Photo By Donography
Time for another post!
We got back from Autobahn Raceway in Joilet Il. just a day ago. This trip concludes a marathon of work starting a week before the Wicked Big Meet. (www.wickedbigmeet.com) Rewind three weeks and Bill and I are driving down to Wellsboro PA to help our good friend Burak at STPR rally.
STPR (RALLY) Wellsboro PA
We have been crewing for Burak Tuglu and George Georgakopolus, the two members of Team Rally Tire (www.rally-tire.com) for two years now. The weekend wasn’t our best, two terminal car failures on day 1 and we were out of the running. Bill got a speeding ticket on the way down which also clouded the trip. Like with our own events we have high expectations for Burak’s performance. He is becoming known as one of the top FWD rally drivers in the country. When something goes wrong with the car that we can’t fix we feel terrible.
Wicked Big Meet, Princeton MA
A week later and we’re back, preparing to pick up our new friend Tomo from the airport. For the past few weeks we had been helping him to make plans for his stay with us. He is here from CA, a representative from Tomei USA, (www.tomeiusa.com) our strongest business partnership at DSG. He is in town for the Wicked Big Meet, the largest Subaru meet in the country. We are planning a joint marketing effort to help them grow in the US and help us get a direct line of communication and purchasing with a premium parts manufacturer. The trip goes well. Tomo got to see a lot of Boston each night. We took him to Beacon Hill, Back Bay, downtown on some short tours. He liked Boston.
The night before Wicked Big meet Bill pulled yet another all-nighter in hopes to have the 240RS Maxi in completed S09 form but it wasn’t meant to be and Bill attended yet another WBM on zero hours of sleep for the same reasons as before. Ron and I met him at the shop, still dark and raining at 5am he had just lay down on the futon in the office. The car could have rolled on and off the trailer but it was raining and the Maxi recipe calls for no windows, a bad combination. We wanted to show the car as an example of our highest capabilities.
After the WBM we had a series of 6 or 7 really late nights trying to get both cars as well as Ron’s RA Spec Impreza ready for Redline Time Attack in Chicago. The Impreza was ready first with a relatively short pre-event prep list, then the Evo, then we tried again on the Maxi but with the engine arriving only four days before our scheduled departure for the event, it again was not meant to be. We got the car all the way to the dyno, Matt laying down the tune as we packed the truck. There were a couple of problems with the wastegate spring as well as having still no windshield attached, no window net, harness or actual track testing and at the very last minute we shared a “this is crazy” look and Bill decided to throw in the hat on the Time Attack.
We recognized that it was important to show up but probably more important to have a quality showing once there. Bringing the car through the racetrack gates to say “we got there” doesn’t cut it anymore.
Redline TIME ATTACK! Joilet Illinois
This is becoming a long post mostly because it covers three long weeks however they were somewhat interesting because they span probably 240 hours of working time and 7 or so states. Ron, Quy (formerly of DSG mechanic/engine building fame, now a photographer/artist/zombie fan) and I piled three wide into the box truck, which is meant for short jaunts around the city and headed for Joilet Il. The trip duration on Google maps was about 16 hours. It was 4pm and raining. We were in MA. We made it there in 22. Luckily there was no drama, no broken parts, no stolen anythings, just a long trip. The truck’s maximum unassisted-by-gravity velocity is 55mph, somewhat weather dependant.
We listened to about 5 DJ Crush CDs and then my failed MP3 burnings, then Ron’s 8 hour epic on Zombies, WWZ (World War Zombie) and finally some Rush in Bill’s honor. We arrived at the sliding gates of Autobahn Country club in 99% humidity after navigating a 12’ bridge with a 12’ high truck.
Autobahn is in the middle of nowhere, or possibly in the middle of a flyover state if you are a coastal elitist. It’s actually a great place with nice people all around. The landscape is not at all familiar. Huge towering (cement factories?) with their man made photo negative, the abyssal rock quarry surrounding them, flat ground and thunderstorms. We swore that we’d see a tornado on the way down. We checked in, strapped on our $20 wristbands at the front desk and called Burak of BTM Sport/Rally-Tire to check on his arrival. He was our lead engineer for the weekend, flying in from MD. After unloading we talked on the phone with Tomo and left to get some dinner and checked into the hotel a couple exits up the highway.
The next morning was a bit of a rush. We had already unloaded so the cars the day before so we were essentially ready. They were gassed and the wheels were tight. We were already tired, another night of little sleep and a lot of work. Burak’s plane arrived about 6 hours later than he hoped. This made me feel even worse because our generous volunteer was already off to a tough start. After a team breakfast in the hotel with surprising delicious coffee we headed to the track, just on time to miss the driver’s meeting.
