August 2018 - Chapter 268
SLJHMR Test at COTA
If you read the May write-up (Chapter 263) on the whole GSpeed SLJHMR C5z then you know the plan is to go to NASA Nationals (conveniently located at Austin, Texas' F1 track, COTA) and shoot for the TT3 championship. While we were incredibly enthused to have won in May and smashed the track record along the way, we (Louis and I) were of course paranoid that we were not prepared *enough* and so we, like any good championship minded team, dug back into the data and searched for ways we could go faster.
In June and July, GSpeed had a lot of work to get out the door and SLJHMR sat idly by, waiting. Louis and I had several long phone calls discussing the data (we did not post that) and video we posted (it got a LOT of hits) and what we had left on the table. Looking at the calendar, there was a Chin Track Days (www.chintrackdays.com) event the month before Nationals at COTA and that seemed like a really good evemt to go do more testing.
Early Saturday found me getting to the track well before the sun rose to find the GSpeed crew unloading for the two day event. Cooper was there (Nats practice!) in his ST2 yellow C5z (GSpeed), as well as Ferguson in his TA2 car which had been waiting a while as his real life flared up and racing got pushed aside. JBJones was there in his TT4 FR-S to practice for nationals as well and that completed our 4-car garage spot. JBJones ran the May event as well, winning on Saturday but getting nipped on Sunday so he was ready to raise his game for the big show as well.
We tested the 'fat lip' (#LookMaNoSplitterStruts!) and then tested a reduced version as well
I went to sign-in for the event and Marc was working registration and thankfully bumped me to a white wristband (instructor) from my normal red so I could A) help him with checkrides if he needed it and (mostly), B) allow me to go out in any session to make our testing life easier. I don't need full laps, I simply need a sector or two to compare with the previous data/feel to see if our change took us in the right direction and this made life easier. I've done check-rides a lot for Chin and am always happy to help them out. If you're a track guy and you've not done Chin, they are literally the cream of the crop. Great group, great organization and a unique format that I prefer over the others.
JBJones came in for a quick temp reading (see Louis hiding by the RF).
Testing went great. Without boring you to death, we tested ride heights, rake, damper knobs, canards, diffuser, wing angles, splitter length and a few other things we like to call none-of-your-dang-business. In all, we got quite a bit faster and the big question on everyone's mind (both road racing and TT) was "track limits". If the first white line is out-of-bounds then you can put two wheels across it, but no more. If the SECOND white line is out-of-bounds that makes the track a LOT wider and substantially faster (lower lap time). In the esses, would the BIG "turtles" (some call them diamonds due to their shape) be in place or would we be able to take big bites out of the asphalt with no consequence? A month before nats, I posted on the NASA Texas TT page and got crickets. Oh well. At the May event there were NO track limits for the race groups and 2nd white line for TT. The race groups were going off pavement and bringing back on gravel in spots where you simply don't want gravel.
Louis and the attending GSpeed crew of Corey, Ian and Jason are like bees the entire two days. Constantly in motion, massing to work together when needed and working on their own at other times. Cars are kept fueled, air pressure is monitored and adjusted, rolling stock swapped around and torqued, fluids checked, etc. Corey spent a lot of time on the TA2 car, getting the new dash all working and correct while Jason experienced 'diffuser day' and got to assemble and fit SLJHMR with that specific aero doo-dad. Louis choreographs it well as he rides herd on the team, keeping them one step ahead of the schedule and checklist.
Jason putting the final touches on the diffuser and Louis messing with other aero bits.
I did get to make a few laps in JBJones' FR-S. It is REALLY setup well and as we all talked through some issues he was having and bantering about on how to fix it, he offered a few laps. Me and the shifter did not get along well at first, but after a lap I realized it is like my Long shifter where if you try and shift it gently it will balk. Once I started shifting deliberately and firmly, it hit gears just fine and was a joy. JBJones also made minor changes throughout the day and got quicker as the weekend went on. Sadly at the end of Sunday he encountered a motor issue and his day was done. With a few weeks to nationals, he shifted into high gear (#badpun) to figure out the problem and still make nats!
Ferguson's TA2 car. Looked good (nose on travel blocks here), sounded GREAT!
