Monday, April 21, 2014

Project Dragon Update

We continue to work hard on Project Dragon.  This update will give you some insight on our progress.  The chassis is complete and basic assembly is beginning.  We should have the test mule in May to begin our tweaks and most importantly our validation testing.

Our chassis is now powdercoated and undergoing assembly at Palatov.  Our chassis is essentially the same as the D2 with the exception of two mounting tabs for the ECU and fusebox.  We are relocating those two items to the front of the car.  The main reason for this is to clean up the rear of the car by the bellcranks and shocks.  This area is fully exposed in our design and I wanted to keep it uncluttered.

Our LS3 engine arrived with a Camaro oil pan - this would not clear the chassis so a Corvette pan was ordered along with other parts to work with it.  GM has some error in their system as they state the eRod LS3 comes with a Corvette pan when in fact it comes with an unbaffled Camaro.  We will have to watch this issue for future builds.

The 997 GT2 transaxle that we have ordered came in and underwent a few mods to make it work in our application.  This 6spd gearbox required a new mount so Dennis has redesigned the subframe to fit.  The shift cables will also run underneath the car which will make for a tidy package.  Palatov are working on a sequential gearbox install that could become a future upgrade for our car.  Currently the 5spd will be the standard and this GT2 6spd will be the upgrade.

Palatov have worked with Bill Dailey to sort out a nice Dry Sump for the car.  This will be an option on our car as I think (testing will confirm) that the casual trackday owner will be OK with the stock oil pan.  We think for guys who want to run slicks and aero, this option will be a smart one.

The body design has been fully 3D surfaced which was a fun process.  Our final design is clean and remains very simple.  Our big picture idea is that we can offer different body kits for this chassis that the client can choose from.  To that end, we've ordered a D2 body that we will install on our chassis to show the flexibility.  Our body is very basic and will appeal to those clients looking for a hardcore and elemental design.  We are now working on the b-side attachments scheme and body splits.  This is almost complete and a critical part of developing a body that can actually be produced.

The image above gives you a feel for the car.  The rear will be exposed to help facilitate better cooling and heat evacuation.  Another key challenge for us is to validate that this body will allow the car to run cool when hammered on track.  We will first test the car without our body and then test again with.

Lights have been an interesting challenge.  We reviewed the FMVSS requirements in detail and meeting them is hard work!  We are working with Hella to source high quality parts.  We've sourced a number of sweet lights that we will begin testing.  The headlights will be a Bi-Xenon that should kick out some serious light.  Developing housings and enclosures is something that is also underway - and possibly the hardest part.

Joe Marko from Schroth USA came out to look at our chassis last month.  We reviewed the harness routing and discus proper interior headnet positioning.  He also had some good suggestions for rollbar padding.  He came away impressed with the car and may just be a buyer when we are done...

Our Cosworth dash arrived and we are sorting it out.  The form factor is perfect.  We know that it should be a cool solution but have to work out the wiring details.  Switches are the next task that need to be addressed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cockpit safety seminar

During the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend, the Stand21 Safety Foundation runs a 'Racing Goes Safer' safety seminar.  We had the pleasure of attending this year, and we'll share what was presented through our blog.  Dr. John Melvin gave a broad presentation on cockpit preparation for safety that brought up many topics that each could have been a seminar on their own.  Below are some highlights of his presentation:

To escape a crash with little to no injury, the car needs to: 1) have space for the driver, 2) keep driver attached to the car; prevent the driver from hitting the interior violently.  The car will provide the space; proper seats, belts and padding can provide the rest.  Data logging crashes in NASCAR and Indy Cars for the past 20 years has shown that with the proper protection, a driver can withstand over 100 Gs in a crash without severe or fatal injuries.  Body support, 6 point belts, head padding, and controlling head motion, are all critical factors.

When you buckle in you are pulling yourself against the seat.  Strong, supportive seats with side supports at the pelvis, shoulder, and head are necessary.  Chest support is not recommended due to the chance of broken ribs.  Belts will hold you in a frontal crash, but seat should provide body support for side and rear crashes.  Most seats do not provide this support.

Head and neck restraints depend on the lateral support of your seat to be completely effective.  They do not provide protection in a side crash.  Because of this need, new standards have been created for Aluminium and Carbon Composite seats: SFI 39.1 and 39.2.  The 39.1 seats are quite expensive and are typically found in NASCAR Cup cars; the 39.2 spec seats are more affordable and are mandatory in some series such as ARCA and World of Outlaws.  Most road racing seats follow the FIA 8855-1999 standard- these seats are not supported at the upper cage and the test requirement is only 15G.  Most of these seats also do not have sufficient shoulder support - there are new seats from Kirkey and Racetech that DO meet the new SFI standards.

