The first entry of the year doesn't come on a good note. For the third time in less than a year and a half, someone hit me. The M Coupe seems to be making extended stays in repair shops every six months or so ever since I bought the thing. It's rather disgusting, really. Things finally seemed just fine, and I thought I got out of the jinx, but it just keeps coming my way...
Today's incident happened along I-5. We were traveling about 2-5mph for a while and I was rather annoyed. All of a sudden, however, traffic picked up the speed to around 45mph. No explanation for why it was ever going slow in the first place. Anyway, after about two miles of increased speeds, I see a bunch of cars in front of me stop rather abruptly... so abruptly in fact that there was some pretty severe bumper cars going on. I had kept quite the distance between me and the car in front of me (maybe too much, I guess), and saw it all unfold in front, so I didn't even have to make any sudden stop. Just an average stop one would do coming up to a stop sign, say. Once I stopped, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the car behind me, a Toyota Camery, had come to a stop just fine as well. I then directed my attention forward to pull around the mess ahead when BOOM! Impacted from the rear. There was nothing to do but sigh and wonder why this keeps happening to me. I flashed back to all the previous accidents... after a few seconds of contemplation, I got out of the car and inspected everything... the car that hit the Camery was a sorry sight... a 1970 454 LS5 Stingray Corvette. Absolutely cherry (previous to this, of course...). He had been directly behind me most of the drive up the highway and I was admiring the car. I told him I have a 1970 Chevelle. After talking to him a bit, I learned he had just purchased the car 6 months ago from Tico Torres (Bon Jovi's drummer). It had 80,000 original miles... matching numbers and all original everything. The guy was absolutely devastated. I almost feel bad for the guy... but I guess mostly, I feel bad for the car... Poor car had to have a driver who wasn't paying attention today. A damn shame... not many of these cars come around like this these days.
My damage doesn't seem that bad. The front of the Camery hit my exhaust straight on (there are exhaust rings on her bumper/plate), and the muffler/exhaust tips are bent as a result. Upon inspection at Autohaus Bayern, it seems as if most of the exhaust mounting brackets are bent. The right side exhaust, at the junction between the exhaust and the cat, also seems to be pushed forward a bit, which concerns me. They checked all the gaskets and confirmed there were no leaks anywhere.
The rear bumper cover has scratches and marks on it. That will be replaced. The impact was harsh, but hopefully not so bad that other unforeseen things come up. I noticed a seem on my driver's door isn't lining up like I thought it was... I hope I'm imagining things. The insurance adjustor is investing the cost of the new exhaust, and seeing if he's going to be able to give me the full value of it since it's used! Whatever... who cares; the whole car is used! The replacement cost is the same whether it's used or not... We shall see the outcome in the next few days, hopefully.
Yesterday at lunch, I took the car to Exhaust Specialties (10900 SW Canyon Rd, Beaverton) to get an estimate for the repairs and to see if they thought the exhaust could be properly repaired, or if it should just be replaced. When I got there and they put the car up on the lift, the guy just started pounding on it with a hammer and a crow bar, and within a minute breaks out the blow torch! So I guess I'm having work done instead of just getting an estimate... At first I thought the brackets could just be bent back, and while this worked on the left side which wasn't bent much, the right side tips were pushed back a good half inch from where they should be. After investigation, we determined that the pipe behind the exhaust probably stayed fairly stationary during the impact, but as a result the back of the muffler caved in a bit against that pipe, which is why the tips (and muffler) are pushed back. Bending brackets couldn't solve this. After much trepidation, I told him to go ahead with his recommendation of cutting the stainless pipe in half directly behind the muffler and welding a new stainless piece on top of the existing tube. The piece has an inside diameter the same as the outside diameter of the existing pipe, so the two ends of the pipe slid into the new piece. After he cut the exhaust, we positioned the muffler so it matched the left side, and he welded the piece in place:
From the outside, the thing looks closer to perfect than I had really expected. So much so that there's no real point in me putting a picture up of the repairs exhaust, because it just looks as you would expect. Under the car is this weld, and the brackets are bent around a bit, but so what? No one looks under the car, and the functionality will be identical. I was a bit worried about this shop at first, but the guy who worked on my car, Jon, was very friendly and let me stand there in the shop for the whole hour and direct him with what I thought would be best. Very nice. The other guy there (Mike I think?) seemed like a jerk... so if you go, have Jon work on your car.
