Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Black Card Status Achieved!

I had two stretch goals for 2012:

1) Win the CSCS SuperStreet AWD Championship
2) Achieve Black Card status on Full Tilt Poker

I started working on my 2nd stretch goal on July 1st and 270 hours and 224,000 hands later I'm proud to say that I've managed to achieve my goal.

Black Card status is the highest VIP level you can reach on Full Tilt Poker without being sponsored. When FTP was closed in 2010, I had a large amount of unclaimed Full Tilt points on my account. Only once you become a Black Card player are you allowed to cash out those points into cold hard cash. Which has now become a reality for me. My bankroll is now in a very healthy state to be able to take a shot at the $100NL games.

There were some major setbacks along the way. Particularly a large downswing which wiped out about 75% of my bankroll between August/September. I had to move down limits twice and spend a lot of time analyzing my database, but I managed to revamp my game and grind my way back up from $25NL.

Then in October I got hit by a stomach virus and pneumonia shortly after. Most of October was a write-off which pushed me even further back on the 100-day rolling average.

I'm so glad to be done with this challenge. I have to admit that it took a lot longer than I expected. The lesson here is to always account for the unexpected - which in my case was the downswing and getting really sick.

I'm almost done playing for the year. I have a small bonus left to claim which should only take me about 3 hours of playing. After that it's time to relax and enjoy the rest of the holidays :D

Dobie says Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 Goals

I've always considered myself to be an athlete at heart in the purest sense. Meaning that I love competing in something at a high level regardless of what it actually is. It doesn't matter if it's racing cars, sports, video games, or even board games.

One of the non-monetary reasons that I'm leaving Time Attack racing is that I feel a large % of the competitive advantage can be bought. I'm not afraid to admit that I probably spent the most money out of all my competitors this year, and subsequently won because of it.

If you spend a lot of money on your platform then you WILL be faster than someone who didn't. I'm not calling anyone out in particular, or saying that there's no skill involved. Driving fast takes plenty of skill (and balls). But relative to other competitive mediums, money has a much bigger impact on results in motorsports than in anything else I've ever competed in.

For 2014 I've decided to revisit some old hobbies of mine and re-ignite my competitive flame in them.

My goals for 2014 are:
  1. To become a better poker player
  2. To become a better badminton player
These should do well to fulfil my competitive needs, and also (hopefully) make me wealthier and healthier.

Become a Better Poker Player

Poker was a large part of my life between 2006-2010. Many people don't know this but poker actually helped fund my motorsports career. I played for small stakes and grinded a steady profit each year. It was like a second job to me.

But playing poker every night on top of my full time job became overwhelming in 2010. I decided to take an extended break  from the game and enjoy some of my winnings with racing.

Now that my extended break is over, I feel that I have a renewed energy for the game. I really miss the strategic depth of the game and the element of personal mastery needed to overcome the inevitable variance and downswings. To put it bluntly, I miss using my brain. I also miss making money.

Over the past few months I've been ramping up my play significantly and shaving off all that rust. I've read a few books along the way that have really solidified my mental game. I recently joined Phil Galfond's new poker community Run It Once and I'm hoping to become an active member there as well. I feel that 2014 is going to be a very positive year for me at the tables.

Become a Better Badminton Player

After an 8 year hiatus from playing with the Varsity Blues in 2004, I picked up my racket again at the end of 2012. Although I've just been playing casually for the better part of a year, I really want to improve my game and start competing in tournaments again.

For the past few months I've been training with famous YouTube coach Lee Jae Bok. He's helped me improve my game a lot so far but I still have a long way to go.

I can't claim to be a good badminton player yet, and I've been struggling with a wrist injury for the better part of a year. But my plan is to keep training and improving on a weekly basis that will allow for steady improvements throughout the year. At the very least, I'll improve my fitness and health, which is a win no matter what!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 End of Year Update

I haven't updated this blog in a few months so I wanted to take a moment to write about a few important changes coming up.

I've decided to take a break from Time Attack racing indefinitely.

This season was exhausting. I went over budget on my build trying to keep up with the arms race that the Super Street AWD category has become. Ultimately, I won the championship, but not without great sacrifice. Motorsports accounted for over 50% of my spending this year including mortgage payments and regular living stuff. That is completely unacceptable and unsustainable.

I'm getting married in 2014 and there will be a lot of bills to pay. The reality is racing is an expensive sport and I don't think I'll be able to continue racing competitively without going completely bankrupt. This doesn't mean I'm quitting driving though! Just competing.

I debated selling my car. I even put it up for sale. If I get a decent offer for it, I won't hesitate to let it go. But that's probably not going to happen as my asking price is a little high (I put a lot into it, and don't want to lose too much). If I can't sell the car, then it will likely be detuned back to something less hardcore and more of a weekend warrior/project.

