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Unread 01-26-2015, 11:34 AM
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Default Re: Vorshlag Budget TT Build: Project DANGER ZONE

Project Update for January 26th, 2015: Our first race for Project DangerZone has passed and this is my "post-race report" along with some analysis of what went right and wrong.

I Need To Apologize for Trash Talking? Really?

Before I get into our first event results or talk about what we're doing to this car next I think I need to address some of my "pre-race performance speculation", aka: TRASH TALKING. Some say it was unnecessary or disrespectful, but it was done mostly in jest. Getting people to notice our projects takes some extra effort when its a 24 year old ghetto jet, so I took a gamble and "bench raced" my way to some predicted wins and track records. Where's the harm in that?

This was how the car looked right before we loaded up to tow to Houston, sans NASA decals

This sport isn't an "everyone gets a trophy" kind of competition. There are winners and there are losers - that's kind of the whole point. Sure, racing is still fun when you lose, but winning is more funner. Since when do racers need to apologize for a little harmless trash talking? To those that were offended by any of that in my previous posts, all I have to say is "that's part of racing". If I chose to I talk up this project a bit and had it flopped the first time out, I would have looked like an idiot and had to eat some crow. That was the risk on my part, but this whole build is a calculated risk...

The Gamble: An Old Car And A New Tire

Building this 24 year old car into my primary race car for 2015 is a big risk, as it didn't really fit into the "typical cars we work on here". I've picked the wrong horse a few times but normally we can look at a rule book and class listings and see several underdogs that have unseen potential.

But honestly, this car isn't magic. We could have picked a number of other low cost cars that could do very well in this class (TTC), like an E36 M3 or an S2000, both of which are proven winners in TTC at the highest levels. The point of this build wasn't to find the End All Be All car, but to show that as long as the classing is equal the car you choose doesn't matter as much as how it is prepped and driven.

Am I saying the class could be won with any of these cars? Yes, I am. This 1992 Corvette isn't some super ringer, and we've prepped/won with both S2000s and M3s in this very class, with our own cars and customers' builds. Anyone can win if they start with a fairly classed car, prep the car to the limits of the class, test their set-up to maximize performance, use the best tires available (*tires are the biggest factor in any build!) and drive it well.

Another reason why we chose this car (other than it was a sweet deal that fell into my lap at the perfect time) was to show some variety for our business here at Vorshlag. We have unfortunately become "known" for BMWs and Mustangs and Subarus, but the reality is we work on anything that can be classed for road course, autocross, rally or other racing uses: new and old, Domestic, Asian, and German, you name it. People didn't "know us" for Corvettes but we have owned, raced and worked on a lot of them, and use the drive trains from Corvettes in a number of V8 swaps for all sorts of chassis. Having owned this same model Corvette in the past I knew it has potential to handle, brake and accelerate well. To me this C4 was a fairly safe bet, but the fact that it was a 24 year old car made for the biggest gamble. Any number of "old-car" things could have failed at the first event and shut down the weekend before the car ever turned a lap.

Left: The R7 tires were new when we got to the event. Right: After a race weekend with 5 sessions and 3 drivers - tires look great!

The tire was another unknown - the Hoosier R7 was relatively new and we had zero experience with it (I ran the 2013-14 seasons on the A6 in much larger sizes). We also chose to go with a narrow tire width (since there weren't many R7 sizes to choose from yet, as more sizes are being rolled out as the R6 sells out of inventory). Would a 3200 pound car be able to survive on a 245mm tire? It was another gamble. If the tire didn't hold up, we would have to revisit our choices.

Some folks sent me links to this build thread discussed online and apparently a few racers were upset that a "big money shop" was coming into the "grassroots" TT letter classes and bringing a purpose built race car against their TT cars they drive to the track. To them I say: the NASA TT rules don't have any wording about this set of classes being for daily driven cars, and in fact the TT division shares the same rules as NASA Performance Tuning - which is for wheel to wheel racing cars - just without the safety regs. We already see PT cars running in TT all the time, because the contingency is good and the PTB-PTF classes are direct crossovers to the TTB-TTF classes. The same holds true for TTU/1/2/3 and SU/ST1/2/3. Time Trial is a haven for race cars but also allows cars without full safety gear to enter.

