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Thread: First Track Day Done - Observations and Questions

  1. #1
    Electron
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    First Track Day Done - Observations and Questions

    I have SRA #34, new to me this spring, and took it out for the first time recently (Summit Point, Shenandoah). The car was a blast. After 10 years of DE I was kind of getting bored and the Atom has totally rekindled my enthusiasm for track events.

    Some observations:
    • The manual brakes require a great deal more pressure than boosted systems I'm use to
    • As does the manual steering - damn, the next day my arms were a bit sore. Not quite as bad as high performance karting but it does take a lot of arm strength.
    • Gotta wear earplugs next time, especially the right ear. Unbelievably loud. Even with communicator there is no hope of being able to talk with a passenger except when off throttle in slow sections.
    • Stay away from curbs. The suspension is so stiff the car will jump any curbing rather than soaking it up.
    • It really puts down the power on corner exit. Get the car turned, transfer weight to rear and floor it. It sticks and accelerates hard.
    • The steering is so quick it makes the car feel twitchy. It took me a couple sessions to get a feel for it and smooth out. Still have a lot to learn though.
    • The throttle is an on / off switch - really hard to modulate - which also makes it hard to be smooth.
    • Overall I would describe it as: very raw, very exciting, challenging and rewarding.


    Questions:
    • Is the throttle mapping on all Atom's like this - virtually an on/off switch?
    • As noted above the suspension is rock hard and it does not handle any sort of bumps well. Is this just the way it is or has anyone messed around with spring rates and shock settings to make it better able to deal with imperfect surfaces?

  2. #2
    Neutron
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    what dampers do you have on the suspension? There have been several options for them over the years. They are either non-adjustable, adjust bump or adjust bump and rebound. You should see one or two adjuster knobs at the top of the damper somewhere if they are adjustable. Some have a button on the top of the damper itself where the piston is.

    I used to adjust mine all the was soft for the street and it made it a lot nicer. The car is light so responds quit noticeably to shock settings.

    Check your alignment. Toe-in on the front will make the car very twitchy as well

    Throttle is very responsive like it should be. Street cars have a slight delay built into the throttle to it less likely the average driver will accelerate on accident.

    It takes some getting used to.

    You could get a very good in-helmet motorcycle communication system but it is still very difficult to hear through it. Most applications dont expect the engine to be literally strapped to your back.
    the high profile toy thrower

  3. #3
    Fermion
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    Going into my second season of my SRA 021. I share a lot of your same observations. My prior car was a 300hp/3500# 350Z. It was basically a momentum car and needed to be driven much like a Miata. I drove the SRA like that until one day I let our chief instructor drive the car and he would dive into a corner, touch brakes and turn, then launch car at next corner. Next session out I tried that and I took 3 seconds off my time.

    I also thought the brakes needed a little more bite. Last year I ran the Hawk DT70 which came with car. This year I was going to use the Carbon Lorraine (which I used on my Elise) but at $350 a set I opted to try something else. I settled on Wilwood Polymetric A pads. If you look at specs, they have a lot of bite at very low temps and stay flat till about 1000deg. My first day out this year was very cold ( 50deg was high) so nothing got hot enough to work well but they did feel like they had more bite.

    I know what you mean about the throttle, I was convinced something was wrong with my car. I had several Atom Owners look at it and they all said...........no its fine. By end of season I was able to manage it much better. Good news is when you get in anything else there is so much play you can be butter smooth without even trying.

    I run at Pitt Race and it is newly paved with new curbing which is amazing. If you kiss them, car stays pretty settled but cant take too big a bite.

    A word of caution, this car has a thousand things different from what your used to. I would not change anything until you have gotten settled in the car. Making changes before you truly understand car may complicate your learning process. I would just be patient the first year and get to know the car.

    It is very loud and I recall my first day on track my ears rang for hours. I got the Decibluz custom molded ear plugs which work pretty well. I decided to install an IMSA communication helmet kit this year. This has a noise cancelling mic and custom fitted earpieces. You could then use a Speedcom or Trackcom. Problem is unless the other person has same, they will not hear you.

    Be patient and this will happen quickly enough. My biggest hang up was over slowing the car for fear it wouldn't hold. Last year I ran Hoosier R7 which held up pretty well all season. Probably 50 heat cycles on them and they were still ok. I started session with 18 psi, ended session with 20 psi.... could not get heat in tires. This year I am running BFG R1S which is an autocross tire. Hoping they will heat up quicker (By the way, Phils Race Tires in NY has them for $169)

    If your running Summit Point, Pittsburgh International Race Complex is not too far away. Let me know if you decide to make the trip, we can run together. Keep in touch

  4. #4
    Electron sector: 4's Avatar
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    IMO steering ratio can be too fast. I feel like if I sneeze too hard on the freeway I may fly off the road.

    You don't want boosted brakes on a racing car. You want accurate modulation. It's hard to heel/toe with power brakes anyway.

    The shocks may have compression/rebound adjustability. You can also replace the springs with "softer" ones to make the ride more comfy, but I'd be careful about hitting curbs and pot holes. Some Atom bell ranks have been known to go "over-center" and now your suspension is locked, lol. You can expect more roll and dive too.

    I would have assumed that the throttle progression would have been much improved on the A3 compared to the A2. Maybe not? On the A2 it's a hair trigger because it's calibrated for a much heavier car.

  5. #5
    Electron
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    The car has the QA1 double adjustable shocks. I've had single adjustables in other cars but this is my first experience with doubles and I really don't know where to start with tuning other that the general philosophy of making one change at a time. For now I don't think I'm going to mess with anything but at the moment I'm feeling like the spring rate is to high. I'll get a number of events under my belt before making any conclusions.

    It has the stock DTC70s in it. They still have quite a bit of life in them so I will continue using for now. But that compound is kind of a surprising choice by TMI, for the most part it's used by 3000+ lb tin tops (even in my Vette I preferred the DTC60 over the 70). I've used the wilwood pads before and liked them, that may be a good idea. 9and3 - keep us up to date on how they work out.

    Glad to hear the instant on throttle response is normal.

  6. #6
    Electron
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    Hey 9and3 - by chance are you going to be at Pitt Race with Chin the memorial day weekend? Chin is at Pitt Race 5/26-27 and then Mid-O 5/28-29. I know several guys who are making the trip from east coast to do all 4 days. Kind of thinking about joining them.

  7. #7
    Fermion
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    I will not be able to make that event. We are running our Champ Car at WGI that weekend. Chin is my favorite host of HPDE. You will really enjoy running with them at Pitt Race.

    Here is video of Jack Beachum of Chin running Atom at Pitt Race.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgYxrMTvjT8

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