R53 MINI Rear Fog Light

When deciding the feature set of the first generation Cooper S, MINI USA decided not to make the rear fog light available in the USA. The rear tail lights of the 2002-2004 cars were actually wired for it, but from 2005-2006 the cars shipped with a blanking plate in place of the center mounted rear fog light. That always bothered me. It’s bad enough that the faux grill inserts in the rear bumper don’t actually do anything, but the center mounted plug is just stupid looking. Fortunately there a couple of options if you want to do something about it.

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The light is MINI part number 63247166015 and it should cost under $30, including the bulb and socket. The plug is removed by using pry tools on either end from the back side of the bumper cover. You should be able to reach it without having to drop the exhaust, but do not try to pry from the outside until you pop the tabs from the back.

If you recall this post from the 2002-2004 rear fog light mod, you could just grab a diode and make it an additional brake light. Follow the instructions in that post, only route the wire down to your new light and then connect the light to ground.  If you want to make it a stand-alone fog light, read on.

Besides the new fog light you will need to add a circuit for power, have a switch, and wire the light for power and ground.  (The switch may have a relay as well.) I chose to wire the switch to a circuit that always has power. I used a Rigid Industries Lighted Rocker Switch wired to the left side of the parcel shelf under the steering wheel. The switch is out of the way so it won’t get accidentally engaged, but bright enough to see as you get out of the car if you forget to turn it off.

So why don’t you just add a switch in the blank spot on the switch panel? Because it’s not a mechanical switch panel. Those are actually electronic switches, so adding a switch to middle is not as easy as just drilling a hole and mounting it from the back.  If you had one that was very shallow, perhaps you could, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Add a fuseIMG_0848IMG_0849IMG_3384

Once complete, it’s also helpful to get people off of your bumper when needed as well.

Rear Fog Light

MINI Splitter Mod

Long-time readers of this blog may remember our Home-Depot inspired DIY splitter from several years ago. We’re still running it today.  It’s had several coats of paint and a bit of body fill for some deep scrapes on the bottom, but in general it has held up well to several thousand miles of track use. Last Fall we added a set of Rally lights to the MINI so we had to find a new way to attach the splitter stanchons. If we were starting from scratch, we might redesign the splitter to eliminate the notch in the leading edge so we could place the stanchons in-board of the light-bar mounting bolts.  But that would involve making a new splitter and buying shorter turnbuckles.  And since we’re a.) cheap and b.) laze, we wanted to see if we could reuse our old parts armed with nothing but a Dremmel tool. Result.

Bar ModClick the photo to see where we made the modifications. The lightbar attaches to the back of the bumper and passes through the grille. Given the length of our existing stanchons, we attached to the drop link and passed through the same opening in the grille. This involved modifying the bottom edge of the lightbar’s cross member.  We touched up the modified edge with some paint and it looks pretty good.

 

Hand Brake Handle DIY

Sometimes a part comes along that you just want to have. The CravenSpeed Hand Brake Handle is one of those. It won’t make you any faster; it won’t save any weight; you don’t NEED it. But once you pick one up, you will WANT it. Installation takes about 10 minutes using common hand tools. Installation is very easy:

  • Set the parking brake, and use a pry tool to remove the end cap. (You can use a screw-driver but you risk scratching the cap. If you never plan to re-use it, go ahead, otherwise, get a pry tool.)
  • Push in on the back of the brake boot to free the frame from the console, and then pull the boot over the handle to expose the zip-tie. Cut the zip-tie and remove the boot.
  • Use a screw-driver to pry the tab and remove the old handle.
  • Fit the new handle with the set-holes facing up. Insert and tighten the set-screws with the included 1/16 inch hex key.
  • Put the boot back on and use the included zip-tie to attach it to the handle. Trim the excess of the zip-tie.
  • Pull the boot back over the handle and set the frame back into the console. Set the front first, then pinch the back until it slides into place.
  • Slip the three rubber grip rings into place.
  • Sit back, grab a cold brew, and enjoy. You’re handy now!

