Mark Utecht: 20 questions blog

Discussion in 'Tech, Tips, Newb Info' started by Musashi, Dec 26, 2007.

  1. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    First I want to give a HUGE thanks to Mark Utecht for letting me do this. I have probably sat in a car with you once and I really appreciate the valuable information you are willing to share with us from your many years of competative experience. It's motivating for me to get an opportunity to hear what an experienced driver can tell me about their driving style and how is it that they can do the things they do.

    Everyone is welcome to join in and ask good questions. I would really appreciate keeping to the topic focused on performance driving.

    I want everyone reading this to understand this is from the perspective of Mark Utecht, he has many years racing. So if you should feel the need to and some how managed to get into a safe sanctioned event and decide to try anything he has shared, you cannot make any of us accountable for your performance if you end up first or last or even crash.

    Let's repeat: "practice, practice and practice."

    Enjoy!

    -Cheech

    Can you give me some pointers of how you race on the ice plz?



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    Mark Utecht started in motorsports in 1986 running local autocross events. He won multiple championships in the next 10 years running cars ranging from a Honda Civic to a V-8 powered Dodge Challenger. In 1991, Mark began his road racing experience in a Dodge Omni. He won many class championships and set lap records at his home track of Brainerd International Raceway. He still holds a lap record at BIR 13 years after it was set. In 1993, while he was still autocrossing and road racing, he and a couple friends tried ice racing in the off season. He continues to ice race today. In 1995, he was encouraged by a good friend to give stage rally a try. This is where Mark found his true passion. Starting in a Dodge Omni GLH turbo, he won regional and divisional championships. In 1997 he won his first national stage rally championship in the Group 5 class. He repeated the championship in 2000. He went on to win the 2001 ClubRally and ProRally Production GT national championships in a Mistubishi Eclipse. From 2002 to 2005, he ran a Subaru WRX in the hotly contested Group N class in stage rally. While earning multiple event wins, championships eluded him, coming 2 in both 2003 and 2004. In 2006, he returned to 2wd in a Ford Mustang and won the national Group 5 championship.
     
  2. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    As to ice racing pointers, there are a ton of variables. First off, what kind of car and tires? What is the condition and age of the tires? What is the ice surface like? Is it ripped up by studded cars or freshly polished?

    If you are running anything less than menard ice racing tires or homebuilt studded tires, you will most likely go faster by slowing down.

    With street studded tires or just rubber to ice, speed comes when you never break traction. Going as fast as the tires will allow, but not too fast, is a VERY difficult feel to acquire.

    If you are running menards or homebuilt, the best technique is to try to emulate the best rally drivers on gravel. Slide the car just enough to try to keep all four tires aimed in the same direction. Excessive under or oversteer costs time. You know you've done it right when after you set the car, you use less than 20 degrees of steering input to make slight adjustments to your track and at the exit, the car just straightens out on it's own and you are down the course to the next corner. When you do it right, to steal a concept from the movie Tin Cup, your internal tuning fork will chime and you'll be hooked fo sho.

    Here endeth ice driving lesson one.

    Mark Utecht
    Not an expert, just experienced.
     
  3. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    From your many years of experience can you describe how you are sensing traction on a icey surface? As setup is a factor, and ice doesn't give as much feed back like on gravel or tarmac. What are you sensing for and how do you develope these sensories.

    Yes, its true, I'm very BIG into sensory. As a good doctor once told me I'm an Exter-inverted person. That would explain why I suck soo bad in those arcade racing games.
     
  4. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    In the understeer condition you describe, you need to come off the brakes some and/or reduce the steering input to get the front hooked up again. For most drivers, easing up on the brake will get things hooked up again. An advanced tactic of a little throttle while keeping the same steering and brake levels can sometimes help also. This requires SERIOUS left foot braking ability.

    If you know you are going off, (track, road, whatever) you would be best off to straighten the car out and go straight off. There are many upsides to this. If you hit something, the front crush structure will protect you. If you don't hit anything, you may be able to back up onto the road. If your stuck in a snowbank, it is MUCH easier to pull out a car that went straight in. If you hit the curb or snowbank sideways, you could end up on your lid, bad deal. As a final warning on this idea, never pull the parking brake while trying to regain control of a car. The hand brake can help you give control away but it will never help get it back

    To be honest, the "sensing" of what the car is doing on ice is mostly a gut reaction. Each person can develop it with practice, practice, practice. After a LOT of seat time, you will be able to "feel" the loss of grip beginning, even on ice. Even after all my experience, I still find myself questioning if I was really loosing grip or just imagining it. I got some practice the last two days running around to all the extended family activities for Christmas.

    As to what you are feeling for, any slight difference in attitude of the car based on the inputs you are making. I mean a little less braking for the given pedal pressure, a little less weight in the steering wheel, etc...

    I'm with you on video games. If the seat doesn't move, I suck at it. That being said, Flying ACES at MOA is addictive and very cool. Lots of sensory input. One of the owners used to be a fairly serious autocross competitor. He understands "feel" in your seat. In case you're interested, http://www.flyaces.com/index.html
     
  5. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    My biggest challenge is always resources. Whether that is money, time, help, parts, the car itself. All the friends that have helped me build and repair the cars are invaluable. More than that, an understanding wife with a good job and desire for travel to non-traditional vacation locations is the main reason I am so lucky.