Even if I had the money to continue racing competitively, I wouldn't. I'm at a point in my life right now where I need to start being smarter with my money instead of blowing everything on a depreciating hunk of metal. I would like to be financially free sooner rather than later. On top of that, I just feel like the competition in motorsports can be too easily "bought" by anyone willing to spend the money. More on this later.

Thank you to all the people who supported my short lived motorsports career. I'm sorry there won't be as many motorsports updates. But hopefully you will still find my blog interesting as it changes direction in 2014.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

[9/22/2013] CSCS #5 (TMP)

Event: Canadian Sport Compact Series #5 (Season Finale)
Track: Toronto Motorsports Park, Cayuga
Weather Conditions: 9-13°C Overcast

Final event of the season and I only needed to finish top 5 to claim the overall title. But even that was proving to be quite difficult as the track was very cold and my tires were giving me attitude all day long.

I spun out 3 times in the morning practice and had a few other nasty power slide moments. I just couldn't get the car doing what I wanted. Can-Jam replaced the stock R180 rear diff with a Cusco one, so there was less wheel spin coming out of the corners now. An amazing improvement in exit acceleration, but with my tires acting up, it was tough to put down a good lap time.

Photo Credit: Charles Spivak

Perhaps I could have adjusted the rear wing's angle of attack to provide some more rear downforce or play around some more with the DCCD bias. Too late now though. The best time I could put down during qualifying was an atrocious 1:23.95, far from the 1:18's everyone else was doing in my class.

Time Attack

I bumped up all 4 tire pressures by 2 psi and hoped for the best.

Time Attack Lap Times:
Hot Lap 1 - 1:27.22
Hot Lap 2 - 1:21.70
Hot Lap 3 - 1:19.85

1.4 seconds off pace vs. Round 4

Final result was a 4th place finish with a 1:19.850. Not terrible, but far from my A-game. I was off pace in nearly every corner. Because I had no idea how the new tire pressures would react, I treated the first 2 laps with extreme caution to prevent a DNF. Although my times were dropping quickly after hot lap #2, I felt I could be in the 18's no problem if I had one more lap...

Can-Jam builds fast cars!

My class record was smashed with a 1:16.155 by Scott Murfin driving another Can-Jam prepped time attack STI.

I may have lost the battle today. But a 4th place finish scored me enough points to claim the SSAWD Championship. Proof that persistence and consistency can pay dividends in the long run.

Final SSAWD Point Standings

Overall this was a crazy season for me. Lots of ups and downs. But the end result was worth it. I would like to extend a huge thanks to all the people who supported me on and off the track: My pit crew: Ryan, Francis, Stephen, and Jordan. My sponsors: Can-Jam Motorsports and Touge Tuning. And everyone else for the moral support (you know who you are).

Monday, August 19, 2013

[8/18/2013] CSCS #4 (TMP)

Event: Canadian Sport Compact Series #4
Track: Toronto Motorsports Park, Cayuga
Weather Conditions: 26°C Sunny

Photo credit: Charles Spivak

I had mixed feelings coming into Round 4 after the disappointing crash at Round 3. On the one hand, I really wanted to do well and put up a strong fight in Super Street AWD, but on the other I didn't want to break something again and put a further beating on my bank account.

One could call it 'Days of Thunder Syndrome', where you totally forget how to race and are afraid to take risks. This was not going to be me.

I decided that Round 4 would be "back to the basics" driving for me. Time Attack is all about racing against yourself. There's no need to worry about anyone else on the track or in your class. It's all about focusing on driving your absolute best.

The key for today was to focus on getting my confidence back and working back up to the limit. So I wrote down some key words on my track sheet: "Patience" and "Warm-up". I even removed my lap timer from visual sight and stuffed it in the glove box.

Removing an endlink is the same as running no swaybar

The car was also in a dynamic state of change. Since I recently sold my JDM Spec-C seats, I had to borrow a loaner OMP bucket seat from Can-Jam. I was running with no front swaybar as a trial. And last but not least, a slightly bigger loaner turbo (GTX-3076) to make the car a bit more competitive.

Qualifying & Testing Changes

Photo credit: Charles Spivak

It was great to be back out on the track again in my own car. All of the anxiety and nerves I had coming into this event disappeared once I hit wide open throttle.

GTX-3076 vs. EFR-6758 Turbo:
There was quite a difference in turbo lag compared to my old Borg Warner turbo. But in a sense, that made the car a bit easier to drive. I felt I could modulate the throttle better on corner exit, rather than have all the torque snap the wheels free too quickly. It just suited my driving style much better.

No Front Swaybar:
The lack of front swaybar made the front end a bit more floaty but honestly I didn't notice too much of a difference in terms of overall grip or lap times. I ended up reconnecting it later on. With the swaybar connected the car was just a bit more predictable on turn-in.

