And the Saga of the Brakes Continues

Seriously, eight months without a post, and now three in four days?

So, looks like my thoughts on my first excursion on the track provoked some interest: viewership kinda exploded. I’m sure it’ll settle back to the usual 3-6 da day (mostly on the Mysterious Package posts) but in the interim: Hey, new folks!

And, as I noted, I killed my brakes. And I was Looking into options.

It turns out, on the bottom of the Frixa pads box, it says, very clearly “NOT FOR TRACK USE”. But who the hell looks at the bottom of the box??? That would have been helpful on the TOP of the box.

C’est la vie.

The deal is, though, by the time you read this, I should have the car back on the road. New brakes are acquired, at least for short-term.

Lets go back in time a little bit.

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When I bought the Genesis Coupe in 2009, it was one of three in the city. They were rare. like any new model (it’s still just a Hyundai). There was a community beginning in the ‘states, but not much in Canada yet. I got involved in GenCoupe.com, and that was OK. Upside was, I met some good people locally, who I’m still very, very good friends with. I, and those guys and girls, never actually called ourselves anything. Fast forward to 2010, 2011, and there’s a group popped up in Oshawa/Whitby area: The Durham Basterds. We met a bunch of these guys and girls, and, well, got along famously. Some are just car friends, others have become friends: it was a year before I met most of them. It was also several of these guys who pushed me towards the much more structured community of Chapter 11. And I got to know some more of the guys, even better.

My Bombshelter crew: the guys and girls from University have become the bar to which I hold myself, and anyone I meet.

The core of the Basterds?

They’re worthy of the Bombshelter.

They do the things I would do, and have done.

For instance.

While I don’t want to embarass anyone, someone built probably the most epic street genesis coupe (there are some more epic Gensesisisiesies. Genesii? I don’t know, but they’re pretty inherently show cars, not drivers) that I’ve seen.

Well, this morning, they were on the road at 4am, and delivered me a full set of OEM brakes.

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And I do mean “complete”. Rotors, pads, calipers, brackets, hardware, lines, and dust shields.

I cannot put into words how much this kind of thing from my friends/chosen family means to me. This is what it’s all about: it’s what I try to do, and I know it’s the kind of selflessness that my friends seem to have, from 8 hour roundtrips for a favour, midnight cottage closings, hospital runs, parking lot repairs, charity events and so much more. The things I’ve seen the people I’ve surrounded myself with, that they get NOTHING out of, do, for the benefit of others? It’s just awesome. And it gives me hope.

So… enough with the mushy stuff?

Finally…

It’s 40oC today. I got home from work, went through the brakes that’d been left for me, and re-installed what I needed: I’m lousy at bleeding brakes, and I want the car on the road this weekend for the cottage run, so I just did pads and rotors, re-lubed everything and took it for a test drive. All is awesome.

The pedal is a little squishy. I do need to change the fluid, but it’ll be fine for a few days at least. It seems to hold true though, once that fluid has boiled, it’s never the same again. So, what I’ll probably do is swap the fluid, and at the same time, swap on the newer calipers, too.

And then I figure out what the plan is going forward, for the track. And I guess I need some higher performance pads for Tail of the Dragon this fall too. Still, all things in their time.

Gonna have to pay this whole thing forward sometime though.

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The Continuing Saga of a RaceTrack Wannabe

That’s right. I don’t post anything for months, and now you get a couple in a couple of days.

So, brakes.

I mentioned briefly in my thoughts from Novice Day that my brakes went away by the end of the day. Well, it was actually worse than that. I lost brakes entirely on my 3rd last lap, going into Turn 6 at 170km/h: Pedal went to the floor. I’d already lifted, so was bleeding speed anyway, pumped the pedal a couple of times and got some pressure into the system, downshifted to let the engine do some of the work, and cranked the wheel over to let the tires scrub some speed, and all was well: My instructor admonished me for diving too deep into the corner and running wide and off line, I told him that it was a brakes issue. I ran the next few laps slower, just working on my line and smoothness, and pointing people by as I needed to (including the 370z I’d eaten up about three laps earlier, dammit!).

I got a look at the rotors after the session ended, and this is what I saw:

FLICKR – wheel – rotor

Not good. Tough to tell without closer inspection, but the pads were looking a little light, too.

Get on the road home, and I popped an (unrelated) engine code: P0133. Pretty sure that was just the engine reacting to the high flow catalytic converter and suddenly not running wide open, as I had been on the track for the best part of two hours. I cleared that, and no issues the rest of the way home (70km).