I'm also pondering if I want a new bumper put on... the damage is purely cosmetic, and it's not that bad. The bumper has quite a few scratches on it, and two gouges that will need some touch up paint, but if I can get it to look good, I may just go that rout instead of a new bumper. The paint is cracked a bit under the clear coat, but you only notice that at certain angles, and up close. Today I rubbed on some of the scratches and messed up areas for a while with polishing compound and then wax and wasn't very successful. I then remembered the Dremel tool has some polishing wheels, so I went to town with that (around 10,000rpm) and the polishing compound, and got the worst areas nearly unnoticeable. In the pictures you can also see on the lower right part of the bumper the two spots with missing paint. Before and after (you can obviously see much better when you click for the larger versions; also note the after still hasn't been waxed, so it will shine better than this):
In other news, a stack of Toyo RA-1s showed up at my door step yesterday.
Amazing to think the start of track season is just two weeks away... I hope I have all the new bits in time for it. Wheels to mount these puppies on should arrive next Thursday. I have to recommend Bryan Shackelford at BMW Wheels for your RA-1 purchase. They had the lowest price on the web (and only $40 shipping), shipped the tires 1 hour after I placed my web order, and also sent me a Toyo promo pack (T-shirt, pens, hat, keychain, etc).
With the track season nearly upon me, the 'coupe is going through it's late winter set of modifications which seems to occur every year now. On Sunday, I finally removed the driver side headlight so I could get at the Dinan CAI's air filter. It was pretty filthy, alright... luckily the Dinan "bag" around the filter picked up most of the dirt. The whole process of removing the light is actually quite easy and quick once you know how to do it, so I'll try to stay more on top of cleaning the filter now. I was wondering if I could tell a difference with the clean filter, but not really. There's a bit more of the air rushing sound between 2k and 2.5k, though. But no difference in feel.
While I was at it, I also installed some Sylvania SilverStar 9006 low beams. They are supposedly the whitest halogen bulbs you can get. The color of the light (4000 degrees) is nice for visibility, but I don't believe they are overall any brighter than stock, which is unfortunate. They're so cheap, I'll probably get the 9005 high beams as well. You really want the white light on those dark country roads, when your brights are on anyway...
Last Thursday, my friend Joe arrived from the east SF bay area with my stock M Coupe wheels I bought (which were picked up by Ken; thanks guys!!). For the price I paid, these were in very good shape. Friday I dropped off the Toyo RA-1s and wheels at A-N-T Tire & Wheel for shaving (to 5/32"), mounting, and balancing. They did a good job of things, it seems. I didn't realize how "crude" shaving looked, though. Basically they take a fairly thin blade and go all the way around the wheel several times. Turns out looking kind of messy, but it doesn't really matter.
So that I don't munch these tires at the track, I wanted to get Camber Plates before the first day. After speaking with John at Motor Force, I'm pretty sure they're the ones I want to get. Unfortunately, they don't have the upper spring perch in stock for the Bilstein shocks (with 60mm springs, included with the H&R Coilover kit) right now, and will probably be a few more weeks before he has them again. So that's out... I decided to shim the lower strut bolts for additional camber. It's a simple task, which is probably why I haven't seen an actual write up of it done before, but sometimes people need to see how it's done before they realize how easy it is. Therefore, I did a writeup. You can click on any of the pictures below to access it.
Unfortunately, shimming the strut decreases the clearance between the wheel and the strut, and with that clearance already so low with my 18", 8.5" wide SSR GT3's and H&R Coilover suspension, I can not use the street wheels with the shimmed struts, even with the 15mm spacer. As is, the stock 7.5" wide wheels and Toyo RA-1's barely clear the strut with the 15mm spacers. So before I put the street wheels/tires back on, I'll have to remove the shims. Bummer.
Today my Shark Injector arrived from Turner Motorsports. The install process is like 35 steps, but most of those are just warnings. The whole process is very easy... all you really need is a battery charger, and it's a done deal.
