Archive for September, 2010

My Auto Import Center Autocross Review

Saturday marked the first autocross for my new 2011 Ford Fiesta with an event presented by the Furrin Group at My Auto Import Center in Muskegon Michigan. The event is run annually on the third weekend of September, and the course is the same each year. That is a huge help for me, since most Furrin autocrosses end with me spending most of my runs being lost in a sea of cones. There was something that made this event different for me, and that was the wet weather.

I woke to a decent thunderstorm Saturday morning that lasted until around 9:00 am, and light rain that continued off and on thru the morning. I arrived at the course around 10am for car prep and to walk the course. The run order dictated that my group, ST, would be running in the first heat when the track would be the dampest. My first run was very slow as I tried to remember the course and get a feel for how much or little traction was out there. The second run was much faster, but suffered wheel spin at most corners since it was still wet. By my third run, the course had a defined dry line with only a few corners being wet. If I had a shot at a good time, this would be it.

I got the ok to launch from the starter, and brought the engine revs up to where I thought would be a good spot. Sadly, I had the revs too high, and the car suffered horrible wheel hop before the traction control took over and reduced power. I regained traction and shifted quickly into second, which broke traction again causing some slight gearbox noise and the reactivation of the traction control system. Power was again cut going to the front wheels as I entered the slalom. Going around the tight sweeper, which was still very wet, the tires broke loose at exit onto the back straight. Each time the car lost traction, the computer cuts engine power until traction is restored. The actual straight was dry, so the computer let me use the engine to head towards the Chicago Box. The braking zone was wet, and the ABS activated for a split second, which it had earlier going into the back sweeper. After the Chicago Box came the front sweeper and I had decent traction going around that which leads into the small straight against the dealer’s service department. There is a slight bump leading onto the straight, that usually sends my Mustang into a spin, but the Fiesta felt well planted. I then entered the back sweeper again, but from the opposite side as the first run and suffered again from traction loss at exit. One last time on the short back straight before a chicane lead me towards the timing lights. Overall, a clean run, but with a horrible launch. The last run would have to be perfect to make up for the bad launch on my third run.

The Fiesta was a few cars away from launching on the final run when the sky opened up with a rain shower. The course was soaked and the dry line had vanished. Puddles were forming in the braking zones and at the back sweeper. I ran the Fiesta as hard as I could in those conditions, but the traction control would just stop the engine whenever wheel spin was detected. The launch was good, but I was bleeding time around the sweepers due the loss of traction and the activation of the wheel spin nanny. I tried too hard to make up time on the straights by braking as late as possible, but I just about lost control going into the chicane before the timing lights. I was on the brakes too late and too hard going into the chicane, and the rear stepped out. The ESC activated and kept me from taking out the timing lights. Thanks computer, I needed you on that one.

As it turned out, my third run was my fastest, even with the poor launch. The Fiesta handled very well and was easy to drive on course. Being able to turn off the traction control would have probably helped since I would have not suffered the loss of engine power at the corner exit. It is easier to deal with wheel spin using the throttle than having the computer do it. The computer just pulls too much power in hopes of gaining traction, which left me with my foot planted at the exit of a corner and zero response from the engine. I took forth with a Honda Prelude 4-wheel-steering taking first. Second place went to a 1997 Probe GT, and third a Focus ZX3. Only 2.1 seconds separated all 4 cars, and I had the least amount of power by a decent margin. The heavy 17” wheels slowed the Fiesta down and were the reason why I was placed in ST instead of HS. Considering having the least powerful car in the class, and a traction control system that can’t be turned off, I was very happy with how the Fiesta did compared to the other cars in its class. Next season will bring a more powerful Fiesta, along with a return of the CP Mustang. It should be an exciting 2011 season!

Final Results

1T ST 94 Zac M 94 Honda Prelude SI 4WS 56.472+DNF 50.509 49.898+DNF 50.637 50.509 -
2T ST 85 Thomas F 97 Ford Probe GT 56.555 51.060 48.867+1 50.884 50.867 0.358
3 ST 26 Brett R 03 Ford Focus 51.016 50.959+1 49.481+1 49.931+1 51.016 0.149
4 ST 07 Bryan R 11 Ford Fiesta 59.638 53.200 52.636 52.817 52.636 1.620
5 ST 47 William G Saab 900s 62.724+DNF 58.551 56.604 56.267 56.267 3.631

2011 Ford Fiesta Gallery

My Auto Import Center Autocross Gallery

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XPEL Headlight Film Installation

           

            One of the many downfalls of living in Michigan is putting up with the damage to your car caused by winter and terrible roads. A trip down the highway blasts your car with salt, sand, brine, ice, rocks, and the occasional rusted part falling off a truck. All of this abuse leaves the front of your car looking pretty rough. One part that is very susceptible to damage is the headlights. They are on the front lines of battle, and after a few winters, they deserve a purple heart and a desk job. Sadly, that doesn’t happen. To help protect the lenses from sand/rock abrasion and chips, I installed headlight protection film from XPEL on my 2011 Ford Fiesta.

            The XPEL Headlamp Protection Film is a multi-layered clear film that is composed of a scratch resistant top coat, 27mil polyurethane film, and a special adhesive. The film is much thicker than the body protection films, which helps dissipate energy from an impact. The film has exceptional levels of gloss, which is nice since most headlights turn dull and yellow over time. The film can be ordered in either clear, smoke, yellow, or blue. I picked the clear since I want to be sure to have the most amount of light placed on the road when driving in the winter. Since the Fiesta lacks fog lamps, I didn’t want to dim the only lights I have.

            The kit arrived with 2 precut sheets for the headlamps, and 2 for the LED parking lamps. Also included is a squeegee and instructions for the installation. I started by cleaning the headlamp to make sure it was free of dirt, wax, oils, or dead bugs. Before peeling off the backing, I double checked the fitment of each sheet to be sure they were going to fit. Sure enough, everything looks to be cut right to size. I then mixed a solution of 10% rubbing alcohol with water and used a spray bottle to soak the headlamp. I also sprayed down my hands to make sure I did not leave any fingerprints on the film. The next step is to remove the backing from the adhesive, and spray the backside of the film with the solution. With everything coated with solution, its time to place the film on the headlamp.

            With the film resting on the headlight lens, I used the squeegee to start displacing the solution from the center of the headlamp to the edges. The film slowly starts to adhere to the lens at this point, but a heat gun helps to get the film to conform to the very complex headlamp. Using the lowest heat setting, I gently heated the film until it began to flex. At that point, the squeegee comes back into action to displace more solution. Continually working from the center out, pushing away the bubbles, the film begins to adhere to the headlamp. The film looks cloudy once installed, and a few pesky bubbles existed in a few spots. This is normal, and after a few days in the sun, the film is clear the bubbles are gone. I did end up with a few fingerprints on the backside of the film as the solution dried on my hands and I went to reposition the film. They are slight, and I doubt anyone can find them.

            I was very happy with the quality of the XPEL film and the ease of installation. I had some help from my dad, and he was so impressed with the film that he ordered a set for his Fusion. For any climate, protecting your headlamps is a must. Every winter when I vacation in Florida, I am amazed at how many new cars have yellow headlamps. They may not get the rock and sand abrasion we get in Michigan, but they could surely use something like the XPEL film to keep the lamps from yellowing. The installation was easy, and it is a must for anyone who wants to protect their car and keep it looking great!

Gallery of installation pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brgt350/sets/72157624638294413/

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