The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: September 2014



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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Motor Trend Best Driver's Car 2014 - Laguna Seca Hot Laps & Lap Times




Well, it's this time of the year again for Motor Trend's Best Driver's Car feature. The full feature and the drag race is not available yet but quick reviews have been posted for the contenders as well as lap times (everyone loves lap times, right?).

I will post a rundown of the cars that surprised and disappointed me the most when the full reviews are available but for now, enjoy the above car introductions and specs as well as hot laps and lap times around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I have posted the most recent video, which is of the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo. From there, you can go back through videos by clicking on the video insert next to "PREVIOUS VIDEO" or "NEXT  VIDEO" between the 2:30 mark and the 2:40 mark depending on the car's lap time. This year's entrants are the following:

2015 VW Golf GTI - 1:50.11
2015 BMW M4 - 1:39.69
2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S - 1:35.62
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C (Launch Edition) - 1:43.78
2015 Subaru WRX STI (Launch Edition) - 1:47.16
2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28 - 1:37.82
2014 Ford Fiesta ST - 1:51.25
2015 BMW i8 - 1:44.29
2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe R - 1:42.01
2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo - 1:35.51

Stay tuned for the full rundown in a few days!


Cadillac Flagship Named - Cadillac CT6




It's official, Cadillac will finally have a large, luxury, flagship sedan. It's going to be called the CT6. Why the departure from the now-familiar three letter nomenclature? According to Cadillac, the name indicates a coming shift to a simplified naming convention for future Cadillac models. Under this strategy, familiar lettering like “CT” would be used for car models, with the number indicating the relative size and position of the cars in the hierarchy of Cadillac models. Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac chief marketing officer, said: “As we expand the portfolio, we can assist consumers in placing the cars within a structure, as they compare cars both within our showroom and across the market generally.”

BMW and Audi use numeric digits to indicate the hierarchy of their lineups and that's probably what Cadillac is after. While I am a much bigger fan of actual names for car models, I think this strategy will work well for Cadillac going forward. Cadillac plans on using advanced, lightweight materials and new body construction techniques and says it will be the lightest and most agile car in the class of top-level large luxury sedans. The current CTS is the lightest and most agile car in its class so I have no doubt that Cadillac will be be able to back up that claim. With an available twin-turbo V6 and naturally aspirated and supercharged small-block V8's, the only thing left for Cadillac to perfect is styling..




Judging by the last two full size concepts, the Ciel 4-door and the Elmiraj 2-door, Cadillac and GM fans have absolutely nothing to worry about. In my opinion, a flagship sedan has to be stylish but elegant and look "substantial" and both the Elmiraj and the Ciel have style in spades. Since the Elmiraj is sporting the new wreath-less Cadillac logo, I suspect the final production car will look more like the Elmiraj, although ti would be ideal if we get a 4-door sedan resembling the Ciel with a top and a full size coupe resembling the Elmiraj. I hope the next piece of information revealed will be engine options. Production for the CT6 is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2015.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

2012 Mustang Boss 302 - Last Lapping Day of 2014




I went back to the track yesterday, Sept 20, and was hoping to at least get into 1:21.x and 1:20.x if I'm lucky. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. There was plenty of traffic and I could only get a few clean laps in. My recorded best of the day was 1:23.2 with plenty of 1:23.x laps throughout the day. This is 1.2 seconds slower than my last track day best of 1:22.0 (Post: Track Progress & Goals) but on my best lap, I had to get on the brakes on the front straight due to traffic so I know I would have been in the 1:22's.

I also had a friend with me in the car during most of the sessions and I had a best time of 1:23.4 while he was in the car. I don't know how to adjust for additional weight on our track (or any other track for that matter) but if we use the rule of thumb for 1/4 mile drag racing, 0.1 sec/100 lb, that would be 0.64 sec/100 lb for our 1.6 mile track. My friend is around 200 lb. so that should be worth approximately 1.3 second which would mean the 1:23.4 lap would have been 1:22.1 lap. Now this is completely different from drag racing. On a road coarse, a car isn't just going flat out in a straight line, there is a lot of turning and braking and the brakes on a car are much more powerful than their engines so additional weight should have a smaller impact on braking but I would imagine that the rule of thumb is a good reference. Regardless of the exact number though, I don't doubt I would have been running 1:22.x on my best laps without the added "ballast" or traffic. The question is, would I have got a 1:21.x? Unfortunately, I won't find out until next spring because this was the last lapping day of the year.

On a different note, my friend who has the 2012 Boss 302 that was there at the last lapping day was here as well. His modifications are Steeda Boss 302 springs on the front (stock rear springs, he was experimenting with different spring rates), Steeda rear LCA, AE alum driveshaft, FRPP brake cooling ducts, and SS brake lines. His best time at the last lapping day was 1:24.3 if I remember correctly. This time, he was on on his track tires though; 275/40/18 Nitto NT01 tires on 18" x 10" wheels. His best time of the day was an impressive 1:17.9. Time for some track rubber..

