ICEngineering Subjects

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sno*Drift 2011: More Videos

We made it back home today after a leisurely drive back to Ann Arbor. I'm happy to be home, and I'm sure that my memories of the rally will become fonder as time passes. As it is, I'm half thinking that rally sucks. It's so hard, and I'm not even driving! But I did really enjoy it too, so it's not like I'm going to quit.

Anyway, thanks to Chris for pointing us to a video of our big off from SS14. You can see it here starting at about 7:50

I also uploaded our in-car footage of that entire stage, so you can see what we saw starting at about 6:30 in this video.

Thinking back to it, we really should have just had the spectators push us out and we would have been able to finish the stage, but we're still new to this, and we still would have lost a ton of time in service anyway. It's unlikely that anything would have made our sloppy second day much better.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sno*Drift 2011 Day 3: SS8 to SS18

We were feeling really good about our results from yesterday, but we were also concerned that with the significantly faster stages today, our power disadvantage would really manifest itself. We definitely weren't able to keep up the blistering pace that we had yesterday.

Even as co-driver, and knowing what corners were coming up, I was just deathly afraid that I'd mis-count the crests and not tell Sean to slow for tight corners when we were going 80-90 mph down long rolling straightaways. Luckily, that didn't happen even though it just meant that we were a little more cautious than we actually needed to be.

Sean had his own problems, as he woke up feeling a bit nauseous and this lasted through most of the day. He couldn't eat or drink without feeling worse, but of course not eating and drinking also made him feel pretty bad.

After establishing that Sean wasn't as comfortable going super fast, we merely went pretty fast. So we weren't way up in the standings like we were yesterday, but we still did ok.

The first service was not terribly eventful, and we ended up just putting on some chemical toe warmers while the crew looked the car over a little. Then we all went over to the Super Special Stage in the Buttles gravel pit. This was a lot like a rallycross, so it was somewhat familiar territory. It was pretty rough though at least right at the beginning, and it may have led to this:

We did pretty well in the Super Special Stage, but after that, things got a little bit sketchier. At the very end of SS14: Camp 8, we were headed downhill toward a very tight right hander, but we didn't slow nearly enough and ended up slamming into a snowbank sideways at 60+ mph. That was terrifying and we both thought we were going to roll the car. Also, we were only about 100 yards from the finish. Luckily, we only debeaded one tire, so we promptly got to work fixing that. Additionally, we happened to be in a huge spectator area with a commentator who said something like "the co-driver can run down the road and get a time," so I did. Running in the snow sucks, and then when I got to the control, they told me that that wasn't actually a rule. Luckily, as I was headed back, I noticed that Sean had gotten the car back together and was coming to pick me up. We ended up losing about 10 minutes on that stage.

The next stage, the 15 mile long Camp 30 was nearly as scary. Again, down a hill into a hard and icy right hander without slowing enough, and we smacked a snowbank with the left side of the car again. This snowbank must have been a bit harder, because now the car didn't drive quite right and made terrible noises when the left rear suspension was compressed. We finished out this crazy long stage and had a look, and we noticed that the wheel suddenly had around 8 degrees of positive camber. We didn't have much choice but to finish the next stage before going to service, so that's what we did.

We texted the crew to look for a new rear beam and rear axles. By the time we got back to service, they had obtained some extra parts from Matt Bushore and we were all ready to fix the car. All of the crew was involved as well as people who weren't even part of our crew like Matt and a couple of spectators who we happened to know. We went way over time on our service, but got the beam, stub axles and brake rotors replaced within an hour, just in time to be able to continue the rally. Like I said before, our crew is amazing.

We finished out the last two stages with some cautious driving just so we could actually finish the rally. Results for the day weren't nearly as good as yesterday's, but we were excited just to finish. I think we did pretty well for our first rally, and just a couple of mistakes in the second half cost us an obscene amount of time. At least we're going home with 2nd place in G2 for the Sno Regional Rally. Next event hopefully will be the New England Forest Rally in July. We'll be making a lot of changes before that event, so watch the blog for details!

