Life is Great with a 6.0-liter V8
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  • CFRA Member!

    Posted on April 19th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Last week I attended a Checkered Flag Racing Association (CFRA) event at Laguna Seca as a guest. Seems like I made a good impression, as today I was invited to become a member!

    Now I really want to get the G8 fixed-up and ready for the track… there is another CFRA event at Laguna Seca coming-up at the end of May!

  • G8 at Laguna Seca Raceway!

    Posted on April 9th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today was the first time I’ve taken taken G8 out on-track, and I couldn’t think of a better place in the world to do it on than the iconic Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterrey, California.

    I had originally planned on attending my first track day at Thunderhill Raceway, due to the lower risk of damage due to off-track excursions (aka. the walls are farther from the racing surface). When I heard that the Checkered Flag Racing Association (CFRA) was inviting guests to a Laguna Seca track day (and for only $99 after 50%-off) I just couldn’t resist!

    I have a very long-standing relationship with Laguna Seca Raceway; attending races there since before I was born! I’ve been told the story of how my Father helped my Mother (7 months pregnant) up the hill to The Corkscrew. When I was a child I was running around the paddock checking-out all the historic race cars… including a memorable experience with Sir Jackie Stewart. I attended my first professional race at Laguna Seca in 1993 where I saw Paul Tracy win the race and Nigel Mansell win the CART Championship. Laguna Seca Raceway was also a track I photographed on a regular basis (23 different events between 2003-2008).

    CFRA is a “members only” group who got together to organize and attend, not-for-profit, track day events. One of the primary goals of the group is to maintain a safe and courteous environment for driving/racing on-track. They have three run groups (resulting in 2.5hrs of track time each event) at various levels of competitive ability/desire.

    For this event CFRA was not taking any drivers who had not previously been on-track before. Group B (point-by passing) was for drivers with fewer than 10 days experience and Group A (open passing) was for those with more than 10 days experience. There was also a Group R for those with lots of experience and who wanted to do wheel-to-wheel racing (aka. not me).

    While I’ve never done a track day, each of my driving schools counted for several days of experience, and I was invited to join Group A for this event. While I’m sure I would have done a good job in Group A, I decided that I wanted to take things a little slower… especially for the first time out in the G8. As a result I didn’t get the 50% discount (all the discount spots for Group B were already filled), but I felt being in the right group was worth a couple extra bucks. In the end I made the right decision, as I took things slow and probably would have been getting in the way of the faster drivers of Group A.

    Another really exciting thing about this event was that Dito Milian of was photographing the event. Dito and I have shot quite a few events together, so I knew I was going to get some really great photos!

    CFRA events are not really focused on teaching someone how to drive on a track (there are other groups/schools for that), but they do offer “mentors” to ride-along with other drivers. During my first session I requested a mentor, as I wanted to make sure I could quickly get up to speed.

    The first couple laps on-track I took things really slow, really focusing on trying to drive the proper line around the track.

    Most of the corners at Laguna Seca are late apex, so really make you be patient on turn-in. Fortunately most of the corners are also banked, letting you carry a bunch of speed through them. Building on what I learned at Miller Motorsports Park, I made sure to get my braking done early… so I could get the car turned-in… and back on-power as quickly as possible. There were only a few times that I found myself carrying too much speed into the corner without the ability to get the car turned.

    Unlike the tracks I’ve previously driven on, Laguna Seca has huge elevation changes and many blind corners… making navigating the course quite difficult. Every driving school I’ve been to has really focused on vision and keeping your eyes scanning where you want to drive. At Laguna Seca I found that 7 of the 11 corners had some sort of “blind” element…

    The ultimate example of this is “The Corkscrew” (Turns 8 and 8a), which is a left/right turn combination that drops 59 feet in elevation (the equivalent of a five-and-a-half story drop) over only 450 feet of track. As you drive up the hill towards Turn 7 all you can see is sky until you crest the hill. To the left at Turn 8 there is a wall/fence and corner worker station that makes seeing the rest of The Corkscrew impossible. After slowing the car down (in my case to ~30mph) you turn into the apex of Turn 8… with absolutely no view of the right hander (Turn 8a) to come. It is not until you have already committed to a line, and dropped into The Corkscrew, that you have any idea if you’re on the proper course.

    While I’ve driven Laguna Seca many times in video games, watched lots of in-car videos, even walked-up/down the track… there is absolutely nothing like doing it from behind the wheel of a car. The first time I entered The Corkscrew I made sure to slow way down, and even turned-in more than I thought I would need to… only to find my two right wheels on the rumble strips through Turn 8a. While it was an awesome line, it sure was a surprise… especially when I thought I was being conservative!

    As the session progressed the speeds increased and my lap times decreased. Unlike the driving school, this time I had my Race-Technologies DL1 running… and gathered some really great data (click images to see them full-size).

    Lat. Acceleration (Left/Right)

    Lon. Acceleration (Front/Back)

    Looking at the data I’ve been very impressed with how the G8 performed. Lat. acceleration was more than I was expecting (especially for a street tire) with several sustained periods each lap over 0.75 G’s with peaks as high as 1.25 G’s. While the Lon. acceleration wasn’t as extreme, under braking I was experiencing 0.4-0.6 G’s and ~0.25 G’s while accelerating. I can only imagine how this numbers will compare when I get more experience (and a 275/35-18 Hoosier slick)!

