Chapter 290 / May 2021
NASA NATIONALS TESTING AT DAYTONA!!
Love this place.
I’ve only raced here once before (14hr WRL event) but I was very happy to hear that the 2021 NASA Nationals will be held at this very hallowed ground. The challenge of Daytona is this: what sets fast lap times at every other track in North America does not necessarily work here. At COTA when we ran TT3, we were a TON of MPH down on the field on the long straight but it didn’t matter, we still won because we were faster when the steering wheel was turned. Even with all the time spent going straight at COTA, you’re still turning more often and so, (thank you Louis/Neil) we ran our best downforce setup and crushed it. Some folks in our class were putting more than 10mph on us at the end of the long straight and we *still* were fortunate enough to come away with the wins. #Science
Daytona throws the biggest monkey wrench in all that since we spend so much of a lap simply holding the loud pedal down while waiting for the next corner that the ‘max downforce setup’ is simply not optimal by the stopwatch. Clearly, we needed testing and the NASA Florida region was happy to take our money and oblige. Those Florida folks…gotta love ‘em!
Sledgehammer, the GSpeed shop car, was not an option. It is in pieces getting upgraded again (I have never driven that car in consecutive events where it was configured the same…..never!) and the GSpeed gang is busy….soo……they DO have a customer I've coached with a C5 which is setup close to Sledgehammer (Penske/AP, just a bit milder build) and the owner is looking to dip his toe into TT…..hmmmm. Of course, it *DOES* have stock ABS so the big worry was us ending up in a fiery pile! (oknotrly....we won 2018 Nats on stock ABS in SLJHMR, and tons of folks go fast on stock ABS, #McKamey!! #MFW!!...but all of you running stock C5 ABS are warned and I'll keep the memes hot and plentiful for ya!)
“Hey Grant, want to go to Daytona???” Grant replied emphatically yes since it is a huge bucket list track for him as well, and….away we go. Grant’s C5 runs an HPR 442” LS motor that the dyno/computer whizzes at GSpeed detuned to 378hp which slotted us nicely into TT2 and while the car sat on some well used Hoosiers for shake down, we had a 2-heatcycle set that looked great as well as a sticker set loaded in the rig. The plan was for Grant to do the HPDE portion (which would get him ready for TT) and then I’d run TT. We’d get valuable track data and setup data and driver data and, of course, basic data data. GSpeed is data driven….never have too much! #DataNerds #SendTheData #SendAllTheData
Above: Both sounded GREAT, and Below: Love this graphic package (car and driver was quick too!!)
The week before the event Louis and I meet in Waco for dinner and we unload the Surfer (Grant’s C5 is silver….ala the Silver Surfer, which invariably gets shortened to just Surfer) from the tag trailer and it gets slotted into the upper bay of the Costas’ rig. Tires and wheels and tools and canopy are also loaded and we have a good dinner discussing the setup on the car now, what we expect to happen with the driving dynamics and what the preferred changes will be. We talk big changes and fine changes, mechanical and aero, etc. After working together for so long, I’m blessed to have an engineer/builder who understands my driving and setup preferences and can quickly translate that into the proper setup change to go faster.
New and old Chevys met at Daytona to play on the big-boy track!
I still have normal person “work” to do, so I head out Wednesday after work and drive until late at night and catch some sleep at a rest area. I wake up, get a lot of work done and then start driving again Thursday afternoon and make it almost all the way to the track late that night. Friday I wake up, get more work done and then scoot over to the track so we can unload and setup. A lot of the cars have rented garages for the weekend so the open paddock area is pretty sparse. We pit next to another corvette right by the grid area and slide the Surfer out and get to work. Grant, a machinist by trade, is a phenomenal fabricator and since we needed a transponder mount, he drew that duty. I would have ziptied it to the grill somehow. Grant digs though my fab bin (steel, alum, carbon, plastic, kydex, etc) and fishes out some alum angle, cuts it to size, trims it to fit, drills holes to bolt it up and voila, we have a *really good looking* mount for the transponder. I handled the wiring with my weatherpack kit and with the appropriate decals on the car and fluids double checked and the Surfer wiped down, we’re about ready. We cruise the paddock and check out the cars and bump into Johnny Miller, the TT1 driver we ran against at MidO at the last NASA Nats. We were a “2” car and bumped to "1" and winning till the final session when Miller threw it down to take the top step on the podium for a Nats Victory. It's always good to catch up with him and his car has a raft of GSpeed updates now as well. (#TeamGSpeed) A quick dinner at Chipotle (mmm…black beans and chicken!) and I fall asleep doing mental laps and preparing my head for the sight picture of T1, the kink and the busstop, because those will separate the fast from the really fast.
