Tag Archive | Sedan

Revenge of the ‘Rex

In November 2007, my first trip to Laguna Seca Raceway didn’t quite go as planned.  Since that time, I thought the place owed me one until I could make my return.  I say the place owed me because my mistake of running over the Turn 6 apex marker like many others didn’t seem that egregious.  A mid-January discovery of an open track day on February 25th with the Green Flag Driving Association (through MotorsportReg.com) paved the way for that return.

The weekend before the track day, I got a new set of Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec tires (P225/45R17 90W) (nuts…the Tire Rack has a $50 rebate on these right now until March 31st if you buy a set of four) mounted and balanced.  Before putting the new shoes on, I changed the front and rear brake pads from the EBC Red Stuff Ceramic pads to Ferodo DS2500s.  I didn’t change the rotors because I just replaced them the previous month with the EBC pads.  And thanks to the Motive Products hydraulic brake and clutch pressure bleeder I got from RallySportDirect.com, I was able to bleed brake fluid by myself for the first time using a fresh 500 mL bottle of MOTUL RBF 600 high temp fluid.

After unpacking the car, adjusting the Koni strut inserts to nearly full stiff in the front and 1/2 stiff in rear (the latter required the removal of the rear seat (six 12mm bolts) to access the tops of the rear struts), mounting a video camera to the rear windshield, and slapping on some magnetic numbers purchased from izoomgraphics.com onto the front doors, the car was ready to hit the track.  I was assigned #16 because my last name was probably sixteenth on the alphabetical list of people registered for the intermediate group at the time the numbers were determined.


I naturally used the first session to get re-acquainted with the track.  After three or four laps, I figured out the braking points and lines I wanted to use.  As I approached Turn 6 for the first time, I felt a little apprehensive, but knew it was time to exact my revenge!  I drove through and took a mental snapshot of the turn to refer to when approaching it every lap.

Above is the video I recorded in the first session.  I spent much of the early part of it following a Nissan GT-R whose driver appeared to be learning the track.  Later in the day (Session 7), I let him by to see how well (or poorly) I could keep up with him/the car.  He checked out on me in about half a lap!  The ‘Rex and I could hang with him in the turns but didn’t have the beans to remain in touch on the straights.  At the six minute-mark, I let a Porsche 911 997 GT3 RS–just like Chris Walton’s favorite car–blow by me going up the Rahal Straight.  Soon after, you’ll see me get mired behind the slowest S2000/driver combination ever (they make another appearance at the 21:00 mark, too)!  I don’t know what was going on with them throughout the day.  However, I will give the driver of the S2K (black helmet) credit for seeking instruction later in the day (evident when the car was on the track with two people with him riding shotgun).  The only allowed passing zones for the beginner/intermediate group that day were the front straightaway, the stretch between Turns 4 and 5, and the Rahal Straight.

As the first session progressed, I felt the rear of the car was too soft.  After the session was completed, I stiffened the rear Koni inserts and also reinstalled the rear seat bottom.  Its absence explains the clicking and clacking heard in the video above when the seatbelts were moving around in the turns.

Session Two had the distinction of being the only beginner/intermediate session with an incident.  A first generation Mazda Miata somehow found its way into the kitty litter (gravel trap) on the outside of Turn 11.  To begin the session, I left the pits behind a Ford Mustang (A GT350 replica?  Kurt or JDP can definitely enlighten me here.) that let me by at the end of the first green lap.  Two laps later, the session was stopped to get the Miata out of the sandbox.  Once its wheels were back on the tarmac, it was able to restart and return to the pits using its own power.  After the session resumed, I had the sheer pleasure of catching and receiving a point-by from a (stock?) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR a little less than 10 minutes after I left the pits.  Two of the faster cars I let by in the session were an ex-Bondurant school Ford Mustang (Cobra?) and a Porsche 911 (997 Carrera S?).

