NASA ST4 Round 2 at Thunderhill Raceway

Loading Up Heidi

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Heidi” left for Round 2 of NorCal Super Touring Championship a day earlier than usual because Tom was in Japan - which meant that Graham assumed driving duties for this particular race weekend. We were excited because Jon had rebuilt the engine with brand new rod bearings, a new oil pump, and added an accusump system to help mitigate the low oil pressure issues we ran into at Sonoma in March. Shout-out to Jim from MMI Vehicle Systems and West Coast Ravenol for the fresh parts and fluids!

On Thursday evening, Liam and Graham stopped by the shop to pick up the car and then they were off to Thunderhill.

First Raceday

Saturday, April 13, 2019

On this particular weekend, Graham was also racing in Spec Miata. This meant that during the combined Group A (SM) and Group C (Super Touring) morning warm-up Jon got an opportunity to take “Heidi” out for a spin. He confirmed that the oil pressure was finally within the ideal range. Woohoo!

When Graham took the car out for qualifying though, he uncovered a handling issue - the car was exhibiting a ton of understeer (or push) which made it tough to drive fast. As such, he only managed to qualify P9. He also noticed the fuel pressure was jumping around a bit, which meant that the car felt sluggish and down on power.

Jei from Blacktrax looked at the tune to try and figure out what was going on with the fuel-pressure. He made some minor changes, but the moment of truth could only be confirmed during the race itself. With regard to the handling issue, the guys consulted with Erik from JRZ and after making some damper setting changes they felt optimistic for the race.

During the race, the handling was a bit better. But Graham still wrestled with two things, first - the transmission began to not shift well. It was hard to get into 3rd and 4th, sometimes it would get stuck in 2nd gear. This was frustrating. Second - the engine still felt down on power. So try as he might, he was unable to gain any additional positions and finished P9 out of 16 cars in class.

As if the struggles with “Heidi” weren’t bad enough, Graham also suffered a broken gearbox in the Spec Miata race, and Liam had an engine failure in his B20 powered ST4 EG6 Honda Civic.

Later that night, the guys were busy at work. They went through many things on “Heidi,” including inspecting the VANOS system and fuel system. Jei worked some more magic and felt confident that the engine should be running better come Sunday morning.

Tom Tang E36 M3 Thunderhill Raceway

Second Raceway

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Since Liam didn’t have a car to drive, he took “Heidi” out for qualifying and confirmed that the car still pushed way too much. He managed to get the car in P13 on the grid, and after coming back the guys made additional shock changes. The team also noticed that the front tires were “rolling over,” so to get more front end grip, they needed to use more of the inside of the tire. With the front camber already maxed out, they decided to swap to stiffer front springs (from 800lb to 900lb). They also used the Wunder Aligner HD10 system to adjust the alignment setup: zeroing out the toe in the rear (from 1/8 total). Graham felt that a “loose” set up would be much more manageable.

Before the race, the guys swapped to a fresh set of Toyo RR tires (shout-out to Marc and Karl from Toyo for their partnership and support!) and it was game-time. Graham drove a great race, passing a ton of cars within the first lap and then fighting to maintain his position late in the race when the car began to have fuel pressure issues again. In the end, Graham finished P7 - gaining the most positions in class overall.

Ride-along with Graham during Sunday’s race here:

Needless to say, a P9 and P7 finish for the weekend is not what we wanted. We remain confident that we have a front-running car and team this year, but it’s clear that we still have some issues to work through. The plan is to squeeze in another test day at Sonoma ahead of Round 3 (May 18-19).

Before then we will:

  • Rebuild the gearbox in the car and the shifter

  • Go through the engine again and solve the fuel-pressure issue

  • Dial-in the alignment (1/8 was too loose, we will try 1/16 next) and shock setup with help from our partners at JRZ and Toyo

Stay tuned for additional updates about our progress this season!