A year in the making! I finally get to take my first real laps in my latest formula car.

These courtesy of Waterford Hills after allowing some of us licensed drivers to take laps during their annual Driver’s School to help add traffic for the rookies. I was pretty anxious leading up to last Saturday as I’d yet to run my freshly rebuilt engine beyond idle. There were lots of late nights finishing the prep work on the car and several items on the to-do list got postponed for a later date, but all-in-all it was a successful maiden outing for 2015.

I’m happy to say that for once I have a racecar that I am proud to display around the paddock. The vinyl work was the biggest drain on my time, but the result was worth it.

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And due to that I didn’t get the opportunity to a full suspension setup as I would have preferred. The Wednesday night leading up to the track day was spent finishing the vinyl work and Thursday displaying it at the local karting track. Normally, I would have used those nights to tweak ride heights, set camber and toe, corner weight the car, then repeat the process but due to the show commitment I only had time to check camber and corner weights.

Fortunately, that was enough to make the car handle pretty well and it has some awesome promise for upcoming races. The engine makes HUGE power compared to my old car and despite struggling with balance issues the car was within a few tenths of my best lap in my old car. For the first time I have a car that has zero oil leaks, zero coolant leaks, and zero trans leaks. Well, I spoke prematurely, it does have a small trans fluid leak but it’s really small so I’m calling it a success.

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It always feels great to get back out on track after a long off season, and with the minimal track time last season I felt really rusty for my first several sessions out on track. It’ll probably take a few more outings to shake the rest of the rust off. There’s the first race weekend coming up and with any luck I can get back into the swing of driving then. These cars aren’t hugely advanced or powerful, but if you don’t stay on top of your game it can be a tough to find a rhythm. They make some real downforce and have a respectable power/weight ratio, so can be a bit demanding to drive. This chassis is very similar to what USF2000 runs, but without the spec nature so there’s quite a bit to mess around with to try and make the car quicker.

That’s really the trick I’m finding is to come up with little upgrades and tweaks to try and find those illusive tenths of a second. This car now has a moderate data system in it to allow me to run comparisons between changes and use more than just the stop watch to evaluate their contribution. It’s one of the area, I think, that most club racers still aren’t exploiting well enough. The stop watch is the ultimate judge, but it alone lacks the clarity to really tell you if a development path is promising or not. One of the areas I’m most looking forward to is digging thru IR tire temp data. Over the winter I stumbled across a reasonable cost set of IR sensors that are queued up to install onto the car. For club racers it’s a technology I’ve seen very little use of so I’m excited to see what I can learn from it.

More to come. With a race this coming weekend I’m pushing to get the car turned around and back out on track. Some of those items on the to-do list shouldn’t be postponed any longer, so it’ll be another week of long nights.