Track Day 10- Streets of Willow - Rollbar, 5 pt harnesses and fixed coil-over

10th track day is at Streets of Willow with Xtreme Speed track events!

Repairs, upgrades and general plans for this track day:

So there were three significant upgrades done to my car going into this track day.

Autpower race rollbar installed in a C5 corvette.

First, I got a rollbar installed. I'm pretty happy about that as it will increase my safety. Supposedly a rollbar stiffens the chasis, but I'll be damned if I can tell the difference. It's main purpose was safety, and to allow installing 5 point harnesses with the current seats.

c5 Corvette with amazon seats and 5 point harnesses

Speaking of harnesses, I got and installed some 5 point, 3" racing harnesses on a Black Friday deal with Summit Racing. Even on sale there were cheaper brands available, but these seemd to do the trick. With the seats modified and the harnesses installed I have a pretty good feeling I'll be notably more secure in the car.

As many folks will note though, a harness is just part of a safety system. You really need a HANS device with it. So I picked up a Zamp 2A hans device for both myself and the girlfriend. While a budget oriented product, it pretty clearly does the job it needs to do as is superior to not having a HANS device, so I'll run with it.

The only other change to the vehicle of note is that I swapped out the blown coilover for a replacement unit from QA1. Pulling the coilover was a headache, especially doing it twice as I forgot to spring clips, and then I did the other sideide to remove the spacers from it so as both sides matched. I also pulled all of the spring preload out of the front coilover, compressed the shock all the way with the tire on and confirmed I'm utilizing all of the travel available to myself up front. I might be able to sneak another 1/4" of travel in up there... but I worry if I pulled the last bit of spacer I'd contact the fender, so I'll stick with what I have.

I honestly expect the biggest change to come from the coilover. I was leaving a ton of time on the table last time because I couldn't accelerate at all when exiting a turn. My girlfriend in the NC Miata would be bumper to bumper through the entry and mid point of a turn, but she could outrun me exiting the turn as I had to wait until I wasn't cornerning even a degree anymore in order to be able to put power down to the wheels. That often gave her a 3-5 second head start on accelerating out of a turn.

Goals going into the track day:

As always, the #1 goal is have fun, followed by ideally bringing the car back in one piece.

Last track day I felt way more in tune with the Corvette having the new shifter, brakes and heel/toe pedals in place. I'm hoping I'll continue to enjoy that excellent feeling, but with the added ability to put power down enjoy the car that much more. Hopefully I'll start to turn some 1:27s setting a new PB (personal best), but I'd settle for continuing to run 1:28s pretty steadily.

Becoming used to the safety equipment and the entry/exit process with the car is definitely an area that will take my focus away from setting PBs, so that will be a bit of a distraction.

One other goal I have in mind for this track day is to finally utilize the tire pyrometer I picked up. I want to take tire temps right after exiting the track and see just what sort of temperatures I'm getting. Hopefully with that information I can meaningfully chase tire pressures along with potentially be more informed about alignment adjustments.

I'm also hoping to continue to use the improved GPS tracking along with the track timing app to capture lap data. 

I do think there will be a bit of distraction going on with seeing how my GF is doing with the improvements to the NC Miata. Presuming all the parts and what not make it in time, I'll hopefully have new seats in the NC Miata along with some ASM 4 point harnesses. The harnesses, seats and the HANS device I got her will surely take some futzing with, and I'll expend some time making sure that all comes together right for her.

Track Day results

Right from the getgo there were some complicating factors for the track day. With night time temps at 23 degrees and daytime temps peaking at 43 degrees with a light breeze, this was going to be a cold track day. Sure enough, nearly everyone struggled with tire temperatures, many folks complaining they never even got their tires up to operational temps. Being fully aware of the temperature issues having run a nearly as cold track weekend just a few weeks prior, I went into it knowing to set low expectations going into the first few sesssions and to focus on getting my equipment setup.

I also found myself in the advanced run group for some reason. I was going to drop down as I personally didn't trust open passing in those track conditions, but was convinced to stay as there were so few people in the group.

In the end I had a good time. Once I was able to get decent tire temperatures and adjust to my equpment setup I went out and sent a PB for myself in this particular direction (CCW) at 1:28.206. This is a slower lap time than my PB running the other direction (CW), I generally run this track a hair slower in this direction anyways so it's not too bad. I do think there's a few places I could eek out some more time, but likely not much more as I was frequently at or near the max of my tires and had some fun slides to recover from, especially when it was cold.

