September. Damn that seems like a long time ago, because well it was. And a lot has happened since then. For one I’m married now. There is not much to blog about atucrossing over the winter b/c there really isn’t much autocrossing over the winter. Philly region does have a winter series but I didn’t attend it b/c my Miata got rear-ended and subseqently totaled out by the insurance co. That was obviously a big bummer b/c I was looking forward to really tuning the car this year and bridging the gap to the CRXs.
And Irene and I decided to get rid of the Prelude. It was just getting two high in mileage. So that is two cars gone over the winter. We did get something cool to replace the Prelude though, a Mazdaspeed3. We both like th car a lot. S-plan pricing really made it a good deal.
Initially I was going to find another Miata shell this spring and swap everything over. But I decided to put that on hold till next year so we can focus on finding a house. The government is holding this $8,000 tax credit carrot in front of our noses and we’d be stupid to not try and take advantage of it. So there hasn’t been much to report on the car front. I have done a few autocrosses in the Mazdaspeed3. But I’ve also missed a bunch.
So because of all that stuff, and there was some crappy medical stuff going one over the winter, that I haven’t been posting. I’ve realized of late that there is a lot of other stuff I could be posting about other than cars and autocrossing. I don’t like putting to much personal life stuff up on a public blog. But I have been getting more interested in what is happening in politics, or more like what the current President and congress are doing to “fix the economy”. For the record I don’t like it, which is why I feel I should be writing about it. In addition there is the real possibility of “carbon cap & trade” coming to this country now. I have some strong opinions on that since I work in the utility industry. Specifically I don’t like it.
I have also been messing around with computers more lately. I got really fed up with Vista and tried Linux again. There is at least one future blog post in that story. I have also been messing around with trying to write a small CMS for websites. It is going very slowly since I can only dedicate an hour or two each day to it. IT is very rewarding though and I could see myself doing that for a living if I was to find a way to change careers w/o a drop in pay (yeah right!). And I have been doing more unique stuff with the 3D design software we use in work, Autodesk Inventor. There are some potential blog posts waiting to come out of that experience.
So now that I’ve made the excuse post and gotten back on the horse let’s hope I can me more active on this thing again.
So I’ve been complaining about the Prelude being uncompetitive in STS, especially with me behind the wheel, for a while now. It’s kinda heavy, or has small tires for it’s size/weight. Or is not geared high enough for larger tires or does not have enough low end torque to really use larger tires. Anyway you look at it, as amazing of a car as it is, and it is, it just doesn’t fit well into any autocrossing class.
So I’ve been pining for a proven competitive car. Becoming a lemming as they say in the sport. An EF Civic Si for STS. Yes Please. I was looking for a while. Unmolested ones in running condition are tough to come by. Lost out on two via eBay. Found a few that didn’t run. No way to tow them home. Saw a few more with ZC or B18 swaps. More with 20 pounds of fiberglass molded on the body. Um… no. I gave up on that. Next choice was STS2. A CRX or Miata is the car to have in this class. Same problem finding a running un-molested CRX that was also not too far. I might have found one if I had continued looking hard. But another idea took hold.
The dark horse in STS2 is the 2nd gen RX7. I’ve always had a soft spot for rotary engines. It’s the engineer in me. The “FC” RX7 is a good car. Well handling, 50/50 balance. Relatively powerful. The seed was set. After doing some research I found out some of these cars were a little porky. We are talking 2700-2800 curb weight. Still could be do-able but not ideal. The 1986-1988 models had 146 HP. But some of them had a torsen limited slip differential which is illegal for this class. The 1989-1991 cars had 160 HP… via higher compression and an 8000 RPM redline. That made the later “S5” cars as they are known much more desirable.
The creme-ala-creme is the 1989-1990 GTUs model. Yes, that is capital G, capital T, capital U, lowercase s, not GTU plural. This model was stripped of all the fluff for light weight, and given all the good go-fast stuff… save the turbo. Crank windows, no back seat, no sunroof, bigger brakes from the turbo, 4.300 final drive (highest in the FC) and a viscous limited slip diff, which is STS2 legal. It’s clear that this model is killer. A little looking around and it turns out I wasn’t the first one with this epiphany. James Wilson, a San Diego area autocrosser built one of these cars early in STS2’s history. The car was doing well, when he sold it b/c it gets bad gas mileage. Gas mileage, the kryptonite of the rotary engine. It’s a damn shame.
