31st August 2009

First drive

OK, so I had technically driven the car before, but only onto and off the trailer. Now it was off onto the wild wild roads of Cambridgeshire, to pit man and machine against Fenland roads. And, in particular, to see whether the measurements I'd made of the vicious speed bumps near my house were accurate, and whether the car would make it over them or not...  

Sunglasses, check. Cap, check. Ignition key, check. RAC card, check.

And off I went. Initial impressions were pretty favourable - the clutch is reasonably progressive and easy to use, the steering is a bit light but reasonably quick and feelsome, and it does indeed make it over the speed bumps (although at the moment the ride height is about 15mm higher than the minimum allowed in the RGB series). It is rather noisy and 'buzzy', which I assume is a feature of having the engine solidly mounted. At lower revs different panels go in and out of the engine's resonant frequency, and at some revs it's quite noticable how much things like the interior mirror are vibrating in sympathy. However, it's a race car so that's par for the course.

There's rather more driveline clonking than the Furybird had (or indeed the Striker has) but that may be a feature of the R1 engine as opposed to anything else. It's really only noticeable at slow speeds, however, and once you're moving it's fine.

Before heading out I'd also adjusted the gear linkage to increase the mechanical advantage, thereby reducing the amount of movement at the paddles required to change gear. I'm glad I did - the change is nice and light and if anything I suspect I'll reduce the movement required even more. There's one hell of a clonk going into first (again, more than the Blackbird and ZX9R powered cars) but that's something that may go away once the engine's got used to being used again.

Other than that, it's a BEC. Loud, nimble, and fast. I think once it's properly sorted out it'll be an absolute peach.

However, it's fair to say that it's not quite sorted yet. Nothing serious - it goes, stops and turns, and it got me 10 miles down the road and back again (twice) without any serious issues. However, there were a few minor issues, quite a few of them related to the DL1/DASH2 combination that I'm now starting to get heartily fed up with.

In no particular order, things I need to sort are:

1. The throttle pedal is sticking very slightly - not much, but enough to discourage heel'n'toeing on downchanges. I thought it was sticking a bit earlier and I think it's the cable. I'll redo the cable with a single length of cable rather than the cable plus 2 'noodles' it's got at the moment and see if that improves things, and also tweak the barrel adjusters at either end.

2. The driving position's not quite right - I have to bend my ankle rather a lot to press on the brakes firmly. Given the adjustability in the pedal box, however, that's easily sorted. However, I might just make up a new foam seat and adjust the seating position that way - and this time I will just cover it in tank tape...

3. The tacho's reading double, for some bizarre reason - it wasn't doing so before the firmware update. I think I can tweak that by using the configuration programme, and telling it that there are 2 pulses from the ECU per engine revolution, but it's a bit strange - the readings from the DL1, which uses exactly the same input, are correct.

4. The speedo wasn't working on the first drive - apparently when I reflashed the DASH2 it defaulted to 'no speedo' setting, for my comfort and convenience. After all, surely only a minority of people are going to want a speedo... Oh, and the gear indicator isn't working (no surprise there).

5. There's a slight weap from the fitting I made for the
cam cover breather - I suspect that since there isn't a seating groove machined on the bottom of the fitting, and perhaps due to the roughness of the cam cover, it's not quite sealing. I think I'll replace the O-ring with some of my Permetex Ultra Copper RTV High Temperature Lambda-sensor safe sealant. Well, at 12 pounds a tube I may as well get the most out of it, and I've got a fair bit left.

6. The mounts for the harness straps are rather close together and as a result the straps dig into my neck. I suspect it won't be so uncomfortable when I've got a race suit on, but I think I'll end up looping the straps over the bar which the harnesses are currently mounted from and use the bosses welded to the chassis. There's enough spare length in the harness straps to allow me to do so - it'll just mean modifying the headrest to allow the straps to clear it, and that's easy enough.

7. The steering wheel's not straight when the car's running straight. I'll sort this out when I give the car a preliminary geometry set-up.

8. The bonnet lifts slightly at speed and starts bobbling around. I'm cutting some vents in the side of the bonnet in order to assist with the cooling, and I'm hoping that by doing this (and thereby reducing the under-bonnet pressures caused by the airflow through the radiator grille) I can at least reduce this without having to resort to extra clips, straps or other fixings on the bonnet. It's mildly disconcerting rather than being a real problem, though.

9. The rear deck of the car flaps around at speed. I'd noticed this when I was towing it, and not surprisingly it also does this when it's travelling under its own steam. I've got some more Aerocatches to fit on the rear deck to stop it from doing this.

10. When you finish a drive, there's a whistling sound as the pressure in the fuel tank vents from the one-way relief valve. If you pop the fuel cap there's a very brief phhfft-hisss as the pressure is released, but it's quite disconcerting. I assume it's just because the fuel being returned from the fuel rail has been warmed up and has expanded.

11. When I tried using the reverse mechanism for the first time (at least, for the first time with the car on the ground) the 60 amp fuse blew. This is odd, as the same reverse mechanism used to work perfectly well with a 40 amp fuse relay in the Furybird I, but it seems that here it's drawing more than 60 amnps. Fortunately the fuse size I've used is available in anything up to 200 amps, so hopefully one of them will be more than enough. I'd prefer to have a fuse on the reverse mechanism power supply, just in case of user error - I've seen the results of trying to use an electric reverse mechanism with the car's handbrake on, and it wasn't pretty - the wiring to and from the regulator melted quite spectacularly...

12. Most seriously, the engine temperatures were rather alarmingly high after a fairly short and not particularly strenuous drive. Admittedly, the ambient temperatures were rather high, but even so the oil temperature in particular was a bit concerning. The water temperature was less concerning - it stayed reasonably stable at around 90 degrees C while the car was moving, only going above this when I was trickling around town on my way back to the house. However, the oil hit 105 degC, despite only cruising along at 55/60mph, which is a lot higher than I'd expect to see. It may be just that the engine's overfilled with oil, given the rather unscientific method I used to fill it initially (erring on the side of 'too much' than 'not enough' and on the assumption that it'd just spit out any excess.

The cooling is obviously the most serious of these, so it's one of the first things I'll be concentrating on. I'll adopt the usual strategies - build a shroud around the radiator to make the most of the airflow through the nose, cut vents in the side to allow an escape route for the hot air, and if necessary add a duct to get some cooling airflow onto the oil/water heat exchanger. If it really proves necessary then I'll add an oil cooler and/or better radiator, but I'd rather not given the faff involved.