Grant fabbing up the transponder mount, and our home for 3 days at 'Tona!!
Sidenote: We remembered the ez-up but not the canopy....but a blue tarp worked just fine! #ImproviseAdaptOvercome
The day dawns with a driver’s meeting and then TT on track to set the grid for the first timed session. Having Grant here is awesome because he is setting pressures and torquing lugs for my sessions and I’ll be doing the same for him. On one hand, it is just us, but on the other, it is really all we need assuming nothing goes wrong (foreshadowing???).
So I slide in the car and go to grid and it is nearly full. Doh! I know I’m not going to try and lay down a fast time right away, so picking through traffic the first few laps is fine (gently bring tires up to temp) and I do just that. After a few laps, I catch a big gap and throw down a decent time and bring it in. Sure enough, the right front tire is getting cut a bit by the fender (thankfully these are the old tires!). We make a host of changes (trim splitter, raise a bit, etc etc) and put on the "good" tires and double check everything. We're gridded 6th, right behind Ben Grambau in another C5 that GSpeed has a LOT of parts on. Ben is quick no doubt so this should be fun!
Grant is a machinist by trade, so fabwork is right up his alley! Yes, the final cut was about a perfect 15* bullnose!
Back in the paddock, we keep prepping and pull off the worn tires and put on the 2cycle set, so this will be their 3rd heat cycle. I actually start right behind Ben and let him build a gap and then I semi-send it to a 2:00.706 resulting in the 2nd fastest time after fast-guy Miller in his TT1 car. Ben runs a 2:02.3 to take 2nd in TT2 and the heat is coming so while we can all drive a bit better as we learn the track and the limits, the track will physically get slower as the temp climbs over 80 and the sun bakes the blacktop. Grant scoots out (4th HC) and does the full HPDE session, clipping off good times and learning the track. We're low on front brake pads and the pads shipped to us didn't make it, so we simply sit out the final session which was painful. I did a favor for one of the local folks (5th HC) and took a pax on a few laps, going 95%. This ended up being VERY smart since it allowed me to see the track while NOT pushing 100% and it allowed me to fine-tune some approach angles. Later, weather was rolling in, so cloud cover led to cooler track temps (it would rain later) and Ben stepped it up to a very nice 2:00.742, making it extremely close for the end of the day in TT2.
Or was it? Apparently three people handling paperwork for one entry is about two too many (one of the GSpeed guys, Grant and also me...LOL) and our TT2 paperwork upload went under Grant's name AND mine (on the same paper....so it went under Grant) plus there is a Florida site to upload to AND a national site, blah blah blah. Long story short, at awards I get announced as the winner in TTU. Yuck. HOWEVER, there is enough in TTU to win tires, YAY! #BlessingsInDisguise. Ben wins TT2, but sadly no tires since the Surfer plus a few other cars went from 2 and other classes to flood TTU with EIGHTEEN FREAKING CARS and an old C5 vette on stock ABS finished the day at the top of the heap! #AllThoseHighSpeedBrakingZones #OhNoes #FreePurpleCrack
So Grant and I wait out the rain (that interrupted the trophies!) and then with an hour or so of daylight, we put on some used pads pilfered from Grambau who was stupidnice to give us his takeoffs since ours got lost in transit. He runs the big man-calipers for the girl-got-a-thic-booty endurance pads and when he takes them off, they are about like full-thickness pads for the 'normal' AP calipers Grant runs (thank you Essex!!!). So before dark we slide in the new-to-us pads and I scuff them a bit in the paddock and away we go to Chipotle for a nice dinner. #ThanksBen #ObiWanSavesTheDay
Ben's REALLY CLEAN AND NICE C5 and a TTU pcar that had big power!!
