Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sodegaura Forest Visit 2.

Visited Sodegaura Forest raceway against this Sunday. Fantastic weather. Am really loving this track. In particular corners 3 and 4 are wonderful. Forth lap of the day I actually took 2 seconds off my previous time and ended up with a 1'21.72. After that I had some trouble with air in my brakes and I never could improve on the time as I lost some of the control over the braking - particularly on the inside of the course. Later when I bled the brakes I found some air in the front right. I guess I didn't do a proper job bleeding them the last time or something. Hopefully, I'll have no further brake issues next time out.
I'm still lost as a little puppy on corners 5 through 8 but am starting to get a rhythm elsewhere. It definitely felt a lot more familiar on my second visit though. I can only look forward to my 3rd.
Sodegaura is quite kind to the brake pads I've noticed. It's also quite kind to tires as there is a good mix of left and right handers. Hmmm. Perhaps that is why I'm so lost on the inside of the circuit. I probably do left hand corners a lot more naturally than right handers. They are hard/long corners though
No camera yet. Still have to sort that out. Perhaps santa will come?
My Fuji Speedway license expires on the 15th of this month. I'm thinking I'll let it run out at this stage and skip it for a year or so. I didn't go there at all last year so it was a bit of a waste.
Anyway - looking forward to my next day out again. No plans just yet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Brake Overhaul

Decided that my brakes were long due an overhaul and decided that rather than hand it over to a shop to do it, I should take on the challenge myself. I just did the front brakes but I learned loads doing it. I'm going to do the rears another day. Hardest part was getting the piston out without an air compressor. That worked out to be a trip to the local gas station for each caliper. Most worrying thing was the continued leakage of fluid out of the open lines while I was doing it. I need to find a way to seal the lines for the next time I think. It would have made the thing a hell of a lot easier as I had to keep an eye on my master cylinder to ensure it didn't run dry. The kit cost about 6000 yen from Mazda for front and rears. Well worth it! Nice firm brakes again.

Sodegaura Forest Raceway.

I took the circuit license at Sodegaura Forest Raceway with some of my mates about 2 weeks ago. Fantastic day. I did two sessions. First session I drove well within the car as I drove around and tried to learn the lines etc. I think I got a 1'26.9 or something. 2nd session I drove faster each lap and ended up with a 1'23.7 but there is still loads more time there. The circuit is very interesting and has some fantastic corners.
Corner 1 is a rather brave corner. You come at it quite fast after a decent straight in 4th, brake and I think take it in 3rd. It's blind and always seems faster than you think but you don't really want to run out of space on the exit either. A good exit is very important though as the next part is uphill and its quite a while before you get on the brakes again.

Corner 2 is flat out. It's always a rush keeping full power down, nailing the apex and floating out towards the edge of the track on exit... Easy to turn it too early and muck it up as its blindish on the way up to it.

Corner 3 I'm unsure. It's super wide on the exit of corner 3 but corner 4 follows soon after and that's the next important one. I downshifted to 3rd but kept reapplied power on the way into and out of it. It seems fast enough and stabilizes the car for braking into 4.

Corner 4 is fantastic. At first it seems like a slow right hand hairpin and its easy to take it like one, but infact the exit is as wide as the entrance and its important not to slow too much and maintain momentum. I brake early way out, rotate the car early and I'm way on the power before the apex. It was really fun to feel the car rotate all the way through that corner as you balance braking, turning and power.

Corners 5, 6 & 7. My word. It's downhill into these. You can't see the apex at all as its way below you. Plus the corner itself is a combo all in one direction. It goes on forever! I found it impossible to take it anywhere near right. I noticed cars not really braking too much for it but my brakes started to go off mid my last session and I'd no precision left in them. This corner will be one of the challenges for the next time. Love it.

Corner 8 was another tough one. Very wide with a million lines around it. I noticed a lot of cars going in very early into this one and understeering all the way around it almost. I opted for going in deep, braking hard but short, early rotation and power down all the way, way before the apex. I think a mid line might be better though - going in and not braking as hard, rotating on throttle and then powering out.

Corner 9 was pretty easy. Just a hairpin which I can pretty much do easily enough since I've done so many laps of Tsukuba :-)

Corner 10 is quite crazy. The entrance is blind, there is a concrete pit wall on the right and not much run off on the left. It's right before a long straight so its vital to be quick through here for a good lap time also. I'm slowly working my way up on that one also. There is also a highish rumble strip on the inside of it which I haven't quite figured out if mounting is a good thing or not. Not a good place to have any kind of action in the car except a nice clean fast exit. Thrilling though :-)

I must figure out what to do about my video equipment as it's ruined :-( I think I might get a helmet mounted HD cam or something next and see how that works out. Going to go one more time in December.