The third session began with me leaving the pits behind an older Porsche 911 (964?  930?  Little help here?).  I had even more fun chasing this car than reeling in and passing the Evo in the previous session!  The fun lasted until the 8:30-mark when I got stuck behind a 996 Turbo Convertible.  The person driving it was nice enough to let me by between Turns 4 and 5, but the other 911 had already checked out by then.

During this session, I determined the car was a little more squirrelly than I’d like when transitioning from an on-throttle state onto the binders.  As a result, I softened both of the rear Konis a smidge after I had returned to the paddock.

The most enjoyable things I worked on over the course of the day were trail-braking and figuring out how to get through the Rainey Curve (Turn 9) well.  I found I could work on the former most when braking for the Andretti Hairpin (Turn 2) and Turn 3.  Almost every time I drove through Turn 9, I remembered Josh Jacquot’s advice not to lift when driving through it.  Since I’m a) not as skilled as Josh and b) not driving whatever rocket ships he may have driven at Laguna Seca, I would usually go to a partial-throttle state when driving through the turn.  For some odd reason, I seemed to feel more G-loading when driving through Turn 9 this time than my first track day at Laguna Seca.  Because of that, I figured I consistently carried more speed through there.

Session Four provided me with the most clean laps out of all the sessions I drove that day.  Because of that, I probably turned my fastest laps during it (no timing transponders were available for rental that day).  I suppose I could extract each lap’s time from my recordings, but that would be inaccurate and take a long time.  I’m guessing I turned faster laps compared to my first trip because of the upgraded suspension components (JDM STI springs and Koni strut inserts) I had this time. During this session, I also had the pleasure of feeling I had the car’s setup totally dialed in as it responded to all of my inputs in the way I hoped and expected.

The driver of the 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STi I caught and passed told me he had been experiencing brake fade the entire day.  His car was also shod with Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec tires (although his tires were 245-width) and stopped by Ferodo DS2500 brake pads.  My car was using the stock rotors whereas his car was equipped with DBA 5000 two-piece rotors.  I think he was using the ATE Super Blue brake fluid.

The Direzza Sport Z1 tires held up great on the track.  They didn’t seem to provide as much ultimate grip as the Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R tires, but definitely didn’t wear as much either (perhaps a visual confirmation of its 200 treadwear rating compared to the 180 rating of the RE-01R).  Adhesion felt consistent throughout each session with no signs of becoming greasy or going “off.”

At the end of the fourth session, I heard a scraping sound coming from the rear.  A closer inspection revealed that I had used up the left rear brake pads.  Not wanting another track day at Laguna Seca to come to a premature end, I donned a pair of gloves and began one of the quickest brake pad changes I had ever performed.  The change would’ve been even quicker if I didn’t have to be careful handling the hot pads’ backing plates.  Now you may be wondering how I used up the rear pads before the fronts.  The front brake pads were a new set of Ferodo DS2500 pads.  The rears, however, were used for my track days at Buttonwillow Raceway and the Streets of Willow Springs in March and April 2008, respectively.  I thought there was going to be enough pad material left to get me through the day.  I obviously thought wrong.

The rear brake pad change was completed in about 40 minutes.  I missed half of the fifth session, but was glad I could enjoy the rest of the track day.  I didn’t bring any spare rotors with me to the track.  But I didn’t care.  I was determined to turn more laps even though the rotor had been warped and scored.  The vibration produced by the rotor was quite significant, but braking effectiveness seemed largely unaffected.

Another issue that arose in the afternoon was the beginning of the demise of the tranny’s fourth gear synchro.  With 108K (hard) miles under its belt, the transmission has served me well.  Upshifts over 4,500 RPM from third gear to fourth gear began producing a light grind sometime during the fifth session.  I began shifting more deliberately and making sure I was shifting “straight” and not “diagonally” to see if things would improve.  They didn’t.  (I got a quote of $1,200 for synchro replacement the next day.  I’ll probably just live with this for the time being and try to drive more conservatively…at least in third gear anyway.)

