Friday 18 April 2014

All American Holiday. Part 4: The Car

After practice (11 laps) I report back to Greg. He says all the cars are reporting back a loose condition, so they are going to do a cross-weight adjustment on all the cars.

In Pro 4 Modified, there are two classes. The main class is allowed modified versions of the 4 cylinder engine found in all the Pro 4s. They also have coil over shocks and use a cut slick tire which, although isn’t ideal for grip, I suspect it is very good for balance and gearing with these low powered cars.
The second class, and the one I am in today, uses a standard engine and a standard shock/spring (including leaf springs on the rear!) package as well as big wide slick tyres. Because the spring and shocks are stock items, the only way to adjust cross-weight would be to space the spring (Not an easy processes) or, as Greg does, adjust the tyre pressures on opposite corners of the car.

We miss the second practice, hoping that the track will rubber in, the weepers will dry out and the whole place will be more like a race track by third practice. At third practice I roll onto the track, the green flag waves, I floor the gas and watch as my left front wheel starts to depart from my race car. I hit the brakes as the wheel continues on its merry little adventure, oblivious to the yellow that is now waving. It tries to follow the banking but eventually decides it has had enough and ambles back to the infield. “You appear to have yourself a lugnut issue!” Explains the man with the tow truck as he arrives to move my stricken race car back to the pits. “Indeed.” I replied.

“Did anyone get the times?” Greg says back in the pits. “Kelvin did the fastest half a lap I have ever seen!” He jokes, “Well you told me to driver the wheels off it.” I retorted. We examined the hub, there was minimal damage. The wheel bolted back up ok and we were ready for qualifying.

It occurred to me, as I was strapped in, waiting with the qualifying line-up, that I hadn’t actually asked anyone what the qualifying procedure was. As a direct result of not asking anyone, no-one had told me and, therefore, I did not know. I made the assumption that it would be like the old NASCAR qualifying; out lap, two greens, slow down, then in. I think this was right. It is what I did anyway and nobody told me otherwise.
The car was still loose as hell. I could just hang on to it. I know its two laps on cold tyres but still.

Back in the pits Greg has another look around the car. He finds a bent right rear shock absorber. You can hardly see the bend but the shock won’t compress. He bolts on a replacement and we are ready for heat one.

I line up 4th for heat one and figure I am just going to lunch the car into turn one and hope it sticks like I would expect. If it doesn’t, then I am on the outside of the race track so, when I spin, it shouldn’t affect everyone else.

I drive it in and sure enough, it drives like it should, a little loose but much better than before. In a few laps I have driven around the other three cars and am leading. I now want to go back to seeing how much speed I can carry on a tighter line. The answer comes with another spin. Not that much it seems.

The problem with low powered cars is that momentum is everything. You need to carry as much speed through the turn with the minimum amount of sliding, steering lock, brake or anything else that will slow the car down. But this is also part of the fun. It requires really precise lines and allows you the time to see the differences and consequences of car position. It gives you the time to really look at these situations. Time which you don’t have in faster cars. In fast cars you have to do these things on instinct or because you KNOW they work.

So I go to the back for causing the yellow. I start looking at different ways of getting around the race track. I pass a few cars and decide that the best line is early into turn one and two, and then late into turn three and four. This is because the backstretch opens out much more than the front stretch despite my findings, I am unable to catch the lead group. In fact, I am watching them get away. I start moving braking and throttle-on zones around. Braking hard and late puts the car sideways. Earlier and less seems to be the way to go. I find I can mash the gas pretty hard without upsetting the car. The race ends, I finish 4th. (see the video here)

Next up is the Trophy Dash. A  Trophy Dash, I found out as I drove around, is when a group of cars get put into a four lap death or glory race to the flag. The winner gets a pot.
I don’t know how the cars are selected but I guessed we were picked for being slow. There were four of us and I was on the pole. My intention was to come to the flag slow and floor it just before the green dropped. A good and cunning plan, but the car couldn’t pick up from as slow as I wanted to go. The outside car got a good run off of turn four and I was quickly dropped back to last. 

***All the crap you see written here is Kelvin's opinion and not that of his associates, race team or marketing partners.***

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