Knocking the rust off

Knocking the rust off

It’s been 241 days since my last track day, and two weekends ago I was finally able to get out onto the track again. Sure, in California, track days have been going on for some time now, but in the Las Vegas area we haven’t been so lucky. Covid has put a halt to a lot of extracurricular activities in Vegas, which is why when I found out about this event I knew I had to sign up.

This event was on a weekend (Saturday and Sunday), and with my new position at work most of you will know that it has been forcing me to put most of my hobbies on the back burner. However, I wasn’t about to let this one slip by. There was much chatter amongst my group of friends talking about how they were all going to sing up for this event, so I knew if I missed out it might be a while before we were all back out on track together.

This event would also mark the first time I would be driving my car with the B16 swap and I was keen to see how much improvement there would be with the heart transplant.

Another notable upgrade I did during the engine swap was, installing spoon calipers and Project mu r999 pads. (which are amazing)

Ok, enough backstory, lets get to why you’re here. You want to read all about our adventures on track.

To start things off, Covid had again reared its ugly head… That’s right, social distancing, masks, and even temp checks where in full swing. This made the drivers meeting, tech, and registration much different than normal. However, I do feel like the changes it made were actually for the better. Registration was simple and there wasn’t a crazy long line like normal, the drivers meeting was done in the pits via a PA system, pit parking was great because people were assigned “zones” to park in (which meant people wouldn’t be parking on top of each other), and tech was a breeze because they would just come to you and tech your car where your pit was. All in all, despite having to jump through a few extra hoops, Covid really didn’t make things much worse.

There was 8 of us total that were going to be attending the event:

Ever in his MRS.

Pat in his S2000.

Scott in his E36.

John (AKA) SOHC DADDY in his CRX.

Marlon, in his Evo X

Dan, in his S2000.

Chris, in his RHD E30.

And lastly, Myself, In the 4 door EK.

Now hopefully you will be familiar with our roster and will know who I’m talking about later on in the post.

It all started early Saturday morning, I was meeting up with Ever at his house at 5am and then we were going to meet up with John, Marlon, and Pat at a gas station at 5:30am. By 5:05am I was already fed up with Ever and his shit. You see, no more than 12 hours prior, Ever was at home doing a final once over of his vehicle to make sure it was all ready to go. As Ever was going over his car he noticed that his right rear camber was more negative than on his left rear and he decided to adjust it to make it more even. He made the adjustment, evened out the camber and called it good. So early Saturday morning as we left his house and it was clear that something was not right with his car. We pulled into a gas station by his house to see would could be causing the problem and I asked him… Didn’t you drive the car last night after adjusting the camber? No he said, “I just adjusted it and went to sleep” (classic Ever)

Some of you might already know why his car was feeling strange while accelerating and decelerating, but for those that don’t let me explain what happens when you only adjust your camber. When you adjust your camber, it will throw the toe off, and on Ever’s MRS it threw it WAY OFF. So at 5:05am in a gas station parking lot we did an eye ball toe adjustment just to get him the 20 miles to the gas station to meet up with everyone on time.

We arrived at the gas station about 15 min late, yet still before John. Ever said that his car was driving straight enough to make it the 50 or so miles to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, and that once we had gotten to the track we would be able to dial in his alignment more precisely.

By 6am we were on the road to SMMR and we arrived just as the sun was peaking over the mountains. After unloading our cars we jumped straight into aligning Ever’s car. Unfortunately, we don’t have a smart string set up… So some fixed chassis points and a tape measure would half to suffice.

Ever had done a few things to his car since his last track event in February. Things like, going from a 205 federal RS PRO to a 245 Hankook RS4 all around, and installing a Cusco rear sway bar. Adding a last minute eyeball alignment to the list of things that were different meant that he was going to have to re learn his car.

But enough about Ever and his struggles, lets continue on with our day.

After unloading, getting our pit set up, and fixing up Ever’s alignment. It was now time to sit back and wait for them to come by and tech our cars.

As per usual, Scott and Chris were fashionably late, which meant that they had to pit in a different zone than we were (which is why I don’t have too many pictures of their cars). In fact Chris was so far behind that he pulled up in the middle of the drivers meeting stealing the attention as he drove by with his pink RHD E30.

