Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fun Small Cars and The Morons Who Own Them

 While watching some NFL games this afternoon, I am always online. So while I was online and if you read my previous post you know I am looking at the '14 Ford Fiesta ST and '14 Chevy Sonic LT (the lowest cost style with the optional 1/.4L Turbo engine) to purchase as a fun daily driver.

 I am always curious on what others are doing with these cars. 

 I read a story back around 2004-2005 that more OEM's would be using small displacement turbocharged engines to replace engines larger than 2.0L for small cars (Class B think Fiesta, Class C think Focus). As of 2013/2014 model year, there are more factory turbocharged cars available than when I bought my Dodge Neon SRT-4 in late 2006.

 So as I said I am curious what others are doing, specifically with drag racing these cars. I am a fan of drag racing as a grassroots motorsport. Its affordable and as long as your car is slower than 11.50 and under 130 mph trap speed, only a helmet is required for safety equipment.

 Unlike road racing which requires a whole host of safety equipment and you'll be at a disadvantage against those that have trailered their cars. Meaning your car will have all its interior parts, likely air conditioning and other things not needed. You'll be at a weight disadvantage which is important in all forms of motorsport but maybe tractor pulls.

 Which is why I am not all that shocked at the lack of good drag strip numbers for the majority of these cars.

 I've found a Focus ST that ran 13.8 on street tires, that required an engine controller upgrade (Flash). Not bad, it could have run better though. Starting with the Dodge Caliber SRT-4, OEM's have been putting larger brake rotors on the cars. This makes sense as the cars have higher curb weights and more power. This has been challenging to get serious traction that racing slicks provide because nobody offered a slick for a wheel bigger than 15" that would fit on most small cars.

 (Actually I found some quicker cars on

 M&H Tires to the rescue!

 M&H Tires has always supported the grassroots/weekend warrior. I guess demand was there and they filled it, fantastic!

 Of course there will still be excuses by people that own cars that can use the traction but as the saying goes, you can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink it.

 As I said drag racing is an affordable way to get started in motorsports. I would much rather autocross than goto a HPDE (High Performance Driving Event) where you can't pass people aggressively. The reason is they don't want people with expensive cars getting involved in accidents which would dissuade people from coming.

 Why not autocross and drag race? You wouldn't autocross on the stock tires (nobody competitively does), so why would you drag race on your stock wheels and tires????

 But people continue to show up at the drag strip on street tires. Now some think this is harder on the drivetrain. While the wheel hop that primarily happens on street tires, even drag radials can break things (axles, motor mounts, etc), slicks eliminate that almost completely since the soft side walls of the tire absorb much of the shock to the drivetrain. Drag radials are much better than street tires because the even if they are radial tires, the side walls do flex, which helps with overall traction.

 Its much safer to the drivetrain to drag race on slicks (a) or drag radials (b). To not cause wheel hop with regular street rubber, you cannot be overtly aggressive with the launch, since the race track is more tacky than often very slick public roads.

 Street tires are not the fastest way down a drag strip. People do it anyway, because I think there's a false belief especially those with little to no experience that if they are quick on street tires, they'll be fast street racing (I don't encourage that....).

 In my next post about this subject, I will talk more about grassroots motorsports that you can do with your street car.

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