As for this being a "big money build", that is hilarious and absolutely not what we have done here. This was a last minute option, "Plan B", eight day long race car build - that isn't finished. We had no other car ready for 2015 season, this deal fell into my lap, from a friend who I had brain stormed this car build with three years earlier, and I took this gamble - to have something to race. We have about $5000 dollars in parts/car purchase and about 60 hours of shop work (we log all jobs to the 1/100th of an hour) in this build so far. We worked on this car between regular customer jobs and only spent 8 days actually working on it, but it held together for the first race weekend (barely). We spent our time almost completely on the safety aspects the car needed and left everything else stock for this first event.

If the "speculative talk" in my first few posts here have people fired up to come join us in TTC - that's good! I'm hoping people look at how little money this car costs to buy and prep, how it has proven itself already, and "get the bug" to build a car for NASA Time Trial letter classes or Performance Tuning! This set of classes allows a lot of freedom to choose what you want want to concentrate on: suspension, tires, horsepower, aero. The rules are structured to limit your overall mods which in turn does limit your spending. Its a great series and I encourage people to look at the TT rules/PT rulesets, check out the car "base classing", and start hitting CraigsList looking for something fun to start with. It doesn't need to be a brand new car or an expensive car - look at the past and see how some of the best cars from the last 2-3 decades are classed.

As you may remember, I had proclaimed we could win TTC with this car its first time out, reset the lap record, and even predicted some bold lap times for our first event at MSR-H (1:46 clockwise). So, how did it all play out at our first NASA race weekend? Do I look like a stooge talking out of my hat, or was our guess work correct and did we prep the car in the limited time available in the right areas?

NASA at MSR-Houston, Jan 17-18th, 2015 - The Debut Event!

The old TTC lap record was a 1:50 here was set in 2013, which I showed in my last post on the Friday before the race. I had predicted a lap time of 1:46 but had privately hoped for a 1:45 lap. Let's back up to where I left off in my last post and get caught up on this debut weekend of racing for Project #DANGERZONE.

Friday January 16th, 2015 - Unloading and Tech

After Jon finished installing the decals and I fired off my pre-race forum post, we loaded the trailer and I left Dallas a little late, at about 12 noon - wanted to leave at 10 am. Took me a little over 5 hours to tow 300 miles to the south end of Houston, where MSR-H is located. Google maps has gotten better of late and it re-routed me around 3 construction zones or crashes, on a goofy route, but I never had to stop. It would re-route me on the fly, ask me to verify, then I'd go... which was nice. I got to the track at about 5:30 pm, at dusk, and Costas had a paddock area set-up with his trailer plus both of Matt's trailers. It was pretty far from grid so we did a lot of walking back and forth all weekend. We squeezed my trailer in near Turn 17 and I unloaded the Corvette and rushed to tech as the sun dropped.

The tech guys got me in fairly quickly, right as it was getting dark, and they went over the car with a fine toothed comb. The only thing they could find were the side post battery terminals were uncovered... now normally I'd agree that a top post battery ALWAYS needs plastic around the terminals in case something gets dropped on them, but these were buried on the side and covered by the fiberglass body. Some duct tape and I was legal for this event. I will add the rubber terminal covers soon.

Any time you have a new car teched for NASA Club Racing classes or NASA Time Trial for the first time you have to get a NASA Log Book and a NASA annual tech sticker. The log book cost me $20 and the annual tech decal cost me $10. From here on it would only need the annual $10 decal, as the Log book is good for the life of the car. We're working with NASA to be able to issue log books here at Vorshlag, which should happen soon.

They didn't have the scales set-up Friday night, due to a mix-up with the ramps, so I left the ballast in the car a bit on the heavy side (about 25 pounds over by my calculation) and figured I would weigh the car in the morning before we went out on track. Nobody likes to get a surprise weighing and end up underweight, so I ALWAYS try to weigh the car at the track on Friday or Saturday to make sure our scale numbers match up with their scales.

Reloaded the car back in the trailer, said hi to everyone hanging out, and shared half of a pizza, which I scarfed down on my way to Matteucci's at 7 pm. Crashed out at his place and dreamed of this track layout all night...

