Monday, October 6, 2014

0.051 seconds

Last Sunday was the season finale event for the New England Region of the SCCA. This event is essentially 3 events in one. In the morning, we get 3 runs, these 3 runs count as the 9th and final event of the year. This decides the class championships for the year. The champions and the top 10 in season PAX then get to compete for the Stirling Moss championship.  The winner of the Stirling Moss championship gets the their name engraved on the 1959 Nürburgring trophy that Sir Stirling Moss donated to the New England Region chapter. Making it onto that trophy is the top honor in the region, and a sort of local racing immortality. The New England Region is very lucky to have this way of honoring it's top drivers. Those who don't qualify get to participate in the other afternoon event a 3 run non-points fun event.

For the second year in a row, I started the finale with a theoretical chance at getting my name on the trophy. Last year I was slower than my nearest competitor, Jonathan Leith (aka. Leafy), but had ridden a wave of points from early in the season before his car was fully working. I lost, and in many ways, it is a good thing I did. Had I won, I might well have become complacent.

This year I got off to an abysmal start, loosing 3 out of the first 4 events.  Much like the end of last year, Leafy was driving faster than me. This year it was me staging the comeback. I worked hard on my driving, focusing on seat time and attending the Evo School in July. I beat Leafy in events 5 and 6, lost by 0.330 in event 7 and won event 8. This is about 1000 times more fun than riding a lead gained by virtue of your competitor not having a working car.

Unfortunately, my early season win, and the win in event 5 had come on days when national champion or soon-to-be national champion drivers had entered the class, and so I did not get first place on those days. Although our head to head record was tied Leafy had a points lead of 4 points, and the ability to win tie breaks by virtue of more first place finishes. I needed to gain 5 points, which can only happen with me in first, and him in 3rd or less, or me in 2nd and him in 5th or less. As the event neared, only Leafy and myself were signed up. A 2 driver class would leave me with no chance of winning at all.

With that in mind, I invited Ryan Field to drive in my car, so that there would be at least one other driver with a decent chance of beating Leafy. Ryan is actually a faster driver than I am by a good margin, so beating him was pretty unlikely, but a small chance is better than no chance. Soon after Ryan registered, Derick Sivret, also a very fast driver registered in Leafy's car.  This would be a sensible points move by Leafy, now I have to beat 2 top flight drivers to win.

As a concequence, I entered the finale again with a faint hope of winning. The points situation was just too far against me. The season had been virtually lost early on and I was proud to have made it this close to begin with. My main reasonable goal was to beat Leafy, and at least be able to say I won 5/9 events vs him.

My first run was a flop. I didn't take quite the right line, and then spun when I tried to correct with a quick tap of the brake, but I got underway quickly and worked the rest of the course as a practice run. I wasn't worried, because I knew exactly how to fix what I did wrong. I didn't really pay attention to the other drivers, and on my second run I laid down a nice 50.649. Now that I had a real time I checked the other drivers times, I found that Ryan had coned every run, and I heard by word of mouth that Derek had only one clear run that was a 50.4xx, Leafy had no raw times better than 51 seconds!   I was in 3rd, and only needed to gain around 2 tenths to win first place and the season trophy. It was the dream scenario! Holy crap.

Driving up to the line for the final run I recalled last year when I was trying to make up almost 3 seconds to beat Derek in a similar points situation. 3 seconds was hopeless, I drove hard but lost it near the end of the run. I knew I had to NOT over-drive this run and spin. That would be a horrible way to finish. But I also had to go faster. I was really nervous. Choking and going really slow would suck too. So I took a deep breath, and focused on getting the cameras working. At the line I decided to focus on improving my line near the tower to improve my entry to the taxiway. That should get me the 1/4 second or so I needed if I just ran the rest like I did before.

I improved my line and got a much nicer entry to the taxiway as planned. The taxiway and the first half of the runway went well, much as they had on the previous runs. All I had left was the big cut back across the taxiway and then the offsets to the finish. Perhaps it was because I saw so many novices screw up the cutback in the morning, and perhaps it was because some part of me recalled the end of the race in the previous season where I almost spun on the last bit turn. For whatever reason, I over broke just a little for the cutback. But this sort of mistake is not a tragedy. It's much, much better than braking too late and I belayed the excess traction conferred by the slower speed into a good exit from the element and made a great run to the finish where I hit the rev limiter. To the best of my knowledge it was a clean run...

The time...


Wow! It was CLOSE! When I got back to the paddock it was a dive for the phones, to check And the result...

Derek's time turned out to be....


I was 0.051 seconds short of winning the season championship and gaining entry to the Moss competition.

0.051 seconds... less than the blink of an eye...

Yet I was not unhappy. Here I was, nearly surviving the onslaught of two very fast drivers, and beating Leafy a second in both of the last 2 events. It's true, I don't get the jacket that says class winner on it, but a jacket is just a jacket. 0.051 sec is a tiny differential, and that's all that stands between me and being a class champion. My driving has improved drastically this year. Basically I'm there... the difference is tiny.

Next season should be very interesting... Hopefully both Leafy and I will up our game, and some of the national champions who visit the class will start coming up short.

And finally, congratulations to Dave White who won the Sterling Moss Trophy this year. Dave is a National Champion in Street Modified, and one of our fastest drivers. Now he has his slice of local immortality too. Here's a picture of him holding up the trophy...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stay Cool FTW

When one gets a run of continual improvement going it has a sort of magic of it's own. Each time out there is the dual hope that it will continue, and fear that the bubble will burst, and the streak will be broken. I have a streak of improvements with each event this year, and as a result I am already bursting through my wildest expectations at the beginning of the year.

Two events ago, I went into the event, more or less having achieved my goals for the year, with several events putting me in the top 20-25% already. Then I ran 22nd of 139, just one place (and 0.091s) short of my top 15% stretch goal. It was fabulous, but how on earth could I top that? How do I keep the streak going?

Well, my tires were mostly toast, ending the last event at 120 runs and 138 after the last renegade event. The 70 run tires I took off just before the tour went back on. Changing setup and car balance during the season can be disastrous, if the car behaves different and you can't adapt, cones and slow times will often result. But, I was facing elimination in the points race. If I lost, I would be mathematically eliminated and the final event of the year would amount to a test and tune/fun runs. With this in mind, I decided to fix the front splitter.

Over the course of the season, the plywood splitter I had added had become warped. Attached at the front and the back with foam to seal the air in the middle, it the middle was bowing downward, and the car had started to push. Both Ben and Brian remarked on it, and I felt it too.

