The intent was to get some testing of the newly fabricated and installed aero (see this post for more info on the aero: V43 Aero ) prior to the National Tour event. Unfortunately, schedules conflicted with local autocross events and I don’t have access to any test lots. The best I could do was strap on a few GoPros and perform some very tight circles in my driveway and a quick blast up to speed down the road to make sure everything was safe at speed. Everything was working as intended but no way to measure/test aero balance in my driveway. Knowing that the aero balance could be way off and most likely heavily rear biased, I made some air dam extensions from scrap material laying around and bolted them on. The rear wing has lots of adjustment for angle of attack and, as a more drastic measure, the third element can be removed. At least we could run a few practice runs on Friday to make any minor adjustments… until we ran into a pile of traffic on the way to Packwood and arrived just after practice was closed. Here goes something!
With only myself and Trever in the FSAE class, we decided to bump into the highest PAX class which is A Modified (AMod) which already had 5 drivers signed up. We asked the event officials and they said we could switch classes but before we did, we found all 5 drivers and asked permission. Everyone was very welcoming. AMod is essentially an unlimited class for purpose built autocross cars. A typical AMod car uses a snowmobile engine (2 or 4 stroke) with CVT, often turbocharged with huge multi element wings, full undertrays, and a chassis big enough to hold a driver, engine, and aero. Minimum weight with driver is 900 lbs and there is a minimum wheelbase and that’s about it for rules. The three cars entered in AMod this event were John Haftner’s Tui Vee, Neal Stanley’s custom 2001 LRC LRC AMod, and an Exocet with a K24 and ITB’s. These cars are fascinating.
John Haftner is a bit of a legend and has raced this car and other similar cars for decades in AMod autocross and hillclimbs. His Tui Vee is a tube chassis with massive 4-element carbon wings designed and fabricated by Simon McBeath. The car uses a large displacement turbocharged air-cooled VW boxer 4 cylinder with water cooled heads and makes around 300 whp from what I hear (not confirmed). John was using Pirelli P ZERO ultrasoft compound tires. This car likely isn’t the fastest AMod car in the nation but is reliable, properly tested and tuned, and John is a great driver.
Neal Stanley’s AMod car was built from scratch and uses a 4-cylinder snowmobile engine with turbo and CVT. The CVT allows the car to be at peak hp at all times – no shifting gears, no waiting for the powerband. Horsepower was estimated to be around 280. This car also has massive multi-element wings front and rear with leading edge turbulators based on whales. Whale power! Car was on Avon slicks. Neal was a few seconds off the pace of his co-driver, Jeremy Boyer, who was right on the heels of John’s times on Saturday and had fastest time of the day on Sunday but hit a cone.
John Jobin’s Exocet was the nicest example I have seen. The fabrication and finish work was impeccable. This is not an AMod car as it’s several hundred pounds over the 900 lb minimum weight but it’s the only class where it’s legal. The ITB’d and tuned internally stock K24 makes 240 whp. Car was on Hoosier A7’s and used a Nine Lives Racing aluminum rear wing. The Exocet is based on Miata suspension, brakes, and chassis dimensions so it is essentially a Miata with no bodywork, windows or doors.
Viking 43 is a Formula SAE car and built to comply with rules from the 2008 competition which it competed in originally. Compared to an AMod car, V43 is underweight by a little over 200 lbs, has a shorter wheelbase and has 70-75 whp. Being shorter and narrower has some advantages in the tighter corners of auto-x.
As we walked the course for Saturday’s event, it felt like a high speed, high horsepower track. Several straights to lay into the power and some large sweeping turns. Lots of offsets but no traditional slaloms. This would favor cars with lots of horsepower and big aero to take advantage of the high speed sweepers.
Once we drove the track, it wasn’t quite as high speed as we were expecting. Many others experienced the same realization having expected to shift to 3rd gear in multiple spots but staying in second once on track. Our peak speed was only around 65 mph, however, average speed was high which meant that the new aero was very noticeable. For me, it took a few corners to realize I had more grip than expected and started leaning on it. The aero significantly stabilized the car as well which meant I could go full throttle at corner exit almost everywhere vs pre-aero where I would feather the throttle and make constant steering corrections to stay pointed in the right direction. We exceeded the sound limit on the first run. The sound meter was near the finish lights on the right side of the track. The exhaust exits straight out of the right side of the sidepod on V43, aimed directly at the sound meter. Between runs, we added a turn down to help direct the exhaust away from the meter and the next run was right near the 95 dB limit so we decided to lift at the finish to avoid a DQ. Many cars were exceeding the sound limit on Saturday. My three runs were clean and I dropped a full second each run. Despite coasting up to the straight line finish, my last run (41.957) put me in 3rd place at the end of the day on Saturday. First and second place were within 0.004 seconds of each other (40.828) and 1 second faster than my time. That’s a large gap to make up but considering I’m driving this new aero car for the first time and dropping a second each run and coasting to the finish, it might be possible.
On Sunday, Trever took his first run and had a great time (42.933) putting him in 1st. My first run was even faster (41.301) thanks to the pre-heated tires from Trever’s run. My time was enough to bump me into first overall for the moment and my run was sloppy and full of errors so I knew there was more time in it. Trever’s second run was a blistering 40.765 but had a cone. On my second run, I wanted to fix the errors and go through the left hand sweeper with more speed. I did fix the errors on the early part of the course and entered the left hand sweeper with more speed and stayed in the throttle with the intent to stay on the wide line to carry more speed which should equal more downforce and more grip. I ended up wider than expected due to speed and then got into the marbles and washed out, nearly taking out a line of cones. I had to lift and get the car back on line which probably cost a few seconds. Time was 42.212. Trever’s third run was a 41.022 which was slightly slower than his second run but clean. I had one run to get it done. Needed to be a little conservative to bank a good time but also needed to push it. I stayed tight on the left hand sweeper and the run felt good. I was expecting a 40 second or even a 39 which would put me in first overall but ended up with a 41.957 so my first run ended up the fastest for day two. Haftner was in first place and Jeremy Boyer put in a flyer with a raw time of 40.650 which would seal the deal but had a cone which put him in third behind me and in front of Trever. Thank you Hoosier Tire and Hawk brakes for the contingency awards!
Overall, a fantastic event and the aero exceeded expectations. Trever and I were able to immediately take advantage of the aero and drive faster with more confidence. Initially, I felt like the car was a little tight/pushy on the high-speed sweepers but the more I drove, the better it felt. Need more seat time to dial in the aero balance. With the downforce and increased grip, the car now feels underpowered as you can run full throttle without wheelspin. It almost feels like it’s bogging the engine down which may be due to the massive increase in aerodynamic drag but I think it’s accelerating fine, we just aren’t used to continuous WOT without wheelspin and steering corrections. We considered making changes to the aero balance, like removing the 3rd element, but opted to focus on driving and learning the car first.
The aero was clearly working by creating more grip and helping to stabilize the car. Compare the 2019 National Tour video above to the 2017 National Tour below to see how much more stable the car is compared to how twitchy (note the constant steering corrections and throttle lifts) it was previously. Site and surface are the same. Weather and course were very similar.
Looking at this years video, it’s clear that my autocross skills are very rusty. I’ve only competed in 4 auto-x events in the past two years and it was evident by the distance to cones. When I should be millimeters from the cones, at this event I was inches if not feet from cones. A bit more seat time required to get back to that level of accuracy and learning to trust the aero is likely worth a few seconds. We have a few minor items to address on the car for the next few events but overall, a very successful first test of the aero.
Sector One Design: sectoronedesign.com