    If you meant what was my biggest driving challenge, it has to be learning how to drive a 430 Hp rear drive car on gravel, mud, and busted up pavement. Every other race car I've had has been mostly a put your foot in it and steer type of car. My current rally car is NOT that type of car.

    As to the 20 questions thread, I'd be happy to do it as long as everyone understand that if my time resource gets stretched, replies to the thread may get slow. It is ice race season after all. When you rally, rallycross and ice race, there is no off season.

    Mark
     
  6. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    1. What sparked your interest in motorsports? And what is keeping you in the game?
     
  7. Gridlocked
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    Gridlocked Well-Known Member

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    2. Mark, I have had a couple months behind the wheel of my 02 WRX, and with the recent snow, I have just started to learn how to rotate the car into a corner. The exit isn't a problem, but sometimes I have trouble getting the right angle of rotation when going in. Driving the AWD car has a lot of similarities with the weight transfer of the 2wd GTI's that I am used to, but the point at which I need to start to rotate is different - or so it feels anyway. I would really like to get back into the RallyCross scene and know that if I can combine my ability of driving the 2wd car with the increased acceleration of the AWD car, I should do well. I realize that I have a longer, heavier car but I was fast in the GTI's because I could hold speed through the corners.

    The Question: How are the enter and exit points different between an AWD car and a 2wd car? When entering a corner, what is the best way to get the car to rotate while maintaining as much speed as possible? (LFB, feather the clutch and give gas, ...)

    Thanks,
     
  8. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    I was interested in cars very early. My dad ran at the local circle track for one year when I was about 8 years old. He also raced snowmobiles when I was 4. The first time I entered an event was an autocross at the 3M center in Maplewood. I worked at a gas station behind the campus and heard squealing tires all morning so I went to check it out over lunch. I took the rest of the day off, borrowed my girlfriend's (now wife, thank god) car and won my class at my first event. I was hooked from there.

    As to what keeps me involved, it ISN'T cars. I have grown to hate working on cars. They are all junk, just different kinds of junk. Cars are like a dirty girlfriend, they give you the best sex ever, then you find out you have some disease because of it. But, you keep going back.

    The people and competition is what keeps me coming back despite my hatred of working on cars. Almost all of my friends are in the motorsport community and I wouldn't have it any other way. A shared passion is a key to friendship. I have seen incredible acts of kinship, kindness, community and compassion in every form of motorsport. I have been lucky enough to be on both sides of the coin, giving and receiving care and/or help. It is an amazing experience.

    I am an overly competitive person (the first step is admitting you have a problem) and racing feeds my competitive spirit. I always want to win but I want to win honestly. I once gave up an overall win at Ojibwe by refusing to protest the competitors that finished ahead of me for the speeding infractions they were given on a transit. I do not think speeding is ok during a rally but if the organizers and workers felt the penalties weren't justified/appropriate, I'm not going to push the issue.

    I know these answers might be a little sappy but too bad. I was never one of the cool kids, I don't expect to become one. However, when I'm in the car, getting all I can, I think it's cool and that's what's important.

    Mark Utecht
     
  9. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    The entry point for a FWD tends to be earlier than an AWD car. Because an AWD car can put the power down better, it is better to slow down in a straight vector (not necessarily pointing the direction you're going) and then accelerate all the way through the corner. FWD needs to be pitched WAY sideways and that slide provides braking force as well as aligning the car for the corner. With FWD, power tends to straighten the car out. Thus you need more slide to counter that action. RWD is the latest turn in as power in RWD helps you see where you've been, quickly. Looking where you've been doesn't help the stage times. The exit point should be very similar between FWD and AWD. RWD will have the latest exit to mirror the late entry.

    In an AWD car without an electronic center diff, getting the car to rotate is ALL about weight transfer and momentum. With an elec diff, a pull of the hand brake will do wonders. It just doesn't work well with the subies with 5 speeds. Those with an auto trans in their subies, can do the hand brake mod a that has been discussed to death elsewhere. With the viscous center in the 5 speed, the hand brake will slow both ends of the car, not just the rear. Amy Springer is the ONLY one I have seen that can successfully use the handbrake in a 5 spd WRX, and she uses it only in the tightest corners. I don't know how she does it, the gentle woman's and/or nurse's touch I guess.

    Anyway, depending on speed, some amount of "flick" is usually required for proper rotation. For those that don't know, "flick" is a technique where you turn in, out and back in when entering a corner. This gets the back end swinging. The timing is tricky to learn but once you have it figured out, it's like riding a bike. Each car is different but the general concept applies to all cars. When discussing the flick, we are talking about momentum shift in the back of the car to the left and right. To aid that process, weight transfer rear to front helps. You can do the flick without rear/front transfer but it takes more steering input. To get the weight transfer rear/front, just hit the brakes. That transfers to the front and the back will have less traction than normal. Then initiate the steering part of the flick and you've got oversteer via the flick!

    The slower the corner, the more exaggerated the flick must be. At higher speeds, the flick is almost imperceptable because you don't want to be that sideways at high speed. All sideways does at high speed is slow you down and cause wrecks. I know this from personal experience.