Due to social distancing there were no passengers or instructors allowed in vehicles on track and this meant that there was now going to be one less run group Usually there is a super beginner group with instructors in the car). This time around there were only three run groups: White (beginner), Green (intermediate) , and Red (advanced). Once the drivers meeting had concluded the Red group was to immediately head out on track. This meant that Pat, John, and Scott had to quickly get ready and head to the hot pit area for the parade lap. Usually PCA (Porsche club of America) does the 3.4 mile config, but this time they were going to be running the Andretti 4 mile config. This configuration was more technical than the usual layout and is why they were insistent on doing a parade lap for each group, because this would ensure everyone knew the proper way to go on track.

I managed to snap a quick one of pat as he headed out for his first session of the day.

And one of John before heading out.

With temps in the high 90’s we would really only have the first session and maybe the second session to have any chance of putting down good lap times, or so we thought. Pat came out swinging on the first session with a 3:13.xx and was content with that, but the session after lunch he managed to slightly improve for a PB of 3:13.22 on 255 Hankook rs4’s. Below is a video of that run.

I was up next in green group and I was a bit nervous because like I said earlier it was the maiden voyage with the b16 swap. If you followed the build of the B16 you would know that I was running Hondata s300 that I had tuned myself, and I’m not talking about just putting a base map on it. No, I’m talking about doing my own street tune and making adjustments based on the wideband that was wired to the ECU. I have NO previous experience with any sort of tuning, and really had to do a lot of research to fully understand what I was doing. In the end though, I was able to adjust the high and low fuel and timing maps to get the car to run consistent AFR’s. With a new swap and a tune I had done myself, I was embarking on what was either going to be a great weekend or a terrible one.

Luckily for me the car performed flawlessly despite running hot after 4-5 consecutive hot laps. When I say hot, I mean it was throwing the CEL for the temp warning that I had programed in Hondata. I had the warning set for 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and even though the temp gauge on the dash was still in the normal operating zone, while using the Hondata app to monitor exact temps while on track it would spike to 217F. This was great information because like most of you, I was just using my dash temp gauge to monitor temps and assuming since it wasn’t above normal on the gauge there was not issue. In reality 217 water temps in pretty hot.

On my car I am running a half sized radiator with only the OEM oil cooler. I do have a spoon fan switch and thermostat but that still wasn’t able to cut it, even with my newly installed hood vent. I’m trying to decided weather or not to go full size radiator, or just install an actual oil cooler.

One other last minute modification that I did before the event was install that oil cap “breahter” thing I had recently seen on instagram that a couple other people were using. Eventually I will be just welding bungs on to my valve cover, but since I was short on time I figured that this would be a simple enough bolt on. This ended up not working well for me and since there is no baffle, or way to stop the oil from flowing to the catch can, the catch can ended up filling up quite a bit with oil and then the crank case pressure being blown out was forcing oil out of the catch can filter and all over my engine bay. You’ll notice that on Sunday (day 2) I opted to remove the whole set up and just put a filter on the valve cover. I will revisit the catch can set up before my next track outing.

On my first session out I managed to get a 3:24.xx and honestly I wasn’t too happy with that, but I did remind my self that I had to knock the rust off and get back in the groove. Remember that in 2019 I was doing events monthly and even sometimes twice a month, so to not have had any seat time for 241 days it was understandable. For the rest of Saturday I would go on to dabble in the 3:23’s, 3:22’s.

This time around I was also trying out a new tire, the Falken rt660. This tire has really good initial grip, but then starts to fall off after a few hot laps. I can see why this tire gets good reviews among most users (only because most users are only doing AutoX with it or spirited “canyon” driving.) For the average consumer though… hell, even I’ll rave about how good this tire grips when cold. Once the tire is heated up it starts to become a bit “greasy” feeling. It still was a good tire, and I imagine if the air temps weren’t in the high 90’s they might not fall off as quick. I did have a few times where I lost grip, but it was very easy to feel and control. I think for the price of these they are definitely worth it.