I did manage to find one of these gems for sale on an RX7 discussion forum. It was in my low price range too. Problem was it didn’t run. Second problem was it was in Rhode Island. Shipping a car when it doesn’t run can be real expensive. I was shy about calling up the few “autocross friends” whose phone numbers I have and who have trailers asking if they could help me out. I made a couple posts on our region discussion forum but no one responded. Then my Dad went into the hospital with more heart problems and I figured it would be a bad idea park a non-running car out front of his house. The car eventually went on eBay and was sold. Little did I know, a few weeks later I would get an opportunity to buy a car on this list. To be continued…
I’m behind in my writing but I want to get my experiences from today while they are still fresh in my head. Today was the 1st autocross since attending Evolution Performance Driving School. I was excited about applying my new knowlege but I was trying to keep my feet grounded. Like so many other things I have done in this sport the school may not have made as much difference as I thought it would and I may be disappointed. I’m not disappointed, but I am not jumping for joy either. The school left me with a very positive feeling. It was great to feel and see the improvement. But out here at a regular autocross with little to benchmark myself against it was hard to judge if I had applied what I learned and got faster. Maybe it was because my usual yardsticks, Scott and Cy, were not at this event. Maybe it was b/c the handling balance was weird today. Or did my new driving style expose a weakness in the suspension setup. I’m sure I’ll be pondering that one for a while and never coming to an answer.
So let me just tell you how the day went. I forgot that someone from PreludeOnline was coming to this autocross, thier first time, and had PM’d me about a few questions. So I talked to him a little while getting the car ready for tech, registering, etc. At tech I forgot to put my numbers on. they seemed crabby about it. I obviously wasn’t a rookie, I have Pro stickers all over my car. Then they said my battery was too loose. So I had to fix that and get re-inspected. I walked the course three or was it four times. Mostly by myself. That gave me time to pick out spots where I could apply lessons learned from Evo school. Look ahead is always a given. I tried to identify spots where I could make arcs in between features instead of linking them with straight lines. I also picked out a few objects off the course to aim at in spots where I needed an exit reference or needed something to aim at while setting up for a turn. I think I did an OK job at this, but I wish I had someone to confirm or deny my ideas. I guess it’s a case of the student being unsure of himself with out the re-assurance of the teacher. The rest of the day pretty much followed this theme.
Once I got out on course I thought I was, for the most part, doing what I should have been. The lot at E-town must be limited in what ashalt is usable b/c the course always seems to follow the same general path. The course was reversed from the norm of last year and this spring. The out part of the course was a lot of S-turns and transitions. This is where I tried to apply the linking with arcs vs. straights. The turn around at the back was pretty wide a small little straight built in. The in had two s-turns and then a 5 cone slolam leading into the finish. There was really no attempt to slow us down for the finish lights which was refreshing. So my first run I was a little too fast or a little to late in some of the out transitions as the car got a little loose when I tried to correct, and I was maybe too slow at the turnaround and on the way back in. The loose thing would be a trend all day.
The car was pushing on the usual spots, but on transitions if I was too hot and had to back off the car would go sideways. I did not like this at all. I spent the rest of the day chasing the problem. I hypothesized it was from cool tires. The moring was quite cool for a summer day though it did get hot in the afternoon. The tires were not getting hot in the moring and I kept dropping air pressures to get some heat in them. I’m pretty sure you can run as low as 38 psi on the fronts. I was keeping them at 40. I also turned up the front shocks a sinch and down on the rears. I still managed to go sideways at the end of the slolam on my 2nd to last run. The tires were really hot by now. So it wasn’t that. I don’t think it was shock settings either. I did this at Warmister at the end of a long slolam right after I put the new springs on. I think it is driver error or the setup is just a bit too loose. I wonder about the setup being a bit too loose b/c I have a mild setup compared to a lot of others. Most have higher rear springs, some have higher front and rears. Then add in bigger rear bars. 😮 So I’m kinda wondering if this is something I have to learn to drive around or should I try and take some of the oversteer out w/ a spring change. And if it is choice B should I soften the rear or stiffen the front. I’ll have to post around.
