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Thread: First track day

  1. #1
    Gluon
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    First track day

    Hello all, I plan to track my newly acquired Atom for the first time at the end of April. I have about 15 or so track days under my belt, in various cars that I have owned, including a Lotus Elise, Nissan GTR and a McLaren 12C, but I consider myself a novice. I'm guessing it will be most similar to the Elise, as the other two tend to correct a lot of mistakes, and it seems like the Atom is happy to let me make them. I'm going to order up some fresh Toyo R888s for the event, as the existing yoko a048s are about shot, and I never liked these tires on my Elise very much anyway. Also will get a thorough pre check inspection beforehand. Any advice on driving the Atom on track would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    jid
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdmiralMubutu View Post
    Hello all, I plan to track my newly acquired Atom for the first time at the end of April. I have about 15 or so track days under my belt, in various cars that I have owned, including a Lotus Elise, Nissan GTR and a McLaren 12C, but I consider myself a novice. I'm guessing it will be most similar to the Elise, as the other two tend to correct a lot of mistakes, and it seems like the Atom is happy to let me make them. I'm going to order up some fresh Toyo R888s for the event, as the existing yoko a048s are about shot, and I never liked these tires on my Elise very much anyway. Also will get a thorough pre check inspection beforehand. Any advice on driving the Atom on track would be appreciated.
    One piece of advice: Don't lift.

    Signed,
    Lifted

  3. #3
    Gluon
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    Quote Originally Posted by jid View Post
    One piece of advice: Don't lift.

    Signed,
    Lifted
    Always good advice, lol.

  4. #4
    Neutrino MadMaxAtom's Avatar
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    Go through the usual list of pre-track-event equipment checks.(fluids,brakes/tires etc) I run with arm restraints even if it's not required,but that's me..
    Make sure your brake lights work properly.The factory pressure switch can be fussy about operation,and you want to make sure people behind you get plenty of warning as the Atom stops fast from speed,faster than most other cars are capable.
    Work up to high speed carefully. Don't get caught up in the Atoms desire to run away from you..it will try every time. Keep the reins tight.
    Make sure your mirrors show you something behind you and to the side...there will be times when you are not the fastest thing out there...so good rear vision is important.
    Get plenty of rest...you will need all the energy possible. You may not sweat much in a GTR...but you will in an Atom at the same speeds.
    Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and take the "ladder on wheels", "Go-cart","Dune Buggy" jokes with a smile and a laugh..
    Don't let anyone drive your car the first time unless supervised . (Except maybe Tommy Kendall,Mario Andretti etc.)
    Last edited by MadMaxAtom; March 26, 2014 at 08:05 PM.
    The power of an Atom is a terrible thing to waste! Atom owner/operator since 2007. The more you chase perfection,the faster it becomes. John Force for President! (I asked him once in person...he laughed)

  5. #5
    Lepton McFred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdmiralMubutu View Post
    Any advice on driving the Atom on track would be appreciated.
    It sounds like you already have track experience with a variety of cars. One of the main things I noticed with the atom is how sensitive the steering is to brake and throttle inputs. This may be the origin of the "don't lift" advice? Many others have commented that the rear weight bias of the atom makes driving it similar to porches. Understeer entering a corner can be helped with a little brake, or a lower gear and engine braking (but an abrupt lift can really change your angle), and leaving the corner you can't just mash the gas like in a lot of other cars. You can also notice quite a difference in braking by adjusting the bias. I found the optimum bias is different for street and track, but this obviously depends on your brake setup. Also, the car is sensitive to the suspension settings. There have been several threads about this, but if the car is not behaving like you want, adjusting toe etc. can dramatically change its manner.

    For your first track day in the atom, old or non-R tires may actually help you learn the tendencies of the atom. My car was shipped with all-seasons and I was sliding all over, but when the R-comps went on I was ready for the greater corner speeds. Have fun!

  6. #6
    Gluon
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    Thank you jid, madmax and mcfred. I'm going to be on the very technical-looking south-east inner circuit (1.8 mile) at Pocono Raceway in PA, which doesn't use any of the banked NASCAR turns. (This would seem to suit the Atom well). As far as brake bias goes, I've discovered that my rears seem to lock before the fronts. Is the bias adjustment something I can do between run groups with simple hand tools if I don't like how things are going, or it is more complicated than that? I seem to recall seeing something in the manual about it.
    Last edited by AdmiralMubutu; March 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM.

