Archive for the 'Automotive Frustrations' Category

Focus RS Track Day

4 November 2017 at 8:09 pm
by Berck

At work yesterday, a message from the front range Miata club hit my inbox mentioning that there was a cheap last-minute track day at Pueblo. I get these all the time, but for the last 5 years or so all the tracks in the area have decided to not allow Miatas on the track without a rollbar. I’m not putting a rollbar in my street Miata because I’m not going to wear a helmet on the street, which means a rear-end collision might kill me. Then I remembered we have a new Ford Focus. Jonah said she wanted to do it with me, so I signed up.

Since I’d decided to do the track day with about 24 hours notice, I did exactly zero preparation and the car is completely stock. After all, Ford says it’s good on the track for 30 minutes as-is, right? Showed up with about 2,300 miles miles on it (still the factory fill oil, even), and the OEM Cup 2 tires with 42/39 PSI cold. Figured I’d err on the high side with pressures on these tires hoping that would prevent them from chunking apart. Ambient temps were in the mid-60s, the track is a 2.2 mile road course with a dozen corners. 91 octane fuel, since that’s all we can get out here in Colorado.

I spent most of the first 30 minute session coming to grips with the fact that it had been 8 years since I’ve been on a track and my mediocre skills were quite rusty. 25 minutes into the session, I got the AWD Off message, and drive mode went back to normal. If the oil temp gauge can be believed, the oil temps were up to about 280F. Since I’d never previously seen it climb over halfway, I was surprised how quickly it got up there. Figuring that 25 minutes was nearly Ford’s 30 minutes, and about time for a cooldown lap anyway, I wasn’t too upset with the performance. Checked tire pressures and they’d climbed to about 56PSI. No pyrometer or anything fancy, so I bled them off to about 44PSI all around, figuring that was probably still slightly higher than I’d want for maximum grip, but would keep me from sidewall roll.

Jonah drove the next 30-minute session, and as she’s a complete track novice who took it pretty easy, the oil temps stayed around 3/4 and the AWD didn’t disconnect. The next session, things got a lot more interesting. I was finally getting back in the groove and pushing the car to the limit. I had a blast discovering that it while it completely understeers off the throttle, I can, instead, get on the gas and the AWD system will work its magic and the car goes around the corner like I actually had some skill. I drove in track mode both with ESC in “sport” and completely disabled. I almost never got the tail to hang out, partly because it wants to understeer, partly because even when I’d think I was at the limit, full throttle at the apex wouldn’t upset it at all. There were dozens of situations where my (sometimes-intentional) gorilla-like driving absolutely would have spun my Miata, but didn’t phase the RS and its magical computers at all. Sadly, 19 minutes into that third session, AWD off appeared, and I wasn’t having any fun in FWD.

I pulled into the pits, restarted, and the message went away. Selected track mode and headed back out. Managed another half-dozen laps before I ran out of fuel.

I felt silly, but fortunately I was able to coast to a convenient place to pull off. The fuel gauge read 1/2 when I started the session, so I was sure that I’d be able to get through the session just fine, since I’d managed two in the first half tank. Sadly, that gauge isn’t even close to linear. When the warnings came up that I had 0 miles to empty, I ignored it figuring that like my Miata, the fuel gauge was completely inaccurate on the track. The miata will read empty even with well more than 1/4 tank because the fuel is getting sloshed around so much. The RS, it turns out, reads bang on. I managed another lap after “0 miles to empty” before it quit. Thinking maybe the inlet had simply come unported, I tried to restart after coming to a stop. Nope, nothing. So, the good news is that the fuel gauge works on the track, and that it won’t quit before it actually runs out, but boy does it suck down fuel.

A fellow track rat came to my rescue with a couple gallons of fuel and it started right up. Ran another 2 sessions with stupid-expensive 104 octane race fuel from the track (I’ll come prepared next time). Didn’t notice any extra power compared to the 91. I kept getting faster and the AWD system kept disconnecting.

Also: the stock brakes did a lot better than one might expect stock brakes to do, but were not at all up to the task. I was averaging about 110mph at the end of the straight, but eventually had to quit doing that because I couldn’t count on the brakes. Pretty significant fade after about 15 minutes, and then pedal would start to go squishy. I’m guessing Ford fills it with pretty mediocre fluid that starts to boil pretty easily. When I got to the track, the brake pedal was rock solid, but it’s pretty squishy now, which is typical after fluid boils even a little. I’ll be flushing it out and replacing with ATE Type 200 tomorrow.

