21 Oct 2013

First things first, Midlana was run at a practice autocross last Saturday, and I’ve been hounded with “So how did it do?” The car did fine; nothing broke, overheated, fried, melted, or shorted out. As I was waiting to go out on the first lap, I realized that it’s been thirty years since I’ve been into this sport since trackdays grabbed my interest. Back then, it took several years to get good at autocross, and of course, nearly all that skill is gone, never mind me being a lot older.

So how did it do? About as expected for a high-powered mid-engine car that, frankly, is a little outside its environment. In low speed steady-state sweepers, there’s a lot of understeer, as expected with 30% weight on the front tires. Of course, how much time does the car spend at a steady speed around a turn? Well, in an autocross, it seems like a lot. Anyway, after a while I started getting back into it, using the fact that trail braking causes weight to be transferred onto the front tires, greatly increasing front grip (just like when driving a kart). Doing so helps both the front tires stick and the rear tires to let loose, starting the car rotating into the turn. Then, off the brakes and onto the gas, using engine power to position the rear as desired.

The good news is that the car isn’t easy to spin (I never did find the oversteer angle that it couldn’t hold). That’s been the biggest question ever since it was designed – what would it do when the back end comes out. Some cars have a nasty habit of sliding the back out, then catching and snapping back the other way faster than the driver can catch it. And, like most mid-engine cars, getting on the gas hard does bring the back end out, but the key is to not let off the gas. Midlana’s rear tires say put or tuck back in – good! Tire wear at the back looked great, I’m not changing a thing. Tire wear at the front, meh; autocross requires a ton of camber and I’m just too lazy to dial in a lot, then take it back out for the street. Right now it has about 0.5 degrees, which is obviously not enough, but for the street it’s fine. For the upcoming trackday event I may add a bit more. The tire pictures below are arranged front left, front right, left rear, and right rear. There is also some in-car video we’re editing but that’ll take some time.

Cars handle much different at trackday events than when on an autocross course. In autocross, it’s all about getting the car to rotate quickly, which means a lot of front camber and a large rear anti-roll bar. Take that same car to a trackday event and it will likely go off the track backwards in a big way. Back when I had the Datsun 1200, the rear bar was completely disconnected for trackday events, which transformed it into a mild-handling car around high-speed turns. What’s nice is that with no bars on Midlana, there was no understeer, which indicated that the native handling of the car is neutral at higher speed, just the way I wanted it. We’ll see if that’s still true on the big oval in a few weeks – though, see below.

In other news, the grammar editing of the manuscript is done! Now, another pass starts; “zooming out” and looking at formatting issues instead of spelling. That’ll go much quicker, and then it’s time for test copies. The final manuscript ended up just over 400 pages, though it may inch up a bit more with the autocross and trackday pictures and comments. As a teaser, the Table of Contents is included below.

And finally, someday within the next several weeks, I’m going to get a call that I know is coming but don’t want to hear, that my father’s passed away. It’s been a long time coming; he’s currently between worlds, simi-comotose, aware that people are around, but that’s about it. It’s not easy looking at him, he who raised me, and realizing that we’re all here just for a while. It’s really driven home the fact that time is ticking and that we have no idea how much we have left, at the same time we think about how we use our time. I can say that it really makes watching TV or YouTube seem like a much bigger waste of time than it used to!

Midlana is signed up for a trackday event in three weeks, but we’ll see what the Universe has in store.