The Factory Five team brought the 818R to the annual Grassroots Motorsports’ “Ultimate Track Car Challenge”. This is a drop-dead serious road race event that attracts the very fastest race cars from around the country. Factory Five Racing Nationals-winning driver John George wrote a great summary of how the car performed.
Ultimately, the car ran VERY FAST. We had upgraded the horsepower to 340 RWHP and left the transmission unmodified. The addition of full race slicks resulted in the loss of 3rd gear, so driver John George was forced to race the car in 2nd and 4th! Despite the loss of 3rd gear, the car still ran a very impressive 2:09 lap time.
The entire crew is confident (if we are able to use 3rd gear!) that the chassis is capable low 2 minute runs which is extremely impressive. The full article will come out in the next issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Here is John George’s play-by-play with an accompanying in-car video.
Photo courtesy of Dan Babb.
John George: “Thanks Dave Smith and Jim Schenck in entrusting me to drive the 818R at VIR in UTCC 2013. We had high hopes for this weekend signing up not only to participate in the UTCC but also in test/tune sessions to use those extra sessions to better the car. 818R with 340RWHP, Yokahama racing slicks, aero tested 2 days before at the wind-tunnel, WOW! a recipe for a great weekend.
Our first track session with the 818R at VIR was in test/tune session 1, I took it easy getting familiar with the FFR 818R finally on a proper road course which I know very well, and was easily putting around in the 2:11’s. The guys made a bunch of changes with regards to ride height at the wind-tunnel test two days prior and the handling of the car was not to my liking at speed, very twitchy. Unfortunately the track scales opened after lunch so we could not scale it right away, they made some ride height adjustments as I was scraping the front splitter under braking, and sent me back out for UTCC warm-up session.
I took it easy still running in the 2:11’s, the changes made were in the right direction but still not optimal. Next lap took turn 1 as normal, shifted into 3rd, then 4th, back to 3rd for turn 3, gently back on the power, the boost building up and bang! lots of grinding metal noises, 3rd gear gone in an instant! quickly fiddled with the shifter, got it in 4th, finished the lap and came in. Ugh! such a disappointment..
What to do now? no way fast times were going to be seen without 3rd gear at a track that only uses 3rd, 4th and 5th. Lets try to figure out why the car was not behaving at speed. We made some more changes, and sent me back out.
Next session out was the first UTCC timed session, I was gridded at the front with a bunch of cars behind me. Having no 3rd makes driving in close proximity to other cars extremely difficult. I have to use momentum and the massive grip of the slicks to stay in the power band in 4th, but with other cars around me getting balked in the turns makes it impossible to get a decent lap. You need 3rd coming out of turn 1, going through turns 3-5, coming out of oak tree (turn 12) onto the back straight – very important turn to get a great launch as it leads to a massive straight, and out of the rollercoaster into hogpen (turns 14-16.) With all the traffic behind and in front I was unable to get a clean lap and only managed to run best of 2:18’s, very disheartening.
The scales were open now, the guys scaled the car (think it came in just over 1900 lbs.) and the cross weight was completely off.. They changed the ride height by 16 turns in total on the drivers side (raised the drivers front 8 turns, lowered the drivers rear 8 turns, that is a massive adjustment btw) re-scaled it, and was back to 50% cross. We decided to skip the rest of the test/tune sessions and only focus on running the UTCC timed sessions as we didn’t know how much longer this transmission would last.
UTCC timed session #2 I started late to try to get some clean laps, there was a BMW in front of me and I practically stopped on track to get a good gap to him, then went for it. Use momentum, be smooth, maximize the grip of the tires, try to do 2nd to 4th shifts quickly to not loose the boost. Problem was the transmission has a hard time shifting fast now and I had to fight to get it in 2nd, you can see I almost went off in turn 1 fighting with the trans. It really bogged coming through turn 2, loosing probably 2-3 seconds there. Driving the VIR esses is something special when you have slicks and aero. In my FFR Challenge car I enter at 120 mph, but come out of the esses at 100mph. With the 818 enter at 120 mph but am able to maintain that speed throughout! Then turn 10, a really fast left-hander, you dab on the brakes, then turn.. (was 20 mph faster there and 1.5+G’s with the 818R vs my Challenge car) Got to love down-force! Amazing! I shifted down to 2nd for oak tree, on straight shift as fast as I could to 4th, still felt like in the boost.. good! tighten seat belts, play with flashing the front lights, shift into 5th and get ready to slam on the brakes for the rollercoaster turn 14. Downshift from 5th to 4th was a little painful but got it done, then concentrate and flow speed through turns 15-16. The car bobbled bad there, felt fuel starved, probably lost another 2-3 seconds, but it picked back up, focused getting out of hogpen and onto the front straight smooth and fast. Finally a semi-respectable time of 2:09.491! not bad for not having 3rd. Also, the high speed instability was fixed! scaling was SO off that it must have been tri-podding at speed on the straights! I was hoping to have a go at it again in session 3, but if you notice on the video.. the voltage is at 10V, alternator’s not working, or the belt is gone!
UTCC timed session #3 saw me starting 3rd, but unfortunately didn’t go anywhere because the battery was completely dead. No second chance to better my time, finally figuring out how to drive without 3rd gear..
So.. My thoughts on the car: unbelievable grip! the brakes are excellent, handling has neutral feel, stable, very predictable, and steering is light and very responsive. With more development I’m positive we can make it a lot faster, just have to work out the mechanical issues that always exist with a brand new racecar.
Just a note on lap times, best time I have set at VIR was in FFR#85 Enduro Challenge car (aero, 380 rwhp) was a 2:05.0, and my track record in FFR#48 FFR Challenge Spec (320 hp) is a 2:06.7. I’m positive 818R can easily do 2:04’s!
Photo courtesy of Matt Poplin.