My best DNF yet

While we snapped a rose joint, and finished the event bogged of the side of the road, it was a positive event.

The roads were in sensational condition, there had been sooooo much rain the week before, I was expecting the worst.  Other than a couple of slippery corners the rest of the roads were is great condition, consistent grip and were great fun to drive.

At each service I made another change, and got the car feeling better and better every loop.  Each of the setup changes that I did made an improvement in how the car felt, it had more grip and felt more stable.  While its hard to tell if it has made any changes in outright speed, the car felt a lot more comfortable and with time this should let me push it harder when I fully trust my notes.  On average, we have improved by 1/2 a second per KM to the fastest guys from the previous event.  Still a long way behind them, but at least this is one step closer.

Mid way through SS5, it felt like we had a flat or something.  After a few more kms it didn’t feel like a complete flat, and the car was not handling consistently – what is it? Through most right handers it was fine, some left handers felt a bit off, but in a straight line the steering was not running straight any more, and the car was wandering at odd times, when it felt like it.  There was no banging or rattling at all, so we keep pushing on, just being careful on lefts (except for the left at the spectator point – can’t let them down!).  Got out at the stop point and the car was low in the right rear, and had 10 degrees or more of camber, hmmmm…  We left the control and parked on the side of the road to take a closer look.

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The top camber arm on the rear suspension was broken, so the hub was floating around causing the weird handling.  The car was easily driveable, and if the championship was on the line I would have driven the next stage anyway, but as the hub was leaning up against the shock, holding the car up, I wasn’t willing to ruin the shock – so we drove back to service to fix it up.  Event over.

Back at service I got a spare joint, threaded it in and gave it a basic wheel alignment.  Put the spot lights on and waited for the field to get back so that we could rejoin after the scheduled service.

Other than 1/2 a stage at KinKin this year, this was the first real set of night stages that we have done.  That small distance at KinKin changed my view on what I needed from my lights – so they were aimed differently this time and in general I had very good visibility.  Ideally some wider spread on the short range light bar would be of benefit in seeing around corners a bit better, for the odd time where we are not backing it in, something that maybe would have helped two stage later.

About 1/2 way through the second last stage I very slightly missed my turn in point for a right hander that tightened, one that I had noted as being tricky.  I got off the line on the way in, got into the loose and slid around the outside until it tightened and I ran out of road.  Looking my logged data, I entered it slightly slower than I had done in the two daylight runs, the difference was simply being on the grippy line, or the loose stuff – any tiny lack of concentration in this game punishes you hard.

We were off the road, and the diff was on a dirt mound, and we didn’t have the grip to go anywhere.  We made a couple of attempts at moving her, but to no avail – time to spectate for a bit.  No damage done, so not a bad ending considering.

A huge thanks to the road closures, that stopped on their way out of the stage, for towing us back up onto the road.  There was no way to get out without a tow back onto the road.

All up, the event was very positive, despite a mechanical failure and an off.  With more more tweaks to my notes, I have made some little gains on corners that open or tighten – more detail in these areas have helped in not braking too early for tightens, and getting on the gas earlier for the opens.

I also got back to driving the car on the rear wheels a lot more, and pushing a bit harder in the medium and slower corners.  I think the changes that I made that have increased the car’s front end grip have meant more confidence.  I’m still not committed enough in the really fast corners (120kays +) and I know that the largest chunks of time that I am losing to the fastest guys are in these types of corners – I just need to get to the point that I trust my notes in these corners, I don’t have that yet.

Overall the car is feeling a lot better with the new setup, the grip seems to be a higher, and the stability or feel of the car is a lot better now.  Its still amazing to me what a couple of clicks on a good damper will do to how the car feels.

We’ve got about a month until the next event, and a lot of work is still going on in the background to make the car faster 🙂

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Credit to CMR Photograpic for the pic.  Take a look at his website to purchase photos!

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