Sno*Drift 2011: 2nd in G2!!

Results are here for the Sno Regional Rally, which is just on Friday. We're 2nd Place in G2!! Unfortunately, I screwed up the very first ATC, which cost us a minute, which is the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Still. 2nd place is pretty sweet. Also we're 5th overall for the regional rally.

Here are results for the National guys. We're sitting in 3rd overall for Sno*Attack (you can't actually see that directly. So if Sean just drives smooth, fast and clean like yesterday, we have a very very good shot at being in the money for Sno*Attack, and even possibly taking the lead for the Drift Regional Rally (which is just Saturday).

I'm still working on the video upload because YouTube hates me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

2011 Sno*Drift Day 2: Stages 1-7

We kicked off the morning by attending another mandatory novice seminar, and then we tried to rush to the Practice Stage in the half hour or so that we had left. We got there with 15 minutes to spare and promptly found that we had low pressure in one of our tires, so we spent the whole 15 minutes seeking out a team that would "lend" us some air and eventually didn't get to do practice. Bleh.

While we were gone, our crew found us a really good spot for service in Lewiston, just outside of a nice restaurant/bar. We all hung out in service for a bit as Brandon and Dmitriy cooked up some food and made some coffee.

We were both pretty anxious to get going, so we were pretty happy when it was time to leave Parc Exposé on our way to the first stage.

The stages were great, and we were going even faster than I expected after recce. After a couple of wild corners on SS1, Sean got the hang of driving on the surface and we started going really fast. In fact, we had to make two passes on stage, which was exciting. Here's a video of us running SS3: East Fish Lake.

Somewhere in the middle, we get caught out behind an Open Light Subaru and after some frustration, we passed them in a huge spectator area. It was pretty exciting. By the time we got back to service, everybody had heard about this story and it had really grown in scale. Now people thought that we entered the corner side by side and we almost hit them...and they were 12 feet tall and ate children! It was crazy. We rolled back into service after the infamous Ranch stage which is rough and tight, and really didn't have a lot for the crew to do. The car held up great. We pretty much installed and aimed the lights and checked that all parts and fluids were still present (they were).

And off we went on the night stages. Halfway through SS6 Greasy Fishlab (I love that name), I started feeling a little bit motion sick which sucked. Then, we had a very short transit to SS7 Orchard Lake so I had no time to recover and then we embarked on the longest stage of the rally. I managed to survive and Sean drove admirably with my kind of distant note-reading. I made it all the way to the control at the end of the stage and politely asked if I could use their woods. That sucked, but at least I didn't throw up in the car. I think I'll put on a new Scopolamine patch tonight.

Now we're all very tired, and we resume the second half of the rally tomorrow morning with Parc Exposé in Atlanta at 8AM. I'm excited but apprehensive. Rally is hard. The results haven't been published as of the writing of this post, but I'll try to get them up when they get posted.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 1: registration, tech inspection, and recce

We thought we were early when we showed up for recce late registration at 7:30am this morning, maybe even that we'd have time to grab some breakfast. But instead we surprised the volunteers at registration with our intention, and when they had that figured out, they were rushing to get us out in time! Recce is pre-running the stages, at legal speeds and in a non conspicuous car, to get an idea of the course and to clarify the stage notes. This means driving over two days worth or roads, more miles than the trip up in the first place.

So after 6 hours of sleep, no shower food or drink, and what turned into 5.5 hours of driving stages, we finally got a 20min break at Subway. Then we drove for another 2.5 hours until 5pm. Wow, shower and dinner was appreciated, recce is a lot of work. Thankfully, Kyle and Cory took the car to tech, 3rd car through and surrounded by the factory teams. The horn was called "weak and feeble" by the head inspector, but otherwise sailed through.

