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Win at DMCC Round 2!

Category : Events

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The weekend after Hyperfest, I went up to Canada for DMCC Round 2 at Circuit ICAR in Mirabel. As soon as I got across the border, it was pouring rain, and it didn’t stop until I left. This was a one-day event for the Pro drivers, with practice and qualifying in the afternoon and competition at night. The course was pretty simple, a long right turn riding a wall, then an inner clip, transition to the left for another inner clip, and finish up with an outer clip against some plastic barriers. It was basically like the Florida XDC layout but bigger and faster. The bad part about it is they disregarded the actual track, and just made their own drift course. So instead of following some of the normal corners at ICAR, we were drifting over storm drains, rumble strips, and painted “grass” (green paint on the concrete). That may have been OK in the dry, but in the wet, going over the paint was like driving on ice, so you had to watch for the painted parts and adjust your steering/throttle to not spin out when you hit the paint.

Everyone took it easy in practice to not end up in the wall. I think there were just about 16 drivers at the start of the event, so there was plenty of time for everyone to get practice. I did as many runs as I could and mostly tried to get a feel for how fast I could enter the first turn and where to downshift to 3rd after the first turn. My car felt pretty fast on throttle, but it was hard to drive in the rain because it really wanted to straighten any time I got off the throttle. So I would find myself getting off throttle to keep from spinning, but the car would immediately try to snap straight. I left it alone and didn’t change anything with the setup because I wanted to have the speed/grip for tandem.

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In qualifying, I did a super safe first run and put up a score. I went deeper into the first turn on the second run but ended up hitting one of the plastic inner clipping point barriers because the car gripped a lot harder than I thought it would on throttle and just pulled forward into the clip. I was fighting it all day because it was hard to predict when it would spin tires and when it would grip. My second qualifying run was a bit better than the first, and I ended up qualifying 4th.

Since a bunch of people crashed or spun on both qualifying runs, I was automatically in the top 8. Only 11 cars actually qualified. I went against Claude Poirier in his LS 350Z. At this point, it was completely dark and raining pretty hard. There was still some light out during qualifying, so visibility wasn’t too bad, but I had no clue it would be this terrible at night for tandem. There was a spotlight on the first turn which pointed directly at you. So as soon as I initiated into the first turn, I couldn’t see anything. I could see one white line on the ground, and I knew I had to be about 2 car-widths to the left of that. And somewhere further to the left, there was a wall, which I couldn’t see. After finally passing the spotlight, it was total darkness except for the two inner clipping points, which were lit up with LEDs. There was a huge puddle before the second inner clip, which threw water everywhere. I also couldn’t see the painted grass anymore, so I had to tip-toe through those areas to not spin out. My wiper was just smearing water/junk all over the windshield, so I wasn’t using it most of the time. I would just turn it on to disperse the water, then turn the radiator fans on high to blow hot air out the back of the hood and dry the windshield.

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Overall, I did a pretty shaky lead run against Claude because I couldn’t see anything and was not expecting that. My follow run was equally shaky since it was even worse with the lead car’s water spray right in your face. Claude probably had it even worse with his convertible… lol. We got a OMT, and now knowing the conditions I was working with, I was able to put down two normal runs and get the win.

In top 4, I went against Marc Landreville. I knew he was an aggressive driver from his good finishes in 2010 and from watching him in practice, so I would have to get close to beat him. He led first, and I entered the first turn right behind him. I seriously could not see anything except his right taillight. If he ate the wall, I’d be right behind him because his car was the only reference point I was using to get through the course. But I figured that I would just sandwich him into the wall and his car would cushion the impact for my car, so I wasn’t too worried… haha. I could suck up to him pretty easily on throttle, so I was able to stay close. I’m not sure what happened when he followed me. He didn’t look that far behind, but maybe he made a correction or something because I got the win.

