Greg Attends the 2010 SCCA Runoffs

Yep, I did it: I attended the 2010 Runoffs...

The Trip Over

The SCCA Runoffs runs from Monday through the following Sunday, with Mon-Thurs reserved for three quallification sessions for each class (yes, note four days, three sessions; more later). But since the STU race was to be the first race on Friday, it gave me the whole of the prior weekend to get to Wisconsin, and the whole of the subsequent weekend to get home. So...I took my time to get there.

I was graciously offered a place to stay near Cleveland from Phil and Jen, some friends from the RoadRaceAutoX forum. Even better, Phil and Jen are beer people, and they have a great brewpub (The Brew Kettle) within stumbling distance from their home. What a great time! I had wonderful conversation, great beer and food, and I got to see the Brew Kettle's "Brew On Premise" facilities. Thanks, guys!!

Leaving at dawn the next morning, I was on my way to Road America. The drive wasn't bad except for some traffic in Chicago, but for the most part it was a good drive. Upon arrival at the track I found myself a bit overwhelmed with the registration and paddocking process, but I soon met up with my paddock mates Chris Childs and Kolin Aspergren. Beer and pizza soon got us in the mood for the week...

Qually 1 Notes

STU was the first session of the first day, 8:30 AM Monday.

This track is INTIMIDATING. You think LRP is bad? Try it at 50% more velocity... holy crap it takes some brass ones to go fast here...

I got to drive the track Sunday night in one of the track's pace cars, a Jetta TDI. It's a straightforward track, nothing real tricky, except for the fact that every 90 degree hard braking corner is preceded by a very long straight, with no runoff straight ahead. You blow it under braking, you're toast. The fast corners are very fast, and the slow corners are very slow, and you have to keep up your speed in both no matter what. I cannot IMAGINE what it takes to drive a GT-1 car fast here...

Our car's fine. It feels "skittish" on the straights, probably as a result of added camber. That's fine, because it makes the turn-in damn good (maybe too good, I'm back to too-early double turn-ins...). Back end is slippy when cold, both from the better front bite and probably because of the 12+ cycles rear SM tires. That's fine, because after things warm up it's sticky. It's VERY intimidating, though, because occasionally the car will step-out mid-corner on the fast stuff. You know, the fast stuff with walls right next to you? Sadly, I suspect we could use a rear wing...

Balance overall is good, but I'm so far behind this track right now I can't see making any changes. I need to review data with Lucas and see where we're leaving a lot of time, but I can tell you the easy answer: brake later and go faster in the corners and keep my fucking foot down. Somehow, though, I think my realization of mortality will get in the way of give you an idea, I'm only going through corners about 10 mph faster than I did in the Jetta (when I glanced down to look), so I know I can improve a ton. I'll add pressures and temps at the bottom of this note.

Brakes are DAMN good. Pedal is high, hard, and responsive, but not too much where I lock up the brakes. I'm way overbraking (see above sense of mortality) and the wheels are COVERED in DTC-60 dust after one session. Since they were new I probably over-drove them, but I'll see how they feel tomorrow. I also think I may have heat-soaked/boiled the fluid; I did not do a cool-down lap after the checkers and after coming into the pits the pedal got real long. I'll bleed them today and see, but adding cooling ducts into that airdam will be a must.

There's some SERIOUS hardware here. There's an Istook Audi A4 turbo that's a ROCKET SHIP on the straights; he came up on me this session and patiently waited for me to point him by, then BLASTED away. And some guy rented P.D. Cunningham and his World Challenge TSX (yes, he actually rented PD, who's here supporting him) and that thing is just terrifyingly fast. Phil's going to have his hands full... In general, there's a lot of neat hardware all over the place; I'd really forgotten how "serious business" this event can be.

John Costello is already running into problems, popped a head gasket yesterday. He borrowed the Excursion and the trailer to bring his car to someone ("King") and he should be online tomorrow.

Well, nothing happens again until tomorrow, so off to eat, drink, clean the car and bleed some brakes...

Qually 2 Notes

Items changed from yesterday

- Nitrogen in front tires to reduce pressure increase

- Swapped tires lt to rt (wear is good)

- Checked brakes, look good.

- Bled brakes, a bubble in one side, nothing more

- Removed tape over turn signal lenses to get air to the fender wells

One other thing: think I forgot to write there's a terrible vibration under braking, like warped rotors. Was there from the very first. Problem wasn't any better today, so I think it's the rotors not centering properly on the hubs. I've contacted Fastbrakes and he's sending me some modified caliper brackets so I can remove the spacers under the rotors and use the centering rings properly.

Car is still good. I dropped 5 seconds off my lap time and I'm now sixth in class, behind the "real" STU cars.

Balance is still good, a tad tail-happy mid-corner. That's good on the slow stuff, but a bit disconcerting on the fast stuff. I'll recheck alignment (didn't get around to that today) but I'm loathe to change it. I'm giving thought to taking the current "new" 225s and putting them on the back, then buying a new set of 225s for the front. That should trend the car back to more understeer mid-corner, while improving grip overall. Hate to spend the money, but the confidence improvement and reduction in risk is probably worth it.

More tomorrow.

Qually 3 Notes

Following done:

- Bled front brakes, more bubbles...need to duct. Pads look great.

- Got the modified caliper brackets, everything fits nice now without spacers. Still had a brake vibration, but much less so.

