June, 2004

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Just like “Smarties”…

Monday, June 21st, 2004

… the chocolate ones that are almost like M&M’s but not quite. Anyway today a friend remarked that you can’t buy Nestlé Coffee Crisp chocolate bars here in the States. I’m not a big chocolate bar junkie, but just thinking about it is making me crave one…

It’s interesting, the subtle differences in consumer products across the US-Canada border, that for the most part you don’t really notice. For instance:

  • Smarties here are those sour pill-like candies; in Canada they’re candy-coated chocolate almost like M&Ms.
  • Kraft Macaroni and Cheese here, Kraft Dinner there.
  • Kellogs Corn Pops are rather different here than in there; in Canada they’re more puffy, more round, and more sugary;
  • Oreo cookies: I could swear they’re different here, the chocolate cookie part being a bit more floury, not quite as crisp… but maybe they changed the recipe or my memory is defective, because last year I brought over a couple packages of Canadian Oreos and I really couldn’t find much of a difference from their American counterparts.
  • Here you have 1-quart milk cartons, which are almost the same size as the Canadian 1-litre cartons, but as Google will tell you, a quart is a bit less than litre. Curiously enough, soda (or “pop”) is sold in 2-litre bottles here, just like in Canada.

My first “mechanical”

Monday, June 14th, 2004

I had my first mechanical DNF (“Did Not Finish”) at autocross this weekend. It was my first run of the day on Saturday (and the car’s second, as Jason was co-driving) and about a third of the way through the course, there was a loud popping noise and suddenly the car just started shuddering as I continued to try to apply throttle. I eased off and then had the car just crawling along with very little power; every time I tried to apply more power the car would start bucking slightly (and not go any faster). At first I thought I’d blown something in the driveline—the rather-worn clutch being the obvious candidate—but Jason said that wasn’t the feel of a clutch slipping.

I limped the car off-course and back to paddock and then a look at the boost gauge (am I glad I installed one!) showed what the problem was: the turbo was not making any boost; every time pressure would go positive the engine would sputter. The obvious thing to check was all the hoses in the turbo system, so I spent about a half-hour crawling around under the car taking off the underbody panels so I could inspect the intercooler hoses. Then, checking under the air scoop Jason spotted the problem: the flex section of the upper intercooler hose had blown off at one end. “Coincidentally” this had happened at one of the clamps I’d loosened last week while working on the car. Oops! Apparently I hadn’t re-tightened it, or not enough.

After that it took only a few minutes to get the hose back on, everything put back together and the car back on grid. We managed to get most of our runs done in the remaining time, but things were very rushed—every time we’d pull in we’d have only enough time to quickly spray down the tires to cool them, change the numbers on the car and swap places. As a result the new Falken Azenis Sport tires overheated and were not very grippy at all.

Sunday went more smoothly with nothing unexpected, though keeping the tires cool proved to be problematic with Jason and I each doing five runs on the hot concrete of Atwater. By our last couple runs, even though we both drove better our times did not improve. Nevertheless I think I definitely worked some of the kinks out of my driving technique so it was a weekend well-spent.

I definitely learned a lot this weekend; first and foremost: “When something on your car breaks, the first thing to check is the last thing you touched!”

Catching up… again

Monday, June 14th, 2004

A few highlights from the past couple months:

  • Went to the Subaru Rim of the World Rally in Lancaster, just north of Los Angeles, with a couple of friends. Spectated and helped out with a few minor tasks on the fairgrounds and the super special stage, putting up sponsor banners and signs. This was my first rally event and though the obvious difference between rally (or “rallye”) and other motorsports is the racing around in dirt, gravel mud and other rough unpaved surfaces, what struck me most was how grass-roots it was and the degree of camaraderie between the competitors, helping each other out when their cars got stuck or broken down. The atmosphere was very friendly; for instance we were just wandering around in the paddocks checking out the cars and one of the teams offered us drinks. It inspired me to want to someday get into rallying myself, and a friend and I have pondered building up our own rally car; not the Evo, of course—starting out rallying with a $30000 car is an easy way to make a $30000 wreck.

  • Autocross: I’ve been autocrossing almost every weekend, and while results continue to be mixed—still progressing slowly up the learning curve—I’m still enjoying it a lot, and making quite a few new friends along the way.

  • Installed a navigation system—the Pioneer AVIC-N1 in my car. The system features DVD-based navigation, MP3 disc playback, vehicle dynamics display, and a host of other pretty cool features. Though not without its quirks, for someone who gets disoriented or just plain lost as easily as me it’s proven to be an invaluable resource, especially when getting around unfamiliar towns such as Atwater and Lancaster. I posted some installation notes up on NorCalEvo.net.

  • Installed a stainless steel clutch line in my car and replaced the brake and clutch fluid. A stainless steel line should hopefully “balloon” a bit less than the stock one, making clutch engagement a bit more consistent and preventing undue wear to my car’s clutch which has suffered rather heavily due to my beginner’s mistakes.