...and, I just got back from my first drive. Since I haven't been doing much enthusiastic driving lately, I needed to re-bed the pads before the next track day anyway. This was the first drive since I made all of the above modifications, and it wasn't until after everything was done and I was driving slowly letting the brakes cool from the bedding, I remembered that during the drive I actually screamed Woohoo! several times without even knowing it. A lot of it, of course, is the R Compound tires. A man can get spoiled running these things on the street! I took a corner I only feel comfortable doing at 65 max on the street tires at 75 without even flinching! Totally awesome. And launching there is nearly zero tire spin, and there is none on the most aggressive of 1-2 shifts! I want to try a 0-60 run with the RA-1's on. I bet it'll be sub 5 second. Overall, the car feels very neutral, with maybe a little bit of understeer. It's so minor that I'm sure it could be fixed with tire pressure. We'll see how it behaves on the track. As for the Shark Injector... on my brief 20 minute drive, I do think it's worth the money. This may be one of those mods I say "Why did it take me so long to get this?" The car doesn't necessarily feel like it's pulling harder, but it definitely is rushing through the revs much quicker! I wasn't really expecting that, I guess. I was just looking for the improved throttle response and increased rev limiter... Haven't noticed the throttle response yet, but those extra revs rule... it also seems to pull harder all the way up to red line, whereas before it use to drop off a bit. That may be in my head, though. But it is certainly nice. I am very excited about the track days to come... can't wait!
Ahhh... the start of a wonderful time of year: track season. As is typical, the first event of the year was an Alfa Romeo day, and also for the third straight year, it has been sunny in early March for this event. I was a bit concerned at the start of the day when so many cars were showing up and I was told they weren't going to limit the number of cars! I've been at BMW Club events with 100 cars before and they were way too busy to have much fun at all. The highest numbered car I saw today was 116. Wow. As it turned out, traffic wasn't too much of a problem, with Advanced being the least crowded group (must have been over 50 cars in intermediate).
Today was also the first time on the track for a friend of mine in an E39 540i, and I spent the day instructing him. Overall, he made very quick progress, which was very satisfying (for both of us, I'm sure). When I forgot to get gas after my second session and advanced was called, he let me show him the grip limitations of Kumho 712's as I spun the 540i on the first lap, turn 2. Whoops! Guess I got too used to the grip of the Toyo RA-1s. Speaking of which, the tires were fantastic. Overall the car was very neutral, and the tire grip was amazing. I certainly felt a bit faster than any previous time, however, my times didn't really agree. I only got times for a few laps out of 60 or so, but the fastest times seemed to be around 1:34, which is just a second under what I'd done on Goodyear GS-D3s. On the Goodyears, Spec Miatas would pull away from me rather quickly through the esses, while on the Toyos I was pretty much even with them... yet not much faster than before, overall. Kind of odd, but whatever. It must have been a slow day, because there was only one car that passed me the whole day. Most of the day was spent chasing down three 911 GT3's on R compound tires. They'd blast away from me on the straights and I'd reel them in during the braking zone and turns. Some of them didn't want their ego hurt by being passed by a BMW and would completely ignore passing flags for multiple laps before finally yielding. At one point on the back straight, as I was pushing the braking to 300 feet, I had mild enough brake fade for me to make an executive decision to go straight instead of trying to trail brake into turn 10 and do something like this, or this. Into the grass I went at 80. Looks like I need to get that brake ducting kit soon...
Traffic throughout the day was fairly reasonable considering the number of cars. The last open session of the day was 25 minutes and ended at 5pm. There were probably 12 cars on the track for it... it was likely one of the best times I've had on the track. After the first two laps, I didn't encounter another car for about 6 or 7 laps. I had a huge grin on my face the whole time. So much fun. It's kind of disappointing my times weren't much better, but all that really matters is if I'm having fun, and I did have a blast today. My general approach on the car and bike days seems to be just try to be smooth, and that's satisfying enough. I never try to find the limits of adhesion, so if I ever did feel the need to approach those limits I could probably burn a few more seconds off. I generally never slide coming out of turns, or otherwise loose grip on the track.
The tires didn't hold up nearly as well as I had hoped... the outside edge is pretty munched up, in both the front and rear. In the front it's all the way down to the bottom of the wear "holes". I guess I need yet more negative camber. Unfortunately, I can't just add another shim at this point (which would bring the front close to -4°) without also buying 20mm spacers. No point in spending the $100 when I may wind up getting camber plates anyway. Not sure what to do about rear, though... I was told people get 15 events on these things. Not sure how that's possible. This stuff sure is cheaper to do on two wheels than four...
