Project Solo Spec Coupe, part 2

Images: Anthony Porta (top) & Max Hayter

Project Solo Spec Coupe, part 2

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

Project Solo Spec Coupe, part 2

Last week we got our hands dirty as we dug in and converted Richard Hayter’s D Street classed Scion FR-S for SCCA’s newest autocross class, Solo Spec Coupe. Now it’s time for the real fun to begin.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting from scratch or converting one of the “twins” (pre-2017 Toyota FR-Ss and Subaru BRZs) from another SCCA Solo class, the process should be pretty straightforward. Install the kit as supplied by Tire Rack, put a baseline setup on the car, and have at it. But what is the baseline? Fortunately, you don’t have to guess, as Tire Rack has recently introduced a setup guide on its website, offering a starting point for each item in the SSC package.

Unfortunately, this setup guide was not available when we completed our build, so our starting point was more of an educated guess. We relied on the experience Hayter had with this chassis in both Street Touring Xtreme and D Street trim, and maybe a little input from the peanut gallery.

When the Eibach swaybars were installed, they were both initially set on the softest setting, which requires fitting the OE end links into the holes closest to the end of the bars. This seemed like a reasonable starting point given the Eibach bar’s sizable girth compared to the OE units.

The Koni dampers, meanwhile, were set toward the aggressive side, with the fronts at full stiff and the rears in the middle of available adjustment range. Even though Koni built these dampers with performance driving in mind, the thought was they are still likely fairly compliant near the top of the range since they are a road-going shock.

Similarly, the baseline alignment was set aggressively. Mark DeShon, Production Manager at FR Sport, set the camber in the front at the max, which yielded -3.4 degrees on the passenger’s side and -3.2 on the driver’s side; rear camber was dialed in at -2.6 degrees on the passenger’s side and -2.5 on the driver’s. Our plan at the time was to dial in the camber level based on tire temperatures during the car’s early outings.

The toe up front was set just a hint toward out, at 1/64-inch, helping initial turn-in. The rear was set with 3/16-inch total toe-in, promoting stability on corner exit.

Like any good racer, though, it didn’t take long for Hayter to start second-guessing the setup. Case in point, before the car was off the alignment rack, Hayter had already shifted the front swaybar to full stiff.

With the chassis set, it was off to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for a Cal Club Region Solo practice day. Joining Hayter for the shakedown was two-time, Street Mod SCCA Solo Champ Mike Simanyi.

The Falken Azenis 615K+ tires were set at 35psi front, 30psi rear for the shakedown, and the duo were happy to see that even though the tire was very close to the spring perch on the front Koni struts, there was no tire rubbing, meaning camber would not have to be reduced to provide tire clearance.

So, what’s the performance verdict? “It’s fun,” says Hayter. “The tires feel good, but we’re on pace with E Street. We put [eight-time SCCA Solo National Champion] Brian Peters in the car just to make sure. He loved it, but was only a couple tenths faster than me.”

“It’s really fun getting back, and I am loving it,” says Simanyi, who has been on a bit of an autocross hiatus. “You come out of a Street Mod car that just does everything well, and you get into [the SSC car] and it’s a really cool challenge. I particularly love that you’ve got camber, you’ve got an affordable tire that wears like iron, and everybody’s on the same stuff. Any hindrances that we have, everybody else deals with too. I don’t know why, but that really appeals to me.”

After a few test runs, it was time to start tweaking the setup. “The [shocks] started full stiff in the front, half stiff in the rear; the front bar was stiff and the rear bar was soft,” Hayter notes. “The car was pushy in and loose on exit. We went full stiff on the rear shocks and started dropping tire pressures based on a lack of [tread] roll-over.”

While the shock and tire pressure changes helped, a bigger change was in order to tune the chassis to Hayter’s liking. “The car was better, but still pushy mid corner,” he says. “For the next day, we put the rear bar on full stiff and car was much better.”

A few weeks later, Hayter and Simanyi took another crack at the SSC car, with another visit to Auto Club Speedway’s autocross lot. “It was wet on Saturday morning, so we set the shocks one turn from full soft,” says Hayter. “Also, we further lowered the tire pressures – and the car felt great. When it dried, went full stiff on the shocks, but kept the lower tire pressures and we ran that way on Sunday as well. The car was great.”

With the tire pressures now set to 32psi front and 27psi rear, Hayter feels they have found a place the tires are happy, but pointed out they are dealing with heat management, as this is reportedly an area the Falken tire may be sensitive to.

“We spray the tires with water as soon as they get warm to the touch,” says Hayter. “There’s no noticeable drop-off in tire performance yet, but ambient temps have been in the 60s, so we’ll have to test some more once summer arrives.”

For Simanyi, watching SSC come to life and now taking part in the class is particularly satisfying since he was a member of the Solo Events Board during the time this class was being created.

“I think I might have the greatest pride in this, because this has the potential to be a hugely popular class,” he says. “It’s fun and it’s challenging, and it seems like it also has a really welcoming, friendly, competition community.”

By all counts, the SSC class is off to a strong start and is poised for great things in 2018 and beyond. Meanwhile, we’ll keep developing this car with Hayter and see what damage we can do come the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships.

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