Our lead project drivers Chris Harvey and John Rogers pointed the red Mazda MX-5 towards Toledo, Ohio for last weekend’s Tire Rack SCCA Northern States Championship. With lots of room, smooth concrete and high grip, this is one of the best venues east of the Mississippi. The two-day combined time event featured 50-second courses that were fast and relatively wide open – proven by our onboard Race Technology data logger that showed nearly 40% of each run was spent at full throttle, about double what we find at most events.
Until this past weekend, our car had displayed a tendency towards power-on oversteer at nearly every site we’ve raced at over the past year and a half. However, massive understeer was the story for us on day one. No matter how much we provoked it, the rear end would not slide and would lock down in transitions. This ultimately limited how early we could get back to the throttle exiting every corner, killing our speed at the end of each straight. The fast rev-happy Honda S2000 CR of Geoff Walker showed everyone in the 23-car STR field just how fast the class could go, leaving Chris and John in 5th and 8th place respectively.
After making some adjustments to our prototype KW Clubsport coil-overs, as well as our driving style, day two saw our car balance improve with the now rubbered in course. Rogers was able to post the third fastest STR class time of the day, with Harvey just a tenth of a second behind.
While sorting out the mystery understeer issue was somewhat frustrating, we learned and realized two things. One, we now have some tuning tools in our toolbox to solve future handling issues. And two, this is not Lincoln, Nebraska where the National Championship event will be held in just eight weeks. We’ll be sure to read through our logbook from prior trips out to Lincoln to better understand how to tune the car to optimize for Project STR's final 2011 event.