Today started with waking up at 4:10am and a drive to Seattle, for a track day at Pacific Raceways. I had not done the track before, so since this year seems to be the year of new tracks for me, I decided to continue the trend. 2.5 hours after leaving, Dennis (in his Mini) and I arrived at PR.
There were some neat cars, including a rare Maserati, and two Ferrari F360 Challenge Stradales.
The day was run by Speedware Motorsports and it was a pretty relaxed environment, with just three run groups (no novice, + race car). The first group out on the track was intermediate. Half way through the session it was red flagged and we got word that someone had rolled on the back. Turns out it was the black WRX STi pictured in the background of the shot of my car. They towed it in and it didn't look very happy. Most of the damage was on the top of the hood and rear. Probably not totaled, but plenty of damage. The car looked brand new. Lucky for him he trailered it there and was gone by the time we came in from our session. My first session out I followed a fellow M Couper, Doug Mill, to get some hints of the line. The first lap around was a bit hairy, but I learned this track quicker than any previous track. The first session most of my lap times were around 1:48, but towards the end had a few 1:46s.
Something I've long had a problem with is being slightly on the gas as I'm braking at the end of long straights. The way I learned heel toeing in the M Coupe is to just have the left part of your foot on the brake, and then blip the throttle with the right side. Problem is, when the brake peddle is pressed all the way down, the right part of the foot runs into the gas pedal, even when you try to angle your foot. I was having a big problem with this today, but after a few adjustments to my foot position figured it out. Hopefully I can get it right from now on. :-)
I was gradually improving throughout the day, but only by a second or so per session. In the last session the two Ferrari F360 Challenge Stradales started about 6 cars ahead of me. My goal was to catch one of them, but due to the big spacing they were placing between each car it would be difficult. After about 10 minutes out on the track, I saw one at the end of the front straight, when I was at the beginning. So it was achievable. I began pushing harder. During this stretch I achieved my fastest lap of the day, at 1:43.5. Here is a video (14.8 meg MPEG) of that lap. I had several other laps in the last session in the 1:43 range. Finally, after I passed the last car between us, I began pulling the Ferrari ever so much closer. On the straights, the Ferrari was much quicker than me, but I was always reeling back time in the braking zones and turns. On the next lap he was only 2 seconds in front of me. I was probably about that much quicker than him per lap, so I figured I'd get by him after the back section. However, after pulling out of 3b and him opening some distance, I see a car pulled off to the right of the track, and the red flag is out at the turn station. The Ferrari, who is now directly in front of me, decides this means he should grenade his brakes. These Ferrari's have the same carbon/ceramic rotors found on the Enzo, derived from F1 cars. He's lucky I didn't plow into the back of him. I should have gotten out of the car and told him a red flag means slow gradually, and pull over to the side of the track safely (so as to not cause another accident)... not dropping an anvil on the brake lever. This sequence (last two clips), as well as some other fun, can be seen in the highlight video (14.4 meg MPEG). It turns out the red flag was for the green 911 (seen at one point in the video) that spun off track and down a hill. Not sure how bad the damage was, but it could be pretty bad (could have even rolled there, but I don't think so; he got luckey).
By the end of the day, I had quite a lot of fun at PR. It's the only track I've been on where 5th gear is necessary, topping out around 125-130mph, as you're going through blind turn 1; fun. The only real problem is the pavement is terrible. It's bumpy as all hell, and very high grit. It absolutely tears apart tires. Dennis had 300 miles on his Goodyear F1 GS-D3's and they're basically shot. My GS-D3's faired a bit better, but they still chunked and wore a very odd pattern, where each outside ridge is worn down to the wear bar, but the inside is fine. You get a slight idea of the damage here:
So basically, due to that I'm not sure when I'll be back here. It was fun, but the track eats tires which makes things prohibitively expensive. It's partially these tires, but a few other cars (on different) tires had similar issues. The bumpyness also makes me think I probably won't be doing a motorcycle day here, like I had originally planned. Oh well. They need to repave the whole track, then they'd have something here...
Picked up a Harman Kardon Traffic Pro GPS navigation unit a few days ago and decided to install it today. There wasn't a good central location for step by step instructions on how to install it, so I decided to do my own write up. It can be found by clicking on the picture.
So far all I know is that it works. I will update the site later with a report on how well it works, and if it really does improve the sound of the stock stereo, as reported.
