Penny-pinching car geek's guide to racing, track days, and car build. DIY projects, product reviews, and interviews.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy thanksgiving!  The picture above is my lead-up meals to thanksgiving.  Meals, at lunch, at work, at the cafeteria in my building.  Isn't that awesome?  By the way, the super turkey meal in the middle features gourmet cranberry sauce and delicious gravy.  With a drink and apple pie for under 9 bucks!  On top of that, I ate Korean food with my wife the night I ate the delicious turkey meal.  The next day, my friend came over from San Diego with his family so we had unlimited Korean BBQ.  I think its time to watch my cholesterol.

Actually, I've been steadily gaining weight since after bar exam.  I started running again, but it isn't cutting it.
When I used to have kickboxing matches coming up and the kickboxing club to be an example to, I was in much better shape.  Now that I'm a working man, I find it both hard to find the time or to have the motivation to be in good shape.

I think it is time to diet.  And for the first time in my life, to diet not to make weight or to get ready for an upcoming match, but just to stay healthy.  That'll also help me in my racing ventures.  I'm still in fairly good shape and being on the track doesn't beat me up that much, but that can't last if I keep this up.

My next practice session is at Fontana this Friday.  I'm going to continue my goal of simply learning to drive the kart.  I'll try to put in 50 laps, but that may be much harder at Calspeed than it was at Apex.  I can't wait :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't buy that shit! - Track day report - 11/19/11 - First time out @ Apex

I haven't been in a Kart for over 4 years, and when I was in one I had very limited exposure to it.  I haven't been in any sort of track for almost a full year.  90% of my seat time comes from a Miata, and the other 9% is probably from indoor karting.  So I was in for 'a real something' when I went out for my first session.

First things first.  Stu Hayner held my hand through everything.  He installed everything on my kart, fixed my carb, fixed my brakes, hooked me up with a set of used tires, and when he found out both of my motors were KPV junior motors, he even took off one of the motors off of his other karts and put it on mine.  I'm probably forgetting something.  Most importantly, he gave me tons and tons of advice.  One thing that was stressed to me repeatedly was  "Don't buy anything!" That still rings in my ear.  I really don't need to buy anything.  Robert sold me everything I needed, trailer, safety equipment included. (thanks Robert!)

Before we get into details; here are stats:
"off's" - 4 or 5 times (lol)
"off's" that caused other "off's" - once (included in above figure)
Broken parts - 1
Time behind Stu's pace: 7 seconds (In a 43-45 second course. lol!)

I also found out my kart is good at shoveling up gravel, and how good gravel is for slowing down a kart.

I got there around 10AM, and by 11AM I was already out on the track.  I got about 60 laps in.  Kart seemed to handle pretty well, with a hint of understeer.  Stu was worried it might handle badly, because many of the components were from other karts, and because my steering shaft was bent.  It didn't matter though, there is nothing much wrong about driving with a bent steering shaft, and I'm not good enough to notice subtle differences in handling.  Or at least I think.

Turns out the kart handled just fine.  Slightly understeery, but thats good for a newbie like me.
The whole day was spent learning to drive the kart.  Took me many laps to figure out that I need to go fast enough for the kart to even get around the corner.  Took me many more laps to figure out that leaning out helps the kart turn.  Took me many more laps to figure out I can't turn my head enough with the neck brace I got.  And it took me many laps to figure out that noise and surge in acceleration in a particular left hander was my leg flinging out and pushing on the throttle cable (lol!)

Some memorable events.  I spun (completely due to driver error-forgot to put enough heat into the tires) on a left hander and was pointed the other way.  I saw two, three more people spin out trying to avoid me.  Oops. Bad spot to lose it.  Another idiot error:  I was trying to push it a bit and felt that I was going a wee bit too fast.  Momentarily, I thought "what if..?" and looked at that "what if" spot.  Off I went right into that spot, which happened to be a barrier after a gravel pit.  Scooped up a bunch of gravel and went right into the barrier.  Thank goodness for movable barriers.  No noticeable damage in any of my "offs," except I think I chipped my brake rotors a bit more.

