One More Year of Endurance

August 27th, 2015 by Q

CNAC2015DI hate when I realize that I’m not yet a master. Here I was… so ready to move on to something else, or somewhere else… and yet it’s clear I have so much more to achieve with my boring C-Street ZN6. The Canadian National Autoslalom Championship (CNAC) was last weekend. It was not a great autocross weekend, but it was a great competition weekend… and now it feels like the 2015 season is essentially over. I won’t go to Lincoln. I’ll study up for at least one more year before making that trip.

Not that the results at CNAC were terrible…

  • Over the course of the weekend, of 7 FT86 entrants, I was second fastest.  Only three of those entrants were in Street class like me.  The guy who beat me, was not in Street class.  On the second day of competition, I was the fastest FT86… period.
  • Of the 46 Solo classes, CS is deemed to be only the 36th fastest of those classes.  Of 88 competitors in all classes, I was the 24th fastest despite being in a “slow” car.  No one in a class slower than CS posted a better time than me.
  • Indexing times, I placed 8th out of 88 but…
  • Our long lost friend Ryan in a borrowed CS prepared 350Z  smashed me by a little more than 1 second each day, and made me second place out of six in CS.  1 second per day is a gigantic gap.  Ryan PAX’ed second over all at the event.
  • My target was top PAX, and seven people beat me.  The gap was not small.

CNAC2015CYou may or may not remember, but when I first auto-xed this car, I thought it was a dream.  Minus a lack of grunt, the car was communicative, easy to place and generally forgiving.  After a year of auto-x though, and my familiarity with the car grows, I have a complaints that go beyond power output… but I think they are somethings I should learn to work around.

It doesn’t feel as nimble as it once did.  Maybe not having to drive a WRX, or a real race car with the engine in the wrong place has spoiled me, but now the FRS feels stiff, awkward.  In quick transition I feel like the car is easily unsettled.  At low speeds it hates to rotate. At high speeds it wants to go backwards.  Originally, I felt like I was tossing the car around.  Recently it has felt more like the car is driving me.  To combat this, I think I’m going to go back to maximum stiff on the front sway bar, and then maybe get aggressive with toe settings.  My current alignment is quite conservative as I’ve been road tripping to and from events:  3mm  toe in out back, 2mm of toe out up front.

CNAC2015BThe biggest improvement however, will have to come from my driving.  Being early early early on the gas is a constant reminder.  This is always an obvious issue laggy turbocharged cars, but it’s a pretty big deal when there is only 120lbft of torque as well.  I also delude myself into thinking that because the car is on the edge and moving around, that I am going fast.  More relaxed runs where I focus on precise car placement always end up with better times and make me much more consistent.  Most of all, I struggle to look far enough ahead… driving one element at a time leads to wonky lines and poor judgement of speed.  ”Look ahead” is what I tell myself the first every time things aren’t going well, but it is probably still, the skill that I execute the poorest.

So coilovers, buckets, headers and big wide shoes would make owning the car a lot more interesting, and might even make driving the car a lot easier… but smashing modified cars with a stock one is tremendously rewarding, and when I do fail, it’s quite refreshing not being able to blame spring rates and tunes, or a long list of legal modifications that haven’t been completed to the full extent.

One day I’ll have a hard tune car… but it looks like that day is at least 365 more days away.

Thanks Ian and Joe for the pictures.
Andrew suffered a worse fate than me at CNAC weekend… but I’ll let him speak for himself.

Love and Life

August 20th, 2015 by Q

truckI don’t know that I actually love my truck. I’ve used it everyday for almost two years now, and have had no real complaints…. But it would be kind of nice if I was able to sell it. It doesn’t really fit in my shop. My wife refuses to drive it. It’s expensive as hell on gas, and the rate I pay for insurance on it seems directly proportional to it’s weight.

