Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Road America

Road America is one of those tracks that you've spent many years wishing to drive after getting many looks at it in video games like Forza. Finally, those laps materialized in real life and Road America did not disappoint. As one would notice in video games, the track is huge, what you don't get a feel for in the video games is that there are elevation changes at almost every corner. The track is exciting to drive without feeling or being dangerous. The track does demand a lot from brakes though and our car almost completely lost brakes going into Canada corner which is one of three stretches in the track where you to out 4th gear in our car near 130mph. All the excitement on track was meet with the realization that our journey was coming to an end, sadly this was our last track event. The good news though was that we had survived and due to EVO failures we would end up getting third in our class. Third place it's important because that means we get a little trophy to commemorate our trip. Not to bad for what amounts to an almost stock Lexus.

Video Update

Hastings PM:
Noriko Driving the Auto X at Hastings:
We forgot to run our cameras at Brainerd, but the filmcrew had theirs in the car so maybe we'll be able to get some video from them.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Highs and Lows

The drive from Hastings to Brainerd Wednesday night was a long and tedious one. This was another 600 mile journey and most of it was through Minnesota on two lane highways with 55mph speed limits. Obviously we couldn't afford to drive 55mph the whole way so we traveled at a rate slightly greater than the posted speed limit. This led to encounters with local law enforcement. We were pulled over once but not ticketed, the officer seemed mostly curious about what we were doing. Later on down the road another officer flashed his lights at us, apparently requesting that we slow down a bit. We obliged and made it to Brainerd receiving any more attention of that kind. Near the end of the drive the car started making a really bad rattling noise.

When we arrived at the track the next morning the first order of business was to find the source of the rattle. After tearing apart the trunk we could see that the nut that affixes the shock shaft to the mount was no longer doing that. We re-installed it and carried on with the events for the day. 

Four different competitions were to take place at Brainerd. The first two were roadcourse time trials, one on the historic Donnybrook Circuit used for TransAm 40 years ago and the shorter course used for SCCA club racing to day. The long course was intimidating with two extremely high speed sweepers, think Daytona without the banking, they're supposed to be flat out well over 100mph. We weren't confident enough to enter at over 100mph. The shorter course was more suited two our car as it doesn't use the super long straight. Corner 1 was a lot of fun and people watching from the bridge cheered our car on as it slid sideways through the corner. This turned out to be one of our best placing road course events at 44.

The remaining competitions were low ET and Bracket racing drag competitions. Oddly we did better in the low ET than Bracket racing due to being unfamiliar with the operation of the Christmas Tree.

When it was time to leave Brainerd our car wouldn't start. We received help to push start the car and drove it to the local Napa hoping we could replace the battery and continue on. After replacing the battery the car still wouldn't start and the Napa people told us we could pick one up in Minneapolis which we would then have to figure out how to install in the morning at Road America. Just as we were about to leave a guy came by and said he could fix it down the road, it happens that they rebuild starters and alternators all day long. These guys were great and know their stuff, we were back on the road an hour later with a fully functioning car. If your starter is on the fritz don't buy a cheap reman, have these guys get the original fixed up and you'll be back on the road for another 160k mi and it may even cost less that the reman.


The trip out to Hastings from High Plains went smoothly but once again we got in pretty late due to the time change. We read on the drive that Hastings was designed by the same person that designed High Plains and were really excited to check it out. Unfortunately, the track was missing many of the elements that made High Plains so cool due to the flatness of the topography. Like many of the tracks this one had a lot of room for the more powerful cars to stretch their legs so we didn't end up to high in the rankings though we were able to improve in the afternoon. There was also an autoX hosted at Hastings and that went pretty well except for the Mustang which somehow managed to collide with a barrier. An interesting development unfolded at Hastings, one of the EVOs broke down in the afternoon, leaving us a shot for second place.

Videos to come.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Videos

We were able to set a bunch of video uploads into the queue last night.

Monday Hallet:
A very interesting track, lots of blind corners and elevation changes. Lots of excitement despite its small foot print.
Tuesday High Planes Raceway:
Awesome track, here's the morning video.
Back to the past a bit,Wet Skid Pad from Saturday:
1/8 Mile Oval, also Saturday:

Another Competitor Comes and Goes

By the end of the morning sessions at High Planes Raceway we were neck and Neck with the VW R32 of Kris and Bob. Our times have been very close throughout the event. The morning times were no exception and they pointed out that we could have a good battle for overall position (since they are not in our class). This lasted for another 2 hours until we got on track for our afternoon sessions. Our goal was to make significant improvements on our morning time by studying the video from the morning session and adjusting accordingly. The session went really well but then Bob in the R32 appeared in the rear view mirror and tracked our car down like it was standing still. Despite being passed this session was really good, the afternoon time was about 9 seconds better. High Plains Raceway is an awesome track with elevation changes and blind corners, similar to ORP but ORP is probably even more exciting.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Competing Against Ourselves

