Monday, February 10, 2014

Sobering thoughts for November 2013 Time To Attack and hopes for 2014

I must apologize for the long delay after the end of 2013 time attack season. This arose from two main factors which were the outcome of the November Time To Attack event which required a serious rethink of where I was heading and my hands being absolutely full at work. Better late than never they say so here's the run down on the November 2013 Time To Attack!

My setup remained virtually unchanged from the May event and I had high hopes namely stemming from the fact that analyzing my data for the May runs showed I had significantly improved my times and was very likely already much quicker than my personal best. The reason I had only posted a 2:39 flat came from the fact that in the fastest run I had, which was probably the only one without traffic, I had to both have my line heavily compromised in the entry of Turn 15 by another car alongside and was virtually blocked to the point of almost going off the track by another car. This video taken by the chasing Honda Civic Type R shows the block around the 8:30 mark.

The block wasn't the only factor that I faced that contributed to the poor timing. I had a nagging heating issue whereby the oil and water temperature would climb rapidly and I was forced to limit myself to 7800-7900 rpm each shift to keep the temperature down but even so did see oil temps rising closer to the 120 deg C level before I had to cool down. I even had to upshift slightly earlier than I would have liked and that put me quite a bit off my usual rhythm. The other issue which I felt was that the clutch delay valve seemed to keep slipping my clutch so that I would get some slip when under full throttle so I need to shift very gradually and transition smoothly to avoid getting the slip. The suspension seemed to be rolling more but I put it down to me being too used to the stiffness of the damping.

I didn't want to linger too long on those issues as I felt I might be able to drive around them so I focused on trying to get the car ready for the next round event in November and soon it was time to get down to the track. Here is the car in full livery in the pits awaiting my turn!

Notice a change in my car? Well I had managed to secure a set of Enkei Racing GTC 01 wheels to replace my Enkei RPF1s through a friend in YHI who went through flaming hoops to hook me up! The change in the wheel specifications meant I also had to run my car slightly higher to avoid fender issues and that's why the car seems to stand a bit higher. Not so visible changes are that Mike from CounterSpace Garage got me an outstanding deal for Project Mu 999 pads which he advised would be the right pads for me to have the braking power I needed and would likely not crumble on me like what Ferodo DS 1.11 pads disappointingly did twice even after extensive brake ducting.

Here's how my previous set was destroyed :(

The runs for this Time to Attack were slightly changed as there was both a daylight run and a night run which was a big curve ball for me as I had never driven Sepang before in the night. To add on to the concerns I had, the day run was seemed to be very wet and the competition looked increasingly stiff! Here are some of the pictures of other competitors in the same Normally Aspirated Rear Wheel Drive Street Tyre Class (credits to Sng Wei Jie of 9tro for his pics below):

Don't think for a second that the automotive eye candy was only restricted to the track as the parking around the pits of the spectators was equally gorgeous ;) Check out some more pics byWayn...

Soon it was time for me to hit the track and here are some pictures taken by a couple of excellent photographers I know, namely Aaron of Shini Automotive Photography and Allen of MatCanyon:

Here are more maximum attack pictures through traffic and nasty weather! (Do pardon the poor resolution as the camera battery gave up unexpectedly forcing Wayn to rely on his camera phone)

The track was cold and wet and unsurprisingly, times were rather slow across the board but I began realizing that my times were a fair bit off the pace. I attributed them to my lack of seat time at the track as I had gone to the track only 2-3 times in 2013 prior to this time attack event but was pretty disappointed. As night began to fall and the track began to dry, I eagerly hoped to make up the shortfall in placing by driving harder on the dry track. 

Here's a pic showing the glowing rotors at night after heavy braking

Frustratingly, the placement of my ERP reader combined with the night conditions and my lack of track time (especially to do night racing) showed as my times were only in the 2:40s while other cars were racing ahead nicely in the high 2:30s. I was very disappointed and began to question where the real issue lay with the poor result garnered. Even heel toe shifting had somehow become a bit of a concern since the shifts were no longer as smooth as previously which led me to wonder if it was me or the car.