    As to the the specifics of how to rotate, the circumstance will dictate that. LFB will be best if you don't need a downshift in that corner. Just don't lock the front, that will ruin the flick as both ends will loose traction. If you need to shift in the corner, I usually make my downshift early and use that as an added weight transfer technique. I never induced oversteer in the WRX with the clutch. Any abrubt clutch use usually induced understeer for me. That may have been just the set-up of my rally car but I also didn't need it. The other techniques yielded all the oversteer I needed.

    I must caution that these techniques are more difficult in low traction (snow/ice) conditions as it is hard to get the grip you need for proper flick or weight transfer. It is MUCH easier on the summer rallycross course. On the snow or ice, I would reduce my inputs by about 60% when trying to induce oversteer. Sometimes, I would just track through the corner like I was on a grocery run. However, the back would usually step out nicely as the power came on.

    Remember, in low grip conditions, sideways usually costs time. Keeping all four tires hooked up is the fast way. It doesn't look fast, it doesn't feel fast, but it is.

    Ted, regarding your specific circumstance, you will not need to use LFB and throttle together like you did in the VW. LFB just saves the time to move your foot in the WRX. Rarely, you can use a quick stab of LFB while on the gas to induce more oversteer in a long sweeper. I doubt this circumstance will come up very often at a rallycross. It is more of stage rally tool.

    None of what I posted here should EVER be used or practiced on the street. These are techniques for getting maximum performance from your car at sanctioned and insured motorsports events. if your vehicle is covered by a manufacturer's warranty, these techniques may be considered abuse by the manufacturer and may nullify any or all warranty coverage.

    Mark Utecht
     
  10. ScandiaWRX
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    ScandiaWRX <font color="#f8467d">Rally Demi-goddess</font>

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    Mark, thanks for putting your actions in to words. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. So much of what I do is trial and error, hearing the why something works the way it does is very helpful.

    I agree that motorsports is very much about the cool people and acts kindness.

    Amy
     
  11. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Boy, not only is he experienced, he's got a great sense of humor. Thanks again! Mark U.

    The term looking ahead is interpritated differently by many drivers and especially when teach someone this technique. It's probably the most vital to driving as it effects your driving and the decision you'll make in each situation. I use a technique which I call switch the cards A & B in simple terms. "A" Represents where your at or position on the track; the boundaries around your car, like the front of your hood, where ever you can see the farherest extent of your car. "B" Represents your destination, an apex, staging reference point for an apex, trackout, danger zones; where ever you need to be to set for your next move. So I this keep my eyes busy and moving fast and gets me into the zone as they call it.

    Can you describe what visual technique you use in competition driving to keep you ahead as well as safe.
     
  12. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    In road racing or track days, I look to the next corner. Once I turn in, that corner is essentially over and I need to concentrate on the next corner. When the turn in is correct, the rest of the corner happens as if by magic. The good driver can feel when things are wrong in the corner without looking at where the car itself is (card A) and make corrections while still looking far downtrack. I also use peripheral vision a great deal. We all "see" much more than what we "look" at. The skill comes in learning to trust and use what you "see" without "looking". You are really seeing multiple things at the same time.

    In autocross, because the courses are tighter, sometimes you need to be looking out of the car at sharp angles to where the car is pointed. I have actually had the passenger B pillar get in my line of sight at an autocross. The A pillars should become almost invisible due to you seeing through them so often.

    In a stage rally or to a lesser extent RallyCross, you need to see everything. I'm sure my eyes look like I'm in a paint shaker when I'm driving a rally car. Between looking for hazards in the road (rocks, ruts, critters, etc.), checking guages and using the 1000 yard stare to see the road, there is never a visual break. The majority of the time, I am trying to look as far ahead as I can see. Usually my vision is blocked to some degree by crests or woods but I still look as far as I can to have as much warning about the upcoming road as possible.

    On the street, I always look a LONG way ahead. I have at times realized I'm looking through two cars to see what I'm trying to see. Some people gauge how far to look ahead based on stopping distance for the speed you are travelling. I don't. I look far enough ahead and constantly formulate an exit strategy. Going around a traffic issue is better than stopping before a traffic issue. I read once that you should be on the lookout for "bogies at 12:00 low" If you stop before an accident, what's to say the person behind you will do the same? If you go around the accident, you're not in it (selfish reason) and you gave the idiot behind you another ~15 feet to make his lame ass attempt at accident avoidance (not selfish).

    Sorry I went off on a tangent there. That hardly ever happens with me :)

    End result, most drivers need to look further than they currently do. Many should look as far as they can. This will help you be faster on the track and safer on the street.

    Mark Utecht
     
  13. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Here's another good question: What is the difference between driving a low horsepower (-400whp) vs a high horse power (+400whp) on rally and tarmac surfaces? And what characteristic's would a driver need to fashion these beasts. This a huge thing these days as many people's goals are to go BIG in HP's. So who can deal with the big numbers?
     
  14. piddster
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    piddster Lone Wolf

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    What would you suggest for those of us who run a stiff suspension year-round? I know, a softer, if not stock springs and dampners are more suited to low grip conditions, but what if that is not an option? How would you alter your technique if you did not have the weight-transfer to help you out?