This warping is a result of my insistence on not attaching the splitter to the fiberglass. Attaching to the frame in the back with supports on the front was fine when I was using a carbon fiber splitter, but not so fine with plywood, especially after it got wet.  I needed a stiffener. I didn't want to add more aluminum angle along the bottom. The front already scrapes on the occasional curb cut if I'm not ultra careful about where I drive. Adding something that hangs down further would not work, and of course I always want to minimize the weight. Thin, light and stiff made me think Carbon Fiber. I found some economy 5mm 6"x30"  carbon fiber for under $100. 5mm CF is rock solid. When I got it I could barely flex it at all. So I applied that along the top, eliminating the aluminum bar that hung down in the middle previously

I probably gained a few ounces, but I only have the "feel" of it since I forgot to actually weigh it. In any event it worked marvelously...

Much straighter, much tighter to the bottom of the car. But would it mess up my driving, or help it?

SCCA points Event #8 was a cool, blustery day to start, Morning runs for the 3rd run group were in the low to mid 60's. My first run was messy and slow. On my second run I spun in a slalom, but I got a good practice run at the finish. Both Dan and I noted that the car felt different and that the push was reduced, or maybe gone. Sounds like a disaster in the making...

BUT here's where the seat time this year paid off. I didn't panic. Instead I set about trying to figure out how to adjust my driving. I said to myself... "If it's not pushing at high speed anymore, that means I should be able to nail the sweeper hard. I need to set that element up so I can take advantage" and I also said to myself, "I need to be extra careful on my entries to the slaloms...." My 3rd run of the morning was faster and clean... and came in just 0.4 sec behind Leafy, whom I needed to beat to remain in the hunt for a season championship.

While I was fairly happy with the first part of my 3rd run, I knew that the finish had been a near disaster. I had become late on the angled walloms, and then been forced to focus on controlling the car rather than putting power down at the finish. I only just barely touched the rev limiter at the finish line. When I checked the numbers, my run was fairly decent. After the rest of the morning runs finished. I was 2.8 seconds off top pax, which usually equates to a top 30 finish. But of course folks will find time in the afternoon, so I need to find time as well. I said to my co-driver Dan, "I need to put the finish of my 2nd run on the first 3/4 of my 3rd run."

Then came the afternoon runs... Temps were up by about 5-10 degrees. The tire blankets were not needed, but it was still cool with somewhat less wind. On my first run, I more or less did what I set out to do. I pasted together the front of run 3 with the end of run 2, and managed to find half a second, enough to put me in the lead vs Leafy's morning time. But I knew that Leafy would likely find time too. Reviewing the run in my head, I decided that I still wasn't working the first part of the course hard enough.

On my second run of the afternoon I found another .8 seconds which firmly cemented my lead, but I FORGOT to turn on video! DOH!! However SoloStorm did start it's data logging, so here's a video of my 3rd run of the afternoon which was as fast or faster than my fastest until I botched the finish (if you ignore the cone). Overlayed on that video is a video of the solostorm comparison playback with my fast run (run 5). The paragraph that follows is my from memory description of run 5 (not 6 which you see in the video)

So here's my "in-head video" of run 5, (the green line on the above video):

I made a more agressive start and it felt good but I slightly under broke in the turn before the big sweeper, so my sweeper was a tad slow, however I kept my foot in and built good speed, barely taping the breaks to get through the following slalom. As I did so, I realized I probably didn't even need to touch the brakes, and I felt I slightly over broke on the turn towards the taxiway too. As those thought flitted by, I immediately said to myself, well if I'm a little slow, I should be able to get a good turn onto the taxiway to compensate. I remember feeling that I did a good job of the turn, but didn't really get on the gas until the end of the taxiway. The surge of power as the cams kicked in at the end of the taxiway reminded me of some other times I had overshot breaking points, so I laid into the breaks as hard as I could, and then let off and just turned the wheel where I needed to and prayed it stuck. It did stick, but just barely. The back end slid just a tad and then hooked back up, putting me in a pretty good position entering the main runway. Even as I was noticing this, I found myself thinking "GREAT, lets take advantage of this!" and I accelerated out of the turn as hard as I could. This actually put me just slightly shallow on my entry to the first slalom on the runway, but I realized I was not getting a great entry and with a quick stab to the breaks managed to rotate the car and get in half way decently anyway. I knew I was immediately facing a cut back across the runway at the end of the slalom, so I only fed minimal throttle to avoid making that turn too difficult. This worked well, and I got a more comfortable entry into the second slalom. With a good position on the second slalom I was able to be on the accelerator at the cone before the end of the slalom and gained a lot of speed through the slanted six pack. Much like the exit from the taxiway, this left me slightly shallow and I again compensated with a stab of the breaks. Then through the walloms I worked on being patient and getting ahead of the cones in preparation for the finish. I was able to mash on the accelerator and I knew I was going to be all over the rev limiter so I tried to go to third and missed (oops).  As I crossed the line, I wasn't quite sure how I had done, it felt clean and fast, but I'd been so busy thinking and adjusting through the run I wasn't sure. When the display read 50.9 I was shocked and elated, and prayed it was clean, which it was.

In retrospect this run was a huge achievement, but not because of the time or the PAX position. It was huge because I had retained focus, and adjusted on the fly effectively. In essence, I had successfully implemented the advice Eric Chiang had given me a year and a half ago. I drove the car as it was on course. I drove based on the feedback the car was sending through the steering and the seat of my pants and by the status that my looking ahead was giving me. A year and a half ago I was falling prey to driving based based on my expectation of the course. Eric had noticed when he road with me that I accelerated in some spots beyond what made sense, and guessed correctly that I had been thinking to myself  "I should be fast here, I should get to the rev-limiter." He said it was a common problem and hard for some people to overcome.

I also felt that the run was a huge achievement in that I went from coning and spinning in a car that was doing new, strange things to running my best time ever within a few runs. Even better, it's easy to see from the above video that there was more time out there 50.4 seems very doable, and that would have been top 10 (just barely)!

Here's my thought on all of this... the big thing that seat time gets you is a familiarity with driving at speed. It brings instant recognition of "Oh crap, I'm getting too fast, brake hard NOW!" (e.g. at the end of the taxiway), and the calm analytical workaround of stabbing the brake to help rotate the car on a less than ideal entry. It allows thoughts about where to go faster next time without becoming disappointed or distracted, and it allows you to find the silver lining when you are slightly slow and just keep driving... I finished that run, my fastest ever, and I didn't have the shakes, I wasn't out of breath. I had remained calm and focused throughout, and that's probably why it was possible. Without that calm, the success of the hard breaking would be wasted on relief that I escaped disaster. Without that calm, the timing of the break stab would likely be early or late doing little good at all.