Distracted by the year end work issues and festivities, I put the poor performance aside for a bit but took the leave period I had to mull on why I had performed as poorly as I had done. Undeniably, the lack of track experience was telling and I couldn't rely on modifications to cover that up especially since the rest of the field was now increasingly more heavily modified. Yet the issues on overheating, clutch delay valve and suspension softness were a mystery and I set about trying to figure these out.

Doing a compression test on the engine, I was relieved to find that the engine seemed pretty healthy with the exception of a necessity to change out spark plugs. So where was this overheating coming from? After some wild goose chasing, I finally realized that the ducting panels to force the airflow coming through the front bumper to go through the radiator had been removed with the installation of the splitter and so I reconfigured the ducting to ensure the air cooled the radiator instead of spilling off the top and sides of it. One issue down, two more to go!

More than 160,000 kms on the stock engine (never rebuilt!) and my overall compression looked like this ;)

The clutch delay valve was irritating as I began to feel it even when I was daily driving until it dawned on me that the reason why the slip was happening was may have been that it was clutch that had been slipping all this while instead of it being anything to do with the clutch delay valve! My heel and toe shifting had been affected as the clutch would slip on the shifts and much later that the usual rhythm I was used to and thus unsettle the car during the trail braking entry which slowed me down significantly. Doing some research online showed that the clutch tended to have its life span reduced significantly with tracking and power modifications so I would not get the 100,000 km life span that I had previously enjoyed with my stock car setup. I ordered an ACT clutch and flywheel set at the recommendation of Mike at CounterSpace Garage while had been proven to be very lasting for my setup and usage.

While chatting with Mike on the clutch order, I spoke to him about the softness in the suspension I had experienced and he told me that from his experience, it was very likely that my suspension was well overdue for a rebuild. I considered the length of time I had owned the suspension for and the beating he had taken and realized that I had overlooked that fact so I arranged for the suspension to be rebuilt at a Tein dealer.

Thumbs up to Mike from  CounterSpace Garage for the awesome support, proud to be repping :)

Pretty confident I had addressed the mechanical issues, I sat down with Gerald Tan who I knew to be an excellent driver and sought to get some tips on my driving lines. Unsurprisingly, there were a ton of mistakes in line that I had made and Gerald gave me an idea where I could begin altering my driving lines to try to get more time. Considering Gerald identified 12 out of 15 corners which I needed signficant improvement, I'd say there is a lot of time to be gained! I also conceded that my seat time on the track was far too little which resulted me being really rusty on the track and unable to adapt to external changes. 

Looking at the all the issues I faced the November 2013, I felt really gutted knowing I had only prepped my car at the bare minimum and had tried to cut corners in terms of maintenance due to budget and time considerations while hoping my driving would be able to compensate by out driving the issues. This was in stark comparison to the rest of the field who had done all out preparations and modifications to ensure their run was the best. In a way, I had sabotaged myself in both technical and driving departments and I felt quite disappointed in myself for not being clearheaded enough to discern where the issues lay so I could apply the required fixes. At this level (and with every session it gets increasingly higher!), it was foolhardy of me to think that this kind of minimal prep would be sufficient to get lucky at the track and I guess it was a lesson that I learnt the hard way.

All in all, 2013 was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me in terms of racing which helped me build my perspective and experience in what I required to do well. For 2014, I have set aside more time to build my track experience with the blessing of my family and I have great expectations for myself this year. I am also in the process of building relationships with various product distributors and have some partnerships in the works this year so it is shaping up to be a very exciting year indeed! 

Keep your eyes peeled for the latest developments and happy tracking to all!

Credits to:
Crower Duwan for his Youtube video ( )
Aaron Hia of Shini Automotive Photography for his photos ( / )
Allen Aznan of MatCanyon for his photos ( )
Calvin Seak of for his photos ( )
Wayn Wong for help in the pits and his photos
Sng Wei Jie of 9tro ( )
Wayn Wong for the picture edits
Joel of Driven Performance for a sweet deal on consumable items ( )
Mike of Counterspace Garage for the hook up deals and awesome tech help
YHI for the Enkei wheels

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