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MINI Scoop Grille DIY

Here’s another easy DIY brought to you by Home Depot Racing. If you notice that you’re picking up a lot of debris (klag, cigarette butts, rocks, etc.) then you might want to consider adding a grille between the scoop and the air duct plate that attaches to the underside of the bonnet. That’s the easy way: Just remove your scoop, trace the opening on cardboard, cut the grille to be just a bit larger, and then trap it between the back of the scoop and the forward edge of the air duct. But if you’ve removed the air duct, then it’s just a bit more complicated. But I’m ahead of myself. Start at the beginning.
mask off
Go to Home Depot, and get some Gutter Guard material, and a set of heavy-duty wire cutters or tin snips. You’ll also need some cardboard to make a template and some masking tape to transfer the template to the gutter guard material. If you still have the stock air duct on the underside of you bonnet, follow the instructions above. If you have removed the air duct, you’ll need a different method to attach the grille. For this you’ll need some stainless steel fine wire, an electric drill, and a small drill bit.
Wire in
For this method, you want to cut the grille from the raw stock to be about 1/4 of an inch larger than the cardboard cutout you made so you can bend the material around the back edges of the scoop and have enough material to catch with the wire. Drill 8-10 holes at various locations on the scoop about 1/8 of an inch from the back edge. Cut a 4 inch piece of stainless steel wire for each hole. Carefully feed the wire through each hole and loop through the grille, twisting until tight. Bend the excess wire out of the way.
install
You can still see the stainless steel wire twists from the front. I though about painting them flat black, but they really aren’t that noticeable, and besides, if I can see them, then they’re still there.

Mishimoto Oil Catch Can DIY

Modern emissions control systems use engine vacuum to suck oil vapor out of the crank-case and into the intake path of your engine.  If you have a turbo or super-charged car, this may be gumming up your intercooler, reducing its efficiency.  Luckily for you an oil catch can may help and it is a fairly easy DIY project, but the challenge is finding a location to install it where you don’t get the oil vapor smell in the cabin of the car. (Hint: this isn’t it.) Hopefully this post will guide you, but you’re on your own figuring it out.  Use at your own risk: no wagering.

MOCCmountSince space under the hood is at a premium on the first generation Cooper S, you have to get creative.  The Mishimoto Oil Catch Can Kit used here is a universal part.  The upside is it is much less expensive than others on the market; the downside is you will have to figure out how to fit it to your car.  Besides the Oil Catch Can kit, you’ll need the following from your local hardware and auto parts stores: Bracket, bolts, and nuts; 1/2 inch to 3/8 inch coupling reducer (two of them); zip-ties (you always need zip-ties); and if you don’t like the hose that comes with the kit, you’ll need about 4 feet of 5/8 inch hose. You will also need a hole-saw bit to drill two 3/4 inch holes if you choose to mount the can next in this location. Also get two grommets that fit the holes you drilled and have an inner diameter of the hose you choose.  Expect to pay $10-$12 for all that (more if you have to buy the hole-saw bit.) I found grommets at NAPA auto-parts.  Look for PCV Grommets and then choose the right size.

We chose to mount the can in the passenger side cowl area between the ABS control unit and the firewall.  There is a threaded nub there that can be used for mounting.  Test fit the can and then decide the additional hardware needed to make the connection.  We ended up using two nylon spacers and a two and a half inch piece of metal with two holes 1 3/4 inch apart, but you’ll have to check what works for your application.  We also stuck sticky piece of sound insulation foam on the bottom of the can to ensure it didn’t rattle. Check that your hood insulation doesn’t interfere with your hose placement by putting some chaulk on the upper edge of the hose and closing the hood.  Check for chaulk transfer to the hood liner.  If you get a little, don’t sweat it.  If you get a lot, try to place the can lower in the cavity or tip it so the hose sits lower in the cavity.

MOCClayoutNext you need to be able to route the hoses to the engine.  We drilled two holes through the plastic cowl compartment with a hole saw.  Put a piece of wood behind it so you do not saw into your brake lines.  Space the holes far enough apart that you can fit grommets into each without overlapping. On the left side of the valve cover is the PCV valve. There is a short hose that runs from the valve to a gray vacuum hose that sits under the intercooler. Pull the hose off of the PCV Valve and then cut it as shown by the yellow lines in the picture.  You want about an inch to leave on the gray vacuum line. Insert your reducing couplers and put the hose stub back on the PCV valve, only point the “L” to the left instead of the right. Size your hoses going to the can so they do not kink. Secure with hose clamps as needed and zip-tie so they do not move excessively.  Start your car and listen for vacuum leaks.  If you have a rough idle or you throw a code, you need to check your connections.  Remember to check the can in a few weeks for oil and other fluids.