Takeaways From The Track Day:

  • The 5 point harness works pretty darn good. I believe it's a notable improvement for safety and also driving control. I do still struggle to stay in place sometimes and find myself bracing with my left arm on the door or legs against the side or even stomping on the dead pedal. I found myself remind me to trust the harness will hold and to not resort to stiff body bracing against parts of the car. I do think a better seat might help, but some of these are just engrained habits to break as well.
  • The HANS device definitely made things difficult. I struggled with it a bunch at first as I couldn't turn my head at all and it was clearly over tighetend. Loosening it a bit helped a bunch and I was able to turn my head a bit to the left and a bit to the right, thus allowing me to look through my turns much better. Hopefully it wasn't too loose?
  • Not having a blown coilover helped a ton. I was able to power out of turns and that really helped me feel confident. I liked the settings I ran as well, and incidentally was able to control the balance of my car pretty easy. I found myself at times taking the skid pad turn a bit too hot and a bit off line (too tight). With the well balanced car though I could throttle off over steer myself back onto line and jam onwards with ease and control. Alternatively I could have power on oversteered but with how cold the tarmac was that felt more likely to break loose on me than throttle off did today.
  • I need to focus on my improving my hand placement. I'd shift, and then leave my hand on the shifter, driving through the turn with one hand on the wheel, sometimes for a few turns further. That's pointless, I was done with the shifting for a while, get on that wheel and get going! I need to do my shifts and get my hand right back to the wheel going forward. Definite area I can focus on for improvement, and it might yield some more confidence coming into turns. Plus I'd often have my left hand in a poor or maxed out position, which would make recovery difficult. This was a recipe for disaster.
  • Had two spinouts, my first on track. So excluding goofing around drifting or growing up having fun in the snow, I've not spun a car out on the track. All my unintentional spinouts mostly relate to driving in colder regions of the country (New England) in the winter and encounteirng black ice or other such debacles. Fortunately Streets of Willow is a pretty safe track to spinout at, and thus I'm not perturbed I had some off track fun this weekend.
    • The first spinout was kind of funny, or to me it was at least. I'd just hit the checkered flag, and decided to drift the whole skid pad for fun. The drift went went excellent and I was sitting there thinking about how rad that was. Unfortunately, I had not formed a plan what so ever for the exit of the skid pad into the esses, and instead of late minute forming a plan I was sitting there thinking how rad I was. I caught the drift, tried to bring it back around way too late and with the entirely wrong entry, which then just snapped all the way around to the other side and spun me out into the dirt. It wasn't scary and it was pretty fun to get that first spinout out of my system.
    • The second spinout was just dumb. A C7 corette passed me and I was trying to hang with them after the skidpad into the turns. I usually can beat people to braking into the bowl which is fun to do, so I figured I'd try and chase them as best as I could until then. I noticed they took a different line through turn 4, which made me think... well shit maybe I'll try that and carry this turn instead of bomb the lead up then brake hard and run it hard on the throttle at exit. Nope, turns out I'm going about this just right for the capabilities of what's under me. I spun right around the apex as it's a bit off camber and the car is unweighted. I quickly pulled myself off track to make sure I wasn't at risk of getting hit. Once I saw it was clear I re-entered the track and went about never taking that silly line again.
  • C5 Z06 Titanium Exhaust on This car May shave weight but does nothing for sound. So this deson't really matter to me, but hey maybe somebody will ready this and it'll affect their research on whether they should get this exhaust or not. While yes, it definitely saved weight on the car and hopefully helped offset the weight of the new rollbar, it did NOTHING for sound. Another C5 driver asked what my exhaust was and then mentioned they were surprised because they couldn't even hear me at all. Also, while on the track I ran the fan and the heater to help offset how cold the outside temperatures were. Welp, turns out if I run the fan too high, I can't hear the engine haha. Now all this doesn't nescessarily matter to me as I'm able to do my sidefooting (heel/toe) fine enough even though at times I can't hear the engine... but I do wonder if it would be a lot more intuitive with a slightly louder exhaust? That said I really want to be able to hear what my tires are doing, and I don't want to miss that they're screaming because I have some stupid loud exhaust. I also still wan to be able to do DB limited days at Laguna Seca, so it all works out in the end to have the quiet exhaust.

Ongoing Improvements to make

So the track day was a pretty good success. I found few mechanical issues or areas where the car was the issue, or was causing me to strain where I'd like it to feel controlled. I definitely have a few takeaways for personal improvement as well. That said, there were a few areas I think things could improve and I was looking to improve anyways.

  • Upgrade to Delrin Bushings. Nearly everyone says the stock bushings are junk on these Corvettes and need to go early in your tracking progress. Welp, I avoided doing that despite everyones great advice as the job looks to be quite involved. It's time i put that off, and it will hopefully alleviate a little bit of the traction issues I experience from time to time. Delrin seems like the easiest for the at home mechanic to install, so I'll likely go that route.
  • Install the Accusump and oil cooler. Despite the cold temperatures at the track, I found the Corvette still returned to it's 260-264 degree or so oil temperature out there. While I didn't obeserve any drops in oil pressure, the accusump is cheap insurance to help protect against it, so I might as well. Plus it should help increase engine longevity by pre-lubing the car on startup.
  • Personal driving improvements. Trust the harness more and brace less with your body, keeping everything else free to move about. Also,shift and get those hands back to the wheel asap. Better position your hands before going into a turn as well to maximize hand position on the wheel through the turn.
  • Maybe just maybe put in a better seat. Not sure how that'll balance with both needing this to be a street going car. While comfort is a factor, especially on long several plus hour drives, another concern is safety. With this being a street car, I'm keeping the stock seat belts in and the steering while with airbag. If I get a car with significantly raised sides, getting in and out of the car could become tougher, which is exactly what you don't want if there's a fire.