A few klicks south of Phoenix, Arizona, is where you'll find Firebird International Raceway, the site of the highly anticipated second round of the Pro Track Challenge Series. The short 1.6 mile road course has been described as a somewhat funky track configuration, as it's a dragstrip connected by turns on either end, picture a spoon with finger grips.
One of the challenges for Dave Martis with the G35 is finding ways to put the cars awesome power on the track, but Martis says he very pleased with the progress so far.
With a second round class win at Firebird Raceway, the K&N Motorsports Infiniti G35 now has a good lead in the Redline Pro Track Challenge Series points championship.
"The course is tight through the twisty sections so you need a setup to be able to throw the car around, and this section doesn't require ultimate power," explained Dave Martis, the Research and Development manager overseeing the K&N Motorsports Infiniti G35 development. "But then you come screaming onto the dragstrip, which has been used for years and the traction properties are totally different, so the car wants to do crazy stuff. Once you get it fairly straight, you mat the throttle and rocket down to the end of the dragstrip, then brake hard to get it whoa'd down for the first turn."
The stage was set for ideal day of practice on Friday, although Mother Nature had other plans. Racers and teams awoke to steady rain that made for a very soggy morning and a very slippery track. "It rained all day Friday and up to about 1pm on Saturday," said Martis. "The track dried enough by about 2:30 Saturday to allow us to lay down some laps with the G. The car was quick, but the setup wasn't ideal for the track configuration. We made adjustments Saturday to allow Paul (Brown) to get around the track quicker and the RTLA officials again asked me to run the car against the Circuit Battle big guns for the TV show."
In stark contrast Sunday was a beautiful day. The air was cool and the G was laying down some serious power. Suspension changes were made the car was clicking off lap times in the high 1:03 range on worn Hoosier tires (track record was 1:04). Overall the G35 with Brown at the controls came away with a first place in the Time Attack, with a lap of 1:02.835, securing another first place finish in class. The K&N Motorsports Infiniti G35 now has a solid lead for a championship title.
We made some changes to the suspension to make the overall platform of the car more stable through the turns," continued Martis. "These changes allowed the car to transition faster with more control. We also switched to a different type of differential in an effort to get the car to drive off the corner with less wheel spin. The new differential really helped in this area. The car has so much power it easily breaks the tires loose when you mat the throttle. Now it hooks up much better."
"For the Circuit Battle TV show we bolted on a fresh set of Hoosiers and started at the back of the pack because we gave up the qualifying race to run the Time Attack event. The sticker tires gave us much needed grip and Paul drove it hard to come from the back to fourth in the Super Session race."
The car turned scorching lap times and laid down a 1:02.393 in the race, second only to Lou Gigliotti in his ALMS Corvette, who bested the G by less than a heartbeat at 0.053 seconds, with a lap of 1:02.340. "For the two lap shoot out, we made it to the semi final round, and got beat by Lou's Corvette, but Paul was just mere inches off his bumper at the finish," adds Martis.
In examining the areas in which the G35 can still improve Martis says, "Rear grip is an area where we still need to make improvements. A key component in any road race car is for the driver to be able to get on the gas early before the completion of a turn to increase the car's speed down the straight sections of the track. This equates to the fastest lap times. We are still working on ways to get the power the car makes to the ground. We are making progress, and make changes after each event, and we will get there. It is all part of the development process when you build a race car."
As the weather becomes hotter, managing the heat will also become a factor. "We haven't had a problem so far this year and didn't last year either. But we are running the car much harder this season, and also pulling double duty so to speak (we race in both Pro-Time Attack and Circuit Battles each weekend). As the summer temperatures go up everything will get heat soaked and that might take its toll on parts. We've done a good job in ventilating the car, and have coolers where needed, but we need to be prepared, and so we have spare parts on hand in case of heat related failures."
Round three of the Redline Pro Track Challenge Series will be at AAA Speedway in Fontana, California, on the weekend of May 28 and 29.
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