On to white group, Ever, Marlon, and Chris: While Ever and Marlon are no strangers to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch (usually they do the 3.4 mile config) this 4 mile Andretti C configuration was new to them and they both had to get used to a certain section that we all call the “touge” section. So as they went out for their parade lap they were eager to see what Pat and I had been talking about (Since Pat and I did the same config at Audi club in January.)

Along with Evers new wider tires and Cusco rear sway bar, he also purchased something that would make the heat a little more tolerable. (hint, take a look at his helmet)

That’s right! he got A/C for his head. Well sort of A/C, its not cold air but it is airflow and he does say it works. He says “it feels like I don’t have a helmet on, because the air is flowing thru my hair”. You can see the filter mounted to the right of his seat, and he just ran it to a switch on his dash and now at the push of a button he gets fresh air blown into his helmet and at velocity too.

Ever started off with a lap time of 3:35 while still trying to learn the track and get used to his new set up. After lunch during the third session he ended up doing a 360 off, his car was fine other than just full of dust and dirt. By the time the fourth session was coming around we all pretty much had mild cases of heat stroke from being in direct sunlight all day and kind of just went out on track just because, but not really trying to push.

Marlon, went out every session and enjoyed every minute of it. His times started off (obviously learning the track) in the 3:30’s. His car, unlike his last trip to buttonwillow was issue free too and this made it all the more enjoyable for him.

Chris… Oh man, where do I start. Friday night his car was experiencing some over heating issue due to either not having the coolant system properly bled or possibly a bad thermostat, but in true Chris form he still drove the car all the way to the track (60+ miles). Even though the car was getting a little warm on the drive he was still going to send it, because after all, the motor had already given him ten trouble free years of service and all ten of those years were not easy for it. Anyways, Chris got to the track, passed tech and was set to go out for his parade lap. While on the parade lap the car throws the water pump belt. Chris then runs into town to get another belt, as he is replacing the belt notices the water pump pulley is actually the culprit and at that point on Saturday afternoon he realized his weekend was over. It’s also worth mentioning that the last time he brought this car to the track the fuel pump went out before he could even get on track, which also prematurely ended his weekend.

This year Scott is competing in the NASA TT series, more specifically the TT5 class. For him, this weekend was spent more on dialing in his car to be as competitive as possible. He has recently added new MCS suspension and was forced to try out a different tire. When I say forced, I quite literally mean that he was unable to get his beloved RS4 because it was out of stock in his size. Covid, tariffs, or what ever the real reason is, its no secret that tires of all brands are becoming harder and harder to find (at least in the 200tw and below category) Because of this, he was now running Dunlop Direzza ZIII’s.

There are no lap times for Scott because he wasn’t able to get his app to work and rather than fuss with it, he was really only there to focus on dialing in his car for his next TT5 race.

As Saturday ended Pat, John, and Ever left their cars at the track, hopped in my car and drove back into town with me. Scott had towed his car to the event so him and Chris went back to town in his truck, and Marlon had actually rented a hotel in Pahrump so he didn’t have far to drive. Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch has a 24 hour monitored secure entrance, and there are always people with RV’s that sleep there too, so we aren’t too worried about our stuff getting messed with. Leaving our cars, and all of our supplies there makes things so much easier the next morning because there is nothing to unload or nothing to set up.

Ahhhh, Sunday. I picked up John and Pat at Pat’s house, then drove over to pick up Ever and we hit the road headed for Pahrump. Today was starting out to be a good day and everything was normal as we pulled into our pit. Marlon of course who had stayed in Pahrump was there just before us and was getting his car unloaded.

For Sunday, Pat had brought his second set of wheels that were wrapped in some almost done NT01’s he just wanted to completely use up. He was busy swapping out the Titan 7 T-S5 wrapped in the RS4 street tires for the R comp fitted 17×10 ICB motorsport AE Seven forged wheels.

I was busy doing my usual swapping the tires from front to back just to keep wear as even as possible.

John was busy trying to diagnose an oil leak. As it turned out he had a leak in the sandwich plate adapter for his oil cooler. This meant that he was going to have to run no oil cooler for the rest of the day, but it really didn’t matter because his skunk2 radiator was able to keep the temps of his D16 in check.

