Hit or Miss

8 09 2008

One of the difficulties facing those afflicted with the hobby of competition driving is that fact that parts are expensive. As a result, many people who can’t afford to do it properly default to one of two general paths:

1) They run autozone spinners, ebay headers, etc.

2) They run a quality machine, but they run it undertuned.

My style has always been to create a clean and thought out car using the better known brands among sport tuning companies. As a result I follow the 2nd line of action, and enjoy the quality and speed as it builds up part by part–a process that has stretched over four years now–while still driving below the tuning limits of my class. This presents a problem when competitors are fast drivers and have a faster car.

In an effort to raise my level of speed to keep up with the top competitors, who have been widening the gap little by little every event, I saved up the money to invest in a set of front and rear adjustable sway bars. What I need most are wider wheels and tires, but so far everyone (who’s fast) in the class competes on 205’s, not 225’s, so it justifies my holding back on the big purchase. Getting an adjustable sway bar set should allow me to customize the car to suit the individual track we will be running on at a given event. I could even switch back to stock for more compliance in the event of a high chance of rain.

The problem with all this was learning the settings during the season as my test days were also points events. Events 5 and 6 I tried different settings with both new bars. The car felt very stable, but was also slow. The front end was too stiff and it would understeer easier than before. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced of this during event number 5 so I tried again at event 6. After confirming my theory and missing out on claiming points I otherwise would have had a shot at I went back to the drawing board. I ran at event number 7 with the stock front bar and the new rear bar set to full stiff. It seemed to go against the theory as many drivers felt like their FR car improved with a stiffer front bar, but it’s all relative and my springs already biased the car toward understeer. I much prefer an autocross car that turns but is squirrely to one that understeers and is stable. Being a hybrid drift/grip driver does that to you.

It proved to be the right descision and I was running at higher speeds than before. I missed the chance to earn some points though because one of the best drivers in our region decided to come play (again) in STS, which of course knocked me down a place. Event 5 I finished a miserable 9th of 10 about 2 seconds off the pace. At event 6 I continued to experiment with sway bar settings and placed 7th of 10; more than 3 seconds off the pace. After much frustration and head scratching I made the new adjustments and finally at event 7 I placed 4th of 11, within 1 second of the leader. Not where I’d like to be, but considering the 2 top drivers are (or could likely be) nationally competitive I suppose it puts things in a decent light.

The next event will be the last for the season and, amazingly, there’s still a small chance for me to get a Year End Trophy finish despite the debaucle of events 5 and 6. Will I be able to get it right at this last chance for a comeback YEP trophy?

YEP standings and discussion to follow.

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