OMP Bucket Seat:
The OMP bucket seat provided a bit more extra support, especially through the esses in T2 through T4. Although the JDM seats were a wicked daily driving weekend warrior seat, I don't regret my decision at all to upgrade to a full bucket. Street driving to and from the track was just as comfortable. But getting in and out of the car was a bit harder.

Two issues plagued me during qualifying:

The first was that my front splitter was generating so much downforce that it was literally ripping the front bumper skin off the car. This caused me to lose one of my fog light brake duct covers on the track :(

Support bracket

Bumper bolt and Gorilla tape

Can-Jam's depth of experience here never ceases to amaze me. Together we installed some bolts on the side of the bumper to hold it in place and also rigged up a support bracket to keep the front of the splitter from collapsing. And as an extra measure, some Gorilla tape. All done on our lunch break!

Photo credit: Charles Spivak

The second issue was a bit more severe, and it was actually causing me to lose seconds per lap. Coming onto straightaways after 3rd gear turns, I was having an intermittent issue with 4th gear breaking up. I would upshift and apply 100% throttle but the RPM's would not increase and it felt like I wasn't accelerating at all. After losing some RPM's the throttle would then kick back in and continue as normal. I'd estimate at least 1.5-2 seconds per lap being lost because of this issue.

Great view from Mike Gardner's 350Z. I have to let him pass on the 2nd lap due to my throttle issue.

Qualifying Lap Times Pt. 1:
Session 1 - 1:23.35
Session 2 - 1:25.90

I didn't know it, but my car was running on a low boost map. Can-Jam was secretly helping me regain my confidence as well. We thought the issue might be tune related so we switched over to the high boost map. Unfortunately this didn't resolve the issue.

Qualifying Lap Times Pt. 2:
Session 3 - 1:20.74
Session 4 - 1:20.31

Photo credit: Charles Spivak

I qualified in 3rd place, with Mike Harvey and Richard Grossi both ahead of me doing mid 1:19's in their STI's. Today was going to be tough. But this is where I had to remind myself that there was nothing I could do about anyone else's lap times. Anything could happen. They might make a mistake during time attack. If I stayed focused and brought my A-game, then that's all that mattered.

Pre-Time Attack

As a last ditch effort to resolve the throttle issue, I filled the car up to a full tank of gas. I had been running most of the day with under half a tank of gas and there was the possibility that fuel starvation was occuring due to the increased lateral G's from the aero/tire upgrades. Speaking with my fellow competitor Mike, he mentioned that when he was low on fuel, he would notice fuel cut about 1-2 seconds after coming out of a high G turn. That sounded like my problem! I never liked to fill up more than half a tank for weight reasons in the past, but if this fixed my issue, it would be well worth the trade off.

CSCS stages the timed heats in descending orders of lap times. Which gives people with the faster lap times a bit of a break before they get to run. I was in the 12th heat so I decided to take a little nap in the shaded area of my tent and run some laps in my head.

Time Attack

Stick to the game plan and warm-up the tires. Patience. That's what was going through my head as I waited for the marshal to release me on the track.

The warm-up lap is an excellent time to drive slowly and try to hit every braking point, turn-in point, and apex. HPDE 101.

First hot lap and the moment of truth. Coming out of the hairpin onto the main straight and shifting into 4th gear. Will there be power or will it hesitate? ... Nothing but pure POWER!!! After the second straight I knew I was golden. Hot lap 1 felt good. No major mistakes. Hot lap 2 also felt good. I over shot the apex of T9 a little, but it still felt fast overall. Knowing I had put down a decent first and second lap, I decided to just go for it in lap 3.

Time Attack Lap Times:
Hot Lap 1 - 1:19.71
Hot Lap 2 - 1:18.87
Hot Lap 3 - 1:18.45

Final result was 1st place in SSAWD and a new class record at TMP. Previous record was 1:18.85 set by Mike Harvey in Round 1 earlier this year.

Having my first win of the season felt amazing especially after all I've gone through this year. I could not thank Can-Jam Motorsports enough for all their hard work and track side support. And huge thanks to my one man pit crew of the day, Ryan, for helping out where he could.

Today was a proof of concept for me that at the core of any tough competition, a focus on the fundamentals will take you a long, long way.

Points Standings as of Round 4
Bdon - 330
Alex - 270
James - 260

For more information check out CSCS.ca
See you at the Season Finale on Sept. 22nd at Toronto Motorsports Park!

Monday, July 29, 2013

[7/28/2013] CSCS #3 (DDT)

Event: Canadian Sport Compact Series #3
Track: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, DDT (CCW, 1 Kink)
Weather Conditions: 19-21°C (Morning was cool and damp)

The car received some new upgrades for CSCS Round 3. A custom fabricated front splitter made by Can-Jam Motorsports and a massive APR GTC-300 rear spoiler. The ride height was also lowered and the car re-tuned on race gas yielding a 10% bump in power. Although DDT isn't the fastest of tracks, I was eager to try out the new aero upgrades. Personally, I think this is the most bad-ass the car has ever looked!