Friday, 19 September 2014

Michelin Pilot Super Sport Review




I recently replaced my worn out Continental ExtremeContact DW with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. I don't know how they are at high speed (say +120 mph) because our local track doesn't have long straights but traction out of corners is phenomenal compared to the stock Pirellis and Contis. They take the heat better too, more stable over the length of a lapping session.

The car is a 2012 Mustang Boss 302. Sizes are 265/35/18 fronts and 285/35/18 rears on TSW Nurburgring 18" x 9.5" wheels at all for corners. All wheels are downsized in diameter from the stock 19" and the front wheels are wider compared to the stock 9" fronts. Front tires are also wider, compared to the stock size which is 255/40/19.

If you're considering pulling the trigger on a set of Michelin PSS's to use on the street/track, I highly recommend it.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 - Track Progress & Goals




I haven't been back to a time attack event since June of last summer (Post: What is the best mod to cut down lap times?) so I haven't been able to keep track of my laps and see if I'm moving in the right direction. That is, until a few weeks ago. I finally found a good track app for lap times, Track Addict, so I was able to start recording. It's free, has great recording features and even includes our local, humble track, Atlantic Motorsport Park. The app stores up to three sessions at a time. A session is defined by when you start recording to when you stop recording or come to a stop, not a single lap so it's great. There is a pro version which removes the three-session limit and I imagine it brings additional features but it obviously isn't free. I have been very satisfied with the free version so I haven't upgraded yet.


Now let's get to the times. My previous best-time (last year) at our local track was 1:25.2 which was done on this setup:

  • TracKey
  • OEM Torsen diff
  • Fays2 Watts Link set to 1 point up from neutral
  • 285/35/18 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires on 18" x 9.5" TSW Nurburgring wheels at all four corners
  • Front shocks set to 5 and rears set to 3
  • Other mods that more or less did not affect lap times are a catch can and removed side baffles


I believed (and still do) that the car could do 1:20-1:21 on the above setup but I had a lot of seat time to get close to that. I did change a few things though and up until two week, my best this year has been 1:25.0 on this setup:

  • TracKey
  • OEM Torsen diff
  • Fays2 Watts Link set to neutral
  • Front tires: 265/35/18 and rear tires: 285/35/18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on 18" x 9.5" TSW Nurburgring wheels
  • Front shocks set to 5 and rears set to 3
  • FRPP Boss 302R Steering Rack (should only affect lap times by giving me more information about what the tires are doing but no mechanical advantage)
  • Saleen S281 front grille: this was shown to be worth about a 10 deg F drop in coolant temperature on the street (Post: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 - Saleen grille vs Stock grille) so it should be more at the track due to the bigger difference between engine and ambient temperatures. How much hp, if any, is that worth? I don't know but I would imagine it should be something.) 
  • Other mods that more or less did not affect lap times are a catch can, removed side baffles, GT500 rear spoiler with the SVT Gurney flap (probably worth very little additional downforce at very high speeds and nothing at our local track which is short and tight).


I knew I could go quicker even without mods or changes because I had plenty of seat time since the 1:25.2 time and better tires so 1:25.0 wasn't good enough. I went back to the track two Saturdays ago and was on a mission to find at least a couple of seconds. For starters, I asked a friend of mine who has a 2013 Boss 302 on the same Michelin tires but in stock sizes on stock wheels and otherwise stock to take me out in his car to see a few laps. He is an instructor at local HPDE events and used to race so he knows the track and has a lot of experience. His lines were almost bang on the same lines I was taking but braking points were a little later, corner speeds were higher and throttle roll-in was much more aggressive.

I went back in my car and started going at it. Within a few laps, I was running 1:23.x in moderate traffic and on one mostly traffic free lap, I got a 1:22.0. I was VERY happy as I didn't expect to lose a whole 3 seconds in one day (given that I already know the track, not a complete novice and it's a short track). I should be able to do 1:21.x with a complete clean lap and sub 1:20 with more seat time. A lot of the credit, though, goes to the tires. There is a lot more grip than the Continentals or the stock Pirellis. I left the TC on to compare and not once did it have to intervene despite being a lot more aggressive with throttle roll-in. My friend thought the same about them in comparison to the Pirellis.

Another friend of mine on the same day could only go 1:24.x on the stock Pirelli's in a 2012 Boss 302 (using the same track app). He was experimenting with springs though so that may have hurt him. He has Steeda springs in the front (I believe Boss 302 specific, not sure though) but recently went back to stock springs in the rear and stock UCA. His other mods are Steeda billet rear LCA, AE Alum driveshaft, FRPP brake ducts and SS brake lines. He had the car longer than me and has more track experience overall so I believe the difference is all down to the tires.

