Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(178) Is Italian car now

This blog is entitled "Chump to Champ" and so far, the "Champ" part of it hasn't happened.

That changed on Sunday.

On Sunday it became official that I am the Novice Champion in the SFR region of the SCCA Solo championship.

It's not Formula 1, but it is as good a place to start as any.

Rewind the clock a bit and Scott and I are standing in the office of Roger Kraus Racing speaking with Brandan Kraus and Bryan Nemy about upgrades for the Subaru. After a fairly lengthy and in-depth discussion, we decided to get new tires, which were kind of required after the last event's shredding action, and to adjust the alignment to try and address the understeer of the car. Later, we installed a beefier anti-roll bar in the rear of the car.

We considered a lot of options in tires, and the tire that offered the best match for our needs appeared to be the Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec (whew). The tire features a lot of rubber in contact with the road and not a lot of cuts in the tread. This makes for good dry weather grip. When the tires were mounted we had Kraus Racing increase the front camber to -2 degrees, and add some rear toe-out. These two changes would help to front get sucked into the turn, and the rear pivot outwards more, respectively.

The Dunlop Star Spec is a very racy looking tire.

The roll bar ended up being a Perrin 22mm bar, which is 6mm thicker than the stock bar. The Perrin bar is also adjustable with 3 different mounting positions. We had Premier Auto Service install the bar to the middle stiffness setting. This adjustability will allow us to tune the balance of the car fairly well. The anti-roll bar basically makes the wheels it is connected to stay closer to the body of the car as the body leans. By putting a stiffer bar in the back, this means that the inside rear tire will be lifted off the ground more in a turn, reducing rear end grip, while at the same time causing the front inside tire to sit with more weight on the ground. All the sway bar does is change how the weight of the car is distributed as the body leans over. Roll bars are very powerful, and can either make the majority of the weight of the car sit in the front or the back as it corners, simply by tuning the roll bars.

Also, it's red.

Red ones go faster.

So did these changes help? I was certainly very curious to find out.

On Sunday we woke up at 5 AM and headed down to Marina. Hotels were over $400 per night for the Monterey Reunion weekend so we kind of had to.

We each took our first runs and I included our immediate impressions in the video.

Round 11 helmet cam footage.

Apologies to the entire country of Italy for my tremendously horrible accent.

It's an enormous improvement and while it could use a little fine-tuning (I think we can set the roll bar to the stiffer notch, as it still understeers a little), it's a really nice handling car now. I thought the extra stiffness would make it a but unruly, my logic being that  there was a reason Subaru made it so pushy. But nope, it's still a fuzzy teddy bear with no sharp edges. Just a really easy car to drive, and with these tires even more so. Dad was immediately quicker, getting to within 1 second of my best time of the day.

And with that best time, I won the 11th round, scored a perfect points result in the championship, and made it official that I am now Novice Champion. Happily my dad also got a good result, finishing 3rd for round 11 (only a tenth of a second behind the Mini Cooper in 2nd), and scoring a fantastic 2nd place in the championship. An Evans 1-2 in our first season! Could it get any better?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

(177) Perception of Curiosity

I'm sitting here watching coverage of the rover Curiosity's landing on Mars. It's nearly there. Curiosity is a one ton nuclear powered rover that is much larger than any rover to come before it. I'm watching via the stream and viewing a simulation of Curiosity's progress at eyes.nasa.gov. It makes me wonder how this 2.5 billion dollar machine will change our perception of nature over the next 686 days of Curiosity's planned operation.

I get asked by some people how racing changes my own perception of reality. It is not a common question but I think it is an interesting one.

I suppose the first thought one might have is that racing, or doing anything that is exciting and potentially dangerous, results in normal day to day happenings becoming intolerably boring. This might be the case for some drivers but I don't find it to be the case for me.

I do find myself more relaxed these days, but I can't say I'm bored. I find myself contemplating a lot more. I also find that I am reacting to various things in a much calmer way than I used to. I also find I'm appreciating things that I didn't used to appreciate. I think the calmer portions of life have more meaning for me, somehow. I'm also not getting frustrated anywhere near as much as I used to. I think I might appear bored from the outside, but I don't feel bored.

But it's hard to say. These things could be a result of simple aging, or experiences that I've had other than racing. In any case, I feel like my mindset is a least in part a result of racing. I feel like I'm better off for it. Although the idea that racing is wholly responsible for my mindset is not out of the world of possibility.

Even though racing is less dangerous now than it was 40 years ago, it still feels quite dangerous at times. It is definitely a high stress environment. It could be that trying to think clearly in that environment has a big effect on the driver's mindset in other situations.

Well, Curiosity just set down, and everyone in the control room is going berserk. A new chapter in space exploration will begin changing everyone's perception of reality, no high stress environment needed.