Below: This car sounded really good and was hooked up!
Sun comes up after a great night's sleep and we're ready. We skip the 'warmup' since it does not count (an oddity....in Texas on Sunday each session counts!) except for Grid and nobody goes fast. Lots of rubber got washed off the in the hour-long-hard-pour yesterday and I gambled and saved the wear on the tires. Grant went out (6th HC) and did great, again staying out the whole session and simply getting faster. We talk a lot about lines and speeds and he is completely getting it while trying to come to grips with a new track that has triple digit approach speeds. We are both _gently_ easing up on the limits because we both want to slide a running and shiny car back in my toter tonight!
Good news is I keep my time from yesterday so I'm still p2, bad news is I read the schedule wrong and went to grid as they were going out. Doh! For a split second I was a bit miffed, but as I hit the banking out of T7 I could hear Louis flatly saying "don't worry about it, warm up the car, find a gap and send it!". So that's what I did. Threw down a 1:58.8 on our 7 HC A7s and felt good about it. The late morning was getting hotter and the track was already getting a kiss greasy and while a Mustang put down a 1:59.5 to snag 2nd in TTU, I stayed in 2nd overall to Miller's (real) TT1 Vette with a 1:56.9. We chill out for lunch and start organizing the toter to load up for when we decide we're done. Grant is going to do another session for sure and I'm waffling. I've got good video to study and we've got a good bit of data so we stick around and watch the 3rd TT session just to see what happens. It's got a bit hotter and while there are clouds rolling in, it'll be a while before they get here.
While we wait, I scoot down and Obi-Wan has his Vette WAY up in the air with the shifter apart. He had an issue and the damn thing is stuck in third gear so he's out for the day. Yuck. Later he puts it back together (still stuck in third) and holds the clutch in while a bunch of us push the car up the ramp and into his trailer. He'll be running the WRL race the following weekend (in another Corvette) to get a ton of cheatin-bastard-practice in and he'll surely be fast for Nationals #TeamGSpeed!!
The Surfer (L) and a text I got after the first Saturday session. #TexterProtectionProgram #HeWhoMustNotBeNamed #LOLLER #Truth
Sure enough the next TT session just after lunch, the Mustang throws down a 1:58.535. to nip me in the Surfer by .3 of a second. In the blazing hot heat. I watched it happen and he was easily as fast or faster than Miller's TT1 machine on the banking, so even though he is a TT2 car, my guess is he plugged in his programmer and put back in the power or pulled a restrictor. Car was MOVING. OOf. I went to impound to talk to Miller and Gaudu to see how the track was ("getting hot and loose" per both of them!) and the Mustang didn't even show up. Hmmmmm. Technically that's a DQ for that session but apparently it wasn't today.
So do we let Grant do his last HPDE session and load up? And do I also go out one more time and try? Clouds were getting closer, but still a ways off. Grant was 100% in the "send it" corner as were my wife and myself. Sure, I'd get a later start time out of here (Grant flew both ways, LOL) but pain is temporary, glory is forever. Texted Louis and I knew what I'd get before the answer came right back "full send". Half of me thinks he wants the victory, the other half thinks he just wants the data. I bet I'm right. <grin>
Gaudu's TTU car on the left and Miller's TT1 machine in red. Both very quick!!!
Go to grid on the same tires (stickers are in the rig....oooof) now starting their 8th HC and the clouds are stubbornly staying away. The only good news is that the grid is virtually empty and although I slot into the P3 spot, I'm leading this small group of only SEVEN cars. We are the ones getting our monies worth here at Daytona International!! So I warm the car pretty hard and freaking send it out of the bus stop and do a great T1 and horseshoe but I've got a loose car by the kink and it gets worse a the exit of T7. Dammit. I KNEW the car was going to be loose a bit, why didn't I soften the back?? Argh. I do a pretty good bus stop and fly to the s/f line to a 1:58.90. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap. Not enough to the Mustangs 58.535!
