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Autocrossers' Journal

Saturday, June 20, 2009

11:14AM - Romulus National Tour

Surprisingly, I've managed to get the 2nd place in F-Stock. With Bruce Bellom and Ron Bistrais gone to other classes, Sam Strano was the only national-caliber driver. But there were 2 cars with 4 drivers with the latest Mustang Shelby GT. That's like a Mustang prepared most of the way to ESP.

And I've got lucky with the weather :-) Actually, Mike Potocky and I were pretty close, so maybe I could have beat him even without weather intervening. But in reality there was a rain on Saturday, with first drivers taking the first run with a light drizzle, and then it opened up. My run was not that great, very close to others, give or take a little, but I didn't hit a cone and all the others did. Other people were telling me that the track is oversteery, so I've set up to compensate and had lots of understeer on that run, making it slow. The balance actually was more oversteery than at Englishtown road course, very much like the NJ Expo center lot, and the setup I worked out for Expo center I think was best for Romulus.

The second drivers had a wet track but Sam still came only 0.5 seconds behind me (and some 4 seconds ahead of my second run). Then he tried the rain tires, and they worked worse. So for the 3rd run he switched back to slicks. Before the 3rd run the rain stopped and by the second drivers the track started drying up a little, so Sam had beat me by 0.3 seconds.

So the second day with 2 seconds ahead of 3rd place I did my best not to lose it. The course was very fast, much faster than it looked during the walk, and much faster than I'm used to. So I wasn't driving well, the data log shows that I wasn't using much grip. I've hit cones on the first two runs, so the 3rd run I took real easy and tried to stay real far away from the cones. Sam ran away with over 3 seconds from my best coned time, and 4.5 seconds from my best clean time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

5:33PM - Hoosiers

I've got the new autocross tires before the National Tour event and already tried them out. I've been pissed off at Hoosiers for being too abrupt at the limit, so I was getting another set of V710s. But when I've got them, the manufacture date was 2007 on one pair, 2005 on the other. Not good. The Tirerack was very nice to take them back.

So then the choice was between the new square-shoulder V710 or Hoosier A6. Since almost half the season is alreayd gone, I've decided to give Hoosiers another try.

An I must say, I'm impressed. There is no abruptness at the limit, there is a very good feel of the slip angle increasing before the wheel starts to slide (and I think I haven't got it sliding yet). I guess, the previous issues I've had with Hoosiers were because the tires were old, and maybe also because the shocks setup was screwed up big time.

An interesting thing is that A6 needs a different pressure difference than V710. I've been playing with the rebound adjustment on the shocks and got it sorted out that on V710 the same pressure front and rear worked best. But on A6 the car felt understeery. I've been so impressed by the good grip of the new tires, that I didn't notice the understeer until the end of the day. So the next event I've played with the tire pressures. 4 psi difference seems to be the charm. We'll see. I've got another event before the National Tour.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

12:55PM - rear wheels brake, front wheels turn

I've been noticing that I can get my Mustang to handle decently if I downshift right. If I don't downshift where I need to, I can't turn. The car just plows straight.

But downshift at the right place and the car turns beautifully. It's the engine braking. When I lift the clutch pedal after downsifting, there is definitely more braking force. Sometimes the read wheels even slip. So when I lift the brake pedal and turn in, the car is still braking into the turn, and doing it with the correct rear axle, without putting extra force on the front wheels that do the turning. And the car turns!

I guess a lot of my issues with driving the Mustang come from teh rear drum brakes. These are just too weak to match up with the fronts, and keep the car stable. But the engine braking helps in the rear and makes thecar turn. This is probably a good universal recipe for any RWD car.

Friday, June 20, 2008

12:52PM - Torsen

So I've been having issues with my limited slip differential. It definitely wasn't working. I've been spinning one wheel, and on the data logs I could see that the my accaleration from the start was worse than other's. It's already my second Torsen, and it's been there for just one year.

From the previous experience I've remembered that the oil was important: with the oil without limited-slip additive, the diff was not working well (even though Torsen people say that this additive is not needed). This made me think that maybe the oil got worn out. And changing the oil is much cheaper than changing the diff. I went and changed the oil. What a miracle! Now the diff works again!

