Donut HiLo

If you haven’t watched Donut Media’s HiLo series, it’s worth watching. There are two teams, the Hi team that gets to spend a lot of money and the Lo team that uses the cheapest parts available. Both cars start as 350Z street cars and then get upgraded to make them “daily drivers that you can take to the track”.

I think a lot of the budget endurance racers will identify with some of the shenanigans these guys get up to. There’s a lot of custom fabrication work on stuff that’s supposed to fit and a lot of mistakes from not knowing shit about cars. That’s me every time I work on my car! My budget is a lot less than Donut Media, so I can’t burn cash the way they do, and it’s sort of fun watching them fail on a more epic scale. Here are some of the episodes and take-aways.

  • Suspension: $2500 KW vs. $300 eBay
    • The expensive suspension works much better for daily use. The eBay coil-overs are low and harsh
    • Both cars are about the same speed in a slalom test
  • Wheels & Tires: $3764 Advan + RE-71R vs. $1052 XXR + 595 RS-RR
    • Skid pad test shows Hi car at 2 mph faster than Lo car – probably suspension not tires
    • Braking distance shows Hi better than Lo, but tests were highly variable
    • An AiM Solo (or whatever) would have made testing much more accurate
  • Brakes: $4400 Willwood vs. $450 unnamed
    • Braking distance is unchanged
    • Endurance test made a huge difference – they didn’t say what pad compound though
  • Differential $1200 Kaaz LSD vs. free welded
    • LSD install labor was very long
    • Welded diff wasn’t that bad on the street
  • Turbo: $8100 Jim Wolf twin turbo vs. $3500 eBay single turbo
    • So much labor for both cars, installation nightmares
    • Hi 334 hp, Lo 302 hp (stock is about 220)
    • Lo car ended up with no AC
    • Neither car was reliable after turbo installation
  • Roll Bars: $4000 welded vs. $2000 bolt-in
    • They keep calling roll bars “roll cages”
    • An attempt at using $200 universal roll bars failed
    • Hi team had the roll bar installed professionally
    • Lo team installed their roll bar with some difficulties and had to modify
    • Used 4-point harnesses for some stupid reason
  • Cosmetics: some interior and exterior shit I don’t care about

At the end of the day, they spend about $50,000 on the Hi car and $20,000 on the Lo car. Some of that is cosmetic, and they had an intermediate build at $33,000 vs $13,000. The ultimate results? Neither car was reliable enough to be a daily driver, and both times they took the cars to the track, they had major problems that would see many people going home.

They tested the cars at the Sandia track in Albuquerque where the Hi car was 3-6 seconds faster than the Lo car depending on the driver. After more modifications, which resulted in re-tuning the turbos to make even more power, they took the cars to Buttonwillow. From the video, it looks like they were running CW#13 (there’s one frame where you can see cones in front of Star Mazda). They didn’t get very many laps in because both cars ended up breaking down. But at the end of the day, these were the figures.

  • Hi 2:13.9
  • Lo 2:14.3

The Lo car was driven by Aaron, who is described as “like a pro driver, literally”. I’m fairly certain he would have shaved a few seconds of the Hi time had he driven that car. Regardless, a 2:14 is a terrible lap time for #13CW on 200 TW tires. The 86/FRS/BRZ drivers are 5-10 seconds faster in the Stock class with narrower (225), less sticky (SX2) tires.

Let’s forget about the drivers. This series was about modifying cars. The results were pretty entertaining and informative. Cheap parts and DIY often ends in failure. Expensive parts installed by professionals results in a much better car. But spending $20k or whatever to professionally upgrade a car may still end with a car that doesn’t run very well.

While OEM generally results in a much more reliable car and fixable car, there are some parts that are definitely worth upgrading if you’re headed to the track on a regular basis.

  • Brake fluid – Buy the good stuff because even the expensive stuff is still pretty cheap. If you cap it right away, it keeps for a long time.
  • Brake pads – Get a sport pad that doesn’t fade at high temperature, but don’t get a race pad because they don’t work well when cold (e.g. street driving). I like StopTech 309s. All of my cars have them, including the race car.
  • Suspension – A lower, stiffer car is more responsive on track but harsher on the street. Don’t go overboard when upgrading or tuning. Softer might actually be faster.
  • Tires – Sticky tires make a car faster, so if you think faster = funner, get sticky tires. However, you’ll learn more driving on less sticky tires, so if you’re working on your driving, try something around 300 TW.
  • Neck protection – It’s possible to die on track, and a neck brace is one of the things that could save you. If you’re using stock seat belts, then a Simpson Hybrid is the way to go. The other way is with a roll bar, race seat, and 5-point harness.

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