Sunday, July 26, 2015

Drakan Spyder (Project Dragon) Update #13: Street Testing

Dave and Joe heading out
 We are long overdue with an update, sorry as we have been overly busy!  We helped finish assembling the first production Drakan up at Palatov.  Joe and I have made Portland our second hometown with the ramp up of this car.  Luckily Portland is a cool town to visit - shame we are usually too busy working!  Since the car arrived to our shop in Temecula, several items were finished including side view mirrors, lights, venting, exhaust testing, suspension tuning and heat management.  We'll cover some of these in this blog.

Dave working on his tan
Dave is a happy engineer
David Thilenius came out to run the car along a street test loop that he had used while doing Ride & Handling work at Hyundai.  Dave now has his own consulting company, you can visit his website: Thilenius Group.  

This test loop is a great place to tune ride quality as it has many different conditions and road surfaces that challenge a car.  Most people believe that CA roads are smooth - in fact they can be very rough.  They can be pretty unforgiving to many cars that were not tuned for these conditions.  Dave and Joe drove together with some tools in hand and made adjustments to the Fox Racing shocks and even a slight tweak to front toe.  Street testing is done at civil speeds and lots of boring steady-state speeds.  This allows Dave to really feel what is going on with the car.  After several hours, they landed on settings that I would then get to try out. 

Some of Dave's comments about the car included that the car was not as 'buzzy' on the road as he thought it might be.  The LS3 is not hard mounted to this chassis so the car remains smooth.  He also commented about how flat the car handled as it sways very minimally with almost no perceived squat or dive.  The suspension compliance is really remarkable and makes the car very comfortable.  It does not have the stiffness you might expect in a car that is designed to be so elemental and pure.  We think this along with the flat cornering will be very much appreciated by our clients.

Naturally I needed to test out Dave's work.  So I decided to drive the car up one of my favorite mountain roads: Mt.Palomar.  This road is frequented by sport bikers and has plenty of tight turns and elevation change.  You may recall the humorous video we made years ago at Palomar.

Gas cap is in the center!
I drove the Drakan down the 15 freeway and was immediately happy with the ride quality.  The car is quiet and smooth at freeway speeds and holding a conversation with a passenger is easy.  I exited at 76 and went east to Mt.Palomar.  I filled her up at Pala and enjoyed the fact that I can park the car on either side of the pump thanks to the center mounted gas cap.

The car ran through the bumpy roads comfortably.  The suspension simply soaked up the irregularities.  This car is a torque monster and I was able to go up the 'slow' side in 3rd gear.  It had enough power to pull the car from each corner exit without necessitating a downshift.  The grip levels were very high and fully confidence inspiring.  The rear of the car could be convinced to come out under power but only if you provoke it.  Steering effort builds as the wheel is turned and provides excellent feedback.  The steering needs some effort but is so direct that you feel truly connected to the road.  We had requested that this effort get reduced and Palatov responded with a geometry change that works nicely on the road as well as track.

Dave's tuning really made for a compliant ride.  Dare I say it may be the most comfortable sports car in our stable?  This is a testament to Dave's tuning but also the basic suspension design by Palatov.  The Fox shock dampening and soft spring rates were selected by us from our track testing and I think they really work well on the street.  This chassis is essentially the same raced by Palatov this year at Pikes Peak - they took the win in the Open class.  The Palatov D2RS runs heavier springs but is basically the same chassis as our Drakan.

Sportbikers love light sports cars!
Of course, not everything went as smoothly as the ride.  We had chosen a new high temp shifter cable housing to test on the car.  The manufacturer felt it may be a better solution for us.  We had been running a good cable from them on our test mule but also used an additional insulation sheath and had great track performance.  These cables are the same construction as the ones we spec on our Lotus TRANScables.  We thought the new cables without insulation might suffice.  We were wrong.  The cables began to freeze up when I was at the top of the mountain.  So I drove home with a few less gears than normal.  We'll swap back to standard cables + insulation to insure this does not happen again.  

Other niggles that I noted included side view mirrors that vibrate a bit, the lack of a dead pedal and the need for grip tape on the clutch pedal.  The side view mirrors will soon get thicker metal on the base plate and should help stabilize the mirrors.  A dead pedal is in the works and adding grip tape is simple enough.

What's with the different spoke count on those HREs?
Overall we are happy with the car and have some additional tweaks to make to it.  Many of our clients are asking for wings.  We'll get to that later this year.  The cornering speeds of this car are already so high that we think most of our clients will be happy enough.  Slicks and wings are in our plans - but first we need to catch our breath from getting this car fine tuned...