If you have an ’02-’04 model car and have not installed the cabrio strut braces like we did, you might be able to fit the can next to the motor mount by relocating the grounding wire.  Just check that you can still close the hood without binding.  Some people choose to install next to the radiator reservoir so they don’t have to drill the cowl.  There’s room to fit it, but you have to remove the can when you want to change the oil filter.  There’s also a second vent in the crankcase that runs directly to the intake tube before the throttle-body.  Some people choose to connect both of the vent valves to the can and draw the vacuum from the intake tube instead of the gray tube (which they cap off.) We don’t recommend this routing.  Some people have no problems with it; while others constantly throw codes.  The method above seems more reliable, but your experience may vary.  If you’re paranoid but want to try this mod then carry a code reader so you can reset any codes and instead of cutting the stock hose to the PCV valve, just pull it off and keep it in the car and use another piece of hose to make your connections to the hoses leading to the oil catch can.  If you throw a code, reset it, and replace the original hose.

 

Building a Better R53 Intercooler Diverter

weldingWe’ve kept busy during the (long) winter months designing new products for your MINI and our first pre-production units have started to arrive, including a better air diverter for the stock MINI Cooper S intercooler. So, why roll your own? We thought we could make one that was both lighter and less expensive than others on the market. Now we need your help to test that design.

MINI_engine_viewThe stock unit does a fair job for the average MINI driver, buy you aren’t average, are you? You’ve modified your pulley, changed your intake, and probably tried different plugs and maybe a custom tune. A cold air intake give you more air per cylinder charge. A reduction pulley gives that charge more pressure, but also increases the temperature of the air. That means it’s time to make the intercooler more efficient.

plateThe top-mounted design of the stock intercooler isn’t the most efficient. Air has to enter through the scoop, make a 90 degree turn, pass through the intercooler, and exit over the cylinder head and out along the exhaust header. There is a plate that sits behind the scoop and heatshieldattaches to the hood that has a foam seal to the stock diverter, but it does not create a very large air pocket. Removing the plate creates a deeper pocket. To protect the paint on the hood, we’ll use some heat shielding on the exposed metal, but that’s not required.
When you remove the plate, you can either leave it off, or chop off the part directly behind the scoop so you can wedge a mesh screen behind the scoop. (We do this to keep the rolled-up rubber klag off of the intercooler, but it’s also helpful keeping cigarette butts and larger insects out as well.) The intercooler itself is made from T-6 aluminum and is very light. It isn’t painted because racecar.
DiverterCADWe’re working on a revised design now that won’t require welding.

 

 

MINI Brake Duct DIY

For the most part, stock MINI brakes and even the beefier JCW calipers do a decent job of dissipating heat at the track. I generally advise students to run a higher temperature fluid and to get some better brake pads like Hawk HP Plus or Carbotech XP-10 and they should be good for most 20-25 minute HPDE sessions. But for those days when you want to run longer or the ambient temperature is already approaching 100 degrees, you may need some additional cooling. That’s when this DIY will pay off.

The basic idea is pretty simple: The air in front of the bumper is a high pressure area. The area behind the wheel in the wheel well is a low pressure area. Create a path between the two and air will flow through and aid cooling. It won’t be as dramatic as dedicated ducting pointed directly at the hub, but it also isn’t as troublesome for the 99 percent of the time that your aren’t at the track. Expect to spend $10 to $75 and a couple of hours of your time. You’ll need a three inch hole saw, some zip-ties, and some tubing. You’ll loose the use of your foglights (if you have them) but you can put them back in the winter.

Duct opening

You might have luck just holding the tubing behind the bumper cover with compression, but I ended up fashioning a make-shift duct out of an old set of fog light covers (MINI part numbers 51711481435 and 51711481436) which are about $19 each. Just cut the center out and add a screen to keep out debris. Attach about a foot of tubing to the other end and pick where you want to cut the wheel liner.

Duct in wheel well

If you’re trying to stay really low tech, use dryer vent tubing and gutter guard, otherwise invest in a three foot section of silicon brake duct tubing and some wire mesh (I’ve tried both, silicon tubing is easier to work with.)

Duct tied off

Attach the tubing to the wheel liner with zip ties. Wire mesh comes in handy here too. when you’re all finished, you can hardly tell anything has changed. Good for a 50 degree drop in caliper temps at Summit Point in August.