I definitely won’t go back to the track with stock brakes. The Cup 2 tires actually did really well. They were thoroughly melted, but no signs of chunking or delamination, and held up really well. They were a lot noisier than I like out of track tires, but it was rather communicative. You definitely know there’s a lot more they have to give if they’re not screaming. I’d definitely be fine using them on another track day. Sadly, the requirement for 18″+ tires makes this way more expensive than it needs to be. I like $100/tire R-compounds.

In a lot of ways it’s a great car for a track novice. Jonah did everything wrong on her first session from completely missing the line, missing braking points, DEEP trail braking, and the car just let her do it. I was initially terrified, but eventually started laughing. It’s nice to have the confidence that it’s not going to kill you, on the other hand it’s a bit harder to explain to a newbie what she’s doing wrong when the car covers for her so well!

Olivia has new suspension!

26 June 2010 at 5:37 pm
by Berck

The 19-year old parts were so bad it probably wasn’t terribly safe. She looks a lot better sitting a little lower now, too:

British Racing Green!

30 April 2010 at 9:07 pm
by Berck

She’s all ours!

I’m in Florida.

31 March 2010 at 11:36 am
by Berck

I’m teaching my Uncle how to fly. He’s always wanted to learn to fly, and now turns out to be a good time for a lot of reasons. The best part is that he’s got an experienced flight instructor he can trust that’s otherwise unemployed.

The big downside for me is being away from Jonah. Additionally, I don’t much like Florida, but it’s nice to be able to visit my Mom as well. I flew down here on March 24, the day after Jonah’s birthday. It snowed about a foot that night, and the roads were pretty well snowed-over, with packed snow turning to pretty deep slush further north. Jonah dropped me off at DEN, and I played my role in the Transportation Security Theater, the first time I’ve done so without a crew badge in years.

How do you people tolerate it? I really could have driven down to Florida, and I was seriously regretting my decision to fly instead. The plane ticket was slightly cheaper than the gasoline, but flying is just awful.

As I got through security, I had a voicemail from Jonah:

You’ve got to love the vaguely up-beat, matter-of-fact tone voice as she relates the demise of the car my Dad bought new in 1991. This turned out to be a case of Google Voice’s transcription being totally worthless, though perhaps vaguely amusing:

Both and I’m okay, but the price not ready re bad rap. Yes I when you have a party there. But give me a call. Thanks.



It’s probably repairable, but from what Jonah said, one of the front wheels is badly bent, and the front subframe is probably bent as well. Additionally, “The engine makes bad noises.” Before the wreck, the car wasn’t worth a whole lot, now, I’m not sure. Fortunately, the Bremers are being kind enough to let the car live in their yard until I can get back and figure out what to do with it.

The flight was delayed about 45 minutes, which gave the obnoxious brats a few seats behind me enough time to practice screaming. I can understand that you can’t do a lot about infants crying, but they never do that long. Once your kid is old enough to talk, it’s also old enough to understand commands such as, “Shut the hell up!” If you can’t teach your kid not to scream for the entire 4 hour flight, then don’t put it on a flight. I wish that airlines would put the parents of screaming kids on a no-fly list for the benefit of the rest of us. These are the same people who only fly when they find a $79.99 round trip special anyway, and some customers are worth alienating.

So now I’m in Florida. The weather is surprisingly nice. It’s currently 71ºF, and I’m sitting out by the pool. I can deal with this. If it gets much hotter (high of 82ish for the rest of the week), I’m not going to be as content.

I’m teaching in an old (1968) Cessna 182. It’s been a long time since I’ve flown a single engine plane at all, and even longer since I’ve flown a Cessna. Instructing in this thing makes me miss the Diamond with it’s modern airplane manners. That said, the 182 is well-behaved beast and I haven’t seen anything that makes me question it. We started pounding it into the runway with practice landings for the first time today, and it seems solid.

I’ve forgotten how much work and and mental exhaustion results from flight instruction. After 1.5 hours at 8am this morning, I was ready to take a nap. All in all, though, it’s been good and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to work a little bit.

Alas, there was no beer.

23 May 2008 at 5:21 pm
by Berck

I just talked Wifey into picking up a Louie’s pizza and beer. I used to make a pizza every Friday night. Now I have Wifey pick it up. Despite all the raves about my pizza, it tastes better when someone else makes it. Other folks don’t tend to make potato pizza though. I’ve considered resurrecting Friday pizza’s after acquiring (thanks, Mom!) the best book on pizza ever, but it hasn’t happened yet. I wonder if I’ll be happy with my pizza by the time I’m 90. Not that I’ll live that long.