SFI 39.1 'containment' seat
The padding on the sides of the seat for the hips, shoulders, and head should be a close fit to the body and made of SFI 45.2spec padding.  There should be a maximum of .5" space between the outside of the helmet and the side head padding.  This minimizes the risk of concussion during a wreck.  It may sound like too little room for your head to move when you look around, but check out how close the NASCAR Cup drivers have their head padding - and some of those guys come from the dirt tracks where there are no mirrors and swivel their head quite a bit.  

Interior nets
Why do you need an interior net if you have a good, strong seat?  Not all impacts are directly lateral and sometimes there are multiple hits in a wreck.  Interior nets, when installed properly, are very effective.  They are also very inexpensive, and can make a low-cost seat more effective in a side impact crash.  They can also make an inexpensive seat with no lateral head supports more effective by stopping your head from trying to travel across the interior in a side impact.  You want to position the net so it catches your shoulder and head as a group- if it catches just your head, it will increase neck compression.

Belts not only help you in a crash, they also help you stay put while you control your car.  6 point belts are recommended over 5 point belts.  6-point belts with double rear-facing crotch straps reduce chest deflection about 50% compared to 5 point belts.  They can also reduce neck tension, too (about 15%).
Polyester belts that meet SFI 16.5 can be either 2" or 3" wide - either belt is equally strong!  The pressures under either belt are similar - the 2" belts may fit better under your neck restraint as well.

A seat, head net, neck restraint, 6-point belts and leg padding displayed together
Head and Neck restraint
Belts and seats can effectively restrain the torso, but the head/ neck restraint is needed to control the head.  Studies have shown that is you drive a racing car at speeds above 40mph, you need a head restraint.  The HANS device and the Hutchens Hybrid by Safety Solutions (now Simpson) perform similarly in SFI 38.1 tests.  Either one is a fine choice.
A foam neck collar is NOT a head and neck restraint.  They are used to prevent neck fatigue and limit head motion in low-level motions.  They could be used in combination with a head/neck restraint, though.

Leg Protection
Most leg injuries are from flailing and striking interior surfaces.  Flat surfaces with padding on the outside of the leg area can help, and hanging a 'knee-knocker' pad from the steering column can stop painful fractures.

A complete safety system can be obtained for about $2000.  This would consist of SFI 16.5 belts, SFI 38.1 Head/ Neck restraint, and a low cost seat with an interior net.  How many weeks can you afford to be out of work?  What is your health insurance deductible for an ER visit?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Atom 2 Engine Damage, part 2

In the last post, the MP64 supercharger from our customer's EcoTec powered Atom was shipped to Magnuson for inspection.  It turns out that the damage was significant.  *Something* had been ingested into the motor, and the rotors were damaged beyond repair.  This could also be the cause of the damaged ring in the engine.

They rebuilt the case with only a hone and polish, which was another lucky break.  If the case was damaged badly, a new supercharger would have been needed.

The rotors are coated with a very cool APC coating - 'Abradable Powder Coating'.  It's a coating that wears away on break-in to create a very complete seal between the rotors. As it is broken in to 'mesh' the parts, a dry lubricant is released to control friction.  It's a smart way to make the rotors as tight as possible to create reliable boost.  Here's a link if you'd like to read more.

Our next step is to get the engine back into the car and test.  I'll report back.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Headlight Covers Can Be Brought Back From the Dead!

Your local car detailer can work miracles on your cloudy headlight covers...see the beautiful result on this '05 Elise.  A little TLC can go a long way.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Atom2 Engine Damage

A customer of ours brought his Supercharged EcoTec-powered, Secant-tuned Atom2 in for general maintenance service.  Along with some other maintenance items, we dynoed the car to see if it was running as expected... but it came up short on power.  We were expecting 230+ hp at the wheels, but only had about 205hp.

The engine seemed to be running ok (ran smooth, plugs looked good, etc), but there was something else obviously wrong. Carlos did a compression test and discovered that cylinder 4 was low by about 20%.  A little oil in the combustion chamber raised the test numbers; he theorized that the rings were bad in that cylinder.  The engine was removed from the car to be torn down and rebuilt.  After dis-assembly, the issue was confirmed: the compression ring on piston 4 was broken.  Thankfully, the pistons were not damaged, and the cylinder only required a light hone.  Assembly, as they say in the technical guides, is the reverse of dis-assembly, so all new GM seals and gaskets were used and a freshly rebuilt head was torqued into place. 

Meanwhile, the M62 supercharger had issues as well- the rotors were scratched up as if the engine ingested something.  We sent some photos of the scratches to Magnuson Superchargers, so they could provide an opinion.  They suggested that the rotors were indeed damaged, and could also be incorrectly timed to each other. The supercharger was shipped off to them to let a 'calibrated eyeball' inspect and rebuilt if necessary.

We will hear back from Magnuson shortly and then install all of it back into the Atom.  We'll keep you updated!