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So I was in the final against Jeff Laflamme, the winner of Round 1. It was basically a repeat of my top 4 runs, stayed pretty close to him on the first turn although he got a bit of a gap on me towards the end. No idea if he followed me well or made a mistake. From the pictures I’ve seen, it looked like he was close but went really shallow on the first turn to keep up, so that may have given me the advantage. We pulled up in front of the crowd to get the decision, get out of the car, and one of the DMCC dudes is going to raise the winner’s hand. So he gets the decision, and raises Jeff’s hand. Then he raises my hand, and I’m thinking, “Uhhhh… WTF Canada!” After some confusion, the guy confirms that I got the win… haha.

So that was awesome and a great payday considering I didn’t use a single set of tires due to rain. I got my first win at DMCC and my third podium in a row! It wasn’t the most fun event since you had to drive safely, but I guess it’s a good skill to learn to be able to do a bunch of sketchy runs without vision and not straighten/spin/crash/poop your pants on any of them.

Thanks a lot to Dave Briggs for housing me under his tent and to Mats for that egg sandwich! lol

The following are my in-car videos from the top 4 and final battles, which gives you some idea of the low visibility and how we had to tip-toe through this course to avoid spinning or straightening.

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3rd Place at XDC West Virginia

Category : Events

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After getting the third place finish at Montmagny for DMCC Round 1, I was having an issue with the clutch making a screeching noise when it was depressed. I had a weekend free so decided to take it apart and see what I could find. The bad part is that it’s nearly impossible to remove the transmission from this car with the engine in the car. So out came the engine and trans. I took it apart, and everything looked fine. The throwout bearing wasn’t showing any abnormal wear on the face and wasn’t making any noise when I turned it. The clutch disk and springs looked fine. The pressure plate side of the clutch looked brand new. The flywheel side seemed like it was getting chewed up a bit, but I think that’s normal since it’s an aluminum flywheel with bolt holes in the face of it to bolt the steel part to the aluminum. So the clutch material comes off faster since it gets dug in those bolt holes? I was also having to slip it a decent amount starting out in second gear at all of the events this year, so that didn’t help either.

After scratching my head a lot and looking everything over, I decided to just change everything since I didn’t know what the problem was. I installed my flywheel/clutch/PP from last year, which I was keeping as a spare. The clutch had minimal wear and it was the same model that was already in the car. I also changed the TOB just to be safe. It’s made that screeching noise a couple of times in the two events I’ve done since the change, but it used to do it every time I used the clutch. I still don’t know what it is, but I’m not going to worry about it.

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So last weekend was XDC West Virginia/Hyperfest at Summit Point. This is the only track I’ve gone to so far this year that I was familiar with. It was nice to get back on a track that I’ve driven on in the past. Practice and qualifying was on Friday. We only had 2.5 hours of practice, and there were a ton of drivers, so I only got 7 or 8 practice laps that day. I had driven the track twice before, so I knew what I was doing and just had to get used to the extra grip and speed from the car. With the LS1, I had to downshift to third gear after the first turn, then upshift to 4th again halfway through the course. Now with the LS3, I could stay in fourth the whole way as long as I kept my momentum up through the first turn, which is the slowest. I thought that would be the best strategy to avoid making shifting mistakes and to be able to build more speed without the interuption in power for the upshift midway through the course.

In qualifying, I put in a safe first run and was pretty sure that I was in the show. On the second run, I tried to go super fast but overshot the first turn. I still finished the run fine but had a dirt drop in the first turn, and it probably looked sloppy. I ended up qualifying in 4th though with highest entry speed, which was 76, I think. I helped Angerman change his clutch on Friday night since it was slipping in qualifying. Some Spec Miata guys let us use their garage and lift, so it was relatively easy but still took some time, and we ended up going to bed late.

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On Saturday, there was a one-hour tandem practice at noon. I tried to get a lot of runs to get myself comfortable and get a feel for how fast other drivers were. I was pretty confident I could keep up with everyone after that practice. Doug Van Den Brink would be a challenge, but I thought I had the speed to beat him if I didn’t make any mistakes.

