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Put my car to good use yesterday...


merlot
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Yesterday I went to an autocross driving school, and had a blast! For those that don't know, an autocross (autox for short) is a race against the clock. The event is held in a parking lot and the course is made of cones. Vehicles are classified by type and modifications. Here's a link for more info: SCCA's SoloII page

 

The first event was threshold braking. We had to speed up then stop as fast as we could before hitting a cone at the end of the course. I hit it twice and stopped short of it twice. This exercise was to get one use to braking before the turns. The 2nd exercise was an oval course with a long straight, gradual sweeper, slalom and a tight turn. I had instructors riding with me for my 3 runs. I did well for the most part (2nd instructor said I didn't need an instructor), but had the habit of braking late and understeering (where the car's front wheels push rather than turn) In the afternoon they set up a new course. I ran it twice. The 1st time I missed a gate and the 2nd was a clean run.

 

It was great to see how my car handled at the limit and learn its abilities. I'm looking forward to participating in the autox competition (6 events) this year. Anyone remotely interested should check out events in your area. You don't need a fast car or sports car to run. There were ALL types of vehicles there, including some pickups. Here are some pics someone took of me "understeering" through a tight corner :)

 

autox1.jpg

 

autox2.jpg

 

autox3.jpg

 

autox4.jpg

 

autox5.jpg

 

[EDIT] Added 5th pic of the series.

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Originally posted by iCamp@Mar 8 2004, 11:36 AM

Very, very cool.

So is the real thing more difficult than Project Gotham?

Yeah, I'd say it's more difficult. If you don't walk the course thoroughly, it will look like a sea of orange cones. There are some helper cones that point to the side of the cone you should be on (you can see this in my pics), but memorizing the course is a major priority.

 

You also need to know how to launch your car properly so you do not bog down on the start. It's a bit more difficult in an AWD vehicle like my WRX, as you don't want to abuse the tranny. I found reving to 4,000 RPM's and slipping the clutch a bit gave me a decent launch. 2WD vehicles afford one the ability to spin the tires a bit, taking the stress off the tranny.

 

Of course the BIGGEST difference is your direct connection with the vehicle. Feeling all the forces and dealing with them while maneuvering is lot of fun. I had a huge grin on my face when I tossed my car through the slalom :)

 

Later this year I plan to attend a few tracks events at Pocono Raceway. That's what I ultimately look forward too, driving on a real track at higher speeds.

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It's a bit more difficult in an AWD vehicle like my WRX, as you don't want to abuse the tranny. I found reving to 4,000 RPM's and slipping the clutch a bit gave me a decent launch. 2WD vehicles afford one the ability to spin the tires a bit, taking the stress off the tranny.

 

Heheh...actually, you've got it all backwards. Your AWD WRX is *IDEAL* for launching. Since you don't get any wheelspin, you catch traction faster and get your car moving forward instead of spinning in place. And trust me, your WRX tranny is built to handle this kind of thing...I have a buddy with a WRX wagon that can launch it in his SLEEP and does so all of the time with no ill results. And side note, he launches at around 3-4000RPM, so you are in the sweet spot it sounds like.

 

I'll give you the opposite end of the spectrum. I have a RWD Honda S2000 that is an absolute bitch to launch. Having RWD and an engine that redlines at 9000RPM means I have to launch at roughly 7-8000RPM to get a good launch, and even then I will have to fight wheelspin a bit! You want to talk about stress on a tranny (and differential!)...needless to say, I don't launch my vehicle much at ALL.

 

You've got it good, my friend, when it comes to launching. :D

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Originally posted by secretvampire@Mar 8 2004, 01:30 PM

It's a bit more difficult in an AWD vehicle like my WRX, as you don't want to abuse the tranny. I found reving to 4,000 RPM's and slipping the clutch a bit gave me a decent launch. 2WD vehicles afford one the ability to spin the tires a bit, taking the stress off the tranny.

 

Heheh...actually, you've got it all backwards. Your AWD WRX is *IDEAL* for launching. Since you don't get any wheelspin, you catch traction faster and get your car moving forward instead of spinning in place. And trust me, your WRX tranny is built to handle this kind of thing...I have a buddy with a WRX wagon that can launch it in his SLEEP and does so all of the time with no ill results. And side note, he launches at around 3-4000RPM, so you are in the sweet spot it sounds like.