And as I said in my last post... drive fast, and the points will follow. I won first place and I remain alive (if just barely) in my hunt for a season championship. I think my driving at this event this event was championship level driving, but alas, I was not driving like a champ at the beginning of the year. I have to hope that someone beats Leafy, and I beat them. With a result like today, where I was almost a second ahead, it seems like a possibility, but very very far from a certainty. I'll give it my best, but smarter money is on next year at this point.

I really hope I can keep my cool like that in future runs. The results are waaaay cool :).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just get faster...

Hi folks, I've been a bit busy and so I haven't gotten around to posting for a couple weeks. I've got a backlog of a couple events but let's start with a review to draw a clearer picture...

This season I started the season saying "Don't worry about points, just get faster and let the points follow" To that end I committed to running 50% more races than last year, finding a co-driver and attending an Evo School. So how's it working out?

The first half of the season went by quick, and my relative pax rating climbed 2 points vs the previous year by July, with the highpoint being the National Match Tour with a .938 (which was also fresh Hoosiers). Seat time and more regular participation had already started to pay off by the time I got to the EVO School.

At the Evo School I was lucky enough to get 20 time National Champion Mark Dadddio as my instructor. He spotted my difficulty easily and I learned a very key lesson about the correct way to look ahead. I also was reminded to be patient in the slow parts. After these lessons one of course looks for signs that they helped...

Since the Evo School, there have been hints of some improvement. The first SCCA race after it, I had a scratch time that would have been a record setter for me... but I had hit a cone, so it didn't count. It was a scratch time only and scratch times just don't really count in the end. What counts is the fastest clean run. Still scratch times are an indication of what is possible with a little more attention to detail...

On the next event I finally had a genuine win over Leafy, and I was 14th in PAX with a (personal) record shattering 0.949 pax rating. However New Hampshire Motor Speedway courses are atypical for our group with only 40% of the normal attendance. Certainly it sounded good, but it's very difficult to figure out how that compares to the regular full length courses at Devens.

Ok so that's the review, now into the new news

The next weekend we were back at Devens, and some solid signs of improvement came through. I placed 22nd in pax, 8 places higher than ever,  and almost scored a second win against Leafy. I came up a quarter second short on my fifth run, but it was pretty clearly my best performance to date at Devens, and to beat me Leafy had to score his highest ever pax rank as well. So he beat me but he had to run his best ever to do it. This is a nice contrast the same mid-august event as last year where I lamented missing the opportunity to catch him when I hit a cone on my single hero run at the end following a spin and a DNF. This time I laid down 2 runs at the end, one within about .25 and the other within .1 but with a cone. This time it wasn't a fluke.

Furthermore, I ended that day on tires that had 120 runs vs tires that had 37 runs the previous year. I probably had a tire advantage last year and did better at a disadvantage this year. The other thing that was encouraging about this event was that it was a difficult course with some tough elements. I can see some folks did worse than usual on it. In the past I used to be one of the ones that fell down on the more difficult courses. This time I did better on the difficult course.

Then, at the end of August, was the next Renegade event. In this event I pushed my scratch times to a new level, but had some cone trouble. I have never before run scratch times let alone clean times as fast as Scruffy in his Porsche GT3 type RS. This time, on tires with 135 runs on them I posted a dirty (+1 cone) time that was only .05 seconds slower than Scruffy's clean runs including the 2 second penalty for the cone. On his very last run scruffy found the extra .9 seconds I was pretty sure he should, and I ended about a second behind him unable to find a fast clean run, but in fun runs I cleaned it up and posted a time more or less equal to his fastest, another first. So Grant usually runs a second faster than scruffy, and my scratch time therefore was (possibly) competitive with Grant on raw times. Grant often has FTD... If I had run clean, and I hadn't handed my car to two super star drivers, I would have had the fastest time of the day. I've never been so close... Brian and Ben are superstar class drivers and so they proved that there was another 1.3 and 1.8 seconds out there respectively vs my scratch times, but again I've never come within 2 seconds of either Ben or Brian before.

So guess what? It's just like the experienced drivers always tell you... seat time, and Evo School pays off. I like the shape of my curve this year...

Now all I have to do is keep it going! As for the points. They came, but not quite enough. I'm in  almost the same position as last year, BUT Leafy's car was in working condition from the start this time, unlike last year where he didn't really get it going until the 4th event and then killed me for the second half. This time, I've stayed close. Theoretically I could still win, but the odds are against me. Perhaps next year... or perhaps not. As long as I drive faster I'm happy!

Let's end with some video...

And now... side by side of Brian and me.... (Damn I wish I had video from Ben too!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Rotors, New Acheivements

Autocross eats brakes. It's just a fact of life. Tires too. My wife still marvels at the idea that I replace race tires after 100-150 miles (while most racers marvel that I wait that long!). Brakes are somewhat better, the Sector 111 Ultra disc rotors I have been using lasted about 2 years in the front and 3 in the back. That doesn't sound too bad until you consider that I put less than 5000 miles on those rotors. Guess what... after the last event, my front pads were getting very thin, and I was seeing bluing from heat where the vents in the rotors were. It was kinda neat, almost like an x-ray of the rotors, but what it really means is that the rotors are too thin, and not discharging the heat well anymore.

The Ultra discs and super grippy Porterfield pads were a marvelous improvement over stock, but every now and then, it seemed like the brakes just didn't quite do what I expected. With this combination of pads and rotors I had begun to suspect that while it gives you most of the power of a big brake kit without the weight and price penalty, they still lack something in terms of modulation. To try to improve the situation, I decided to try the new vented, slotted, full-floating rotor offered by Beyond Original Equiptment since they claimed to have better breaking modulation for a similar price. I left the Ultra discs on the rear because they are lighter, and also because the fronts do the lion's share of the work.

I ordered the rotors immediately after my last races and they arrived in about 3 days. There was a small issue I ran into, but BOE has EXCELLENT customer service, and they resolved it quickly and professionally. BOE has become a leader in aftermarket lotus race parts, and you can definitely order from them with confidence. There's a bunch of pictures of the rotors on their web site, but none after the black coating has worn off, so here's what they will look like after they've seen some wear.

Looks are nice, but this is a race car, not a concourse car. What matters is results! The first event was Renegade Miata Club's 5th points event of the year. This event was opposite the SCCA's Racing against Leukemia charity event, and so I expected a soft turnout. The attendance numbers were somewhat low but luckily, the top of the field was still pretty typical. Bob Lang And Leafy didn't show, but Lanna and Hank, who are both national champs did. Scruffy didn't show but Grant and Steph were there, Mike Stukalin was there an he's always fast. Furthermore the New England area seems to have acquired a new hot-shoe, Ryan Field who was there in his CSP Miata. So the competition could even be considered slightly stiffer than normal.