Saturday January 17th, 2015 - Race Day 1

I hastily made the TT map (below) for Motorsports Ranch Houston (MSR-H) right before leaving town Friday, which shows not only the track layout and direction we'd be running this weekend but also two special cues for the TT group. First is the "Bunch Up" line, which is between Turns T7 and T6. On the out lap in each session TT drivers can drive somewhat erratically to scrub tires and warm brakes from Pit Out to this line. When cars approach the Bunch Up line they need to quit screwing around and form a single file line with tight spacing. This is done to keep the field from getting spread out and hopefully prevent the front of the field from catching the tail.

The second line to note for the out lap is the "Go Green" line, where the leader of the pack should get up to speed, this time so the field isn't bunched up too tight going into the first braking zone. Starting to go green too LATE only keeps the field bunched up on the first hot lap, usually making that lap slower than it should be for everyone. The TT field should be gridded fastest to slowest, in that order, and this order changes all weekend if a driver goes faster (but not if they go slower).

We had our TT meeting at 8 am Saturday right before our first TT session, called "TT Warm Up" scheduled at 8:45 am Saturday morning. In the meeting we met all the new TT drivers, talked about safety aspects, and went over two areas that will be policed as "out of bounds" and counted as a 4 off if the driver is caught with 4 wheels past outside curbing in two spots that are paved beyond the track limits. Its a long story but there's a shortcut going CW at Turn 1 if you drive inside a curb and knock over the cones they have there to separate the Pit In lane. Another area is between T16 and T17. Each Race Director (RD) makes these decisions and declares out of bounds for each Race Group. Our RD for Time Trial is Richard Wootten.

Saturday's "TT Warm Up" is a unique TT session for the entire weekend. We grid ourselves by guesswork (since nobody has any lap times yet) and then the times from this session are what are used to grid the field for the first "real" TT session, TT session 1. Times from the TT warm up do not count for competition, but gridding well is important. Lastly, Saturday counts as a separate competition from Sunday, and each day we have 3-5 sessions to get our best single lap time in. The goal is to have the best lap time in class, and a first place finish in a given day nets you 100 points for the regional championship. Hopefully you win your class with enough competitors entered to score contingencies. The only one I care about is tires: to win Hoosiers you need 5 in class per day to score 2 tires for 1st place. With 7 in class they will additionally pay 1 tire to 2nd place. That's assuming the 1st and 2nd place drivers are signed up ahead of time with the Hoosier contingency program, and run Hoosier tires and decals all weekend.

Left: The R7 looks good after the first session. Right: The hope is to buy the first set and win 4 more each weekend...?

I got to grid fairly early at Warm Up and slotted in about 8th in line, behind Alan Page's TTB prepped E46 M3. Alan is a customer we know from previous work we've done to his car and he's also fast, with several wins and track records to his name. He was shooting for the TTB track record, set 2 years prior by another E46 TTB racer KenO. A lot has changed in the last 2 years, both to the prep level of cars in NASA Texas as well as the track and that day's conditions. Two years ago was COLD yet all of the old MSR-Houston CW records were set that year. We felt like many TT records would fall at this event, especially the TTC record of 1:50.534.

Video of first laps ever in DANGERZONE - the Saturday TT Warm Up session

If you watch the video above you will see me learning to drive this car while taking it easy on a new set-up. Before that session I had never driven the car more than 100 feet. I guess I know MSR-H fairly well, having driven it maybe 5 previous weekends in the past 6-7 years, but its by no means an easy track. It is also run in both directions and the two courses are quite different, and I think I've done this config 2 or 3 times. The 2.38 mile course was run ClockWise this weekend.

So I went out in the Warm-up and tried to follow Allan's TTB E46 M3, who had been there testing on Friday and was dialed in. He was also wearing his fancy newly painted helmet livery! He was on a sticker set of 245mm Hoosier R7s so I figured our grip levels would be similar, but his power-to-weight ratio should exceed ours so he'd probably pull away from me - which he did. Luckily I gridded early and got ahead of most of the field, including the other three TTC cars.

continued below

Last edited by Fair!; 01-26-2015 at 07:06 PM.
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