My goal is matching or beating the track record for a street car which right now is set at 1:14.x in a track prepped and tuned 2012 Nissan GT-R. I'm not sure what is all done to it though. I have rear LCA arms ordered and in transit which I am hoping would be worth a few tenths due to better traction out of corners. With those and more seat time, I hope to be 1:18.x on street tires and 1:16.x on DOT track tires. After that, I'll be scrambling for modifications to add up 2 seconds on such a short track. I will start with Shocks/struts, springs and CC plates and go from there. I also have plans for weight saving modifications to get the car to high 3,4xx lb in street trim.

Now all of this is going to cost plenty of money so here is hoping some vendors or manufacturers are reading this. Any sponsorships in the form of upgrades, wear items like brake pads, fluids, etc or discounts would be greatly appreciated. Tires especially are a huge cost (+Discount Tire??). The car is also daily driven so it won't just be seen at the track, it will be a moving billboard.

I will be going back to the track tomorrow and I hope to do a 1:21.x or break into 1:20.x on a very clean lap. I still have a big mountain to climb in order to get into mid 1-minute teens, even on track tires. I think I will hold off a set of dedicated wheels and track tires until I get a lap under 1:20 or close. Once that happens, I will also start going to official Time Attacks so that the lap times are official.

On a different note, I ran into a gentleman who I knew through work. He recently picked up a 997 911 Carrera and he was caught off guard at the performance of my and my friends' Boss 302's. He was surprised he "had to let all of us pass him" (we have point-by passing only at our track) and said they just "stuck to the road". He asked me what the differences were between a Boss 302 and a regular GT and that said it's a great car. I obviously agree.

2015 Ford Mustang GT First Test - A Closer Look





The test everyone has been waiting for - the all new 2015 Mustang GT. Let's get straight to the numbers and compare them to the now-last-generation Mustang GT:

                                              2014 Mustang GT                     2015 Mustang GT

0-60 mph                     :                    4.4 s                                           4.4 s
1/4 mile                       :         12.8 s @ 112.2 mph                 12.7 s @ 111.7 mph
60-0 mph braking       :                   107 ft                                        110 ft
Average lateral g        :                   0.96 g                                       0.96 g
Motor Trend figure-8  :            24.7 s @ 0.85 g                          25.0 s @ 0.77

Since the two cars were tested on different days, comparing the exact differences aren't relevant but the conclusion that can be drawn is that the new Mustang GT is not a leap in terms of acceleration. I doubt that the change from the solid axle to an IRS resulted in the small loss in the 1/4 mile ET seen here (0.1 seconds). The 0-60 mph time which is hugely influenced by launch didn't change. If the new car couldn't launch as well in stock trim, it would have shown in the 0-60 mph time. Seeing the two run side-by-side would be interesting for sure, though.

In terms of handling, Motor Trend did not seem too satisfied with it, saying: "the 2015 Mustang didn't feel as nimble or competent as the Boss; it didn't feel like the front and rear ends were talking to each other. Turning in off-throttle resulted in moderate push (understeer from the front end), which needed to be corrected with the throttle. This, in turn, caused a bit of slushy oversteer that, while manageable, slowed the GT down a bit. While that's not bad per se, we were expecting a bit more from the new IRS-equipped Mustang."

Car and Driver, however, had almost the exact opposite opinion: "untying the Mustang’s rear wheels from each other pays massive dividends in terms of impact mitigation and keeps the front and rear ends working more closely together. Setting the Mustang into a corner no longer puts you into the awkward situation of serving as a couples’ counsellor to the fore and aft axles. Turn-in felt natural in the outgoing Mustang, but the rear end seemed slightly disconnected, as if it wasn’t sure it wanted to follow the front. Cornering is now secure and flat, and the grip likely approaches a full 1.00 g with those sticky P Zeros. The new Mustang’s chassis is in total harmony."

The take away for me is that you're going to have to test drive one and decide for yourself about the handling. The one point that all reviews agree on, and it was expected, is that ride quality on the road is certainly improved. Interestingly, (in Motor Trend testing) the average lateral g on the skidpad is identical between the 2 cars at 0.96 g but on the figure 8, there is a difference of 0.08 g plus going 0.3 seconds quicker. The cause of this, I suspect, is better transitional response either due to the IRS or the rear end wobble that plagued the S197 in stock trim due to being underdamped from the factory (which could again be linked to the solid axle). However, what is obvious and has been to many people, going to IRS does not automatically make the car leap forward in terms of handling capability. A well set-up solid-axle can go head-to-head with an IRS-equipped car, the ride refinement and quality is what suffers. 




