After a couple weekends off, the 3-4-Three Challenge resumes this weekend. On Sunday I will be attending the Phase 2 class of the Evolution Performance Driving School at the Rantoul Aviation Center. Evolution is a traveling school that primarily teaches an autocross-focused curriculum. The school employs an extensive cadre of SCCA Solo National Champions as instructors, and and their services are commissioned by clubs from coast to coast. It’s extremely convenient to have a school so close to home; when I took Phase 1 several years ago I had to travel to St. Louis. I experienced an immediate increase in competitiveness last time and am hoping for more of the same this time around. Before a day of intense autocross instruction, however, there were some issues with the car that needed addressed.
As mentioned in some earlier entries, the front brakes were on their last legs. I have a buddy, Greg, who works at Performance Friction and I was really hoping to be able to use some of their pads. Unfortunately the only pad they currently carry for my car is designed for Grand Am road racing. While I’m sure they’re great on the track, the compound isn’t at all suited for the kind of driving we’ll be doing. Road race brakes are designed to work best at very high temperatures, and usually don’t perform well at all until they’ve reached a minimum temperature threshold. Because autocross and rallycross are sprint events where each run is typically 90 seconds or less, the brakes are unlikely to ever get to that threshold. What we need is a brake pad compound with a much lower operating temperature range, something that will still have good bite even when stone cold. We also want something that has good “modulation,” or responsiveness to changes in pedal pressure. My research led us to the StopTech Street Performance Pads.
‘The reviews from the Subaru performance community were overwhelmingly positive. The characteristics of the pad seemed to fit our desired criteria perfectly. And the price, through Tire Rack, was very easy on the wallet. With shipping, the total cost came to just over $60. We paired the StopTech pads with a fresh set of o.e.m. Subaru brake rotors. We could have saved a little money with aftermarket parts, but chose factory parts because we wanted to be sure we were getting good quality. Greg has told me too many stories of the substandard processes and materials that are sometimes used by the Chinese suppliers who make the budget rotors. This is one area I just wasn’t comfortable scrimping on. On the street the new brakes feel better; we’ll know after the weekend how they perform on the autocross course.
I also put the car on the alignment rack for the first time since I bought it 2 years and thirty-something thousand miles ago. The car always tracked strait and the tire wear was never abnormal, so there was no real need. Now that I’m taking autocross seriously again, however, there are potential gains to be had in grip and turn-in by optimizing the settings. For now the rear settings have been left as recommended by Subaru. At the front we dialed in as much negative camber as we could get with the two strut bolts and an aggressive amount of toe-out.
Hopefully these alignment changes will further improve the the balance of the car. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to evaluate the handling this Sunday. A single day of Evolution school is like a half a season of autocross. Check back next week for a review of the school and an assessment of the how the latest changes have affected the performance of the car.