A first year of racing
I would like to preface my ramblings with a thank you to all of you that post useful info here. I only wish I had started reading your posts earlier.
I have always wanted to race cars, and this year the oppurtunity presented itself in such a way that I got off my ass and got out there. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, and am chronicling them here with the hopes that you readers can either chuckle at them or possibly learn something. It started with an introduction to someone who had heard that I like to drive fast and collected speeding tickets as a hobby (partially true !) That person's name is John, and he said he was looking for a codriver to enter the Cannonball run. I figured he was full of s**t and asked if he meant the One Lap of America. He said yes, that he and his brother had won their class in 2005, and he would be entering the same car. I thought about it for a couple of seconds and said "damn straight" I would love to get involved, but couldn't throw any money at it. He told me not to worry, he had that covered. Too good to be true !!
The first step was getting qualified to be a driver. The Cannonball regs are pretty loose, but one must have at least two days of on-track instruction. That brought me to NASA HPDE. As John was paying for most things but lacked a computer, I did a lot of research and such, trying to find the best (read most affordable) way to get track instruction. HPDE was definitely the way to go, and being residents of New Mexico, there were events within a couple hundred miles of us.
For my first outing, John took his Nissan SER, the Cannonball car, and I drove my WRX wagon to Pueblo motorsports park. That was the location of the NASA Rocky mountain regions first event of 2006. It was March and a bit chilly, but my excitement was nearly uncontrolable. The first step for us newbies was a drivers meeting, where we were assigned our instructors. I drew a very nice gentleman named Randy Urlick, who drives a full race '74 Porche 911. I got up to speed pretty quickly, and discovered the limits of the Conti Extreme all seasons I was on. The wagon was bone stock, except for a boost control valve installed by the previous owner. Randy was very adept at teaching me the correct line for the track, and was impressed how well I handled the car. I guess all that time spent with Gran Turismo, and hauling ass in the canyons around N.M. was paying off. We ran four sessions per day, and with my daughter and a freinds timing, I found that I had reached my best times on the second session out on Sat. I also learned that I was consistent. By the end of the day on Sun. I was hooked. Why hadn't I done this sooner ?? It sure beat the crap out of worrying about speeding tickets, and was cheaper.
I won't go into too many details on the Cannonball, we were in a Nissan, but had a blast, racing 9 tracks in 8 days. We were lucky enough to run such historic courses as VIR, Road America, Roebling Road etc. I posted a best 10th overall at Putnam Park, in the rain. I couldn't wait to get back to my Subaru...
While we were gone, my good friend and excellent mechanic, Lisa installed Cobbs adjustable sway bars, stainless steel brake lines, and a Perrin lightweight pulley. My tires were the weakest part of my track experience at Pueblo, so I mounted a set of Khumo Ecsta MXs, and headed to Arroyo Seco Raceway, outside of Deming N.M. to see how it felt. As you can tell track addiction had set in full-on. The car was a different animal, I was able to toss it with much less push, and way better grip. ARS holds open sports car days, once a month, and was a great place to run. All day green flag racing, limited passing zones, and a great bunch of enthusiasts on a 1 1/2 mile, 14 turn twisty piece of asphalt. The only complaints I had with the new handling was squat and dive, and needed to stiffen things up a bit.
Having spent much more on the OneLap then I expected, and throwing money at my own car, I had to try to maintain a budget. Coilovers would have to wait. Since one of the front struts was already leaking, I opted for a pair of affordable KYBs up front and a set of Tein S tech springs, totalling just over 3 bills. Track time !!
Next on NASA's calendar for me (I missed Miller due to the One Lap) was an event at La Junta, a simple old airport course with 7 turns in 1.2 miles, very fast. I had been signed off to HPDE 2 by Randy in my cherished NASA logbook. It was a hot June weekend and proved to be tough on tires and brakes. I ran well through traffic, as groups 1 and 2 share track time. After my third session on Sat the group 3 leader, Chuck Taylor took me aside and said he noticed I was runnung over people and probably needed to move up. Our group 2 main guy, Rick Schnieder, took a ride with me and signed me up to run with some faster cars. I was on cloud nine. In Sunday's second session, I found myself with way more room on the track, and much quicker company. I had to watch my mirrors more carefully, for sure, but was quickly reminded why I have driven Subarus for so long. I was getting past Porches and Vettes, how cool is that ? In my excitement, I forgot an important part of racing in 100+ temperatures. I didn't give my brakes enough cool down time, and went home with warped rotors on the front...D'oh...The track event was so much fun, and well run by the friendly NASA organizers it didn't bother me a bit. I was very pleased with the stiffer springs, ignoring more popular opinion, they are a good, low budget way to increase grip. I know that the struts won't hold up to them for long, but hopefully long enough until I can budget coilovers. By the way, prior to La Junta I had an alignment done, requesting 2 degrees negative camber up front, and 1.2 degrees on the rears. Great set-up.
