I think most of my problems this weekend were a result of having bought a new road car. After a ten year sentence of driving a minivan, I finally bought myself a real car. My new 1986 BMW 325 has gobs of torque, and it's a blast to drive in the snow!
In comparison, a stock Chevette, especially when driven on glare ice,
is noticeably MUCH slower. All weekend long I kept thinking this
Chevette really has no power whatsoever. I wasn't sure if that was
just because I couldn't stop comparing it to the BMW, or whether it really did have
less power than I remembered from last year. More on that later,
when the dastardly details of Plan-B are revealed...
Below is a series of images illustrating my first and only spin of
the weekend, not counting the one other spin when I was punted off the
track... This incident occurred during the first Rubber practice
session while I was still struggling to figure out the peculiar handling
of this car. The numbers on the track map indicate the locations of
the following images. A video clip is at the bottom of this page.
|Here I'm trying to turn left into the hairpin at the end of the fast
front straight, but the car would much prefer to keep going straight.
It just doesn't seem to want to turn at all under braking.
I've slowed right down, but the car really still wants to go straight and it stubbornly resists my efforts to turn it into the corner. I've already missed the apex by a wide margin.
I give it a quick shot of throttle to try to swing the back end around, but the rear tires stick and only push the front tires even further offline.
I hate understeer!
Finally I resort to giving a yank on the hand brake and, Whoa Nelly, that does the trick immediately! The rear of the car swings around, we're successfully pointed down the next straight, and away we go. But that was a piss poor corner -- definitely not the optimum line through the hairpin.
|Upshift into third gear, and now we're approaching the left-right
zigzag on the back straight. It's fast, but very slippery.
Although the track is quite wide, there really is only one line through
The studded cars have already chewed a fast line through these corners and thrown a small berm of loose snow off to the right edge of the racing line. Beyond that is EXTREMELY slick ice and then the outside snowbank.
If you stray too far to the right here, you will immediately find yourself stuffed into the outside snowbank.
|Apex on the left, drifting nicely through the lefthander...
That was a bit too far sideways, and now it's not coming back.
|Note the rearview mirror. That's my buddy from last year,
Chris Zuke in Red #98.
I'm seriously out of shape here, pretty well broadside to the intended line of travel. He's right behind me, and pointed straight at me. That would suggest that he's also very sideways, probably as a result of having to swing wide to avoid hitting me.
I really don't want to fetch up broadside on the racing line, so I stay on the gas to spin the car off to the left where there's lots of room to get out of the way.
|It's not so bad. I didn't hit anything, and I'm in no danger
here. (I added the red dashed line in this image just to show that
I'm well clear of the racing lane.)
Jim Graham later managed a 360 degree spin here in thick traffic right on the racing line (thanks to a helpful push from someone else), and he has a scary video clip from a similar view but with several cars splitting past him left and right.
Note the large drift angle typically used by the Rubber cars as they come sliding through this third gear corner.
|The Rubber class has a mix of front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive
vehicles, all on rubber street tires. No studded tires in this
This is Diedrich Will in his #27 Honda Civic. I teamed up with him later in the weekend for a fun Relay race. More on that later...
|Over the course of the weekend I eventually had a LOT of contact
with this multi-coloured #92 Chevette. This was one of the very
few times all weekend where we managed to cross paths without hitting
Luckily this is just a practice session and positions don't count for anything. While I'm trying to get turned around, and before I finally get back up to speed, at least six cars will have passed me.
Everybody on the racing line flies past me. That's the strip that's been tractionised by the Studded cars in the previous practice session. But I'm struggling to find any grip whatsoever to accelerate back up to speed over here on the smooth ice surface.
Other than for one similarity, they're each rear-wheel-drive, this Chevette is definitely not the same thing as a BMW. But, so what? As long as everyone is driving Chevettes, we're all relatively equal. Right?
But, I was starting to wonder about that too. There are some handling issues that need to be sorted out here. This car is much too tail heavy. There's not enough bite on the front end to get the car turned into the corners and, once sideways, the heavy rear has a nasty tendency to keep swinging right around. And, even once it's all hooked up on the straightaways, there's never enough power for acceleration. It just seems sluggish.
If this was the Mclaren F1 Team, the mechanics would swap the engine and fix everything else between sessions. Instead, at the conclusion of this practice session I just unloaded several ballast sand bags from the trunk hoping that might improve things.
See the First 3 hits where the banging starts...