Above: The fast Mustang...those exposed splitter struts cost him at least .1!! #AeroGuysAgree #SayNoToExposedStruts <grin>
Below: Several cars went out during the last sessions without rear wings attached. Interesting...
Cool the car off the next lap....cool the tires WAY off and give myself the "go fast with a loose car" lecture as I putt through the infield and decide I'm going to send this again. I'm used to this in Scratcher and I need to do a better job of adapting today. This was MY fault...I can correct this. I check the dash and I've got the gas for it and maybe the Daytona Gods will smile down on our effort. I absolutely putt through the kink, down to T5, up to T7 and ease onto the banking. I'm going slow enough that a pair of slower-class cars are catching me as I head out of Nascar2 on the way to the busstop. As we all know, a fast lap starts at the busstop and it must be taken very fast with no mistakes and a ton of exit speed to bless the driver with an upcoming fast lap and so I pick it up going into the busstop and fully freaking send it through the middle and simply hang on for the exit, raping the exit curbing along the way as the HPR powerplant is fully singing 'God Bless America' as I rocket through Nascar 3 and 4, the Surfer simply pushing the hot air aside as we thunder around N3 and 4. #Murica
Slow deep breaths as my foot stays buried long past the start line. Looooong past. I hold the speed as long as I dare and then clamp down on those AP badboys and straddle the outside white line keeping my speed as high as possible while visions of TWS T1 dance in my head. Eyes up! The angle visually begins to line up so I bleed a kiss more speed, add a bit of steering wheel and go back to releasing all the Bald Eagles as I thread the little esses after T2 and approach the horseshoe. I stay wide and bleed off a kiss more speed than last time so I can take a tiny bit bigger initial turn-in bite and again release those screaming Eagles and hold on to the ragged edge of grip, cresting over the first exit curb on the way to the outer curb and I take half of that as well. A quick upshift and a few calm breaths and I'll be taking the kink faster than I have all weekend. Mental processing speeds way up, so relative time slows way down. Stay wide, turn in a kiss later than what looks proper and I'm flying into T5 where I double apex it to keep my exit speed up, while keeping my eyes moving to ensure I'm using every foot of the track and a bit more. Again I remind myself that T7 is critical and I take another moment to ultra focus and slow down time and hit this just right. I do, but the rear is now gripping less and instead of lifting, I just let the car run wide on exit so as not to sacrifice even one half of one MPH as I row gears heading to the busstop. For the first time I look over at the predictive timing and it says 1:58.7. Dammit. Not enough. HOWEVER on the long run down to the busstop, the numbers are slowly declining..."so you're telling me there's a chance?".
I'm absolutely rocketing to the busstop. I fade right as I get into the braking zone and get close to the wall as the 300 and then the 200 just flies by. With my right foot still begging the last Eagle to be noisily unleashed, my left foot gingerly touches the middle pedal. Just before the 100 mark the right pedal comes up (sorry Eagles, we'll be right back to you in a few moments!) and the left is quickly taken down hard and the nose simply drops and the Surfer sheds all kinds of speed and heat as I wait those interminable moments to see if I timed this right. The car is walking a bit, but nothing bad, and I easily keep it in the preferred lane as the fronts bellow out the heat. If I braked too early, I'll over slow and throw away entry speed. If I braked too late, I'll mess up my entry angle and have to turn more in the middle and throw away exit speed. I got it awfully close, and in that coasting moment after the first turn I quickly went from 5th to third and then went back to the loud pedal exclusively and used all the track and then some in the middle as well as all the track and then some on exit, being sure to keep 2-on so the lap still counts. I gotta be honest: I felt pretty darn good about that busstop.
