested, and tweaked before Nationals (in less than a month from now!) and the past week has just been typical. The shocks on, but not really tested. The wheels test-fit, but without tires. The ECU shows up Friday - too late to make it onto the car before the Divisional Championship. And the hole in the hood...

The hole in the hood. Simple concept, really. Adding the FMIC in front of the radiator opening choked off some of the airflow, and when the FMIC is doing its job, the air that flows through it is heated up, so the rad sees hot air. This raises underhood temps, which chews into the reserve capacity of the cooling system. By putting a vent in the hood, using the low pressure area on top to help extract the higher pressure hot air below, more air flows through the system, increasing both intercooler and radiator efficiency.

These vents are fixtures on rally cars, which have even worse airflow management issues thanks to the skid plates restricting airflow out the bottom of the car. Works for them, it should work for us. So we pick up a fiberglass air extraction vent, cut a hole in the hood, and bond it in. Simple. How can it go wrong?

Well the first epoxy we try doesn't bond - so scrape it off, sand everything down, and try again. The second fails too - more scraping, more sanding. The third (JB Weld!) takes, and the transition lightly Bondo-ed and sanded smooth. Then off to Sign Guy who's going to paint it. But the primer eats the Bondo, the base color eats the primer, the clear eats the base and nothing buffs out. Sign Guy is beside himself in frustration, and 10 hours of my life are gone forever - and the hood looks horrible (and it's Thursday!) What to do? Make a giant-ass Forced Performance logo sticker, and cover up the whole mess with it, that's what.

It's been that kind of week.

So, anyway, Friday comes and we're off to the concrete fields of Peru, IN for the Divisional Championship. Besides the title of "Divisional Champion" on the line, this is the last time I'll get to run against Kent, my main competitor for Nationals, until Nationals. How I do this weekend is a marker for how much work remains to be done, and if I do well, maybe I can play with his head a little.

For once, the tow vehicle doesn't blow a tire, throw a belt, puke coolant, scatter exhaust parts, or catch fire, and I arrive in Peru without incident. Hoosier Tom swaps the tires onto the new wheels... and they fit! Lemme hear you say "Hallelujah!" With the new graphics and the Volks on the car, it looks _really_ mean; close to three dozen people drop by to take a closer look at them, and three dozen people ask me if Isotope Racing Wheels has a web site they can visit...

The course, as typical for Peru, is wide open fast on the super-grippy concrete. Unusually, Street Mod is running first, and ESP and SS are running third, so we get to run in the cool of the morning (good for power, bad for tire grip) and in the dust and dirt with no rubber down (really bad for grip). Alas, Kent has foiled my carefully-laid plans. Karen (his wife) is running the 'Vette for the ProFinale, so he's driving it with her in SS to do some development work on it. Running with me are Cori Strickland, in a Supra Twin Turbo, Doug Adams, in a Starion, and two guys I've never seen before in a 2-driver Mustang that has a serious engine and teeny little tires. Doug's Starion is a little down on power, and he's been having reliability issues. The Mustang's small tires mean that I doubt it's much of a threat. That leaves Cori - I don't know what he's like as a driver, but, hey, it's a Supra, and it has boost control, fuel control, and a chip in it so he won't be short on power... - and he is going to Nationals, so it's good to find out how we stack up against each other.

The first day's runs are pretty good. There's one straight that blips the limiter right at the braking point, and another that gets pretty close. With the new shocks, the car is MUCH more composed in the turns (I never would have believed they'd make that much of a difference!) but I'm picking up this strange corner-exit push. Not a plow, it just doesn't want to let me put power down as I'm exiting. And in one section, there's no power TO put down - it's a large-radius 270 degree FAST corner, and the car is pulling plus 1 G for so long that the fuel is staying sloshed away from the pickups long enough to drain the line, and the car is sputtering as I exit, killing exit speed. (That's never happened before - guess I'm going to have to design a fuel accumulator of some sort).

At the end of Day 1, I've got a solid 8 tenths lead over Cori, which is good. However, when ESP and SS run later in the day, the comparative time SUCKS. Either the course condition changes make way more difference than I ever thought they would, or I'm just running slow. Or maybe it's the fuel slosh, or the push, or the stars aren't aligned right, or my Karma is bad...

No matter what it is, I'm not particularly happy, big lead or no. I should be beating ESP and SS, not the other way around.

Eric Stemler was working course while I was running so he got to watch pretty closely, and he reports that I was rolling over onto the tires pretty well everywhere. He could tell by the white tire smoke pouring out of the wheelwells as the fenders rubbed on the tires! So I raise the car two rounds on the coilovers to compensate. That'll screw the alignment, but nothing good can come of the spring rate shooting to infinity as fender contacts tire, so I'm going to have to live with it.

Day 2. The course has been changed around, it's still fast, but now it's more technical. I'm pushing a lot harder, and between that, the marbles from the previous day, and the higher ride height, I'm sliding around a lot more. It's still pushing on exit, but not as bad. On my last run I try stiffening the front shocks a quarter turn to see what will happen, and it seems to help correct the push some, but I'm concentrating on feeling what the car is doing, rather than on going fast, so the run is actually a little slower. Eric reports no smoke,and there's no marks on the tires, so the ride height is "high enough", but given that the car seems to like "lower", I'm going to drop it down a little bit at a time until it starts rubbing again, and then come back up a little. I think that the fenderwell will be meeting Mr 10lb Impact Wrench sometime soon too. I'm starting to wonder if maybe stiffening the springs might have value as well, and with all this raising and lowering, my alignment is shot to hell, so I'll have to check that soon.

So anyway, I wound up winning, by a solid 1.7 seconds. My day 2 times were actually respectable compared to ESP, but I still think that either running first is a huge penalty, or I was just slow. Without Kent to run against, there's no way to tell, and without Kent, the victory feels a little... hollow. The trophy reads "Divisional Champion", but I don't really feel like one.

Maybe this will break my jinx though.

Overall, I love this turbo, I love the shocks (I'm pretty sure I can get them sorted out before Nationals) and I REALLY love the wheels. I weighed the old wheels, and they are 25 lbs, so that's a 32lb savings right there, plus the 5lbs or so of spacers and extra lug nuts, for a roughly 37 lb weight savings. Awesome.

There was one final surprise waiting for me though. While putting the car back on the trailer, I discovered this funny black schmootz all over the center of my rear sway bar. My first thought was that I had broken the diff housing, but the schmootz wasn't slippery or oily, and it didn't smell like hypoid. Closer inspection revealed that it was coming from the upper right diff mount, which appears to be mounted to an "ear" located high up on the diff pumpkin - nowhere near any source of fluid. So I'm forced to conclude that the rubber part of the diff mount bushings are actually filled with some sort of liquid, and I popped one!

Well, next weekend is a test weekend, and then the following weekend is Oscoda - more fast concrete. The charge to Nationals continues apace.