Streets of Willow Redemption!

Streets of Willow Redemption!

A few weeks back I made my first trip to Willow Springs international Raceway. It was going to be first time ever at Street’s, and my first night event. I was very excited because this was going to be the first event I have done outside of the Vegas area, and it was going to be the first event I did in my 4 door. Going into this event I had put a lot of pressure on myself to get a respectable time. Since I’m a very competitive person and talk a lot of shit I needed to make sure that I can talk the talk and walk the walk. Having a blog dedicated to Functional cars and always talking about proper set ups for your car, I have to make sure that I remain credible. Otherwise my articles are worthless and I’m no better than the next guy that thinks he knows about cars. Basically going down there and not producing a good time was going to make me look like a chump. You know… one of those guys on the forums that thinks they know everything but have no real world experience or evidence to prove they are good at driving. Now please don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of track experience as I race motorcycles, and I race my white EG. I can get pretty respectable times on my EG but that’s mainly because it’s got a K20, and the small mistakes I make can be fixed with a little extra pressure on the right foot. Tracking my 4 door is going be a bit different. It only has a stock D16Y8, and a 205 “street tire” while the EG has a K20a, and 225 NT01’s. The four door is going to rely a lot more on the “Driver Mod” aspect, being smooth and fluid around the track and being able to maximize how much speed is carried thru a turn is a lot more crucial due to its lack of power.

My first trip to Street’s I was only able to get a 1:37. Obviously this isn’t the fastest time, but since it was my first time ever I had to learn the track. By the time I had learned the track somewhat it began to get dark, once dark it becomes a completely different animal. Although it was dark I was still able to pull another 1:37. Despite my friends attempts to comfort me and tell me… that was a good time for someone that had never been there, and that it was too hot to get a good time, I was not having it. That same day there was a guy there that had done a 1:35 in a D16y7, so there was no reason why I shouldn’t have gotten at least the same. Despite my lack luster time, I still really enjoyed my whole trip down there, and the experience of driving on a new track was super cool. The following days I posted some pictures on Instagram about my trip, and the times I was able to get. A few people commented that they were able to get a 1:36, or a 1:35 with single cams. This was disappointing to me because I felt like I was just an average driver at this point, and deep down I knew that I could have done better.

Click the link below to read the article about my last trip down there.

http://functiontheory.com/2019/08/the-streets-of-willow-adventure/

Obviously I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I had gotten a better time, there happened to be another event just two weeks later and I knew this was my chance at redemption. I needed to get at least a 1:35 for myself to feel ok, but I really wanted a 1:34. Patrick had told me that I should be aiming for 1:33, but he’s really hard to impress. This time around I wasn’t able to talk anyone into going to the event, either to drive it or just hang out. Patrick had even tried to talk me out of going to the event, saying that “it was too hot” but I didn’t care. I knew that if I had any hope of being a credible blog, and having people take my advice I had to get down there and make a comeback.

It just so happened to work out that my brother (Eric) had just bought a new truck for his business. He left his old one parked at my house for the time being until he would be able to get it back to his house in Missouri. This meant that if I could get a trailer I would be able to tow my car down there. It also just so happened that my other good friend Patrick (I have 2 good friends named Patrick) had a trailer that I could use. This was a big part of me being able to go to the event, as I did not want to drive my car down there if I was going to be alone because I had to work the next day. If had a catastrophic failure I would need to get back home somehow to make it to work, calling in sick wasn’t an option. Since I was flying solo the only option was to tow, so tow I did.

The only track prep that I did this time around was just change the oil and trans fluid, if you remember I already did the big track day prep stuff before the last event. Friday I went and got oil, MTF, an changed the fluids. Along with double checking some important bolts and what not. I loaded the car on the trailer and packed all my supplies in the truck Friday night so I was ready to hit the road early Saturday morning.

