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TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/3/19 12:42 p.m.

New build / driving thread!  Mostly driving, but we'll see where things go.

I started reading GRM way back around 1997 - it was the "Z vs. Z" edition with the 240z facing off against the early 300zx.  I was hooked on the mag.  Wanted to try autocross way back then, and never actually made it happen. 

A year ago I bought the subject of this thread - brand new Chili Pepper Metallic Focus ST.  Love it.  Great around town, drop off the kids at school, grocery car.  Just the right size, with power and handling that still puts a smile on my face!  One of my goals in getting this car was buying something that I could drive in an autocross or track day with no excuses.  Just get out and go.

This April I got to got to ST Octane Academy in Utah.  So much fun.  Everything I hoped it would be!

Two months has passed and I've finally figured out a good day to do my first real autocross - Saturday June 8 is the day!  I just registered for the Rocky Mountain Solo Championship Series #5 event!

Game on!

spacecadet
spacecadet HalfDork
6/3/19 1:21 p.m.

In reply to TVR Scott :

Excellent!

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise HalfDork
6/3/19 1:42 p.m.

Congrats on the car, beautiful 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/3/19 1:48 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:

Congrats on the car, beautiful 

Thanks!  When it's washed the color still dazzles me.

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/3/19 8:23 p.m.

Funny story from dinner tonight.  My wife said she shouldn't be driving this car anymore.  She drove it some when I was in Spain two weeks ago, and now she says she doesn't like her 2010 Jetta's "slowness".

I have signed up for the autocross.  I'll admit to being a bit confused by the registration process.  It told me to just pick a number - so I picked #17 (my jersey number from high school cross country days).  Then after registration, I looked at the entry list and someone else was also listed having #17.  So I'm not clear if I'll be changing numbers or what.  Surely this isn't an insurmountable problem.

One thing I've never liked about the ST is that the gas and brake pedals are too far apart to do my goofy little down-shift throttle blip.  What I'm doing isn't non-syncro grade rev-matching, but it let's me let out the clutch while I'm braking.  So I ordered up some pedal covers from Steeda, and installed them on Saturday.

The accelerator pedal is about an inch wider than stock.  Here it is bolted/screwed in place:

The directions actually specify to undersize the holes for the #8 bolts and then let the tap the plastic.  Then they say to just get a couple hex nuts on there as backup.  A little weird, but it does seem stable.

I used my straightedge to line up the brake and clutch pedals:

And here's the view from the driver's seat:

The spacing is real nice now, and I can do my downshift blip just fine.  I did find that my shoe would catch on the back-right edge of the brake pedal when moving my foot from accelerator to brake.  I smoothed out that back edge with some 120 grit sandpaper, and it's much better now.

I then vacuumed the car and found:

  • One stocking hat
  • One ice scraper
  • Two barrettes
  • 10,000 seeds from the next-door linden tree
  • 50 lb of teenage girl hair
  • 27 lb of dog hair
  • 8 candy wrappers
  • Approximately 27 gnawed-off spat-out fingernails

All that from a pretty clean car.  Beware what lurks under the floor-mats and behind the cushions!

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/7/19 7:40 a.m.

Getting ready for tomorrow's autocross.  I think everything is falling into place.

The entry number thing I mentioned above was no big deal - the other #17 was in a different class.  So I need to print out numbers and letters tonight and make sure I have some masking tape.

Are there certain tapes that will bake in the sun and make a sticky mess?

Here's my packing list:

  • Helmet
  • Printed numbers
  • Water bottle
  • Lunch
  • Cooler
  • Chairs
  • Sunscreen & hat

Am I missing anything?

What about simple iphone apps?  Any recommendations?

Can anyone recommend a starting point for tire pressures?

 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
6/7/19 8:10 a.m.

For the iPhone, you can run Track Addict and get a pretty decent account of your run without any additional gear. Just remember to set the start and finish lines during the walkthrough.