Today was an instructor's clinic at PIR, put on jointly by the local chapter of The Porsche Club of America (PCA) and the Portland BMW ACA. The goal was to increase the instructor pool for the two groups. Most of the material was based upon a national instructor's program from the PCA. The gist of the day was talking to mentors who have been doing this a long time, and them pretending to be novices while us students try to instruct them. Much of this was very beneficial, but some of it was a bit silly. It was pretty hilarious to see all these cars out on the track at once all zig zagging all over the place, doing every possible thing a novice has ever done wrong, but all at once (which is where the silliness came in, but such is the nature of a short program). The real rewarding bits came from catching the subtle things the "novice" was doing wrong. Overall a worthwhile day, and when all the scoring was done, I was notified that I'm now an "official" PCA and BMW ACA instructor, which is nice. I was hoping we'd have more track time in our own cars, but just as well, since I haven't solved my camber issue. I tried running with 38PSI (cold) to start the day (up 3 from last week) in hopes that the added air would stop me from rolling off the outside edge. The car felt like it was on ice after a few laps. When I came into the pits and checked the pressure, it was at 48PSI!! So that clearly didn't work. I didn't really expect it to, since I hear 35 cold is about as high as you want to go with the Toyos. Hopefully I have a camber solution before the next track day, which for me is probably 5 weeks out.
A bit of a milestone in the M Coupe's life today, and hopefully my life in general... I decided to pay off the M Coupe, three years ahead of schedule. I'm trying to buy a house, and the monthly payment is eating too much into what I can afford, so I figure the payment is getting more in the way than having the cash would help towards closing. It was almost odd transferring the funds... almost like I was vaporizing the money; I was paying all this money basically for something I already have and own (or at least it felt like I owned it). What makes it a bit easier is it's basically just moving numbers around, since it's not like I ever saw the cash I moved anyway. It is a bit liberating knowing that I own it outright now. It'll be strange not making that car payment anymore, for sure. But hopefully this translates to the car having a nicer place to sleep soon...
In other news, the oil was changed at mile 54550 (5600 miles between changes). Also, recently I got a puncture in one of my rear tires. The rears have no tread left on the inside edge, so there's no way a tire place would do one of those internal patches. Since the tires really do have some life left in them (especially for summer) and I didn't want to buy new ones, I decided to try one of those plug kits. I went with the Victor / Monkey Grip M8806 from Schucks. It's the "heavy duty" kind, and has the T style tools, which are a MUST. You really have to apply a lot of pressure to these things to get them to go in the tire, so just a standard "Screw driver" style handle would be impossible. Overall it seemed to have done the just just great! The tire has lost some air, but only a few pounds in several weeks. Not bad for $8.
Finally my camber plates from Motor-Force arrived last Friday. I first contacted these guys about camber plates for my H&R Coilovers and John told me they'd have the upper spring perches in stock in two weeks. This was back in February. I emailed him every few weeks and each time there was another excuse. Finally, I got, "The perches are in stock but now the plates aren't." Another month wait and he finally ships them. Over the weekend is when I attempted to install them. As I learned when I did the H&R Coilover install, standard spring compressors didn't really do the trick (since the coils are too tight), so I decided to do the zip tie trick again. I first put the car up on jack stands, then I jacked the axle up, which compresses the spring. Once it was compressed enough, I put my zip ties around the spring, and lowered the jack. The spring then compressed. I took the strut apart, and then noticed that the Motor-Force perch sits much lower than the H&R one... odd. Unfortunately, this meant that I didn't compress the spring enough. I tried to use the spring compressors to just grasp the top of the spring (not actually wrapping around the coil), but was a bit careless when I was tightening them, and almost died when one of the compressors fell off. Well okay, not really. Most of the zip ties stayed... but some did bust. It was a bit scary, but all worked out. I finally got the things compressed enough with a combination of the compressors and locking pliers. Next I began in on Motor-Force's instructions for putting the upper spring perch together on the strut. It quickly became quite clear that this wasn't going to work...
In the second picture, you can see the two brass colored bits. These are suppose to be touching, with a gasket between them. Obviously, with the big step on the strut (as you can see on the left), there's no way these parts would ever touch. Clearly these perches weren't going to work. Crap, and I now had everything apart! I decided to go ahead and swap the hats on the struts since I had one apart anyway. I did this (make sure the arrow points forward), and put everything back together. Swapping the hats brought the camber from -1.17° to about -2.9°. So with my ride height, it's worth about -1.7°. This is about what I was running with two shims on the lower strut bolts, which wasn't enough to save the tires at the track. Thus, I also added one shim per bolt, which brought things to about -3.5°, which is what I was after.
Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed at John and Motor-Force. In addition to the above, the upper perch wasn't even large enough to fit the springs. You can barely see this in the picture above; the spring would over-hang the perch a bit. This can't be good. It'd basically have only half the surface of the spring touching the perch. I emailed him the above pictures and he said, "Well, that's definitely not what we expected to see with a Bilstein strut." The best part is three months ago I emailed him a picture of the strut and he commented on the very step he was now surprised to see. Neat. Now he wants me to take my strut apart again and take some measurements for him to see if he could jerry rig a solution. No thanks, John. These are going back for a refund. What a boondoggle.
In other news, I finally got the brake ducting stuff as well. I did a separate write up for it. Overall I was fairly happy with the install; one of the few things to basically go rather smoothly and slickly. The test will come at the track, tomorrow...
As a side note, the backing plates were on back order from Turner Motorsport when I ordered them. They emailed me the following morning telling me it'd take them about a week to get in. After that week I asked where they were and they said it'd be another week, and they were very sorry, and offered to give me free two day air shipping... and you know what? They actually did. I think Motor Force can learn a lot about customer service from Turner. Turner has been very customer oriented with every order I've placed.
BMW Club event at PIR. My first track day in the car which I feel is now set up fairly well. Along with the R Compounds, I'm running -3.5° camber and ram air brake ducting. Temperatures were suppose to be in the low 90s, which is rare for this time of year. It was also the first time running with a new configuration for the chicane. It's not quite as sharp of a turn anymore, so it's a bit faster. I guess this was done to please the CART guys. After looking at some video, it seems to be worth about half a second at my pace. My first session out I started with the tires at 35psi cold. This actually worked quite well for the track day in March, but temps were about 30 degrees cooler. The target hot temperature for Toyo RA-1's is around 38-40psi. During that first session it felt a bit like I was running on ice. It's a strange feeling. This combined with difficulty getting the car into third gear before turn 3 left me finally having it in gear at the apex, and gunning it out of frustration and doing a neat loop-de-loop. I didn't have a camera on, but Dennis did (3.9 meg MPEG), two cars back:
It's a bit disconcerting that the GT3 decided to go behind me, in the direction I was headed, instead of waiting to see what developed. I could have very easily rolled back into him. A bit too close for comfort. After the session I came in and saw the tire pressure at 43psi. I brought it down to 39psi (hot now), and had a lot more fun throughout the day. I believe I was the fastest guy in the instructor group, including a couple 911 GT3's. I had some good battles with one particular GT3, who would open about 1-2 seconds on me on the straights, but I'd gain it all back half way through the turns. Eventually he let me by. I went to talk to him between sessions and he was talking about how his tires were getting greasy. He continues, "I mean there's a M Coupe out there that's faster than me in the turns!" No! Of all terrible things to be faster than you... not sure how much truth there was to the greasy tire thing, but whichever. It was a good day overall, and I think I improved a bit. Unfortunately I didn't have a (working) video camera, so I couldn't capture some of the fun moments, nor look at lap times (though someone from the stands said I ran at least one 1:33).
Back to back track days, and this time, Lotus day. These are generally the best days around, and at three times the cost of BMW day (with the instructor discount), it'd better be. As is typical, not many cars showed up at all, so there was tons of open track. I got lots of really good clear laps, which is nice. Doesn't make for very interesting video (unless I screw something up on my own), but it is certainly fun. There weren't as many interesting cars here as usual, though. More oddities than BMW days, for sure, but the same ones we usually see here.
The morning sessions were the best ones, because they were the only ones I had good brakes for. I knew I would be pushing the life of the front pads, so I came prepared with mostly used other ones, but I didn't expect the rears to wear down as much as they did. I decided to run home at lunch to pick up some fairly fresh OEM rear pads. I didn't get back in time to put the pads on for my first session after lunch, so during that session I decided to get a ride with Dennis in his Elise, just for fun. Turns out he was a bit slower through 10-12 than I was, and he commented that it didn't feel right. I told him what I do differently there, and after trying it later in the day, he commented that it worked well, and the car felt much more settled through there (not to mention it'd be faster). Cool! After him starting as my first instructor ever at the track, it's finally pay back time. :-) Between sessions in the afternoon I was sitting in the shade and realized how cool the M Coupe looks from the rear 3/4s...
The high today was 95 degrees, and I got to change my rear brake pads in the sun, in this heat... that was great fun. I got it done just in time for my next session. Being that I just sweated half a gallon of water, and simply because I was running OEM pads in the rear, with after-market (almost toasted) pads in the front, I took it fairly easy, but still had a lot of fun. The last session of the day, the Toyo RA-1's were beginning to get a bit greasy, and were sliding a bit. It was actually rather fun, playing with throttle steer through all the turns. Once at home, I checked out all the video. I had about a dozen laps at 1:31, most of which were in the morning. Since the video wasn't very exciting overall, I decided to just encode my fastest lap of the day, at 1:31.0 (13 meg MPEG). It's quite a different pace than I was running two years ago... check out that 1:41 lap (and have a cup of tea).
Today was definitely a blast. I improved my lap times by about 4 seconds over my previous best timed laps, and learned a lot in doing so. I'm getting a bit more comfortable dealing with a sliding car. It's actually quite fun. :-) I got 130 miles on the track. If I didn't have brake issues, I could have easily done 200 miles (I skipped the session after lunch, plus the final 40 minute open session). My front brakes were definitely totally cooked, though... no pad material left at all. When I got home I put some old pads on that had a bit more life. Good thing, too. Check out these pads after the track day... no material at all. In fact, it's wearing the metal backing plate on the retaining clip!
Over the weekend I decided it was finally time to do my brakes. At the last track day, I put on some old pads for temporary use. Since then, I ordered rotors and pads (same Performance Friction Z-Rated) for all around. Since I didn't put any anti-squeal on at the track, the noise was getting rather annoying. After taking everything apart, I snapped a few pictures of the front rotors... Again, pretty nasty looking.
You really have to click on these for full effect. Notice all the little cracks all over the place. I had not seen this before, but then again, with more experience, I probably haven't pushed them as hard as this set. Hopefully the brake ducting will resolve some of the heat (which leads to cracking) this next go-round... Pretty amazing the brakes look this nasty. :-) Actually, what's pretty amazing is how well they still work while looking like this. Sure, they were probably about to explode at any moment, but still... The rear rotors seemed to have hardly any wear on them at all... barely any lip at all. Hardly any material was gone... there was very minor grooving, and none of the cracking seen on the front. They had only been through one set of pads, and I decided to leave them on through another set. I guess I'll just keep the rotors around until these pads are done.
With the tires off I realized how ugly these things were. I knew the rears were pretty bad, with just the beginning of some cords showing on the inside. But the fronts... those were down right scary! Check out this amazingly odd wear pattern on the inside:
I posted this situation on the M Coupe board, wondering if perhaps this is just an artifact of the swapped hats (i.e. more negative camber). I looked at these tires when I swapped the hats about 1000 miles previous and the inside was rounded, like the outside is in the photo above, but NOTHING like the damage seen above. Perhaps I just couldn't run with swapped hats? It seemed the consensus was that this was more of an artifact of the camber combined with the toe out I had. Checking some emails, it looks like I was running with 3/16" combined toe out, measured at the tires edge. The car felt great, but this is quite a bit of toe out. People suggested running with some toe-in when having a lot of negative camber on the street. After quite a bit of fiddling (jacking the car up, adjusting, and measuring FIVE times) I was able to set about 1/8" of total toe in. I think maybe this is a bit much, but I was tired and was ready to be done with it. I may try to set it around 1/32" or 1/16". With all my fiddling, I figure that one full inch of toe can be achieved by 2.33 complete turns of each tie-rod. The tie rods are 6 sided, so 1/6 of a turn is worth very roughly 1/32".
Anyway, back to worn tires, specifically. These things were so scary bad that I didn't feel comfortable running them on the street, so I put the track tires on for a few days. On Monday I called Les Schwab for a quote on Toyo T1-R tires, which are just out and I was thinking of trying. Turns out they hadn't officially released my fronts, but he called the corporate guys and they released a pair to him early. It wound up being about $40 more through Les Schwab than it'd have been buying them online and mounting them elsewhere, but after the service I got from then in the borrowed truck on my trip down to California with the bike, I figured having the service of the local place was worth the extra cash. The tires arrived today, and I had them put on. Besides the hour and fifteen minute wait, I was quite satisfied. Not a single (new) mark on the wheels. Good deal. We'll see how the drive after I get some more miles in them. Initially they just seem like tires... they tend to follow the ruts in the road a bit more, and may be a bit noiser. I don't want to pass too much judgment until I get more miles in, though. One major disappointment is how unaggressive they look! The 275/35/18 Goodyear F1 GS-D3's looked mean as hell on the back of the car... I got the exact same size in the T1-R's, but they look puny! They seriously look like 235's. It's just an optical illusion because the center tread pattern ends so early, so it looks like that's only how wide the tires are... sure this isn't a huge deal, but it honestly does take away a bit of how impressive the car looks from the rear... It may be vain of me, but I may not have gotten them had I known it'd look like this. On paper, they look good. On the car, they really don't... compare the photo below with this one with the Goodyears on. The Goodyears look much fattier even though they're exactly the same size...