But the stages look great, it seems there's an interesting technical theme the first day, and a more open and higher speed second day. I'm sure the roads will get swept down, and it won't be as soft as today when the temps go down to the high teens this weekend, but it's no skating rink. And I'm looking forward to driving without cringing at every rut. I thought I might garage the R32 for the winter when I first bought it, certainly nothing like this:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rally #2, Post #1

We're here and we're ready. And it sounds so simple! Of course, the suspension rebuild after LSPR took as long as it could (ramping up as the rallycross and Sno-Drift approached), and the assorted mechanical prep will always be significantly more involved than expected, but the car is straight, seems reliable, and drives correct.

But that's less than half the trouble. The other half, and just as critical, is the planning, structure and support. And I've needed and gotten more help and support than I imagined I ever would. For the second rally in a row, we have the best crew at the event. Dmitriy is bringing his truck, it's full of our stuff - he just had to go to work like a normal person. Brandon's joining, and between the two of them, they plan on providing grilled food (with vegetarian options) and coffee at each service. Kyle is returning to crew, right now he's still an hour out, on his way down from Houghton on his own. Cory says he's just mooching, but he's driven the rallycar halfway, and he'll be joining Kyle getting us registered and getting the car through tech while Kenneth and I casually stroll around the stages tomorrow for recce.

So, thanks to all the help from our friends, we're ready to run Sno-Drift. Thanks to an even larger circle, we were able to run LSPR. Without the help, I'd still be running my daily driver in rallycross. Good start, let's see how far we can take it.

Sno*Drift 2011: Day 0 (?)

Today, we made our way up to Lewiston, MI for the 2011 Sno*Drift Pro Rally. We decided to try our luck a bit by driving the rally car up rather than hauling it on a trailer. However, we are also planning on participating in recce, so we brought Sean's 2004 Golf R32 as well. Sean and I were leaving from different places, so he entrusted the R32 to me for the day and we met up about an hour into the journey. I also picked up a friend of ours from the University of Michigan Cycling Team, Cory Dubrish, who wanted to come up to Sno*Drift to spectate his first rally. This was handy for us because he, along with Kyle Steinkamp (half of our LSPR crew) would be able to take the car through tech tomorrow while we're out recce'ing.

This was also convenient because driving the rally car, well, sucks. So we had another person to lay this burden upon, except that Cory thinks that driving the rally car is cool. Win win! I ended up driving the R32 the whole way up (not a bad deal, as it's super quiet and comfy) and Sean and Cory switched off in the rally car. Here's Cory struggling with the belts. He's a little bit bigger than either of us.

The trip was generally uneventful, and we showed up a the Sheridan Valley Motel just before 10 PM. We even got to sign the proprietor's Sno*Drift poster, so that was cool. Signing stuff is still very novel to me. We gave Cory a quick rundown on what to expect in tech, and now we're just waiting on Kyle to arrive from way up there in Houghton. We're excited about recce. Here's a picture of the two VW's.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lucky HANS

Two pieces of exciting news:

1. I ordered myself a HANS head and neck restraint. I ordered and paid for the cheap FRP HANS Sport, but somehow I scored the super sweet double-expensive carbon fiber HANS Professional. I also now have sliding tethers so I can finally look around while I'm in a racecar. Awesome!

2. The blog is now up to date! Hopefully all updates from now will be live rather than in retrospect like all of my posts today have been.

Rallycross: DRSCCA 2011 Season Opener at Crystal Motor Speedway

We pieced the car back together with its new suspension bits after it had been sitting on jackstands for nearly 3 months, and accomplished a battery relocation in there somewhere too. We were just in time for the Detroit Region SCCA's Rallycross Season Opener at Crystal Motor Speedway. Weather was perfect for a Sno*Drift shakedown, as a lot of snow had been falling in the days leading up to the event.

We had a very competitive class in Modified 2WD with Jon Armstrong and Burke Davis driving Burke's recently rolled-over Civic and Nathan Usher in his new-to-him rally GTI. Even so, the IC Engineering GTI handily took the top two positions, and I even managed to edge out Sean for the win. The course was a lot of fun, with high and low-speed sections going in and out of the oval track at the Speedway. The GTI performed flawlessly, and the hydraulic handbrake made a world of difference in the times that the car was capable of. The fact that not only did the car make it to the event and back, but also took the two fastest times of the day looked very promising for the upcoming Sno*Drift rally. Now if only the heater worked a little better...