The top 16 competition was at 7pm. It’s hard to get in the car and go straight to competition runs after sitting around for 6 hours doing nothing, so I took it easy at first to get back in the rhythm of driving. I went up against Todd Rich in a 1JZ S14 in top 16. I put a lot of distance on him on my lead run so just had to do a clean run for my follow. He went way wide on the first turn leading me and had the back wheels off course. I ended up pulling up right beside him as he was in the dirt and wasn’t sure if I should try to slow down or just pass him. He spun out towards me and I passed him and finished the run. I wasn’t sure what the judges would think of that because maybe it looked like I took away his line getting beside him causing him to spin, but after some waiting around, I got the word that I would be moving on.

In top 8, I went up against Dan Savage, who was driving the Sikky LS1 S13. His car is pretty similar to mine, but he was on 255s, so I expected him to be slower due to the smaller tires. Like in top 16, I got a big gap on my lead run so knew I had the advantage. I gave him a couple car length gap when following him to make sure I wouldn’t get bogged down behind him, and then I closed up on him coming out of the first turn. I stayed with him pretty well through the rest of the course. I had a bit of a hickup because I forgot he needed to upshift, and I nearly ran into him when he got off throttle to make the shift, but I kept the drift going and got the win.

So now I was in top 4 and would be going against Doug Van Den Brink. He was top qualifier and driving great all weekend, so I was hoping I could get through top 16 and top 8 to go up against him. I put on a fresh set of tires with the air pressure set low. I knew I had to enter right on his door to have a chance of staying with him, so I was focused on getting a good launch off the start line. I put it in second gear, took off, and… wheel spin! Uggh. He got a couple car length advantage on me on the straight and I stupidly tried to make that up by entering the first turn later and probably 10 mph faster than I had all weekend. No amount of brakes would have slowed me down enough to make that corner. I felt like the car was washing out in the middle of the turn, tried to floor it to get it to pull out of the corner, but it just washed out more. I had to get off throttle to slow it down and keep it on the track, straightened out, and that was basically the end for me. I finished the follow run, did the most balls out fastest lead run that I could, but Doug ended up with the win.

I was supposed to go up against James Evans for third place, but his slave cylinder exploded so he had to forfeit. I ended up with third. Overall, it was a good weekend but disappointing because I think I could have kept up with Doug if it wasn’t for that mistake. But I still have a couple more chances at him this year in the remainder of the XDC events. Thanks to Josh, Josh 2, and Bill for changing my tires during the top 16!

All the competition runs are in these videos:

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My runs are at 7:25, 12:00, 14:10, and 1:25 in the second vid.

3rd Place Finish at DMCC Round 1!

Category : Events

DMCC Round 1 Montmagny Podium

 

Here’s a recap of DMCC this weekend. I was feeling more comfortable with the car after NJMP, so I didn’t change anything on the car, basically just reset the alignment and did maintenance. I drove most of Friday and got to Montmagny Friday night. On Saturday, there was practice from 2-6pm, so I got plenty of time to feel the car out and learn the track. It was a banked oval that they ran in a figure 8. You enter one bank, go around through the center, come out and go around the other bank.

dmcc_rd1_01 The most difficult part of the course was entering and staying high on the bank for the first turn without flying off. This track has no walls on top of the bank, so you basically shoot off the top of the bank, hit some grass, and then hit a wall at some point if you go off. It’s hard to judge how high you are on the bank since you don’t see a wall for a reference point. The bank at the other end of the track also doesn’t have a wall. You basically fly off into the woods if you go too high. There were a bunch of ridiculous crashes throughout the weekend. They also moved the start line further back than previous years, so that seemed to be getting people in trouble. Average entry speeds were in the mid 60s, and the highest speeds were low 70s.

dmcc_rd1_02 The other challenging part of the course was linking the section from the middle of the figure 8/crossover to the second bank. The crossover in the middle isn’t actually in the middle of the oval, so you have a really long section of straightaway from the middle to second bank. I took it easy in practice and tried to find the right speed and location to enter the first turn and also the best line to run through the crossover so that I would have the most speed coming out. The track was eating tires quickly since you had to be on throttle for a long time, so I had to conserve by letting off halfway through the bank instead of roasting tires for no reason. I used up one set in practice, then did a couple of runs to scrub in a new set for qualifying.