- Hoosier didn't bring any 15" tires, so I bought a pair of one-cycle R6s from Chris Childs. Put those on front, put 2-cycle 225s on rear.

- Changed oil.

Car feels good. More understeer, that touchy rear is no longer, give me much more confidence to push. Of course, eventually I'll want that back, but maybe we'll get there with more rear spring. As noted above, brakes better, but still vibration. May consider putting new rotors on for the race.

Dropped another second off my best lap, did a 2:42.4 and was consistently in the mid- to high-42s.

Downside for the day, I got impounded and they checked my ride height; it failed. The bottom of the front resonator sticks down below the 3" minimum about 1/4". Yep, go read the rules: exhaust is not excluded from the ride height as it is in Improved Touring. They disallowed my times from today, but I think I'm still in sixth place, so it's kinda irrelevant in the end.

I'm not touching the car setup, so we tried bending the rear hangers to butt the exhaust up in the tunnel. Went back to Tech to get checked and the rear cleared now, but the front half didn't. So we took it off again and used a mallet to flatten the bottom of the resonator. They closed Tech before I could get it rechecked, so I'll check it tomorrow (we're not on track Thursday). One thing I noticed is that the inside of that resonator is slightly crushed, and I don't think we did it with the mod. If the car doesn't pass Tech tomorrow then I'm considering taking the exhaust to a local muffler shop and have them replace the whole thing with a straight pipe; with that Walker Dynomax it should pass sound control fine (but, unfortunately, I have no way to check that in advance of the race.

Here's the fun part: there's a 50/50 chance for rain Friday I try to win the damn thing and get impounded, or do I lay back so I can go home...? ;)

Other than the exhaust and checking alignment and a re-bleed, I've no plans to do anything for the next 36 hours except drink beer and watch race car make a lot of noise. Supposed to rain tomorrow, though...

Off to dinner.

Off Day

Well, the original idea for this off day was to enjoy. Unfortunately, I still had that ride height issue hanging over my head.

Race Notes:

Home now, 18 hours non-stop solo...

Quick summary:

- Woke up to rain on the trailer 6:00 AM, but it stopped, with HOWLING winds, 35-40 gusting, and low fast-moving clouds.

- Track was damp/dry/damp, and polished surface was slick. However, at the "1" we started to get mist on the windshield.

Looks like the A4 missed a shift at the start, causing mayhem behind I passed the A4, the Pettiford Jetta, and the Grahovic BMW at the start, putting me fourth into T1. That didn't last long, of course, and within 3 laps I settled into 6th with the Jetta behind. The T3 guys caought up QUICK, probably 2 laps, so I spent a lot of time with my eyes in the mirrors.

Pettiford finally got his tires up to temp and caught me (those Jettas have some nut) and after my blocking him through a corner so a T3 leader behind him could pass (why in the hell an STU car is trying to race with a T3 leader in a championship race is beyond me) he went on his merry way as I settled into a very comfortable 7th.

But, 5 laps in you know what happened. Inside-the-car perspective is that I drove into the Carousel and got an oil pressure warning from the DL1; given the recent wiring issues with the sensors I was cynical, so I cancelled the warning and it came back immediately. Then I noticed that the engine seems to be tightening up; in hindsight I recognize that as lack of VTEC (yo). I clutched it, let it idle (it idled fine), didn't hear any noise, but then I noticed the factory oil pressure idiot light was on. By that time I was going through the Kink and along that straight with the concrete walls; I didn't want to bring in a full-course caution so I let the car coast with the engine idling in case I needed it to get out of the way. I coasted to the downstream side of Canada Corner and turned into the grass, and promptly slid to a stop through the grass with all four locked up into the concrete wall! Fortunately, it wasn't very fast and it's minor cosmetic. Shut the car off and I haven't turned it on since. There's plenty of oil in it, so that's not it...

In hindsight there were a few clues that something wasn't right. I changed the oil after Tuesday's session, and I know I checked the oil afterward, but after coming off the track on Wednesday I noticed it was odd that I was getting oil pressure warnings at idle. But it was a warm afternoon and I was using 0W-30 oil, so it didn't bother me. But, while on the grid Friday for the race I found it very odd that I was still getting oil pressure warnings with the car not fully warmed up. However, I did watch the oil pressure during the race and it was 50-70 at the start. But in the end I think we'll find either a failed oil pump or a spun bearing (it was a failed pump - GA).

Which, of course, leads to some interesting discussions. I'm impressed by the number of Honda drivers and techs (they had a tent there for lunch for the competitors) that suggested I have one of the best chassis and if I want to run this class "right" I should put in a K20 with 6-speed. Lucas tells me that the Grand-Am spec engine puts out 270 wheel horsepower on oxygenated fuel (NASA spec), 245 with regular gasoline (whatever octane GA uses). I was able to run through the corners with the leaders, but they would KILL me on the straights. All food for thought.

But for now I want to get the car to Matt so we can put a mechanical gauge on it and check for pressure, and if there's none I want to pull the pan to see if there's anything obvious. But, regardless, I suggest we've got another project on our hands...

Thea asked me if this week was worth it: I think it was. Lots of money and time for not a lot of track time (not to mention a week off work) but it's the first time at this track and I'm glad I did it. I'll go back when I think I can win the thing...GA



In-car video. Not awesome, but not bad quality for a still camera.

Qually 3:


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