When I got into town, however, and off the highway, I ran into some issues.

At about Bank / Walkley, the car felt really sluggish. I had to give it more gas to make it go anywhere, and acceleration was seriously lackluster. If I took my foot off the gas, it came to a halt almost immediately.

Of course, this is when a good officer of the law arrived on my bumper, in traffic.

Because OF COURSE.

So, I’m gunning the hell out of the engine to make the car go anywhere (I’ve already got an idea where the issue is) and figure, well, I might as well set up my defense. Put my four-ways on, and hope for the best. I’m less than 2km from home at this point, so I’m going to try to limp it there, unless I’m told not to. Turn onto the primary run into my neighbourhood… and the officer follows me in. Again, I figure I might as well get ahead of the curve, and pull to the side of the road in front of the Dodge dealership. At which point, the cop pulls right past me!

Seriously?

I’m now not worried about getting a ticket, but mildly irritated that, despite my four ways, the cop didn’t stop to check on me. Sorry guys. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Nothing is visibly stuck, so after a few minutes, I get back on my way. Still really sluggish though. I get home, and the same thing: the car is stopping very quickly when it’s not under power, of its own accord. I back it into the garage, and leave it there for the night.

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Sunday afternoon rolls around, and it’s time to check things out. The good news: all the bolts on the brakes came loose with some pressure: nothing seized.

The bad news. This list is longer.

First, the front rotors are, as I thought, screwed. With them off, they’re both splotchy/white, with some flaking of the edges that isn’t rust, and they’re so deeply grooved that you could climb them. Or at least play “Darkside of the Moon” if you’ve got a record player kicking around. They are ROUGH. See for yourself:

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Second, the front pads. Also totally fucked. Outboard was down to a sliver of material left. The pad itself has been baked to the point at which it’s also flaking apart. The inboard pad isn’t as badly worn, but it’s really unevenly worn. Looks like it stuck in the bracket and stopped retracting/loosening off when I got off the brakes. Basically, about 1/4″ more wear on one end of the pad than the other.

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Third, the front caliper sliders were completely stuck: all the lubricant had burnt off. That’s an easy fix, but contributed to the above issues, I’m sure. All the lubricant around the areas the pads touch the brackets? Yeah, that’s gone too. Again, easy fix, but the pads are dead.

Fourth, I don’t know if the front calipers are still ok. I’ve pushed the pistons back in, so they do move. Only way to find out will be to get fresh rotors and pads in there and see what happens.

So, what’s the plan from here?

Given how my brake knowledge has grown in the last 72 hours, there’s a couple of things. First, the rear brakes (same brand rotors – R1 Concepts, and same brand pads – Frixa) that I installed new on Friday night are FINE. No scoring, no over-wearing, no sticking. It might be worth disassembling them and re-lubicating to make sure everything is moving post-track-heat, but otherwise, they’re fine. What I hit the track with on the front of the car, though, had 60,000km over four years, on them, and two winters of driving in Ottawa’s snow and salt. There is (I’m told) a finite shelf-life for brakes, even if there’s material left: I didn’t know that. So, old, well-used components, stressed to the maximum on the track? It should surprise no one that they fought the good fight, and finally, lost. Everything I’ve read, and been told, says that no, the expectation is not that you will be going through a set of pads and rotors per track day. I hit a perfect storm of abuse and existing wear. On top of that, as I mentioned, I have the base OEM brake set up. It’s good, but it’s not, I don’t think, race track good. Especially not with 60,000km of wear already on the components. But, it’s taught me an awful lot about things to look for, and things to keep up with in terms of preventative maintenance. And I think, whatever brake set up I end up with in the future, I’ll make sure I’ve got spare pads and rotors on hand in case I do need them.

Well, I’m doing Tail of the Dragon with GenSport United in late September. So, I’ve gotta have decent brakes on for that. In the short term, i MIGHT have access to a set of OEM’s that someone isn’t using. If I get really lucky, they’ll get up here from Oshawa before Thursday, and I can drive the ‘coupe to the cottage this weekend. If not, then I’ll be ordering new, OEM-base replacemnts (probably EBC rotors and pads) to get me through the end of summer and fall.

After that, I’m seriously considering a BBK. It sounds like there may be a semi-local option for me. I may also have a line on an affordable OEM Brembo swap with Stoptech rotors and pads. Failing all that, the R1Concepts forged series BBK looks like it has potential as well.

As I said in the original post, I learned a lot this last weekend, not just about being on a track, but about myself, my car, and all the things that go into being SAFE on the road, and on the track.

Good times.

Track Day, Bro.