While I was at PR last week, the Roundel sticker on my left front wheel came off. It's odd. The center cap didn't come off, just the Roundel sticker. It was nowhere to be found. I called The Tire Rack, where I got the wheels and initial set of tires from. They had the center caps for like $6.50 each. I told him I wanted two (to have a spare). He said UPS ground shipping would be $8.50 from Nevada! Come on, that's ridiculous... he agreed, and tried the postal service. That was like $11.50. Pretty silly for a 1 ounce item less than 1000 miles away. He kept saying, "let's see... what can I do..." He said, "Well, I just make it no charge." Great, free shipping! I told him my new address and he after that he says, "Alright, we'll get those right out to you. There will be no charge." I said, "Oh wow, great! Thanks!" So no charge for the caps or shipping. How nice. I guess that's the only way the system would let him give me free shipping. Pretty cool, considering I bought the wheels more than two years ago. They may have just gotten themselves another sale on my next set of tires for that one...
Sideswiped.... again. Today I was on my way to the blues festival in downtown. I was heading down second street, just about to turn right onto Madison, to park in the garage. As I was proceeding down the street in the right hand lane, the car directly to the left of me decided now would be a good time to get into my lane, and proceeded to try and do so (practically in the middle of the intersection, now that I think about it, and in reviewing the picture). I had no time to react. I gassed it a bit as she was approching, but it was too quick; all I could do was try and maintain my lane position and not crash into the curb. The car turned into me rather hard... created quite the impact. I knew damage was surely done... I really felt it was necessary to get a honk in there somewhere, so basically after the impact was completed I just stood on the horn for a while, and then stopped. The car fell in behind me. I quickly got out of the car and looked around... damn, every side panel had damage more than just paint. I then started back towards the other car, who inched forward. For a moment I thought they were going to leave, so I stood directly in front of the car. She then backed up and fell in behind me. I went up to the car and it was full of teenage girls (17, I later learned). She instantly just said to me, "Okay, here's all my insurance info." Eventually I got out of her, "I'm sorry." I told her, "You should look where you're going when you're changing lanes," and she says, "I know, huh." We exchanged all our info while she stayed in her car, and she was about to call it done, so I suggested, "You should at least get out of the car and see what was done, so there's no surprises later." As typical, her car faired much better than mine... just minor paint blemishes on hers, whereas mine had huge scratches all down the side, one major dent on the rear quarter panel, two dents on the door, a dent on the panel in front of the door, black marks on the front of the mirror, a scuffed up mud flap, and the front wheel had damage (perhaps just rubber). There were marks on the rear bumper edge, and the hood, but hopefully these won't require a repaint (hopefully they'll just clean off). These pictures were just taken at the scene so not much effort was put into them. I may try and get better pictures later; the damage doesn't show up very well here. But it's now 2am and I'm certainly not going to grab new pictures now.
So it looks like I'll certainly need a new rear quarter panel. Perhaps they can remove the dents from the door... not sure. I'll just have to see. Certainly a respray of the whole side. Damn, now I have to find a shop to do the work, since Active Auto Body sucks. For how annoyed I was that the same damn side that was hit just a number of months back was hit again, I was pretty calm about the whole deal. At the end, the girl was asking me about the whole process about the claim and ended with, "I'm sooo sorry... thanks for being so cool about it." At least I wasn't an ass, I guess... I told her to drive carefully, and watch out for cars. :-) I didn't think about it until later... but I should have mentioned that she's lucky I wasn't on my motorcycle... makes ya think. Could have really ruined my day if she had done that while I was on the bike...
I dropped the M Coupe off at Europa Autobody a week ago, on July 26th. The guy who seemed to run the place looked over the car. He noticed all kinds of things that Active Autobody screwed up. He said there's no way 9 month old paint should have been chipping the way it was. After looking over the bumper, he wondered if they even put flexal (I think?) in the paint, which helps reduce chips. He wondered this since the chips on the bumper were so huge. Also, if you'll recall the pictures from February 22nd, 2004 where I showed all the chips on the leading edge of the door, he pointed out how the door was actually sitting out from the front panel, thus exposing it to the elements more. Anyway, after dropping the car off, Enterprise rent-a-car brought me a Lincoln Towncar! Wheee! What a boat! This thing was a true land-yacht. It was a bummer driving it, but I was able to go on a hike I can't normal get to due to the 15 miles of gravel road. Once the traction control was off, the Towncar found its element as a rally car: flying at 45 down these gravel roads, getting the back end out around most corners. Kind of fun.
