Well, I'm not exactly a young man anymore myself, but I'm still love to play with cars!
On March 10th I went to Chuckwalla Raceway as a tag-a-long with Brian Goodwin and Ryan Passey. They entered the Roadster Cup series with our Budget Project NC. I drove there in my MSM. It was a learning experience that would eventually became a fun day.
I feel one of the keys to starting out is knowing your limitations. I have only had 8 days of track time under my belt before this day, and the last one was last May at Fontana. Since I had arrived to Chuckwalla with Brian & Ryan, race control put me in the advanced group with those two fast guys (which meant in with all the other fast guys). Here is where I'd like to think I was smart. I went to the organizers and simply let them know I was nowhere skilled enough, and they agreed to put me in the "Low Intermediate" group. That was one step up from the bottom(first-timers, novices). I felt much more comfortable...until my first session.
The Goodwin trip to Chuckwalla was a last second decision, made after we cancelled our open house. The day before we left I installed a BBK from Stoptech on the front of my MSM, a set of prototype sways, and for tires I had an old set last run last May. Old, hard, little tread, and sitting out for 9-10 months. Perfect.
My group contain what seemed like a million Hondas. They were there for the VTEC Club competition. The first session I'm trying to remember which way the track went (only other time I've been to Chuckwalla was last March) and I was swarmed by these Hondas buzzing me. I spent the whole session watching the rear view and pointing by all these racer Hondas, who were trying for fastest lap. I accomplished to lock up the front right and flat spot the tire, and get in everyone's way in that first session. Except one car. I did pass 1 car. I wasn't happy when I came in. Too much body roll, no good feel for the new brakes, a lap time that shall never be mentioned. Recipe for a lousy day. But it got better.
My sway bars were on full soft, so I had time to tighten up the front one. I have prototype sways I trialing on my MSM, so out of four holes of adjustment I went to one hole away from full tight. Didn't have time for the rear.
My second session was much better. With the sway adjustment I had much better control of the steering inputs, and the body roll was significantly lessened. I also got a little better at my braking points. I was still pointing by Hondas like I was in the middle of a locust swarm. When I came in Brian knew right away I had a good time because he said he could see my smile while I still wearing my helmet. Turns out I shaved 4 seconds off my time.
Between 2nd and 3rd sessions I tightened the rear bar from full soft, (3 holes of adjustment) to the middle hole. I did this because the rear still felt unsettled, hard to describe. It hadn't been sliding, just still rolling at the rear, kind of felt like the inner rear wheel wanted to lift at turn in. I know, sounds like a fwd car, but that's how it felt. The rear sway adjustment calmed that down a bit.
For the third session the car felt better, I got the feel for the brakes a little more, and I passed a few guys. Still though, I was pointing by Hondas. We were left out on the track a lot longer than we were supposed to be, so the extra time really helped my time I feel. I came in and learned I had shaved another 3 seconds. Yes, going in the right direction.
I made no changes for the 4th (and my last) session. A lot of other cars had quit running, so the track was fairly clear. I started to tap the brakes a touch to settle the pads and get pedal feel before I used them in the braking zones. I learned later that I should have been doing this from the beginning to settle the pads to the rotors on this BBK before the braking zone AFTER the day was over. Anyways, it helped my braking feel, but I was still braking too early and still occasionally locking a wheel or two. It was decided in our pits that my old tires probably had something to do with the braking issues, handling issues, and any other issues I could blame on them. Best news out of the last session is I dropped another second!
Bottom line is I went to the track with old tires, new front BBK with no real time using them, prototype sways, and only 8 days of track time spread out over 4 years. I had a blast, kept it on the track, and dropped 8 seconds. I was still very slow, but I got quicker, which is always good.
- Greg at Chuckwalla
The Only Speed is Mazdaspeed