Sessions Six and Seven were pretty much more of the same.  Because only 30 cars registered for the event, the organizers thought it would be good to combine the beginner and intermediate groups.  I was initially concerned when this was announced in the morning drivers’ meeting.  An upside of the merge, however, was that everyone would get more track time.  The original plan was to run five 25-minute sessions.  The new plan allowed for six 25-minute sessions and one 15-minute session.

At the 11:20-mark in Session 7 (see video above), I let the Nissan GT-R by me on the Rahal Straight.  Watch as it runs away from me by the end of the lap!  Near the end of the session, I didn’t drive as well and started to get a little sloppy.  After the session was done, I deemed myself fully satisfied with the day and felt exhausted.  It had been a great day!

A full gallery of the day’s photos can be seen here:

The other videos from the day can be seen by viewing the “More From User” and/or “Related Videos” in Google Video.

That’s all for now (especially since the ‘Rex has an ailing tranny)!  I would love to hear from others about their open track day experiences!  Or if you’d like more info on tracking your own vehicle, I’d love to help!

The drive for five

Saturday, January 3, 2009 marked five years of life together with my 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan, a.k.a. Devoted Dan.  After 104,000 miles, it continues to run well and provide smiles per mile.  Below is a brief rundown of our time together.


January 3 – Took delivery from Frank’s Irvine Subaru in Lake Forest
March – Installed 17-inch Prodrive P1 wheels (made by O.Z. Racing) with Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position tires (P215/45R17)
May – Cleared headlights
November – Installed Prodrive round tip axleback exhaust/muffler


January – Retrofitted Subaru 4-pot/2-pot brakes, installed Prodrive springs, Group N STI strut tops, and Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
March – Participated in my first track day on the infield road course of California Speedway
April – Flashed the engine ECU with a COBB AccessPort Stage 1 map
September – Participated in a track day at the Streets of Willow Springs
December – Installed fender sidemarkers and 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rear diffuser


January – Participated in a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway, obtained 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX stock wheels and tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE92 -P215/45R17)
May – Participated in another track day at Buttonwillow Raceway


April – Returned to Buttonwillow Raceway
November – Participated in a track day at Laguna Seca Raceway
December – Installed Koni strut inserts and Japanese domestic market (JDM) STI springs


March – Ran at Buttonwillow Raceway again
April – Ran at the Streets of Willow Springs again


February – Already registered to return to Laguna Seca Raceway

Happy New Year!  See you later! :o)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, 2008 LA Auto Show highlights

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s been awhile since I last wrote here.  I hope all of you are doing well.

This blog entry is a few weeks late but I thought I’d share some of the vehicles I really liked at this year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Mazda MAZDA3

Some people hate that the new MAZDA3 looks like it’s smilling.  I love it!  I’m still not too keen on the plastic above the fog lights, but that may grow on me.The new 3 will hit Mazda showrooms this spring in sedan and hatchback form.  That said, I still highly recommend the current MAZDA3 as the best compact car one can get right now (if all-wheel drive is not needed).

Honda Insight

Seeing the Honda Insight Concept in person made me think, “I wouldn’t mind being seen in that.”  Honda’s upcoming Toyota Prius-fighter looks cool and maybe even fun-to-drive.  Shortly after the LA Auto Show, photos of the production version Insight were released.

To stay informed about Honda’s new hybrid, make sure you check out Edmunds.com Inside Line‘s Honda Insight Buzz Station page.

Five Axis Lexus GS 460

The more I see flat (i.e., not glossy) paint on vehicles, the more I like it.  This Lexus GS 460 modified by Five Axis looks great.  But I think what Five Axis did to a Lexus IS F last year looks even better.

2010 Ford Mustang

Meh.  As far as pony cars go, here’s what I think.