Weather was quite a contrast from Round 2. It was quite chilly in the morning having rained the night before. When I tried to fire up the car in the morning, it wouldn't crank. As my luck would have it, my booster pack was also dead. This was the 2nd day in a row it was having battery issues. I had to jump the car to get it going, putting me about 30 minutes behind schedule.

Although I was late to the paddock, I was still able to find a pit spot in "Subaru lane" beside Ricky Bobby's STI, the NV Auto Crew, and Richard Nadeau's STI.

Last minute battery swap

The battery died once again after setting everything up in the pits. We had to roll the car over to the technical inspection lane. Apparently you can't let these Antigravity Li-Po batteries die, or they just become paperweights. Can-Jam would have my back though. They had a spare battery for me but because it was a different size, they had to custom fab a new battery bracket for me on the spot.


About 2 hours after I got to the track, things were looking up. The car was ready and it was time to start putting down some lap times...

My first session out I was taking things slowly, getting some heat into the tires by aggressively braking down the main straight. The acceleration with the new tune was absolutely incredible and intoxicating. But because of the train of traffic in front of me, I had no room for a clean lap. I exited the track after 2 laps. Originally I was hoping to get enough laps done in the first session so that I could pit and re-torque the wheels and adjust tire pressures. But 2 laps wasn't enough so I re-entered the track immediately to try and find a better gap.

Crash location

This is where things went all wrong. On my first lap of the 2nd session, finishing off the downhill section of the track quite comfortably, my tires let go. At the sharp left hander entering the short straight I applied just a bit too much throttle through the corner exit and I broke the rear end loose. The car started to oversteer left. I tried to correct it, but then it began to oversteer right. Classic tank slapper situation. I slammed on the clutch and the brakes but the tires would have none of it, and I was sent off the track perpendicularly.

Yep, that's coolant...

Normally this type of spin out isn't that big of a deal. But the area I went off in was extremely bumpy so it sent the front end bouncing several times. With my low ride height, splitter, and V-mount setup, this was bad news. The steering wheel was off centre and vibrating excessively on my way back. I knew the damage was bad and the stunned look on spectators faces as I came into the pits only confirmed my suspicions.

Initial diagnosis was a broken V-mount radiator and splitter. The bumper was probably cracked in a few places but possibly re-usable. Unknown amount of suspension damage. Who knows what else. The forward thinking Can-Jam crew was already looking for a solution. They were examining Crazy Leo's car (on display) for a possible radiator transplant. I really admired their perseverance, but reminded them that even if they got the radiator fixed, there was also possible suspension damage. We agreed that it would probably be better (and safer) if it were repaired back at the shop. I was now looking at a DNF.

Chris to the Rescue

During all of the crisis management, Chris from Can-Jam came up to me and said "Just use my car". What the hell? I was thinking to myself: this guy just watched me wreck my car during a warm-up lap and now he's going to trust me with his ride? He must be crazy lol. But he was serious. And then it dawned on me that if I could score some points today then I might still be in contention for the Championship. And as slim as those chances might now be, I had to at least try.

The current points leader, Mike Harvey, had an unfortunate engine failure a week prior. He was MIA today, so that meant both Alex Li and I (currently both tied for 2nd in points) could have a chance at catching up.

Points Standings as of Round 2
Mike - 200
Alex - 170
Bdon - 170

Doing some rough math in my head, I figured that my chances at the championship would be much increased if I just scored some points today. Even if I came in last place, it would put me over 200 points and ahead of Mike. Of course, there was the risk of possibly damaging Chris' car as well. But I made a promise to both him and myself that I would treat his car with utmost respect and to drive it as carefully as I could. The only goal was to not DNF!

We swapped out his stock OEM brake pads to something more capable and also put on my ZII StarSpecs. A tire I was 100% confident with. Lucky for me, the gearing in Chris' STI was the same as mine, being a JDM 6-speed. He also had a decent ZeroSports coilover suspension. But his engine was a stock 2.0L JDM Version 8. It had a bit less torque than I was used to, coming from a 2.5L engine.

I did a quick run just to dial in the tire pressures and then parked the car for the time attack.

Time Attack

I drove conservatively as planned, and finished 5th in class (last place) with a 1:06.066 scoring 60 points. Alex dominated the class with a 59.327. Big congrats to him for having the patience to figure out those Hankooks and breaking the 1 minute barrier. Could I have beaten that time with my own car? No idea, it was a very fast time! For comparison's sake, I did a 1:03.31 last year in my Stage 2 WRX.