Uggg. That what I think when I think about my new suspension setup. It should have been easy. It wasn’t. Nothing has been intuitive. I put the Koni Sport shocks and 400 lb/in spring front & rear on the car over a month ago. And I still don’t feel like it is setup right. I drove around for more than three weeks on the new spring/shock combo w/o an alignment. I didn’t think the alignment would change much since I kept the ride heights about the same. If anything, I thought the front was fine and rear would need some tweaking. Who cares about the rear tires in a FWD car anyways. 😆 Boy was I wrong. When I did take it in to get aligned the front tires were toed-in a good 1/8″. I guess thats why it felt like the car wouldn’t turn during the two autocrosses I did on the new setup. 😮 Ugggg…
Let’s get back to that ride height thing. It was a PITA to set the ride heights on this new setup. Popular internet wisdom says to put the Konis on the lowest spring perch so your springs don’t rub the ground control sleeves as much. OK. When I lowered the car the front was dumped and the rear was monster truck high. I tired playing around with different perch settings in the rear but nothing made any difference. It wasn’t until I asked on RR-AX.com that it was pointed out that using a higher perch would only make the car higher. Ride height is a function of shock body length, spring length, spring rate, and vehicle weight. My other big concern with the rears is that when I finially got the ride height were I wanted it, with the rear suspension at full droop the spring was off the perch by an inch or two. I don’t like this situation. Guess some tender springs would be in order. That is more money.
In the fronts, since the ride height was dumped w/ the spring just touching the perch @ full droop I had to raise the perches a lot to get the ride height up to an acceptable level. This meant they got very hard to turn. Too hard by hand. Ground Control doesn’t give you a spanner for the perch so I had to improvise. I got my oil filter plyers and used them to grip the perch and spin them. They kept slipping and now the anodizing is all scratched up. Uggg…. I finially ordered the real deal.
Now we get to the most recent part. I took the car to a very repuatble shop to have the car corner balanced, aligned, and to have my new front camber kits installed. The camber kits is the reason I waited so long to get this work done. Didn’t want to pay for the alignment twice. So I dropped it off for the day so I wouldn’t have to take any days off from work and Irene drove me to work. They ended up working on it the ENTIRE day…. and charging me for all that shop time. 😡 They spent three hours fooling with the corner weighting. The fronts were nornal but the rear weights were way off. The left rear was way heavy. I got the car corner balanced last year and it was not like that. So they ended up dumping the LF to 4.625″ ride height (from 5.375) to try and get a good balance. It is still only 50.8% now. I should be able to get 50.5% or better. 😡 I don’t like the ride height being that low, especially in the front where the steering happens and the shock travel is the least and all the weight is. And they charged me an arm and a leg for it. Opinions after the fact all say that they should have disconnected the rear sway bar as that is likely causing the large L-R weight imbalance. I want to take it back but will only do so if it’s for free. I’ve paid them enough. I want to use the excuse that the front is bottoming out. I think it may be but it’d hard to confirm. I do see and small mark that looks like the camber kit stud hitting the shock tower metal. Otherwise it’s hard to tell. Uggg…
It’s great to be back on my “competition tires” again. Love the grip. I dunno why I was expecting to finish higher than mid pack when I haven’t done anything to the car since last summer. My runs were pretty good from the get go. I was in third, then got bumped to fourth and then fifth. Struggling for ideas of where to pick up speed I had Eric Simmons go with me on my third run. I could be more agressive getting on the gas coming out the turns. I picked up a little bit of time with him in the car despite a bobble going into the slolam. I knew I could pick up another 1/2 second. I also decided, on a whim, to loosen the front shocks one setting. Well I pushed hard (will not handling push) on my last run and managed a second improvement. But… I hit a cone on the LAST gate. I was charging that hard. I usually don’t hit cones. I would have been in 5th wihtout the cone. I think the softer front shock settings helped to mitigate some of the inside wheelspin I was getting over the winter. I’ll carry over that knoledge to my new Koni setup. Yes, I finially got some Konis. They are used but still should be in good shape. And a new Ground Control kit with 400 F&R springs should be here soon. Can’t wait to get them on the car. Plus I picked up a 13.5 lb Genesis battery.:-)
Cold, Cold, Cold.That was the word of the day with temperatures in the 20s. I decided to not even bother putting the Hankooks on as I did not think they would do well in the cold. That and I took the air out of the tires for the winter and didn’t feel like filling them back up. That was probably the right decision as many were complaining of lack of grip due to the cold. I started to get some false hope as I was 1st in class for most of the heat. Then I was beaten on my last run by a solid second. In the winter we run “pick your own heat” format so there were still other STS runners to go. I ended up 6th after the end of the day, or 5th if you discount Corey b/c he usually runs PRO. I’m not sure who the other drivers were, except for Rolandas in the Eclipse who was the one to beat me out in my heat and he normally gets me by a 1/2 second or two. I guess I shouldn’t be too disapointed as I was on stock sized all-seasons and others were on Azenis and such but I still want to win!! It’s gonna be another long year if I am still not competitive at the top of the class.