    Personally, I'm with you in only working on a car out of necessity, and really don't feel like swapping the suspension out of my DD for a few months. Cripes, look at my bodywork:dunno:
     
  15. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    I have never driven a middle ground car. The highest Hp car I've driven is my current car, the Mustang. It has 430 Hp. The next highest was my WRX with 190 whp (with required intake restrictor). Without exception, every car other than the Mustang was a "mat it and steer" proposal. You needed to keep the speed through the corners which sometimes led to drama. In certain respects, the Mustang is easier because I can take 10% more speed off in the corners because that speed comes back so easily. Then there's the whole RWD thing but that doesn't need to be discussed here.

    In general, the main difference when driving high Hp is learning throttle control. It is very easy to stomp the throttle on dry pavement in anything up to about 600 Hp. Anything other than dry pavement throws a wrench in the works. Trust me when I say you get REALLY busy when the car spins the tires at over 100 mph in 5th gear on loose gravel. You need to have throttle control. A snap lift may be the worst thing you could do. Usually you need to ride it out while coming off the gas slowly to not upset the chassis and weight balance.

    Also, with more Hp, the weight transfer with throttle can induce understeer, right to the point where the back looses grip and then you go to snap oversteer. Being able to anticipate or prevent that is key. The best is a slow and smooth increase in throttle. The old addage about pretending there is and egg between your foot and the pedal is useful to illustrate what needs to be done. Gary Curtis with the BIR school says imagine an orange on the pedal and you are trying to make orange juice, not spray pulp everywhere.

    Regarding who can deal with these beasts, anyone that can act intellegently and calmly when the temptation is to use extremes of control input can usually drive big Hp without incident. You have to be smart enough to avoid just smashing the throttle. Smooth is fast and this is especially true with a high Hp car. If you are just stepping into high Hp, I recommend at least a season of autocross and/or rallycross to learn the skills needed before trying anything at higher speeds. The low speed and controlled environment of these two sports will provide the opportunity to make mistakes with lower or non-existent consequences.

    Mark Utecht
     
  16. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    One thing you could do is take one end link off each front and rear sway bars. That will provide some softening and take NO time to do. If the shocks are adjustable, turn them all the way down.

    Stiff suspension does not eliminate weight transfer, it just minimizes it. All the techniques I mentioned above still apply, they just don't work as well. If you are unable to accomplish the handling you want, you may need to accept that the reason is the stiff suspension. There is not a magic bullet in this circumstance that will overcome the disadvantage of stiff suspension in low grip conditions.

    That being said, once traction is broken, stiff suspension is FAR more predictable. Once sliding, the slide will be more controllable than with soft suspension. The stiff stuff tends to skip over little imperfections in the surface where the soft stuff will try to grab every little thing.

    End result, drive what you have. What you have may make some techniques work better than others, some worse. The overall physics will always apply, it may just be enhanced or inhibited by how your car is equipped.

    Mark Utecht
     
  17. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    So which is better Subaru’s mechanical system or Mitsubishi’s technological driver assist? With the advancing of new technology could the human factor ever be obsolete in the world of motorsports. A lot of safety technology applied to street production was developed on the race track.

    Examples: I can’t foresee it possible to not have a human driver in WRC anytime soon; even with all the latest and greatest toys on board there is nothing constant other than the constant changes on the stages. And in the case with Formula 1, the fore front of motorsports; instead of going forward they re going backwards. Removing traction control, not allowing adjustable aero dynamics and the list goes on.

    So how do you separate the driver from the machine, you’ve probably seen just about every walks of life in your years, what makes a good driver? And when is too much technology taking away from driver’s talent?
     
  18. iceracer83
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    iceracer83 New Member

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    Mr Utecht,
    Can you please describe the 'Friction Circle' to me?
    There used to be a popular driver training aid called the 'g analysis' that used a friction circle to show the g-forces being exerted on the car. It was a pretty basic device compared to the current data acquistion systems but still quite useful.

    Thanks
    Jay
     
  19. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    I like the system on the STi more than the Evo. Having more than three settings is nice but the auto setting on the STi worked best for me unless I was trying to screw around and loose traction.

    I don't ever see motorsport without a driver being a popular thing. It is possible for circuit racing right now but NOT for rally.

    Spec series racing shows the true talent. Also, cheap racing shows talent. If someone can be fast in a Golf, Omni, or any other older sh--box, they will be really fast in a proper car. As to what is too much technology, anything that helps grip other than mass and tires is cheating in my book. I would prefer all racing to not allow aero devices, traction control, ABS, semi auto gearboxes. My dream for Formula one would be cigar cars with a required width and wheelbase and a max 10 inch wide wheel and tire. Other than that, do whatever you want with the engine and manual transmission. That will show the REAL drivers.

    WRC and Sebastian Loeb are a perfect rally example. Loeb stays straight and in the middle of the road and lets the technology make the speed. I prefer the techniques required in the 80s and 90s of chuckin' it into a corner and dealing with what happens. That's what rallying should be about.

    The up side of technology is the efficiency, safety and fun of todays road cars. We are living in the good old days right now as far as street cars go. There have never been so many wicked fast and fun cars available to car buyers in any price range than right now.

    Here's hoping the trend continues for road cars and racing decides to relive the old tail swinging days that showed the talent instead of hiding it.