Air pressures depends on your brand of tires and conditions, but if they are supposed to run 35 psi on the street, I would suggest 40 - 42 front and 38-40 rear as a starting point. Chalk the shoulders of your tires and adjust up/down from there.  Tire Rack has a handy guide: https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=58

I recommend a co-driver for the first run to make sure you stay on course,  your first goal is to get a time and not DNF! 

Then I recommend braking early at first, you will quickly learn that you can brake later and adjust your braking points to go faster on successive runs. If you overshoot each corner, all you've learned is that you went too fast and you have to start over again with a slower speed. Overshooting also messes up your line and wears tires. Brake early and accelerate through the turns if needed. 

As you get comfortable, focus on looking ahead, being smooth with your inputs, and finding the right line.

As you get experienced, focus on the best line, shifting weight to the nose, getting on boost at the right times, and picking up chicks.  

(Im kidding about the chicks, if there are baby birds on course the workers will shoo them off) 

 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/7/19 10:29 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve :

Great info, thanks!

The car is on the original Goodyear Eagle F1's.  I'll fill them according to your recommendations.

The organizers say they will have instructors available for beginners, so I'll liberally take advantage of that.

spacecadet
spacecadet HalfDork
6/7/19 3:07 p.m.

In reply to TVR Scott :

leave the car in sport mode also. with everything off, the car will initiate extra rotation. 

I will also recommend more pressure front than rear. the car doesn't need air pressure difference to rotate. 

you've been introduced to some of the driving the car likes at Octane Academy. 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/7/19 7:30 p.m.

Quick evening family craft project:

And now at least I look the part:

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/8/19 5:01 p.m.

Whew, crazy busy fun day!  Just got back from the Rocky Mountain SCCA Regional #5 autocross - my first autocross ever!

Not exactly sure how to organize my thoughts into anything readable, but here goes.

Worked a corner in the morning - I actually found it helpful to watch the fast drivers and the slow drivers and get a feel for the racing lines.  What to do and not to do.  There were some rippin' fast folks out there - CAM was a super popular class, as were a bunch of the Street classes.  The super fast guys were running 40 sec flat or even a little less, the fast "regular" cars were 43-44 sec.

Turned out my corner didn't need very much tending - it was part of a big right-hand sweeper that entered a slalom.  The guy who was two corners down from me looked like he was doing wind-sprints at track practice!

Afternoon runs:

First one I just took it easy and got a feel for the course and how the car was going to handle.  Time 54.15 - clearly off the pace but fine for my first run.  And I wasn't going home with a DNF.

Second run I turned it up a bit and felt more comfortable.  Felt the car rotating and sliding in the big turn-around sweeper half way thru.  Unfortunately I plugged a cone somewhere in there.  Time with penalty 51.490 - definitely the right idea.

Third run I had my cousin jump in and ride along.  My cousin has started doing some track days and stuff too.  He's big into sim racing and has been getting out for real lately.  Unfortunately his beater WRX is getting a new steering rack right now, so he just came to watch.  After the run he said, "Wow, that feels a lot faster than it looks!"  Time for Run 3 - 49.18 - consistent with the last one but no penalties.  Better still.  And I think my cousin is fired up to have the Yellow-Rat ready for the next event too.

Fourth run was sort of more of the same - 49.37.  So not really any faster but consistent and no cones.

For my fifth and final run, I just tried to drive harder and accelerate more all through the course.  And I got a nice bump for it with a time of 48.22!

Overall I scored a sweet 4th place out of 4 G-Street drivers.  Not shocking or bothersome at all really.  The other three drivers all had a few years of experience, and were chalking tires, checking and adjusting pressures run-to-run, and spraying down tread and radiators.  Their times were 43.61, 43.66, and 46.19, so I really wasn't terribly behind for a total newbie.  They all had runs with cone clips and all had runs close to or above my 48.22.  So I was definitely in the mix.  And they were all super nice too!

That's it for now.  I'll add some pictures later and see if I can upload a video or two from Track Addict.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise HalfDork
6/8/19 6:20 p.m.

Nice times

 

when is jetta going up for sale? 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/9/19 12:19 p.m.