I quickly shift to fourth going into Nascar3 and look at the SOLO. 1:58.6xx and gently falling. I need a 1:58.534 and this is going to be close. I run right along the bottom of the banking, shifting to 5th and just *willing* the last bit of speed out of the Surfer. I know it is a miniscule amount of time, but after N4 as we (me and the Surfer...we have a thing now) go to the tri-oval, I put the inboard tires over the white line (keeping 2 inside the white line, thus legal!) as the SOLO slowly falls down into the 1:58.5 range. I'm trying to save every inch of distance I can and this is going to be oh-so-close. C'mon baby!!!
The SOLO stops at the SF line showing a 1:58.52. This is not official and my SOLO has been known to be off by as much as a full tenth over the track system, so I've got to wait until I can exit the track and check my phone for official timing. I cool the car off, taking it easy and bring it in. I cruise to the impound and bust out the phone. 1:58.533 is the official time. Winning over the Mustang's 1:58.535 for a margin of victory of .002! #GSpeedPrepFTW #ABSnoKillMe #SurfedToVictory #NeverDidBreakOutTheStickers #StillOnLegal2Power
Grant meets me at impound with cold water (YES! Thanks Grant!!) and we chill for a bit. We're soon released and we check over the car and Grant heads to grid for the final HPDE session, putting the 9th HC on the A7s and staying out the whole session and throwing down a very respectable time. The track can be intimidating and as drivers we know to take small bites at a place like this, lest you bite too much and choke. Several folks did, and lots of folks had damage (both body AND engine!) but the Surfer drove on the gate and into the rig on her own power, with the only damage being maybe a few small nicks in the silver paint from 160+mph running on the famous high-banks at Daytona.
Essex/AP Racing FTW, and two trophies and a trophy hottie ALSO FTW!!!
I know you're saying: "Say Costas...why all the memes???" I'm not a meme-guy but apparently they are super easy to make! Why are they here, you ask? There was a kerfuffle* on social media about this GSpeed car winning at Daytona with the stock ABS system (clearly the memes apply, LOL). There are folks who seem to struggle with this system just as there are folks who are not troubled by it at all. Jim McKamey (founder of the Evo Autocross School, manytime national champ in autocross and racing) is a fellow driver who can go incredibly fast on stock C5 ABS, as is local Texas driver MFW and clearly myself and a plethora of others (most of the SpecVette guys too!). I posted a thread online and shared it in the Texas Group Page and it was allowed to stand (!!!) as the discussion bantered back and forth, with one person asking to see data, knowing that Louis in the past is very protective of data. However, in this case, Louis made an exception and showed the exact data trace of the Surfer on the fastest lap going through the busstop and for comparison also overlaid a datatrace for an M4 Competition Coupe (that I had actually helped setup!) at Daytona earlier this year and the traces were almost identical. After that, the thread got deleted and I was banned. I had not named anyone, and I presented hard data (in a smarty pants kinda way, I mean, I'm from TAMSCC where this is a way of life! But still...). I'd offered to meet at a Texas track and show what I do (heck, the data trace shows it...) in person, but that was rebuffed and the ban hammer was swung. Seems pretty sad to me, but you all can judge and perhaps I'm in the wrong. *shrug*. Then again, perhaps that person will realize what they did was really weak, apologize at their mistake and want to learn the skill. My sincere offer still stands. #PadawanBrakeLearner #YouMustUnlearnWhatYouLearned
*Kerfuffle just might be my new favorite word. Watch for it in upcoming updates!
