February, 2005

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Rally ‘Rado

Monday, February 7th, 2005

I’ll be flying out to Arizona with my friend and co-driver Nick this weekend to pick up the yellow VW Corrado rally car I mentioned in an earlier entry. We’ll be renting a U-haul truck and car trailer to haul it, and all the spare parts it comes with, back to California.

The next month promises to be extremely busy as we’re setting our sights on running the “Seed 9” rally at Goodsprings, Nevada. A short 7-stage, 29-mile rally over mostly gravel roads through the desert, it’s about as easy or forgiving as rallies go, and therefore the perfect inaugural rally for us.

Before we get there, the car needs to be registered—since rally cars transit over public roads, they must be legally-registered road-going cars. To get registered, the car needs to pass emissions (smog) testing. To pass smog, the car needs an updated exhaust system, as it currently has no catalytic converter. What’s more, the car has been in storage for a few years and will therefore quire a full tune-up. The safety belts and harnesses need to be replaced, as required by rally rules. The car may need a new skidplate as the current one is somewhat bent up. The supercharger may need servicing as the “G-Lader” supercharger units in Corrado G60—nicknamed the “Grenade 60” by some—are notoriously self-destructive if not well-maintained.

And that’s just the stuff I know about. Hopefully when I pick up the car it won’t hold any major surprises…

Laguna Seca

Monday, February 7th, 2005

[photo of my car at Laguna Seca]

Drove the world-famous Laguna Seca race track with the Northern California Racing Club (NCRC) last week. I’d been “practicing” for it using Sony’s Gran Turismo 3 driving simulator for the PlayStation 2. I was warned—and did note—several important differences between the GT3 and real-life versions of the track:

  • Turn 2, the “Andretti Hairpin”: easier in real life; although the virtual and real versions are fairly close, the turn is tight enough that being able to look out the side window makes it much easier to feed in the right amount of brake, steering and throttle inputs to hit the apex and drive the turn correctly.
  • Turn 5: easier in real life, as the turn is more on-camber than in the game. It took me a few sessions to learn to trust in this and start applying the throttle earlier.
  • Turn 6: in GT3 this turn is flat-out in the Evo, but it is rather different in real life: just before the turn the track “falls away” a bit and goes off-camber, making the car rather light and requiring a modest amount of braking to make the turn.
  • Turn 8/8A, the famous “Corkscrew”: there were some differences between the virtual and real-life versions, but I found that having practiced the turn so many times in GT3 made it much less daunting in real-life than some make it out to be.
  • Turn 9: definitely the turn that gave me the most trouble. In GT3 I just lift off the throttle, get the car turned and then full throttle down the 9-10 straight. In real life, picking up speed going downhill after the Corkscrew, I tended to turn the car in a bit tighter than necessary as I couldn’t find the nerves to let the car track out all the way to the right edge of the track.
  • Front 11-1-2 straight: in the straight I found my enthusiasm for mashing the gas pedal was tempered by the knowledge that I was approaching the Andretti Hairpin at around 100 MPH. Also, GT3 fails to capture how light the car feels going over turn 1, a shallow left curve over a crest.
  • FIA berms: driving over the berms in GT3 creates a gentle rumbling on the force-feedback game controller; in real life, rolling over anything more than just the edge of the berm feels—and basically is—like driving the wheels over a shallow flight of stairs and, I’m told, in the extreme can cause damage to the wheels.

Other than briefly rolling over the dirt exiting turn 2 once on my second session, the day passed without incident. I even got some pretty cool photos to show for it; here’s one of me going through the Corkscrew:

[photo of my car at Laguna Seca]

Whoops

Monday, February 7th, 2005

Accidentally let the registration on vtluu.net lapse; or rather, my web hosting provider failed to notify me (possibly because my phone number, E-mail address and mailing address all had changed since I last registered the site three years ago) that my billing information was no longer valid. Anyway, a short phone call later and everything’s up and running again.