    Regarding what makes a good driver, a good driver can feel and anticipate what the car is doing and act/input accordingly. That being said, experience is the ONLY way to develop these skills. Participation in whatever organized motorsport you can afford will make you a better driver. Don't discount autocross or rallycross as being too slow/boring to learn anything. It couldn't be further from the truth. These two forms let you try things that would have huge consequences in a higher speed motorsport. Do what you can afford and do as much as you can afford. Seat time is everything, get all you can.

    Mark Utecht
     
  20. Vector
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    Vector Rally Organizer

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    Quoted because it's worth reading again.

    Autocross and RallyCross may appear slow from outside the car at times, but inside the car, it's anything but.
     
  21. Moleness
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    Moleness I can change the internet Staff Member

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    Mark,
    Thank you so much for all the time and thought you have put into your posts in this thread! I do beleive that this was just the best fifteen minutes I could ever spend learning about car control without actually driving. I will reward you with a beer or 2 (afterwards) if I can get you in my passenger seat to coach me at some type of autocross/sanctioned event this summer. I will be re-reading this thread and keeping up on new posts. :biggrin:

    -Matt
     
  22. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    To everyone that has offered appreciation for this thread, it is my pleasure.

    Mark Utecht
     
  23. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Here’s a question that might be of interest to some people. Can you give us some great examples of where AWD, particularly Subaru’s system the advantages in the world of Rally and Circuit motorsports. Examples would be and not limited to acceleration, braking, cornering, weight transfer from steering, throttle, braking and elevation and surface changes. (snow, ice, water, sand, ect.) And on the flip side disadvantages on how you can make changes in your driving to work with these issues.

    And with your recent ventures with RWD, where are the advantages in this platform?

    I got to meet Tanner Foust last summer and it was really interesting talking with him about setup and what his thoughts were about AWD. And this is how he put it: an AWD is like a car with FWD and RWD and you must know how to drive it like so.”
     
  24. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    First off, you should all realize that Jay referring to me as "Mr" is a joke. Jay has known me for many years and this was his lame attempt at humor.

    On to the question. Friction circle is the concept of a tire has a finite amount of grip available and when you exceed that limit, you loose traction. It is an easy concept to grasp initially but understanding how it relates to vehicle dynamics is where it gets tricky.

    First, let's discuss the friction circle without variables. A tire generates a fixed amount of grip. That grip can be used in any direction. In terms of acceleration, that grip would be graphed as a circle with the center being no acceleration and the outer ring being max acceleration. To visualize this let's assume the tire can generate one "g" of grip. If you are using .5 g of grip for braking, you have .5 g of grip available for cornering. If all the grip is used for braking and then you turn the wheel without letting up on the brake, the tire will loose grip. Conversely, if you are cornering at max lateral grip and then hit the brakes, you overcome the grip of the tire and fall out of the friction circle. The main thing to realize is a tire has a given amount of grip to offer at a given load. The only way to get more grip is to put more load on the tire.

    That leads us into the more advanced friction circle discussion, weight transfer. If you transfer weight to the front of the car, the friction circle for the front tires gets bigger because the tire is being forced into the surface. However, the weight that is transferred to the front came from the rear and thus, the friction circle in the rear is decreased. That's why under braking, the rear of the car feels "light" and will come around if you get wild with the steering. The front has more grip than the rear (due to weight transfer) and the front will grip more than the rear. The flip side is under acceleration, the car can understeer because the rear has more grip than the front.

    Thinking about this another way, if you turn sharp right and transfer weight to the left, the right side tires will loose grip easier when accelerating or braking. This is why you always lock up the inside front tire first if you are turning. This is also why the inside front tire spins easier under acceleration out of a corner (most prevalent in FWD).

    If you keep in mind the friction circle and how it shrinks and grows with weight transfer, you can easily predict the grip you have available and use that grip to maximum benefit in your driving.

    Mark Utecht
     
  25. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    David Hobbs has said that you need a whole lot of luck in addition to talent if you are to be successful in racing. In the case of Michael Schumacher, although he is making mistakes, he is correcting them as he goes. He has the full package, physical talent as well as mental talent, his ability to orchestrate something while in the cockpit going hundreds of miles and pulling major G’s to pull a victory and his staff to get the job done while on and off the track. It was in his last two years of racing F1 where it would appear luck had run out.

    While some drivers believe their bad luck is just due to poor luck as to why they’ve crashed often or end not winning races. Contrary to this, Russ Bentley “Speed Secrets” says it’s really due to their belief system and how they have mentally prepared themselves for the race. A few examples would be acting the role, mental simulation, brain integration exercises and dieting. He says your believe system will determine your outcome.

    For the majority of us we fall into the classification of Club Racing which basically means perform at the level in which we can afford out of pocket and friends helping out where they can.

    Having said all this, how do you prepare yourself for your events to help ensure your best performance?
     
  26. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    Wow, you're not pulling any punches are you? I will apologize right off that this response will not be comprehensive. The debate over AWD vs FWD vs RWD rages on even amongst experts. I may not answer all your points but I hope I can give an acceptable snap shot of my feelings on drive configuration.

    I am going to assume a front engine for all of the following discussion. Mid and rear engine configurations take advantage of certain aspects of weight distribution but to add that into this discussion would turn this into something akin to a term project and I always hated school.