Chevrolet Camaro > Dodge Challenger > Ford Mustang

2009 Porsche Boxster and Cayman

Very nice!  I’ve got a feeling Devoted Dan, my 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan, won’t be able to keep up with these on the track.  Also new for MY2009 is Porsche’s dual-clutch automated manual transmission called Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, or PDK for short.  Reviews of Porsche’s new gearbox have been positive except that the tranny’s interface via steering wheel-mounted buttons or the shift lever are counter-intuitive.

Ferrari 430 Scuderia

Wow!  Forget the Ferrari California shown below.  The 430 Scuderia was my favorite Ferrari at this year’s show.

Aston Martin DBS

Absolutely beautiful.  However, I think Aston Martins look best in Silver or British Racing Green.

Lotus Evora

I like Lotus’ new 2+2 more than the Elise and Exige.  In fact, I like it so much that I went and got one…in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue for the PLAYSTATION3 (PS3).

Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Race Car

I think the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a pretty neat car.  So does Edmunds.com, which currently has one in its long-term vehicle fleet.  What many of you may not know is that there is a Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup racing series here in North America.  The above car is an example of a Jetta TDI Cup race car.  The use of Audi R8 front brake calipers is interesting and a little funny, too.

MINI John Cooper Works

I’ve never driven a MINI Cooper.  Hopefully, I’ll take one for a spin sooner than later.  Rowing through the gears of this MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) Hardtop impressed me because of the shift lever’s positive feel through the gates and short throw.  I wish all BMW manual transmissions, which tend to have long shift throws, felt like this.

These are the cars I really like during my brief time at this year’s Los Angeles International Auto Show.  I hope you all enjoyed my highlights.

As 2009 approaches, I think it would be nice to leave you all with one of my favorite moments of 2008.  My trip to Buttonwillow Raceway in March resulted in a 0.470 second improvement over my previous best lap time of 2:12.215 on Buttonwillow’s Configuration #13 clockwise.  My lap of 2:11.745 is the first lap shown in the YouTube video clip below.

How I equipped my car with 12 tires

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads this!  This Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for the grace and salvation God has given me.  What are you most thankful for?

A few weeks ago, I purchased a set of BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S ultra high performance all-season tires (P215/45R17 91W) from the Tire Rack ($118 each) for my 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan.  On November 15th, I had them mounted, balanced, and installed on my car at Island Tire & Service in Pasadena for a very reasonable rate, although it appears they may have slightly scratched some of my wheels in the process.

Why select an all-season tire in (Southern) California?  Or rather, why not?

First, I have a separate set of Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R (P225/45R17 91W) extreme performance summer tires that I use for the track.  Second, I like knowing that my car can be driven in snow if necessary to go snowboarding, skiing, or to retreat sites.  Third, it would be nice to have a set of tires that last for a while compared to summer tires or even the factory supplied Bridgestone Potenza RE92 tires, which only have a treadwear rating of 160 compared to the BFG’s 400.

So how exactly did I equipped my car with 12 tires?  The answer is I didn’t.  But in a way, I did.  BFGoodrich’s g-Force Super Sport A/S tire replaced the venerable g-Force T/A KDWS.  The g-Force Super Sport A/S is constructed with three distinct rubber compounds to provide traction in dry, wet, and snowy conditions.  Many all-season tires may have three distinct zones, but each zone uses the same rubber compound.

Dry: The outer sides of the tread feature large shoulder blocks designed to maximize traction while cornering.  Additionally, these same blocks also contain sipes to aid with acceleration and braking in snow.  Displayed in the middle, the continuous center rib provides the driver with excellent steering feel.

Wet: The center rib and grooves on its sides work with the swept lateral grooves to effectively channel water and reduce hydroplaning.

Snow: In-between the dry and wet tread zones is the snow zone.  Working in conjuction with the outer shoulder blocks’ sipes, the intermediate tread block provides a snow hook shape to function like snow chains.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though.  In May, the Tire Rack conducted a test of the BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S tires against its chief competitors.  You can see their results here.  Although it finished second in their comparison, the g-Force Super Sport A/S produced the dry performance numbers.  It didn’t have the wet grip of the Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position tire (another tire I was considering at $150 each) or the ride comfort, but I figured most of the miles I would accumulate would be on dry tarmac.  Thus, I decided to sacrifice road manners for better handling (after all, I’m still young, right?).