One of the disappointing aspects of yesterday at Mid America was that our afternoon time was slower than our morning time. Obviously this doesn't make any sense because by the afternoon you've already seen 5 laps instead of the 0 laps in the morning. The 335i was flying today and will likely to do so, thus, there's not really much of a competition there. The new objective is to go faster in the afternoon and really get the corners down. This was difficult to accomplish today at Hallett. This track is a like a scaled down version of ORP, a bunch of small elevation changes make almost every corner blind. Very difficult to master in only 6 timed laps. There appears to be some issue with the event timing system because it says we didn't start in the afternoon. Unofficially, looking at the video it appears we were 2-4 seconds quicker than the morning.

Video from Mid America

We fixed the camera mount for the afternoon runs and after an hour and a half of uploading on 3G it's now on YouTube. Skip ahead about one minute Here's the video:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Almost Competitive

Today our time trial was at Mid America, as with all tracks in the event this one was new to us. During our morning session we were run down by a GTI, originally we were a bit discouraged but in chatting with the driver afterwards we found out this car has 400whp, for reference that's probably double what we have and then some. It's amazing we were able to best them at Autobahn. A few hours later we checked the results and were surprised to see that we had posted a better time than Pete and Enrique in the 335I. This news gave us hope that we could compete with them for 3rd place. This hope was short lived as they schooled us again in the afternoon. I'll work on posting video when we get to the hotel with WiFi.

That's Just a Hurricane

We made it to Omaha on schedule last night at 2am. Needless to say we were quite tired, we hoped to get fine hours of sleep but were awakened at 5am by a shaking hotel and hail smashing into the window. Water was pouring through the window as well. We checked on the car because we were worried it might have been blown away, fortunately it was still there. The locals consider this a small storm and say there's really nothing to worry about if there are no tornado sirens activated. To top off the morning we were ticketed for window tint just before arriving at Mid America.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The 25 Hour Day Continues

Unfortunately this doesn't mean an extra hour of sleep. We're still driving, it's 9:00PM and it looks like we have another 300 miles to go. Driving the South course at the Autobahn Country Club was a blast. We received some great tips from Enrique, one of the drivers of the 335i in our class. Unfortunately those tips didn't get me close to the time set by Pete the other driver of the 335i and the two EVO's. We're still tied for third in class but if things keep going like this I we won't be within reach much longer. All three of those cars were in the top 20 overall at Autobahn and we we're 54. The camera mount fell apart just as it was our turn to go so now in car video this time around:(

1/8 Mile Oval

It's been a long time since something has scared both of us. Neither of us have ever seen much less driven on an 1/8 mile oval. Upon arrival we went to check out the cars running on the oval, it looked crazy. It doesn't really have a straightaway and is lined with concrete. It turns out our oval time reflected our intimidation and we placed 4th in class. Oh well, were now at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL for the first timed road course event.

Skid Pad

Early this morning we got to do our first competition event, a wet skid pad. We have a fair bit of skid pad experience from instructing driver schools with NWARC but usually we're just trying to slide the car sideways in a circle. In this case though hanging the rear end out won`t get us desirable results. We ended up with a very desirable result, just behind the 1st place in class car and just ahead of the 3rd place car. 2nd place in class was an awesome way to start the event. There are 5 mid priced sedans by the way.

Skid Pad In-Car http://youtu.be/S6dtREgWlG4

Friday, May 4, 2012

No Longer a Rendering

After hours of decal application we finally made it through tech and are ready to go. Once we got back to the hotel I started messing around with toe again but it's hard to tell if the adjustments are improving the situation. We are making some attempts to lighten things up a bit, hopefully that will allow us to stick with one toe setting. We have a big day tomorrow, skid pad, 1/8 mile oval, Autobahn Country Club, and then drive out near Omaha for Sunday's event.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Here we go!

We made it safely to Billings, MT today despite the threat of snow, excessive tire wear, a check engine light, fuel range difficulties, and a strange scraping noise that appeared on the way to Spokane. The scraping noise seems to no longer be an issue but it was only one source of tress that cropped up on the way to Spokane yesterday. The other big one was the CEL that came on after fueling in Ellensburg, the code was pulled with the Droid and it turned out to be a problem with the bank 2 sensor 2 O2 sensor. This was just replaced so maybe the part is bad or the once hacked apart wiring at the ECU needs some attention. Either way it`s not a huge deal, when cleared it goes away for a few hundred miles. Tire wear continues to be a problem though, we noticed the left rear nearly wore down to the cord. Fortunately we caught it in time and moved it up to the front. 30min later we decided it would be best to get a tire flipped right away and pulled into a Les Schwab in Butte. The guys there were quickly and economically got us going again. More discussion to come on tire wear mitigation, we suspect toe change from added weight is the cause.