  7. #7
    Neutrino MadMaxAtom's Avatar
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    I like rear brake bias…but that's me. I'm surprised your Atom doesn't have a remote brake bias adjuster,although it was an option. You can easily add one by buying this unit from Summit..http://www.summitracing.com/parts/wi...4990/overview/
    It is simple to install and a LOT easier to adjust the brake bias with the simple twist of the knob, than getting under that dash with tools to fiddle about...
    The power of an Atom is a terrible thing to waste! Atom owner/operator since 2007. The more you chase perfection,the faster it becomes. John Force for President! (I asked him once in person...he laughed)

  8. #8
    Electron Lane's Avatar
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    You may want to have the alignment verified prior to that track day. Mine came from the factory with settings that needed to be tamed a little bit. Or maybe I just didn't think toe out front and rear was as fun as most people do.

    And avoid the reaction of lifting if you think you're about to lose traction in the rear in a corner because a forward weight transfer at that point will pretty much gurarantee it. And the car is so lightweight that it swaps ends fast and it's easy to overcorrect because of that also, and because the steering is so responsive. If you're a Lotus owner and you've frequented their forums, I'm sure that's not the first time you've been told not to lift in a car with rearward weight bias.

    I had about 50 track days of experience in a variety of cars before the first time I took my Atom on the track, but that didn't stop it from humbling me. It lets you know that it requires precision and finesse on the part of the driver, and has never been kind to me when I've tried to muscle it or have been sloppy behind the wheel.
    Ariel Atom 2, Ecotec 300, owner since 2007. Drive, Detail, Improve, Repeat. Visit my website.

  9. #9
    Electron
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    Great advice from everyone so far. I wouldn't worry about set-up initially at all, you're going to be completely overwhelmed with other worries for the first couple of sessions at least. You do want the car to be technically ready for the track though so it's safe for you at least.

    First of all, always keep both hands on the wheel at 9 & 3 o'clock (buy gloves if you don't have them.) You'll feel every bump and every tiny weight change directly through the steering wheel and there's no power assist of course. You'll really need to keep a good grip on the wheel if the track is bumpy and you'll have to concentrate especially hard to compensate as the Atom is light and can get upset easily and quickly.

    No need to set any lap records in session 1. I would say initially don't even try to brake in a turn or change gear in a turn. Be smooth on steering, throttle and brakes *everywhere* and just learn to be calm, content and in control in the car under the new conditions for you of noise, wind, higher G-forces, more uncomfortable ride (possibly) and more sensitive inputs.

    Next you don't want to flat spot tires so just figure out the pedal feel and where it locks up and then take it back a good 20% and then forget about braking points and threshold braking so you can concentrate on other things like smooth gear change and turn-in. There's a lot going on coming into a corner so just brake early!

    Next I would start feeling out weight transfer mid-corner; just pick one corner (preferably one with lots of run-off either side) and start to get a feeling for the car's reaction to your inputs. Just try to glide around a nice flat corner smoothly with your foot just resting on the gas pedal and feel for understeer and oversteer as you gently lift-off or apply gas. You should feel the car react to the tiniest inputs.

    I'm not sure how your heel-toe skills are, but you're going to have to learn if you want to drive the Atom fast. Maybe leave that for another day too.

    Most of all the Atom is a car full of massive potential, but it's also hard work to get there. The faster you go the harder it will be, managing weight transfer (under braking into corners and especially in high-speed transitions) is key to being fast and still safe. Enjoy it though, my Atom is a challenge but such a pleasure to drive faster and faster every time I go out.

    I just re-read this any realized you've probably driven the car on the road already... so I may be being over cautious here!

  10. #10
    Proton FourFather's Avatar
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    Here is a video of me and my 2012 Ariel Atom 3 demonstrator/company car. I'm not suggesting you do as I do, but you can see the track and what is going on in the cockpit, also.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwrvqj8TvN8

    Big fun, for me, and we are leaving in the morning to go back to Hallettt, where this video was shot, and this will be my 8th year to do the Atom on track thing! It is still just as much fun for me as it was in the beginning. When I started, in '07, my neck muscles would be sore after ten sessions of fifteen minutes each. Doesn't seem to bother my neck as much now, thankfully.

    Have fun, and be safe. Get used to the car before going for a record lap.

    Eddie
    Eddie FourFather Hill
    Top Fuel Champion on land and water
    www.eddiehillsfuncycles.com since 1966
    Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Yamaha

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