Trading Sheet Time for a Little Seat Time at the SVTOA Event at Autobahn

August 2006

 

So, there I was sitting around doing my recovery thing, watching TV and playing with suspension geometries on my computer. The recovery process is taking a lot longer than I thought but in the same token I am feeling better this month vs. last month and that was better than the month before. It's definitely progress, but I'm getting restless and bored.

 

Then someone called or e-mailed Cari, my wife, inquiring if I was going to be at the SVTOA Autobahn event in a few weeks as a lot of people were asking. SVTOA at Autobahn, you know, that was a good question. I don't have all my strength back, but driving isn't too physical… Hell, I gave charity rides for four and half hours at IRP when I was sick… Maybe I can do this. (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…)

 

Cari and I talked it over and thought it might be an opportunity for me to get out of the house and it could be good therapy for me to be at the track with fast cars. So we decided on a definitive “maybe”. It would all depend on how I was feeling at the time. We didn't make the go, no-go decision until the Sunday before Autobahn. We wanted to be sure that I was up for it. I was actually feeling pretty good that week, although some of the “feel good” may have had something to do with thoughts of getting out of the house and off to a track!

 

So as I awaited the date, I thought: If we go, I need a car to drive. The only one that might be available was my Mustang CSR-69 concept which hadn't turned a wheel since SEMA '05 and was set up as a show car not a track car. Now the problem was how to turn a show car into a track car in less than a week… Humm…

 

I got together with Scott Hoag, former Ford Engineer and owner of MRT, Mustang Racing Technology, a growing Mustang performance shop in northwest Detroit and consummate Mustang Car Guy himself. We talked it over, came up with a plan and put it in motion. The only thing was, we didn't have the time or the components I needed to make it one of my typical super killer track cars. But that's OK, if I drive, (and that was still a question at this point) I wouldn't be able to drive to it's full potential. So all we really need is a “track competent” car and that was something we could do in a week.

 

Here's where Scott came to the rescue. One of his suppliers (H&R) was now offering a new adjustable sport coil-over suspension kit for the new Mustangs, timing would be tight but we could have one in time. OK, rock on. Besides this would be a perfect opportunity to evaluate that new H&R adjustable Coil-over suspension package on the track. While we are on the subject, some other really slick stuff MRT offered up for testing was their Cold Air Kit, Max Flow exhaust system and custom Dyno-tuned calibration. (See Product Evaluation for more details.)

 

With all the stuff we though we would need accounted for, I drove up to MRT in Detroit to help get it all pulled together. By now we were down to a few days (and nights) and we were mildly behind schedule. (Has anyone out there ever done a track weekend and not be behind schedule?)

 

The guys at MRT worked with clear purpose and the car was coming together nicely. Aside from installing the suspension there were a ton of little things to attend to like hooking up the brake ducts, safety check, nut & bolt check, my track prep and set-up sheets for the car's notebook, alignment and of course onto the dyno to recalibrate for the new intake and exhaust. There was a lot to do in a small amount of time and MRT got most of it done. Friday afternoon, Scott put the Kenny Brown CSR-69 in his trailer and headed east for its first real track outing.

 

At the Track

 

Driving up to the gates on Saturday morning and into the paddock at Autobahn really felt good after so many months of being cooped up in hospitals and my house. I was feeling pretty good and the weather was perfect, it was going to be a good day.

 

Cari called the track to tell them I was coming and the staff from Autobahn graciously provided me with one of their 4-wheelers so I wouldn't have to hike all around the paddock. This was a huge help as I didn't have a lot of stamina yet.

 

I saw the group gathering at the Tech Shed for the driver's meeting so I wandered over. No sooner had I walked up and I was besieged by friends and customers all really glad to see me up and around wishing me the best for my health. Being cooped up for so long, it really felt good to see so many friends and being at the track again.

 

Kudos to Mark Wilson, Volunteers and SVTOA

 

Thanks to Mark from the Great Lakes SVTOA and the many volunteers. It was another terrific weekend. I really like attending SVTOA events as there is real in-car instruction for the beginners and novices, while advanced and intermediate drivers run in different groups. This means that you are on track with drivers of similar experience. This system works very well and the day “typically” goes smoothly – producing lots of track time, lots of learning, lots of experiences, and loads of fun! If you ever have the chance to attend an SVTOA track event – just do it, I guarantee you won't regret it! Having an SVT car is not a requirement as their events are open to all Ford products. For more information on an SVTOA chapter near you go to www.svtoa.com.

 

Let's go driving

 

There I was in my driving suit, helmet and gloves on, belts pulled tight and . . . there was a problem. My feet (as in tippy-toes) could barely touch the pedals, and the seat was all the way forward. We had installed some really nice OMP sport seats with lots of support for the “spirited” driver, but I don't think that I had ever driven the car except across the shop. This was the first time I was actually “strapped into the car and I was a bit far back. Not a problem, a few carefully folded and placed towels to scoot my butt up and off I went.

 

In my first session it felt good to be on track but we only had a cursory set-up and once the tires were hot it was not particularly comfortable to drive. A dash into the pits for tire temps and pressures then back to the trailer for adjustments. The next two sessions were about the same; drive the car hard to get good temps and make adjustments accordingly. With each set of adjustments the car was getting better and quicker.

 

With the car getting closer to its optimum, I pulled out my S-197 notebook with a bunch of geometry graphs for specific driving events at a variety of ride heights. (Remember, that's about all I had to do was play with geometry scenarios over the past few months while recuperating). What I discovered is with stock OE geometry and the short profile Pirelli PZero Corsa tires, the geometry really went south once below 26.3” of ride height, so we settled at 26.5” ride height with ¼” rake.

 

This was particularly interesting as I reviewed the geometries for the different ride heights we tried (with the new H&R suspension set-up adjusting ride height was a breeze) what I felt in the car pretty much validated what my geometry studies predicted. Imagine that!

 

By mid-afternoon we had the car working pretty well. It was comfortable to drive and I was quick in group 2. Even with the super sticky Pirelli's the stock geometry wouldn't let them work to their full potential. The car was quick, but it didn't have the corner speed to run with the fast Group 1 guys. I knew what had to be done to fix the geometry, we just didn't have the time, nor did I want to hack and whack on H&R struts as they were so nice to let me use them to test.

 

All in all, it was a really good event for me. I was able to get out of the house, to see many good friends, test some nice new products plus I was able to validate some of the geometry data I had been developing. A good day, no strike that – a very good day at the track!

 

Remember -

 

“A Bad Day at the Track is Still Better Than a Good Day at The Office”

 

Kenny Brown