Finished duct

Brake Caliper Rebuild DIY

If your brake calipers have had multiple events where they’ve exceeded 450 degrees or any one event where they exceeded 500 degrees, many brake manufacturers recommend a rebuild. You also want to rebuild if you notice the dust boots have cracked or ripped like the ones in the photo above. Why take the risk of a caliper dragging because klag got past the boot or finding out too late that a seal has failed? It’s a relatively easy, but messy job. Have plenty of towels on hand to clean up. Remember: Brake fluid can ruin your paint. Do not grab a fender with a brake fluid soaked glove hand if working in a confined area. Instructions below are provided for illustration purposes only. As usual, refer to your workshop manual for guidance. Use at your own risk — no wagering.

Verify that you have all of the parts on hand before you begin. You will need a caliper rebuild kit and a bellows repair kit for each caliper. (On the first generation MINI, only the front calipers can be rebuilt.) You will also need replacement crush rings for the brake lines (2 per caliper), and since you will have to bleed the brakes, you might as well flush and replace all of the brake fluid. (Consider high temperature brake fluid if you track your car often.) It is critical that you not let the brake fluid reservoir run dry while you do this job. Modern brake systems are very difficult to purge if you allow air to get all the way to the reservoir. This would be an excellent time to change the brake pads and rotors as well. (This DIY only covers the caliper rebuild. See this old post for changing pads.) Expect this job to take 60-90 minutes the first time you do it.

1. Safely jack the car and remove the road wheels. Never work on a car supported only by a jack or one that is not fully supported by jack-stands.

Get started

2. Remove the caliper from the carrier. Note any cracking or damage to the bellows jackets of the caliper pins. This is a also sign the caliper has seen some serious heat cycling.

 

BrakeCaliperRebuild-43. Note the type of brake pads in use. These Carbotech pads have a pin in the center that won’t allow the caliper to be slid off of the rotor until the piston is slightly retracted. If you pads are shot, just use a screw driver to carefully pry between the pad and the rotor to create clearance, but if you plan to reuse the pads, then carefully apply pressure directly to the piston to make room. Be careful to not damage the surface of the piston. Notice also the Brake Caliper Temperature Strips. This is a great way to keep track of the max temperature sustained by the caliper.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-3

4. Hang the caliper so the weight is not supported solely by the brake line.

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5. With the caliper off, inspect the rotor for excessive checking, cracking, or deep grooves. Replace as necessary.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-8

6. With the pads removed, briefly reattach the caliper to the carrier. Wearing gloves, put down plenty of towels to absorb any spilled brake fluid and have a sandwich bag and zip-tie handy. Use a socket wrench to loosen the banjo bolt and catch dripping fluid into the sandwich bag. Place the bag over the end of the brake line and secure with the zip-tie. You have about 30 minutes before gravity will fill the bag. If you do not expose the fluid to air or grime, you can recycle it (well long enough to put it back and purge it when you do the pressure bleed later.)

BrakeCaliperRebuild-17

7. Carefully empty any remaining fluid from the caliper and inspect the dust boot. If it looks like this one, replace and rebuild the caliper.

 

BrakeCaliperRebuild-9

8. Once the boot is removed, check the piston for debris and damage before proceeding.

Check Piston

9. Place the caliper on a workbench and use an air pump to push out the piston. Place a towl under the piston to catch it as it comes out. Do not use excessive air-pressure or you will shoot the piston from the caliper. 20 lbs was enough to slowly release this one.

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10. Inspect the piston and the chamber before proceeding. Remove the old seal and inspect it for damage. Ensure the new seal is the same size and thickness.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-15

11. Once you’ve cleaned the piston and the caliper chamber, seat the new seal ring.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-14 (1)

12. Push the new dust-boot so the end that fits into the groove on the caliper is exposed and can be fitted before the piston slides in to the chamber.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-19

13. Engage the boot seat into the caliper and then slowly push the piston back into the caliper until the dust-boot engages in the slot at the far end.

BrakeCaliperRebuild-16

14. Reattach the brake line using new crush rings. Use hangars to support the calipers again.

15. Reinstall/replace the brake pads.

16. If it hasn’t been contaminated, pour the brake fluid from the bag back into the brake reservoir, otherwise top off your reservoir with fresh fluid before bleeding. Be sure to top off before starting to work on the other side as you DO NOT want to allow air past the reservoir.