 

I'll give you the opposite end of the spectrum. I have a RWD Honda S2000 that is an absolute bitch to launch. Having RWD and an engine that redlines at 9000RPM means I have to launch at roughly 7-8000RPM to get a good launch, and even then I will have to fight wheelspin a bit! You want to talk about stress on a tranny (and differential!)...needless to say, I don't launch my vehicle much at ALL.

 

You've got it good, my friend, when it comes to launching. :D

Actually, quite a number of WRX owners broke their tranny from launching. Most likely they just sidestepped the clutch (dumped it). The problems is, something must "break". On a 2WD vehicle, it's traction that breaks, hence your wheel spin. On a AWD vehicle, the tranny must absorb the shock, since it has so much traction.

 

But your are also correct in that it can be easier to launch. When done correctly, AWD cars just fly of the line. I guess I should have said you need to be more "careful" when launching an AWD vehicle, as opposed to 2WD.

 

The S2000 is a sweet car, there were a few of them at the autox. On the corner you see me plowing through, one guy had a nice controlled drift... looked sweet.

 

Do you walk the course backwards? I know some people who do that. They say it helps them remember it better than just walking it forward.

Sounds counter-intuitive. When walking the course you are also trying to practice the line you would take.

 

It almost seems like some slimmed down version of this should be required to get a license. If people knew better how to handle their cars in difficult situations a lot of lives might be spared.

I agree 100%!

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Woohoo! Glad to hear it, Mike!

 

but had the habit of braking late and understeering (where the car's front wheels push rather than turn)

 

Understeering?

 

3 words. Rear Sway Bar. The stock setup on my Impreza RS (same gen as your 'Rex) is something like Front 19mm, Rear 13mm. I went up to a 18mm Whiteline unit this past weekend, and the difference at the limit is ASTOUNDING. Driving anywhere below 8/10ths there is no difference, not even degradation in ride quality/ bumpy road composure. Once you hit the limits and get the tyres sliding, the difference is night and day. Where my car used to plow all the time, I now have neutrality and a slightly oversteering attitude. I can trail brake into a corner and get it midly oversteering, get on the gas early, feel both ends of the car break loose in unison, and exit with a mild four wheel drift requiring no opposite lock. It's beautiful.

 

That's not it, the stiffer rear and the better balance have afforded me more throttle adjustability. Where as before, I would be using the throttle to adjust between simply more understeer or less understeer, I now can use it to play with the entire range, more throttle at the limit for more understeer, lift off for some oversteer. And of course, if you really wanted to be a hooligan, give a heroic lift off mid corner for a big tail-out. With AWD, it's very easy to reel back in too. Your WRX has the benefit (at higher revs) of having enough power to break all 4 wheels loose for a power-on-4-wheel-drift at will. Too much fun.

 

I believe the stock WRX RSB is a bit stiffer than what I had, so maybe all you need to avoid that dreaded understeer is just a bit more smoothness. I'm not sure if this applies to you, but one of the biggest causes at the track for understeer is braking too early for the corner, letting off the brakes and getting back on the gas a bit before entering. When you let off the brakes and get back on the gas, you unweight the front end and as you turn in, you have reduced grip over a trail braking technique.

 

I'm not as interested in *just* going fast in a road car as I am of exploring the limits and learning better car control at the limit. That's why my next event is a Drift Day. :green: I just hope I don't embarass myself among all the RWD 240SXs, Corolla GTSs, RX-7s and other drifty, sideways machines.

 

And you're absolutely right about your tranny, Mike. Be gentle with it, for all the reasons you already know. :tu:

 

Vamp, It's *ideal* if the objective is to launch the car absolutely as quickly as possible, as easily as possible, without any concern for its long term durability. You're either smoking the clutch, or worse, destroying the tranny and overstressing alot of other things. AWD has plenty of benefits, but when it's my car, I don't consider faster launches one of them, because the consequences are dire.

 

It almost seems like some slimmed down version of this should be required to get a license. If people knew better how to handle their cars in difficult situations a lot of lives might be spared.

 

They have something similar in Germany, AFAIK. You have to know how to deal with understeer, oversteer, and other situations at the limit of adhesion and show proficiency in dealing with emergency maneuvers.

 

This is the correct approach. North Americans love to chant the "speed kills" slogan but don't realize that in Germany, they have less accidents than we do yet drive much, much faster. The more apt slogan is, "lack of proper driver education kills".