Click the link below to read the article about what “track day prep” means to me.

http://functiontheory.com/2019/07/basic-track-day-prep/

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I left on Saturday morning at 8am. Drove to the gas station, filled up both vehicles and began to head south on the 15 freeway. My brothers truck is set up for towing so it didn’t even feel like I was towing anything. There’s helper bags to level out the truck, and having a big diesel engine mated to an Allison trans makes towing a breeze. I literally just set the cruise control, turned the AC on, and cruised down the highway. His truck made the 4 hour drive fly right by, before I knew it I was arriving at Willow Springs. The truck had made such light work of the journey that it was able to get an average of 19mpg! I know of peoples car that don’t even get that around town.

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Registration opened at 1:00pm, and my GPS was giving me an ETA of 12:45. I like getting places early so it gives me a chance to set up and get everything taken care of without  having to stress. I ended up arriving at Streets around 12:45pm and was a little worried because there wasn’t anyone there.

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I started to wonder if maybe I read the itinerary wrong and showed up at the wrong time or even the wrong track. After double checking the email they sent out and confirming that I was at the correct place at the correct time I drove down to the end to set up my pit. I unloaded and took some pictures.

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It was about 1:00pm and I was getting anxious, there were only two other cars that had showed up, and I wanted to get my registration all taken care of before it got busy. At the same time I didn’t want to be “that guy” and be first inline and make them feel rushed to set up. 1:20pm and there were about 15 more cars that had shown up, and I could see people heading to the club house to register. When I walked into the club house there wasn’t the normal tech forms laid out on the tables, and there wasn’t the line of people registering. Confused I walked over to the table where they usually have the transponders, and asked about tech forms. Turns out that someone that works for/with extreme speed didn’t show up, or didn’t bring the keys to their storage area so they didn’t have any forms, wrist bands, number plates, or anything else needed to register and sign up. They said that it would be about 15 minutes before they stuff got there. I decided to just wait in the club house, but 15 min quickly turned into an hour. Everything I had tried to avoid… crowded, hot, stinky, chaotic masses of people began to build in the club house, and it was quickly turning into an unorganized mess. My anxiety was kicking in as I just sat alone against the wall, waiting and hoping for everything to show up. By now 2:15pm the room was filled with every single person that was driving, I was starting to get worried that we were going to start late, and cause our track time to be short. Finally all the supplies arrived, and as they put out the tech forms, only to be rushed like when the piñata breaks open and candy pours out. THEY DIDN’T HAVE PENS! how was everyone going to fill these out?  I sat on my skateboard against the wall just watching everyone trying to figure out how to fill the forms out, and watch the staff trying and wrangle some sort of order into the room. They created a line and had everyone line up against the wall that wrapped around the whole inside of the building. I stayed seated trying to figure out the best way to go about getting registered, at this point I was just going to wait till mass died down a little. The track was scheduled to go hot at 3:00pm, it was now nearing 2:30pm, and we still hadn’t even had a drivers meeting. Desperate to keep everything on schedule, they decided to split everyone… advanced, intermediates went outside, while beginners stayed inside and had a half assed drivers meeting, while the rest of us who didn’t really know what was going on stayed in line against the wall. Since beginners were to go out on track first at 3:00pm, once the beginners drivers meeting was over they told all the beginners to go in front of the line to register. Once I made it to the front of the registration line the lady was apologetic, and I wasn’t even mad. I could understand they were having some technical difficulties, and I just wanted to make sure that I could get as much track time as possible.

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By the time I was registered and heading back to my pit area it was 3:15pm and the beginners hadn’t even gone out yet. They ended up going out a few minutes later, which set us behind schedule for the rest of the day. My group was set to go out at 3:45pm, I was so far at the end of the pit area that I couldn’t hear the PA system. 3:45pm came up and there was still cars out on the track, I watched to see when the checkered went out, then waited until I saw some people from my group head to the hot pit area. It was nearly 4:00pm, I headed to the hot pit and waited with everyone else. We finally go the green  and headed out on track.

