First entry in... well, a mighty long time! I've been a bit busy with a move and other things, so update frequency went down. I even did a track day back in late September that I never wrote up. Oh well, it was probably fun. :-) Today comes as the first track day of the year for me, put on by Motocorsa/Lotus of Portland. Overall it was a very well run event, especially since this was the first time these guys have done a car day. The weather gods greeted us kindly, with lots of sunshine and a dry track. The event didn't have too many cars, so the on-track experience was very nice. Though the cars that were there were quite the sight... 3-4 Ferrari 360s, 3 Ferrari 430s, a Ford GT, a Lamborghini Gallardo, several Maserati's, a Porsche 911 GT2 and of course, the usual assortment of Loti. The M Coupe was keeping good company today...
This was the first time I had seen the Ford GT, Lambo, and Porsche Cayman S in person, up close. The Porsche actually surprised me... it's a rather good looking car from the above rear-three-quarters view. The front isn't very exciting... in any case, even if it is pretty, I think it's over-priced, and it's rather annoying that Porsche has seemingly intentionally placed it exactly between the Boxter and the 911 (marketing basically limited what this car could have been). The Ford GT is neat... not as neat as I expected, but pretty. The Gallardo is all that I expected, looks wise, from the outside. This is the way an exotic should look from the outside... more on this one later.
Today I chose not to monkey with my camber with the strut shims, and just put the brake ducting in, and track tires on (which I had flipped on the rim, inside out, yesterday). Today I was paired with a 17 year old as a student, the son of one of the regular attendees. He started out a bit rough around the edges, but towards the end of the day got a whole lot smoother, and a whole lot faster. It was a very gratifying day instructing. My day went fairly well, too. I had an absolute blast. At one point I screwed up the chicane, and wound up doing a 180, but no big deal. The only problem with that was it knocked my brake ducts off, something I hadn't noticed until I got home and took the track tires off. No wonder my brake feel sucked today. For a couple sessions I used Dennis' GPS data logger, which provided some useful results. My fastest lap of the day (counting from the start/finish line) was 1:31.10; a bit disappointing, but I guess going into the day I didn't even expect to do that. This basically matches my previous best lap time. Today I was having difficulty keeping my speed up through turn 10 (at the end of the back straight), but I was really hammering it through 11 and 12, gaining on just about everything there. If I could just get back on track in 10, that will be a very sweet set of turns. Besides my fastest lap of the day, I had another cracker of a lap where I did carry a bit more speed through 10, but overall it was 1:31.25. In looking at the data, I noticed it was a rather good lap until 12, and I wondered why. Here's where combining the video with the GPS data comes in handy. Checking out the lap on the video, I noticed I caught a Subaru WRX STI in 11, he screwed up slightly in 12, so we both carried quite a bit less speed through that turn. I have compared the two laps on the data below. The fastest lap is in red, and the lap where I caught the STI is in black. You can see I am carrying a lot more (4mph) speed over the rumble strip in 10 on the STI lap. I'm also not as far up the rumble strip, something I was thinking would help me in my car, as going that high seems to upset it. Another key is the later braking at the end of the back straight into 10; at the peak, I was going 8mph faster on the STI lap (black) than my quickest lap (red). You can see that is then all lost in 12.
If I take my lap markers from M6 to M6 on the map above, the lap running up to me passing the STI was 1:30.64, and it didn't even have as good a run through 10. So I'm thinking if I didn't catch that STI, I probably would have turned at 1:30.5 this lap. So, I sort of did break into the 1:30s. :-) Hopefully I'll do so on the real lap marker next time. What the data logger shows is how difficult it is to put one lap together that has every aspect of the track nailed. Some laps I'd do really well in one location, but then in another screw up. Another cool feature is it takes all of your best sectors, and tells you what your theoretical "best" lap would be, if you put it all together. It tells me 1:30.20. I still have a goal of sub 1:30 in this car... I'll get it eventually. This data logger + digital video stuff is sweet for analyzing your laps, though. Overall I'm pretty darn consistent in my laps these days.