Practice round one went well. The car was retardedly fast, still in frantic, maximum boost hillclimb mode it was spinning the tires in third on the dry, grappling at the track over the bumps. Burak suggested that I turn the boost down to keep the car together and I did (for the first time ever) Practice session one ended and we had accumulated some tire temperature information. Front left was getting a little too hot so we dropped it 1 lb at a time throughout the day. I also clicked up the rear struts, slowing the rebound a little bit. The car wasn’t turning in as well as it used to. This was to become a reoccurring theme. In other car technical nerd news, the wastegate was also a little loose on it’s flange so we worked that out, regrouped and headed onto the track for practice session two. It was so hot that I was forced to don my new stylish bandana to contain my man sweat. I was beginning to get in the groove. Tires were impressively sticky although my driving did them no justice. I was still 3-4 seconds off Tarzan and Daddio at that point on Saturday. The new gearbox was at it’s limit of speed almost, tapping out 5th gear on the back straight, 8100rpm. This was also worrisome; what will happen when I get more speed on that straight? On a positive note the RPM drop at 7k rpm with this new gearbox is only 1000 rpm. That’s a very tight ratio selection. I felt like the car had at least 2 seconds in it still.
Sunday morning. We arrived on time today. Ron and I stood at the back of the driver’s meeting and wondered how tech opened at the same time as the street class run group 1. Both cars made it through tech inspection without a hitch, Redline was very well organized and things moved very well, very fast and with plenty of announcement and notice. The format for the day was practice, time trial, practice, time trial. I still didn’t turn my boost back up. It was hot, like 90 degrees. Every time I got out of the Pleasure Evo, I was literally soaked through my shirt. I was wearing my driving suit which I don’t normally do. I drank a gallon of water on Saturday.
Time Trial 1, the car was pushing so hard on the first hairpin off the front straight I was becoming very frustrated. The gearbox was difficult to navigate, not only with the left hand but now the gears were so close and the shifter position so tight that I had a hard time remembering what gear I was in. Mate that to the front differential causing a little more under steer and the little Evo was like a completely different car. Burak kept me calm as I posted times slower than Saturday’s practice.
The schedule was changed for Sunday after the first time attack session because it was supposed to rain in the afternoon. It did rain later and luckily no one’s fancy Time Attack cars melted! The second time trial start was very tense. All the big team managers were literally bugging out at the possibility of rain and the delay before the second run session. Burak and I laughed. The Pleasure Evo actually runs in the wet. The wet weather would have been perhaps my only savior although since the first timed session in the dry already had me in a distant 3rd there was no hope for a wet underdog victory. This was the first time I was equipped with some good rain tires! BFG Gforce KD W2s and I hoped to use them.
I posted almost identical times in the second TT as the first. I was disappointed, deflated, tired. I felt like there was a lot more cornering speed in the second session. I threw a hail Mary and disconnected the front sway bar to get the car to turn in. Without testing time it was my only hope. It helped a lot but surprisingly that didn’t reflect in my lap times. Ron shared similar feelings about his weekend and driving but we both were very happy that both cars completed every lap offered to us. This is the first time the Evo has achieved such a feat…ever, and Ron’s second track day on the new car and also with no problems, we would take what the track-gods passed to us.
Driving home 22 hours left plenty of time for reflection. How was I the same speed with more practice? How come the car wouldn’t turn in like it used to? (and with more grip than ever!) Was racing worthwhile? Why were we going 45mph on the highway?
24 hours provided answers. We were going 45 because we were in a 15 year-old truck shaped like a box. The truck likely displaces the volumetric equivalent of the Mediterranean Sea on a 22 hour trip. Racing was worthwhile because I spent a great weekend with great friends and I learned a lot. We drove through 5 states! We spent $220 in tolls! Yay! The car didn’t turn in because I need to apply more toe-out to the front. The Ralliart front differential is locking the front wheels on deceleration and causing more push. The car will be faster and better for having done this. Final mystery solved.. the car was slower with more practice because the intercooler had a 4” long crack in it. Redesign necessary. It was probably 150whp down on power.
Next stop is North Carolina and we’ll have a smurfy blue car with a long name joining the pack.
Thanks for reading this. Thanks to Tomei USA, BF Goodrich for their support of the smallest big team, Stance, GoPro, my friends and, of course Meghan.