So, I’ve been quiet here. Ummmm. Sorry? All three of you?

Basically, shit’s been busy, and I keep starting writing things and then not finishing them. I’m hoping this will not be the case tonight.

So, I’ve talked about the car before. Today was a bit different.

I signed up for 1morelap.com‘s novice day at Calabogie Motorsports Park. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. So, about a month ago, I went to an HPDE day. Why? I wasn’t going to drive just yet. But they do a great thing there: once you’re signed off to drive solo, you can take passengers. Better, you’re kinda expected to take a passenger if they ask. It’s the “first taste is free” kinda deal. And that was the full track. I’ll get to more of that later. I’ll give you verbatim what I posted to facebook that night:

Huh. It was more than a couple weeks ago. June 11th, in fact!


So, yesterday, a few of us (finally) took Borge Gamble up on a run out to Calabogie Motorsports Park for a lapping event, with 1morelap.

I did not DRIVE.

I had two very, very different experiences as a passenger (and everyone was wickedly friendly). First, with Ken in an (if you can believe it) automatic Scion FRS. Second, with Norman, in a fourteen year old BMW M3. Ken is somewhat of a novice, Norman, been doing this a good while.

The FRS is amazing. I’ll be perfectly honest here. Anyone who says the base spec of 201hp/151lb.ft isn’t enough for a real car? Has never been in one driven hard, on a track. Hard on the brakes into Turn 5 was touching 155km/h. If anything, the paddle-shifted automatic made it faster. it was balanced, and basically only being passed by other cars on the straights: in the corners, with good tires, it is beyond capable.

The M3 though (E43, the last truly good one in my opinion) is pretty much everything the M-fanbois make it out to be. It has more than enough power, and stunning brakes. Better tires make the handling… knife edged. The same entry into turn 5 as the FRS was a terrifying 200-220km/h, dropping to 90ish through the corner itself. And I now know what the phrase “throwing the anchor out” REALLY means. 220kmh to 85km/h in (my guess) under 200ft. It is violent. It was passed by exactly two cars. One, a monstrous Corvette street car, and the other a dedicated CASCAR (I think) chassis.

I spent a lot of time watching entry speeds, exit speeds, and control: it’s not just about the experience (although the first three or four laps in the FRS were a bit of a blur, and my grin in the M3 was enough to split the helmet). I love racecraft, and you can learn a lot here. It’s a controlled environment, but it’s not THAT controlled. There’s excellent support from the support staff and marshals, and they WILL black flag (end your night) you if you’re being a dick and unsafe. I saw nothing but courtesy from other drivers: always pointing to pass (you do not pass unless the driver in front has told you explicitly to pass, and which side, with hand signals). Ken and Norman had dramatically different lines into several corners (most dramatically, Turn 8, 12, and 17).

I drove home with the cruise locked in at maybe 5km/h over. There just didn’t seem to be much point.

Sometime this summer, I’m gonna make it out there myself. Most likely August 6th / novice day, but possibly an evening or HPDE day, with an instructor: It costs a little more, but I think is going to be absolutely worth it.

I’m also going to head out there on a couple of the days and volunteer as a photographer: it apparently gets me some different access, and that will also be a ton of fun.

Excellent afternoon, doing the kind of thing I love. Good, good time. I can see the potential for addiction here, though.

So, fastfoward to yesterday. We got there early, about two hours early for our first session (10am) and lined up, parked, and went to get a handle on things.

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There were two events ongoing yesterday, so the track was “split”. Known coloquially as “east” and “west” tracks. The west track is where the novice day was held: it’s not as fast as the east side, but it’s got some extremely interesting and complex turns on it. Rewind a bit. A requirement of the Novice day is a half-hour in-class training. It’s very simple, basic stuff: this is a novice event after-all. Still, I learned some things: Seating position – I was very close to where I needed to be, but still needed some adjustment. Vision – again, I was close, but I needed to learn to look all the way round the corner, not just into it: I know the rule. You go where you look. Beyond that, it was basic material about focus, apexes, speed, braking and shifting points, and the racing line. All excellent information.

So, then, to the track.

