2003 Peru Test Session

So I've finally managed to scrape the car back together again. I've got a whole new shock/spring setup, brand new brakes, a revamped intake piping system, and heavily flagging motivation.

I've skipped the first race of the season due to the latter, but some of that is starting to recover, and besides, I'm dying to see how all these changes worked out. So the car goes on the trailer, and it's off to Peru for a weekend of testing.

One thing that did not happen though, is that I skipped the annual hub change. DSM front hubs are subject to fatigue, and the cracks develop in a place that's inaccessible to inspection. I've broken one before, at the inaugural Meridian National Tour, and Fedja has broken one too, at Nationals 2002. So the procedure is to throw them out every year and put new ones one there. They run $150 each, so it's a $300 insurance package.

Except... well, with flagging motivation and sagging finances, I bet that I could stretch them a little bit farther.

(Cue the "foreshadowing" music)

The test plan for the weekend was pretty simple. On the first day, I was going to bed brake pads and verify that the new intake piping and CBV hadn't screwed up the engine calibration (and fix it if it was). On the second day, I was going to spend the morning doing skidpad and tire pressure work, and then I'd spend the afternoon running the practice course and basically burning all the rubber off as many old tires as I could.

The first tests were some straight-line accel tests to check the engine calibration, and the motor seemed just hunky-dory. No knock, lots of timing, and enormous midrange/part throttle power - so much so that it rather knocked me on my ass. It seems that fixing that boost leak with the new CBV was rather a good idea.

Next up was brake pad bedding - and this revealed a bit of a surprise. On my first real full-power, high-speed stop, the front wheels started pounding the ground like I was riding a pair of jackhammers. Getting out of the car, I looked at the tire tracks and they looked like dotted lines.


I called over Gary and a few other friends, and proceeded to do a few more stops, and the same thing happened every time - initial hard braking (with a lot of nose dive) followed by bangbangbangbangbang. The consensus from the observers was that the wheels were hopping in the wheelwell.


There was also a lot of pitchy-ness to the car, so we theorized that perhaps we'd pulled out too much low-speed rebound out of the shocks. But we didn't have any more rebound adjustability in the shocks, so we tried cranking up the compression instead, to see what would happen.

That stopped the hammering, but the tire tracks still weren't perfect - they were now "dashes" instead of "dots"; we'd only lengthened the period of the oscillation, not actually cured anything. So we made notes to increase the front low speed rebound when we got back to the shop.

What with the engine management not acting up, we wound up finished well ahead of schedule, so I took the car out for a few runs on the practice course, mostly just to see how the car felt. Nothing serious, not even collecting data, just screwing around to feel out the new setup.

It was wonderful.

The car turned in SO much better, was more responsive, and basically felt a whole lot less bound up. Overall grip was up, transient response was up, I could feel the back end of the car working... it was beautiful. Still a little pitchy, the need for more rebound was even more apparent, but... man, the car was just so damned nice to drive - and fast too. It was pretty clear that, even though it was going to need more tuning, that a major step forward had just been made.

I went to bed pretty happy.

The next morning, out to the skidpad... and then, disaster. On the second lap around the pad, there was a *crunch*, followed by a nasty grinding sound. The right front hub had snapped clean, and to add insult to injury, took the end of the axle with it. The only thing holding the wheel onto the car was the brake caliper.

It seems "crunch" is the sound of a chicken coming home to roost.

Well, now we have a problem, because no means of retaining the wheel means that there's no way to get the car onto the trailer. And - haha! - it's Saturday, and I don't have any spares.

We drive into Kokomo, but all the dealer parts departments are closed. We manage to get a number for a dealer in Indy, and by a stroke of luck, they are both open and have hubs in stock - no axles, but they have hubs.

So we get to drive to Indy, buy a pair of hubs, drive back, fix the hub, and load the car. No axle means for us, the weekend is over.

I wonder if Jacques Villeneuve has days like this?