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Formula D Irwindale Recap

Category : Events

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After the long break following the previous round at Vegas, it was finally time for the last round at Irwindale. As usual, Kareem and I flew in on Wednesday night, and we headed to the track early Thursday to get the car ready. Following an oil change and a quick alignment, I got on track right on time at 10am for practice. The course was modified slightly from the previous year such that it was necessary to ride the wall on the inner bank a little longer. Also, the infield section was tightened up as compared to last year, but it was basically the same layout that has been used for the last several years.

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I had driven at Irwindale in ProAm events in 2009 and 2010, so I was comfortable with the track, although my car has 100hp more than it did back then. After one lap to feel the car out, I started clutch kicking into the bank and working on staying up against the wall. I drove safe into the inner bank to avoid damaging the car early on and just tried to find some good reference points to know how long to stay on the wall. At the end of Thursday practice, I was feeling comfortable with the big bank and ready to start attacking the inner bank.

On Friday morning, we made some alignment changes to make it easier to hold the car on the walls. As usual, I went out early for the one-hour practice before qualifying to try to get as many runs as possible. I started holding throttle longer and transitioning later to get high on the inner bank wall. Although I wasn’t consistently nailing the course, I had a few good runs towards the end of practice.

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We were thinking that the track would gain grip later in the day for qualifying so we went up on air pressure to compensate. The strategy for qualifying was just to give 100% on both runs, and hopefully at least one would yield a high score. I took off for my first qualifying run, and I could feel that the car had a lot more grip compared to practice. I was able to floor it down the straight in second gear with no tire spin, unlike practice where I had to wait until third gear to go full throttle. I clutch kicked it hard into the bank and rode the wall relatively high with good angle. I went too wide on the start/finish clipping point, but I transitioned well into the inner bank and managed to drive the car right up to the wall towards the end of the outer zone. The run looked decent up to this point.

Throughout practice I was keeping the car in fourth gear all the way around the track to increase the tire speed/smoke towards the end and avoid mis-shifting. That was fine during the day when the track was slippery, but there was more grip in qualifying. So when I got on the throttle to pull away from the inner bank wall, it didn’t spin the tires like before. I tried to give it a clutch kick, but it wasn’t enough. I gripped up and ran over the second inner clipping point. At that point, I was just struggling to keep the tires spinning in fourth gear and ended up losing focus and spinning out on the last turn.

So with a zero on the first run, it would come down to the second run to try to make it in the show. On the second run, when I took off down the straight, the car was spinning tires in second and third gear, which made me drive a little more cautiously feeling that there was less grip. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t aggressive enough on this run, and once again, the car had more grip than what I was prepared for. I was too low on the banks and again struggled to light up the tires at the end of the course. With a score of 47, that wasn’t going to be enough to make it in to the top 32.

It was a disappointing way to end the season, but at least the car is still in one piece, and I can build on it for next season. I would have liked to have had some stronger performances this year, but I think I drove decent considering I was working with only one crew member the whole year, had no spotter, and couldn’t afford to damage the car. I know where I need to improve, so hopefully I can be more competitive next year.

Formula D Vegas Recap

Category : Events

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After Seattle, we stored the car in Las Vegas until Round 6. I flew out to Vegas on Wednesday and relaxed the rest of the day trying to stay up late to get acclimated to the time difference and the nighttime schedule for this event. We got to the track Thursday afternoon and did a few laps through the course in the rental car to get an idea of the new layout.

Practice was scheduled for 9pm – 1am, so we had some time to get organized and get the car ready to go. We changed the oil and went over the whole car to make sure nothing was damaged at Seattle. Then we aligned it to change the setup for the flat Vegas track.

We decided to use 245-wide tires instead of 255s for the Thursday practice to keep the car loose and make it easy to learn the course. I went out to grid early, as usual, to make sure I could get as many runs as possible. I only managed to get a couple of safe runs through the course before Odi had a big crash, which delayed practice for about two hours. That basically cut our 4-hour practice in half, so I only got a handful of runs after the crash had been cleaned up.

I had some decent runs during the practice session, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the track. I couldn’t get all the way out to the two outer clipping zones along the walls, which was the main focus of the course. The car was also too loose even though we were continuously adding grip throughout the practice, so I didn’t feel confident throwing it out to the wall.

After practice, we packed everything up and grabbed a very late dinner. I think it was about 5am when we finally went to sleep.

