The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: What is the best mod to cut down lap times?



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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

What is the best mod to cut down lap times?




You've got some money saved. You have been thinking about modifying your car to make it quicker and now is the time to go shopping. If you're not sure what to get, the good news is that with track days and interest in lapping becoming more popular, you can easily find good resources online. Better tires are usually recommended as the best place to start and I couldn't agree more. If you want to improve the specs of your car, tires are definitely the best place to start. If you want to go faster, though, save your money..

Last weekend, I headed to the track for Atlantic Sports Car Club (ASCC) Time Attack #2, my first timed event. I've only been going to non-timed, lapping events for the past few years but I've wanted to start going to timed events for a while to make sure I'm moving in the right direction. The event included 5 sessions - a practice session and 4 hot sessions. I was planning on using my GoPro camera to film all timed sessions but, unfortunately, it got very hot sitting in the back (I didn't want it in the front to avoid distraction) so I only recorded the practice session. I will have to find another spot for it next time I go.




My goal was a lap time of 1:25.x or under by the end of the day. After my first session though, the practice session, I changed my mind about the "or under" part of my goal.. My fastest lap during the practice session was 1:28.7 (video below). That meant I had to find 3 seconds to reach what was initially my minimum goal.

I started to think of the places where I thought I am losing a lot of time and decided to work on the entries of corners 1 and 7 and the exits of corners 2 and 9. I stayed on the throttle slightly longer after the front straight (between corner 11 and corner 1) and carried more speed through corner one. Similarly, a little late braking at the end of the back "straight" meant carrying more speed through 7. At the exits of corners 2 and 9, I applied more throttle past the apex. I didn't get on the throttle any earlier, only rolled into the throttle more quickly. This combination of late braking, carrying more corner speed and quicker throttle application cut down 1.5 seconds off my practice time for a best lap time of 1:27.2 during the 1st hot session.

I liked the results so much that I decided to work on the same corners during the 2nd hot session, with more late braking and corner speed plus quicker throttle application. I was able to find another half a second for a best lap time of 1:26.7. This meant I was less than a second away from my goal and I had 2 more hot sessions to find that second!




For the 3rd session, I decided to add corners 3 and 5 to the list of corners to work on. I had only made changes to braking and throttle application up to that point but no changes to my lines. That changed for the 3rd session. I tried to apply more throttle coming out of 3 but I was running out of room on corner exit so I tried to turn in later coming into 3 and I immediately noticed a huge difference in speed. I carried so much more speed that I almost ran into the rev limit before braking for 4 - a first for me. At the entry of corner 5, I refrained from using the brakes at all and decided to rely on engine braking alone. As you can see in the video (go to corner 4 at 0:40 in the video), corner 5 is an uphill/downhill corner - corner entry is uphill and corner exit is downhill with the apex almost exactly at the highest point. Because of that, the car unloads mid corner and shifts to the right of the track around the time you need to get back on the throttle so you can't carry too much speed going into 5. As it turns out, though, engine braking is more than enough for my speed coming out of 4. I might need some braking when I get corners 4 and 5 better nailed down, but at this point, the result was.. *drum roll*.. another 1.2 seconds - yes, I was at my goal! A best lap time of 1:25.5 during the 3rd session.

For the 4th and final session, I used the same line that I used in the 3rd session with late turn in into 3 and continued to work on my throttle and braking application. The result was another 0.3 seconds for a best lap time of 1:25.2 for the session and for the day. We got a yellow a flag, though, because someone spun so we were offered one additional hot lap and a few of us took it. For this hot lap, I tried to work on corner 2 entry as well. This didn't work so well.. I got on the brakes a little later, tried to carry more speed and ended up going wide so I actually lost time compared to my best time of the day and got a lap time of 1:26.3.

I have no doubt that 1:25 is a good few seconds slower than what the car can do but I was happy with the results nonetheless. From 1:28.7 to 1:25.2 is an improvement of three and half seconds. The cost? $160. Short of forced induction and track tires, I would be hard pressed to find something that can cut down 3.5 seconds off lap times on a 1.6 mile track, let alone do it for $160. If you've got some extra money saved, don't spend it on modifications until you attend a few high performance driving schools and timed events. Nothing will give you more bang for your buck. A "driver mod" is the best mod to cut down lap times until you have accumulated many hours of seat time on a track.


4 comments :

  1. Love it! Guess this means that I ought to just get front tires to pass inspection and shoot for this upcoming "Solo" autocross event, rather than that new set of wheels I've been eyeing!

    Looking fast in the video! My friend has a 2012 Mustang 5.0L and acceleration is just brutal. Cool to learn that one can use engine brake alone to keep going. Lots of good tips here and I'm definitely going to work on the driver, next.

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    1. Absolutely, although I know I will continue to spend money on modifications if I can afford them.. it takes a lot of self control to shrug off the mod bug!

      Thanks! I agree, the 5.0L is a great engine. What about you, what do you drive?

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  2. No doubt about that! There always seems to be a pull for something- and the ensuing set of complementary stuff, of course.

    I drive a 2002 Nissan Sentra 1.8L engine and just recently sold a 1998 Ford Mustang 3.8L the other day. Had the Mustang for a year and it has left behind a longing for another.

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    1. A buddy of mine has an 02 Sentra SE-R with a few modifications and he tracks it. Are you planning on getting in something to track or autocross or taking a break for a while?

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