But it’s so incredibly practical that I can’t sell it. Taking kids to the park? Throw bikes in the back. Wait, you’ll give me that EJ28 for free if I can haul it away right now? Crawford bling in the back. Haul cones out to the lake? Five wasted bro’s at the pub? Six gigantic suitcases full of weird shit from a Japanese dollar store? Mud road leading to a work site? It does it all.

Your not a man if you don’t have a truck.

Be a man. Buy my truck.

I’d trade it all for a six throttle 2JZ R154 JCE10. I love my cheap, boring, tiny Lexus.

Now In The GaraGe…

August 11th, 2015 by Q

IS300gaugeWell… there is a whole swarm of people buying IS300’s, and now I’m in the party.  Shame that some of the guys who started the party have moved on.  I wanted one of these when they came out in 2001, I considered buying one when I bought my WRX… and now, it seems like a fun way to upgrade the wife’s Impreza.

I’m happy to finally pull the trigger.  I still think this car might have the sexiest gauge cluster of any car ever… even if the tachometer is in the wrong spot.  Given that it has a heated seats, automatic climate control and a whole bunch of other features that the Impreza didn’t have, I hope it will be forgiven (as a family car) for not having a hatchback, AWD, or a fuel sipping 4 cylinder engine.  Not that the Impreza really sipped fuel… but it’s the idea that counts.

IS300Yes I said I had to buy another Subaru… but Toyota build quality is so incredibly superior.  Even with 130k km, this car feels much more solid than my FRS… or even some of the brand new German cars that I spend time with on the job. I also… looked at the regular econo car options from Toyota: Corolla… too freaking boring,  Yaris… no power windows? Matrix… AWD, but too ugly.  Rav4… maybe, but the truth is I despise the three circle gauges clusters that all most early 2000 Toyota’s have.  A LOT.  Sometimes when Toyota tries to be interesting it fails horribly.

My reservations with the IS300 is that it has become the clapped out project of hacks and wannabe enthusiasts everywhere.  Most that I see are lowered, sporting stickers on the back window, plenty of rust and scrapes, and Domo-kun hanging from the rear bumper.  This one is 100% stock with a full service record from the dealership.  It was however, owned by a guy who told me it had a Supra engine.  It must… because it goes at least as nice as my FRS does.

IS300doorcardFamily road trips are going to be much more enjoyable now… even if we can’t pack 2 coolers and four big bags… and even if I’m yelling at the kids to keep their chocolate hands off the cloth, leather and wood door cards.

Happy August 6

August 6th, 2015 by Q

august6Best August 6th I’ve had in a while…


August 1st, 2015 by Q

solongI get attached to cars, but I never thought I’d get attached to this thing. Our family wagon survived nearly three years of my abuse, my wife’s negligence and kids slamming doors, kicking seats, spilling ice cream and repeatedly cycling the windows up and down.

Besides my beloved AE86, this was the longest I ever owned a car. Considering that it’s almost purple in colour… it really must have been awesome. Although I suppose the fact that it shared hubs with all of my toy cars, and thus was able to occasionally wear cool shoes, dramatically increased it’s life span.

The pistons slapped terribly at cold temperatures, rust bubbled on the rear quarters and no matter what we did it always seemed to have a cracked windshield… but it always handled itself perfectly in Alberta winters, blew cold AC in the American south west, carried car seats and strollers and multiple animal shaped umbrellas, yet still somehow managed 90mph climbing “Going to the Sun Rd.” in the hands of my timid wife. The police officer was as shocked as I was.

Best wishes in your new life, purple bucket. How can I not replace you with another Subaru?

It’s Been Too Long

July 28th, 2015 by Q

IMG_0309…Since there’s been an action shot. I don’t want to dampen the spirits of those who come out to photograph events, but not many of them shoot with a style that excites me. Kevin has shot me before on ice, and he’s good at showing movement. He’s also a fellow Subaru guy (wait… am I a Subaru guy?) His full gallery from the autox last Sunday is HERE.

I got stomped again and it makes me feel sad. Sup!?!

It’s Only Fun When You Win

July 23rd, 2015 by Q

PackwoodProOr maybe it’s just not fun when you get obliterated.