When I woke up on Friday, I took some time to watch the in-car videos we got from Thursday practice. I realized I was transitioning way too early after the initiation, which made it impossible to put the car close to the wall. I was also getting off throttle too early going towards the outer zones, which was killing my speed and not letting me reach the second outer clipping zone. So now I knew what I had to work on that day to get a good qualifying run.

We made sure to get to the track early enough to watch Pro-Am practice so I could see what lines the best drivers were taking. We had a one-hour practice at 7pm before qualifying. Before practice, we added more grip to the car and switched to 255-wide tires to make it feel more planted throughout the course. That was the right choice, and I instantly felt more comfortable on the track during the practice session. The plan was to progressively push harder throughout the practice and stay on throttle longer to be able to get to the outer zones. I felt the last two runs I had in practice were pretty good, and I knew I could qualify well if I pushed it a little harder in qualifying.

My first qualifying run was solid, but I lifted off the throttle too early coming to the wall, so I ended up far from the second outer clipping zone. I scored a 66. I couldn’t rely on that to get in top 32, so I had to step it up for the second run. I basically wanted to do the same as the first run but just stay on throttle a bit longer to get out to the wall. Unfortunately, I lifted off throttle too soon again and couldn’t drive all the way to the wall. My second run score was a 67.5, which wasn’t enough to make it into top 32.

I was disappointed that my weekend was done because I felt like I could have nailed this course if I just had a few more practice runs to dial in my driving. But the car is still in one piece, and I learned a lot, as always. Now it’s time to get ready for the final round at Irwindale.

Formula D Seattle Recap

Category : Events

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Between Wall and Seattle, I did a lot of work to the car in preparation for the west coast Formula D events. The car is staying out west for the remainder of the season, so I made sure to take care of all the maintenance, fluids, and tie up any loose ends. I wanted to have it basically like new so I wouldn’t have to do anything to it at the next three tracks besides basic maintenance and setup adjustments.

I made a lot of minor changes to hopefully make the car easier to drive on the banked Evergreen track and make it feel more comfortable at higher angle. I reduced the toe in on the rear, stiffened the rear bar, and adjusted the dampers to reduce the rear grip. I also reduced the caster in the front to get more angle and increased the camber.

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We got to the track on Thursday and got a chance to drive through the course a couple of times in the rental car before practice started. Of course, I had heard that the bank is super long at Evergreen. I wasn’t disappointed. It seemed ridiculous driving through with the rental. The angle of banking was pretty low though, so I was confident I would have enough power to do it.

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After the first few practice runs, I got up to speed on the bank but was struggling staying off the rev limiter in 4th gear. 5th gear drops the RPM too much, so it wasn’t an option. During the first tire change, I raised the rev limiter 400 RPM. I still set it below the stock limiter so it would be safe. A 3.7 or 3.9 gear would have been a better solution, but my spare diff had the same 4.08 ratio that was in the car. The extra RPM helped a lot, and I started improving my runs as the practice went along.

The diffiult part of this track was coming off the bank and into the “power alley.” It was hard to do it smoothly because the judges wanted you to stay on the wall all the way to the edge of the course in the power alley. Many drivers were carrying too much speed off the bank and sliding wide off course or having to slow down abruptly to keep from going off. It was also near impossible to fill the whole outer zone on the bank and the entire outer zone on the wall in the power alley. A sacrifice had to be made somewhere, either coming off the bank early or going into the outer zone in the power alley later.

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I tried coming off the bank several different ways including slowing down a little early to prevent sliding off course. Unfortunately, Chelsea followed me really closely on one of the runs where I let off early. He hit me in the right rear, and we both spun out into the wall towards the end of Thursday practice. It wasn’t too bad of an impact. The rear tube structure got slightly mangled, and my right side wheels made minor contact with the wall. I made my way back to the pits, checked for any bent suspension arms, and checked the alignment. The rear had a bit more toe in, and the steering wheel was slightly off center, but the front toe was the same as I had set it originally.

There was only about 20 minutes left in practice, and I wanted to get at least one more run to make sure nothing serious was wrong with the car, so we left the alignment as it was, and I got back in line for practice. The car drove mostly the same, so with the practice over, Kareem spent some time bending the tubing back in shape and reinstalling taillights and body panels. Then we called it a day. Here is one of my practice runs.