I love Subies, I was able to replace my rotors with OEMs for $45.00 each through Partsbin.com and it was time to feed my habit further. Problem is, I'm a single father of a 10 year old girl hockey player. I need sponsorship. I am already getting free mechanical work from Lisa's Import Performance Service, but needed help with parts cost and track fees. I scoured the web for sponsorship proposal letters and sought advise on the NASA forums, receiving valuable tips from an EVO nut. I composed a letter to approach a couple of local business' including our Tire Factory. I was successful with a packing and shipping place called "Jack-Wrap-it" and gratefully received enough dough to purchase a Cobb accessport from an outfit that Lisa had helped me approach for sponsorship, "Scoobytuner.com". Matt Bain, a very nice guy, let us know that they didn't have a grassroots racing sponsorship program in place, but would be nice enough to let me have a few things at cost. What an awesome gesture, Matt rocks !! Better mapping in place, it was time to go racing again.
With much eager anticipation, I entered NASA's next event at Pueblo Motorsports Park. They were planning a 3 hour evening enduro run for HPDE 3&4. I was in, but not for long. Being a novice at all of this, and a part time idiot to boot, I ignored Cobb's advice about using the accessport with boost control valves. Running a stage one map, 91 octane, the car was running great with 18psi boost. Thirteen or fourteen laps later, BLAM !! blown intercooler Y-hose. Thank god Lisa had come with me and our kids to the track, she diagnosed and taped up the split before dark and I was able to get back on track to see if it would get us to the hotel. I had knocked the lead wire for the boost controls solenoid and went back on track with a duct taped intercooler hose, still pushing 18 lbs. It held. I knew after driving the crap out a couple of GL wagons that Fuji Heavy Industries knew how to build a tough car, but better judgement pulled me off the track. We did a stronger kluge with more tape and hose clamps in the cool morning, and set off back to the track. The jerry-rigged hose held for about 10 laps, but the motor was sucking bad (unregulated) air and I got off to survey the damage. After more tape and another session, shortened by the same problem, it was time to limp home. Feeling like an moron, I got online and ordered a Samco Y hose set, and a previously purchased uppipe spoke to me, "Install now".
Back to the shop... The upipe job was a bit of a bear but Lisa kicked it's butt with Perrin's well done how-to. Gotta have more now. I ordered a 3" bellmouth downpipe with the plans to put a cutout (not electric) in it for an easy street/track setup. After the install it was pointed out by someone wiser than me how easy it is to just pull the stock exhaust, forget the cut out for now. I'm not a fan of buzzy afermarket mufflers, and can't afford to be too choosey for a full exhaust set up, so pulling the pipe was worth a try. There was a big gap in NASA's schedule, so we needed a place to try out the power mods. Off to Albuquerque Dragway we went.
Lisa's boyfriend is also an excellent mechanic, spending 7 years working for Subaru, and had dragstrip experience, so I let him take most of the runs. We ran a stage 2 map, with just the wide open downpipe, and posted consistent 14.3s, which were a little disappointing, but the strip is at 5000 plus feet altitude, and the only gas available was 110 leaded, which we suspected confused the ECU. We ran with the stock exhaust bolted back on and ran identical times. The open pipe sure sounded great, but the car was missing some top end power. It was still a very fun and educational evening, with a whopping $12.00 entry fee, and a food shack with the best pizza I've had in my 15 years in New mexico. Rockin'.
Now I'm just waiting for the next HPDE event with a new set of Khumos on the way. I've also gone to solid endlinks front and rear, and a front strut tower brace. I'll let you know how it goes, I am ready to be signed off to group 4 and eligibility for a Time Trials License, something I'm very excited about for next years racing. I haven't gotten a ticket since all of this started, something I'm proud of, and highly recommend the HPDE program to anyone who likes to haul ass (legally that is) Thanks to anyone who actually read all of this dribble.
A little side note: the up-pipe (megan) downpipe (invidia), Tien springs, Samco hoses, camber bolts and strut brace were all purchased off e-bay. All were great quality and bargains can be had if you're cautious. I'm into the car well under 19 large, paying 17 for it used with 60k on the odometer.
Last edited by wagonracer; 09-23-2006 at 06:44 PM.
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