After an event at Texas World Speedway sponsored by John Eagle Honda on May 18 and 19, 2002, I was asked to drive a couple of demonstration laps for a video. Problem is that the air temp was still over 110, the surface temp was over 150, and over the course of the very long weekend I’d already done way over 300 laps (3.1 miles each) in my own run group, driving other people’s cars in their run groups, and instructing my two sets of students in their own cars. That’s 4 out of 5 ~22 minute run groups, repeated 8 times a day, for two days. Needless to say, there wasn’t anything left of me by Sunday night! I was dead tired.
But what the heck… one last lap or two. Onboard is a videographer from the “Temple of VTEC” website, who edited this film and – unfortunately – added the music overlay.
We did two laps after the event ended. The S2000 was flawless (as always) and wasn’t adversely affected by the temperatures. However after a very long weekend of well over 500 laps I’d had enough!
Image: my car going over the start/finish line earlier in the day. Shadowed by a bizarrely taped up S2000 on a very low line (who must of had a Miata instructor to teach him that line).
Video: the finished product – unfortunately without the original in-car sounds. The wonderful scream of the F20C engine bouncing off it’s fuel cutoff at 9000 RPM is certainly more enjoyable than the lame teen-angst overlay that was added. But if you haven’t seen the track yourself, this shows the way around. It’s a great place and with the new owners has an even better future.
For Driving Enthusiasts, Texas is a very nice place to be these days. We have year-round events, a terrific group running HPDEs, and several tracks.
The Drivers Edge (http://www.TheDriversEdge.net/) is the best HPDE group I’ve seen in my 28 years in this hobby. Thanks to the management of this group, a large body of experienced instructors, and it’s “non-denominational” approach (“run what you brung” – meaning no snotty brand-centricity, as in the LSR PCA), high performance drivers education is doing very well in Texas these days. I’m proud to be an Instructor in this group (having abandoned the LSR PCA when their elitism got the better of them).
Texas is also doing very nicely for roadcourses these days: we have Texas World Speedway (TWS: the original, the best, and the fastest) in College Station, Texas Motor Speedway (TMS: for one event a year, with challenging banking on the NASCAR oval) outside of Fort Worth, Eagles Canyon near Decatur (a new track; our first event there is coming soon), and the very well-established and recently expanded Motorsport Ranch in Cresson. Also:
- there is another Motorsport Ranch facility near Houston, but design and management issues prevent it’s use for these types of events.
- there was an announcement of a new facility named “Racers Ranch” to be located east of Dallas, but that project appears stalled and unable to get off the ground for the time being.
- and there was also a roadcourse in Corpus Cristi on the airstrip at the US Naval Base, however this has been closed to racers since 9/11 and may never reopen.
When I originally moved to Texas in 1989, TWS was in bankruptcy and there weren’t any other roadcourses in the state. Now we have several open, and two more on top of these are also being discussed.
The brand new Harris Hill Road facility is nearly completion and is coming along very well. All paving is complete, and enough is there for a few test laps at slow speed. Follow the link above for more information.
Photos below show the Harris Hill Road pit area, and the general scope of the track. This is particularly nice for me - it’s located practically in my own backyard.
In other types of events, we also have an Open Road event (in which we won our class in 2000: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-events/events-open-road/2000.04-bb/index.htm ), a measured mile event, and of course several SCCA regions running autocross events.
What we don’t have in Texas is an established and continuing road rally program: a few groups such as the Miata Club and Texas A&M SportsCar Club run a (very) few events between them. A group in Dallas also ran a navigator’s school once to my knowledge. What we need is a dedicated Rallymaster who will establish and run a continuing event. The best example I’ve seen of this is the ”Discover America Rally“: (http://www.rallywny.com/rallywny/DARflyer2007.htm ) in Western New York. I entered several Discover America events when I lived in that area back in the 70s and 80s. The husband and wife team who run them, Tom and Karen Krajewski, make a strong commitment to running the event every year. Running a rally means becoming intimately familiar with hundreds of back roads and their oddities and nuances (all the better for challenging route navigation) and driving them continuously in advance of the event. And it means dedicating probably a hundred hours of hard work towards it every year in order to make sure it comes off well, which, snowstorms allowing, it has for 30 years straight. These types of folks are hard to find… keeping them at it is even harder. I’m hoping somebody in Texas steps up to the plate one of these days – and that many of us make a commitment to help them run the events year after year.
One of the biggest topics of discussion about the new Evo X is the question of which transmission to get. Setting aside the fiunancial aspect, the most important question is what will the owner do with the car? In my case, if I were to get one, it’s be used for open track events.
But here’s the challenge with this (or older) Evos. On my particular track (shown below), a mid-pack performance car should be hitting ~145 MPH at the end of the straight… and then continue accelerating while coming off the high-degree banking and turning down & left into the inner track. You use the straight to pass the slower cars… and while you are looking for an edge over the faster cars – many of which can do 160-175 there – it would take a heckuva lot of extra HP to get this “aero brick” of a sedan up to that kind of speed. So you won’t have an edge here over those faster cars, but you absolutely cannot afford to fall very far behind. You have to keep up your cadence so that so that you can look to play your AWD and torque-vectoring advantage in the numerous tight turns in the inside portion of the course.