Our plan was to get to the track early on Friday and reset the alignment before practice and qualifying. Unfortunately, it rained right up until our practice session, and working in the mud and puddles didn’t interest me, so I decided against it. Haha. The car felt good in practice although I was still struggling coming off the bank with perfect timing. The judges extended the course outward which made it a bit easier to keep from going off course, but it was difficult to see the yellow line, and I still went off several times or came up short, leaving the outer clipping zone too early.

For my first qualifying run, I came off the bank way too soon and tapped one of the inner clips later in the course. I scored a 68. My second run was much better. I still came off the bank a little early, but the rest of the run was decent. I improved my score, and got a 69. I qualified 32nd and would be going against JR in top 32.

Here are my two qualifying runs from driftstream. I apologize for the poor quality.

On Friday night, we had another hour of practice. I started to get more comfortable with the track and found some good reference points to use coming off the bank thanks to advice from other drivers. We were adding more grip to the car after every run.

On Saturday morning, I wanted to find the most grip we could add before the car got too difficult to drive on the bank, so we softened the rear sway bar before the final practice session. The car was a lot faster but it was difficult to keep it high on the bank, so we went back to the original setting during that practice. My battle with JR was the first run in top 32. He led first, and I got a small jump on him off the line to stay close. He got about a car-length gap on me going into the bank, but he stretched the lead after we initiated. I drove a shallow line through the rest of the course and closed the gap, but I had a big disadvantage after the first run. On my lead run, I was pretty relaxed and did one of my best runs of the weekend. My line was good, and I didn’t make any mistakes besides a small wobble on the bank. But JR was right on me the whole way so he got the win.

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Overall, I’m happy that I got to drive at Evergreen and managed to go the whole weekend without killing myself. I learned a lot, and we got to try out many different adjustments, which should be useful for Irwindale. I really need to work on my qualifying though. As much as I enjoy going against JR, it just hasn’t been working out well for me the last two events. lol. I’m looking forward to Vegas next month and getting back on a flat track.

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Formula D New Jersey Recap

Category : Events

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I apologize for the late update. I was busy getting the car ready for the west coast swing of Formula D, so I didn’t have a chance to sit down and write this up until now. Here goes!

Even though Wall Speedway is only an hour away from where I live, I’ve never had the opportunity to drive there. So I was excited to get on the track for Formula D Round 4, but I also didn’t know what to expect. I left the setup mostly the same as the last round in Florida to have a comfortable starting point. In Thursday practice, the first thing I noticed was the track was a lot slower than I expected. I tried to do the first two runs in fourth gear, which is what I use for most tracks but didn’t have enough power for that. Third gear worked a lot better, but I was high in the RPM range and had to be careful with the throttle not to be on the rev limiter too much. It would have been nice to have a 4.3 or 3.7 gear to swap in for this track.

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The track was simple for the most part. The difficult part was obviously running the high line on the bank. I didn’t push myself too hard in Thursday practice to get high on the wall because I only had a handful of runs and wasn’t yet comfortable with the bank. The course itself is pretty long, and Formula D was waiting for the smoke to clear between runs, so most of practice was spent waiting in line instead of drifting.

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On Friday, we had another 1.5 hours of practice before qualifying. This time, I tried to get higher on the bank to prepare for qualifying, but I was struggling with it. The car had a bit too much grip on the bank, but it was super slippery on the flat section, so I was hesitant to loosen it up any more. I was also entering a little too early and waiting too long to get back on throttle. I just didn’t have enough practice to get used to throwing the car high on the bank, and I couldn’t get my right foot to get on the throttle early enough. I had a couple of solid runs, but the majority were too low on the bank.

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In qualifying, luckily, I didn’t have to go first like the last two events, but I made mistakes in my first run. I was too low on the bank and wasn’t focused coming off the bank on the flat. I started transitioning too early coming off the bank and consequently straightened out for a second when I hit the flat section. Overall, it was a pretty bad run, and I think I scored around 45. As qualifying went on it started raining lightly, so my second run would have to be in the wet. I couldn’t nail the bank in the dry, so I wasn’t feeling too confident about trying it in the wet! Haha. I knew my first run would not be good enough for top 32, so I had to do something on my second run. I tried to get a feel for how slippery it was accelerating to the bank. It felt like no grip at all, but when I threw it into the bank, it had way more grip than I thought, so I ended up running the bank low again. The rest of the run was shaky, but I had no major mistakes. I scored a 57, but that may have been adjusted afterwards to account for the wet conditions. I ended up qualifying 31st and would be going against JR in top 32 the next day.