The off-season sucks because besides the fact that there is no racing going on, you have too much time to think. I had myself convinced at the start of the winter that if I prepped my car to the absolute extent of the rules, including ripping out the AC and getting ulta thin Kirky seats that I could catch up to the Civics. But when I sat down and looked at what it would cost it shortly became a non-reality. All the stuff I would need is just too much for me to afford. At least while I am still making car payments each month. So back down to reality and stomaching the fact that the best I will ever get is best of the rest, an even that is shaky. :-( I’ve known that to get the best out of the car I need some Konis. And the spring rates still need some playing around with. I do not want to make the car too loose however b/c it is my only car and I have to drive it even when the weather is bad and on roads where you don’t know what idiot is looming around the next bend. I don’t want to have to worry about looping the car on a rainy night. I am also not sure where a larger anti-roll bar would fit into things. Both stiffer rear springs and an anti-roll bar increase roll stiffness, but the spring rate does some other things. Hmmm. Maybe I am on to something. Another thing I thought about doing is getting some 16×7.5s for the front to try and maximize the front contact patch. But that is still going to be $400 some dollars. Money is gonna be tight this year. :-(
This is most likely the last event of the 2005 and is a non-points event. The summer series is done. Not like I have a chance to improve my position anyway. But boy could I use this event. After two events at tiny Boeing, and missing out on running the Lude at Ripken with the coilovers it will be good to get her on a fast course where she is most fun. Sadly, but not totally sadly, the big guns stayed home today. No Cy Lee, no Mike Louie, no Kyle Beller, even no Scott Boioto. Kurt from PO also came out to finally run his car too. And his friend with the ITR powered Elise. Kurt got the new Azenis in 215/40/17 on FN01R-C rims (I knew I should have gotten them instead of the Kazeras, they look good). I was really curious how he would do with them. He didn’t do that great, but was also struggling with staying on course and the usual noobie stuff. In retrospect I should have asked to take a run in his car, or bought some fun runs and ran his car in one of those. But I knew Irene didn’t want to stay all day.
The day eneded up being good for me, as I won the class and finally got that glass that I had come so close to getting half the season, but being one place or a few seconds too slow. Being that the front runners where not there that day I was expecting myself to win, but it was still good. I managed to beat Mike Burg, who usually finishes a place ahead or two from me. It could have to do with the fact that the course was EXTRA fast today. Horsepower pays off on a wide open course like that and Mike’s Protoge is definitly a momentum car. The course was super fast. The out portion was some stuff, a slolam, then a buch of back and forth gates like a big slolam. That’s where the big speed was. My 1st run I was definitly tenative though there. But I got progressivly faster and my last run I was sliding just a little through the transitions and hit the rev limiter at the end of them. I’ve never hit the rev limiter in 2nd on an autocross course. It was fun. The event was punctuated by one big downer. Jeff hurst came in his Celica and ran 5 whole seconds faster than me. On a 45 second course that is 11% slower. That how far behind the top national level guys I am. That and the fact that I knew I only one b/c the afforementioned guys didn’t show. If we had the usual STS field I would have been 5th or 6th.