Here's a video my cousin took of my last run.  I'll try to put up the in-car video from that run.

https://youtu.be/AFP6uBXAqr8

 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/9/19 5:06 p.m.

And the same run from inside the car:

https://youtu.be/mmY0OIESDnQ

I need to better secure the mount so I don't get as much shake.  Sorry that this isn't super fun to watch because of that.

BTW, Track Addict and Race Render are pretty cool programs!

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/11/19 12:46 p.m.

Just found out that my one-day $15 membership from Saturday can be applied to a yearly SCCA membership.  That's pretty cool, and is certainly welcoming to newcomers.

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
6/11/19 12:52 p.m.

And promised pictures from the grid - surrounded by CAM Mustangs:

And one farther away:

Also, my cousin told me that his WRX will be in G-Street too, so we'll get to race each other directly!  Cool!

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
7/17/19 12:04 p.m.

More events coming up this weekend! 

Saturday is an all-day autocross school.  I'm looking forward to a lot of seat time and instruction.  Should be really valuable.  As a bonus my cousin will be joining me with his recently purchased Solstice GXP.  And his son may bring along his 2.5 RS too - we'll see.

Then Sunday is another RM Solo championship race.  Will be fun to try competition right after getting all the seat time at the school.

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
7/17/19 5:24 p.m.

Minor "upgrade" this afternoon: put on my black/silver Octane Academy ST badges.  The front:

For those who don't know, when you attend the ST Octane Academy in Salt Lake, they give you these special badges that aren't available anywhere else.  Here's the back one:

I like how the new badges set off the orangy/red of the car.  The old red ones  were close in color, and these contrast more.

I also tore off the ugly dealer badge.  It actually came off way easier than I expected.  Should have done it a year ago.

There's my pointless style mod for the day!

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
7/22/19 3:55 p.m.

Spent the whole weekend driving the ST at autocross events, and boy did that tire me out!

For an added layer of fun, my cousin drove up from Colorado Springs with his new Solstice GXP, and took part in the event.  He even crashed on our pull-out couch so that he wouldn't have to do a bunch of extra driving.  He hadn't seen the TVR in person yet either, so it was fun showing him that on Sat night.

Saturday was Rocky Mountain Solo's Speed-train event.  We did three exercises in the morning, and then ran a timed full-course for a while in the afternoon.  The exercises were - Triangle course, slow slalom transitioning to fast slalom, and skid-pad.  The afternoon course connected all these elements into a complete course.

What I learned:

  • My seat has a manual adjustment for height.  I did not know that before.  Yay, my helmet now clears the roof without slouching!
  • I can brake very late on tight elements.
  • A Mercedes AMG C63 can be nicely hustled around autocross features by a total beginner.  There was a guy there pushing his new expensive car very well.  Boy was that a big car, though.
  • Fast slaloms can be taken at full throttle.
  • Keep those hands moving on all slaloms - no time spent with the wheel pointed straight!
  • My Focus will blast around a skid pad in howling full tail-out drift-boy mode.  I did this while looking sideways to the other side of the skid pad.  The instructor actually giggled a little.
  • If you get seasick at all, then autocross instructor will not be on your resume.  They soldiered thru admirably and with only moderate greenness.
  • You can put down a quicker autocross run by skipping the last offset before the finish line.
  • Cancellations for lightning stink when you're in the second run group and your runs get cut off half way thru the session.  Got 4 runs, which beats no runs.

Sunday was the next RM-Solo race.  Same location at Front Range Airport.  G-Street had 8 drivers in 7 cars.  There were two other Focus ST's (one with a co-driver), two Civic SI's, one Rabbit GTI, and an old Turbo New Beetle.  Everyone in this class is fast, and I will be working hard to become competitive.  Everyone else has RE-71's and is measuring tire temps and pressures.  Their times were in the low 34's on a day when the very fastest cars were going 30-flat.