My result? 5th raw time... again. Not exciting on the surface but if you dig into the numbers a bit, to retain the 5th spot I had to drive faster than Matt Mickle, which I have not previously done. I was still 1.25 seconds behind grant though. The pax factor vs Grant however is 0.958. That is way better than I usually do at NER SCCA autocross events. However, this year Grant has not been dominant as in past years, so perhaps an NER pax factor could be as much as 0.015 tougher... or maybe not? Hard to know I was just as close to him at the Match Tour. Even so, it would still could be my best result ever. The other good news is that even if they were running crappy old tires, I was too. My tires ended the day on their 99th run. The great thing about new tires, is you go faster than old tires. The great thing about old tires is if you do well when you are on old heat cycled tires, that means you simply drove better, or did something good to your setup.

Event #1 on new rotors: Success!

So the second event was Points event #7 for the SCCA season, and as I said before, this is where it counts. At the start of the race I was 6 points back in the standings (after accounting for drops). I desperately need a win to stay alive. On my first run I put down the fastest time of anyone's first run in the first session. On my second run I shaved another 4 tenths off. That doesn't sound that impressive, but this event was in the small parking lot at NHMS, so my times were 28.8 and 28.4 respectively, and this was equivalent to finding almost a second on a Renegade course, or .8 seconds on a course at Devens. As I returned from that run, they announced I had Top Raw time and Top Pax! Now THAT has never happened before. It didn't last, Billy Davis took it away on his next run, but it sure was a fun thing to hear. In the afternoon I ran a 28.3 and another 28.4 shaving a small amount but not really improving much. I was a little disappointed that I didn't find a 27.x but I had multiple people tell me how good I looked out there, including some really good drivers. These sorts of compliments seem to be happening more often lately, and I'm not getting the highly dubious "awesome spin dude" or "that was awesome when you drifted through that corner" compliments from the novices as often.

And the points race? After the morning session I was ahead of Leafy by a good margin, but the same thing was true last year, and then he found a ton of time in the afternoon and beat me, so I was very nervous. I may have begun over-driving on my last runs for fear he would catch me again. Sure enough he found lots of time on his first run of the afternoon, running a 28.2 but he also had 2 cones. On his second to last run, he was clean.... BUT he was still 0.2 seconds behind me, and he coned his last run. I finally picked up a class win and now sit in second place 3 points out of first. If I win next weekend I Tie things up with one more race to go. Also, I was 14th in pax of 57 or so competitors, which doesn't look that great until you consider that most of the folks who don't come to the New Hampshire event are the novices and casual folks and the people who do show up tend to be more skilled and involved in tight points races. For this reason I long ago stopped using these events in my stats calculations. However, with Billy Davis there, top Pax will not change much vs a regular NER event and my PAX factor for this race was a nice leap forward. I scored 0.949 vs my previous best of 0.938. I was 1.2 seconds off top pax which is approximately equivalent to 2.4 seconds off top pax at Devens... also a nice step forward. So all crazy attendance factors aside, I feel confident saying that this was my best race ever.

Event #2 on new rotors: Success!

So is it the Rotors, or the lessons of Evo School finally sinking in? Hard to tell, but one thing can be said for sure, these rotors have shown a positive correlation with successful autocross! Next weekend is another SCCA race, this time at Devens... The full long course. Many folks there will be gearing up for nationals. If I can do well at that one, I can do well almost anywhere.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Results - Part 2

Renegade events are fun/practice events for me. They are a place to try out new stuff, bed in brake pads etc. This is not to say I wasn't trying hard at the previous event, but SCCA is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This is for the points, the glory and (oh yeah) the fun. At scca you can find out where you really stand vs some of the best drivers in the country. 

At the start of this race I was 9 points back in the season standings. With this being race #5, one more loss and the little red turbo miata would officially be running away with it. The day was beautiful and the first two runs went well, with me jumping out to an early lead. Ominously the fastest scratch time however was set by national trophy winning, Rachel Baker who was driving they little blue smurf of terror (the Keuhl CRX). 

On my 3rd run I ran what seemed to be a faster but clean time. Unfortunately, I will never know how fast because the timing system had had a false finish somewhere and it read 84 seconds… my previous run was a 51.281 so clearly the Timing Monster ate that one. The timing monster was particularly hungry because it evidently ate times for 11 other people as well. It was decided that the dozen or so of us would get an extra run in the afternoon. 

My first run of the afternoon went really well and I set what would become my fastest time, 50.564 seconds.

The next run had a 50.026, and was dirty.

Then I got a 50.643 that was marked as off course, but I can’t find it in the video… can you?

But the run wasn’t fast enough anyway so I didn’t argue. While I was getting called off course for no apparent reason, Rachel finally had a run that was both fast and clean, 49.833 which gave her the win. I had one chance to top that, and I was having a very fast run, perhaps fast enough but I did something silly. I tried a new line at the last element before the finish, but I didn’t do a good job of it and spun. It occurs to me that with a little presence of mind and and a lot of car control skill (that I probably don’t have) I was very close to executing a clean backwards finish. That would have been fun. But alas it was just a spin. Unfortunately the battery had died in my camera so I don't have that one on video.

But wait… what about the little red miata??

Well it turns out that my primary opponent in the season points race spent the preceding evening helping with the funeral for Brian Keuhl’s civic DX (“smelvin”) that blew it’s motor the previous day (at the renegade event). This meant that he didn’t have time to switch the R6’s off of his wheels and so he and Bryan Mancuso (his co-driver du jour) spent the day driving on tires optimized for track, not autocross. How much difference did this really make? I have no idea. They also had lots and lots of cones, each with only one clean run. 

The final result, Rachel, Me, Bryan, Dan (my co-driver) and then Leafy. Points wise, this is a tremendous boon, as I pick up 4 points in the season standings, and I’m just 2 wins away from a lead, with the possibility of taking a lead into the final race. I remain in a position where I (at least theoretically) can win by taking 1st place repeatedly and I would not need “help” in the form of other people beating Leafy to exaggerate the point differential. I’m still behind, but I hung in there and made progress.

How fast did I really drive? What’s the big picture? Well lets just say it’s complicated. Brian Keuhl had an absolutely fabulous day. He clearly found time that nobody else could find. Perhaps the course was just perfect for his car, perhaps he wasted his “win nationals” run on us local folks. He beat everyone else in the pax standings by a full second. I was 3.9 seconds back of that. Normally I’ve been more like 3 seconds off the pace, and if we consider him an outlier, the next fastest was one of our regular winners, Billy Davis. I was only 2.9015 sends behind him, which would have been my first time inside of 3 seconds from top pax.