Results here (PDF)

Front Suspension Upgrades

After LSPR, Sean put the car back on jackstands and basically removed all of the suspension. Obviously, we wanted to fix the wheel-falling-off issue, but we figured that while we're in there, we can do a little better.

First order of business, new wheel bearings up front, super long press-in wheel studs all around and slightly larger MkIII brakes. These mods are pretty straightforward except for the fact that those bearings are a giant pain in the butt to remove.

The other change was some major mods to the control arms. Reason #1 is that the big squishy rubber bushing on the control arm's rear mount tears unacceptably easily. Reason #2 is that we don't want to break them, and it sounds like that's a thing that happens. To address these problems, we replaced the aforementioned bushing with a big spherical bearing, and then welded reinforcements all over the arm. Thanks to Matt Bushore, a fellow Ann Arbor rallyist, of Bent Mettle Racing for ideas.

Lake Superior Pro Rally - Part 3: The Recovery

We didn't want to make the long drive back to Kenton to get the car out of the woods in the dark, so after a couple of phone calls confirming that we weren't in some sort of deep wilderness tow-away zone, we decided to retrieve the car on our way back home. Armed with a come-along and a ridiculous plan, we headed back to Passmore.

Here's where we went off. The tire tracks in the middle of the photo are ours. This is about where we stopped.

And here's how we found the car. Apparently the lug bolts had all sheared off between the hub and the wheel spacer.

We "re-attached" the wheel by crossthreading a couple of bolts back in, and started pulling it back onto the trailer with the come-along. The wheel was obviously not mounted true.

This took about an hour, but at least the whole hour was hilarious. In that last pic, the car is being held up by that jack in the lower right and an assortment of tree branches that Dmitriy had found (visible to his left). Finally, to get it home safely without tossing a wheel at some poor motorist on the highway, we fastened the wheel back to the hub with a ratchet strap.

Then we drove home. In the end, a disappointing rally but still great fun and a very valuable learning experience. We'll be back at Sno*Drift hopefully with a car that doesn't fall apart!

Lake Superior Pro Rally - Part 2: The Rally

After a good night's sleep, we were ready for the big show. Unfortunately, LSPR was reduced to a one-day rally for 2010, but it was a pretty long day with nearly 260 total miles, 90 of which are on stage. Sean and I spent some time in the Novice Competitor Seminar while our awesome crew tied up a few loose ends before Parc Exposé. Parc Exposé had a totally different feel as a competitor than it did when I had spectated in the past. For example, a little kid came up to Sean and me to ask for our autographs on his shirt! He was actually just asking everybody in a race suit, but I still thought it was awesome. Here's a shot of us leaving Parc Exposé:

Here are the highlights:

Parc Exposé->SS1:Green Acres: Somewhere around our out-time, we left Parc Exposé and headed over to the beginning of the first stage. We had somehow neglected to do an odometer calibration beforehand, so we used that transit as our calibration, which ended up working perfectly. Sweet.

Green Acres 1: Our first competition stage. Green Acres was basically a giant rallycross set up in the Moyle Gravel Pit. We started off the stage Ok, but I very quickly got lost in the notes and told Sean to ignore me. I thought I knew where I was a couple of times but was dead wrong. This was embarassing. The next thing I know, we're getting waved down by the workers at the finish who are getting bigger in the windshield at an alarming rate. "Didn't your navigator tell you where the finish was?" they hollered at us. "Um...we're new at this." That sucked. Now I was worried that I was going to botch this co-driving thing all day.

Green Acres->Houghton Service: We were still a little confused after finishing Green Acres, so we just drove to the end of the gravel pit. This was a bad idea. Turns out the notes start right from the finish, so I was already lost on the transit. Great. So we drove back to service because we knew where it was, but it turns out we were supposed to enter from the other side where a fueling depot had been set up. Workers in service were wondering what we were doing going the wrong way through service. Oops.

