Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off to the track!

Each year for the past eight years, Mach V Motorsports (that's my business) has sponsored a National Autosports Association (NASA) HPDE weekend at Summit Point Raceway.  We invite our staff, friends, customers, and other Mach V fans to come out, drive, hang out, and have a good time at the road course.

Silver Mach V Awesome wheels
It's also a chance to put our cars and parts to the test.  Track driving is hard on tires, brakes, engines, and suspensions, and really shows the nature of how the car handles at the limit.  You can learn things about the car on track that you could NEVER find out on the street -- at least not without being arrested.

In preparation for our track sessions, we fitted up a set of lightly-used 235/40R17 Dunlop D1 Direzza Star Spec tires that we picked up from a local customer.  The Star Specs are one of our favorite high-performance street tires.  They have terrific grip in the dry, and aren't bad in the wet as long as it doesn't get too cold.  The 235/40R17 is 0.9% smaller than stock -- close enough not to matter, but in the direction of better acceleration, which we could certainly use in this car.  We put those tires on a set of our Mach V Awesome wheels in satin black (on the right side) and silver (on the left).
In the paddock
We also fitted our single-outlet muffler delete.  Between the lighter wheels, ditching the muffler, tossing out the spare and other related stuff, the car weighed around 60 pounds lighter than stock.

We needed every ounce of that weight savings.  I was in the HPDE 3 run group, with experienced drivers, many of whom were in high-powered hardware the little BRZ could never keep up with.  I spent the weekend pointing by all manner of Corvettes, Porsche GT3s, track-prepped Mustangs, Evos, and STIs.  Not every car out there was a big-power brute, though.  I was also passed by a turbocharged Toyota Tercel, and various Mazda Miatas.
Anyway, adjustments to my ego notwithstanding, the car was a treat to drive.  It cornered flat and without drama, and the cornering attitude was nice and neutral.  It would step out a little under power out of the corner, but it never threatened to spin, and never did anything that surprised me.  This was my first time on the track with this car -- actually, my first time on track in any rear-drive car -- so I left the traction control in full nanny mode for the weekend.  The traction warning light was blinking pretty much at every corner exit, but it was less intrusive than I feared, so I just left it on and concentrated on learning how the car behaved.

It's on!
Our car sits on Mach V lowering springs.  I was really happy with how the car worked with the new springs.  Summit is a fairly bumpy road course, and some of those bumps happen under hard braking or acceleration.  The car never seemed unsettled by the uneven surface, and the ride to and from the track was perfectly comfortable.

Reviewers have praised the stock brakes, so I thought I'd see how the car did with just stock pads, rotors, and fluid.  The answer is...not so well.  The front brakes got very hot during every session, leading to a soft brake pedal.  As the pads wore down over the weekend, things got worse, and after a few sessions the pads were smoking.  By the end of the weekend -- we did about seven half-hour sessions in total -- the pads were pretty much gone, the pedal was mushy, and the rotors were badly scored.  So, next time, we'll at least install some pads intended for track use, if not a complete brake upgrade.

Overall, I really enjoyed driving the car.  The driving style for the rear-drive, low-powered BRZ is very different from the grunty WRX I'm used to driving, so I still have a lot to learn, but driving the car on track is fun and rewarding.

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