This being my second time on the track within 2 weeks it was easy to remember every turn and know where I going. I knew what to expect, and where I could make up some time. After my first lap, the tires were warm and I was ready to go into attack mode. I was breaking later into the bowl area, and carrying more speed into other corners. I was getting some oversteer, and some minor understeer, and I also ran into some issues with my transmission. I had just recently installed the new hybrid shifter and I had the set it to its shortest throw, this was causing synchro grinding issues. At first I was bummed out because I was still on the fence about this shifter, and this only made me dislike it more. The last time I was at this track I had the FLP shifter and didn’t experience any synchro grind issues. Despite the grinding I was in full attack mode only seeing red, and slowing down or pulling off wasn’t an option. I still managed to keep everyone behind me as the checkered flag went out and I came in. I did my cool down rituals, and checked my tire pressure… JESUS! they we’re all out of whack. I had forgotten that after the last event when I got home I actually rotated the tires (putting the fronts on the rear and the rear up front) to help keep even tire ware. This meant that my rears had front tire pressure and my fronts had rear tire pressure. when I realized this I was pretty mad at myself for making such a rookie mistake, and not checking my tire pressure before heading out. I was still interested in what my lap times were, so I hastily skated up to the club house where all times were posted on the window. I was beyond excited to see that I had managed to not only PB pretty much every lap, but dip down into the 35’s (my personal goal for the day) As I skated back to my pit, I was overwhelmed with joy. I was so happy with myself and no longer did I doubt my ability as a driver. Only then I thought… Maybe it was going to be possible to achieve my stretch goal of 34’s, or even get into the 33’s like Patrick said. I now knew it was true that it was very hard to be fast at someplace you haven’t been, and the 105 degree temps last time were actually hurting my times (this is something that I wasn’t willing to admit last time because I thought it was just making excuses for my lack of skill.) Despite the temps being in the 90’s this time, I was still able to get some decent times right out of the gate. I managed to beat my PB from the last event on my first lap out.  Here is the results of my first session.

  1. 1:37.630
  2. 1:37.989
  3. 1:36.927
  4. 1:36.137
  5. 1:35.917
  6. 1:35.863
  7. 1:36.610
  8. 1:36.966
  9. 1:36.467

Once back at my pit I needed to address the issues I was having on track. I reached out to Patrick to see if he could give me some guidance for what tire pressures to be running on the Nankang NS-2R tires. Since these tires are so new he didn’t really have anything to go off of, so I was left to just guess. I decided to go with 29 cold up front, and 28 cold in the rear to help combat some oversteer (mind you this put me at 36/35 hot) because I remembered that I had heard the Nankang’s liked lower pressures. To also remedy oversteer I took two clicks out of my rear shocks, this would allow for the suspension to compress a little more and not be so stiff. Allowing the rear suspension to have more movement thus keeping the the rear end stable. Remember that as a basic rule of thumb, if you are too stiff up front you will get understeer and too stiff in the rear you will get oversteer. Now of course this is subjective to many different things, but it’s a very basic guide to help you diagnose and set up your car. The last thing I addressed was my synchro grinding issue. Knowing that I had the Hybrid shifter set to “shortest throw” I adjusted it to longest throw “OEM”. The adjustability of this shifter is one of the many awesome things about it. You can dial it in to what best works for you and your car. After adjusting the throw to “OEM” I never had another synchro grinding issue the rest of the day, and also never missed a gear. This is what truly sets apart the FLP and Hybrid racing shifters from other “short shifters” The ability to keep OEM throw so you don’t prematurely wear out your trans. Looking at my lap times you can also see just how consistent the Nankang tires are.