So the stats look like this
  • 0.918 pax rating, 0.934 vs Billy
  • 28th of 149 drivers in pax
  • 16th of 149 drivers in raw time
  • 11th of 142 production cars (things with fenders)
  • 2nd of 6 drivers in SSM
On the strict by the numbers basis it is a small improvement, getting inside the top 30 for the first time, and picking up points vs leafy. Looking inside the numbers a bit, This was one of my best days, and I had a faster run that gave away 0.5 seconds due to a cone. That is qualitatively different than previous best days where I generally was clean on my fastest run, often on run 6. This time I set my fastest time in 3 runs (ignoring the rerun). So the improvement in my driving *might* be a bit more than the numbers show.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Results - Part 1

In the last post I talked about how I had a great time at the Evo School, and how discovered that I had a serious error in the way I was thinking about looking ahead. I'm very lucky that the Evo School was immediately followed the next week by two races. School is great, epiphanies are wonderful, but the proof is in the pudding. Can I translate what I learned into actual results at a real race?

In this post I'll look at the first event with the Renegade Miata Club: Their events are scored by averaging two fastest runs, then paxing the result and dividing the fastest pax in your category by your pax and multiplying that by 100. This makes the maximum score possible 100 points, which you only get if  you have top pax across two runs for your category.

Summary of Renegade Season thus far:
  1. May 3 2014 - 96.310 points, 10th place for Non Mazdas, 13th over all. but Neither Grant Reeve, nor Steven Stephen Lefebvre were there to set the pace
  2. May 24 2014 - 88.916 points, 19th place for Non-Mazdas, 33rd over all. Only had one clean run, if I had matched my best run I would have had about 93 points. Grant had Fastest Non-Mazda with 63.854 vs my 66.902 (3 sec off grant)
  3. June 21 2014 - 94.464 points, 8th place for Non-Mazdas, 14th over all. My best, 72.2 - Ben sets a low 67 while giving me a ride in my car during fun runs. Grant had FTD with 69.987 (My best in fun runs was 71.1, 1.1 sec off Grant)
  4. July 19 2014 - 97.571 points, 8th place for Non-Mazdas, 11th over all. Grant not there, Scruffy FTD @ 64.461, I had 65.097 or about 0.6 second from Fastest Non Mazda. 
So Did Evo School help? Yes I think it did, a little bit. I was close than ever before to  FTD *within* the regular times. Grant Reeve wasn't there, but On the next day I ran 1.3 sec behind him, and if we transplant that differential here, I would have had 95.062 points.

So I was a little faster. The difference is not stunning, but I did hand my car to Ben again, and this time he got a 62.3... only 2.7 seconds faster than my best time (instead of the almost 4 seconds in the previous event). We also had some added Hot Shoes in the class, including Ben in an STS CRX, and Bob Lang, and a totally new face in an STX Acura. So if I place that 95 points into the prior event, I gain 2 places in the Non-Mazdas and would have given me a time for about to 10th overall pax. So non-mazdas, and the field in general might be slightly stronger in this event than the last.

Statistics in racing events are dodgy due to course dependency and mechanical changes/failures etc, and in events with variable attendance it's double dodgy, but I certainly didn't do worse by any measure, and better by some. Another encouraging thing is that this club requires 2 good runs to do well, and one hero run won't do it. I was able to back up my fastest time with another reasonably close time on the preceding run.

As for looking ahead without following specific cones, I think I did better about that in the stuff on the main runway, My eyes did still tend to come down for the tight turns. It's hard to break old habits. It will take some time I think, but I know what it is I'm trying to improve now.

Anyway, here's the video for my the fastest run of the day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Doing it WRONG

Crap, I've been doing it wrong!

For a long time I've known that it was important to look ahead. Over the last few years I've gotten much better about not just looking at the next cone. I also learned that it's important to identify key cones and that the rest of the cones often don't matter. So naturally, I've been looking ahead and finding these key cones. Then having focused on said cone I've been doing my best to ensure I don't loose track of it and position myself the way I want at that cone.

As I learned to do this my driving improved. It seemed to make sense. For a while I was happy. I credit my improvements in 2012 with this technique. Then in 2013 I gained the agression I was missing and began to drive hard, And with the start of this year, I've pushed that aggression up a little further, but there's still a clear gap between the "really fast" drivers and the "moderately fast" drivers like me. I've been increasingly feeling like I don't quite know where that time can be found. Until recently I've been blaming it on the car. It doesn't have an LSD... It doesn't have as much power, I haven't done any real engine work or tuning... I haven't cut the fenders and maxed the tire sizes yet... Lots of things that take lots of money.

But then I handed the car to Ben, and he shaved 4 seconds off my time in the Renegade Miata school. That set the "car not good enough" ship listing a bit...  But it was a non-competitive day, maybe my time just wasn't as good as I thought... Then I handed it to Ben in fun runs after a "real" event and he raw timed Grant by almost THREE WHOLE SECONDS. The "car not good enough" boat had sprung a leak.

Today, at the Evolution School, I had the extreme privilege to be instructed all day by Mark Daddio. This is the autocross equivalent of a basketball player training with Michal Jordan, or a high school QB getting tips on quarterbacking by Tom Brady. Mark Daddio was the 1988 Rookie of the year, the 2000 Driver of eminence and  has won TWENTY national championships in the 35 years since his Rookie year. Check the Solo Rulebook, you'll find his name listed 22 times. That's right, when he goes to nationals, more than half the time, he comes home champion.

WOW. Holy crap. Think about that, and then think about the fact that in 35 years, it's likely that at least a few times the car probably gave him trouble. And I haven't taken the time to check if there were any years he didn't run... Basically if the car is well prepped and solid, the safe bet is on Mark Daddio.

So what happened when he took the wheel of my car? He ran a 46.3.... What does that mean? Hard to say, but today he also drove the in the B Modifed sports racer that took 3rd place at nationals, and today he got a 42.4... 3.9 second gap. Which on a Nationals sized course represents about a 5.2 second gap. Or 10.4 seconds across 2 days. So if we add 10.6 seconds to B Modified times at the 2013 solo nationals, They come out *slightly* (0.6 sec) faster  than corresponding Super Street Modified times. Now the B Mod car he drove today only placed 4th, so if we make the unlikely assumption that Will Shambach is as fast as mark Daddio and the entire difference between Will Shambach and the first place in B Mod is the car, we figure that Mark could get just under 125 seconds at nationals in my car. 125sec is 2.5 seconds off the pace. Incidentally, it works out to almost exactly the time that Matt Glagola ran in his super charged SSM Elise, and Matt took home a Trophy. So out of 120 seconds of racing, my car appears 2.5 seconds slow, less whatever skill Mark has over Will. If the above logic is anything like reality, the car *could* take home a trophy, maybe even a podium level trophy.

So... on a 60 second NER course, it's really stretching it thin to claim that the prep of my car is giving up more than a second. And after pax, it gets hard to justify more than .8 seconds... The "car not good enough" ship is nose down and sinking fast. So clearly, as I've said above I've been doing something wrong!