Points Standings as of Round 3
Alex - 270
Bdon - 230
Mike - 200

The last two rounds of CSCS will be very interesting!


So the day didn't go quite as planned. And I may have a big repair bill coming up. But I didn't come this far to quit now. Which is what I had to keep telling myself throughout the day when I felt like giving up.

A fitting quote for the day

A huge thanks goes out to my pit crew Ryan and Francis who put up with pushing my dead car all around the paddock, to Chris K. for lending me his Suby, and to Can-Jam for their strong support.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

[6/23/2013] CSCS #2 (GBR)

Event: Canadian Sport Compact Series #2
Track: Grand Bend Raceway (Modified Layout)
Weather Conditions: 40°C (Sunny and F***ing HOT)

The Weather Network was calling for a chance of thunderstorms but it never happened. Instead we got heat and humidity. And LOTS of it. The entire day was a battle to stay hydrated and focused. I was an idiot and wore my only dry-fit T-shirt during yesterday's practice.


Nike Racing?

On my first session out I didn't touch anything with the car. In fact I even forgot to don my racing slippers. Didn't seem to matter though since I smashed my best practice time by 7 tenths with a 55.36. The car was feeling great. Very consistent power levels and the brakes were holding up very well thanks to the Roo Ducts. I was feeling great too, setting the fastest lap in my class for the morning and also being within the top 4 fastest cars of the day. It was great to finally be able to hang with the big boys! Behind me was Mike Harvey in his 05 STI doing 56's and Alex Li in his widebody bugeye doing 57's.

But this was no time to get comfortable. And if I've learned anything at all from competing in other things, it's that securing your lead is critical. When you're ahead, get more ahead.

Sorry kids, this ride is out of service

It's not pee, I swear!

Since I had only run one session and had the entire day ahead of me, I decided to try and cut some more weight. The passenger seat and washer fluid seemed like the obvious choices to me. If I had to guess I would say the seat weighed around 50 lbs and the washer fluid around 6-7 lbs. Not bad for 30 minutes of labour.

Going out for another session I immediately noticed a handling improvement in Turn 2 while turning left into the "S". Despite having some clean laps I still couldn't do better than my previous session. Best lap was a 55.39.

Some nice battles between Riaan's Z06, Brandon's Civic, Vince's 240sx, and Jimmy's RX-7

Qualifying Lap Times:
Session 1 - 55.36
Session 2 - 55.39

At this point I was feeling that there was nothing more I could do to make my car go faster except lots of seat time. But I only had half a tank of gas left and I still needed some to get back to London the next day. I decided to let the car sit until time attack.

As the afternoon went on, Mike and Alex started to catch up. Mike replaced his worn NT-01's with Hankook TD's and found gobs of time. He was now only 2 tenths behind me with a 55.5. Alex was starting to get the hang of the track and was now in the 56's. This was going to be a close one!

Heat soak was really starting to rear its ugly head. Not with the car but with my body. My shirt was soaked and my head was throbbing. I decided to go buy some ice to cool myself off and to later use it to cool the VMIC. Sitting in Karen's car with the A/C on also helped. Dobaru kept me company in the back seat. I closed my eyes and visualized my run over and over again in my head until CSCS staff came to get me for my run.

Time Attack

Last year on hot days I would blast my A/C in the staging lane and keep myself cool. But this wasn't an option this year and I was dying for the marshal to let us go so I could get some airflow in the car. But airflow equals drag. I like to run with my windows up for this reason. So I kept them up. This was probably a bad idea in hindsight.

The time attack just seemed to fly by. For some reason the car just didn't handle the same way it did in the morning session and I found myself making simple line errors in every lap. In the second lap I even went two-wheels-off and missed a shift on the straight. My first two laps times were shockingly slow so I had to tell myself to snap out of it in lap 3 and focus extra hard on nailing down a good time. Despite that, I still managed to botch my downshift for Turn 1. Instead of double downshifting from 5th to 3rd, I went from 5th to 4th. That mistake alone cost me ~0.6s (see graph below). After my third hot lap, 55.54 was the best I could do. I've had a history of setting a new personal best during time attack runs. But today I broke the pattern and it didn't feel good.

Time Attack Lap Times:
Hot Lap 1 - 55.98
Hot Lap 2 - 57.30
Hot Lap 3 - 55.54

Perfect lap would be 54.9s, still not enough to beat Harvey's 54.6s

The live timing leaderboard wasn't working so I had to get soul crushed the hard way by my friend telling me that Mike did a 54.6. Alex really stepped it up with a 55.8, almost sneaking into 2nd.

I need to start charging for lawn service

I finished in 2nd place. After qualifying in 1st place, this was a bitter feeling. And given how I drove during the time attack, I was probably lucky to have come in 2nd too. In hindsight though, had I driven a perfect lap, 54.6 would still have been difficult to beat. Mike drove one hell of a time attack and he definitely earned this win.