So it looks like the secret recipe for Torsen diffs is: change the oil often, don't skimp!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

3:20PM - weights

A while ago I've had an opportunity to use some good scales. So I've ewighed a bunch of wheel and tires:

Tires BFG R1 245/45R16 - 21.82#
Tires Kumho V710 265/45R16 - 25.56#
Tires used Hoosier R3S03 255/50R16 - 21.68, 22.81, 21.49#
Tires used Hoosier R3S03 245/45R16 - 17.75, 18.72#

Wheel 16x8 stock from '93 Camaro - 18.98#
Wheel 16x8 stock from '00 Camaro - 17.50#
Wheel 16x7 stock 5-spoke Mustang - 20.0#
Wheel 16x7 some aftermarket Mustang - 23.0#

A mounted V710 on '00 Camaro rim - 43.99#

As you can see, a mounted tire contains almost half a pound of compressed air inside it. And the Camaro rims got lighter over time. And the Mustang wheels are even older, and crap. And literally pounds of rubber come off the tire as it wears.

2:01PM - shock absorber lessons

It was cold at the first autox events of this year, temperatures in the 40s and 50s, so the tires were real slippery. And the car was a beast, plowing in every turn, and if the steering wheel was turning a little, trying to flat-spot the inner front tire. I've softened the front shocks from 0.6 to 0.4 and it made a world of a transformation! The car was finally handling pretty decently! and it immediately dropped my times by 2 seconds (from 54 or so). Read more...Collapse )

Monday, March 31, 2008

2:07AM - Local Autocross

Today was the third Spokes autocross event of the year. Being central Texas, it was relatively warm, but it decided to sprinkle in the morning. The site we were at is not exactly entirely level, so there were puddles a'plenty. I was driving a 2007 Mini Cooper S, and my normal drive is a 2006 MX-5 in CSP. So I had wet + FWD when I'm used to RWD... It was quite a day.

We were divided into two heats, and each heat got 3 morning runs and 3 afternoon runs. The owner of the car I was running was registered in XPro (a Spokes PAX class), and I was registered in GS. He ended up in the first heat and I in the second, so we didn't end up having to treat the car like a 2 driver car. For the morning heats, the course was still very wet - there was still just a bit of misting - and the AWD cars had a huge advantage. The Mini was still on street tires, at that point, but nearing the end of second heat, the course started to dry out. Over lunch, anyone who had slicks and wasn't already on them swapped tires, as the sun had come out and the course was drying up pretty well. There were still quite a few puddles, but just enough to make things entertaining.

If I'm remembering correctly, top time of the day dropped by about four seconds nearly immediately in the first afternoon heat. Then Lance, driving a Z06, and Dan, the owner of the Mini I ran, started battling for top PAX time of the day. I got to ride with both of them and had an absolute blast teasing the both of them about how fast the other one was. I took advantage of my early work assignment and rode with quite a few other people as well. This, plus the drying course, really paid off for me, as my first afternoon run launched me to 6th in PAX. My second afternoon run was spent testing how late I could brake, and ended up being fairly poor, and alas, my last afternoon run had a dumb cone down. My last afternoon run was 1.2 seconds faster than my first afternoon run, and was a mere .4 seconds behind Dan... If only I could have avoided that one cone! I ended up 7th in PAX (if I'm remembering correctly - results aren't posted yet) even without that faster time, and this in a car I'd only autocrossed once before and driven about 5 miles on the street. I'm very pleased with the day overall - the driving was a blast and the company was great. I'm looking forward to the SASCA event in two weekends and the first of the Southwest divisionals after that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

1:58AM - Oh, Ohio...

...is there racing yet? :(

Current mood: bored

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

9:42AM - New Track is going forward

As the New England Region is starting to run out of tracks to race on, it's good to see awesome progress on some new track construction!


The track itself has a website at www.palmermotorsportspark.com


Current mood: cheerful

Friday, November 16, 2007

5:33PM - Alex Roy @ Enigma Motors

As motorsport enthusiasts know, the movie "Cannonball Run" was based on a long-standing underground race driving from NYC to Los Angeles - and the most recent record of 32 hours and 7 minutes (set back in a day when police cars couldn't break 95MPH) seems like an impossible time to beat in this age of high-speed pursuit vehicles and radar. Rally Car driver Alex Roy spent two years obsessing about the record, and the story of his pursuit in breaking it (and numerous speeding laws all across the U.S.) is documented in this story:

The Pedal-to-the-Metal, Totally Illegal, Cross-Country Sprint for Glory, in Wired Magazine.