I've another race this weekend at Ebisu circuit in the Prelude. Looking forward to that although it snowed there today so hopefully we will be able to race. We were 3rd in class the last race but we couldn't drive the last 1.5 hours as it was fogged out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lack of updates => lack of racing!

Well, it's been forever since my last update. I still intend to getting around to uploading the race video of the last race. Not sure why I just can't get around to it. Footage is downstairs on another machine so perhaps its just laziness.

In the mean time though, you must be wondering why there is no updates. Well. I missed the next race as I was out of the country and then the last race of the year, they changed the regulations to the new ENDLESS brake pads. As the pads change the behaviour of the car quite a lot, I missed the next race as I had no time to go out and practice. A new year brought new hope, but 2011 was a hard year in Japan and thus another year slipped by it seems. I haven't been to a circuit this year in my car yet.

The last typhoon that hit Tokyo also saw disaster hit as my roadster let in some water which pooled behind my passenger seat. Unfortunately, my TraqMate unit and Chasecam unit got fried as they were connected into the car battery and sitting in that little pool. Not pretty. So my camera functionality is gone now in the car. I guess I need to invest again :-(

I did one race in the Prelude this year though in August. It was the 12 hour endurance race with TGR. This ended badly too though as we suffered a failed drive shaft 2 hours into the race and I never got my time behind the wheel. What a year - huh!

And now for some good news... After many years of wanting one, I finally decided to break down and buy myself a new racing suit. My old AlpineStars suit was becoming too old and it tends to cook me alive in the summer. To replace it, I bought a Stand21 suit which I had built to custom measurements. This is fantastic as it fits like a glove now. Along with the suit, I got some new nomex underwear and gloves so I'll be a new man next time out.

Next time out is actually this weekend but not in Tweety. We're back at Ebisu circuit again but this time for a 6 hour race. Really looking forward to that. I am planning to get a circuit license for Sodegaura Circuit in November. I still have my Fuji license but I didn't get to run Fuji at all this year.

That's all for now. Hopefully more good news follows after our next race.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010/07/25 Party Race Review

It's nearly been a week now. Sorry for the delay but I've been rather busy. I'm still seriously lacking photos of the event. Hopefully, some will come in.

Dunlop and me

About 10 minutes before hoping into the car for qualification, I had to run down to the toilet. Something I ate for breakfast wasn't sitting well and I was feeling rather like throwing up. After some deep breaths in the cubicle, I finally calmed down the urge and felt fine again. Weird that. Probably nerves I guess. I had to run back to the car though to get my helmet etc on as cars were already on their way out.

A good qualifying lap is vital at Tsukuba. Ideally you want nothing less than pole to make your race as simple as possible. The performance of the tires and the car go off after the first 2 laps on a hot day like it was on the 25th so you want to pull out off stops on your first lap and if you don't nail that, you nail the 2nd one. That's all you can do. By around the 4th lap, your time will be about half a second off its 1st lap potential, so nailing your performance and the cars to that early lap is the trick. The other trick is a clear track. Ideally, you don't want anyone directly behind you so you can concentrate on what's ahead and ideally you should give yourself lots of room on that outlap, so you can go all out without following someone elses mistakes. I managed to get great space for my first lap and then after that I had traffic. My first lap was my best. A 1'10.191. Unfortunately, this was only good enough for 3rd spot. Still it was my best qualifying lap ever at Tsukuba so I was pretty happy. The other two cars broke the previous Clubman lap record of 1'09.9 with the top guy getting a 1'09.5. Wow!

The other thing about qualifying was my brakes. They felt terrible. Something was wrong. When I was trail braking into the corners the peddle would move under my foot as I slowly released it which made it really hard to corner at speed. Luckily I had great support from D-Technique who bled my brakes after qualifying and got them back in the their normal condition again. Thanks!

The race was held at 11am. It was scorching hot. Probably 34 degrees. Lining up 3rd on the grid, I thought, I'd have a good chance to grab 2nd by the first corner. The 2nd grid spot isn't the best as the rollcage blocks the start lights slightly and you end up craning a little to see it. As for the pole sitter, I thought if I could put a little pressure on him without using up my tires I could get him towards the end of the race if I was lucky. For some reason, I didn't even think about those behind me.

I was amazingly comfortable at the start. I revved the engine and eye'd the start lights with my peripheral vision which leads to better reaction times than looking directly at the lights. The lights went out and the rear wheels chirped, I had a perfect start. Before I knew it I was along side the 1st placed car and ahead into turn 1. Wow. 15 laps to go and I had no desire to give up my spot.

The race was pretty easy. I was quite relaxed and had mentally decided that it was impossible for anyone to pass me if I got every corner apex and nailed every exit so that is what I concentrated on doing. I was a bit distracted by my tire noise though particularly around the last corner as I was under-steering around it mostly. I guess that comes from lack of practice. I was pretty happy though as I'd built up a little gap of probably about 1 to 1.5 sec.