Herman 1: Our first stage in the woods. Lots of fun, even hit some sweet jumps! Um...I got distracted by that first jump and didn't call out a hard left in time and we ended up sliding off the road a bit. We didn't hit anything big, but the car got jostled a bit. Finished out the stage, including a really wet section by the end, where we hydroplaned by two cars that had gone off. The GTI took it like a champ, only letting a little bit of water into our footwells.

Menge: Uneventful stage. I'm starting to get the hang of navigating, Sean is beginning to drive a little more based on what I say (which is scary). I think we're both a bit more comfortable in our roles. This stage is beautiful and I'm sad that I couldn't find photos of us on it.

L'Anse Service: Did I mention that our crew was awesome? We pulled into our very well-chosen and roomy service spot where Dmitriy and Kyle had lunch ready for us as well as drink refills. Sean said he was noticing some weird rear suspension behavior, so he decided to pull the right rear hub and stub axle (which he is an expert at). With a little help from Ryan Thompson of Thompson Racing Fabrication, the corner was back together with a brand new stub axle in about 10 minutes. Basically, I went to the Rally America truck to figure out where we had been re-seeded and by the time I got back, we had a new corner. Amazing stuff, really.

Herman 2: Same mistake as last time, though Sean vaguely remembered and I didn't (dammit!) so it was pretty minor. I need to make notes on stage when I screw things up. We managed to stay on the road this time around though.

Passmore: Here's where things got interesting. I had written things like "FAST!" and "GO GO GO!" in my notes in many places on this stage, and it certainly lived up to that. We were going really fast. Suddenly, I look up for the next corner and we're sliding through the leaves off the right side of the road. I'm not too alarmed, thinking to myself, "Oh, Sean just overshot the corner a little and we're getting back on the road," as I keep diligently reading the notes. Turns out this wasn't the case as I looked up again to see us narrowly miss a tree on the right side and then come to a stop as the ditch gets deeper and tilts the car to an unsettlingly steep angle. Sean says "The wheel came off" with surprising calm about him and we run out to set up triangles. Apparently the right front wheel came off and ended our rally. It's scary in retrospect, but I didn't even notice anything when it happened.

So we sat out the rest of the stage (obviously), and at one point, Sean went wandering about to find the wheel that had been launched into the woods at around 70 mph. We eventually got towed out by sweep and the car was left by the roadside because we wouldn't be able to recover it in time for the second running of the stage in a couple of hours. A very helpful volunteer drove us out of the stage back to the Kenton Service where we broke the news to our crew (which had grown to include Jon Tinsey, who was kind enough to drive us back to Houghton).

Lake Superior Pro Rally - Part 1: The Lead-Up

On to the fun stuff. Our first stage rally was the Lake Superior Performance Rally held way the hell up in Houghton, MI. Sure, it's the same state but it's ridiculously far away. We could have driven to Florida in the time it took us to get to Houghton. We were lucky enough to round up a stellar crew for the rally, consisting of Dmitriy Martynov, a fellow rallycrosser, autocrosser and stage rallyist as well as Kyle Steinkamp, who is a real rally enthusiast with some crew experience. Kyle's a student up at Michigan Tech in Houghton too, so that was actually very helpful. Dmitriy was kind enough to provide his Tundra as a tow/service vehicle, so with the four of us in the truck, the bed full of junk and the rally car on a rented U-Haul trailer, we made the trek up to Houghton.

We left on Thursday evening, and drove about 4 hours to Mackinaw City at the northern tip of Michigan's Lower Penninsula. We then slept a little, and in the morning, crossed the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Penninsula. Which is Gorgeous. We stopped at a scenic spot for some fresh air, a look at the coast and some photos.

