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Old 01-13-2003, 12:35 AM   #1
HoRo1
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Default Willow Springs Report

Well, what can I say? A huge turnout of almost 140 cars! The people at Alfa Romeo Owners Club who organized this event without pay did a magnificent job. Except for a minor hitch on Sunday afternoon, everything went wonderfully well (except for me, of course). Even the weather was great - dry and warm. For those of you that don't know Willow Springs, its in the high desert about 75 miles north of LA and is often brutally hot and can get very windy in the afternoons.

Day 1.
I arrive knowing that I will improve on my WOEFUL 1:54.13 set in my first ever time trial at this track last June. I get to the track at about 7AM (bloody freezing) and unpack. Find 2 friends that I first met at Alfa Club driving school last February at the adjacent "Streets of Willow Springs" track. I hang out with them. They have a box trailer with all the stuff - I think it'll make me look cool to be seen with them!

I'm in run group 1 - first out at 8:45 on a cold, clear morning. I have at least learned enough to know to be cautious for the first few laps to warm up my Azenis. I quick trip to the bathroom and I'm all set. My fourth lap is under 1:54 according to my new "Hot Lap" timing system. I am on a roll. I start pushing a little harder and as I try to go quicker the car gets harder to control with the worst understeer that I have ever experienced. This is much worse than at Sears Point 10 days earlier. Under braking the car is all over the track. I return to the pits dismayed. Maybe a little more negative camber at the front. I'm already running -2 degrees front and rear with tyre pressures of 32lbs (cold) all around. I'll check those tyres pressure when I get back from the bathroom. Something that I had for dinner (I think) was having a violent disagreement with my stomach. This goes on all day. By the time I have collected my thoughts, I have wasted a second session in a borderline undriveable car. I seek help and a simple measurement reveals my problems. I have 1.75 inches, yes inches, of toe out at the front. Where the hell did that come from? Front negative camber is changed from 2.5 to 1 and adjustments are made underneath the car until a figure of about 1/16 toe out is reached. After about my 8th bathroom trip, I manage to drag the car around the track in about 1:48 - it is still understeering hard, but at least I feel comfortable (relatively) behind the wheel. By 3PM I'm driving back to the hotel feeling completely "drained" - physically, mentally and gastro-intestinally. I have had a fig newton and a granola bar (edit: Nutri Grain bar) to eat all day (what kind of a moron with diarrhea eats figs in any form?)

Day 2
After a God awful night's sleep, I have pancakes for breakfast. If ever a food was invented specifically to block the digestive tract, it was pancakes. It works!
Get to the track, drive at 8:45AM and run a 1:47. Better, but nowhere near my 1:42 target. Getting on the brakes for turn 1 at 120 - my, this can get exciting.
Session 2 - 1:45.7. Getting closer, but the car is understeering like there is no tomorrow through 3, 4 and 5.
The "officially" timed laps. I go off 3rd in my group, but I notice that I am the only car in the line on street rubber, all the rest are on R compounds. Is this the right group? Well, somebody in front spins exiting 9 on my first timed lap bringing out vigorously waving yellows. Write off that lap and the next as I lost all momentum down the main straight. In fact, write off those 2 and the 3rd because of a timing system malfunction (as I found out later). My "Hot Lap" timer was also not working! That left me with only 2 good laps of the 5. I caught and passed the guy in front, but my best is only1:46.8! Slower than in the morning sessions. Oh well! We'll just file this time trial in the drawer marked "If it could go wrong, it did."

Positives
I had a great time despite everything.
Resolved to sort out these handling woes permanently.
Alfa Club driving school in 4 weeks to help sort out some of my driving woes.
Alfa Club is planning on having a 90 minute endurance race at Buttonwillow in June (June! Who but a raving lunatic drives there in June? Its 100+ every day.) I'm going to get my race license at the school, buy a race suit and a window net and drive in that race! I have one school and one more time trial/race to get myself "up to speed."

Things that I learned
Its hard to drive when dehydrated.
Axxis Ultimates can stand 2 days at Laguna Seca, 2 days at Sears Point and, yes, 2 days at Willow Springs. I was still lifting, but frankly, there was so much understeer I didn't really need to use the brakes.
With my roll bar setup, I need to change down to 2nd to make it up the hill after turn 3. The bloody car is too heavy now.
I swear, by all that is holy, that I will break 1:40 on street rubber with a stock motor at Willow Springs this year. I only need 5.71 seconds (and bigger balls).

Before I leave I pay $100 for a CD burned with photos of me blistering the track. Yeah, I know, $100. I'm that stupid. I'd only waste it on some other car thing. When I get home my Mac won't read the PC formatted files. Bugger it! I thought that JPEGs were universal. Maybe they're not JPEGs. Get me a roll of toilet paper, I think I'm going to need it.
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Last edited by HoRo1; 01-13-2003 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 01-13-2003, 12:49 AM   #2
EFI-GUY
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Sounds like a rough weekend, but at least educational.
Someone spun coming out of turn nine? That's a nastly place to go! Usually, about the only other places people spin at Willow are in 2, and about the middle of three!
I absolutely love willow.
I have built some nasty turbocharged porsche race cars for the annual "4 hour Tribute To Lemans". Three years ago, my driver held the pole with a 1.19.55 lap! Now THAT's getting it on!
The year before last we finshed 3rd overall, and fifth last year!
I am planning to build a "super-unlimited" class suby and see how it fares against those "other" boxer-engines cars that I'm used to!
-Ben
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Old 01-13-2003, 01:20 AM   #3
zzyzx
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I can infer from your adjustment to your front camber, that you're running camber plates. Did you realize that using your camber plates to give you negative camber also gives you toe out? Perhaps so, but I just wanted to point that out.

I would recommend no less than -2.75 camber front and the rear will depend on your understeer/oversteer balance. If you indeed had -2.0 in the rear, and ended up with -1.0 in the front, then that certainly didn't help your understeer issues...

Also, try disconnecting your front swaybar next time and see how it handles...

- Steve
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Old 01-13-2003, 08:56 AM   #4
HoRo1
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I knew that removing some of the negative camber would get rid of some of the toe, hence my actions. Unfortunately, the DMS 50s that I run "come with" -2 rear camber, so I have a horrendous built-in understeer problem right now. I can either do something at the back of the car (for extra $), or just have the front realigned (which is going to happen anyway) at -2 camber with 1/16 toe. I think such an alignment, and a little alteration of tyre pressures, will solve most of the problem.
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Old 01-13-2003, 11:56 AM   #5
GarySheehan
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HoRo1,

An inch and 3/4 of toe change is enormous. Check for a bent steering rod or something. Also, recheck your toe as you've got it set now. Perhaps it was measured wrong at the track.

Good to hear you stayed on the same pads. Keep it up until you start to feel fade. Not only will it save you some money over the more expensive "hot" pads, it will be a very good indicator of your improvement in the braking zones once you fade the Axxis pads.

My advice, if you are racing in Buttonwillow in June for the full 90 minutes, you may want to consider a cool suit.

Gary
Sheehan Motor Racing
www.teamSMR.com
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Old 01-13-2003, 12:37 PM   #6
zzyzx
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The DMS-50s are adjustable in the rear. There are offset washers that go in the upper bolt hole on the flange that hold the hub to the strut. There are currently 3 offsets available. That said, you can use these offsets to maximize negative camber, or positive camber, yielding a wide range of possible rear camber settings.

Combined with rear camber plates, this makes for quite a flexible arrangement to deal with your camber needs as well as any tire/wheel clearance issues.

- Steve

Last edited by zzyzx; 01-13-2003 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 01-14-2003, 03:22 AM   #7
alfaguy
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HoRo1,

As for the CD - it's not the files but the directory structure that the disc was burned with. Try getting someone with a PC to open it, copy the files, and burn you a new CD with a "hybrid" file structure instead of ISO 9660 or whatever that one was burned with. Your MAC should be able to read that.
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Old 01-14-2003, 11:11 AM   #8
HoRo1
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Me understeering badly out of turn 4 on my way to 5.



Exiting turn 3 up the hill into turn 4. Mmm, looks like I'm missing the apex there as well.

When I view these images at home, I can really see the loading on the outside springs and I can see the tread pattern on the tyres. My professionally calibrated monitor at work is so dark as to remove all detail.


I have 2 short (1meg) videos from Sears Point if anyone would like to host them. Email or PM me.

Last edited by HoRo1; 01-14-2003 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 01-14-2003, 01:00 PM   #9
Fritz
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Who did that purdy cage for you?
Is it a bolt in?
Where from? And how much did you have to pad it? And with what?

Looking to cage my '93 L to join the race groups and pass some of those bastards on the inside! Hasta La vista mustangs.

Best of luck with the oversteer. I find you have to sort of "rally" the car into the turn to overcome the oversteer issue. Either by stabbing the brakes w/ the left foot or actually hucking into the inital turn in. Whatever it takes to unsettle the car. And I have done everything I can under the car to make it handle, apart from disconnecting the front sway bar. Also try more pressure in the rear tires and stiffer damping in the rear shocks. Willow is a pretty rough track and the big mustake outthere is to set the damping for the speed.
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Old 01-14-2003, 01:14 PM   #10
HoRo1
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Its a bolt-in Autopower 4-point roll bar with a harness bar and diagonal brace. Cost about $475 delivered. I took my back seat out and use no padding.
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