I am assuming that he drove my car and the B Mod at similar pace... and he admitted that he felt he probably could get another .3 out of my car if he tried harder and maybe .6 or .7 on a really crazy "run to win nationals" type run) If he sandbagged the B-Mod more than my car the above is of course not so valid. But I'm guessing that he probably put in a similar effort.

Today, I found out what I've been doing wrong: Looking ahead. Looking ahead is not wrong, but the way I've been doing it is. When I "look ahead", I pick up a key cone in the distance and then focus on that cone. All the other cones don't matter so I tune them out. This is WRONG. Tuning out the irrelevant cones is not wrong, but the focus on a single cone is.

One needs to look ahead and obtain a defocused awareness of all the upcoming cones. Focusing down on just a single cone tempts you to "look the cone in" and this brings your eyes down. Once you're satisfied that you got a good position/entry/backside etc on the "key cone" you look up... and you're lost. It takes a tiny fraction of a second to refocus to the distance and another tiny fraction of a second to pick out the cones, and yet another tiny fraction to figure out which cone is the next "key cone".  The bad news is those tiny fractions add up to a tenth or 2 tenths of a second where *you have NO CLUE where you are going*. I think we can all guess how that turns out... small errors get made and build up, you get behind and soon big errors start getting made.

The key takeaway is not only must you look ahead, but you must NEVER EVER look down. Look ahead at the full course, not ahead at a specific cone. See elements, not cones.

Another good way to think about this is when the cone is 20 feet away, there's little or nothing you can do to improve your angle or avoid the cone unless you're going way too slow. So there's really just no point in looking at anything near the car. If you aren't in the right position by the time you are that close, you can't possibly do anything useful about it. Even if you could adjust that quick, your adjustment needs to be informed by the information about the next 2-3 elements. So no more "looking the cone in".

Why did I improve in 2012 with my poor technique? Because I went from not looking ahead at all to regularly looking ahead for some of the time. Some is better than none. And the fact that I have a good memory hasn't helped either. I've tended to compensate by memorizing the course. My final runs are often cleaner and faster, because I've finally memorized enough of the course, that I know where I'm supposed to be going during that clueless tenth or two of second. Impossible to be fast from the start that way. Difficult to be refining other aspects of the course at the same time.

The other key problem I seem to fight with is not wanting to go slow in the slow stuff. But several people have told me that. It's a known problem and I'm working on that too.

Oh and how did I do? My fast time on my last run was 47.1, 0.8 seconds behind Mark Daddio on a 45-50 sec course... which might be more like 1.1 to 1.5 if he were really trying. That tends to look like a run that would put me 1-2 seconds off of top pax at an NER event. I've never done better than 3 seconds from top pax... Next weekend we see if I can do it in 6 runs instead of the dozen or so I got today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Studying Evoloution

This weekend, I will out among the cones again, but not for a competitive event. I will be attending an Evolution Performance Driving School (popularly known as "Evo School", though it has nothing to do with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, also referred to as an "Evo"). Over the last few races, It has become clear that, while I am driving at a higher level than last year, there is still room for improvement. Twice I've had a top driver get in my car and shave seconds off my time. Both times the car proved it could have taken FTD in "fun runs".

One might think that after 5+ years at this I would be beyond schools, but if you think that, then there's two things to consider (at least). First off, this school is run by folks who are National trophy winners, many of them national champions. That is a level I have not attained yet. Mostly I know the basics, and I am significantly above average at the local level, but these people go faster. They can spot my errors and they clearly know things I don't.

Secondly, the great thing about schools, is seat time. One gets many many runs on which to find the speed. One thing I sorely need is to elevate my expectations. I need to get to a higher speed and practice being there. I need to make faster feel normal. Regular events, one just gets the course figured out and then the day ends.

The ride along on with Ben at the last Renegade Miata event (when he shaved 3-4 sec off my time and would have set FTD by over 2 seconds but for a couple cones) totally emphasizes that I simply don't have the right expectation of how the car should feel. It's also entirely clear that although Leafy's car may be somewhat faster than mine, proper driving could still get me a win. Hope is not lost.

I will be attending the Challenge School, where the instructor will set a time and then I will attempt to match it. I did this several years ago and there will also be ride alongs with the instructor, and my goal is to try to capture that feel of being right on the edge but still in control. Without an example of a top driver to compare with, it's really easy to think you are on the edge when you're still quite some distance from it.

So my #1 goal is to absorb the feel of "being on the edge" like a sponge and learn to live there without falling off. I need to keep pushing myself. But I'm also aware that pushing is not everything.

At the last event, I set my best time by pushing hard and repeatedly telling myself "Do it with the line, not with the brakes" as I drove through the course. So the other key is to continue refining my line. The "edge" on the good line is a lot faster than the "edge" on a sloppy line.

Oh yeah, and have fun too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Life's been busy again. I haven't had a chance to blog about individual events. Just too much else to do. Now it's time to look back on the first third of the 2014 season. The key conclusion I've reached is that there is a strong emotional component to my performance. I need to work on my drive as much as my driving.

I've participated in 6 events so far this year, 3 of them SCCA events. The most recent was a national match tour. Stats-wise I seem to be showing a bit of progress over last year. At SCCA events I've scored 93.42, 89.89, and 93.82 placing me at 27th in the season pax standings vs 42nd at the end of last year. The place doesn't mean much yet because there are a number of good drivers haven't made it to all 3 events. If you average my results you get 92.38. If you then extrapolate to 5 events and rank me in last year's stats, I come out at 35th (of 86 people who had at least 5 events). That's 7 places higher than last year, so while I haven't entered the top 30 yet, there *is* real improvement.

That said, the pattern of my results is of more interest.

The first event of the year was a new high point, just like last year. And the first day of the match tour was yet another best ever. If you look at the results from last year in the graph above, you will note that I never matched my performance on the first event through the rest of the year, so it's my 3rd best result ever. On the Sept 9 race where I posted a time in the top 5 ever (for me at the time) including a 2 second penalty for a cone. That run, I was motivated. I felt I had a good chance to beat Leafy, which would have clinched the season championship. I drove as hard as I could, but clipped a cone and came up short. The fastest times are the events I spent a lot of time anticipating and prepping for, and where I am pushing myself.

The second event this year I was pleased by my results in the first event and felt more relaxed. The result was a that I drove like crap and my 89.89 can only be described as lackluster.