When we finally got to Houghton, we checked into our hotel, unloaded the car and went through registration and tech surprisingly quickly. After a nice lunch in Houghton, we made our way to the surprisingly-hard-to-find practice stage where we finally got to see what this whole rally thing is all about. I felt a little silly reading the same directions four times in a row as we drove what was essentially a rallycross, but it was a great exercise to get acquainted with the notes so we both could associate the words with actual road features. Here we are getting ready for the practice stage:

After practice, we had dinner and went on a rampaging shopping spree to prepare for the next day. We got all kinds of things like hi-liters, a little file pocket, lights, and my favorite item, a purple Barbara's Way by Stanley tool bag.

Motion Sickness Revisited

With LSPR coming up, I had to get this motion sickness thing figured out. Apparently (and unsurprisingly), motion sickness is an oft-discussed problem in navigators' circles, though most just suggest Dramamine or Bonine, both of which have failed me miserably in the past. On a sailing website, I came across an over-the-counter drug called Marezine, so I ordered some from Amazon (couldn't find it locally for some reason), and asked Sean to hurl the car around with me sitting shotgun and reading a book. That didn't work so great. now I needed prescription strength stuff. I went to my doctor and he recommended a transdermal Scopolamine patch. It goes behind my ear and infuses my brain with drugs that make my inner ear not work or something like that. We did the reading/driving test again, and it was much better. So we were counting on that to work for LSPR. SPOILER ALERT! It worked like a champ, and I didn't feel a hint of motion sickness the whole time I was reading notes during LSPR.

More Rallycrossing with Detroit Region SCCA

I don't really remember what happened for a while, but I know that the car was up on jackstands in Sean's garage for a while, and at some point it was at my house to weld in some trigger teeth for the Terratrip, and at another point I was trying to figure out the car's ultra-messy wiring and pulled a few pounds of unnecessary wire out among other things. The next thing I know, it's September and we're going to another rallycross, this time at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds in Marshall, MI to do a shakedown before the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

This rallycross was a lot of fun, as we were getting the GTI into third gear pretty regularly and the car was driving great. I was actually leading in the morning session just by virtue of not hitting too many cones, and Sean was just behind. Halfway through the afternoon runs though, we discovered that the car was leaking fuel and with Jon Armstrong (the Tech Chief) right behind us, we couldn't really just keep running. Luckily, Jon offered up his super awesome rallycross Civic for both of us to drive, so we finished out our runs in a much louder, higher-powered car. I managed to hit enough cones on my last run to drop from 1st to 3rd, but Sean took the win and fun was had by all.

And of course thanks to Jon Armstrong for the car donation!

First Event: Rallycross Eastern States Championship

The first event that the car saw under new ownership was the Eastern States Rallycross Championship on May 22, 2010, held at the Lenawee County Fairgrounds in Adrian, MI. Just prior to this event, we pulled the GTI into my garage, replaced the master cylinder and re-ran all of the brake lines, including the installation of a hydraulic hand-brake and a proportioning valve. I don't have pictures of this, but they're somewhere. Driving the GTI to the event was really the shakedown to prove that the brakes still worked. It leaked fluid all over the hatch floor...but it was just a loose fitting, so we tightened it up and all was well. The car was great for this event, with Sean taking 4th of 10 and I was a bit behind in 6th. Results are here (PDF). This was my first experience racing a FWD car, so that's my excuse. Here's a picture:

My Role In This Nonsense

Then, for some reason, I decided to ask Sean if I could navigate for him. I thought it would be fun, I suppose? What you have to understand is that I've never met a single person who suffers from motion sickness to a greater degree than I do. Sometimes I start feeling a little woozy while I'm driving myself around. That's just wrong. So of course I knew this, but I figured that even though every over-the-counter medication I had tried before had been completely ineffective, I'd find something that would work for this task that involves being violently tossed around in a car while reading a book in my lap. So...I put that off for a little bit. More on that problem later.

First Things First

I guess the first thing that happened is that Sean bought a GTI. It just happened one day (February of 2010 I think?); Sean called me and said "I bought Billy's old rally car" or something to that effect (That's Billy Elliot Mann, local autocrosser/rallycrosser/rallyist extroardinaire). I was surprised, but also excited. I don't know/remember much of this, so maybe Sean can put it in a post later. So there's a car. Here's a pic from when Billy had it: