June 22, 2012

A good test two days ago at ORP. There were several goals: to validate the significant suspension changes and evaluate them over bumpy/uneven pavement as much as possible, to compare shaved rain tires to grooved slicks, to test out cooling improvements and to get a new baseline on aero. Also, the crew from eGarage were there to do some filming. Look for a feature on their website soon. They should have some really cool video too, but in the meantime here's a clip from Tristan's perspective in the chase car (D4). It was interesting having every aspect of the test being recorded, even mundane things like removing the bodywork.

The big challenge in this test for me personally was that the car is hugely faster than I am. It really takes someone of David's caliber to push it to the limits. And yet my task was to stress the systems enough to see whether the changes we've made have worked. What also didn't help is that I had only gotten a bit over four hours of sleep, pretty normal for the last several weeks. So I had to be careful and methodical in how I approach the driving. Definitely had to use full throttle and shift at redline to test the oil cooling changes. The answer was to punch it on the straights and uphills (now carrying full throttle over the long crest), then brake early but hard enough to test the brakes and deal with the corners at whatever pace was comfortable but not push it there. Even so I managed my personal all-time best lap time of 1:46.2. The car is 12-15 seconds faster than that and it's readily apparent from the datalogs but I'm not the driver to do it. Pushing the gas pedal all the way down is quite an experience the first few times :)

While I don't want to give away too much technical information at this point (it's our competitive advantage!), I can say that all the test goals were achieved and now that we're back at the shop we have our work cut out for us, getting ready for the next test on the 26th. Since it will be all about aero we'll need a way to easily access the unerbody at the track. In the shop we do it by tilting the car on its side with an engine crane but it's a 1,500 lb piece of equipment and not transportable to the track. So I've designed a simple gantry crane that can be disassembled and mounted on the trailer walls. Below is a picture of how it works. It's something that we'll be offering as an accessory with our cars.

Right now Surjan and Bromley are building the crane while Tristan is fabricating adjustable wing mounts. We'll need to test several different rear wing configuratiosn and locations, as well as some front wing setups (you can see the front mount in the picture below, the wing itself is not shown).

The final bit of news is that difficult as it was we've decided to set aside the 4 cylinder turbo and race with the normally aspirated V8 (development of that engine will continue after the race). This means at least 100 lbs weight penalty vs what the car could be and probably not as much power at altitude as the turbo could give us, but at this point the V8 is a known quantity and we simply don't have the time or the manpower to get the turbo to the same status. So now all the focus is on testing and refining the remaining key areas - aero, cooling, tires and suspension. That's still quite a bit of work.

June 27, 2012

Of course the big and very unfortunate news is the wildfire in Colorado Springs - our thoughts are with everyone whose lives are impacted by this disaster. Some families have lost their homes already, many others will before it's all over. Unsurprisingly the race is now officially postponed with the new date to be announced shortly. Disappointing for us of course but it's insignificant compared to what others are facing. I lived a couple miles from the Laguna Beach fire in 1993 and saw how devastating something like this can be - except the Colorado fire appears more intense.

The news of the postponement came late this afternoon. Even though we considered it pretty much inevitable, until then we had been moving forward based on original race schedule, which meant we were planning to leave for Colorado this weekend. To that end we had to do some more testing. The goal at ORP yesterday was to get some idea of how different aero setups behave. Quite a few configurations were tried and logged (pictures below courtesy Pete Stoppani):

Much was learned but development is never done - now that we have more time we'll most likely do more testing and try additional setups. We also did some video equipment testing, in particular we tried one of our sponsors' products - the CMS Lap Timer. It's a great setup that leverages modern consumer electronics (i.e. iphone and ipod) to create a very sophisticated yet relatively inexpensive trackday datalogging solution. Here's a sample video from one of our runs (yes, it's a new personal best for me of 1:45.2).

Back at the shop it's time for sponsor decals. The scheme is not final yet but it's getting there.

The car is starting to look quite purposeful in its battle dress. Can't wait to see it on the mountain again, whenever that will be.

July 6, 2012

The new date for the race was announced a couple days ago - August 12. Technically this gives us more time but as a company we have many other things going on. For the last three months pretty much everything had been put on hold for the race. While it is still extremely important and there are some improvements we can and will make to the car, we also have to get on with the other projects. So this month will be a balancing act, which leaves the immediate fate of the 4-cylinder turbo in question. Technically we have the calendar time to get it done but it's not clear whether that will gain us an advantage or not at this point in the game and consequently it might not be the highest priority.

One of the areas we really do need to make more progress in is aerodynamics. I've consulted with some very knowledgeable people and also went over the results of testing so far. The outcome of all this is a new configuration (and several possible adjustments to it) that we will test next week at ORP. There are fairly significant changes to the underbody as well as the much more visible ones to the rear wing and the addition of a front splitter. Certainly makes the car look more aggressive! Should further improve cooling too.

Next week's testing will tell us whether the car is reasonably ready to go or if we need further work - when we tested in Colorado in June the car was nearly undrivable but we've come a long way since then. There is of course always more that can be done and we certainly don't want to leave anything significant on the table if it can be accomplished within the time and the resources.

This year has been a great adventure so far and we're eagerly looking forward to the race which will be the ultimate test of all our efforts. We are a small grassroots-funded rookie team taking on one of the biggest challenges in motorsport - as our very first competition event. Of course David's involvement and experience gives us a huge advantage and so we need to provide him the best car we can.

On a side note - you may have noticed our motto on the side of the car - "SEE THE LIGHT." It sums up our belief that small, ultra-lightweight vehicles are the key to ultimate performance and efficiency (for example we only used 2 gallons of gas for the full run up the mountain in testing). In today's world where horsepower is easy and the average mid-size family sedan weighs well over 4,000 lbs we would like to point out that bigger might not be better. We shall test this theory on August 12.