17. Bleed the brakes according to your workshop manual once booth calipers have been rebuilt.

18. Torque banjo bolts and caliper bolts according to workshop manual specs.

19. Once both calipers have been rebuilt and reattached, bleed the air from the brake system and replace fluid with new.

MINI Horn Repair DIY

Unless you toot your own horn often, you may not find out it doesn’t work until you need it. Luckily for you, the trouble-shooting process is fairly straight forward, even if the eventual repair might not be. The three most likely causes of horn failure are: 1. Blown fuse; 2. Water-logged horn trumpet; and 3. Bad horn clock-spring. Let’s figure out what’s wrong first.

fuse panelAssuming your car runs and has electrical power, start by checking the fuse-panel inside of the vehicle. For first generation MINIs, it’s located on the left side of the driver’s foot-well. On the back-side of the panel cover should be a chart listing fuse number and function starting from the upper left and counting down each row left to right. For my car it was fuse F28, a 15 amp fuse. Use the fuse removal tool located at the bottom of the panel and gently remove the fuse. Hold it up to a flashlight and check that the filament is still intact. If you get lucky, all you need to do is replace it with a new fuse and you’re back in business. There should be a spare fuse stowed on the left side of the panel. If not, grab the fuse from a non-essential system (like the cigarette lighter, F32) and plug it into the horn fuse slot to check that it is in fact the fuse that’s causing your problems. If the horn works, go to your local auto-parts store and buy some spare fuses and remember to replace the one you moved. If it isn’t the fuse, then go to the next step.

Normally the next step would be to remove the horn relay, but given that those rarely fail on the MINI and that it’s located on the back side of this fuse panel (and a pain to get to) we’re going to skip the relay and go to the next two most likely points of failure: the horn trumpets themselves and the steering wheel connector. If you recently removed or replaced the steering wheel, skip ahead, otherwise, start with the horn trumpets.

Unfortunately for you, the horn trumpets are located behind the front bumper. You can remove the front bumper with the car on level ground, but it’s easier with the front wheels removed. Chock the car so it won’t roll while you jack the car and place the front on jack-stands. Remove the front wheels. Remove the two 8mm bolts from within the wheel well. Slide under the front of the car, and remove the three 10mm bolts and two screws that hold the bottom of the bumper-cover to the front of the car. Now remove the two Torx bolts that hold the top of the bumper-cover to the car, but brace the cover with your knee so it does not fall forward and strain the electrical connections. Remove the side-marker lamps, parking lamps, and turn signal indicators. Remove the temperature probe and carefully lower the bumper-cover to the ground. The bumper is held on by three 13mm nuts and one 13 mm bolt on either side. Use your knee again to hold the bumper as you remove the last nuts and lower the bumper to the ground. Now you will have access to the horns on either side of the car.

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Remove the Torx bolt holding the trumpet to the chassis and unplug the electrical connection (blue arrows above). Inspect the trumpet, turning it over to see if any water comes out. The vehicle horn is an important safety feature, especially in a small car. If you have to replace it (or rather them since there is one on either side), consider upgrading to a louder model. [Stock replacement horns are available and are a direct replacement using the factory electrical connection. Hella Twin Trumpet Horns are a less expensive, slightly louder option, but require splicing the electrical connection. Otherwise they fit in the stock location.] Check the trumpet function by providing 12-volt power (briefly) to it directly. Next check the electrical connection by hooking it up to a DC volt meter and pressing the horn button with the ignition on. One (or both) of these tests should fail. If you have power from the horn button, but no sound when directly powering the trumpets, then all you need to do is replace the trumpets. If you are not getting power from the horn button, then the problem is probably in the steering wheel. (We’re going to come back to the red arrows next to the radiator later.)

If you really want to be thorough, now would be the time to remove the fuse panel and check the horn relay. It’s relay K2, at the bottom left of the panel and is probably gray in color. But chances are that it’s OK and the problem is in the horn clock-spring.