On Sunday of the match tour, I was feeling good. Based on my day 1 results, I was 47th in PAX. The top 24 were removed for the super shootout on the second day, and thus I had the 23rd fastest Saturday time of the remaining 122 drivers. Making the first cut should have been a breeze (top 48 drivers after 2 runs). I figured that making the second cut would be difficult but possible (top 30 drivers after 3 runs). Getting into the club shootout (top 16 after 4 runs) would likely take a new best ever run, but only by a few tenths.

My co-driver Dan commented to me after my second run on Sunday that I didn't seem have as much wheel spin off the starting line as Saturday. After each run, but before I saw my times I felt good about my runs. I had controled my line in several places I was sloppy the day before. But after 2 runs, my times were still a second slower than the day before. I missed the first cut by 0.018 seconds....  Any tidbit of time anywhere would have done it. Even a slightly more enthusiastic start.

I need to work on treating EVERY run like it's the first race of the year, or "The big one," or the one that could win it all. Confidence or a relaxed attitude kills my results. I need to forget all that went before and remember that nothing is guaranteed.

Or to put it another way... I need to drive myself harder.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Video with Data!

Yesterday was the Renegade Miata Club's School event which is a great opportunity to test out the car, and my new data/video equpment while getting advice from top drivers in the area. The day was a distinctly New England day... it started dry/cool, moved to wet, cold and sleeting and then the sun came out dried everything up and temps moved up into the 60's. In any case I sorted out some kinks and began to remember what to do when presented with several hundred orange cones, open pavement and a lotus.

Here's a video with data for my second fastest run of the day... 72.6 seconds. I didn't bother to shoot video for fun runs, when I had a 71.1.

The video was shot with a Sony Action Cam, data logged with a Race Capture Pro data logger, and video rendered with Race Render. It all worked great except Race Render doesn't seem to like empty values in the first row of data, so I had to open it as CSV in copy a couple of values from row 2 to row 1 to get it to recognize the columns properly. After that it was a breeze.

I'm very pleased with the quality of data from Race Capture Pro. It has none of the jitter an looks way better in Solo Storm than the MaxQData logger I bought 4 years ago (for more money). Of course in fairness to the MaxQ folks this could be because I actually took the time to mount it on vibration reducing mounts bolted to the dash rather than just slapping on a bit of velcro on it...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some Encouragement

At the end of last year I became lax about analyzing my results. I was somewhat down on myself for my results, failing to clinch the championship 4 races straight and not looking forward to seeing it in black and white. In prep for the coming season I finally went back and forced myself to enter the data. Then I took a brief look at the graph....

Events 7 8 and 9 are the final 3 data points. Events 5 and 6 omitted because Match tours and NHMS events are not comparable to regular events at Ft. Devens.

Event 7 was just as bad as I thought. It sucked. I got DSQ after 6 for sound, drove like crap and ran around looking for tail pipe muffling materials rather than thinking about the course... not helpful. My final time was worse than any time since early 2011. That day I just plain sucked.

Then I looked at Event 8. Wow.  MY FASTEST TIME INCLUDED A CONE (a 2 second penalty) on event 8, and it was, my 5th best pax result ever (69th percentile of 140 competitors). My result on the final event was my second best ever... Looking at the results in event 8 of the 29 people who were class champions (ignoring junior Karts) in 2013, I out paxed 8 of them carrying a cone. So it seems that at least on that day, I was a much faster driver than ~1/3 of the NER class champions for 2013.

This tells me 2 things... One, SSM was quite competitive on that day, and two, I really did drive like a screaming banshee on that final run. That run was only dirty by a single cone, and the clean line was very likely faster. If I can be that fast and stay clean, I'll have taken it to a whole new level... Very encouraging.

Also, the final event is my 2nd best time ever. A few folks may have been slower than usual trying to compete in the Moss (where the 2nd half is scored by consistency not outright speed). But most of those folks would normally either be ahead or behind me. Nobody in the moss came in slightly slower than me, so the result is still pretty believable and that's encouraging too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Splitting Airs

Last winter I shifted my splitter forward 2 inches to try to get more front down force, but it seemed to have a very limited effect. This is probably because the main protrusion of that splitter is just in front of the radiator grille. The air flow in the radiator and up over the car is not very significantly restricted, and less so with the AC condenser removed. Thus, the increase in pressure over the splitter vs under is probably minimal there. The sides gained extension too, but the sloped, drag reducing front of the car is probably also fighting the build up of pressure as well.

Since I improved the wing over the winter, I expect to generate more downforce in the back. To make use of that added downforce I will need more front down force. Otherwise I will simply go back to the car plowing on the fast sweepers. To that end, I've ditched the CF splitter and cut myself a much larger plywood one, similar to that used by the other street modified cars in my area. Here are some pictures of the construction process....

Jack it up, prop the board underneath

Scribe a 5.75" offset from the fender (viewed from above). The rule is 6", but leave a bit for safety and interpretation etc.

Painting with Rustoleum to give it a little water resistance...

Initial attachment.  The sides still need trimming, they stick out a little bit too far.

View of bottom attachments. As always I am attaching to hard points, not the fiberglass clam

If air passes above and below an added aero dynamic aid it is considered a wing. Front mounted wings are disallowed in the super street modified class, so trim the ends and put a back plate in to turn it back into a splitter

Another view. It's hard to see because of the paint, but Aluminum angle is used to attach the backplate

The final result from the front

The edges ere a bit floppy and I didn't want to attach to the fiberglass, so I rigged a turnbuckle system attached to the oil-cooler mounting point which is steel.

A slit in the fender liner is required. Re-installation is quite a trick since the top part of the fender liner is actually supposed to slip in first, but that is no longer possible. Really glad that i was conservative on the size of the back plates.

Ever so conveniently the vent for the oil cooler accommodates the turnbuckle! 

The result is that the turnbuckle system is not 100% rigid, so I may need to re-work this if the edges wind up flapping, but it should also work to dissipate and absorb some of the energy from cone impacts. The great thing about this is it was really really easy to install and provides a bit of adjustability if the corners turn out to be pulled upward by the tension (which is not legal if it's more than 3 degrees from level)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Antigravity Mounting

Yeah, I wish I had an anti-gravity system. (I'd mount it upside down for downforce!). But all I actually have is an Antigravity Batteries XPS-SC1 battery. Though it can't provide assistance with gravity, it can assist with my inertia. It weighs just 1pound which is a savings of over 21 pounds vs the stock part. However I mentioned all of this in my last post so enough with that.

The great thing about saving weight, is reducing weight allows you to reduce weight elsewhere. The 7lb battery had been held in place with an aluminum bracket I fabbed up out of 1/8" 1x1 aluminum angle and steel brackets. Here's the new bracket for the XPS-SC1:

That bracket is 50g vs the 250g for the previous bracket, a savings of about 9 oz. So weight savings for this mod now go up to ~6.5 lb. To mount it in the car I bolted it to the old air box mounting points. Below you ca see it looking up through the wheel well, tire fender liner and Fujita F5 filter removed. 