    FWD has the advantage of being the lightest of all drive configurations. It is compact and doesn't require transmission of the power to the other end of the car. The weight of the engine and transmission are over the drive wheels, optimizing traction from the pair of drive wheels. With FWD you can "aim" the power with the steering. This is an advantage in low grip situations over RWD.

    RWD tends to be stronger than FWD as there is more room to make things stronger. It also has the advantage that under acceleration, weight is transferred onto the drive wheels. Acceleration with FWD takes weight away from the drive wheels. With RWD and enough power, you can "steer" with the throttle. In FWD, more throttle usually means the car will understeer as you overpower the friction circle of the front tires. RWD also tends to be the cheapest configuration as it has been around the longest and it is easier to produce a large part than a small part to do the same job. FWD and AWD have to get a lot done in a smaller space. That costs money.

    AWD gets all the advantages of both FWD and RWD with one big disadvantage, weight. AWD is heavy. Extra axles and gears add mechanical complexity. However, AWD can make up for the weight by being able to put more power down to the road. The other disadvantage is cost as mentioned above.

    As it relates to road surface, the more grip there is, the less advantage of AWD. This is why most fast road race cars are RWD. If grip is limited, FWD is better but AWD is best. That is why a few years ago, in WRC, the F2 (FWD) cars were beating the WRC (AWD) cars on tarmac rallies but weren't even close on gravel events.

    Weight transfer works the same regardless of drive configuration. If there is any perceived difference, it is due to some other factor than weight transfer, usually power application and how it acts differently in different drive configurations.

    With AWD, care must be taken if you can break traction with throttle as you will loose traction at all four corners with no remaining predictable grip. 2WD is more predictable in that fashion as throttle will only loose grip on one end or the other, not all four corners.

    Regarding my current desire of RWD, it is all about cost. The side benefit is the ease of the power slide. I really enjoy pitching a car sideways and stomping the gas. The Mustang does that part VERY well. My street STi did the same but it was MUCH more expensive so the consequences were higher if I screwed up.

    I agree with Tanner's comments. He certainly has the experience to back it up. There are times where AWD acts more like FWD. One instance is a tight slow corner. If you get on the throttle too hard you get understeer until the tires break loose. Then it instantly turns to RWD and you're trying to keep up with the rear of the car. Challenging if you don't anticipate it but very rewarding if you are prepared for it.

    In the end, AWD does almost everything well. In certain limited circumstances, RWD can outperform AWD but for the average driver those instances are few and far between. FWD is the worst of all configurations from a performance standpoint so it makes sense that it is the most popular drive configuration available...idiots.

    Mark Utecht
     
  27. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    I try to do all the common sense things, being well rested, not hung over, eat appropriate food and hydrate. The one thing that I feel has been a "secret" of our success is having the car done and on the trailer a full week before the event. If for no other reason, it gives your hands a week to heal from the abuse of race car prep. It also gives you a full week to get everything else in order so you are not distracted on race day.

    I have never done any specific mental preparation for a race. That being said, I do have a distinct change in attitude once at the event. I am very serious about winning when the event is on. I will admit I am a control freak and at my worst in that regard at a race. I am however, convinced that my focus helps us be successful where things could go unaddressed without my attention.

    When I am at an event where the course is known (not a rally), I will visualize a lap and note my braking, turn in, apex, track out and shift points. I find that helps my preparation for the run or race.

    Lastly, having good friends and crew with is a big part of preparation. The more capable my crew is, the more relaxed I am. The more relaxed I am, the more I can concentrate on driving and do my best behind the wheel.

    Mark Utecht
     
  28. Speedemon
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    Speedemon Well-Known Member

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    If you could have any rally car...what would it be?
     
  29. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    That's easy, if I didn't have to pay for anything, I would want a current spec Subaru WRC car. Obviously, I would run it in whatever series I could.

    If someone would give me the car and I needed to pay to upkeep the car, I would choose a current Rally America open class Impreza. I would run the central region championship because I can't afford the full national season.

    If I had to pay for everything, it would be a Mustang, just due to low cost.

    If someone was to give me a rally car just for road use, I would choose either of these three, Lancia Stratos, Lancia Integrale or a Audi Quattro Club Sport. I love the old Group B cars but I would NEVER want to drive one of those beasts on stage. I am not nearly skilled enough to drive one of those ill-handling explosions of power in actual competition.

    Mark Utecht
     
  30. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Can you give us some examples of what not to do in certain situations when driving at optimum speed? Obviously dont answer your cell phone, but how about in situations where you want to give it more steering on low traction surfaces or even more critical situations that you have encountered. Examples that would help us avoid endangering our lives would greatly be appreciated.
     
  31. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Well since I found your Bio on BIR's new website, I would like to if you would walk us thru how you would attack the course at BIR.


    [​IMG]
     
  32. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    That is a very open-ended question also. Since there is an infinite number of situations, i'd like to refer to concepts that apply to all situations. You mention needing to steer more on low friction surfaces. For that, remember the idea of the friction circle. If you are already at the max available grip for the tires, you cannot input more steering. However, if you free up some grip by letting off the brakes or gas or just slow down, you will now have some additional grip to be used for steering. Remember that grip is finite, you only have so much. If you try to use more than you have, things will not go as planned.

