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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Buddy Club Media Day at Willow Springs

On May 2nd, we went out to Willow Springs Raceway for Buddy Club's 2nd Annual Media Day - an opportunity for the company to showcase its new ATCC (Asian Touring Car Championship) Honda RSX race car piloted by Jun San Chen - the head of Buddy Club and also a long-time veteran and multiple Championship-winning ATCC driver.

Buddy Club is not as widely known in the United States just yet, but it has an incredible industry-leading presence in Asia - especially Taiwan and Japan. They primarily make aftermarket parts for Honda and Acura vehicles, but also step out of that realm every so often. This is a true motorsports driven company, with an array of race cars from small Honda cars such as the Integra Type R and the RSX to 4-door sedans such as the Toyota Chaser... and what a looker that one is.

They product line has a wide range including: body kits, wheels, exhausts, suspension parts, wings, seats, miscellaneous racing accessories, and some electronic gizmos.

We recently dynoed Buddy Club's Racing Spec Condenser - an electrical grounding system with a battery current and voltage stabilization control unit. I have to maintain anonymity of the race car, but it showed a 3% increase in torque throughout the rev-range that is used on the track (3500 RPM and on). The driver of the race car was taken by complete surprise that such an electronic gadget could do this, as we ran multiple dyno runs with the same, consistent results. We disconnected the condenser, and it was back to previous torque curve, reconnect it, and it jumps back around 3%. The driver was a bit more than excited as he thought he had done most of the tricks for horsepower including expensive processes such as polishing the gears to aid reduce loss of power due to friction.

I had previous experience with a good grounding system during the days of tracking the Nissan 350Z and recall the positive results I saw on the dyno just with the ground wires, but this technology is taking that one step further, by increasing and stabilizing the voltage to eliminate any inconsistencies in the supplied voltage as is usual even with brand new cars' electronic systems.

Something that we also use on our race car are the Buddy Club aluminum lug nuts - they're so light, that when I was first handed a pile of them, as an expectation, I tensed my hand to recieve the weight, and once they were put in my hand, my hand jerked up and almost spilled them. Lightweight is the best thing we look for in motorsports. With less weight, the car can accelerate, brake, and corner better as well as consume less fuel, put many of its components under less stress, and allow the tires to last longer. Lightweight is the true golden bullet in racing. Of course, it always has to be balanced with reliability - oftentimes, the weight gets taken out of the wrong places of the race car that cause much larger problems. But with lighter lug nuts, you can't go wrong, it's a no brainer for us. In all, we probably saved over 2 pounds when you consider all 4 corners of the car - and that's unsprung weight. That almost makes up for the weight we've gained by going to a wider wheel to accomodate the 305/35/18 Toyo tire.

Anyway... back to the test day at Willow Springs. We had a nice chunk of track time to help us sort the car out for the upcoming World Challenge race at Mid-Ohio (May 20th - be there!). Mike Kojima, an engineer at NISMO USA, was kind enough to help us in the suspension setup. With a few clicks on the shocks, a few pounds on the tires, and a minor adjustment to the swaybar per his recommendation, the car felt like a completely different animal - and a great one at that. The behavior went from huge plowing characteristic with an enormous understeer to an almost-neutral balance at all segements of the corner - turn-in, mid, and exit. Thank you Mike!!

Unfortunately, Mike Kojima was involved in a race incident this past weekend at Willow Springs, which has landed him in a hospital with a few broken bones in his back. He is going to make a full recovery, and appears to be doing a lot of sleeping on morphine. The young stallion that he is, I am sure he will be better than before when he comes out.

We finished the day off with a photoshoot of the race cars, including our very own Skyline GT-R, and I was greatful for Jun San Chen to consider me among the ranks of the championship-winning ranks of Buddy Club factory drivers to attend the event on behalf of Buddy Club.

So, check it out: Buddy Club - US Website

Looking at the weather forecast for Lexington, Ohio, where the Mid-Ohio track is located, it appears that there is nothing but rain for the next 10 days. We are racing on the 11th day from now, so if you can, please, get up and do a quick rain dance for us, to ensure that we can show 'em what a GT-R can really do in the rain.

We're leaving this coming weekend, and we can't help but feel good about the promise of rain, and the condition of the race car.