Video of Alex discussing legally questionable modifications he made to his BMW M5 in preparation of his attempt at the record

He's written a book about the story, and will have a movie out in early 2008; Alex will be in town for a wine and fancy h'orderves served book signing at an exotic car dealership Enigma Motors in Dublin, CA on Nov 26th (Monday after Thanksgiving).

We're getting people from the Diablo Porsche Club, Bay Area BMW club, Enigma's own clientele, and motorsport enthusiasts there - and anticipating a crowd of 150 people (capped at 200).

I introduced Tim Ferriss, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Four Hour Workweek, with Alex for a phone interview; the conversation is now live at Tim's website Meet the Real Fast and Furious: 130 MPH, Creating Supercars, and Breaking Records.

If you want in on the fun: http://alexroy.eventbrite.com (code: kaialexroy)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007


 I'm pretty pumped! just recently, i got a porsche 944 that was trying to hide and rot in a buddy of mines backyard! it only has 95,000 on it too.

well, after digging some to get it out of the ground, i had it towed to my house. After which, i took off a door handle and had a key made for it. after doing so, i put a battery in and it started up! YEAH!

SO now i have my project car for autocrossing that i bought for a dollar!

well, more recently, after doing lots of taking apart and putting back together, messureing, reading from every resource i could find, i finally have done it. I have designed the individual throttle bodies i want to put on it. Only problem, i need to convert it from AVM to MAP in order to use them. I believe i can build a MAP that puts out the AVM signal, but if anyone else has some easier tips, im up for it!

Current mood: satisfied

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

4:34PM - aerodynamics

In case not everyone here reads gearheads: I've experimented a little with getting to see the air flow around my car. Turned out easy enough to do at home. Full story with photos and small videos can be found at


Thursday, October 18, 2007

12:15AM - TIRES?

Anyone need tires or rims? Check out this sweet deal from www.DiscountTireDirect.com!

Save $100.00 Instantly!

As a special incentive to our online buyers, we are offering instant savings for a limited time. Receive $100.00 instantly with the purchase of 4 tires or 4 wheels.
This savings will be reflected automatically in your shopping cart and applies to the purchase of 4 tires or 4 wheels. You must complete your order online. This offer can be combined with any current promotions and will expire Oct 20, 2007.

I just ordered 4 Hankook snows and 4 steel rims to go with it, for a TOTAL prince, delivered, of $208, which is cheaper than the price normally for just the tires. No driving off into a ditch this winter for this VW!!

(No, I don't work for them, a guy on my Solo mailing list posted this to the group, and I LEAPED on it.)

Current mood: cheerful

Monday, October 8, 2007


Finally, finally, finally, after my fourth year of Solo racing, I have managed a class win. I won FSP in the New England Region this year. Granted, it was a close thing.

I actually went into the final event LOSING by 3 points. My competitor had won the last event, due to three of our four hoosier tires wearing down to the METAL CORDS, granting us NO traction, and making it so slippery as to hardly be driveable. Truth be told, they'd been going off for two events before that as well, so while I should have been Waaaay ahead at this point, I wasn't. I NEEDED to win. If I won and $Nemesis got second place, I'd be tied on POINTS, but I'd have won one more first place, and therefore I'd win. Yeah, a nail-biter.

We had purchased new tires for the car, and the car owner Adam had lowered the car by an inch, AND taken out ONE-HUNDRED pounds of additional un-needed weight, in the form of the stereo and speakers, and AC system, all un-needed for racing. :) Sunday dawned pretty clear, and I thought we'd avoid the rain predicted, but no luck. Shortly after setting up the course, and right before my group ran (we were first, yuck), it started raining. MARVELOUS. $Nemesis has an All-wheel-drive Subaru, and so an advantage in rain, but I was still determined to win. I blew out for my first run, and.... promptly spun the car. Twice. Mmmm, cold tires on wet track. Well, at least I knew how fast I could go, and where. $Nemesis came in with a 72+second run, and with a downed cone. Muahaha.