Word of Caution here: To get to the horn clock-spring, we’re going to remove the airbag. We have detailed instructions here, but remind you that you are proceeding at your own risk. You must respect the power of the airbag or it will hurt you. Make sure the front wheels are straight, that the steering wheel is level, remove the key and lock the wheel level. Start by disconnecting the car battery and taking a break for 15 minutes. Remove the airbag per the instructions above and remove the steering wheel. It should look like this:

clock spring

The horn clock-ring (officially the “Slip Ring”) is the white component with the wires attached. The blue arrow shows where the horn wire from the steering wheel attaches and the red arrow shows the locating pin that’s critical to fitting this component properly. The MINI steering wheel moves 5 complete turns, lock-to-lock. Since your wheels are pointed straight ahead and your steering wheel was level when you removed it, this pin needs to be at the bottom and in the middle of the 5 turns. You can check it by turn it left or right 2 1/2 turns to stop (be gentle). The most common source of horn failure is this component. Either it was damaged when the steering wheel was removed/replaced or it gives up with time since it’s plastic.

To replace it, start by removing the lower cover from the steering column. It is held on by two Torx Screws and a snap fitting down by the knee bolster. Remove the snap fitting by working the tips of your fingers in from either side and pull apart. Remove the rubber ring around the ignition and the lower half will fall away. Remove the two small screws holding the upper half to the Switch Unit Housing (number 4 in the drawing below).

MINI-Slip-Ring

Remove the three Torx screws and pull on the white slip ring. Disconnect the two electrical connections on the back, and remove the slip-ring from the housing. When you order a new clock-ring (slip ring) which is number 3 in the drawing, it comes with a new housing (number 4), but you do not need to replace the housing. Remove the new slip ring from the housing, connect the two electrical connections, replace the 3 torx screws. Replace the two small screws. Check that the slip ring is in the correct position as above (if you are using a new factory part, it ships in the correct position if the retaining clip was still in position when you got it. If the retaining clip is not present or if it detached, then center it before proceeding.) Replace the steering column cover, ignition ring, and reattach the steering wheel as per the original guide instructions. Reattach the battery and check for horn function. Return to tooting your own horn as appropriate.

Before you put the bumper and cover back on, this would be a good time to clean out your condensor and radiator. Look again at the photo of the radiator above. Remove the two 10mm bolts by the red arrows. Carefully lift up and out to remove the condensor from the pocket holding it to the radiator. Use compressed air to blow out and debris between the condensor and the radiator. Remember to place the condensor back in the slot and reattach the two bolts. Installation of the bumper and bumper cover is the reverse of removal.

How to use Video and Telemetry to Improve Driving Performance of HPDE Students

Part 1: Camera Placement

Video can be a valuable tool if it is used appropriately. Search the internet and you will quickly find many videos of your favorite track — some more useful than others. The good ones can help you learn the line before you drive the track for the first time. Others are intended merely to show the world that you drove on the track. If that’s all you want out of video, then stop reading, this article isn’t for you. This article is about learning from your videos. So let’s build up to it, starting with camera placement and then talk about data analysis.

Before you place a camera on your car, think about what you want to get out of it and what restrictions there might be that limit your options. Do you just want to show your friends the track? Do you want to learn the line? Do you want to see how close your wheels really are to the apex on certain corners? Do you want to record what happens in front of you? Or do you want to see your inputs as you drive around the track? Those decisions will help guide camera placement.

Compare the views from the two videos below. The first one is mounted inside on the front windshield (old, non-HD camera) and the second (iPod 4G) is positioned behind the driver. Driving through some fluid, understeer quickly becomes oversteer (and oversteer again). How did the driver? You cannot tell from this view.

In this second video, we see the driver quickly catch the over-steer and accelerate out of the corner, showing the importance of quick hands.

Camera Position and Live Timing. Most High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events run by car clubs have rules against live timing. You will need to position any recording or timing device in the car in such a way that it does not give live feedback to the driver. For external cameras, many clubs restrict the use of suction mounts, requiring a hard mount. Check with your club before you buy. Even if suction mounts are allowed, be sure it can withstand the wind and vibration of being driven at speed. Position the camera so it does not impede the driver’s vision and locate it in a place that it is visible to the driver directly or in a mirror. Never consider externally mounting a camera you aren’t willing to sacrifice to the Goddess of Speed. Low positions such on tow hooks are visually interesting, but not very helpful for learning. Better is mounting on the roof along the center-line of the vehicle, above the interior mirror with a view of the front hood and fenders. This will show car placement on the track and traffic directly ahead. This placement creates a video that is a good tool to show general car placement, learn a track, and to film following a car directly in front of you. Because it does not capture driver inputs, it is not our preferred placement. If your camera is light and small enough (Replay XD 1080 Mini for example) consider using a suction mount to place it on the windshield inside of the car and tether it to the mount for the passenger visor. For cars without rollbars, this is often your best option. It offers a similar view as on the roof and the camera is protected from the elements. It can easily be controlled by the instructor from the passenger seat. We’ll start out on the Summit Point Main Circuit.