I did a safe run on the first qualifying pass, and I got a pretty good score with a 75. I went faster on the second run into the first bank, but I had kind of a shallow line going into the crossover which killed my speed, so I didn’t make the cutoff for the second speed trap. I ended up in 5th place. It would have been second or third place if I was a couple mph faster through the crossover.

dmcc_rd1_03 For top 16, I would be going against 12th place qualifier Tania Bourbonnais in Rhys Millen’s old GTO. I set the tire pressures a bit higher because I could see she was one of the slower drivers in practice. I led first, and she had a big correction following me, so I had the advantage. I gave her a one-car lead on the straightaway on my follow run. She was moving with good speed, but just as I clutch kicked into the first turn, she completely jumped off the throttle. I locked front brakes, almost ate the wall, then clutch kicked again and was right on her. She was super slow coming out of the crossover heading to the other bank, so I had to throw the car with huge angle and a lot of e-brake to stay drifting behind her, and I still almost hit her. I was right on her door through the last bank and most of the course so got the win easily. I beat Rhys’ old car and did not lose to a girl… mission accomplished!

dmcc_rd1_04 Next, I went against Mats in the top 8. I lowered tire pressures a bit but the car was getting faster anyway from the track cooling down so I was confident I could stay with him. I had a good chase run with him, lost him a bit through the crossover in the middle of the track but caught right back up going into the second bank and stayed on his bumper through to the end of the course. I don’t think he was able to follow me as closely so I got the win.

In the top 4, I’d be going against Dave Briggs who was, by far, the fastest driver that day. I put on new tires and lowered pressures a lot. I followed him first but gave him a bit too much space on the start, and there was basically a 1-2 car gap between us throughout the whole course. I knew I had to drive my ass off for my lead run to get a OMT or force him into making a mistake. I went full throttle into the first turn and did a big flick entry clutch kicking towards the wall and then throwing it the other way into the bank. I was basically trying anything I could to phaze Dave… lol. I kept the angle low and just tried to go as fast as possible the whole way. I could see in the mirror that I had about a car length on him at the end of the course. dmcc_rd1_05 We waited forever for the decision, and we got a OMT! The judges told me to stop doing “fake entries”… lol.

In the OMT battle, I was so focused on staying with him in the first turn that I wasn’t paying any attention to launching off the line. I ended up kind of bogging it in second gear, and Dave got a big jump on me which he held throughout the course. He followed me pretty well on the next run. He actually straightened through the crossover on his lead run, so I was hoping that was enough to have another OMT, but the judges called it in his favor.

For third place, I went against Evan Tuerck. We had relatively clean runs, and I was able to stay on his door pretty well, so I got the win.

Overall, I’m happy with how I drove. It sucked to lose to Briggs because of a stupid mistake on the launch, but it gives me some confidence to know my car is basically just as fast as his. This event was a blast and set a new attendance record for a DMCC event. The fans were insane and brought a ton of energy to the competition. I can’t wait to drive at this track again.

I’ll be driving next in two weeks at XDC West Virginia.

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NJMP Practice with Club Loose

Category : Events

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I went out to NJMP last weekend for the Club Loose event there. I wanted to make sure everything was good with the car after the “repairs” made from Florida. It was also a great chance to get a practice day and get used to having way more power without having to worry about walls, competition, etc. The “Lightning” track was wide open and fast with a lot of run-off room, so it was good for practicing. We were also hot-lapping so I got plenty of seat time.

I worked on putting the car in the right places and scrubbing off speed on fast entries. It seems like I’m just overshooting corners a lot now with more power, like missing inner clipping points and going too wide on exits. I think I got really used to being able to throw the LS1 car into corners as hard as possible, and now I can’t really do that since I’m going faster and can’t afford much bigger/better tires. Overall, I was pretty happy with my driving and with the car, so I’m going to leave it alone for now.

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The track was super fun, and I got to try some new stuff like 90 mph gigantic banked turn and 115 mph e-brake entry. I’m looking forward to coming back here later in the year. They also had a sweet go kart track that a bunch of us went on. I think I started our race in 11th or 12th and finished 2nd after much off roading, curb jumping, middle fingers, and karting tandems. The subsequent two days of back pain was a good reminder of the ridiculous go kart jumps that happened.