To me, this is just like any other uniqueness that some specific cars have. Ever drive an old 930 turbo really quick? To be really fast you must adapt your driving (no quick lift of the throttle when the rear is hanging out), just like the dynamics of going fast in FWD cars too. Old folks did unique things to reduce/eliminate axle hop on certain cars as well. The list goes on, but the basic tenet of being adaptable and learning the chassis specifics will endure. Heck, going fast in a C8 (rear engine) is a waaay different approach than a C5/6/7 is. I completely agree a stock C5 ABS is not optimal, but clearly (CLEARLY) it can do the job if driven in a certain way. #AdaptAndThrive #StagnateAndGoSlow #ThinkOfTheMemes
Above: Awesome skeeredkitteh plus the speed trace for the busstop is circled. Red is Surfer, blue is M4 Competition Coupe on Michelin slicks. While our decel "g" slope is damn near identical, you'll notice my (red) Gcurve is a *kiss* more rounded on initial decel, where the BMW is more abrupt initially. In the snap below, I've zoomed in a bit and you can see the difference more clearly. And no, I did not slow down too early, the map overlay is not perfect, so the lines don't match up just right. We could have done that, but it is easier to see the slight entry gradient difference this way. Grant's TT2 car on worn A7s vs a BMW M4 Comp Coupe is interestingly close. The Michelin slicks give the BMW about a 2 second lead in lap time...about what a fresh A7 would have given over these 8HC ones. Interestingly, I shook down/setup this exact M4 prior to it getting shipped to Daytona earlier this year! In my recap I show pics of the outside and the gorgeousawesome cockpit in my update here: http://www.witchdoctormotorsports.com/ch286.htm
Grant had a GREAT time. He chimed in: "Since I was in high school (mid 70s!) I've always watched the Daytona 24hr race. I never imagined some 40+ years later I would actually be running there, pounding my way down to the famous bus stop and hitting over 160mph on that track. I've been a long time customer of GSpeed, but never a 'high roller' customer. I am close to retiring so yes, I have a set budget. But the thing I have NEVER felt like is a 'second-class' customer!! You would expect Paul to fly in Sledgehammer with all of the skills he bring to the table and Louis' knowledge...But to take the Surfer (again, built on a budget!) and still manage to win in the TTUnlimited class while still setup for TT2 shows that my money was very well spent! Thank you to Paul, Louis, and the entire team at GSpeed. MY CREW!!"
HUGE THANK YOU to Louis and the whole GSpeed crew for building and setting up an incredible machine, and of course to Grant for allowing me a sweet co-drive. The Essex AP brakes were phenomenal (uh, braking right with a high-dollar BMW M4 Comp Coupe, hello!!!!), the HPR power was great and the Hoosier tires took the abuse and delivered when needed. The Surfer uses Penskes and the control was the usual perfect, with the only issue being created by me and not softening up the back as the tires wore. Cobalt pads with stock ABS clearly delivered at this super-fast track.
Advice for folks going to Nationals: Team GSpeed learned a LOT this weekend, and while we don't share everything, I'm happy to share some things. First off, the video is live and the link is below. Second off, if you have not already guessed it, high speed corner entry is life. *Every* n00b driver is fast on corner exit since all you have to do is press the loud pedal. *Most* folks are quick in the middle with some training and/or experience and they can balance the car in the middle and head out for a fast exit. The last tiny bits of speed come on corner entry. The problem/blessing/curse of Daytona is that a huge chunk of time is spent at WOT waiting, so those few times we change direction at high speed, we can't afford to *not* maximize them. At Daytona, we've got really fast corner entries for T1, the kink, and the busstop. Having a car setup (dampers, weight, alignment angles) to turn in quickly both on power and off will be ultra-critical for Nats here. The Surfer needed just a kiss of steering twitch and the nose would rotate smoothly into the corners and you can see from the video (even without an inside view) that the car simply rotates into those critical corners with zero drama or delay. Next, the car has *got* to put down power well and turn at the same time. If you have to wait till near the end of the International Horseshoe to put down the loud pedal, you're sacrificing speed all the way down to T6. MegaDitto for both times you are getting on the banking. Forward bite here (even if you're low power!) has to be at the top of the wishlist with high-speed turn-in. Drag...find it and reduce it. Read up on aero drag, the key causes and how to reduce them. Open windows is a huge one that we can't change, but rake, wheel spats, ducting, sealed gaps and a *host* of others will be important at Nats. There are a bunch of really good books on race car aerodynamics and I know I'll be reviewing my favorites in the coming weeks. Both Race Car Aerodynamics by Katz and Competition Car Aero by McBeath are two of mine that I like a lot. I have about a dozen, but those two hit the high points well.
VIDEO LINK TO FASTEST LAP: https://vimeo.com/559521528
It was a long trip home, but the grin stayed there the whole time.