summit_main_1

Windshield Mounted View. Positioned behind the interior mirror, this is the view you get of the track. This view is useful for general track orientation. But you really can’t learn that much about the driver’s inputs from it. [Note: I’m using an old camera that is not HD. The new cameras integrate with the data overlay much better.]

Same Lap with Data Overlay.
By adding telemetry data from Harry’s LapTimer and data from PLXdevices Kiwi 2, now we start to get a feel for use of throttle, corner speed, lateral forces, and gear selection.

Same Lap with Camera Behind Driver. In this video, we’re using an iPhone 5S in an Optrix XD5 Case mounted to our rollbar. By mounting the camera behind the driver, now we start to get a feel for driver input. Is the driver struggling to maintain position because the seats are not supportive. Is the driver looking into the corners? How are the driver’s hands on the wheel? If you don’t have a rollbar or harness bar, you can get a similar view using a head-rest mount such as the CruiseCam Mount.

Same Lap with Picture in Picture Finally we can put it all together and see both the driver and the road ahead. Harry’s LapTimer (HLT) has the ability to control certain secondary cameras via Bluetooth, such as a second iPhone, an iPod G4, or GoPro Hero3. In this case, we imported and synced the video from our Replay XD camera within the HLT application

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That second camera could be showing a view back toward the driver from the front, it could be showing feet on the pedals, or it could be a reference lap to compare one lap (or driver) to another. You are really only limited by your imagination (and equipment).

Part 2: Apex and Entry Speed Analysis

In Part 1, we discussed camera placement and capturing data. In this post we’ll explore what we can learn from the data we’ve captured. The track this time is the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park. This is a challenging 2.2 mile, 22 corner road-course used primarily for driver’s education events that features a dimensional replica of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife’s banked Karussell turn complete with 20 degrees of banking (but without the Graffiti).

shenandoah

The configuration in use this day omitted the three chicanes and used the short Range Straight between turns 9 and 11. (I’ve driven more than 40 days on this course and I’ve never seen cars use the chicanes.) It is not a very high-speed course and the walls do seem very close at times, but I really enjoy it, especially in the MINI. This lap at 2:06.75 is about average for me on this weekend. The fastest of the weekend was a 2:04.67. (My best ever in this car was a 2:01.78 but that was on R-comp tires; I was on street tires this weekend.)

Video was captured on a Replay XD MINI 1080 mounted on my rollbar; data was provided by a PLX Devices Kiwi WIFI; positioning was provided by a Dual AV XGPS; and timing came from Harry’s Laptimer (HLT) on my iPhone. The video was edited in Quicktime and later added to the HLT dataset on my iPad.

In this post, we’re going to focus on an examination of cornering speeds. This post isn’t about outright best lap times, rather improving driver smoothness and carrying as much speed as possible through the corners. Lap time is just one of many ways to measure performance. Using data from HLT that was exported to Google Earth, we can plot cornering speeds and lateral G-forces over the track-map. We’ll compare the two laps of this weekend to the reference lap of 2:01 (fastest lap last year in R-comp tires in this car). The color bars are supposed to represent the direction and intensity of the G-forces: Green is 0.4 – 1.0 G; Yellow is 1.0 – 1.25 G and Red is greater than 1.25 G. Our goal for the weekend was to see how close we could come to this level of performance using street tires.

Shenandoah G Forces

The best lap of the weekend on street tires was a 2:04.67. (The spikes in the data show how much less composed the car was on street tires at these speeds than on the R-comps the previous year.)