If that’s not enough to convince you of what an excellent tire this is, Car and Driver also plays host to a BFGoodrich Tires Virtual Test Drive (Adobe Flash required) mini-site.  There you can learn more about BFGoodrich tires including the g-Force Super Sport A/S.  Four-time SCCA Trans Am champion and host of SPEED Test Drive and SETUP, Tommy Kendall, will talk, or rather, drive, you through the features and construction of the tire.  You can even ride along with Tommy as he drives a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX on the track at Miller Motorsports Park.

Here’s a cool did you know (dyk): BFGoodrich is owned by Michelin (FRA) like Firestone (USA) is owned by Bridgestone (JPN)

With old man winter now upon us–or right around the corner–there isn’t a better time than the present to make sure your vehicle’s shoes will keep you and your loved ones safe in inclement weather.  If your tires’ tread depths are less than 4/32 of an inch you should consider replacing them as soon as possible.  2/32″ is the legal limit, but grooves shallower than 4/32″ are less resistant to hydroplaning.

Not sure how to measure your tires’ tread depths?  Here’s an excellent article you may find useful.  Remember to keep your tires properly inflated as well!

Tire Rack: Measuring Tire Tread Depth with a Coin

Valet for a day

Back on October 13th, I parked the car for the night and noticed the “SECURITY” light below the tachometer (the gauge that measures engine speed) kept flickering at an unusual rate after the key had been removed.  I also noticed the car’s blinkers and sidemarkers didn’t flash when I armed and disarmed the security system.

That was weird.  The car had never done this before.  Slight concern crept in as I wondered if the oddity would drain the vehicle’s battery.  My fear was mitigated when the car started up fine the next morning and later that evening after work.

After purchasing the Top Gun Blu-ray and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Ferrari Challenge for the PLAYSTATION3 at Best Buy, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to figure out what was going.  It was time to read the fantastic manual (RTFM).

First, I used the manual’s index to look up “Security System” (who uses the table of contents anyway?).  Once there, I noticed the subsection on “Valet Mode.”  There, I read about symptoms that matched what I was seeing.

After disabling the security system’s valet mode, I armed and disarmed the car’s security system.  Success!  The car’s alarm was now functioning properly again.  As to how the whole ordeal happened, I’m guessing the “arm” button on the remote transmitter was accidentally press for a few seconds when the driver’s side front door was open.  Once properly addressed, I then took satisfaction knowing the phenomenon would no longer haunt me.

Sedan silliness

While I believe every person should be allowed to do what he or she wants to do to his or her automobile, I detest the things people do to bread-and-better family sedans.  As point-A to point-B people-movers, they were not designed with sporting intentions in mind.  What about cars such as the Toyota Camry SE you say?  No!  It’s still a Camry!  It’s not wrong to own a Camcord or any other typical mid-size family sedan.  I simply believe it’s wrong to modify one in such a disgusting way.

Current generation Toyota Camry

1998-2002 Honda Accord

2002 Toyota Camry on dubs (20-inch or more wheels for those who aren’t with the “lingo”)

Here’s a classic web site pointing out more ridiculous transgressions against the automobile.


What do you all out there think?

Don’t hate the plate

There are quite a few people out there–you know who you are–who don’t like having front license plates on their automobiles even though having one is required by law in the state of California.  Here, I will state my case in support of front license plates.

On Saturday, July 5, 2008, I got stuck in traffic on the 57 North because of a fire caused by a vehicle fire on the highway that spread to the area alongside the highway.  At the time, I was headed to Don (Xanga: udonoogen) and Hanley’s (Xanga: randomranting) place to meet up before we headed to that evening’s Angel game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  I was South of the Tonner Canyon exit and stuck in an extreme amount of traffic.