    For the second session I was on-track without a mentor… without anyone to guide me around the track… on my own!

    Driving solo was actually kinda relaxing… I didn’t have the pressure of needed to “show-off” or drive “perfect”. I felt like I kept things slower, again to perfect the driving line, but the the data actually showed I was within 1 second of my fastest first session lap after only two laps!

    Between session… after I had double-checked the tire pressures, oil levels, etc… I decided to put a camera on the front of the car to record some video. Here is a video of a typical lap around Laguna Seca.

    As the second session progressed I felt I was really getting a hang for the driving line, as well as feeling-out how the G8 handles on-track. I found myself being able to put together several laps without having any major “oops” moments. My lap times were in the ~2:00 range, which wasn’t great, but for only my second session at Laguna Seca wasn’t too bad. I also knew that while I gained a feel for the G8/track I wasn’t pushing 100% down the straights and was taking it easy in the braking zones.

    Unfortunately, late in the second session, as I crested the hill on the front straight I heard my engine start making a strange “ticking” noise. As I exited Turn 2 I heard the car beep, indicating a check engine DTC. On my run up the back straight I again heard the noises, so I backed-off and made my way into the pits. Here are clips from the front mounted video camera, where you can clearly hear the “ticking” noise.

    Once I made it to the pits I checked/cleared the DTC (P0300 “Random Misfire Detected”) and tried to replicate the sounds/DTC. I was unable to, as there is a 4,000 rpm limiter in park, but when got the engine over ~4,500 rpms in 1st and 2nd gears I was able to replicate the noises and the DTC. Rather than risking further damage to my engine, I made the decision to park the car for the remainder of the day.

    Despite only having two sessions on-track, I drove ~50 miles and used half a tank of fuel… yup, I was getting ~6.25 miles per gallon!

    While I didn’t get a chance to spend the afternoon out on-track, I took advantage of the rest of the day to talk with the other drivers about all sorts of things. The main topic of conversation was typically tire selection, as I know I’m going to need some different tires if I’m going to be spending more time on-track (so I don’t eat-up the tires I need to drive to drive around town).

    This whole experience emphasizes the reason why people have dedicated track cars… it’s hard to get to work the next day if you damage your daily driver on-track. Hopefully the noise I’m hearing from the engine isn’t anything major, and the G8 will be back in action soon!

  • Track Day Preparation

    Posted on April 5th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today I picked-up the G8 from Synergy Motorsports after a couple days of being in the shop. On Monday I will be heading to Laguna Seca Raceway for a track day, so I wanted to make sure the G8 was in tip-top shape… I also wanted to get some track-specific upgrades done.

    The main reason for getting the car worked-on was just to make sure every nut and bolt are torqued appropriately. The last thing I want to have happen is to get out on-track and have something fall apart. It’s been ~12k miles since I last had the G8 looked at, other than oil changes, so I figure now is as good a time as any.

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    UPDATE: The Spohn Performance front Lower Control Arms have been removed from the G8 due to reports of catastrophic failures.
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    Lately I’ve noticed a “clunk” sound coming from the front end suspension when turning sharply… especially under heavy loads (like braking). My prime suspect is a bad front control arm, as the G8 is notorious for going through them. Spohn Performance has developed a set of forged aluminum (rather than cast steel) arms. Not only do these arms have re-buildable ball ends, they are 12 pounds lighter… and that’s un-sprung weight!

    The Spohn arms have been on the market for a while now, and a few of the G8 owners have found that the poly bushings were deforming. I was able to get replacement delrin bushings (free of charge) from Spohn before getting them installed, so hopefully I will not have any issues.

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    Before heading to a track day it’s always a good idea to have your brake system inspected. I’ve been running a nice DOT4 fluid (Motul 600), which is has a 593°F dry and 420°F wet boiling points. Normally I would have just replaced the fluid with new, but a friend of mine gave me a couple bottles of Castrol React SRF fluid to tryout.

    Castrol SRF is some absolutely crazy brake fluid, despite costing ~$75 per liter! Most brake fluid absorbs water from the air… decreasing the boiling point of the fluid (aka. wet boiling point). The formulation of SRF is less hygroscopic than most, absorbing less water, resulting in a much higher wet point point of 518°F. As a result you don’t need to replace the SRF as often because the performance “drop-off” isn’t as significant as with other fluids as it ages and absorbs water.

    While I was having the brake system worked-on, I also wanted to change out the brake pads for some that are more suited for track use.

    After talking with someone running the same brakes as me, I decided to use Hawk HP+ pads up front and Hawk HPS pads in the rear. While these pads will be a bit noisy on the street, they will hold-up the the heavy use on a race track… especially with the weight of the G8 and the higher speeds that result from a supercharged engine.

    Driving home from the shop it was apparent just how much initial bite these new pads have. It took far less pressure on the brake peddle to get the car to stop. When applying more than 3/4 brakes the front ABS even started to activate. It took a little getting use to, but I think I’m really going to like these pads on-track.

    Now that the G8 has received it’s check-up and is ready for the track, I can focus my attention to the logistics of driving my own car on-track (rather than a school car)!