Enjoy the Track Featuring Driver Steven R. Rochlin -- Formula Continental and Ferrari 308GTS QV

 

 

 

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Enjoy the Track

  This was the final SCCA race of the season, and as such felt that taking advantage of the Lime Rock Park (LRP) test day on Tuesday before the Friday/Saturday race weekend would be highly beneficial. If you recall from my previous LRP event things did not go as planned, with a shunt at Big Bend, and so never had the time to truly dial in a good setup plus learn the race line. Sure i won that race at LRP back in June, yet there was still more work to be done. Since LRP was the very first track i had ever driven years ago by attending a Skip Barber three-day driving school in their Formula Dodge cars plus a pair of days immediately afterwards in the Ferrari 308GTS QV with FCA, it was nice to get back there in hopes of securing the 2007 title of second place in the driver's championship for the North Atlantic Road Racing Championship (NARRC) region of SCCA.

Arriving on Monday for the test day allowed me to setup the tent, scales, and have everything ready for Tuesday's event. Since i have been receiving quite a few e-mails for more photos and videos, everything was in place to capture the flavor of this five-day LRP extravaganza.


Truck, enclosed trailer and tent setup. Call it home away from home for the week.
While not the creature comforts of home, hot meals and a cot are fine.

 


Car comfortably rolled onto the scales.

 


Side tent bits now attached.

 


Weight scale readout, as was trying some new bits on the car
and wanted to be sure of the weight distribution.

 


As i would be at LRP for about a week, things tended to spread out within the trailer.

 

Lime Rock ParkLRP is a small carousel, as it were, with lap times being under a minute and has a nice rhythm to it. After the straight you basically brake as late as possible and go around Big Bend and and take the Left Hander to the Esses and away you go to the uphill. Not much to go wrong other than the usual always keep things neat and tidy at the top of the hill. After that, the back of the track is fairly easy other than keeping your momentum to carry as much speed as possible down the hill and take the last right with as much speed as possible through the front straight. Deceivingly simply really, yet keep in mind LRP's tarmac, littered with many concrete patches, is not smooth like Watkins Glen or the many European circuits. In fact LRP is very bumpy in many places while the concrete combined with newly paved and old pavement sections yield various grip levels. So you are fighting the bumps, various adhesions levels, and of course the other cars on the track.

Tuesday started off with a simple warm up, as sometimes drivers get a bit anxious and perhaps trying new engine bits. As such, took things (relatively) slow and steady while various cars did make their way off of the track surface. During this first session was about 50 feet behind a car when it's engine decided to let go, spewing oil all over my visor in the process as i quickly went off race line and pulled a tear off from my visor so i could see a more clear view instead of blurry oil splatter. This first session went well and all parameters of the car's pressure, temperatures, and other bits felt as they should.

With each passing 20 minute test session my times were lower as the driving line became more understood and was taking more speed. Tire grip was quite good during the middle three sessions as temps were nice and hot and tires were in their midlife of heat cycles. The last two sessions it was obvious the tires were going off, so the car was sliding a bit more. The very last session the times were off by about 1.5 seconds and so it was time to retire this set of rubber. A video from one of the faster sessions can be seen by clicking here (11.5MB).

With Tuesday's test session ended, things felt really good and it was now time to spend the next two days to completely bolt check, clean the car, and also try something i had special planned for the NARRC qualification session 1 on Friday. If my daemon tweaks worked, would carry it over to qualification session 2 and the race. if it did not work out, still have qualification 2 to change things back for qualification 2 and of course the race.

 

And Now Batting Clean Up...

Wednesday was spent tweaking the car and bolt checking. Enjoyed a nice sunny day at LRP while taking my time completing the various tasks. This continued through Thursday and by mid-afternoon all was set. While the car engine and other bits were not really 'dirty' (relative), she was now quite clean.

 

Qualification Time! The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men...

With the track being a bit cool and the tires in the same condition, allowed a few laps for things to get up to temperature. There was no huge rush and sometimes the first few laps drivers tend to get a bit overly aggressive given the conditions and spin out. It has happened to me so can not plead innocent there! By lap 3 it was obvious something was not quite right on the rear of the car. The changeover was not working well, with good grip with no and high load forces yet light to mid-loading during bumpy sections causing the rear to step out at a higher than desired rate (too much oversteer). The bumpy track and changing surfaces really had me trying to analyze just what was the problem so i could later formulate a possible solution.

Video link at the end of this paragraph goes as follows: Was driving relatively slow on my 4th lap around the track and trying to understand the grip situation during various turns. Taking the Lefthander was a pair of cars not quite in their normal position. At first i felt go to the inside (left) of the red car as usually when they spin if the driver does not stay on the brake pedal the car would drift to the right in this circumstance. Testing my grip level by turning the steering to the right, there was no way i'd pull an inside pass given grip levels so felt going wide (right) would be safest as could always chop some grass if necessary. Fortunately the driver of the red car did the right thing and stayed on the brake so as to not drift and passed him with enough tarmac to not dirty the tires. With that out of the way, was still being cautious during turning events and you can note this by the deceleration before the turning events and my obviously slower speeds as compared to the other video. So another lap around and past the uphill things were not happy. And then it happened, taking West Bend carefully the rear of the car snap oversteered to the point where a brief moment of trying to correct was obviously futile so may as well stay sideways to scrub as much speed as possible in hopes of lowering the possible impact speed to the inside wall. Someone up there must love me as barely touched the wall at 5mph. It felt like a rear upright broke or something along those lines. After giving the flag/track marshals the thumbs up i looked into my side view mirrors and the suspension bits looked fine as best i could tell. So i drove to car to a safe zone and awaited them to push me out once the sessions was complete. After they pushed me out i checked what i could while on the track with steering input, going through the gears, etc to try and find any obvious mechanical problems. Back in my pit area, only damage to the car were the front end plates, which were easily banged back into shape. The video tells me that when the loaded left rear tire touched the concrete patch it suddenly lost grip. See video of the snap oversteer by clicking here (9.4MB).

With qualification session 1 being less than productive, there were a few hours to really analyze what happened. Checking the bolts, suspension bits, alignment, etc plus had a friend who is an engineer double check my findings, it appears there was no major error in setup or lose/broken bits and so this lead me to the obvious problem which i shall not discuss directly. Fortunately, kept detailed logs and so was able to make appropriate changes. To make a long story short, was stuck using my old tires, which were now well past their optimum and so knew lap times would be off by a good bit. Simply had to finish the race and get the points, which is exactly how things went. End result, secured second place in driver points for SCCA's NARRC region in my rookie year as had already secured second place in SCCA's New England Region (NER).

 As always, in the end what really matters is that we all...

Enjoy the Track,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

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