The traffic came to a dead stop on an incline where I found myself behind a black 2004 Honda Civic Sedan like the one pictured above.  As we crawled up the hill, I noticed the driver of the car would let his vehicle roll back a bit while he was waiting around.  This happened more than once, which should’ve been my cue to move into another lane.  Not giving it much thought, I stayed behind the Civic (stupidly) hoping traffic would lighten up because the congestion was making me late.

A minute or two later, the traffic trudges forward and comes to another stop, except this time, the said Civic starts rolling back with more steam than before (3-4 mph).  Once I realized it was going to roll back into me at the rate it was traveling, I hit the car horn and kept my hand on it.  The driver didn’t react until *after* his car hit mine!!!  Unbelievable!

But wait, there’s more!  After moving his car up a few feet, he let his car roll back into mine again, even though I was blaring the horn the entire second instance.  I couldn’t believe it!  Whether I should have or not, I kept my car behind his as traffic continued to slog along.  A few minutes later, the traffic came to a stop again.  I got of my car, took a three second look at the front end.  Everything seemed okay.  I walked up to the driver’s window of the Civic and told the man, “You need to be more careful.”  He then proceeds to ask me, “Is there any damage to my car?”  The nerve of the fella!!!  I replied, “I don’t think so.”  While I was admonishing the guy, I checked out his center console to confirm that his car had a 5-speed manual transmission because a car with an automatic tranny wouldn’t have rolled back like his did at idle engine speed.  He also didn’t seem like he had all his ducks in a row.  I seriously hope he wasn’t intoxicated in some way at the time.

When I got to Don and Hanley’s, I inspected the front bumper more carefully for damage.  That’s when I noticed the damage to the front license plate mount.  It had been pressed into the bumper as a result of the impact.  It currently looks recessed a little bit into the bumper at a slight angle.  My USC Trojans front license plate frame and the corner of the plate itself were also bent by the impact.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t try to go after the inconsiderate man.  I figured the damage, or lack thereof, wasn’t enough to merit going through all the trouble of getting compensation from him.  I wrote his license plate number down and took a cell phone photo of his car.  While the incident itself sucked, I was relieved that more damage wasn’t done to my car’s front bumper.  I’m convinced the front license plate and its mount protected my car’s front end.  And that, folks, is why, I support front license plates!

Here are photos of the damage caused by one person’s atrocities.

You must excuse how dirty the car is.  I subjected it to this three days prior to the time these photos were taken.  More to come on the fun I had in the dirt later!

Which family sedan is better?

You could be a judge!  It’s too bad I’m ineligible.


Test-Drive the 2008 Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry

Participate in an exclusive Edmunds.com Consumer Comparison Test

There’s a lot of action in the popular midsize family sedan segment this year. A new 2008 Chevy Malibu arrives at North American dealerships this fall. So does a new 2008 Honda Accord. Edmunds.com wants to enlist your help in determining how these new players measure up against each other and against the benchmark 2008 Toyota Camry.

Click on the “Apply Now” button at the bottom of this page for a chance to participate in an exclusive Edmunds.com Consumer Comparison Test. Tell us why we should select you to test-drive and compare the 2008 Chevy Malibu, the 2008 Honda Accord and the 2008 Toyota Camry, and you could find yourself behind the wheel at Willow Springs International Raceway in Southern California on November 29.

All you have to do is convince us that you can evaluate these cars and write insightful comments on how they compare. You have to be at least 21 years old, have a clean driving record, and be able to travel to Los Angeles November 28-30. We’ll take care of your airfare, room and board; escort you around; and set up your test-drive at Willow Springs – plus pay you a fee of $500 for your services. A series of driving exercises at the track will give you ample opportunity to form your opinions, which we’ll publish on Edmunds.com.

The application form will ask you to tell us a little about yourself, then invite you to write a short essay that will compel us to choose you for this Consumer Comparison Test. Click “Apply Now.” And good luck!

The Editors

Enter Now