My second run was MUCH smoother, and pretty fast for wet. The tires had some warmth in them, and I managed to improve a lot, driving clean, no cones, and quick! I ran a 70.7 second run, putting $Nemesis down 2 seconds in the rain. He ran a 71 second run clean, but he still was behind! Sweet!

Final Run. $Nemesis goes out before me, and immediately hit a cone just out of the start. I was pretty comfortable at that point, because unless he ran a 68 second run (which wasn't going to happen in the rain) I was almost assured of winning! I took off for my last run before I heard his time, and I was so unfocused that I actually missed an element entirely, which resulted in a DNF for that run, but it didn't matter. While $Nemesis managed to run .2 seconds faster than me in raw time for his final run, his cone was his undoing. My second place time held up!

Class winners get to run in a final run-off race called the "Stirling Moss" run-off. Those of you who have heard of Stirling Moss, well, this is a REAL trophy he won in a race back in 1956, at the Nurbrgring Grand Prix race. Here's some information on the trophy, it's a pretty cool story. Each class winner gets to try to match their best time for the day for a total of three runs, and the person that comes the closest on all three runs wins the trophy for the year, and has their name inscribed on it forever. It's a pretty big honor!

Well, I screwed up bigtime. All my morning runs had been in the rain, and now since it was DRY (it stopped raining around 1pm), the car handled entirely differently from before. Since I messed up so bad on run #1, I had no chance to win the trophy, so I just decided to go for raw speed. I drove the car my last few runs completely on the edge, with my FASTEST raw time ending up a 61.4 second run, but with a cone. My fastest clean run was a 62.X second run. I had been hoping to make it down to the 66-second region, so coming in with a 61 and 62 second time was GREAT. It showed Adam and I how fast the car could be I'll be damned if they weren't just the most fun runs I've taken in a long time, totally uninhibited in driving, as I'd already won the class.

So ended my driving season, and the Moss run-off? It was A TIE, for only the third time since 1968. This year, we had multiple Moss winners tie AGAIN. Lynee Rothney-Kozlak and Matt Murray ended up both winning, and so will have their names inscribed on it again. This is Matt's FIFTH time winning this trophy, and Lynne's Third. They become the only 3 and 5 time winners of the trophy. Cheers to them.

Oh, and cheers to me for FINALLY breaking my second-place curse. Now I feel like I really have earned my instructor wings in the group!

Current mood: relaxed

Sunday, September 30, 2007

6:57AM - Autocross Performance Handbook (Motorbooks Workshop) (Paperback) by Richard Newton

While the autocross books are rare, each new title is a little miracle.

In the past, there were only "Secrets of Solo Racing" by Watts, Henry (January 1990),
"Winning autocross solo II competition" by Turner, Richard (1977) and "How to win at slalom & autocross" by
Pagel, Jim (1972).

On July 15, 2007, the new paperback has been released!

I have reviewed the new title: Autocross Performance Handbook (Motorbooks Workshop) (Paperback) by Richard Newton. If you find my review helpful, please use voting buttons.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

12:30PM - Nationals, Day 2

Monday, September 24, 2007

8:42PM - Awesome pics from the SCCA Solo Nationals!


Day 1 pics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

8:12AM - SM Civic vids

thought I'd let you all in on my page with video/photos:

I codrive an SM Civic. 2200lbs, 215whp/167lb-ft of supercharged B18C1/5 goodness. we just got the 275/35-15 Hoosiers up front with 225/45-15 on the rear. The car's wicked fast now but is a "handful" to drive, it'll probably take most of next season to fully develop it and learn to pilot it better. Our summer autocross series in CO is about at an end.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


How can I stay off cones, but not curbs?!!

Current mood: angry

12:53PM - 17" wheels

Does anyone have suggestions for cheap-ish, very light 17" wheels for my Hoosiers? I'm picking them up on Thursday. I probably will wait until next season to use them, so I have some time. I have some specific offset needs, but other than that, I really just have to fit these 17x225 Hoosiers...and I want to be able to put them on myself, so they need to be as light as, or lighter than, my Kosei K1 TS.

Current mood: excited

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