Monday, February 22, 2010

Katana2 Track Testing at Big Willow

We have been busy working on a new Katana package that we will be submitting for CARB approval. I stated the goal of delivering a street legal supercharger kit at the launch of the Katana and after many years of trying - we believe we have a solution. Track testing was the last part of this development. This is an excellent place to run a car at high rpms, speed and actual loads to determine how well the car is tuned. Project Nirvana Elise has been our test mule for this new kit. Tuning was conducted by our friends at Secant Vehicles. I am happy to report the Elise ran smoothly and swiftly this past weekend at Willow Springs with the Lotus Challenge Series.

We secured the services of our good friend (and recent Daytona winner!) Dave Thilenius to run the car hard on track. Nirvana was running with old R888s but Dave still managed to crank out a bunch of laps under 1:38 with the best being 1:35.94. A new GUT aero kit was also added to Nirvana since we last ran on track. We subjected the Katana2 to a total of 10 run sessions from Friday through Sunday.

Riding shotgun with Dave on a session was Steve from Secant Vehicles. Steve is a mechanical engineer with over 15 yrs of engine calibration experience. He has worked for Roush, Bosch and even Lotus Engineering in calibration positions. Steve has taken many cars & aftermarket power kits through CARB and knows the process well. He has tuned our new Katana2 kit to meet these standards. If you seen his work on the Secant Type I you can attest to the OE-like quality of his work. Steve has also developed our Atom2 tune and are very happy with their work.

I also enjoyed driving duties when we started track testing on Friday. Steve monitored the electronic equipment and data logged engine parameters as I ran through his commands; go slower, hit the rev limiter, try to detect second cam, and go faster! By the end of the day, we landed on a tune that ran wonderfully and safely on track. I had my friend Jack Fried - an accomplished LCS racer and 211 owner, drive the car late in the day. Jack has owned many of the Elise variants and has tons of track seat time in them. He was very pleased with the performance and commented that it ran even better than the Katana that was on our last Exige.

The car runs very nicely with an excellent idle and around town manners. The mornings were in the low 50s and warmed up to the high 60s. Getting a car to run well on the street AND track while still meeting emissions is a significant challenge. The car accelerates very smoothly and the second cam is hard to detect.

All out power is not our goal with the Katana2. Again our plan is to secure a CARB EO number so that our customers can run their cars on the street. The biggest difference with this kit is that we have added a new airbox. Since supercharged cars are more sensitive to intake changes than exhaust changes, we required a new tune. Our original Katana tune was tested but did not pass all the CARB required emissions tests. We are now preparing our CARB application....stay tuned for updates!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canyon Run with my Atom2 - Aero Test

I had the chance to run my Atom2 this weekend to test out the new aero package. We installed the TMI sourced front factory wing on my Atom a couple of weeks ago. Now that we are an official Ariel Atom Dealer, we will offer this solution to clients. It attaches to a bracket that bolts to the frame at the nose. This bracket also secures the front tow hook. We had commissioned a rear wing design from Steve@Aerosim and had it built by ReVerie. The rear upright was complete and we had it powdercoated black. The wing is a dual element design that Steve spec'd for us. This rear wing will be an Atom2 offering only.

I took the car to Palomar Mountain, which is a road frequented by sportbikes, sports cars, RVs, trucks and the local police. I took a couple of fun back roads that are usually empty and unpatrolled to get to Palomar. The weather was in the low 70s. The Atom was extremely fast and pulled like a banshee. We had added Tom@Unique Fab's in-line radiator for the intercooler. I could detect no heat soak related slow down. It was hard to keep the car at full throttle for any length of time in the canyons. It was fast and ferocious. The increased rev limiter (now 7100 rpm) allowed me to stay in gear on certain corners - though the car makes enough torque that you can leave it in a higher gear. Since the car revs so quickly these added rpms make a huge difference.

The aero had the car feeling nicely planted. The front fenders can cause some slight lift at high speed. I usually remove them at the track to eliminate this issue. They were not removed as I was driving on the street. I also made some small adjustments to rebound on the Nitrons to deal with some of the bumps. The downforce was truly confidence inspiring. I also had side panels which reduced cabin buffeting and kept me from freezing in the morning. Overall, I was very happy with the result.

Further tuning will be done at the track...hopefully this weekend at Willow Springs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Thrill of Victory & Cold Hard Reality of Maintenance

Our new Nitron parts were put to the test this past weekend at the Lotus Challenge Races. Michael proved that he could go fast with these parts on his Cup Exige - he won the Time Trial, beating even 2-11s. We had checked this car completely after our setup day the previous weekend. After three days of hard running the car suffered a mechanical failure. Though we did not support this car during these 3 days, we regret not having checked it. Race parts need attention. You must check them at frequent intervals to ensure they are in good operating condition.

Michael led 6 laps of the wheel to wheel race when the failure occurred. After the car was brought back to the pits and we all cursed our luck (and each other), we found that the lower wishbone had separated from the front upright. We discovered that the Titanium threaded pin backed out half of the way and then wobbled itself loose enough to tear out the remaining threads that held it into the upright. You can see how this occurred in these pictures. After reviewing these pictures with Guy@Nitron, he also agreed with our assessment.

The last picture shows the other upright and how it is also backing off. Steve took this picture as we were scrutinizing the failure. We had marked these joints with a paint line to allow for quick visual checks. Clearly the line had moved - if this had been caught, we could have tightened the joint and averted the failure that manifested itself in the race.

The car is now in the hands of R3 Motorsport who will be managing it for future races. We are bringing replacement parts up to them to get this steed back to it's winning ways. We will also conduct periodic review of this car to see how the parts are holding up.

As we all take street cars and run them hard on track, we will need to be more attentive to additional maintenance. The cars are being taxed beyond the scope they were designed to contend with. Race parts, by their very nature, need even more scrutiny. This cold, hard lesson teaches us all that we need to check each critical nut & bolt before any track event.

Colin Chapman apparently said that if his race cars broke as they crossed the finish line, he did a perfect job in designing them. Since we are only racing for bowling trophies, we surely don't need to take such risk! ;^)