Clean Test Day

I have a simple racing rule: the car doesn’t go to a race unless it has had a flawless test day. I broke that rule for the last race and in return the car broke various parts. Never again. We test before we race, damnit! Given that the next race may be in March, we needed a clean test day soon.

Before

One of the problems in the last race was that the car wasn’t put back together properly. We replaced the engine, which worked flawlessly, but the suspension and alignment got really messed up. We thought the alignment was set up for neutral good handling, but it turned out to be chaotic evil. It was a very bad weekend. So bad I don’t even have video of anything. The only positive thing that came out of it was a D&D joke.

A couple weeks later we assessed the damages and got everything put back together… hopefully. Thanks Tiernan and Mike.

Rental

Teammate Mike knew a guy who wanted to get his VARA license and needed a car. I know that if I was going to a race school, I’d like to be able to rent a car without breaking the bank, so I said yes. There is a lot of worry about that though. What if the car is damaged? What if it’s broken and someone gets hurt? There’s a lot of risk involved, and now that I’m thinking clearly about it, I’m not sure I want to do that again.

The report that came back was very positive. Apparently there was a dude whose Spitfire didn’t run so the Yaris had two student drivers. Both thought the car handled really well. Thankfully, it didn’t come back with any major problems. There was some tire wear, the windshield now has a small crack, and the cap to the brake fluid is missing. The crack may have happened after it came back for all I know. And the cap could have been my fault when I last topped it off.

Test Day

I’m not going to take the second hand word of a novice racer about the handling of the car. It still needed a test day. Teammate Tiernan had signed up for a track day at Thunderhill, so I suggested he drive the Yaris and we turn that into a test day. In the last race, the car really went whacky on him, ending in a close encounter with a wall. It was therefore critical to get his assessment on the handling.

  • In the first session, we went out with a “square narrow” setup with RS4 tires on all 4 corners. This worked out great and he raved about the handling.
  • In the second session, we removed the front ARB in order to counteract the inside wheel spin. This also worked well, and he dropped a couple seconds.
  • In the third session, we added 1″ wheel spacers. This is the “square wide” setup. Again, the handling was good and he dropped a couple more seconds.
  • In the fourth session, we added a cheap eBay wing to the rear. The lap times were very similar to the third session, but Tiernan definitely carried more speed through T1 and T2. The top speed on the main straight was 1-2 mph lower, but I think it’s an overall win.
  • Had we done a fifth session, I would have wanted to test 17″ rear wheels shod with 215/40/17 RS-Pros. I’ve used those before and really loved the handling, but the RS4s are probably faster. I only use these other tires because I’m cheap and don’t want to wear out my good RS4s.

Video

Here’s some video from the third session. Fastest lap is the last one: 2:20.67.

Coaching?

I got in the right seat of a car to do a little coaching and felt like I had some vertigo coming on so I asked to be let out after just 1 lap. I might not do too much coaching in the future if this happens again.

Conclusion

That was a clean test day. The car is officially ready to race.

PS

The driving event was hosted by Top GT, a new-ish organization who had hosted private events in the past and is now moving to public events. They have an interesting structure.

  • Novice group – lead follow all day it appeared
  • Point-by group – 3 previous track days required
  • Open groups – 2 separate groups but you can drive in them back-to-back if you want

The open group philosophy is interesting. The idea is that advanced drivers can treat this as an open pit. I think I would like it if the drivers were actually advanced. People went off track way too often. And when they threw the RED FLAG, almost nobody stopped. Seriously, people just drove right past Start-Finish with a red flag waiving. In the advanced group. The reason for the red flag? Because someone went off track, got stuck in the mud, and the passenger got out of the car to try to push it out. In the advanced group. I shit you not. In the advanced group! Thunderhill almost shut the event down because of this, and I honestly think they should have. It would be a lesson these advanced drivers and organizers might remember.

The point-by group was also a shit-show btw. The S2000 sporting plate #1 spun in T12 every session! Open the fucking wheel before you gas it! And the organization didn’t even hire a flagger at T11, so the guy wasn’t getting black-flagged and would just go super-hot as soon as he got back on track. Also, since they didn’t have a T11 flagger, it took a lot longer for them to clear everyone off track with a single Checkered.

3 thoughts on “Clean Test Day

  1. Oh, wow! I didn’t even realize that checking on every single components of our race car must be done prior to the actual race day to prevent unwanted incidents. My husband has a friend whose daughter has been seriously considering becoming a NASCAR driver before next year. I’ll show her this article so she can be better prepared some time soon.

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  2. My favorite DE group has an interesting reputation – they don’t let anyone drive above group 2 out of 4 without a check ride (regardless of racing pedigree) and really focus on safety and predictability. Its funny how many people get twisted up around this, but at the same time I’ve done ~20 weekends with them and I think I’ve seen two damaged cars from hitting things, no car to car contact, and very few red/black flags in general. Also, the advanced group can happily have stock Miatae and prepped 911s sharing the track without many hiccups, which is its own kind of fun.

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