This winter I have been working on preparing my car for the class I was running in last year and will be again this year. This is my first attempt at really preparing a car, so a lot of my articles here will be about my experiences as a n00b to car set up.
The first thing that came up for me and I am sure comes up for others is “Where Do I Start?” There are so many possibilities of modifications to be done to a car, it’s really hard to know where to start. A great place to start is to read The Rules, even if this is not your first time preparing a car or if you already have a car it is a good idea to read the rules every year to make sure a rule change does not affect you. I know that seems very simple and possibly boring, but the rules are a great resource to get you started on your journey.
If you do not have a car yet or have not decided which car you want to drive or set up, the rules can guide you through the class eligibility of the car. This can be very important in the decisions you make, as you don’t want to get stuck in a class where either the car itself doesn’t have any kind of competitive chance or the upgrades that you plan to do (or have already been made) don’t put you some place you would rather not be.
The rules can also help you choose the class you want to prepare your car for. Most of us have limited budgets when it comes to our cars, so knowing what upgrades (or other costs) it will take to be competitive can really help out in the decision making process.
If you have a car and know what class you want to be in, as was in my case, the rules can still be a very useful place to start.
For starters, reading the rules can keep you out of trouble by making sure you don’t do something you can’t do. One thing to remember is that if the rules don’t explicitly state you can do something, you can’t do it, no matter how small or trivial it is. So make sure to check out everything before you do it, because the last thing you want to do is to spend money or time on something that you may have to undo later on.
While you are reading the rules it is good to make a list of things that you can do and some things to watch out for when you are making decisions on which parts to buy, etc. Without a thorough understanding of the rules it can be very easy to do something that crosses the line and doesn’t make your car legal for the class anymore. The rules are very specific on what and how things should be done, so it is somewhat easy to do something you are not supposed to do because you would not have even thought about it being a big deal.
Since you now have a list of legal modifications you can do, it will be much easier to pick out the items you want to do to get started and quickly eliminate any ideas that you had previously, that don’t make sense any more, giving you a great place to get started.
There will be mud…
Switch supermarkets. Eat cardboard. Do whatever it takes to find a few extra quid a month. Because Prodrive has just launched this Impreza Group N rally car and for the first time ever, you can have it on a monthly lease plan. Then, after two years when you’re the new Seb Loeb, it will be yours (after one final and probably rather fat payment).
Or if you’ve got a spare £120,000, you can buy it upfront. Prodrive reckons it’s almost as quick as next year’s WRC cars (when the championship switches to less ballistic regs), while costing half as much.
The key, we’re told, is the air restrictor – its diameter has increased by, erm, a whole millimetre. With the new set of lungs, some high-flow fuel injectors and a tickled ECU, you get 20bhp more than the old car. It also gets new dampers with more travel.
And if you go for the lease-plan option, Prodrive will throw in free insurance, which is useful when you hit trees and goats and stuff.
One of the first things to realize when it comes to car control and attending your first event is that things need to be linked together. You are not shooting down a straight, going through the braking area and then turning the corner. You need to imagine the entire course as a fluid trip and find the fast way from one element to the next. It is always easier to start out slow and learn to speed up then to develop habits that you need to “unlearn” later. This is not to say the Solo racing is not aggressive because it is, and once you “get it” meaning the flow of it you will ramp up the energy to combine fury with smooth.
A common mistake for beginners is to make the car extremely stiff right off the start. This places far more pressure on you as a novice because the car will react faster than you know how to. In this situation you will always be behind the car (slower) and take much longer to get it right. The softer set up will be slower than a properly driven set up car, but a poorly driven stiff car will always be slower than a well driven soft car. The tires will not have as much time to communicate with you before loosing traction when a car is stiff, and they will take a “set” faster making the available slip angle (steering angle or sliding angle of the tire) much smaller thus the window of grip will be reduced for you to “learn”.
Check tires often so you can see how the changing temps affect the pressures. This will help you learn how to “tune” the cars handling without having to change parts right away. You will also be able to optimize overall grip of the existing suspension. Don’t mistake the markings on the sidewalls (scuff marks onto the sidewall of the tire after a run) as always the need to add air. Ask yourself if you caused it or the tire did. Over steering when you have lost grip will cause this and the hardest thing to learn is that you are are causing it and not always the car. You need to get the feel for when you have lost grip and “stop” turning the wheel, this is the way you let the grip catch up. This is one of the absolute hardest things to learn about car control and when you master it you will be amazed what can be done with a car.
Welcome to the all new GotCone.com blog, which will hopefully provide some tips and discussion of ways to make you and your car better. And we all want that don’t we? I am hoping the blog will become a great resource for all things autocross, rallycross and racing in general.
If you don’t know yet who I am, my name is David and I am the one who has taken the majority of the photos you can find in the photo gallery. I also drove a 2008 BMW 135i in STU last year and will be doing so again this year.
Mark is currently the Performance Auto Manager at Woodhouse Auto Family. Mark competes in SCCA Solo, where he currently drives a Dodge Viper and has finished as high as 2nd at SCCA Solo Nationals (in ESP).
Jon has been participating in autocross since 2000 and has driven a wide variety of vehicles. Jon has trophied twice at Solo Nationals, 12th in STX (2009 Solo Nationals E30 BMW M3) and 12th in STS (Subaru 2.5 RS). He has also competed in rallycross on a somewhat regular basis. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to car set up and has recently started his own business (Tarsust).
Christy drives a 2006 Subaru STi in STU(L). She placed 3rd at 2009 SCCA Solo Nationals and 2nd at the 2006 SCCA Rallycross Nationals and has been participating in autocross and rallycross since 2005.
Hopefully some of you will find the information that will be provided in this blog useful. If you have a topic you would like addressed please feel free to let us know.
If you would like to contribute to the blog please let me know, as I would like to add a few more people to the blog.
For autocrossers living north of 40 degrees, winter can be an excruciating time. The season has ended, a new one doesn’t start until mother nature decides. We’re stuck with our cars in the garage and our tires in the basement. (You know, because our garages are never insulated as well as we wish they were.) So how is it possible to stay in top-autox shape with snow on the ground? Here are a few ideas that are helping us through the dark months.
1. Invest in a good game console, wheel, pedals, and that HD LCD TV you’ve been dreaming about for a while now. I highly recommend the XBOX 360 with Forza 3. This year, we purchased a gaming seat from playseats.com to suppliment this experience. It was well worth the investment. Practice daily to keep your eye-hand coordination in tip-top shape.
2. Make a ‘wish list’ of items to get for the car. If you are doing a new build for a new class, this is essential. Start getting parts now for fast fitting, in case you need to make adjustments. Its better to make those adjustments early in the season instead of the week of nationals. Figure out your budget and race schedule.
3. Focus on the fitness of the driver. Are you in the best shape you can be? Could you lose a few pounds? Focus on stamina and dropping weight safely. Remember, weight off of you is also weight off the car.
While we may not be able to drive every weekend, we can still prepare for the upcoming season, even with snow on the ground!