Eat. Sleep. Win. Second.

For Next Time:

In the future, I'll have to figure out a way to deal with these hot days. Heat stroke is real and can seriously affect your judgement.

I also need to get some more practice with the 6-speed. I've driven the 6-speed four times on track this year and I'm still missing shifts.

Also, after re-watching my videos I've determined that my lines have gotten worse this year. I'm going faster purely by power and grip, as proven by my Saturday practice on the ZII's. It could be that I need to sort the handling out so the car understeers less. This will naturally allow me to point the car where I want it. But some focus back on the fundamentals is still necessary.

Practice, practice, practice.

See you in Round 3 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Monday, June 24, 2013

[6/22/2013] Track Report (GBR)

Event: Open Lapping (Practice for CSCS Round 2)
Track: Grand Bend Raceway (Modified Layout)
Weather Conditions: 30°C+ Sunny and Humid

Another early start to the day, waking up at 5:30AM to make the 3 hour trek to Grand Bend, ON. The drive was not an enjoyable one. This car has really taken the CSCS rulebook's definition of Super Street quite literally: "The Super Street Class has been designed for vehicles that are a bit extreme for the street; they often see more track time then street driving." The lack of air conditioning, an exhaust that makes your ears bleed, and an unforgiving clutch were all enough to make me miss my Scion iQ for regular driving.

But that all goes away once the car hits the track. This is where the Can-Jam Motorsport background comes to life. The car was able to consistently put in fast lap after fast lap without effort. Two full track days in a row and not a single drop of oil was burned! The IXIZ AOS we carried over has been working great with the new EFR setup. Overall the build has been holding together very strong and I have Can-Jam to thank for that.

Lap Times with the StarSpec ZII's:
Session 1 - 58.00
Session 2 - 58.09

Not so impressive considering my best lap time was a 58.31 last year with my old Stage 2 setup.

Lap Times with the Hankook TD's:
Session 3 - 56.84
Session 4 - 56.03

There was a big difference once I threw on the TD's. They were faster, but more importantly they gave me a lot more confidence to take some corners flat out with the extra power I was making. The only thing I played with all day were tire pressure settings. I didn't bother touching the dampers. They handled great! The car had some mild understeer but I felt I could handle it given the sweeping nature of the track. It wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday at DDT with many sharp 90 degree turns.

Photo credit: Jeff Beech

A few other hardcore time attackers showed up to practice and it was great fun chatting with everyone before the big day on Sunday. Special thanks to Mike Gardner who lent me some earplugs for my trip back home. Those were a life saver man.

With the best lap of the day being a repeatable 56s flat, I was feeling comfortable going into the time attack. I was only 2s off the unlimited track record from last year and this time would have been enough to win SSAWD by 1.7s.

It was hot and humid all day and I was beginning to feel some heat stroke setting in. With the 56s session I decided not to waste any more rubber or gas and call it a day. Time to hit the strip and sip some fruity drinks!

Friday, June 21, 2013

[6/21/2013] Shakedown at HANSON School (DDT)

Event: HANSON International Driving School
Track: Mosport DDT (CW 1K)
Weather Conditions: 25°C Sunny

My car is finally ready for some action! The Can-Jam crew was pulling another all nighter getting prepared for a big CTCC weekend as well as CSCS. My car got its alignment and tune through midnight. So instead of having to go pick it up, I received a special delivery at the track this morning :)

While the big boys were out testing on the big track, I was stationed over at DDT performing skid pad duty at the HANSON school. Since I was primarily manning the skid pad exercises I didn't get to do a lot of fiddling with the car. But a couple of sessions on track was still better than nothing. Definitely needed for an overhaul of this magnitude before a weekend full of racing.

The car was supposed to get tuned on a ViPEC V88 ECU but a last minute glitch in some wiring meant we had to send it back to the manufacturer. So the car got tuned using COBB Speed Density as a temporary measure. This meant that little time was spent fine tuning and it was the first thing I noticed when driving the car. Part throttle was very choppy and power seemed to come on like an on/off switch. Combined with the almost instant spool-up of the Borg Warner EFR-6758 turbo, it made for a monster of a car to drive. Getting on the power too early in 2nd gear could make all four tires go squirrely. And the car pulls so hard in such a short distance that combined with the shorter JDM 6-Speed gears I'm now having to double downshift into some corners.

Next on the list was setting up the new RaceComp Engineering T2 coilovers. It uses a 2.5mm allen key and I found that I had to jack up the car to get to the compression adjustment due to the low ride height and wide 255 tires. I admit that I've been spoiled by the simple, single knob adjustments of the BC Racing coilovers! I spent an entire break period setting up the coilovers when I could have been out on track. But the trade off was well worth it. On the track the coilovers soaked up the bumps much better than before. I'm still in the process of fine tuning them and this thread has been a great resource for starters.