What seems to be the biggest problem (and has certainly upset quite a few people on different forums) is the added weight. At 3,814 lb., the car has gained as close as makes no difference, 200 lb. compared to the outgoing car. This is not only a significant jump, it also puts it within a stone's throw away from the current (5th gen) Camaro SS which has been criticized since its introduction for being overweight and is bound to lose a few pounds when it moves over to the new Alpha platform underpinning the lightweight (for their respective classes) Cadillac ATS and CTS.

After a long period of teasing and many rumours about the Mustang losing 200-300 lb., this was especially a huge disappointment to many. However, I did not expect the car to lose more than a 100 lb. The reason being is the C7 Corvette. Although the chassis lost nearly 100 lb., due to the added safety and infotainment tech that todays market demands, the car gained weight overall. Chevrolet was smart about putting a number to the effort, saying that the chassis alone is that much lighter than the outgoing one.

Personally, I am disappointed due to the large weight gain but I suspect a base Mustang GT with just the performance options would be closer to 3,700 lb which, while still high, isn't that much higher than the last generation. I have no doubt that the new Mustang chassis (S550) is lighter than the outgoing one but with all the added tech, it was bound to at least stay the same. I think the Mustang's entry into Grand-Am (Tudor now) will be a good indication as I'm sure it will be lighter than the most recent S197 entry, the Boss 302R. I hope I start seeing them at the local track as it would be fun to go up against one in my car (a 2012 Boss 302).

What do you think about the new Mustang? Did it disappoint, pleasantly surprise or meet your expectations? Sound off below!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Power Wars Recap - 707 hp Challenger, Mid engine Corvette, AWD 300 hp Focus RS and more

Well, I have unfortunately found myself too busy to write once again for the last few weeks. Typically, whenever I don't write for a while (regardless of length) I overlook the period that I missed. Not this time though. Some announcements that were made in the last few weeks are so significant that it would be wrong for a driver's blog to exclude them so here's a quick rundown of what I think are the biggest announcements, starting with the obvious one..




Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat: It blew expectations on many levels. Dodge allowed it to make more hp than the Viper which many said it wouldn't. It allowed it to crest the 700 hp mark, 707 hp on tap to be exact. It comes with a full warranty, looks absolutely menacing and MSRP is just under $60,000, much lower than anyone expected. It's a HEMI. It's supercharged. It makes more than 700 hp and it has a warranty. The rest are just details. Yes, it's not particularly happy at the track but whoever expected it to be was just delusional and it handles great for its size and main purpose. It's a big bruiser and I love it.




Dodge Charger SRT8 Hellcat: Take all the above and turn the awesome factor a few notches, with the same drivetrain and power but double the door count. If only Dodge offered this with a manual..




Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z06: There are huge expectations for this car and I do not expect it to disappoint one bit. The (very pleasantly) surprising detail about it as that, despite making 650 hp which is more hp than the outgoing ZR1 and being expect it to match or beat all performance metrics, base price gets only a slight (relatively) bump to $78,995, keeping it under $80,000. This will put many cars on notice, as did the last Z06 and ZR1.

Mid-engine Corvette: There has been many rumours about mid-engine Corvettes over the years but, according to Motor Trend, this one will stick. A mid-engine Corvette is confirmed and coming so all we have to do is wait. The best thing is, it won't replace the traditional Corvette which will turn the Corvette nameplate into a sub line-up with front and mid engine options. There's something special about front-engine RWD layout in my opinion so I'm very happy that the traditional layout isn't going anywhere. However, a mid-engine layout will give the car much needed traction and stability to compete in the near-1,000 hp class and being a Corvette fan, that's always good. I would imaging there will be at least two models, one to replace the outgoing ZR1 and be one step up from the upcoming C7 Z06 and another to compete with hypercars in the 800-1,000 hp range. I'll certainly be looking forward to more details.

AWD Ford Focus RS: According to many sources, the next Focus RS will finally get an AWD drivetrain and have up to 350 hp. The best part about it is that it is likely to land on this side of the pond. With the next Dart SRT confirmed to be AWD, the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO and Subaru WRX and WRX STi will finally have domestic competition not from one, but two manufacturers (are you listening Chevrolet?). There has already been spy-shots of it testing so details should start rolling out soon.




Dodge Viper SRT: While I think the slow sales are a factor in dropping the price, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it really isn't the main reason. The main reason is probably the announced price of the new Corvette Z06. I really hope they aren't concerned about the slow sales and the future of the Viper isn't in jeopardy. I know if I had a $100k to spend on a car, I wouldn't easily go to the Z06 simply because the undeniable attitude of the Viper (and it isn't like the Viper is slow by any stretch of the imagination). If I had $200k to spend, I wouldn't hesitate about buying one of each.