M3 at the Jeff

T13 Jeff

After a long break, we finally got back to the track in September. The weekend of 11-13 September saw the National Capital Chapter of BMW CCA back on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. The format was a bit different with all lead-follow instruction, but the instructor run group was still a blast.

I’m still getting used to the M3 and have to remember three key differences from the MINI:

  1. It’s wider.
  2. You have to actually steer OUT of corners as you get back on the power.
  3. When the back steps out, MORE GAS is not the answer.

I also need to get used the pedals to improve my heal-toe downshifts. If I can remember that I don’t have to square every corner, I think I’ll get to be pretty quick in this car. My best lap was already 3 seconds faster on the same tires.

Remember that bit about the car being wider? Here’s a small clip from my second track session in the car and I was finally getting up to speed.

There are a few lessons to be learned here. I’m driving an unfamiliar car that’s about a foot wider than what I’m used to driving. I finally got the apex right at the previous corner and as a result, arrive at the braking zone here about 2 MPH faster than usual. I come off the brakes too soon, and as a result don’t get far enough around T13 when I have to brake again. I run out of track at the entry to turn 14. I come off the brakes as I leave the track, but still have enough brake force on the front left that I spin around the front left when 3 wheels are off. I straighten the wheel and almost pull off the 360 before heading into Pit-In. So next time, be more aware when making a step increase in speed. Adjust the brake point so I apex T13 at the same speed. And keep the last 18 inches of apron as a buffer. Oh, and know how wide your car is.

Vibra-Technics Motor Mount

After destroying two upper motor mounts and two exhaust flex joints in successive track weekends, I decided to try a more robust motor mount to see if I could reduce some engine movement. Vibra Technics makes two versions of this mount for Gen 1 MINI and this is the track (harder) version.

My first thought when it arrived was that it belonged in a museum. It was beautiful.

Installation is actually fairly simple. Get the car up on jack stands in the front. Remove the right road wheel and fender liner. Support the engine from below with a jack to relieve pressure on the mount. Remove the grounding strap from the mount carrier and the vapor return line which is in the way. Loosen but do not remove the nut at the top of the mount. Remove the four bolts holding the mount support to the top of the engine. Remove the nut at the top of the mount and carefully remove the upper mount support. Remove the stock Torx bolt from the bottom of the mount. Remove the side bolt and the stock mount should pull free. Installation is the reverse of removal.

I also replaced the lower dog-bone mount earlier with a semi-solid mount from Torque Solutions.

So what was the net result? I accomplished my first goal, completing over 200 track miles without breaking anything. An interesting side effect was to lower lap time by almost a second. To be fair, I made two changes to the car for this weekend: I replaced the motor mounts and I ADDED 50 lbs to the rear end of the car. I think the combination of better balance and less wheel hop gave me higher apex speeds. Here’s a lap.

How is it on the street? It’s probably not a combination you want to use on your daily driver. NVH is definitely increased. Depending on your RPM, the vibration through the steering wheel could make your fingers go numb. On the track, or any time you are constantly working through the revs, I can’t say I noticed. But cruising at steady speed — brutal.

Since the upper mount can be changed in about 30 minutes once you figure it out, I swapped back to a new OEM top mount and left the lower mount. That does have some increased NVH over stock, but it’s a good compromise. And next time I have a track weekend, I’ll drop the Vibra-Technics back in before heading out.

Summit Point in the Rain

Track season is just starting to get into full swing so I thought I’d share a lap of Summit Point in the rain.  Newly repaved for 2018, the surface as fairly good grip and no more of the inconsistencies from water on seam sealer. The surface is less crowned than before.  Water run-off is mostly good, but there are some areas where small streams of water cut across the full width of the track, especially in the exits of turn 2 and 9, both heavy acceleration zones.

Track Analysis: Summit Point, Jefferson Circuit Extension


Last weekend I had the chance to drive and instruct on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. Below is my analysis of the changes and a description of my line around the track. This works for me in a FWD MINI on summer street tires. Your results may vary. No wagering. (In-car video by ReplayXD.)

Jefferson Circuit Extension
The extension (turns 4 – 10) adds about a half a mile to the old track and doubles the number of corners. I think most old-timers would have preferred if they had just renumbered the new section as corners 4a to 4g instead of renumbering all of the corners, but we’ll use the new numbering scheme. The old track could be run in both directions. The new layout only works in a counter-clockwise direction (though you can still use the old course in the other direction.)

Google Earth hasn’t yet uploaded a new image of the circuit so the plot shows the path through open fields, but it is actually paved, just not well (more on that in a minute.) How to read this chart: Turn numbers are in circles. The color on the path of the car shows acceleration (green) or deceleration (red). Note that deceleration might just be lifting as in between 2 and 3 or the apex of 4 or 8. Green speed readings on the track show max speed before deceleration and red shows apex speed. The bars in each corner show relative lateral G load. Green bars are .4 to .8 Gs. Yellow bars are .8 to 1.1 Gs. Notice the lateral load where the new track rejoins the old track and in the middle of the back straight. There the car is going straight and the lateral load is from the unevenness of the surface. You see some of that on the front straight from 14 to 1 as you drive across the crown to set up for turn 1. Red arrows show apex visuals. If you already know the old Jeff, then jump down to Turn 4.

entry to turn 1
When you enter the track from pit-out, stay to the right all of the way to the apex of turn 1, otherwise, when at speed cross-over from right to left on the front straight and look down the track to the flagger’s bucket. RWD cars set up to the left for turn-in. The road is crowned so FWD will want to be more in the middle of the left half of the track or you’ll never get over the crown to the apex.

