Looking Ahead to 2021

WHY NOT TELL YOU WHAT I REALLY THINK? Wow, that driving season was crap!

On the other hand if that’s all I have to complain about in the middle of a pandemic, then I really don’t have anything to complain about. I hope this article finds everyone happy and healthy because that’s what matters. We can all polish off our toys next spring and hope for better times. I know I’m very grateful to those who braved a world full of virus in order to support the track program and allow us to weather the season undamaged. Your track team certainly did everything they could to keep you safe. I haven’t seen the balance sheets yet, so I don’t know if we broke even or not, but we certainly did the best that we could.

With the season drawn to a close it’s time for the team to start planning for next year. Our work is never done. At this point I want to share with you what I have in mind. No firm decisions will be made until our annual planning meeting later this month. I don’t just go off and do stuff on my own, since I’m just one member of a cohesive team. Each track team member has their own area of expertise and I would be a fool not to avail myself of their knowledge.

The foundation of next season will be our single weekend per month track reservations. We proved this year that even in the worst-case scenario we can make these work. We can still absorb our deposits with solo-lapping if needed.

The foundation of next season will be our single weekend per month track reservations. We proved this year that even in the worst-case scenario we can make these work. We can still absorb our deposits with solo-lapping if needed. It’s apparent that even if a vaccine is approved by the end of this year, there would still be a four- to six-month roll-out period before social restrictions could be safely relaxed. It would be foolish to reserve additional days for an Introductory Driving School (IDS), charity event (Driven2Smile) or instructor day only to be stuck cancelling them, or trying to use them again next season. I would assume that there would still be lots of rental days available should we need them. Why tempt fate?

This is where I apologize to the students who need instructors. To be frank with you, I was spending most of my spare time in 2020 just trying to make the solo-lapping events work, so as a result you were completely left out. There are some steps we could take to at least have the yellow drivers join us at the beginning of next season, since they have some track driving experience. The green drivers and novices could join us later on in the season, provided it’s safe to do so. I’m reasonably sure that we won’t have in-car instruction in the spring, but we can distribute instructors to corners in order to observe and critique the yellow group’s development. There are bugs to be worked out with the DE team, but I am thinking along those lines.

Last season we tried splitting our registration between Jan. 1 and May 1, thinking that splitting the season would make it easier for the April IDS novices to get into the events. Well, you know how that worked out. No IDS, no novices and mass confusion in May. Many people thought they had signed up or just missed the second opening and didn’t register. Lesson learned. The entire 2021 season will be open for registration at midnight on New Year’s Eve as it has been for decades. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I spent some of this season trying to get my suspension to work better. While my car came with the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) it was countered by all of the weight I removed from my flood-damaged car. My initial response to having free PASM was that I would use it until it failed and then change to a more track-oriented strut set-up. While wider tires helped a bit, PASM was never going to allow me to reach the car’s handling potential, though having the soft button was an instant way to adjust to the rain.

The reason I’m sharing this experience with you is that I made several mistakes. If I can spare you the same issues then my work is done here. My first attempt was just to lower the car a bit so it would corner better. I foolishly believed all the hype around H&R’s lowering springs. They claimed around an inch lower and slightly stiffer than the original springs and they claimed to be PASM compatible. I should have been suspicious when they said “around” an inch. They didn’t lower the car at all and when I mechanically lowered the car an inch, they allowed so much travel that my new tires hit the fenders. It was at this point that I regretted throwing the original springs in the dumpster so I couldn’t go back. The H&R springs quickly followed the originals into the dumpster.

I decided that if I were to go any further I may as well ditch the PASM and start over. I selected Fortune Auto’s hand-built 24-stage adjustable struts with upgraded HyperCoil springs. That choice was driven by a desire for a good-handling DE car, not Formula 1. I’m far too Scottish to spend ten grand on struts for a car I drive six or seven weekends a year. Now I’ll tell you how I screwed that up.

When I had my supercharged 928, I built a really good-handling suspension with HyperCoil springs on custom valved Bilstein struts. It handled great with absolutely no adjustment knobs to turn. If it works, leave it alone. However, it was sprung very heavily to fight against the front-mounted V8 engine. I’m sure you can see where this is going. The only thing that bothers me about this mistake is that Fortune didn’t point out my error until after I built a bouncy car. Every time I hit one of the new bumps on the track the car hopped all over the place.

When I called their tech for some advice he made the issue sound pretty simple. We added up the spring rate on all four springs totaling 3,000 pounds per inch. That’s more than the weight of the car now. So with less than one inch of compression, the struts don’t move enough to absorb any shock or motion. My car was hopping around on top of the springs with no travel resistance. After throwing two sets of springs in the dumpster and putting the third set back in the boxes, I finally got it right. I still have to spend a weekend turning the knobs up and down but the car is finally instilling some confidence in the corners.

This ridiculous story goes to show that even during a DE season with no DE, no social interaction and nothing but solo-lapping, you can still accomplish something worthwhile. Having done it so many times, I can now remove all four corners of my suspension in just over an hour! That’s not really what I set out to learn. </>

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  1. Hi Dave.

    I just personally want to thank you and all those involved for persevering and working so hard at keeping the DE events alive. It is a shame the beginners didn’t get to participate but at least there will still be a program once things start to normalize. I myself had a great time at the events I was able to participate at and I look forward to them next year. All the changes that were made were great at minimizing things and I’m sure some will be continued carrying forward. I consider it a privilege to be able to participate and I’m sure everyone that did was very thankful. I hope I’m not alone and doubt that I am in thanking everyone!! This is a volunteer based program and that and the efforts should not go unrecognized. All the best over the winter to all and see you next year! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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