My first Pro Solo was as painful of an event as I’ve ever experienced. It was in part yellow jerry cans being fed to cars, partly stop clocks spitting out the same times again and again, and part ass kicking. If you don’t know what Pro Solo is, think drag racing meets autocross. There are two mirror image courses and a tree. I’m not sure what the appeal really is, because besides the start and opening straight, competing cars are so far apart from each other, the drivers or spectators really can’t effectively judge who is in front. More than that, how does one create two mirror image courses on a lot surface that is not symmetrical and often wildly different side to side? How does one create a fun course that includes a variety of elements in only half of the typical area?

The whole thing seems about as good for judging performance, as the guy at the local dealership who brags about how fast his favourite model of car can take a highway off-ramp.

Now maybe I’m getting a bit carried away here, as the SCCA does take some measures to try and make up for these inadequacies… but four days later I’m still pissed about my weekend.

The worst part was the ass kicking.
packwoodresultsI had higher expectations for myself. The prior weekend I had a result I was happy with, and thought I was within striking distance for top spot. As for all my humble talk, “the other guys are fast, I’m just a first timer, what can I really expect?” It was just that: talk. I thought I could win and I wanted it… bad.

It started to show. First we got totally flustered with the FR-S’s inability to get off the line quick. Highlighting this, was how stupidly fast the class winner and his co-driver were getting off the line. With turbo torque and engine behind the driver, they were beating us to the 60ft mark by around four tenths of a second. Four tenths there… and the straight continued for at least 100ft past that mark. By the end of it I was staring at the back of his car with something closer to anger than envy, and reading his number plate “MINTIME” rather than focusing on the corners ahead where I was supposed to be able to make up time.

Instead I turned up the rage, got sloppy as hell, probably made up no ground until we both came to a single cone turn around at the half way point of the course. Then there was another horrendous drag race where I decided I was getting left behind again, and another short series of corners before the finish that I imagined I must be able to drive flat out because… hell… an FRS can win here, and since it certainly can’t do it on the straightaways, it must be able to do miraculous things in the corners.

I still believe it can win, and relative to a tall squishy 20 year old car it probably can do miraculous things in the turns, but I obviously wasn’t the guy to do either. Run after run, what I was doing only got worse. Eventually I decided the only chance I had was to crank up the music, risk jumping the light, hold my foot on the floor everywhere and either win or spin. I did neither… but I did run red lights. Andrew fell into basically the same boat. Wrong answer.

defeatedThis is how you throw in the towel. There are no action shots, and I’m too annoyed to look at the video. However, since I’m a geek, and since practically every car that wasn’t an FRS had a better 60FT time than we did, I came home and scrounged up some numbers.

60fttimeschart What you are looking at are the average 60FT times of the fastest example of car in class, for the 2015 Pro Solo season. There are seven events included (Official Packwood and … results are not out yet), but I’m disappointed, and yet somewhat relieved to conclude that the FRS is the slowest launching car in Pro Solo. Yes it’s slower than a 10 year old Miata. It’s much much much slower than any MR2. It’s even slower than the car that wins the slowest of all Solo classes (the front wheel drive Fiesta ST). I was somewhat surprised to see the RX8 only slightly in front of the FR-S. It benefits from wider tires, and a little more power and rearward weight bias, but I guess really falls victim to a torqueless naturally aspirated rotary engine.

The whole way home, I fantasized about all the different cars I wanted to race that wouldn’t trip on themselves right out of the start gate: MR2’s, Corvette’s, Lotus’… and then I realized what the greatest part of my weekend had been

Dorsey…Chris Dorsey’s honest to god AE86 featuring naturally aspirated 4AG, live axle rear end, T50 transmission and enough magic and heart to win R2 over 600hp FD’s, 400hp Lotus complete with carbon fiber, obnoxious aero, lexan, Avons and national champion pilots.

So I guess I’m going to keep my car, and put a poster of Mr. Dorsey’s simple monster up on my wall.