I ran into my first problem of the day on my 2nd run out. As I was powering out of the slow right hander at the downhill, I heard a "pop" sound followed by an instant loss in power. Checking my boost gauge I saw that I was only hitting 0 PSI at most. This was a familiar feeling as I had this happen to me at my very first track day at Shannonville in 2009 when I blew off a throttle body hose coupler. Checking the engine bay in the pits confirmed that I blew the 90 degree turbo outlet coupler off. Luckily, an easy fix!

Other than the turbo coupler issue, no real big issues to report back. There was a knocking noise coming from the rear suspension area so Can-Jam is taking the car back to the shop tonight to get it sorted ASAP. I was experiencing more understeer than I'd like, but I'm sure that some time spent with the swaybar settings (or removal) and shock tuning will correct that. My lovely new GReddy Ti-C exhaust tip is already turning brown from heat. Oh yeah, and the car came with a surprise: a Neetronics DCCD controller! I'll definitely need some time to learn how to use it.

Tomorrow is a practice day for me at Grand Bend, followed by CSCS Time Attack on Sunday. A hat trick weekend for track days. Tiring, but fun.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

[6/2/2013] CSCS #1 (TMP)

Event: Canadian Sport Compact Series #1
Track: Toronto Motorsports Park, Cayuga
Weather Conditions: 21°C Overcast

My plan this year was to move up to Super Street AWD but Can-Jam Motorsports hasn't quite finished re-building my WRX yet. That wouldn't stop me from at least attending and trying to pick up some valuable points! They generously lent me one of their STI's for round 1. I picked the car up the evening before so I was pretty much going into this event with zero seat time behind an unfamiliar car.

Compared to my WRX last year this car was different in some ways but familiar in others. The main difference was a slightly bigger turbo and a JDM 6-speed. The suspension was similar being BC Racing but the spring rates were softer at the stock 8k/6k vs. my 10k/8k. I would run the R-compounds I bought for this season, 255/40/17 Hankook TD's. And to make things feel like home, we ported over my JDM Spec-C driver's seat with the Schroth 4-point harness and my rear triangle brace. This car also had 20mm/24mm swaybars vs. my 24mm/24mm front/rear.

Since I didn't have any car to shake down with in April/May, I had more butterflies than usual going into the first event. I kept tossing and turning in bed and ended up with only 1 hour of sleep. Terrible start for the morning. And on top of that my body was still a bit sore from an endurance karting event I raced in two days earlier. But I wouldn't let this ruin my day so I tried not to think about it too much. I was relying on adrenaline to fuel me through this event!

Open Lapping

Without any data available on the car and lots of traffic on the track it was very difficult to dial in a proper setup. This is why it's so important to do a shakedown on a less busy day. If you wait until the morning of an event it's too late. But we had to make do.

Morning Session

I ran with my StarSpec ZII's first just to get a feel for the car and to find the 6-speed gearing for each section. It had a lot more body roll than I was used to because of the softer springs but that didn't translate to less grip. The wider tires (255 vs. 235) and more aggressive alignment (-4° vs -3° camber) made the car feel very planted. I didn't have as many moments where the car wanted to slide out from underneath me.

As usual we had a disappointing time trying to tune the BC Racing dampers. I can't wait to get my car back and see what a real suspension can do!

Lap times with the StarSpec ZII's:
Session 1 - 1:26.95
Session 2 - 1:27.49

After getting a feel for the track conditions we put the Hankook TD's on. The plan for this session out was to just get them heated up and come in for a quick stop to check the pressures. Immediately going into T1 the car started to slide like I was driving on ice. So this is what R-comps feel like when cold? Scary as hell. But by T2 I had some minor grip and by lap 2 they were already starting to show better grip than the ZII's. After getting the tires set up it was time to start looking for a good lap time.

Issues Arise

As I started to put more and more laps down some problems were becoming apparent with the car. On the main straight in 5th gear, the power would intermittently break up around 5500-6000 RPM. And occasionally I had a very difficult time downshifting into 3rd gear, especially on the final hairpin leading to the main straight - the worst possible place to have this happen. Also the car started to leak radiant heat through the vents. With the windows up I was melting inside.

I brought the issues up with Can-Jam and they figured the power cutting issue could possibly be boost related (likely overboosting). It was a last minute tune so that was not surprising. They sent Sasha Anis out on the track to verify the issues and to see if they were fixable.

Pro Driver

I was fortunate to tag along with Sasha and took a mental note of the difference in his line. Riding with him was a similar experience to when I rode with Peter Hanson. Lots of actions per minute revolving around the steering and throttle inputs. Always testing the limits of grip by twitching around the steering wheel. During this session we only managed a few clean laps, producing a 1:23.95. But there was something clearly wrong with the car, not to mention 3rd gear popping out once. We pulled back into the pits to take a look at the AiM Solo data.

