I’m going to be in New York a few times per year, so I decided I should get a car. I wanted something that was practical but also trackable (there are a lot of great tracks nearby that I’ve never been to). Practicality meant convertibles were out and 4-seaters were in. Bonus for hatchbacks. From a tracking standpoint, 4×100 wheels would be ideal because he has 40 of them, but as long as it’s not an SUV, I’ll be happy tracking it.
As you can imagine, a Mini Cooper S was at the head of the list. They tick off all of the boxes from 4×100 to 4 seats to hatchback. However, they do have expensive repair bills and I don’t love the interiors. But I’ve been in them on track, and they are good track cars. Another car we thought about was a 2006 Civic Si. And me being me, I was also considering another Toyota Yaris or maybe a Corolla.
A few months passed and nothing really presented itself. Then out of the blue, Mario found a Volvo C30 R-Design in Ithaca. The Ithaca Craiglist is really bare, so finding anything interesting is amazing. But a C30 R-Design? That’s buried treasure. The specific car had 115k miles and had 2 sets of wheels, the original 18″ rims with summer tires, and 16″ wheels with winter tires. Cosmetically and mechanically, it appeared to be in great shape. So he picked it for me.
How do you modify a C30 R-Design to prepare it for track duty? Brake pads for sure. I got my favorite street/sport pad: StopTech 309s. They were $73 front and $66 rear. The summer tires it came with were pretty well gone, so I got a set of Falken Azenis RT615K+ in 225/40/18 for the bargain price of $132. Most of the 200TW tires in this size are $200 or so.
Like a lot of modern cars, the C30 has stability control that gets in the way on track. And like a lot of cars, there is a button that you can push that turns off some things, but not everything. Thankfully, the stability control is easily bypassed. In the picture below, the red/yellow wire is the power to the stability control.
I cut this wire and spliced in a SPST switch, which is in out of sight but within easy reach of the driver. You can see the head of the switch peaking out from behind the control console.
I’m not sure what that tray behind the console is supposed to hold, but it makes a convenient place to mount the switch because there’s no fasteners to disassemble, and the wires can be threaded along the console and under the carpet.
Once you turn off stability control, the console shows that anti-skid is disabled. The light will stay on until the next time the car is started with stability control on. That is, it clears the codes on startup if the system is working. I haven’t A-B tested the handling of the vehicle yet, but I’ll try in a couple days.
So where am I going to track it? Some of the tracks that aren’t too far away include:
- Lime Rock Park – just did it and it was great to visit once, but not sure I’d go again
- Pocono – there are lots of variations, and some of them look fun
- NYST – my 2nd favorite track is always worth a visit
- Shannonville – closest track in Canada
- Pineview – more FWD experiments need to be done there
- Watkins Glen – I’m largely over WGI, but I would do it once in the C30
One recent thought we had was to enter One Lap of America. I’ve never done this, but it’s pretty interesting. You have to drive 3500 miles and do several track events over the course of a week. You’re not allowed to change tires. That sounds like a fun challenge, and a Volvo C30 is a decent car for that, at least in terms of practical yet trackable. However, the rules don’t make much sense to me. You can basically bring any street legal car you want and have anyone drive it. If you have the cash, you can bring a Ford GT and hire a professional driver to do the timed runs while you perform transit duty There are a few different classes, but a stock Volvo C30 isn’t competitive in any of them. At $3000, it’s not cheap either. However, it does represent an interesting challenge, so it’s on my radar.
The events in One Lap of America include time trials, autocrosses, drag races, and skid pad tests. I have never competed in an autocross. So that’s where I’m headed on Sunday. I’ll be “racing” at the Seneca Army Depot in the H Street class as a Novice. That will give me a chance to try the C30 with and without stability control. Stay tuned for the upcoming race repot.