I talked a fair bit with the owner of the Lamborghini Gallardo, and asked if he'd give me a ride in one of the later sessions. He agreed, and I jumped in. The first thing that impressed me when I shut the door was the sound the door made... very precise; it sealed like a Lexus door, which I thought was cool... until I started looking around the cockpit a bit. It felt like I was in a nice VW. Perhaps like a Jetta. Just a very simple interior. Everything black plastic. This is no Ferrari inside; this is not the interior of an exotic. Oh well, how's it go though, right? Well, once underway, the first thing I noticed was the up-shifts. Very abrupt. This one of course had the paddle shifting, and when up-shifting it would totally pull all power, take nearly a second, and then jerk the car like crazy once it was in the new gear. Not very smooth at all. The rev-matching down-shifts were very cool, though. The power didn't impress me like I thought it would... yes, it pushed you back in your chair, but not that much more than my car. And where's the noise??? This is a Lamborghini! It's definitely quieter than my car, by a long shot. You are totally isolated from the road... just like any other luxury Audi, Mercedes, or Lexus. We could carry on a conversation perfectly well at WOT. It just shouldn't be like that with an exotic... If you can't tell, I was a bit underwhelmed. I was expecting to be gitty, but it was a let down... a Lamborghini is something I've lusted after ever since I was 5 years old. This one is the prettiest Lambo in 30 years, but underneath that skin, the Audi engineering shows a bit too much, and it's now basically a very beautiful Audi A8. Or, if they still made one, how about an Audi S8. German engineering is welcomed for these cars, I would think, but they have to remember these are suppose to be Italian exotics. For $200k, or whatever they are these days, I used to think this is the "supercar," to get... not sure what I'd get now. Unfortunately, I don't have to worry about such things at this point...
So here's the highlight video (11.3 meg MPEG) from the day (sorry about the clatter; the lens filter was loose and making a horrible noise). Yes, it includes me tracking down and getting by said Lambo... granted he was on street tires and I was not, but still the 5 year old in me was disappointed that it was this easy. Just about the only thing that passed me today was the 911 GT2, who was a tad slower than me in the turns, but killed me on the straits (I never lifted on the back straight where he passed me, and look at the speed at which he passes me). I was the equal of a Motorsports Elise (or was it an Exige? who knows), and we had fun back-and-forth battles. As you can see from the video, I am really running at the limit of the tires these days, with lots of sawing at the wheel to adjust to slides here and there. Cool that I'm at this point... kind of a bummer I'm pretty near the ultimate plateau for this car, though. Once I got home I put the street tires back on, and was shocked at the front Toyo RA-1s.
Yup, corded all the way around. What a bummer. This was the inside edge, which remember was the outside edge until yesterday. I ran 4.5 track days with them before flipping them on the rim. So, about 5.5 track days for the set of tires. Looks like I'll have to order another set. With those, I think I'll flip them after 3 track days, or just not shave them. The rears still have plenty of life in them, I think. Overall today was a fantastic day. It was one of those, "You know, things are pretty damn good," days. Very satisfying. One of the most fun track days yet. The variety of machinery here was a big part of it, I think. After the day was over and Dennis and I were driving to get a drink, it began raining... exactly at 5pm; exactly when they said it would. For once, the weather wafflers got it right. And somehow, even the rain was satisfying. Just perfect.
I've heard from numerous, seemingly knowledgeable, intelligent car folk that rotors don't get warped. At least rotors in something like an M Coupe do not warp. Well let me tell you, that's completely bogus. The argument goes that it's just "pad deposits" on the rotors that cause the uneven breaking. Well I've done many track days, and I know what pad deposits on the rotors feel like. Yes, it can cause uneven pedal feel, and yes, it will eventually go away, sometimes taking even a few weeks. However, after the last track day, my rotors were warped. I knew it immediately after I pulled out of the track and applied the brakes. Huge pulses vibrating all through the car, especially the steering wheel. You could tell it was with every rotation of the rotor. This was caused by running a usual session in the car, but giving it no cool down lap. Braking hard on the back straight, and then pulling into the pits and parking the car. I've always given particular notice to give the car a proper cool-down lap, even going so far as running wide in 11 at a track day last year and going into the pits instead of trying to stay on the track, and it was the end of the session so they told me to just go to the pits. I told them I needed a proper cool down lap, so I actually wound up delaying the next session (Lotus club gets quite pissed at such happenings). But I showed the turn worker that my brakes were literally smoking (they really were) and he allowed me the cool down lap after radioing to the turn workers. Now on March 13th, I was not at the helm of my car when it was pitted during a hot lap, so I had no control over such events... so it goes. I had warped rotors. And these were not old rotors... brand new, in fact, March 13th being the only track day on them (and yes, I seasoned them properly when they were installed late last year).