Issue Analysis

Booting up his laptop, Sasha compared the laps we just did with my best lap of the day which was a 1:21.17. Immediately we noticed a 15 kph difference in his top speed vs. mine. We determined that the car was heat soaking so badly that it was losing about 5 kph top speed PER LAP. When hot, the car was even slower than my Stage 2 WRX! Unfortunately he didn't bring his tuning software with him so we couldn't make any changes to the tune. Also some of the GPS traces seemed a bit off, possibly due to poor satellite reception.

The strategy going into the time attack was now clear. Cool the car down as much as possible and don't let it idle in pit lane. Sasha estimated I would only have power for 1 lap so I had to make my first lap count.

At this point I had about 1.5 hours left until the competition so I decided to take it out for one last run before letting it cold soak. I popped the center grill piece out in an effort to increase airflow to the rad. But it felt like it actually made the condition worse. It was like driving in a sauna so I called it quits after 4 laps, only managing a 1:23.53. I put the grill piece back on.


With the 1:21.73 I qualified in 4th place. Ahead of me was Mike Harvey (last year's SSA champion), Alex Li from team NV Auto, and the Maryuichi Auto GT-R R35. Mike and the R35 were seconds ahead and out of reach. But Alex was only 6 tenths ahead. If I wanted to sneak onto the podium I would have to beat him!

It was now time to cool the car down so I took all the ice from my cooler and spread it out on top of the rad and intercooler. At this point I realized the car also had an IC spray system. With a good suggestion from my friend Erik we also dumped some ice into the IC spray reservoir. My tires were also getting cold from inactvity so we bumped the pressures up by a couple PSI. Can-Jam also gave me some VP 109 race gas to use because I had already used up both my gerry cans of 94.

Lap times with the Hankook TD's:
Session 3 - 1:23.86
Session 4 - 1:22.17
Session 5 - 1:23.52
Session 6 - 1:21.73
Session 7 - 1:23.95 (Sasha)
Session 8 - 1:23.53

Time Attack

Clouds came over and covered up the sun. The air was chilly again so I had a really good feeling about the time attack. Lady luck seemed to be on my side right now. Lining up in the queue, I gave the IC a couple sprays of ice cold water.

Warm-Up Lap

I knew the tires were cold and I needed to build temps up fast. Engine bay temps would climb too so I wanted to get this over with quickly. I decided to take the warm-up lap at about 85%. Things were going well until I hit the hairpin at T6 just after the short straight. On corner entry something went immediately wrong. The tires felt like they hit an ice patch and the car went into a drift. I flicked the steering wheel into opposite lock but the car was still drifting towards the grass at a high rate of speed. I thought I saved it but nope. Car went straight into the grass. Wet grass flew all over the windshield and inside the car.  @#$%^&!!! I had a flashback from 2011 SRTA #3 where something similar happened and I ended up with a DNF. I thought to myself that there was no way in hell I came this far to let that happen again. I slammed it into 1st gear and banged the limiter getting back onto the track. The funny thing is that we didn't put washer fluid in to save weight. So I couldn't even wipe the dirt off without risking worse visibility.

At this point I knew that I lost a ton of tire heat from the wet grass. But I also knew that if I held up Alex who was behind me, I would be disqualified. I looked into my rear view mirror and saw nothing. Back on the gas hard. Time to re-build all the heat I lost. T10 came up and the same thing happened. Excess slip angle on the cold tires threw me into the grass once again. But the car was still moving forward(ish) so I just kept going. I went through the final hairpin onto the main straight with a car covered in dirt and grass. There was no time to be embarrassed in front of all the spectators. Eyes on the flag marshal showed a green flag - GO TIME.

Time Attack Lap Times:
Hot Lap 1 - 1:21.20
Hot Lap 2 - 1:20.47
Hot Lap 3 - 1:20.86

I knew I was probably beat after seeing Alex get really close to me by the end of the 3rd hot lap. Coming into the pits the news was broken to me that he beat me by just over a second. That was an incredible run by him so I didn't feel too bad.


Checking the leader board I found out that I beat the Maryuichi Auto R35 to sneak into 3rd place. Yeah podium!!! So overall I managed to collect 80 points in Round 1 and set a new personal best in car I'd never driven before. Results I am more than happy with.

Final Thoughts

Today I learned an important lesson: warm up R-compounds in a straight line, not in the corners! Hard acceleration and hard braking with some careful swerving to build up carcass temps. I also feel that I'm not driving the tires optimally. They have a lot more grip than the street tires I'm used to so that means my braking points may need to change. I'm confident that this will be resolved with some more seat time.

See you at Round 2 in Grand Bend!

PS. Sleep never felt so good in my life lol.