Here are my two qualifying runs from driftstream:

For top 32, I knew I couldn’t loosen the car up anymore to make it easier on the bank because I would get left behind on the flat infield. There was no strategy, just go as fast as possible when following to keep proximity and try to do a killer lead run with a lot of angle. After a short practice on Saturday, I lined up with JR to follow first. We left the line at the same time, and he got about a car length gap as we initiated into the first turn. I drove pretty shallow to catch up and was sort of closing in going into the infield, but went into the right turn too fast, and the car washed out with the left rear going up on the bank. I tried to catch up but couldn’t get any closer than about one car length. On my lead run, I just tried to get a lot of angle in the infield and force him into making a mistake. JR was on point and got the win.

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Overall, I didn’t drive as well as I wanted, but that was due, in part, to limited practice time on a brand new track for me. I did learn a lot though and had a blast driving on this track!

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Formula D West Palm Beach Recap

Category : Events

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After getting the car back from Atlanta, I did the maintenance on it and checked everything over. Luckily, I didn’t find any issues, so I spent the couple of weeks leading up to Florida finishing up minor details. I didn’t change the setup of the car much except for adding some more front camber and taking out a bit of rear toe.

I flew in to West Palm Beach on Wednesday and hung out until Thursday’s practice session. The track configuration was basically the reverse of what was used the previous year. With my car, it was a fourth gear clutch kick entry into a right turn, transition to the left and hit an outside clipping zone, downshift to third, hit an inside clip, then finally a right turn with another inside clip. By far, the main focus of the course was the entry and hitting the outer clipping zone. The track was risky due to the fast entry and lack of run-off room after the outer zone. I drove safe on Thursday and just tried to find some reference points to be able to nail the first turn and outer zone. We left the car alone except for gradually lowering the tire pressures as I got more comfortable with the course.

On Friday, we had one more hour of practice before qualifying. I stepped it up a bit in this session and tested holding the throttle longer in the first turn and getting closer to the outer zone. I would be the first driver to qualify, same as in Atlanta, since I was still last in the standings. My first run was too conservative, which resulted in a score of 52. There was a big separation in scores, much more than Atlanta, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in top 32 with the first run. On the second run, obviously I knew I had to push harder, but I couldn’t afford a spinout. It was a much more aggressive run than the first, and my line was near perfect. I knew it was a good run right after I finished, but I scored even higher than what I expected with a 91. That put me in second place. In top 32, I would be going against Ken Gushi, the 31st place qualifier.

There was a one hour practice session on Friday night for the top 32 drivers. I followed on almost every run to get a feel for people’s speeds and lines, but I kept it safe as it was tough to spot my reference points at times with the track lights on and smoke everywhere. Overall, I felt pretty comfortable with the track and fast enough to stay with the majority of the competition.

On Saturday, we had one more hour of practice, but I only got a few runs due to track delays. After a couple hours of waiting, it was time for my Top 32 battle with Gushi. I led first and did a pretty solid run with no mistakes. My mechanic/spotter, Kareem, texted me on the way back to grid that Ken ran close and clean, so I knew I had to be on him to win or get a one-more-time.

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I spoke to Ken before Top 32, and he agreed to pace me to the pace cone and give me a jump on the start to make sure I could keep up with him. I didn’t get to run with him in practice, so I had no idea how our cars compared in terms of acceleration. I left the line on the 5th light on the tree, shifted to third, passed the pace cone, and I still couldn’t see Ken closing in the mirror. I thought I jumped the start too much, so I lifted off the throttle to let him catch up. He still wasn’t closing and I was thinking maybe I should stop and they would restart it since I couldn’t get up to normal initiation speed waiting for him that long. Right at that point, he got on it and blew by me about 3/4 of the way down the straightaway and got a huge lead.

I should have just stopped at that point and hoped for a restart, but I didn’t make the decision in time and ended up doing the run trying to catch him the whole time. I was disappointed because I didn’t even have a chance to try to follow. The run was basically over when he passed me. I’m not trying to blame Ken for it. I may have just jumped the start too much or maybe he didn’t get a good start for some reason, which allowed me to get too far ahead.

Overall, it was still a pretty good weekend. I qualified for the first time and learned a lot throughout the weekend. The car is in good shape, and the next round is close to home.

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Completed Build Photos

Category : Build

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Formula D Round 2 Preparation and Recap

Category : Events

My plan for this year was to drive in the full Formula D season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to finish the car for Long Beach without cutting corners. So I decided to try to finish the car in April, test at Club Loose Spring Moves, and then start my season at Road Atlanta.