    The biggest mistake I see in emergency situations is too much input to the controls. Too much braking or steering or throttle. If you are in a corner and the front looses grip, don't turn the wheel more, it won't do any good. Back off the steering and then turn back in, gently. Hopefully you bled some speed of when the car wash pushing and now you have the grip you need to stay on the road.

    Also, NEVER give up driving. I am not making this up. One time at a rally when I rolled the car, I downshifted while the car was rolling. It didn't do any good but to maintain control, if the car hadn't rolled, I needed a lower gear. Too many drivers give up too early where if they stayed with it and did the right things, they may have avoided the problem. A prime example is the skid marks that go off the road. The driver gave up and buried his foot in the brakes. This gave up any chance of steering around obstacles. Again this refers to friction circle.

    Keep friction circle in mind and don't give up and you will lessen you chance of a wreck.

    Mark Utecht
     
  33. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    OK. Attack at BIR. This entire post will be from the perspective of a fully prepped race car with roll cage and all other appropriate safety equipment. If you are doing track days with your street car do not follow these comments in the faster corners. Go as fast as is appropriate and have fun!

    Turn one doesn't exist for all but the fastest or worst handling race cars. The vast majority of cars will do turn one flat out. Turn in where the left apron ends, late apex and use all the track at the exit.

    Turn two is the gut check corner. Some cars can do this corner flat but they tend to be slower or better handling cars. The turn in is at a visible pavement change with a late apex. There is an apron at the track out point and when you are really ripping, you will end up on the apron. That is not a problem. Turn two is where lap records are set. If you don't do two perfect and scary fast, you will not have your fastest lap. The flip side is you can make up for minor errors elsewhere by being agressive in two. That being said, there is no minor accidents in turn two. If you wreck there, it's gonna be big.

    Turn three is the slowest corner on the track. Get all your braking and shifting done in a straight line. Turn in is about 6 feet past the pavement change. You need a late apex and patience to be fast in three. The corner seems to go on and on. Stay patient and use the throttle to maintain attitude in the car. Once you see you're on the right line, wide open to the track out point. Do not dip a wheel at the exit. Many have done so and had a close encounter with the berm on the right.

    Turn four is a throw away corner. You need to brake and turn in very late, maybe even a little trail braking. Do not dip a tire on the entrance as there is a big hole there that will really upset the suspension. The exit and apex are the same point. You need to stay far left at the exit so you are set for turn five.

    Five is a basic 90 degree corner. Concentrate on carrying as much speed as you can. There is some discussion regarding staying a foot off the apex for a faster line but I have never seen the benefit.

    Turn six has a couple things to deal with. At the entrance, there is an apron on the right that you can use to increase the radius of the corner. However, there are speed bumps on that apron so the determination of whether to use it is based on the car you are driving. Most street cars should use the apron where most purpose built race cars should not. Use a slightly late apex and track out to the curb. There is a big curb at the exit of six that you can use but not abuse. If you go off the top, the curb is so tall you may bottom the car and lose grip from loss of weight on the wheels. It is best to stay on the curb and not fall of the back side.

    Seven has an apron just like six at the entrance. All the same statements apply. It is also a throw away corner like turn five. Stay all the way to the left at the exit so you are set for eight.

    Turn eight has an apron like six and seven but there are no speed bumps. A slight left onto the apron will increase the radius of eight and make it faster. The other thing you must do in eight to be fast is drive right across the inside speed bumps at the apex. Keep the left tires on the smooth track surface but let the right side go over the bumps. Without doing this, you may have a huge issue at the exit of the corner.

    Nine is a corner that intimidates folks but it shouldn't. It is a flat out corner in most cars and fairly straightforward. A proper turn in, apex and track out will have you right under the bridge when you are done turning. There is an apron on the left at the exit. It is a couple inches lower than the track surface so you need to be prepared for that but you can certainly use the apron if you need to.

    Ten is the last corner on the track. It is much faster than most drivers think. You need a very late turn in (after the pavement change). You need to accelerate hard all the way through the corner and let the car track all the way out towards the tower. The track goes off camber if you are on the fast line. You will also cross a patch of concrete at the track out on the left if you are using the fast line. After the track out, you will need to come to the right some to align with the main straight. Do so quickly but gently. You do not want to bind uo the acceleration on the entrance to the straight. Stay to the left down the straight and do it all over again.

    Mark Utecht
     
  34. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    This thread has been fun and I have found that the questions have made me think about things I hadn't thought about before. For various reasons, I would like to use parts of this thread in a newsletter for another motorsports club. If anyone that posted on this thread doesn't want me to use their comments, please say so. In any case, I will not use any names other than my own in the other club's newsletter.

    Thanks,
    Mark Utecht
     
  35. Chux
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    Chux Well-Known Member

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    I, too, would like to thank you mark for all the insight you have offered here. wish I had seen it earlier, lots of good info!!!


    just thought I'd emphasize this. I've heard it a few times from numerous sources, and this year I disabled my sway bars (rear of the older subarus has to be completely removed to be disabled...). and have noticed a big difference. I intend to run a softer suspension soon, but will continue to disconnect the sway bars in the winter to help.
     
  36. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    We'll take that as a compliment. One of the benefits of teaching someone is you get to analyze what it is and how it is that we do the things we do. From a subconcious level to our concious for some its like waking up in the morning and others well they might rather go back to sleep.