Then after about 10 laps or so, the brakes went funny on me again. It was the same as qualifying. Trail braking properly was next to impossible and it was hard to gauge braking again. I started braking earlier and taking off more speed to try to continue to nail my exits and as such the guy behind got closer and closer. My tires were also struggling as I'd used them quite well to make my initial gap. The next 5 laps or so would be interesting and were the longest of my life.

I remember going through Dunlop and just wishing it was all over. I looked at my lap timer and saw I'd a bunch of laps left. I recall telling myself that this was my favourite part of the track and the bit I owned in terms of speed as I'd gain here a little every lap. I guess its all about being positive when things go wrong like my brakes did and concentrate on what is going right. I was a head and every lap I did was a lap closer to the end of the race.

On the very last lap, the brakes got the better of me into the first hairpin and I let them off too quickly leading into a pretty big sideways moment mid corner. I was really lucky though in that a) I've done that a lot and b) the guy behind me was so close that he copied me. As I got the car in line, I had a little smile on my face knowning that I'd have a gap now which would take the pressure off the first of the final lap. I crossed the line 0.7s ahead and a very relieved winner. This was probably the toughest win I've had so far. I was elated.

Victory pose!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Party Race Victory!

More to come on this but here is a little photo of the takings at the Party Race II event earlier today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Party Race - May 5th 2010

Sunday May 5th was the first Party Race of the year. This year, Mazda is not sponsoring it so, its now known as Party Race II. Some differences in the regulations also exist like the use of ENDLESS brake pads over MazdaSpeed pads and braided brake lines are now allowed. We have the option of running the MS pads until after the 2nd race, so that is what I ran as I didn't want to learn a new brake pad. Other than that, regulations are the same.

Another difference in this years race is the classes. There is now a separate class for NC2 cars as they are quite different to the NC1 car which I race. The NC1 class is broken into two classes; Clubman and Series. The Series is a continuation of Emblem I guess so that is what I choose to run.

Anyway, May 5th was a hot day at Tsukuba. When its like this you only really get 3 or 4 laps to make a fast time before tires and engine performance trail off. Unfortunately, I got my best lap on 6 of 8 with a 1'10.5 but it was enough for 15th on the grid of 23. Reviewing my first 6 laps on my TraqMate, they were all within 100ms of each other so not a great qualifying performance on my behalf. My best virtual lap time was a 1'10.0 so I could have been up there if all had gone right. I think there were 3 guys with 1'09s and mostly everyone else got a 1'10 so it was a very tight grid.

I got a decent start and collected about 2 cars on the inside on my way to the first corner. Unfortunately, I missed 3rd (story of my life) and in the little bit of time it took to re-slot it in, I lost my line into the first corner as a bunch of cars re-took me and I got squeezed on the
inside. I could do nothing but just follow cars around really.

Down into the first hair pin, I was overly cautious for some reason braked way too early and easily and one of my mates went around my outside as I went around the outside of another car. Being in the middle of 3 wide in the first hairpin is the most comfortable place to be, so I gave up the spot. Thoughts of getting hit in my last two races were not helping I guess. I wanted to finish this race without getting hit for once!

Dunlop was two abreast as well and I had the inside but I kept up my dismal performance and lost that place too until finally we arrived at the 2nd hairpin. I think this is where car 50 tucked in behind me and just drove passed me as if I was stopped on the back straight... That driver must have a heavy foot or something because I was not backing off.

Coming into the last corner, a guy spun in front of me. I braked to make sure I had options and then I was back in 19th spot for the rest of the race. Its amazing what 1 lap can do to rip your race apart. They say that races are not won on the first corner but I think at Tsukuba some can be as from there on, its near impossible to pass.

Anyway, the guys behind me soon disappeared and I was hanging on the back of the train trying to regain what I'd so easily given up. I drove a pretty close race, got faster lap times then most of the guys directly in-front of me but couldn't get up close enough in the braking zones to even give it a try.

The two guys in front of me were fighting though and on the 2nd hairpin, they out-broke each other and both of them went wide, I took some throttle off, added some steering and got up the inside of both of them. Unfortunately though, I'd lost some speed in doing that and by the last
corner, the first guy was passed and the second guy was side by side and he broke later than I did into the last corner and took his place back. Drat. These guys are aggressive! Note to self - its a race!

It was a fun race none-the-less. I think I actually drove the 2nd hairpin perfectly twice. I have to have a look at the video to see what I did but I went around it faster and easier than I've ever done before and it felt great. If I can figure that one out, maybe that is where I can gain those final millis that will get me a 1'09 even in the summer.

Anyway - I made it home in one piece. I'm still learning a lot and still having a lot of fun! Next race is in July. I'll see if I can stick up some of the race footage for your amusement.