Want to hear a scary story? Sure you do. Read on! So Ferguson brought out his wicked sounding TA2 car to 'do some shake down'. His life had really pulled him away from the track for a while (we've all been there!) and he was anxious to go out and play. Another shop (NOT GSpeed!) had been working on and setting up the car but Louis' team was supporting it this weekend so he could get his feet wet again. I prodded him to make the TA2 race at COTA in November and hopefully I planted a seed (#badinfluence). So Saturday first session his clutch says "bye" and the car is parked while a new assembly is found and installed. Sunday Ferguson did quite a few sessions but struggled with brake pedal getting long and poor/inconsistent handling. On Sunday he asked if I'd drive it (I speak tube-frame and TA2) to help him get a handle on what is going on and, if possible, set a data lap so we could start working on making the car/driver combo faster. So the car is already warmed up and I put my seat pad into the car and slide in. It is REALLY nice and GSpeed just put a wicked LCD dash (MoTec?) and I take a few minutes to figure switches and controls. Long shifter and a dog box (same as Scratcher) means the basics are covered. Loud pedal on the right, slow pedal in the middle, yeah I got this...
"Some say...Louis' weight reduction tactics border on the extreme...."
I launch and the car is instantly not handling well. Even half a lap in with warm tires it was still not bueno. You know how when you drive something that really gets *into* the corners well you can say "the turn-in is CRISP". Or "this thing SLICES into the corners!"?? This car wanted to change direction about as much as a brick building. Maybe even a tad less so. Radically altering my driving style for lap 2, I was able to show some pretty good lap time improvement as I felt out the car. By the time I got to the big fast carousel (T16-17-18) I over-slowed to get the car to rotate and then put the car on the left rear and (big LS powah!) shot around the famous COTA tower in that fast right-hander picking up speed in huge big chunks.
With T19 approaching quickly (I'm well over 100mph), I migrated to the right hand side of the track and used my left foot to 'set' the brakes, anticipating my right foot would lift off the gas in a moment. My left foot found ZERO resistance and my brain quickly came to two conclusions. 1)I am SO screwed, or 2)I'm on the clutch. Quickly lifting and verifying I'm on the correct pedal, we find that my brain was completely correct the first time. Dammit.
Carrying WAAAAAY too much speed approaching the T19 turn-in point my left leg begins a Thumper (the rabbit in Bambi who can transcend sonic speeds with his foot) action as my hands turn left pretty hard to give me some lateral force to help scrub off speed. I turn back to the right as my speed has bled a bit, but still no resistance on the brake pedal after a few seconds. Crap. The wall is WAAAAY out past T19 and on a cool-down lap you think "damn, it would be hard to hit that wall because it is so far away", and now....going 100+mph I'm going to meet that wall really really soon. In someone else's really nice car. Damn. damn damn damn.
GET SOME!!! (MohFlo pic)
I've blown off the track completely and in some clag on the runoff area with the car swerving right. I'm starting to swerve back left and DAMN if that wall is not still coming up quick. A rapid scan shows no breaks in the wall as my left leg muscles start to protest about the 600 flights of stairs I've just climbed in the past 2.5 seconds. My left foot comes up and moves left as my right foot takes over and the rapid thumping begins anew. I'm about a half second away from cutting the wheel hard left to spin it in (flat spots be damned, anything to try and keep me outta that freaking wall)...and my brain says "I think we got a touch of resistance right at the bottom of the pedal". I don't dare use it yet, I've got a few moments to pump another dozen hits on the pedal and sure enough the pedal resistance goes from the last bit of pedal to almost the middle of the pedal as I can see I'm about out of time/distance/paving. I bury the brake pedal and hold it there and feel the welcoming hit of my shoulders into the straps and the speed comes down FAST. Finally I dunk the trans into first and turn left back to the track, but I'm past pit-in. A slow lap being careful to stay out of everyone's way and I bring it in, pumping the brakes at least 15 times before each time I need to slow down. A few times I almost had a real brake pedal, but mostly nope. To say it was a very vocal debrief would be an understatement.
Cooper did great and got more comfortable in the GSpeed yellow C5z (ST2) and between him and SLJHMR finishing the test strong, things were looking good for GSpeed's first NASA Nationals in a few weeks. Wish us luck!!