Now here’s the problem in stock 5-speed Evos on this main straight. You’ll start to notice this part way down the straight (and it’s even worse when running the track in reverse direction, because of the layout, when entering the straight). I have seen this many times in earlier Evos when driving flat-out (and well)… I believe it will be the same problem in the 5-speed Evo X and have the drive-time experience and numbers to prove it. Although I may not be explaining it well here… normally I’d have a large map of the track and chalk-talk it.
- Shift into 5th – RPM drops big time (economy gear).
- Get up to 100-115 in 5th – engine starts dialing back boost. Worse.
*Stock* Evo VIII/IX 5-speed:
The acceleration *noticeably* drops off in this situation. 4th gear doesn’t leave enough RPM to get to the necessary speed so you are stuck with 5th gear and a very seriously reduced rate of acceleration. In fact, in the reverse direction you notice this as you enter the main straight! Shifting into 5th very quickly turns into a slow crawl to HP peak in 5th – but the problem is you won’t get there given the length of the straight because the acceleration will be so slow.
Overall gearing isn’t radically different in the Evo X 5-speed. In 4th it will only do 93 at HP peak… shift into 5th and it could do 134 at HP peak. Except – again – you’ll never get there because you are out of straight.
This is one way the Evo VIII/IX and X 5-speeds are all much the same car with the same issue for high speed work.
Keep in mind that at this high speed drag is a problem so you are starting to have to work harder anyway. Making it even worse, any shifting costs serious acceleration time, too. Going 4th to 5th is very noticeable. You can count the seconds you’ve just added to your lap time.
What I’ve left out so far is the RPM you’d be at while coming thru a pair of 90-degrees turns with just before the main straight. The SST is better geared overall here as well, so the RPM thru these twisties would be higher in 3rd and then and I’d get to and thru 4th gear earlier on the main straight rather than later. And therefore on to a higher top speed.
With the SST, we’d shift at 6500 RPM in 5th (@ 117 MPH – my guess is about 1/3rd of the way down the length of the straight) into 6th gear and then we’d only have to get to 6000 RPM for 140 MPH (and we’d have had have more room on the straight to do so). And you will pass that many more people by being able to show that kind of over-taking speed. Over-taking speed is what counts here.
Because of the extra gear, there is an extra shift. However, the shifting is extra-human fast, and the revs are perfectly matched so the boost will return that much faster as well. Given the better gearing of the SST for this work, the car will be in a better RPM range to continue boost. While it will also (like the old Evos) start to drop off of max boost at high RPM, at least the RPM is in the right place here to keep closer to the HP peak.
I’m sitting here contemplating drawing a track map of likely shift points for this car, compared to some of my other cars. I’m out of time to go this far, but clearly the 6-speed is far better geared for these particular circumstances (as it would have been w/ the previous 6-speed).
Notice again I said clearly *stock*. Mods can help make up for this, there are mods to keep the boost up to max RPM, but the gearing problem is inherent.
Looking at the Evo X, here’s the speed-in-gear for each tranny:
Here’s the course… with the normal direction indicated (I should be using a GPS chart but I don;t have one here). The parts I’m talking about above are between the two red dots, and the direction is indicated with an arrow. This graphic (from the track site) isn’t very good… the first two turns (starting with the left red dot) are actually more or less 90 degrees, first a left and then an immediate right – although it doesn’t look at all like that angle on this lousy graphic. After those, you need to accelerate as much as possible and with the SST you will be well into 4th when you come out onto on the main straight (the “straight” is also straighter than it appears here, and it’s well banked).
By the end of the straight, I want an X to be doing ~145. Due solely to the gearing, it’s not possible in a stock 5-speed Evo. At the end of the straight (Turn 1) you turn towards the left, go thru the transition from the banking to the flat inside section of the track while continuing to accelerate just a bit, then brake for all you have. You need to brake down to about ~80 for the left-hand Turn 2 (just past the right-most red dot). This is where the 2-piece rotors will be invaluable, as well as aftermarket pads. The in Turn 2, the torque-vectoring rear diff will really come into play.
Back to the question of time lost while shifting. Here’s a video from the Evo X press introduction in Japan, showing an Evo IX manual and an Evo X SST side-by-side:
This is exactly what I’m talking about time lost while manually shifting. The video also demonstrates the superiority of AWC in both the wet and dry.
Finally, a couple of additional facts. Remember that the X is only 100 pounds heavier than the previous car. The SST tranny is 49 pounds heavier than the 5-speed, and the engine is 27 pounds lighter than the old iron-block engine. This is an extraordinary achievement on the part of Mitsubishi; newly designed cars are gaining rate at a tremendous rate. The X meets far more advanced crash regulations than the prior car and it will be crash rated considerably better. Even more important to us, structurally it’s light years better than ye olde VII-IX. The old one was good structurally, this one is much better, and that’s another one of those inherent things that you can’t really make up with band-aids.
So for this particular track (and even faster ones like Watkins Glen), in an X, it’s a 6-speed SST or nothing. Even if it might require an add-on tranny cooler (pump and cooler will probably cost $1500) – which would be a good choice eventually, anyway.