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My next session was to be at 5:00pm, but obviously we were not even close to being on schedule. Still not being able to hear the announcements, I just went out when I saw the same cars I was on track with previously lining up. This was around 5:40pm. Mind you that there was supposed to be a parade lap at 5:30pm, but I’m pretty sure that this was canceled. I lined up in the hot pit with my group, and we headed out at 5:45pm for our second session of the day. Immediately I could tell the car felt much better with the correct tire pressure and suspension settings. Honestly I couldn’t believe how much better having correct tire pressure and a couple clicks taken out of the coilovers made the car feel. Immediately the car filled me with confidence and I was ready to attack. I really needed that 34, and I really wanted that 33. My first few laps out I had to get through some traffic, but once in a good position on track I was able to really go for it. As you can see below, 35’s were now easy, and I finally managed that 34!

  1. 1:38.016
  2. 1:37.165
  3. 1:36.718
  4. 1:35.777
  5. 1:35.717
  6. 1:35.598
  7. 1:34.799

When I pulled back in, after my cooling rituals. I parked and just sat in my car… I reflected on how badly I was beating on it, and how amazed I was that it wasn’t giving me one single issue. It continued to stay cool, not burn oil, have no brake fade, or tire fade, and just kept consistently working. This time out I was really going hard on it. My trans was slightly too long (even though its a B000 SI trans) I found it better to just rev all the way out till it hit redline for three of the turns. On the front straight I would max out third and hit rev limit twice before I needed to hit the brakes. Then on the back straight before you would go into the bowl I could max out third just before rev limit, and lastly coming down the hill into the right hander I would just keep it in 2nd and hit rev limiter once, I then knew I needed to slow down for the turn. There were no cones or brake markers on the track so I began to use my gear selection, engine speed, and rev limiter as brake markers.

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While out for this session I was coming down the hill onto the front straight and I noticed that there was another truck backed in next to mine. The person sitting in the back of it was throwing up the sign of the horns as I went past. It turned out to be my brother! He came out to watch me, and keep my company. This was very exciting because now I was no longer bored in between session, and it was also fun to share my success with someone other than myself.

By now I’m not even using time as a way to monitor when I’m supposed to go out, we were so behind none of the times were relevant. My third session of the day started at 7:00pm. We headed out on track, and after the first lap there was a car that went off. The second lap we “cautiously” went around it, and on the third lap there was a black flag out for the whole track. We had to come back into the hot pit to sit and wait for them to clean the track where a bunch of rocks had gotten on it. After about 8 minutes we were let back on the track, unfortunately for me I was towards the back and had a lot of traffic in front of me that I needed to get through. Despite all of this I still managed four good laps then the checkered flag went out. I really thought this time out I was going to get the illustrious 33 but the car in front of me went off then came back on and I caught up to him, and was stuck behind him for the last two laps.

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Eric tried to snap some pictures of me out on the track, but because he didn’t know the camera was on manual focus he wasn’t able to capture one of me in focus.

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Heres my lap times from the 3rd session

  1. 1:38.075
  2. 2:23.049
  3. 8:08.239
  4. 1:35.941
  5. 1:35.404
  6. 1:34.513
  7. 1:34.861

For the fourth and final session I was hoping to make it out before it got dark… But by the time we headed out, it was 8:20pm and it was pitch black dark. There were no lights out on track at all, and to make it more complicated they had combined two groups. There was twice as many cars and it was twice as dark. The first lap out people didn’t even remember how the track went, or which part of it was track, and not just bypass road. I honestly had the most amount of fun this time around. At home I spend pretty much all my time driving at night and I feel like I’m very good at it. It was hard to see some turns or where the apex was, but I just used my brake markers (engine rev limiter, gear selection, and engine speed.) I just had to trust that when my rev limiter hit thats when I knew I had to brake. Its hard to wrap your head around this idea, purely because you can’t actually see the turn (headlights only help so much). Having a car right behind you can also make it difficult because their lights can blind you, so I remedied this by putting distance between us. It’s easy for them to stay with you if they are close because you are doing all the hard work for them. You are essentially their brake marker, and guide for which direction the track goes. But once you can get enough distance on them then they will start to fall back since they are more hesitant because they can’t accurately gauge when and where to brake, or turn. For the last three laps I was able to have a really good battle with an S2000, he would catch me on the straights then I would pull away under late braking and quickly navigating the corners. Driving at night really puts into perspective how good professional race car drivers actually are, you know.. The ones that do 24 hour races, or night races. It all seems easy in the grandstands, or the pit area where there is plenty of lights. But once out on the track they only rely on their headlights, and muscle memory to get them thru the track.

