euro cars

Car builds can spiral out of control quickly. With everyone, including myself (having the attention span of a squirrel these days), ideas and goals change quickly. To avoid that, I write you guys to hold me accountable. Not really, but it sounds good on paper. In this article, I want to focus on the baselining of a car, and making incremental changes to reach the goal of being competitive in Gridlife Touring Cup.

 

The Test Track 

I’m choosing to use Autobahn Country Club as my main track for testing. Autobahn Country Club is located in Joliet, IL. It’s membership fee costs as much as the Cavalier (Cayman), but luckily, organizations such as Gridlife rent out one of the track formats for a weekend. The layouts are called North, South, and Full. North layout is 1.4 miles, South is 2.1 miles, and they link them together for Full, which is 3.5 miles. Most grassroots organizations primarily rent the South course layout. Autobahn South was one of my favorite tracks when I started tracking almost a decade ago. It has a few turns that require commitment, rewards aggressive braking, and some that require patience.

I also feel reasonably confident at Autobahn Country Club.

The saying goes something like, “You like things that you feel you’re good at.” Since I’m building this car to reach a specific goal, the test-track needed to be one of the stops for GLTC. Luckily, it has been on the Gridlife schedule since Gridlife’s inaugural season. The cherry on top of this sweet nectar is that ACC is only 45 minutes from my house. There’s something about being able to break your car at the track, go home, and return the same day to fix it… or set it on fire. 

With the track set, It was time to move on to the lap times the GLTC front runners were setting. In 2022, you had to be able to consistently produce 1:32 lap times on the South track if you attempted to run with the Top 5. 

Gridlife Chicago 2022

I was also at that GL event getting a baseline on the Cavalier/Cayman. It was a challenging time, because the Verus Engineering aero package for the front of the car was installed, but the rear wing was still being manufactured. I knew that would throw off the balance, but there was still some valuable data in driving the P-Car as is. It’s worth noting: I also refused to take off the front aero because the Cayman looks hideous without it. What can I say? Half the battle for me is having a cool looking car as well as going fast. Don’t @ me about it either lol. The Cayman did have that factory spoiler that deploys at 80 mph. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that baby spoiler wasn’t going to put a dent in the aero-balance category. It’s there to aid stability so the earlier generation humans don’t die while leaving Cars and Coffee. 

This Could Be a Problem…

I also knew the coilovers were geared towards handling the load of the Verus complete package. Once I acknowledged that this could be a bad time… I quickly threw caution to the wind. Then – the wind came through with dark rain clouds to throw back at me. Rain clouds were rolling in as my session was about to start. Learning a new car in the rain on the first session – what could go wrong? It’s not like walls surround this place. Don’t think about it.

I’ll summarize how the 1st session went…

I spun on my out-lap (twice) and drove back into the pits. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that ‘car trying to kill you’ vibe. As the rain dried and the vibes of Hamilton filled my body, it was time to set the Autobahn on fire with my greatness. And as you would assume, that didn’t happen. However, I discovered that you could not turn the stability control off. Try to control a tiny bit of sustained slip angle, and the PSM will protect you from having fun. 

Time – 1:41.1

The 987 Cayman is one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. It takes a specific technique and finesse. And when you start to figure it out, she rewards you for treating her nicely. My style was initially probably a bit to aggressive with the steering wheel. Something my S2000 rewarded… but the Cayman does not. When all the dust settled, I was slow. It bruised my ego slowly, but I gained some solid data from the event. I also got a baseline time of 1:41.1. For reference, that would put me right around last place in GLTC that weekend lol. Hell, there were only 21 cars slower, and 15 of them were Honda Fits!

To the drawing board…

One thing I knew I needed to change was the springs on the coilovers. Even with an incoming wing, I suspected the 800 lbs rear springs were too much for my needs. It was also odd that the front springs were 500 lbs, which is a massive spread for most tracked Caymans. The Pro Awe boys and I did the math for the motion ratio on the Mcpherson-style Cayman suspension. Motion Ratio describes the amount of shock travel for a given amount of wheel travel. Mathematically – it’s the ratio of shock travel & wheel travel. We also considered an estimate of what the aero package would produce in terms of downforce, and what tire compounds I may run with GLTC. Taking all that into account, we came out with a spring rate of 600 lbs (11k) front springs and 700 lbs (13k) rear springs. And we turned to Eibach for these springs because they have a wide variety of spring heights, stiffnesses, durability against loss of spring rate, and consistent spring rate throughout the stroke of the shock. 

Race Cars Need Wings

That’s a no-brainer. To be a race car, one must dawn a race car wing. That’s the only way. I looked to Verus Engineering again for a few reasons. 1) They had already scanned the car and knew what height and element would suit the Cavalier best. 2) Verus can develop a wing that perfectly matches their front splitter and dive planes on the car. 3) I trust their Computer Fluid Dynamics (CFD) over most other companies (aka: air flow predictions).

That leads us to the UCW wing.

It’s a simple 2×2-weave carbon wing that sits below roof height. This wing should produce a sufficient amount of downforce without a significant increase in drag.

“Ain’t no f****** way you’re that slow.”

After these mods, it was off to the track. A friend of mine is a member of Autobahn & was doing some testing with his Cayman… and he was gracious enough to let me join him with mine. I felt more confident than ever that I could nibble closer to that 1:32 goal. Honestly, being 9 seconds off the pace is embarrassing. Racing involves a ton of ego, and anyone telling you otherwise is a liar or doesn’t like winning. It was around the low-60s in temperature, which is hot for a late-October track day in Chicago. In the first session, I managed to tick off a 1:40 while trying to pass some of the people in my session. Not bad, but of course, it wasn’t enough. During the next session, I was bumped into a session of my own which was meh at best. I always like chasing people.

I took the time to do a sensory session.

It’s something I read about. And basically – it’s when you focus on what you’re feeling in the car. Concentrate on the feedback from the steering wheel, how the throttle/braking transition affects load change, etc. In other words – what is the car is trying to tell you? What are you missing while you’re ‘trying’ to be fast. It’s one of the great things about being able to practice: You don’t need to worry about setting a good lap time immediately.

The Verdict

With the last session coming up, this was the time to attempt some quick laps before returning home. I managed to clock-off a 1:38.1 which is a whole 3-second improvement from the last time I was there. Although pumped, I knew there was more in the car as it sat. And I kew I was a little conservative in a couple spots on the track. The bad news is that 1:38 is still 7 seconds off the pace… so more time will be needed in the lab. 

Room For Improvement…

One of the significant upgrades I need is a racing seat. I’m sliding around in the stock seats, and you tend not to realize it, but constantly having to brace yourself gets tiresome. It would aid in confidence as well. I’ll also be sending my coilovers to Fortune. It may be time for a refresh. After all, they were on someone’s daily for almost three years & have seen plenty of track time since then. Fortune has come out with some new shock internals that I would love to try. I also ran that track day on level-1 chorded tires. That means the first belt layer is just starting to wear through, and you are on the second belt layer – officially dead in Devin’s book. Lastly, I’m still running a bit heavy for GLTC. I want to be around 2900lbs with me in it, and I’m currently about 3150 give-or-take.

Overthinking Season is here…

Now that it’s cold outside, the new rules for GLTC have come out, and it’s time to overthink what I need to do. But realistically, I’ll stick to the plan and KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). I hope to see you there next time, and as always, leave a comment below or tell me what you think on Instagram at Proawesomedevin. 

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