I took my first run and promptly missed the first sweeping left-hander.  I knew it right away, so I just drove really hard for the rest of the run.  Almost spun on the turn-around when the back end started sliding like crazy.  Ended up with a flustered 40-sec DNF.  I don't feel too bad about missing those gates now - I worked that corner in the afternoon and saw probably a half-dozen others do exactly the same thing.

Run 2 I took very conservatively - wanted to get a time on the board.  Ended up with 42.6.

Run 3 I just pushed harder to see if I could chip down that time - 39.6.  Better.

Run 4 they told us would be our last.  Weather expected in the afternoon, so they wanted to get run group 2 on the course.  I pushed a bit harder still and tried to look ahead, and ended up with a 39.17.  So that's good.  Dropped some time with every run.

I ended up 7th of 8 in my class - my first non-last place finish!  I didn't get to talk with the guy in the Beetle - he might have been a total newbie too.

Looking ahead I want to start understanding tire pressure and temps.  The car seemed to be hooking up a little better on the fronts and stepping out a bit in the rear.  I want to get that a little more neutral, maybe.  I plan on running the stock Eagles thru the end of the year or until the totally fall apart.

My cousin had a ton of fun too in his first ever autocross.  He managed to clock a 39.69 best, and wasn't far behind one of the other A-Street drivers.  He picked up some used wheels for the Solstice this morning - he's totally hooked!

 

Rodulrich
Rodulrich New Reader
7/22/19 5:36 p.m.

I have a 2017 Focus ST daily driver that I've autocrossed once so I'm no help.  I want to take it more often but want to get better with my 98 Prelude track toy so I usually take that.  Thanks for sharing, I'll be watching this thread.  :)

Floating Doc
Floating Doc SuperDork
7/22/19 6:52 p.m.

Addictive, isn't it?

I've enjoyed reading your posts.

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
7/22/19 8:39 p.m.

In reply to TVR Scott :

If you want to chase the rear less, run more front pressure. I would say trying a 40/35 Front/rear pressure setup would be a good place to start. Also, don't dive into the corners as much. the car will rotate but you're more likely to blow the corner. brake early and then get the car turned and get the wheel straight as soon as you can as you accelerate out of the corner, if you're properly slowed you can take a tighter line and let the car carry out a bit more on exit. 

This is my feedback and advice after running my focus for 18 months. 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
7/23/19 1:29 p.m.

Thanks for the advice everyone.  I know you guys are all way more experienced than me.

At the next event I'll start taking tire pressures seriously.  Do the tire chalking, get my garden sprayer out, etc.

In reply to spacecadet :

Did you do any alignment tweaks on your car?  What else as far as using all the G-Street rules?  Anything else you'd recommend?  Though that said, I still know that most of the improvement is with Yours Truly!

I'm out of town for the next even, and the following one is on the same day as my grandma's annual family picnic.  My cousin and I are debating ditching the picnic in favor of the autocross!  We've made the last 25 years worth of picnics and at least we'd be sharing time with family.

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
7/23/19 4:50 p.m.

In reply to TVR Scott :

My focus has never seen an alignment rack. The car is a strut in spindle sleeve design and there's not any play in the upper strut mount holes so I didn't bother trying to mess with the car to get any camber and the car rotates plenty on its own and turn in is very fast, So I didn't see any need to mess with front or rear toe. 

I never felt the rear bar binding but other say they do. A progress Rear sway bar is currently the popular option with the strano bar no longer in production and Sam has sold out of them. 

Garden sprayer will probably not be worth much since your tires are a compound not very sensitive to temperature like the super 200's can be. 

Buy a decent longacre or Joe's racing gauge from Amazon and look at how much you are rolling the tires onto the sidewall and now much of the tread block you are using to monitor if you need more or less front pressure. 

I would not go too low up front with running the 18's you'll have limited sidewall and you don't want to debead the tire. 

TVR Scott
TVR Scott HalfDork
9/10/19 9:39 p.m.

Lordy, it's been way too long since I've been to an autocross!

That will change on Saturday.

I'll be heading south for the latest RM Solo event.  My cousin will be there with his Solstice, and we'll see if we can make some smiles and angry-tire-noises.

Game on!

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