I really should have taken a video of what driving the thing was like with the warped rotors, because it was quite intense. Notice the stamp on this writeup vs the last track day: over 2 months later. I'm pretty sure "pad deposits" would have worn off by now. In any case, the new rotors arrived on Friday, and I attempted to replace them on Saturday. Key word... "attempt." The hex bolt holding the rotor in the left wheel hub wound up stripping. I was able to get the hex bolt completely round. I was quite proud of myself. What to do? Well, I wound up drilling a hole down the center of the bolt, and using an easy out. That's the proper thing to do, right? Well guess what? The easy out snapped in half while I was trying to turn the bolt out, leaving half of it in the hole!
Okay, now what? Well, the plan was to drill the head off the bolt. Basically, get a drill bit slightly larger than the diameter of the bolt's shaft, and eventually after drilling through the head, the head would fall off, and I'd be able to get the rotor off, leaving the bolt's guts easily removable with pliers. So, in went the big drill bit. Worked well to start, but then after a while the metal just stopped flying and nothing was drilling anymore. I hope this was due to the fact that the hardened easy-out was stuck in the hole. Pretty sure, since these were supposedly fancy drill bits. Alright, now what? Can't drill... This morning, before heading to Seattle to drive the AMV8 (see other), Dennis took a look at it. He wound up dremeling the head for a while, hoping to get rid of the head that way. After a bit, he wound up hammering at it with a chisel. This is what finally freed the bolt! The sharp impacts were much greater forces than simply torquing on the bolt could do with a wrench. Once the bolt was out I was able to replace the rotor, and move to the other side and get that bolt out. This one didn't strip, but came as close as possible to stripping.. the head wound up being 12 sided instead of the standard 6 sided hex, since it was in the process of stripping. Finally it caught just before I had another nightmare on my hands. Here are the two bolts... pretty!
I'm so done with these bolts. Every single time I replace the rotors they give me issues. Obviously today was worse than ever before, but it's never easy to remove them. All they do is basically center the rotor and make it easier for rotor replacement. They're torqued to 16Nm, so that tells you they're not anything critical. What holds the rotors in place is the wheel bolts. When I replaced the rotors on my parents Infiniti G35, there was no such bolt.. once you removed the caliper the rotor just fell off. It was a bit odd, but this is the way I'm going to operate from now on. Just makes replacing the rotors so much less hassle. Before sticking the wheels back on I found a little treat in my tire:
Yes, a screw firmly plated in the tire. Nice. Well, the tires have almost 10,000 miles on them to the dot, at which point I was going to flip them on the wheel (since the inside wears much quicker than the outside due to the negative camber), so I'll just have them patch this while they're at it. Though I'd better do it this week. Anyway, once the rotors were on (MINUS the retainer bolts), I took the car for a quick journey around the neighborhood. Woohoo! No more intense vibration in the steering wheel. Yes, indeed, rotors can be warped my friends... be sure to run a cool down lap in your M Coupe!
Note: Oil was changed at mile 64665.
For the third year in a row, headed down to do a track day at Thunderhill, this time with Dennis in his Mini. Roger Bright, a member of the M Coupe roadfly.org forum and former M Coupe owner, had started his own track day school, The Perfect Line, which I decided to come check out. My trip was also suppose to correlate with a visit with friends in the area, but unfortunately that couldn't happen. We arrived at the track around 7am, and got the machines ready.
Roger started with a meeting with all the instructors, and then a classroom presentation to all attendees. It was a very small turnout, probably due to the 7 or so track days that were in a two week radius of the holiday week. All in all, there were about 40 cars, 22 of which were Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, including my student's. Part of the instruction included me first taking him out for about 15 minutes in my car. During the warm-up lap where I was hardly doing anything spectacular, he said, "Okay, this is enough! I don't want to go any faster than this." Any time I tried to sneak a quicker pass through a turn he asked me to slow down. Oh well, probably means at least that he wouldn't do anything too silly in his own car, and he didn't. He was very good at listening, and at the end of the day said he learned a lot. He had gotten much smoother and faster throughout the day, going from being passed by almost everyone to passing everyone at the end. A satisfying instructing job, overall, even if he wouldn't let me show him a REAL lap!
As for me, as was expected, it took me a number of laps to get back into the swing of things at Thunderhill. On my previous visit to Thunderhill, we were running the bypass in turn 5, but this time we ran the cyclone. Also, last time I had street tires, and this time I had the Toyo RA-1s. Definitely I like the cyclone much better, overall. Not really because it's more "fun," which it is, but just because the bypass is a lot trickier, and really unsettles the car. I never got comfortable with the bypass on my last visit, getting loose there several times. Comparing the video from a quick lap last time vs this time, from entry of turn 4 to entry of turn 6, it takes two seconds longer with the cyclone than without. So now we know what that's worth. This year, on R Compounds, I was mostly running 2:15s. In fact, in the one session that I used the data logger the whole time, 8 of my 9 laps at speed were in the 2:15s, the only other was due to a 911 locking his brakes in front of me. Well, at least I'm consistent. In the last session of the day I tried to string together a good lap, and did so, but still only checking in at 2:13.98. Two years ago, my fastest lap on Goodyear F1 GS-D3's was 2:13.8. So considering the cyclone is worth 2 seconds, most of my laps today were half a second faster than street tires, and my best lap only two seconds faster than street tires. Kind of disappointing. I felt like I was much faster, but clearly I wasn't. Just comparing the video from two years ago (bottom of page 6) to this years, you can tell I'm being much more aggressive with the car this year; using more track, even having a better line. Interesting that it doesn't really translate to quicker times (considering the tires SHOULD be worth about ~4 seconds more on this track).
Perhaps some of my best entertainment of the day came during the last session when I was asked to take a random person out on his first journey around a track ever. He was giggling hysterically at every single turn. It was pretty damn entertaining, and fun to toss the car around in ways just to get a reaction out of him. It's somewhat hard to hear some of the comments in the highlight video (13.6 meg MPEG), but they included, "That's totally amazing!" and "I've got to get me one of these." Fun stuff.
One bummer about the video is that I placed the GPS data logger right in the center of the dash, which is exactly where the cars in front are, so it blocks them. Oh well... a few things of note on the day: This was the first time I've actually seen fast Evos. The Evo is very capable, and fast, but you just usually don't see fast drivers in them. The car seems to attract people who like to dump lots of mods in them to make them look faster (and surely they are in a stright line) but rarely are their drivers up to the task. Today, there were several Evos that were faster than me, some by a large margin. They don't really gain it in the turns, though. Those things are beasts on the straights, and I'm amazed at how quickly they pull on me. Also, in the video you can see one Evo getting all out of wack in the turns, and the car just doesn't care. You can abuse the hell out of it and it will just keep going with that all wheel drive. There was also a tricked out Porsche 911 GT3 that was VERY fast on the straights. However, in the turns I was actually right there with him. ANY time it was WOT, however, he'd pull big time on me. He actually lapped me in two sessions, and considering I was right there with him in the turns, this means he is running about 10-12 seconds faster than me per lap, and gaining it ALL on the straightaways. Pretty amazing. One bummer was that I started the day with a brand new set of Toyo RA1s up front, and by the end of the day they were down to the wear bars on the inside. Lame.
Overall a very fun day, and fantastic event by The Perfect Line. I wound up with exactly 150 miles on the track, which is great for any event. Anyone looking to run a track day in the bay area should check these guys out. I had quite a bit of fun, but saw some things at the track that makes me question coming back any time soon. When I was here last year on the bike I talked to several people who had comments about how PIR isn't a "real" track, and how Thunderhill is a much more serious and technical track. Really thinking about that it's quite ridiculous. Thunderhill is nice due to the elevation changes, but it is definitely an amateur track, and they take that approach to their track maintenance. I saw some problems with the track (and saw cars encounter those problems) that I don't think you'd ever see in Portland. PIR runs ALMS, CART, and other REAL races. Not just the amateur stuff. They'd never get away with the kind of lax track maintenance that you unfortunately see at Thunderhill. I'll just leave it at that.
Wound up taking off from the track a bit before 6pm, and made it back to Portland around 1am. A very tiring drive, and after $204 in gas, was back home and sleeping in my own bed. Fun, but a 1000 mile drive for a bit of fun on the track and nothing else is questionable even in my skewed book. It may be a while before I come back...