I was especially excited because despite the chaos on track, I was still able to get a 35 (it was almost a 34). Below are the lap times for the last session in complete darkness.

  1. 1:42.491
  2. 1:37.601
  3. 1:38.595
  4. 1:42.525
  5. 1:36.478
  6. 1:35.233
  7. 1:35.440

Alas I was not able to capture the elusive 33 time that would have made Patrick proud, but Im very confident that on my next visit I will easily be able to get into the 33’s and maybe hopefully even the 32’s.  Im so happy that I was able to get my time into a respectably quick bracket, and now I don’t doubt myself as much as I did before. There is always going to be someone thats faster than you, and if there isn’t then you should consider professional racing. Im Happy about my lap times, but im even more happy about how consistent they are. Im also super happy about how well my car held up, under the continuous abuse in hot temperatures.

9:00pm and my alarm to remind me to turn in my transponder and get my license back went off. Eric and I loaded up my car, and packed everything in. We headed to the chevron/Jack in the box right off the freeway, filled up with diesel and ate some tacos. We said our goodbyes and headed off in different directions home. I managed to get back home in Las Vegas around 2:00am, left everything on the trailer and went to sleep.

Trips like these are what help make the daily rat race we call life worth living. To think that in one day (18 hours) I can drive to another state, race my car around, totally forget about the stresses of work, and life, have an amazingly fun time, then turn around and head back home, just makes it all worth it. If it wasn’t for trips like this, I would have a hard time coping with the stresses of life, and work. I would be left contemplating why I put up with so much stress just to be able to afford my exuberant hobbies and would wonder if it was really worth it. If I didn’t have motorsports as hobby I wouldn’t truly be happy, and I can’t afford my motorsports hobby if I have a crappy non stressful job. It’s the vicious cycle that keep me going. Most people don’t share the same views as I do, but like they say: work hard to play hard. Yes, when at work I have to play the corporate game, and it kills me inside. But trips like this help me find my happiness so I can continue to roll on through life playing along with societies many games. Im grateful that I have such an amazing girlfriend that is cool with me doing these things, and can understand that even though she is the best part of my life, makes me happy, continues to put up with my silly passion for motorsport, and helps me deal with life’s stresses. She also understands that I truly enjoy this more than anything, and I wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world than on a track doing some sort of motorsport. For me there is no greater feeling than driving on a track as fast as possible, or achieving fast lap times. Even though it’s impossible to convey the feelings it gives me, and how only few can actually relate to lap times. It’s purely for myself and knowing that deep down I am good at something. Maybe I missed my calling as a race car driver, but I can still reap the benefits from the feeling you get driving a stupidly slow 90’s econobox around foolish race tracks that most people don’t even know exist, beating senseless lap times that mean nothing to anyone.

 

Sorry for lack of pictures, but it’s very challenging to be a one man army trying to do everything. below are a few pictures I took randomly when I was walking to check my lap times. Its only a few, but thats not because I only liked these cars. there were plenty of other awesome cars there.

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Please don’t mistake my excitement about my laps times for arrogance. Im very excited, but I’m still humble and realize that there are plenty of faster guys out there. These are all just arbitrary numbers that I set for myself, and I’m happy about being able to reach those goals. I will never be satisfied and I will continue to always try and drive down those times. Second by second, Lap by lap I will continue to strive to be faster.

I just want to remind you to not be afraid to take a chance and do a track day, everyone out there is super nice, and very approachable. Its truly the best way to forget all your problems and feel free, even if its only for a few hours. Those hours you will always remember, especially if you are PBing. Plus if you’re building a car, and its not being used for what you’re building it for… then what’s even the point, you might as well just be building legos.

 

 

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