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Saturday, May 28, 2011

First 'Oops' at Thunderhill

Went to Thunderhill on Thursday the 26th.

I had a lot of things to put my mind on that day though, because I haven't gone to the track for a while and the last time, it was raining and I was unable to test stuff.

Since the last dry track day, I have added the following:

  • 2 way Nitron Suspensions (2 way means compression and rebound settings)
  • Canards (little air flow fins on the front of the car)
  • 5 elements diffuser
  • Race mounts
  • G-Pan (baffled oil pan)

Obviously, the most important additions were the suspensions, canards and race mounts as they all contribute to a different ride behavior.

I added a couple clicks to the compression and rebound damping as I had them set up half way for street driving. Being on the track also means that one can use a more aggressive setup.

That seemed to work pretty well and I don't have anything to complain about regarding the handling. With the new suspensions, the ride height is also lower (118mm/123mm compared to the stock settings that were at 130mm/140mm or so).

The motor mounts are a very nice addition as they allow for crispier shifts and they also help a bit with the handling and the motor doesn't move as much under load.

Anyway, the first session was interesting as my tires were a little too inflated and cold. The track was a little slick but that's always like this and the C group always goes first for some reason. In the first lap, some lady spun her Ferrari in Turn 14 because her 'pit crew' forgot to put the gas cap on and fuel spewed all over and onto her right side tires, sending her spinning.

Where it got very interesting was in my second session. I had adjusted my tire pressure a bit and it felt better. The track was warmer, which helped as well. I was trying to work on Turn 5 and Turn 9 because they are fairly similar, being both blind corners that go up and come down on the right side. Turn 5 is not much of a corner but most people steer too much on the left going up, thus leaving 3 or 4 feet worth of track on the right side.

In my 3rd or 4th lap (I can't quite remember which was it was), I came out of Turn 3 and was going into 4 at a pretty good speed. I usually turn in earlier than a lot of people, skim the curb on the inside and track out (turns out that I wasn't tracking out wide enough, which I worked on in my last session).

This time around though, I cut it a tad short and I ended up hitting the curb a bit too much while turning left. The curb is quite high in that spot and that unsettled the car. Pretty much at the apex, the car started over steering and I initially thought that perhaps I could save it and I counter steered. It corrected itself but kicked back and over steered on the left side a lot quicker. By then I realized that I lost it and went both feet in (brakes + clutch).

The car ended up spinning to almost 180 degree but not quite. As I stopped, the car stalled because I released the clutch without thinking about it, killing the engine. A couple of cars went by as I was trying to start the car again. It resisted a bit and finally cranked over. I backed up a couple feet, waited for another car to go by and turned around to finish my lap.

Of course, by Turn 11 I got black flagged, which means that I would have to pit in. I was expecting it anyway so, it wasn't much of a surprise. I stopped in the hot pits and the group leader came to talk to me. He asked what happened and I told him that I was a little too happy going into 4 and I bit the curb, which punted me and caused the spin.

He checked the car quickly, but since I didn't go off track, there was not mud or anything nasty. The car was fine and so was I. It's easy to get rattled but I found myself pretty calm, considering the circumstances. I was just happy that I kept it on the track and I knew that even though it was 100% my fault, it wasn't a horrible mistake but rather a bad decision of cutting it to close to the curb. Better stay OFF the curb really.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly and the group leader came along in my last session. He was quite happy with Turn 5 and 9, which always cause me problems and gave me some advices regarding Turn 4 and 8. Turn 8 in particular as I would turn too late, sacrificing too much entry speed and therefore, killing my exit. By turning earlier (a few feet) I was able to come out at about 100mph, compared to the 90mph or so that I would see before. Good stuff.

I still need to work on Turn 1 because I feel that I could carry a lot more speed in there. I just chicken out on the entry and I come out going into the short straight a some 85mph. I know that I can exit the turn doing 100mph easily but for some reason, I haven't been able to do it for a while now.

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