So we’re headed to Highlands, NC tomorrow. I presented Jonah with a list of choices. Her first pick was Istanbul, but she wasn’t willing to take today off work, and the flights were booked Saturday. Highlands was her next pick. Strange list. I would have preferred London. There are a couple flights with over a hundred empty seats from JFK-LHR. Probably because they’re at the wrong freaking time. You don’t go leave NY for Europe in the morning so you can get there late at night, it just doesn’t work. Anyway, Jonah wanted Highlands, which I’m sure will be cheaper, even with the car rental. So, it was my idea, but she’s very excited about it. I’m sure I’ll be more excited when I actually get there. Mostly I was really excited when I had the idea that Ben and Amanda could meet us there, but since I’m incapable of planning anything in advance, and they’re somewhat more normal people, that didn’t work out.

I was going to shave this morning, since I can’t ride in the cockpit with a beard. The whole oxygen mask thing, or so they say. I think it has more to do with appearance. And I don’t get that. As my sim partner pointed out, airline pilot’s uniforms and titles and such all came from the naval industry. And a crusty old ship’s captain is *supposed* to have a beard! Anyway, I forgot, and I still haven’t. I’m not sure if I will or not. This is my last chance to have a beard for a long time, but on the off chance that there’s one seat left in a plane for Jonah and one seat in the cockpit for me, I don’t want to get left behind. This scenario, though unlikely, is possible.

I wanted to write about my xkcd shirt that says “Science it works, Bitches”. At this point in my life, I only own three T-shirts that actually have something on them. That one, my 557th Flying Training Squadron shirt, and an EFF T-shirt. I’m not sure what’s become of the rest. Like my “got root?” shirt. I really got tired of explaining that one, though the misery was worth it for the time I ran into the chick at a free concert in Atlanta with a “Chix dig Unix” shirt. Mostly now I just wear plain black shirts, since I have 10 of them, that being what I wore underneath my flight suit. (Well, before that we wore yellow shirts, so I’ve got a half-dozen of those as well, but given the choice between black and yellow, I pick black.)

I’ve already mentioned what happened one of the last times I wore the shirt. [It seems that I did not actually mention it, I just thought I did. And in retrospect, I don’t even think that was the day.] Though I wanted to, I don’t think I mentioned the reaction the shirt got at the Arby’s in St. Louis. The black guy behind the counter just loved it. “Yeah, man, Science… it works, BITCHES! That’s great!” The girl who took my order was smiling about it as well. When I relayed to Jonah that it was, unexpectedly, a hit at Arby’s, I realized how out of touch I am with the world. Jonah’s claim is that geeks like the shirt because of the unexpected juxtaposition of “Science” with lay-speak “Bitches”. I’m not sure this is the case–I like it because there seems to be some doubt among the less educated about whether or not science works, and this gives me an opportunity to proselytize for science. Anyway, Jonah thinks the folks at Arby’s liked it for the same reason: the strange juxtaposition. A dorky white guy, with a shirt that’s talking about science, but it’s got “Bitches!” on the end, which they can relate to.

But, there’s more. See, I didn’t really think much about the fact that the shirt has the word “bitches” on it, but it really bothers Joanna. I figured in today’s world, “bitches” on a shirt is hardly outlandish. I think you can even say, “Science, it works, bitches!” on TV.

(A side note. Todd has pointed out that the shirt needs another comma. I think I agree, but the the fact that SCIENCE is in big letters on its own line makes it not as noticeable. I could attack it with a white-out pen, but I worry about the result. It is, after all, my current favorite shirt.)

But Jonah thinks you have to be a little ballsy to wear the shirt in public. (Here I thought you had to be a little ballsy to wear a shirt with “Fuck This Court” written on it in the Supreme Court. (oh, wow, I love the internet. One can buy a whole assortment of Fuck This Court gear. Though they do ask that you don’t actually wear it to court, unless you’re willing to get charged with contempt. Sissies. I somehow doubt anyone’s going to be buying me one of those.) Anyway, she’s further convinced that the shirt attracts a certain sort of girl. I’m not sure quite how she put it. That it attracts the sort of girl who likes misogynists and is likely to wind up in an abusive relationship. I have a few problems with this statement: First, that there’s a type of girl who likes misogynists. I’ve had plenty of girls accuse me of misogyny, and I’m sure none of them have liked me because of it. I’m also not sure how Jonah determines that the girl who worked at the photography museum in Manhattan likes misogynists, or was attracted to me, just because my shirt said “bitches”. Or that the term “bitches” in that context is even remotely misogynistic.

Anyway, I dutifully explain the back of the shirt and the Cosmic Background Explorer data to anyone who comments on it. They don’t seem interested, even though they should be. Ahh well. I like that the shirt controversial, even though I had no idea it would be. I was also considering the “Stand back while I try science” one, which without the word “bitches” must be less controversial.

I think that in the name of social science, maybe I’ll get a shirt that simply says “bitches” on it and see what happens.