The Invitation to attend
My excitement began as I received an email from Just Track It announcing they had room in their schedule for me at Barber Motorsports Park January 12-13. I had not run with them at all and did not know what to expect. But, Barber is the closest track to me and it was a chance to get out and see if I remembered anything from last season. Now the heat was on
to get the car to a more competitive state. My goal was to shave 10 seconds off my last year’s best. The first order of business was improving the brakes. Last season I boiled the brake oil causing the brakes to fade late into the runs. This was a double curse. For one the tires were just coming to me to carry more speed. Secondly not having brakes made me slow early so that it didn’t matter that I was now gaining traction because I couldn’t take full advantage of it. So 2:12 was my best run last July.
Last post I mentioned my desired strategy for addressing the brake situation. Well, that didn’t quite go as planned. I did get the PowerStop Rotors in and the Hawk Performance HP Plus pads in. But, the Motul got hung up in shipping and I had to use Brembo Dot 5.1.
When I received the shipment I wanted to check to make sure the rotors matched up as quickly as I could because I was just 3 days from the event. Luckily they matched up although they looked a bit larger in diameter.
I got pretty good at pad replacement between track days. Wheel off to torqued back in 18 minutes per wheel. I waisted some time by deciding to paint the calipers. Before I got to the track the Hawk pads had covered the red and the wheels with dust. The hardest part of this was getting the brackets off. The bolts were really comfortable where they were and didn’t want to budge. Hence the universal knockoffomer (hammer). This took an extra 12 hours due to cold and humid rainy weather . I burned up a space heater trying to warm the garage. Luckily the SO didn’t mind me borrowing her spare hair dryer.
I used a wire wheel first on the calipers and brackets. Then steel wool and denatured alcohol. Three medium coats and dry. They turned out kinda ok. This shouldn’t have been tried given the time constraints and weather.
Part of assuring the car is ready for the track is going through the tech inspection form. Each mechanical aspect of the car’s readiness has to be inspected. Not only did I physically inspect each item, I had Benton Nissan change the oil and flush the brakes. This gave me their multi-point inspection to back-up my findings. This turned out to be a less than desired experience. I called the service writer in advance to be sure that they were ready to help with my specific needs. I asked specifically if I could bring my own brake fluid if it arrived on time. Yes, they said. I asked if they had synthetic DOT 5.1 on hand in case the Motul didn’t arrive on time. Yes, they said. I asked if they used a machine to flush the brake fluid. Yes, they said. I asked if the machine would be ok with filling the system with the DOT 5.1. Yes, they said. I asked them if they had my weight Mobil One synthetic on hand. Yes, they did. The oil was the only thing that went as planned. Since the Motul did not arrive on time I had to use their DOT 5.1. The service writer called parts while I was standing there and found out they do not carry DOT 5.1. I had to run to Auto Zone and get Brembo 5.1 and bring it to them. Not to unhappy at this point. But, suspicious about what else might not go as agreed upon. Sure enough there was a problem with the machine using the DOT 5.1. This meant they were going to have to put it in by hand and manually pump the brakes down. This will take another 2.5 hours, cost more, and they now do not know if they have time to finish before the shop closes! Maintaining my cool must have given my facial expression the needed emphasis to declare my angst over this turn of events. In the end they got it done, they made it right, and I got to drive it home before they closed the shop. Miracles do happen.
With this done I could complete my tech form for entry into the event.
Exhaust MOD V3.2
I unexpectedly had a call do be in Montgomery for a concept for quote meeting. This was a great time to visit Child’s Performance and exhaust to see if there was anything more we could do to open up the exhaust flow. They removed the resonators, cut out the unsupervised post sensor cat, rewelded two Magnaflow pass through mufflers back to back. I did get a little drone back in the cabin at 55-60 mph. But, the car seemed to tach up a bit quicker. I had highway air pressure in the Firestone Indy 500 tires (35psi) so they were breaking loose too easily to know if the exhaust really made a difference. But, the proof would soon come on track day! The Friday before they were doing a pre-check in at the Hampton Inn just down the road from Barber. I got there salivating over the cars coming in and out on trailers and driving. Turned in my tech form, got my waiver signed, and my track entry wrist bands and schedule lanyard. Now just try to sleep tonight!
This day started with me getting enough 93 octane to run the day, I thought. I got myself to the track with just enough time to unload, check my wheel torque, and get to the drivers meeting.I was introduced to my pro for the day Dave Hickey. He drives a sick spec BMW ES3 something. He took me for a ride in it between my sessions. That thing is on rails! After the first run I ran 2:03:5 which was 9 seconds better than anything I’d ever done before. He was pretty impressed with the car and thought I might be able to go solo at some point soon. I noticed that starting with the tire pressure at 28 psi it was taking a few laps to get the traction to power through the turns. After a few laps I started reeling in a bunch of the cars that passed me early. Then in the last session before the rain a Porsche spun right in front of me blocking the corkscrew. YouTube video link mark 10:45
Never have I ever driven as fast as I could in the rain on a road race track. It is quite different hitting a puddle turning at 80-90 mph. I deployed my “survive this” strategy. This meant almost a third of the cars passing me as I learned how the car would handle in the rain.
Passing in the rain was another feeling of accomplishment. Of those that passed me early, I reeled in and passed all but two! I have been remiss in mentioning a shout out to Andrew Raines with Apex Pro digital driving coach headquartered right here in Birmingham. I say this now as this photo may raise the question “what are those green and red lights reflecting off the windshield?” They are the data sensor indicators that instantly tell you from what they’ve learned about the car if you are driving your best. The IOS app on your phone has tools that give you instant data about g force, speed, approach, braking, accel, and more. Cick here to learn more about them.
One thing about the brakes I haven’t mentioned is how noisy (youtube link to rain run) they are when you are not standing on them. They dust so bad that the only way to keep them from screeching at 100 decibel, is to aggressively apply them. I guess real drivers do a better job of hard braking for shorter times. I seem to want to finesse the brakes after a let up. At NASA HPDE1 last year they wanted us to throttle right to the brake zone, hard brake, throttle again with no coasting. I am working on this with very little success so far. But, the point I was trying to make here is that I was losing confidence in them as they became louder. This spiraled into a negative trend as the lighter I applied them the louder they got. With the full rain about a third (about 10 or so)of the drivers in my novice session packed it up. As did I after the rain run. Dave said he thought I did a super job of managing the car in the rain, traffic, passing, etc. He mentioned again being possibly cleared to solo. He wanted to see the first run Sunday before talking it over with the administration.
This was the scene at 4:30am (approximately). I was so concerned about the brake noise that I pulled and inspected the pads and rotors. There was no sign of distress, discoloration, cracking, surface flaws of any kind! This did not make sense. But, I was told the pad choice I made was the noisiest. I just didn’t realize how much so. On the way to the track I did some braking tests to reaffirm my confidence in their ability to stop me at speed. This is when I discovered the harder I stood on them the quieter they got. They never really displayed any fading like the stock ones did. I just couldn’t trust the noise. I got to the track just in time to unload and make the drivers meeting. I could really get used to this! Again in the first session I did well and Dave got me cleared to run solo. That is when this happened:
I shaved almost a full 11 seconds off my best lap from last year. My next goal is to break under 2 minutes a lap. I am trying to decide which to mod next – tires, suspension, or power. Stay tuned for more as I publish my journey. Better yet, come out with your car and join the fun!