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Thanks for the advice Sam. Problem is, a rear sway bar would take me out of the stock class and into a street prepared type class. Then I'll need even more mods to keep up. I believe a front sway bar is allowed in stock, but I suppose I'd have to go softer to have a similar effect. At this point though, I want to stay stock and improve me before I improve the car :D

 

Drift event sounds cool. Let me know how you make out!

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Originally posted by merlot@Mar 8 2004, 11:18 PM

Thanks for the advice Sam. Problem is, a rear sway bar would take me out of the stock class and into a street prepared type class. Then I'll need even more mods to keep up. I believe a front sway bar is allowed in stock, but I suppose I'd have to go softer to have a similar effect. At this point though, I want to stay stock and improve me before I improve the car :D

 

Drift event sounds cool. Let me know how you make out!

Oooohh, that would be a problem. That's really silly that they only allow a change in the front. 99.99% of road cars are setup with the relatively safer understeer bias. And I doubt anyone would want a softer front bar.

 

And if you went street prepared, it'll be a whole different ball game. :shock:

 

I would do the same. The best investment is always improving yourself. :tu:

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There was an article in the latest sports compact car talking about drifting in the WRX's. To sum up they said that you have to have an insane amount of horsepower to break the WRX loose to the point where you can drift. So part of the article was some guy(I think he's a moron personally), disabling his AWD and making his WRX RWD so he could drift easier.

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Originally posted by Darius@Mar 9 2004, 01:36 AM

There was an article in the latest sports compact car talking about drifting in the WRX's. To sum up they said that you have to have an insane amount of horsepower to break the WRX loose to the point where you can drift. So part of the article was some guy(I think he's a moron personally), disabling his AWD and making his WRX RWD so he could drift easier.

Darius,

 

I have not read that article, so what I will say is based on what you've told me.

 

'Drifting' is a funny term. Traditionally, it referred strictly to 4-Wheel-Drifts, where both the front tyres and the rear are sliding in unison. It tends to be rather neutral, requiring little or no corrective steering, balanced simply on the throttle. If you watch old racing footage (and I mean way back, well before the days of monstrous grip and electronic aid), drivers did this even in tarmac racing.

 

Using this definition, I know from experience that the WRX is plenty good at it. My RS, which is a whole 55bhp short of the WRX but handles very similarly, is very happy to 'drift'. I do it all the time.

 

However.

 

Now that the 'Drifting' craze has caught on in the U.S., the term is being applied much more loosely (or even before it has become mainstream 'Stateside, I don't know). IME, it is now applied also to oversteer (where only the rear is breaking loose), and also does not differenciate between power oversteer, lift throttle oversteer, or momentum/roll induced oversteer. It seems to me that it's basically, "if you're sideways and not understeering, you're drifting". Naturally, many experienced 'drift' drivers don't agree with this definition, but it does seem to me to be the mainstream one.

 

So back to the WRX. If you're talking about the smoky, lurid, tyre-burning, long sideways slides that you see on D1 competitions, no, the WRX is not capable of that. The WRX 'drifts' in an altogether more subtle fashion - the tail does not threaten to overtake the front, it's much quieter and less showy.

 

Now you probably want to know what I'm doing at a drift day. :D Well, like I already said, I'm fascinated with car control and I want a nice, legal venue where I can mess around at the limits without worry of hitting someone or something. Or having the cops come after me. It's not cause I can slide like the D1 pros (or have delusions of being able to), it's because I'm interested in exploring. I could probably take a driving school but I have yet to find a local one that suits my needs. Really, what I want is a stunt driving school. :D In rear-drive cars, only. That'll humble my silly ass and teach me TONS.

 

But as it stands, this is as close as I'll get.

 

So part of the article was some guy(I think he's a moron personally), disabling his AWD and making his WRX RWD so he could drift easier.

 

I've fantasized about this at times. But I think you're better off selling the 'Rex and buying something rear-drive to being with. It's far easier and you'll have a platform actually designed for it, and without the front diff and excess weight that is now doing nothing.

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Looks like the guy that took pics uploaded more. Here I am going through the chicane at the end of the course :D .

 

autox6.jpg

 

autox7.jpg

 

autox8.jpg

 

autox9.jpg

 

 

As far as turning the WRX into a RWD vehicle... why not, if that's what your in too? Not many RWD turbo vehicles currently in the market ;)

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As far as turning the WRX into a RWD vehicle... why not, if that's what your in too? Not many RWD turbo vehicles currently in the market

 

If your goal is simply to have a RWD WRX, then yeah.