Back to the M Coupe, which was picked up today. Originally he told me they had been using Sikkens paint for years, but recently started using DeBeer on some jobs, because it was more reliable. Sikkens is what BMW uses, I believe. So the fact that they used it was a plus. He thought the DeBeer paint would hold up and match better, so he went with that. After looking over the car, everything seemed to be good. I looked at every panel and it's adjacent (original paint) panel. I could not find any difference in the color. Looked good. One thing I did notice was some minor swirl marks throughout the paint. I asked him what's up with that. He said it was just hand buffed, and once I wax it that will go away. He took some polishing compound and took some out for me, buffing in a circular pattern (which is exactly what causes swirl marks). They are so minor that once the paint cures and I wax it I'm sure they'll be all gone. He said there was an insane amount of shims in the door, which is why the door was sticking out a bit and also not closing very nicely. Once removed, everything aligned and was smoother. There was also a little dent on the rocker panel that had been there since I bought the car, and he fixed that one for free. Cool. It all looked good, so I paid the man and drove off the lot. I then noticed that the airbag light was on. That'd drive me nuts, so I went back. He said they had to remove the air bag to do the door, so that probably kicked the light off. They plugged into the diagnostics port and turned it off. I was good to go. I would put pictures up, but really there isn't any point... the car just looks the way its suppose to, so nothing really new to show. :-) Initially I am quite pleased with the work of Europa's, and I like the guy who runs the place. If things paint holds up, I'll surely be going back there to paint the bumper soon. Also, the more I realize the mess ups, the more disgusted I am with the work of Active Autobody...
I got a call from my friend Dennis this morning mentioning that there was an instructor appreciation track day going on at PIR, and that if I wanted to I could run. I decided to come down just for the afternoon, and I'm glad I did. There were probably a grand total of 20 cars at the track, with everyone at roughly the same skill level, so it was basically a free-for-all and we could go out whenever we wanted. I first got on the track at 1:15pm, left at 3:45pm, and got almost 100 miles on the track, split across four long sessions. Normally I don't even get 100 miles if I'm there from 7am until 5pm, so this was fantastic.
I had Dennis ride with me my second session out to help me renegotiate the chicane, since I felt slow through there. He helped me figure out a quicker path through there, but besides that, also showed me how to better deal with the understeer my car was exhibiting. The way I was dealing with it was just holding my line and letting the tires scrub off the speed by slightly lifting. It works relatively well, but it's not the most reassuring feeling (though I feel completely in control doing it that way), and it's certainly not the fastest way around the track. Dennis pointed out that if the car wanted to go a certain direction, I should just let it go there a bit; not holding the wheel so tight on my line. Almost like a slight countersteer. It seemed counterintuitive when he mentioned doing it, so I very gradually eased my way into it. Once I got the hang of it, it felt great! I felt so much more in control of the car, and I could better deal with it when it misbehaved. When it began to understeer a bit, I'd just give the wheel a slight countersteer, and it'd begin to track right through the turn on the line I wanted, and then I could turn back into the turn. Occasionally it'd be a constant on-off, on-off steering motion. Hard to explain, but if you've done it you know what I mean. :-) I had no timing device, but I'm sure I was quite fast today, probably at least equaling my best lap times ever. In my second to last session, I wound up trail braking a bit too much into turn 5 (never a good idea in an M Coupe) and the back end began to come out... rather rapidly, really. There wasn't much I could do, as I traveled perfectly down the middle of the track... except 100% sideways. :-) It was probably rather spectacular. Once I almost came to a stop, I allowed the car to roll off the track backwards. Due to the controlled aspect of the slide, I had plenty of time to put the clutch in, check out the scenery, and for once, not stall it.
This was also the first time at PIR on the Performance Friction Z rated pads. They felt great. Never any fade! Amazing... They take a full lap to warm up, but they give me great feel throughout the day. I began braking on the front straight around 450 and on the back closer to 300. I've never pushed the braking zones that far, and I feel that I can push them even further, if I wanted. Unlike the Porterfield R4S pads, the PF pads never get spongy, and always have great pedal feel. Pretty slick... This was the 4th track day on the PF pads (one each of Laguna Seca, Thunderhill, Pacific Raceways, and PIR). They seem to be holding up much better than the Porterfields were (which lasted a grand total of two track days at PIR). I definitely went through some pad today, though. Hopefully they'll last another track day, but they will almost surely be toast after the next one at PIR. Hopefully the weather holds out until Friday, which is a Lotus Club day.