Take a look back at the track. As I said, the track was split, and we were running corners 2 through 1. That sounds odd, I know, but, follow it round. We entered the track at Turn 2 / Jacques: following the blend line. Uphill wide onto the concrete curb on the outside, then cresting right before turn 3 / Gilles, which is effectively blind. When I did it right, I ran full-throttle in third gear through turn three. The short straight to turn 4 / Easy lets you settle the car: in my case, I found that I could run third up against the red line, but that was forcing me to back off, or grab fourth gear in the middle of easy, on the curb on the inside, at about 110km/h. So, what I learned to do was grab fourth gear on the transitional straight between 3 and 4, and run wide open: by the time I cleared 4, and wound out the steering onto the straight on the outside edge of the track, I was running about 130km/h. From there, a straight run down Rocky Road. Rocky Road ends up with a crest and kink into Sir John A and Mulligans (Turn 5). By the end of the first session, I was diving straight through, blind, into Mulligans, braking hard, stabilizing the car, downshifting to third gear, and preparing to turn. By the end of the second session, I was standing on the brakes at the top of fourth gear, just barely touching 170km/h and 6800rpm. By the time I come off the brakes, about 200ft later, I’m at 75km/h or so, turning in and touching the cement on the inside, then letting the car drift out to the cement on the outside, between 5 and 6 (Big Rock), shedding speed naturally, rather than under braking: begin the turn into turn 6. Turn 6 dips slightly, and the car settles down: as it does, roll onto the gas pedal. The car takes a set, and if I did it right, the traction control does not flutter. Exiting the turn, there’s a very short transisiton between 6 and 7 (Candy Mountain) and you’re now aiming at the tall, single tree beyond the track. Aiming here and letting the car drift to the center of the track as you unwind the steering sets you up for turn 7, running at the top of third gear. Straightening out after turn 7 is grabbing fourth gear and onto the short straight down to turn 8 (Temptation). Hard on the brakes at the end of the straight, but leave it in third and let it run out (no gas) bleeding speed, then a dab of brakes again, and turn hard across the inside, drifting out to the cones at turn 1, and onto the paddock straight. Run out third gear as tight to the wall as possible then brakes and hard across the concrete at turn 2 and do it all over again.

When I write it down like that, it sounds like I know something, right?

Yeah, not so much.

I couldn’t have driven like I did without the instructors in my ear, in the passenger seat. Mike, John, Deiter: if you read this, holy shit guys, thank you. I learned so damn much yesterday. I put so damn much that I though I knew, into practice. I would not have had as much fun, learned as much, and had my frustration level lowered without those instructors.

Let me put it this way.

I cannot recommend the Novice Day enough. I just can’t. If you have any interest in cars, you need to do one of these. The instructors from 1MoreLap are absolutely fantastic, and patient, and knowledgeable, and patient, and encouraging, and did I mention patient?

I never timed a lap.

I didn’t count laps.

I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to learn something.

I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to destroy my brakes. Like. Completely.

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*edit* *2016-08-08* Just to clarify. My brakes were OLD. Brakes (I discovered from someone more knowledgeable than me) have a shelf-life, as well. The car is 7.5 years old, I did the front brakes four years ago with reasonable quality Frixa pads and R1Concepts rotors. They had about 60,000km on them when I got to the track. You should NOT expect to have to replace your brakes every half hour! 🙂 It seems I may be implying that by omission. I’ve added a post about the brakes, too, because if you’re into racecraft, discussion of wear of hardware should interest you, and I’m talking about it from the perspective of a total noob. *end edit*

I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to verify something I already knew, intellectually. I discovered that the drivermod is most important. I discovered my untuned, effectively stock(1) sub-200hp Genesis Coupe can stay with and go better than on-paper better cars, because of that DriverMod.

I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify my interest in watching racing, running sim-racers, and studying driving mechanics because I enjoy it, gives me a lot of knowledge the moment I sit down.

I know I did enough laps in 90 minutes to qualify that that last point means an awful lot less than I though it would: knowing a line intellectually is entirely different to actually driving it, at the limit of adhesion, as fast as you can, while listening to an instructor in your ear reminding you of the things you’re forgetting, or ignoring, because you’re only able to concentrate on a dozen things at once, not the two dozen you actually need to remember to be both fast and smooth.

I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that while smooth may be fast, sometimes you’ve got to slow down to get smooth again, and then rebuild your speed.

Most of all, I know I did enough laps to prove to myself that I know almost nothing, and that I want to go back and learn more.

I could say an awful lot more, but I don’t think anyone would read it. I know I’m gushing somewhat, but that’s a bucket list experience. And when I do get the brakes fixed up, I’m looking to do it again. And again. It won’t be every/every other weekend. But it’ll probably be a couple of times a summer. Because I want to get better, and better, and better.

(1) I have, at this time, wider, stickier than stock tires, lighter wheels, short shifter and bushings, intake, exhaust, high-flow catalytic converter, a stage 2 clutch, and lowering springs.