    In anycase I hope others will chime in with their questions as well, I can ask questions all day. And I probably will, but it would be nice to hear what questions others have.

    -Practicing the same things will not give you different results.

    Thanks again,

    -Cheech

    ps. who's got a good question!
     
  37. prezawagon
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    prezawagon Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm not sure if there is a good answer to this question as it probably varies a lot for each individual, but is there any advice you can share with regards to prioritizing/budgeting time and money when it comes to being involved in racing? Thanks.
     
  38. mayhem83
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    mayhem83 Well-Known Member

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    Very often when a person gets involved in racing, it is all consuming. To be a star in racing, it needs to be. However, realistically, the chaces of beign a star in racing is slimmer than being a rock star. Based on that, you need to prioritize to get the most bang for your buck because it's gonna be your buck.

    Family pressures can be an issue. If you are not as lucky as I am to have a supportive and interested spouse, use what time you can for racing but make sure you keep up with outside responsibilities. A big time regarding money is NEVER race on a credit card. I made that mistake as well as a few of my friends. It becomes a huge snowball fast. If you don't have the liquid cash to compete, consider volunteering or crewing to at least be a part of racing.

    Another common mistake that I was lucky to avoid is blaming poor results on the car. Making the engine more powerful will not necessarily make YOU faster. Invest in yourself as a driver first and the car second. You will be far ahead by running another race instead of buying a more powerful motor.

    For me, the order of importance for speed is driver, tires, suspension, transmission, motor. Since seat time is the best way to improve as a driver, run more events instead of trying to build the perfect car. I have never had the perfect car but I have won my share of events. I feel it is all due to my desire to get behind the wheel any chance I get. It doesn't matter if it's a road race, rally, rallycross, road rally, track day, go-karts, .... it all helps.

    I know this isn't a comprehensive response but these few suggestions, if followed will go a long way towards making your involvement in racing as efficient as it can be from the standpoint of both time and money.

    Mark Utecht
     
  39. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    What are some technique you use in competitive racing for overtaking other drivers?
     
  40. Musashi
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    Musashi Well-Known Member

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    Can you give us some general tips for setup (suspension to aero dynamics) for Rally and Road course's?
     
  41. Chux
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    Chux Well-Known Member

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    ^ good question


    I've got one too, well, not so much a specific question as just wanting to hear your ideas on this scenario. the discussions about different AWD systems reminded me of this.

    I'm always experimenting, and am unsure what's "better". my FT4WD tranny has a locking center diff, meaning it's either fully open, or fully locked. when unlocked, the car acts very much like FWD when driven close to the edge. very hard to induce oversteer without a wicked flick and/or ebrake. and I constantly get one front wheel spinning when accelerating out of a corner. But when fully locked, I tend to get a lot of understeer until I really get rough with it.

    now, the teenager in me wants to just lock it in, slam the throttle pedal down, and let the locked center and 2-way LSD rear do the talking. but the wannabe racer in me can't help but wonder if there's a better way.


    couple guys have put an aftermarket front LSD in there to help (mostly for AutoX use when you can't run the center locked), but I don't think that would help my problem on the ice and gravel.

    any thoughts?
     
  42. carl
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    carl Well-Known Member

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    Mark I was wondering what tire recommendations you had for rallyx and other offroad use? Particularily good budget tires for rally modified m4 class that come in 17" sizes (contemplating swapping off my brembos so I can run smaller wheels but unlikely to happen this season). I hear a lot about debeading tires at these events and want to make sure I have something that won't succumb as easily to this and will also have decent grip and life (and hopefully won't cost an arm and a leg).
     
  43. Dynapar
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    Dynapar Well-Known Member

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    This is a great thread. Thanks Mark for helping us with all of these questions!

    If you were to setup a budget GC/GM/GF chassis impreza for rally x use, how would you go about it? Mainly I am looking for insight into suspension, but any other input would be gladly accepted.
     
  44. Vector
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    Vector Rally Organizer

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    I'm going to answer a couple of questions, not because I'm better qualified, but because he's off racing in Garrison MN :)

    Mark has been a big pusher of the Winterforce winter tires for RallyCross, and the results he's had on them speak for themselves. They are an old-fashioned winter tire in many ways, chunky and a pretty squared-off tread pattern. They are soft enough to bite well at ambient temps (you don't get a lot of heat into the tires in a run, so that's very important). They have stiff enough sidewalls to be predictable and not pop off the bead. They are available in 17" sizes and are dirt cheap (though in 17" they're not as dirt cheap as in a 14 or 15 inch).

    My suggestion on the cheap would be stock springs, KYB AGX struts (full soft front, full hard rear), remove the front swaybar and put a larger swaybar in the back. That'd work for a daily driver too (just take off an endlink on the front at the event).

    If it's a dedicated car, then take as much weight out of it as you can.

    Next step up would be a set of Hotbits coilovers, about $1,400 or so non-adjustable, $2,100 single adjustable or $2,500 double adjustable http://www.davenportracingusa.com )
     
  45. Dynapar
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    Dynapar Well-Known Member

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    Just curious, I heard that running AGXs on full soft will reduce their life. I think it was Joel who blew out 1 or 2 by going full soft w/ SPT or similar springs for daily driving.
     

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