GT Live 2006 — The Element Tuning Story

GT Live, what a story I have to tell. Going into this event Element Tuning really just wanted to iron out the setup of our new STI. One day before the event we removed the temp tags so we’ve been on an accelerated learning curve over the last few weeks to get this car ready for “Limited” Time Attack competition. Knowing the competition we were up against competing with “Unlimited” cars we really didn’t have aspirations of winning but were using this event as a measuring stick. Since I was going to drive the car we decided to keep the car mild and run the Element Hydra EMS, Hydramist, TurboSmart E-Boost and our Element GT52 bolt on turbocharger which is based off of the TD06 frame but uses a Garret GT30R compressor wheel and a few other items. We had up to about 450 whp reliable HP available to us but more importantly it was very easy to drive with a huge powerband.

We showed up late on Thursday not in time to run the practice session as we hadn’t installed a new set of race pads yet. A big special thanks goes to Ken “Brake Guru” for delivering our brake pads and titanium backing plates and kindly installing them at the track for us.

Friday morning was nothing but rainy and cold! We braved the wet session and headed out to bed in the new pads and feel the out the car in the rain. I started at medium boost and quickly dropped down the lowest boost setting we had. LOL! To say it was slippery would be an understatement. To our surprise we ended up with the fastest practice session time on Friday morning.

For the second session we needed to adjust our tire pressure as we just weren’t able to get the operating temperature up. We also adjusted the front camber to compensate for the lack of grip. This made a huge difference but the car didn’t feel right so I pitted in and my crew took a look under the hood. They found under the hood a broken clamp on the turbocharger coupler and tightened it up. With tire temps and pressures in hand everything looked good but we were 4 seconds slower than Mark in the AMS EVO with a 2.32. Knowing 4 seconds is a lot of time I wasn’t optimistic. As soon as I jumped on the throttle I felt like I had 100 more HP and easily pulled off the track with a 2.23 lap time, the fastest wet time for Friday’s afternoon session. At this point I’m starting to think we’ve made some smart choices by running a conservative tire such as the Toyo RA1 and modest power. I thought to myself if it stays wet we might actually have a chance.

Saturday morning was again wet and cold but it was no longer raining hard. At this point the Element STI is feeling pretty good and we didn’t want to stray too far from our dry setup as its looking like Sunday will be clear. With a damp track and the car feeling good I’m able to pick up the pace dropping my times down into the teens. I pull off with a time of 2.12 in the wet and take a break. As the track is drying out towards the end of our 50 minute session I feel it’s time to get some dry line testing and the Cyber EVO also goes out and quickly rips off a 2.02 in the semi dry conditions. The dry line is very narrow and it’s still wet in most places so I use one lap to warm up the tires and I go for it on the second lap. As I exit turn one I’m into 5th gear approaching “Nascar” around 100 mph, get on the brakes hard, and slowly turn in but the car isn’t and I go off. The grass is wet and I’m not slowing down at all! I blow through the first tire wall stacked 2 deep, I blow through the 2nd tire wall stacked 2 deep, and stop 2 feet from hitting the guard rail. I couldn’t believe what just happened but honestly I was extremely relieved I wasn’t seriously hurt. Thank God and give the thumbs up to the corner marshal. When he realizes I’m ok he radios in he thinks something broke on the passenger side front wheel just before I went off.

Just behind me in this picture you can see the two tire walls I hit.

With the car back in the pits my crew assesses the damage and asks if I want to race. I don’t know can we fix it? James from JRP USA say’s “answer the question, do you want to race?” Yes, I want to race! James and Eddy from JRP start pulling parts and swapping things over in the steering and suspension.

Dale and Steve from Boxer 4 racing had me looking the other direction as they pulled the radiator support out with a strap tied to an STI. LOL! The hammer is smashing the body work back into shape, metal is getting pulled, holes are getting drilled (Steve likes drilling holes), and duct tape is everywhere.

Tim from WRXHackers bugging me why I don’t post there. LOL! He ties a mean knot good for pulling body work.

About 6 long hours of hard work and the car doesn’t look half bad. I can’t thank these guys enough for putting in the effort so we could make the main event but it was too late for the only dry session of the event.

“seriously that fender will buff right out”

Without any dry practice I’m praying for rain and my wish comes true. We arrive to a soaked track Sunday morning and it’s not going to dry out by our event. I feel pretty good but a little sore in my neck and back. Element Surge tank very important for the main event as it allows us to run with as little as 2 gallons of gas.

I’m in no hurry to be first on the track but the Cyber EVO makes a pass and hits a 2.11. I get wind of this and am not really concerned at this point as I had run a 2.12 before in the wet. I make my way out and the car feels good in the handling department but something is wrong and the car won’t rev past 5k rpm. I pull in after a few laps in the 2.32 range and Mark with AMS is in the 2.28 range. I pop the hood and James and Eddy find one of the charge pipes coming loose from the throttle body (over sight from the accident). They tighten the clams and send me out again but the session is over before I can get a time. We believe we solved the problem and I know I can go much faster so head out for session 3. I have stable boost now but the car will not rev past 5k rpm so I just short shift the car and do my best to make it around the track and I improve my time. I pull in to have the crew see if anything else is wrong but we cannot see anything obvious externally or in the Hydra EMS mapping. Chad has just beaten our time and bumps us to 4th overall so I go out with nothing to loose and only a few minutes left on the clock. I’m driving my hardest sliding the car from turn to turn all while shifting at 5k rpm and the car is just getting worse and worse. I can’t even break 120 mph on any of the straights but I just stay in it. With all the problems I was still able to improve our time to a 2.23 within a tenth or so of third place.

Eventually we found the problem to be either a damaged alternator belt or the alternator moved from the impact causing it to slip. At high rpm the voltage wasn’t high enough to keep the coil packs happy. The belt eventually broke but a replacement solved the rpm limit problem.

I was frustrated but still very proud of what everyone had done to get me and the Element Tuning car back on the track. We didn’t win but we never gave up either. With a healthy car there is no doubt in the wet we would have been right there with the front runners but to finish behind them was nothing to be ashamed of even with a healthy car.

Engine is OEM 2006 STI
Element Hydra EMS
Element Hydramist
Element GT52 Bolt-on Turbocharger Internal WG
Element Header
Element Fuel Surge Tank
Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump
TurboSmart E-Boost 2
TurboSmart Megasonic BOV
Clutch Master’s STG4 Clutch
1000cc Low Impedance Fuel injectors
Fuel Rails
Ported TGV Housings
JIC Suspension

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