I put everything back together and lowered the car. Then I wired it up reaching in from the top where I could be sure I could see the + and - markings on the terminals. According to several folks I've heard it from, getting the leads backwards pops about a dozen fuses some in VERY hard to reach places such as inside the dash, so it's extremely extremely important not to do that. Given the small size of this battery and the resulting proximity of the terminals, I will probably add a cover to the negative side as well so it doesn't get shocked if the car has to be jump started. 

So then came the moment of truth. Would it start... I opened the garage door. I turned the battery cut off switch... the usual whir-click of some misc electronics or relay powering up responded. Good. I opened the door and the cabin light came on. Good. I sat in the seat and turned the key the dash lit up. Good. I stepped on the clutch made sure it was out of gear, and pressed the start button...

Whirr Whirr Whirr...

Hmm, try it with some gas

Whirr Whirr Whir... Whirr Whirr Hic Whir Whirr Whir...

Whirr Whirr Whir

Whirr Whirr Whirr

Ok, Deep breaths... ... So it didn't start. It was an experiment I told myself.... It Hic'd once, so it was close, it was worth a shot, better luck next time (etc... etc... etc.)

Later that night I got to thinking. The car hasn't moved for 4 months. The garage is 40-45 degrees. This is more or less the coldest hardest start possible for a car that doesn't get to play in the snow. I had never doubted that the video of this battery starting a v6 truck engine was a video of a "warm" start. So if I can get it to start when the engine is not almost freezing and not all the oil has drained away from it, I may be ok. But if it never cold starts at all after sitting for a while that may not be good enough. So...

I warmed up the garage to about 60 degrees and let the car bask in that warmth for about a day. I figure if it starts after being still for 4 months at 60 degrees maybe it starts at a spring or fall 45-50 degrees after being still for a few days to a week, and either one of those is good enough. Both at the same time is a once a year affair. For what it's worth, the 7lb Braile battery sometimes required several tries for the first spring start. So with a somewhat warmer engine I tried again...

Whirr Whirr Whirr...

(gas) Whirr Whirr Whirr....

Uh oh...

Whirr Whirr Whirr...

Whir Whir Hic Whir, Hic, Hic *COUGH* HarrROOOOOOMM!!!


Whew it does start!! So I shut it off again, and gave it 30 seconds... and tried again...


So it starts easy once it's been turned over, which is a really good sign. Good enough that I don't need to de-install the battery just yet, but I've pretty clearly found the bleeding edge. I also suspect it's time to find a suitable case charge the old Braille battery and throw it in my trailer so that I can jump the vehicle if necessary. It will also become more critical to not forget to turn off the battery cut-out switch when the vehicle is parked. Now it's up to the test of time to see if this becomes too annoying. It appears to at least remain theoretically feasible.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Vehicular Anorexia

I am always obsessing about weight savings. Maybe it's a side effect of owning a Lotus. Perhaps I am haunted by the ghost of Lotus founder Collin Chapman who said "Power makes you faster on the straights, lightness makes you faster everhwhere." (I wish he would haunt my driving skills a little more and my wallet a little less!). I seem to find inordinate joy any time I can save weight on my Lotus and revulsion deep in my gut any time I have to add weight.

So I'm sure you know where this post is going... :)

This winter I'm looking to shave another dozen or so lbs off of my already featherweight car bringing it close to 1850lbs with 1/3 tank of gas. That 1/3 tank probably weighs 15 lbs or so, which means even if I'm out of gas I will be 30lbs over the minimum weight for my racing class, but here's what my mania has produced to achieve the latest reduction.

The Battery

Batteries are heavy. They often contain lead and lead is heavy. Long ago I switched away from the stock battery which is a 29 lb. monster. That size is mostly needed to support the drain on the system caused by the vehicle alarm system. The little 4 cylinder 2ZZ motor in the elise definitely does not need that kind of capacity to turn over. So 3 years ago I installed a cut-off switch and a 7lb Braille battery. Great! 22lbs saved! Seems good... but not good enough! (I did mention that I might be possessed didn't I?). Enter the Antigravity Battery brand  XPS SC-1.

I've known for some time that lithium batteries are much lighter, but the products available have generally been too expensive. The SC-1 advertises as 12 oz, but my scale says just under 16 oz. If it works I'm not going to complain. The question is... will it start? Too cold to take the car out so I haven't installed it yet. But if it does the job, I get to save 85% of the weight vs the Braile B106 I'm using now, and it's cheaper too! All I need to do now is figure out how to mount it... I'll make that a separate post.

Lightness Added: 6lbs

The Wing

Ever since I built it I knew that I had added a tragic amount of weight when I added the wing. It adds and estimated 25lbs, much of it at the very top of the car, raising the center of gravity. about half that weight is in the supports and attachments to the deck lid. The wing itself weighed 13 lbs. (excluding mounting bolts) when I weighed it a few weeks ago. The construction was entirely 1/8" 1x1 Aluminum Angle, 090 plate aluminum, a 1-1/4" wood dowel for the front edge, steel angle brackets and aluminum rivets with a contact paper skin. I'm actually quite pleased with the contact paper, and the aluminum rivets are probably as light as i can get without a tig welder and a lot of practice time.

After observing the wing in action I believe the 090 aluminum end plates, the wood dowel and the aluminum angle are all over built, or just poor material choice. These are being replaced by much lighter components. The angle is being replaced by 3/64" 1x1 angle (available at Home Depot).

The front rod and end plates are being changed out for carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is not cheap, but I found a discontinued size I can use directly at a steep discount. The end plates won't be as big as I would like, but they will be a little bigger, and the cost is about 1/3 the cost of buying a larger piece in a standard size and cutting it down.

There's a bit of a problem in that I need to have good supports for this CF tube at the front and I need to butt join it to the end plate efficiently. Luckily, I have a friend who just bought himself a Maker Bot 3d printer, and he pointed me to the free OpenSCAD program which renders 3D objects defined in it's own programming language. Since I've got my own software consulting business, this programmatic style is perfect for me. Here are the supports rendered in OpenSCAD

And here are the inserts for the end of the tube (view from inside tube)

So what sort of weight savings does this buy me? Well here's how it works out (orange values are estimates):

endplates 3982402
front rod 7841551
fastners (all)4504501
center supports1301302
total (g)5,9262,995
total (lbs)13.046.59
saved (lbs)6.448250.54%

I haven't accounted for the printed parts yet, but they are very light and will probably be offset by a few of the steel angles that I was able to trim down. About 5 oz. was also removed by trimming corners and overhangs from the bracket that mounts the wing to my deck lid.
Lightness added: 6.75 lbs.