Shenandoah G Forces 2

Here’s the lap we’re trying to analyze, 2:06.75. Let’s try to find where we’re losing almost two seconds. Lower apex speeds mean lower exit speeds, leading to lower top speed at the end of the next straight. We know that we can’t expect the same level of grip from these street tires that we got with the R-Comps, so let’s look where we might make up some speed. Shenandoah G Forces 3

We can then overlay the 2:06 lap on the 2:04 lap to help see where we’re losing time. The data suggests our theoretical best time is closer to 1:59, even on street tires. In HLT, the image is dynamic so you can drag your finger around the course and see the plots in the data, you can get a similar result using the HLT data export and looking at your laps in Google Earth. Shenandoah G Forces 4

  • Start with Point A, The Loop. Both the reference lap and the 2:06 lap show an apex speed of 42 MPH which is interesting considering that the reference lap was on R-comps. This shows that there’s a lot of grip on corner entry because of the crown on the road. Use it to your advantage. (This was actually the one spot where the 2:06 lap was better than the 2:04 lap indicating I could have done better than 2:04 had I carried more speed into the corner.)
  • At Point B, the Stone House Straight, I carried a lot more speed into the Hook on the 2:04 lap. As the weekend progressed I gained confidence in braking later, resulting in the same apex speed, but the line exiting Turn 8 was much better in the 2:04 lap, resulting in higher apex speed at Turn 11 (Point C).
  • That extra speed carried all the way to the entry of the Karussel, Point D. Through the Karussel and into the Karussel Esses, however, I actually had better speed on the 2:06 lap since I had a better exit from the banking. (You can see the slight movement to the inside of the Karuessel on the exit where I lost speed heading up the hill — red spike in the wrong direction).

So what’s the take-away from this analysis? I can brake a little later and carry more speed into the apex of the Loop (A). Likewise, I can carry a bit more speed and brake later into the Hook (B), concentrating on getting a good launch out of Turn 9 (avoiding the curb on the inside) to carry more speed into Turn 11, carrying more speed at the exit (C) which will result in more speed at the end of the Bridge Straight leading to the entry of the Karussel (D). In other words: Brake later, brake less. Words to live by.

Part 3: Traction, G-loading, and Getting the Power Down

For the final installment in this series, we’re going to look at what the data is telling us about how hard we’re trying. To minimize time on the track, the drive should spend as much time at full throttle as possible; brake as little as is necessary to turn; and be trying to get back to full throttle as soon as possible. There is no coasting involved, yet we all know we coast from time to time. Now with data acquisition, we can start to see where we are doing it, or more appropriately, where we’re trying to put the power down but it isn’t working. For this analysis, we’re going to look at the third track at Summit Point, the newly expanded Jefferson Circuit. (For a detailed analysis of the new Jefferson Circuit, click here.)

New Jeff

As we mentioned in the post analyzing this track, 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. But there are a couple of other charts in Harry’s Laptimer that inform us about traction events. First, here’s what that lap looks like:

When we look at the overall picture of traction on this course, we see our max performance summer tires are performing pretty well. We are pulling a maximum lateral load of 1.22 Gs in the tightest corner, Turn 7. The first chart shows our overall traction circle which is a little better than expected for a street tire.
Traction Circle

The second chart shows the maximum lateral loads on the corners. It’s also showing us the areas of the track that are unsettling the car. This is similar to the Speed chart that shows where we’re having trouble putting the power down.
jeff plot 2

When we start looking at the Speed Chart we start to see areas where we’re having trouble making a clean transition back to full throttle at the apex of certain corners. When the peaks of the lines look like Vs, then it’s a smooth transition. Where you see Ws, then there’s a problem.
jeff plot 3

Compare the areas with the arrow to the circle and the square areas. The arrow shows the apex of Turn 1 and a very clean transition from deceleration to acceleration. The orange squares show the effect of the rough road surface before the apex to Turn 6. Not much I can do about that. But take a look at the green circles. This is the trick Turn 7. It’s a decreasing radius corner where the entry is a bit off-camber, there’s very little grip at the apex and a tricky transition immediately into Turn 8. I’m not making that transition very smoothly and am not able to steadily accelerate through that corner. There’s a corner I can work on. Here’s another way to use the tool:

Jeff plot 1

This chart is showing a comparison of two laps. The faster reference lap is in orange. The lap being studied is in gray. Until Turn 7 this lap was ahead of the reference lap. You can see the difference in speed at point A and the difference in time at Point B. But I over-cooked Turn 7 and by the time I was in the braking zone for Turn 11, was already behind. By the time I got to the end of the back straight (Point D), I had to lift and let another car pass. This just goes to reinforce the old adage of “slow in, fast out.” By being “fast in, slow out” of Turn 7, the rest of the lap was compromised.

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