I got the car running and driving for Spring Moves on April 28th and headed to Englishtown. My goal for the day was to throw around the car and beat on it enough to expose any issues. The suspension setup and alignment was rushed, so I didn’t worry much about how the car was driving. It performed well for the first outing, and I was happy with the added grip and smoke from the Falken tires.

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The car didn’t have any problems during the test, so the next week was spent going through the Formula D rulebook and making sure everything was in order. The car was also lighter than I wanted, so I decided to add more weight to get it over 2800 lbs. After the initial test, it weighed 2710 with me in it, but I wanted to get over 2800 to have the option of running 265-wide tires and to have a safety margin in case the car measured lighter or the tires measured wider than expected. After adding various finishing pieces, covers, and the maximum 50 lbs of ballast, the car was up to 2780. I got 255-wide tires for this event just to be safe, but I was hoping the Formula D scales would be on the heavier side and allow me to get over 2800. In addition to this work, I aligned the car again and added caster because I was chasing the wheel around at Spring Moves. I tried adding caster through the camber plates so I wouldn’t lose any angle pulling the wheels forward with the tension rods.

Tony took the car down to Atlanta along with his car, and I flew in Wednesday night with my mechanic, Kareem. On Thursday morning, Kevin Wells inspected the car. Luckily, there was nothing wrong, so we went straight on the scales. The car weighed 2822 with a full tank, which is right around what I was going for.

We had 4 hours of practice on Thursday. The setup on the car was decent for this track, so I decided to just drive and not waste time making changes. I basically drove for 4 hours straight with just one break in the middle for fuel and tires. It felt sketchy on the first few laps, and I was still chasing the wheel around. Once I got into a rhythm, the car felt great, and I could focus on the more difficult parts of the track. The only part I was having trouble with was extending the drift to the outside clipping point going into the horseshoe. The car scrubs speed faster now, and this part of the track was uphill, so the car would slow down super fast if not on throttle. I probably should have taken out some toe from the rear because it was also tough to keep it sideways off throttle going into the horseshoe. Overall, I felt pretty good after Thursday practice, and a few people were telling me that my runs looked solid.

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On Friday, we only had one hour of practice before qualifying, so I made sure to be one of the first cars up to the grid to get as many runs as possible. I got about 5 runs in that practice and was still struggling getting to the outside clip in the horseshoe. We decided to just go up in tire pressure a bit to get the car to slide out a little easier. I didn’t want to change anything major without any more practice time. I was the first car to run in qualifying and scored a 65 with a relatively safe run. I thought that would have a decent chance of making it into top 32, so I drove as hard as possible for the second run. I wanted to make sure I hit all the clips this time and got the 10 points for speed, so I was flooring it as long as possible coming up the hill to the horseshoe and flicked the car hard to slide up to the outer clip. Unfortunately, I flicked it too hard or the car bounced weird on the rumble strips causing me to spin out.

It was going to be close whether I would make it into top 32. After everyone had qualified, we were told at the driver’s meeting that only 3 people hit the minimum speed in qualifying, so everyone would be awarded 10 points for speed. That made my final score a 75. The top 32 was announced and I wasn’t in, so I packed up and went out with my crew for dinner. Then, I got text messages from friends asking why I wasn’t practicing saying that my name is on the top 32 bracket they gave out in the drivers meeting. It turned out that my score was the same as Corey Hosford, so we were tied for 32nd place. I talked to Ryan Sage the next morning and was told that the first set of brackets handed out was incorrect and didn’t account for tie breakers. Even though everyone got 10 points for speed, your measured speed was still used for tie breakers, and Corey had beaten me by a few MPH. Check out the video below showing a couple of my practice runs and qualifying runs from the driftstream.

Overall, I’m happy with how the car performed and how I drove although it would have been nice to get to the tandem battles. The next round is in two weeks in Florida, so I’m looking forward to building on the experience from this weekend and getting a better result.

Thanks to Falken Tire and Sikky Manufacturing for the support, Kareem, Adam, and Alicia for coming down and helping out all weekend, and Henry, George, Taku, and Luis for helping tie up loose ends on the car.

Featured in Performance Auto and Sound Magazine!

Category : Announcement

Check out the feature and interview in the April/May issue and here:

Last Man Standing – 2011 DMCC Champ

Thanks to Jeremy Alan Glover for the interview.

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Started Assembly

Category : Build

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Painted

Category : Build

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