Sunday, 8 June 2014

Unexpected motorsport

On Thursday, two days before the event, I noticed a facebook post announcing there were no places left at the skidpan motorkhana on Saturday.

Fantastic (sarcasm).

The only skidpan I could get to in months and I find out about it then. I vainly posted a request to keep me informed in case a spot became available at the last minute.

Yeah right. Like that was gonna happen. These events fill up super quick. :o(

Friday night, I was playing a fill in gig in a band on the other side of Sydney. To my surprise, the organizer texted me to let me know there was a space. Needless to say it wasn't a hard decision to make.

Woo hoo!

So on Saturday morning (after not enough sleep), I loaded a jack in the car and fueled up. I arrived 10 minutes before the end of scrutineering, but no dramas and I was ready to race. As per usual, there was a mix of cars there from a Lambo to WRXs, mirages, an evo, bimmers, skylines, MX5s, a boxster, a 180sx, a commodore, an early MR2 and even a Datsun 180b.

My beetle was by far the oldest, slowest thing on the paddock.

I was initially a little worried about blowing the car up, but I reasoned, "it's only 8 sets of 2 minutes". There wasn't much that could go wrong on a wet skidpan with no power.

The overall aim for the day was consistency.

The biggest concern in motorkhana trials is going the right way around the cones. After that, you want to make sure that you don't hit cones/flags or overshoot. Every cone you hit is an extra 5 seconds. The wrong direction (WD) means you get the slowest time plus and extra 5 seconds or so. Overshooting the stopping area is another 5 second penalty.

Hitting one or two cones, plus over shooting can push your time out by 15 seconds. Do that in a few tests and you're right off the pace... and way down the field. I spent much of the day trying to help a young guy in an overpowered skyline fix these sorts of problems.

So I worked hard on the basics.

After the first run, I tightened the handbrake cables and remembered I had to have my seatbelt super tight. This helped me to be able to throw the car better without falling out of the seat. I also found I couldn't get the car to slid unless I'd got into 2nd gear, speed wise.

What was letting me down (besides lack of power) were the 135 tyres on the front. I'd aired up the back 165s with 44psi in the morning leaving 32psi in the front. Even still, with the weight on back end, the front was scrabbling round and I could feel it struggling to hold on.

Here's my last run before lunch.

I learnt a few important things from this run. Firstly, I could push the car harder. Sure the front end was understeering slightly (a typical beetle trait), but the car wasn't ploughing or leaning over much, unlike a number of AWDs and FWDs on the day. Secondly, if you get up enough momentum coming into a tightening corner, the car will lift-off oversteer and you get off the throttle.

Normally that's what causes swingaxle cars to roll over, but the camber compensator stops that happening.

$100 well spent there. It also meant on the next test I could lift-off oversteer the car round the final cone without the handbrake or slowing down.

By halfway through the day I was consistently getting (a little) quicker while other drivers went the wrong direction or hit cones. I was trying to throw the car a little more and drive harder, but the 135s made that pretty useless, so I just got on with being as clean and neat as possible. The fact that I was getting consistent understeer also demostrates how much more confidence I had over the last skidpan session.

The other thing I noticed was the need to change back between 1st and 2nd gears at different times. I think more than anything it's a mark of the narrow power/torque band of the motor... and just how worn out it is.

The poor old thing just doesn't want to rev and it was blowing a little smoke all day.

After a big figure eight style test we finished up just on 4pm and headed home without hitting any cones, no over-shoots and getting the direction right in every test. By this time, people were starting to take notice of the car and even the own of the lambo remarked on how well the beetle was doing. This is one of the cool things that seems to be changed.

People love seeing the beetle compete.

A few people in the club were telling me a few months back it was inappropriate and the car was "too good" to race. That isn't happening anymore. Instead, they're genuinely pleased to see it out and being driven properly.

Many of them have a new respect for it I think.

At the same time, I'm hankering for more power. My new trans arrived freshly rebuilt this week. There are host of other new parts just waiting to go on the car. I'm really looking forward to getting them and the new motor in the car. Can't wait to see how much better it is on the skidpan with that.

Course the other thing I should probably looking into is fitting a front anti-roll bar and some better front tyres, like some decent 165s, hmm.

I'll be interested to see the results too...

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