I learned a lot.  A challenge for me is getting over the fear and trusting my kart.  You know those sections on a racetrack with lots of kinks and bends that lead into a slow corner with a hard braking zone, which series of turns can be taken flat-out if you do it properly?  There was one of those at Apex, which you probably know of, and it took me the third session to get the guts enough to try it flat-out.  I felt each time my kart would fly off the track.  Each time before the braking zone my kart would start a four wheel drift.  Kinda scary for a newbie like me.  But the kart will do it over and over again, as long as I ask properly.  Much of the high-speed corners can be taken with a simple lift of the throttle or a small jab at the brakes.  I always braked early and hard for them, like I was in a car.  Not only was it sometimes even harder to get around the corner that way, it killed my exit speed since my.. erm.. entry speed was so very very low.  No wonder I'm 7 seconds off.

However, in the beginning of the day I told myself I'll do a 50.  I couldn't figure out how to use the Mychron 2 unit that my kart came with, but I finally figured out that one of the digits that looked messed up was supposed to say "5," and that is when I figured out that I was hovering around 50.2 - 50.5s.  At least that is somewhat consistent, by Jerry standards.  (I'd stay within 0.5 seconds each lap on the Miata also.)

Can you tell if my eyes are open or closed?
I have so much to learn.  And the learning curve is steep. I'm so thankful that I am getting help.  Stu, thank you very much and I very appreciate all of the help.

What a blast.  It was so good to get time off work.  If I can practice at least once a month until March, I think I will be ready for my first race.  I know one thing for sure; This old kart is 100% sufficient for me.  I am not going to buy anything!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beginning of a new phase of my life

Okay, so lets look at my situation.
I got married.  I started a job, albeit temporary.  I have income.  All of these things are very new to me.
I also bought a kart.  Not that new to me, but I only have 1 race under my belt and I never got to learn as much as I wanted about karting. 

In about 45 minutes, I will also find out if I'm a California attorney when I check my bar exam results.  During the two or three months I studied, I spent my time doing shooting competitions and toying with the idea of starting a business.  My excuse was that I needed time off; I really have a hard time functioning without something other than studying to do.  So, in a way, I don't feel like I deserve to pass.  Also, based on the calculations I did after taking the bar exam, I figured out that I have a greater chance of not passing.  This gives me a feeling of preparedness for the results.

But I'll be lying if I say I don't hope I pass.  Everyone tells me "you never know."  A bunch of my classmates and attorneys I know told me they were sure they did not pass, but they did.  I'm not one to get nervous and question my performance; I generally know when I did well and when I did not, but of course, I have indeed surprised myself by excelling at something I was sure I was going to fail in.  This happened exclusively at law school.

Either way, this weekend I'll start a new phase of my motorsports life also.  Please read the following:

My kart package came with almost everything I need to run.  Lots of spares, lots of tuning parts, tools, etc. Even came with old fuel still in the can.  I'll probably put it in my car and buy a new can.
The kart was set up for its previous owner, who was of similar weight but much taller than me.  I'm hoping I wouldn't have to do much to get it handling.

I live in a 1 bedroom with no garage.  Kart stays in a storage unit.  I can do little things here and there, but I can't do a major overhaul. 

The only thing the kart needed was a brake overhaul, since the seals had rotted away, and getting the motor mounted and ready to go.  I probably need tires as well; the ones on the kart seem to be very hard and thus hard to drive on.

Stu H., yes, that Stu who used to race SCCA pro GT cars, offered his help.  I'm so grateful for someone like that has offered his help.  I think I'll be able to go drive this weekend.

My friend Chris Cullen told me I should make it a goal to put in 50 laps every time I go to the track.  So that is a goal this weekend.

This weekend's goals:
Get kart handling reasonably. 
Learn to tune the carburator
Put in 50 laps.

No specific goals today, as I want to just spend my time familiarizing myself with the kart.
I'm really excited!