 

But my point is that there are plenty of perfectly good RWD cars that could be had, that have chassis correctly engineered for RWD. For one thing, you won't have the extra weight of the unused front Diff, along with the fact that having the front wheels connected would never provide the same steering response/ feel as a true RWD car with independent front wheels.

 

Then there's the costs, the headaches of finding a shop that'll do it properly, voiding your warranty, losing the all weather ability, questionable resale, etc.

 

Hell, right now, for a little more money, you could be in a very well handling RX8. If you like the peakier power delivery of the WRX's turbo (i.e. rather laggy), then the RX8 should be right up your alley.

 

And of the two or three people that have done it on Nasioc.com, one broke something on the tranny not long thereafter. I'm not surprised. The rear diff was engineered to handle roughly 50% of the car's power under most conditions. Now you've just doubled that. Throw in a few track days or other high-stress activities and something just might go kaput.

 

Just not very viable, but like you said, if one absolutely must have a RWD WRX for its own sake, then I guess more power to him/her. I just think it would be silly to buy a WRX with the intention of doing a conversion.

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The point I was trying to make was that it seemed a silly thing to do with that car when like you said there are many others that would do better. One of my wife's friends has a RX-8 and I'm in love. I got to drive it a few weeks back in exchange for helping them buy a computer. The thing is a dream. Just wait until the aftermarket takes off for it. As it is, its a very fun car to drive and if I had a job right now rather than going to school I would definately look into getting one.

 

You were also right about the type of drifting. Its the throw the rear end out and slide through the corners type. Just seemed silly to change the car that drastically.

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  • 3 months later...

Thought I'd give an update on my autox season so far. I have particpated in 3 points events so far, and I'm pretty happy with my results as a novice. My first event I placed 5th out 36. The day was cold and rainy, and later turned to snow! This was really to my advantage though. AWD and all-season tires did well for me. However, they (tires) did hurt me in the following events, as most people run high performance tires and racing compounds. My 2nd event I placed 24th out of nearly 70 people. Yesterday was my 3rd event and I managed 16th overall out of about 50 people.

 

There was a professional photographer at yesterdays event. I have a CD full of 40 hi-res pics of me racing. Thought I'd share a few. Note that all-season tires makes for a nice photo ;)

 

autox1a.jpg

autox2a.jpg

autox3a.jpg

autox4a.jpg

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That looks like a lot of fun. I'd love to do something like that but ,...

 

I agree, looks like fun!

.... buttttt, I don't have a serious car to compete with. I've got a sporty little Mazda Protege, but I'm fairly certain it would only allow me to compete for last place.

 

It's funny that you have a Subaru for this thread, because if I were to splurge on a new vehicle right now it would be a WRX. :) Alas, I've got a wedding to pay for this year,... so I'll have to put RallyCross-Joel off a bit longer. ;)

 

Thanx for sharing Merlot

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Originally posted by JTello@Jun 14 2004, 10:10 AM

I've got a sporty little Mazda Protege, but I'm fairly certain it would only allow me to compete for last place.

Actually, Protege's are EXCELLENT autox cars from what I've heard. You should consider it. Everyone should... you learn to control your car at safe limits. It could pay off in an emergancy situation if you know how to properly handle your car.

 

People autox ALL types of cars & trucks... yes, even trucks! The PAX system (a handicapping system) ensures you stand a fighting chance in a slower car (or exposes poor driving skills in a high performance car). Yesterday a kid was running a Ford Fiesta, and did pretty well!

 

Also, this is my only car. Autox is pretty safe. Much depends on the course design and location. Generally, the course designer leaves plenty of runoff room in tight areas, although sometimes it's unavoidable in the design & location. At the very least go watch an event and decide if it's for you.

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The funniest car I saw at an autocross was at a local PCA event. The organizers were pretty cool about non-Porsches as long as they passed the cursory tech inspection. So there were some Miatas, S2000's and ... an early '90s Chevy Beretta.

 

It was hilarious watching the guy doing three point turns around tight corners that everyone else zipped around.

 

-j

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Man, I really need to get out and do this. My schedule has just not allowed it recently, but my car looks at me with sad eyes and begs for such an experience.

 

Of course, this week my car is in the shop getting the rear bumper reshaped and repainted since some pigfucker did a hit-and-run on me while it was parked unattended for an hour. :bang: :bang: :bang: When your as anal as I am about my car, this is a huge irritation.

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