And then there’s Ever… This knuckle head left the key for his car 60+ miles away back at his house. In true Ever style, he just decided he is going to try and get his car started without the key (rather than just drive back to his house to get the key)

Yup, nothing like a good ol’ hammer and screw driver to get the car started. Oh wait, doesn’t your key have a chip in it? Off to his house he went to retrieve the key. Once he was back he realized that the ignition was too damaged for the key to go in (because he was trying to hammer a screw driver into it). He ended up missing his next two sessions while he was wiring the ignition to a switch, but was finally able to get the car started for the second half of the day.

Sunday also brought with it, Dan and his white S2000. Dan wasn’t able to make it out on Saturday because he had to work.

Dan, while very much familiar with the 3.4 mile config was not familiar with this config and was going to have to learn the tongue section of the track. Navigating the unknown section of the track wasn’t his only issue for the day. Half way through the day his exhaust came disconnected where it slips on at the axle back, and his car, still outfitted with a stock radiator was starting to get hot.

Here is an in car of Dan’s PB from Sunday.

Johns exhaust had also fallen off on Sunday too and he ended up just running straight header for the remainder of the day. Coincidentally he also managed to PB while running only straight header. Was it because he car was faster? Or was it just a placebo because the car sounded faster which in turn made him driver more aggressive? He thinks that the car in fact was faster because he was having to shift in places where he wasn’t shifting before. His PB with on Saturday with exhaust was 3:19.6xx and on Sunday with straight header was 3:18.0xx. Was the lack of exhaust piping enough to propel him a second faster around the track? Keep in mind that he was consistent 3:19’s and then with no exhaust was able to do 3 consecutive 3:18’s (and Sunday was hotter than Saturday)

Here’s a video of John PB lap

Scott continued to fight a small amount of understeer and with a goal of zero counter oversteer he spent the morning adjust the MCS suspension with no real results. After his third session in an attempt to cure the slight push the car had he opted to swap out rear sway bars for a larger one.

After returning to the pits from my session this is what I was greeted with.

4 dudes trying to bolt on more oversteer.

Everybody jumped in to help Scott quickly get everything switched over so that he get make it out for the last session and acquire more data of different sized rear sway bars.

As I mentioned earlier, for Sunday Pat had switched to the NT01 tire and pretty much bolted on a PB. Below you can see the video from Sunday with his 3:09.70x PB (on NT01’s) He managed to shave ~3.5 seconds just going from a 9.5 inch wheel with RS4’s, to a 10 inch wheel with NT01’s. (same size tires)

After spending the first half of the day “wiring up” his push button start Ever finally was able to make it out for the 3rd session.

After battling all the forgetting his key headaches, the heat, and just being “over it” Ever finished out the day not so much chasing PB’s but just trying to have the most amount of fun as possible.

As for myself, thanks to some coaching from John, I was able to find a 3:20.523 (shaving off ~2 seconds) which I was happy with considering the air temps were pretty high.

If it weren’t for the catch can set up issue and getting hot, the car would have performed flawlessly. This is all just a part of the process and now I can learn from these issues, fix them, and be without incident on the next track day.

At the end of the weekend, none of the bad stuff matters though. What matters is the time spent with friends having fun, getting the all-important seat time, and learning about weak links on our cars, so that we can modify them further to increase reliability for future events. As you go about your busy life don’t forget to stop along the way and enjoy it and make sure you are doing something that justifies you working like a dog.

You can’t take your money with you when you are dead, but you’ll always have the memories you’ve made along the way. Stop putting off doing things out of your comfort zone and make some kick ass memories! Otherwise, you’re just another drone marching along to your death and never truly enjoying the march.

Marlon was the only one of us to get the classic “Michelin Bridge” shot. Honestly we were so burnt out at the end of the day on Sunday that it just totally slipped my mind

Thanks to all my readers for bearing with me as I struggle to produce weekly content as I have done for the past year. I promise that I’m not going anywhere and will continue to be doing awesome things with cars. All though the recent struggle to produce weekly content has taken some of the wind out of my sails I won’t float along aimlessly forever.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this post or any others… Please don’t hesitate to ask. Email me at Billy@functiontheory.com, DM me on Instagram @Functiontheory, or just comment below and I will get back to you. If you truly like what we are doing on this blog, please don’t be afraid to share it with the world.

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