The last Lotus club day of the year. As is typical, lots of cool cars showed up, and it was an excellently run event. The only drag was they've increased their price about 50% over what the first Lotus club I ran was. Every time it's a bit more money. Today I paid over three times what I paid for the track day 4 days ago, and today I get a few miles less on the track...
As mentioned in the track day just 4 days previous, I was getting really bad understeer. It was actually kind of fun playing with once I figured out how to, so I was all ready to play with it again today. However, I was able to almost entirely eliminate the problem. On Monday I was running 35psi in the rear, and 38psi up front (cold numbers). This actually worked very well at Thunderhill. The additional air in the front was used to try and stop rolling off the edge of the tires so much. I decided to pump the rears up to 38psi as well, hoping it'd reduce the understeer. Sure enough, the car is very neutral now. Pretty damn nice.
I was worried about my brake pads lasting the day, and as it turns out, rightfully so. After two sessions of hard braking, the pads were all but toast. The last two sessions of the day I was really easy on the brakes, braking at least 150 feet earlier on the straights, and just not hitting them as hard anywhere. The amazing thing was in the last two sessions I saw a negligible amount of additional pad wear. Just backing off that little bit makes them last so much longer! But where's the fun in that? Unfortunately, I didn't really get comfortable with the car again (due to the different tire pressure, perhaps) until the third session, when I began taking it easy on the brakes. As a result, my lap times were very consistent throughout the day (with the light braking being countered by additional speed everywhere else). Whereas my last timed event at PIR I saw only three high 1:35 laps, today I had 13 laps in the 1:35s, the lowest being 1:35.03. Solid. Basically, almost all clear laps in the first three sessions were 1:35 something, and most everything else was around 1:36. Most of my fastest laps were in the third session (my only solo session), which really leads me believe that once I put everything together, with good brakes, I bet I could run a 1:33.5 or so, on street tires... which would be cool. :-) I've put together a highlight video (8.9 meg MPEG) of some of the more interesting bits from the day.
I'm not sure if I'm going to do any more track days this year because my tires are pretty shot. I'll obviously get new pads soon, so I'll be good there. Just not sure about the tires. The next day is in about a month, so we'll see if I do it... I certainly had fun today, though... and at 6 track days for the year so far on the 'Coupe, I've already tripled what I've done during any previous year. So not too bad!
Did a bit of maintenance today. I wanted to clean the K&N air filter of the Dinan CAI, but once I got the hood open I realized that I'd have to remove the headlight to do so. Feeling a bit lazy, I decided to save that for another day. Instead, I just changed the oil (at mile 48950) and installed new front brake pads (the rears are 50%). I stuck with the Performance Friction Z-Rated. I don't like their cold performance, but they totally rock in all areas once warm (great pedal feel, never fade, and last a decent amount). I got 5 track days on this set of pads; two at PIR (the toughest on brakes). Better than the two track days I got on the Porterfields. They also treated the rotors a bit nicer than the Porterfields, though there is some grooving. Rotor thickness up front measured at 27.94mm, (min. thickness 26.4mm) and 20.07mm in the rear (min. thickness 18.4mm). So these should last through this second set of pads on the front.
I'm disappointed with the way the red caliper paint is holding up. There are a few chips on it, and it's apparently burning, especially where the clip is installed. I initially thought this was just brake dust build up, but no, it's just the paint changing color. Check it:
Not sure what to do... maybe try another brand? Or maybe paint them black. This probably doesn't happen to pure street cars, but the temperature the brakes get to at the track, I guess, is just too much... I guess this means I just need some big Brembos that come red. Oh well!
In other news, I'm now unsure of the paint work of Europa. While it initially looked good, now, a month and a half later, it's clearly a different color than the factory paint. I think it's going to bug me. Perhaps the color has shifted slightly now that the paint has cured. I tried to capture pictures of it, but they just didn't turn out. I also got to drive an Infiniti FX35 SAV (or whatever they want to call the fake SUV). It's pretty fun, for a big beast. Pretty impressive handling for something its size, for sure. The brakes were marginal, but I guess it does weigh a ton. And of course, you gotta love the coupe inspired styling... I also waxed the car yesterday, so a couple pictures are in order.