This website becomes less and less relevant to me but I think it’s worthwhile making some notes on the car and set up after a relatively unsuccessful two-day event this past weekend. The annual WCMA regional solo event visited our lot at the Calgary Airport. With between seventy and eighty drivers, I finished up 12th overall (?!? combined results don’t seem to have been calculated yet). My goal is to always be in the top five at local events, so this was a bust.
Prior to this past weekend, I did a single day event an hour and a half north of home in Red Deer, and there also didn’t meet my goal. What gives? A top five finish is something I managed practically every event I attended last year. The car this year, has some new parts on it that are supposed to make me faster. Have I become a slower driver? Did everyone else get faster? Is the car not working? Is the ND Miata and probably more importantly, the new CS PAX index, really a bummer for my now deprecated car?
Have I become a slower driver?
What are you kidding me? I might be aged and fighting the beer gut, but I’ll only step aside for a couple of people.
It’s hard to step into a car after a six month hiatus, and really remember what the car is supposed to feel like. In the second half of 2016 I was feeling GREAT. The local kings were feeling within reach. The car was doing what I wanted it to do (i.e. turn), and I felt motivated to buy some new parts and try a different tire size.
That happened in the off-season… now the car feels nothing like it did, and I’m not about to go blaming it on the driver!
If you remember, I picked up a rear sway bar with the hopes of minimizing my one complaint with the car: heavy push in sweepers. The bar I chose was a Hotchkis, namely because it’s supposed to be hollow (I’m skeptical as it definitely isn’t lighter than the TRD), and is the stiffest thing on the market, with four-way adjustability. My initial installation put the end links in the second softest position.
Did it work? Well… long sweepers almost always ENDED with some mild oversteer.
Was this fun? Yes.
Was this fast? I don’t think so.
Even when doing my best to minimize angle, bleeding sideways every time you are supposed to be accelerating to the next element, is not a recipe for beating ND Miata’s where the ONLY advantage you might be able to argue for is squirt. Squirt?? It’s probably more appropriate to call it a trickle… there is only 120lbft of torque after all.
What’s worse though, is that the car seems to have lost all of its sharpness in transition. A relative increase in rear roll stiffness is likely partly to blame for this. I.E. the car doesn’t load up the front tires nearly as quickly as it might otherwise. Lots of front rebound damping courtesy of Koni, was supposed to help…
Still, it was something I fought at my season debut in Red Deer a month ago… even before the sway bar swap.
I think a large part of it is the rubber.
Now with sixteen inch wheels, an extra half-inch of sidewall seems to have made a difference. The car feels more like a real Hachiroku than it ever has before (like a little car on tires that are too small). That’s great for smiles, but seems to be bad for times. One of my initial complaints with the car four years ago, was that it lacked steering feel. I.E. I couldn’t sense what the tires were doing. Now, I may have come to understand the car a bit better, but lack of steering feel is certainly not a complaint on these balloony shoes.
- Turn in.
- Streeeeeeeeetch the tire out.
- Make grip.
Seventeen inch wheels and 45 series tires seemed to lack that middle step. Ugh… is it any wonder that I was a meter off all the cones? (Even if I am no good at driving, I might be getting better at excuses.)
All this squirm was certainly compounded by the fact that RE-71R’s don’t seem to want much pressure at all. Checking with a pyrometer, I was able to get perfectly even temperatures across the back tires with a mere 24psi. The fronts needed more (32psi) to get even steps from outside to middle to inside. Surprisingly, excessive tire ROLLOVER is a none issue at these pressures. It certainly was in previous years, and I don’t understand why it is not now.
Nevertheless, due to disappointment with my performance, I did allow pressures to creep upwards a few PSI, while looking for some positive improvements. I’m not sure if they were ever found… but you can believe that the 16″ experiment is done, and now I want to go the other direction in size change: 18s and 225/40.
My frustration however, is certainly compounded by the ND Miata and a new PAX index. Last year in CS, I needed to be within a second of our local Z06 driving hero on a sixty-second course to call victory. It was a tall order. This year though, I need to be within a mere six tenths. That plainly is not happening. This change in scoring is based on the ND Miata being the new C-Street benchmark. It’s lighter, torquier, narrower and equivalently tired versus the FR-S.
In my mind, the only advantage the FR-S has is head and leg room.
If I remove my TRD suspension parts, the car goes down to D-Street where it only has to go 1.3 seconds slower than the local king for a net victory. That seems a helluva lot more likely… and thus is a mild temptation for me. And yet… two events in, I’m not quite willing to give up.
Obviously my driving performance can still improve dramatically. Pictures and cone counts from these two events have a pretty clear message: I ain’t driving anywhere close to the cones. If memory is correct, in 24 runs this year I have only one penalty. That means I’m turning the wheel a lot more than I should be, taking a squigglier line than I should be, missing the marks that I should be hitting… and getting slow times.
First step will be to improve driving… and with the family out-of-town, and a set of balloony RE-71Rs that I want to pop, I intend to get a lot of practice.