turn 1 apex
The apex is very late and almost at the end of the curbing. You can ride the middle part of the curbing, but stay off of the end as it will unsettle the car. Stay to the right upon exit and let the car settle before turning-in to turn 2.

apex turn 2
Turn 2 and 3 should flow. If you’re early for 2, you’ll also be early for 3 so wait to turn in and make 2 a very late apex. Lift or tap the brakes to turn-in to 3.

apex turn 3
Turn 3 is one of the few corners where you can ride up on the curbs without unsettling the car. Apex is very late and carry as much speed as you can. Don’t worry about track position on track-out as the entry to the next corner is rough and you’ll probably have to lift anyway to get back to the apex.

apex turn 4
Turn 4 is also a late apex. Ride the rumble strips and try to straighten 4 and 5 as much as possible.

apex turn 5
The exit to turn 5 is the roughest spot on the track. Point the car straight after the apex and brake in a straight line. Wait for the second bump before turning-in to turn 6.

apex turn 6
Set the car about a car-width from the curbing and late-apex turn 6 at the top of the hill. Open the wheel and let the car track out to set up for turn 7.

apex turn 7
Turn 7 is the most difficult corner on the track. You must be patient, especially when your tires are cold. It is a decreasing radius corner. Look for the path of the patch. Set your entry squarely in the middle of the patch and then pinch-off the apex. Trail-braking helps. If you don’t sufficiently load the front-end, expect to under-steer through the apex and off the other side of the track. Track out to mid-track.

apex turn 8
Treat turns 8 and 9 as one double-apex corner. Do not track too far out in the middle as the pavement drop off is pretty severe.

apex turn 9
Ride the curbing on curves 8, 9, and 10.

apex turn 10
Late apex 10 but get on the power early to increase the length of the straight. The point where the new track joins the old is quite bumpy so stay away from the track edge.

apex turn 11
Stay 3 feed from the edge in the braking zone to 11 to avoid more bumps. Turn 11 will really hook up when done right. Release the brakes as soon as the car starts to turn-in and power through the exit using the full track width. Cross over from right to left to set up 12.

entry to turn 12
Staying as far left as possible, turn in for 12 as soon as 12 and 13 line up and straight-line 12.

apex turn 13
Stay off of the curbing on 12 as it will really unsettle the car. Downshift and brake for 13 in a straight line. Some people are able to carry enough speed to brake once through 13 to set up turn 14. In the FWD MINI I have to release the brakes in 13 to get the car to rotate and can actually accelerate a little up the hill before turning-in for 14.

entry to turn 14
RWD set up 14 by going as deep as possible for the entry. FWD don’t go too deep or you won’t be able to cross the crown to get back to the apex of 14.

apex turn 14
The apex of 14 is very late. Stay off of the curbing. If you are tracking out to the edge of the track before the pit-in lane, then your apex was early. Cross over from right to left and do it all again.

Larger photos here.

NCC BMW CCA HPDE Summit Point, September 2012

MINI wet

I can tell you exactly when summer ended this year. It was at 3:23 PM on September 8th when this photo was taken. Friday at the track was hot and humid. Saturday was miserable, wet, and wonderful. And Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day.

There were some really cool cars at this event, including this beautiful blue Ferrari 458 Italia seen below. It was good to see that the owner of this car a.) drove it to the event; b.) drove it at the event; and c.) drove it home. The previous owner drove this car only 750 miles in two years of ownership. The current owner drove more than 3,000 miles just bringing it home after purchasing it. I never really appreciated the styling of the 458 until we got out on the track. Even at 100 MPH, we were able to have a conversation with the windows down. That says something for aero efficiency. (You listening MINI?)

458 Italia

The inside even smells good. It smells like that brand-new baseball glove you got when you were a kid. The one you put a ball in and slept with it under your pillow to break it in. (OK maybe not everyone has that memory….) I took some video from my helmet cam as we lapped the course. I was fascinated by the speed of the gear changes and the great display graphics that emulate analog gauges. Unfortunately, you can’t see the gauges very well in the video.

458 Interior

If you look just about 6 inches to the left of the “458 Italia” logo there’s a depression in the leather. It is sort of forehead shaped. That got me wondering about the survival rate of previous passengers. This car accelerates so quickly, just holding my head off of the headrest gave my core a workout.

dash dimple

The GeorgeCo MINI powered by Beano was of course in action as well. In this photo, it’s powering through turn 7. The suspension work paid off and the car was very well balanced, level, and had tons of grip, even in the rain.

Powered by Beano

The telemetry system is still a work on progress. The GPS is not very accurate with the iPhone in its current position so the track map is all over the place. (It looks like I’m taking a grand tour of Delaware.) The corner and straight speed indicators seem to be off too when you compare them to the large central speedo. G meter, throttle position, and RPM seem to be working, but the gear indicator doesn’t seem to go above 3rd. So there’s some work to be done, but the technology is cool. Fast forward to the session time of about 11:50 and again at 13:17 and you’ll see why we spend so much time on the skid pad in this program.

In case you had $229 to $295K sitting around and were wondering what you would get for your money. The answer is at least 3 seconds a lap. That’s the difference in two laps chosen at random from my video of this past weekend. Both were on Friday as we refamiliarized ourselves with the track. The only difference is that in my case, I’m pushing the MINI about as hard as I’m willing to go. There’s a little bit left, but not much. The Ferrari is going maybe 6/10ths on the straights. Alternately, you could take $13-$27K, buy yourself a low mileage 2006 MINI Cooper S, and buy a house with the rest. Just saying.

If you can start the two videos at the same time, they both start at the same point on the track. You want to have the sound playing on the Ferrari video however. (I’m working on editing them into one feed that shows both side-by-side but haven’t figured that out yet.)