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First autocross event in the Eco

2195 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  SlowBoost
Man, what a trip. Summary:

- The weight of the car is pretty brutal. No shocker there.
- The tires have no traction. No shocker there.
- Combination of the two above = no bueno. No shocker there.

It was actually pretty interesting. Our courses are not like some of the courses I've seen out on the East Coast that are shoved into a 600 sq ft pad. We have some decent stretches to get the engine up a bit and usually throw in some tighter sections on either end, so it turns out to throw the most at the car you could get. Of course every different club designs the course for their specific vehicles, so that goes any which way.

Notes:

- Under hard acceleration heading into a transition, the back end seems to float around. It doesn't feel very planted. Not sure of the cause of that right now.

- The car plows HARD with the combo of weight and tires stated above. But knowing that allows proper planning of the upcoming corners and allowing the car to float over the course and not trying to make it stick to a line actually works a little for maintaining speed.

- Someone mentioned prior that they felt that traction control ON helped the car feel more consistent. I'll agree. However, I was about 1 second faster on a 75-ish second course with the traction control OFF. Could have been psychological.

- I had the tires at 40 up front, and 36 in the back. I rolled over on the front just the right and expected amount. The rear tires however, barely looked like they had been scuffed beyond my daily driving marks. Very interesting. I'm still not sure after one event if the higher pressure in the front is more beneficial or not. Hard to guess on such a hard compound tire. It almost feels in the gut as if a lower pressure would be better to help the tire move around and not push as badly. But I'm pretty leery of trying that. Rear pressure will decrease in the next event.

- Power band is just not right where I want it. I'm considering going to the Dunlop street tires on an alternate rim in a smaller diameter to get the gearing a little better. The car never got into a wound up feel, so it still has a lot of room. Tire induced gearing will more than likely help.

- Nothing to be done about the weight. Deal with it. Try to get better traction and gearing to offset.

- Suspension in the slaloms was actually very nice. I was able to keep my foot in it longer than I was with the Focus or the xB. Both of those cars exhibited more torque, higher power, and lighter weight than the Cruze, but the Cruze felt really nice as long as it wasn't a prolonged throttle where the reference to the lightening up in the rear was felt. Even after the lightening in the rear happened, a hard turn in didn't really upset the back of the car. Again, there wasn't much unwanted movement from the back tires. Just that strange float from the chassis.

Had a pretty good time. Always nice to get into a new car and get beyond the "But I don't want to break it" stage. This is far, far, far from a class winning car. The Mini will still crush us. I was about 0.6 behind a Mazda 3 after the 3rd lap with the Mini about 5 seconds in front. I was about 5 seconds faster than a Prius on average, and about even with an 05 Focus with better tires. So I believe a better tire on the Cruze would help secure 3rd with the group we had today, but still be a 4th or 5th place on what we normally have out there. No way to catch a Mazda 3 and especially a Mini.

I lost my home made camera mount, but I did take some video to capture the sound of "low rolling resistance death." Didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, so I may or may not get around to posting it.

This is not going to help my Fuelly numbers, that's for sure. After 4 75 second runs and some idling, I was at 7mpg average. :tank:
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I think the tires are the real achilles heel on the Eco. The chassis feels pretty good, especially with some reinforcement, but man, the Eco goodyears blow chunks
 

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I read your post with interest, Slowboost. My guess is you never get out of second gear (good for what, just under 60?). So if that assumption is correct, your Eco is probably, with its lighter weight and more aggressive gearing in the 1st 2 gears (or 1st three, depending on what you read- not sure) the 'performance' model of the Cruze lineup.

Sounds like you've done this a good bit over the years. I recall the 1st autocross I attended (1975- I was in H.S.) at Santa Barbara City College's parking lot (in CA), and the lap times were around between 32 to 38 seconds. It seems to me that the fastest production car that day was a Fiat 850 Spyder, with an Ansa exhaust (cool little bundle of snakes thing) and front wheels with hugely negative camber. Managed a 32.8 or so lap time (still seems like yesterday!). I also remember a Saab 96 sedan with giant front tires (i.e. wiiiide) and vestigial rears. Out on the track it looked like a four legged animal with a broken back dragging its completely useless hind legs around, its 3 cylinder 2 stroke leaving a trail of blue smoke. Didn't do so well compared to the Fiat. And a stock '74 Alfa 2000 GTV that got away from its driver and sort of marred the right side paint. He said he thought he'd like to sell it- I asked him how much and he said $2500. The GTV was my dream car, mind you, and that would've been a steal. But alas he was just kidding. So within the year I made do with a 71 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe. Not an Alfa, but tons of fun anyway. Good memories!

Seems to me you might have said that you're not going to run the Trifecta tune. Reading up on the 1.4 liter via that link to a GM info page someone provided recently, makes me think that with running the kind of boost that tune gives you, head would be your enemy, esp. for autocrossing. Relatively low speeds, foot into it, and then stopping to let the engine cook.

Incidentally, how did your brakes hold up? The Eco brakes seem to be the target of some criticism by the main stream press. I doubt having rear disks would make much of a difference though.

Cheers,

Ron
 

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Boy, Ron. Autox was a completely different beast back then, wasn't it? There was a guy that brought a bitchin old Fiat to an event a few months back, It was faster than snot the first run, then blew something in the engine the second run. I haven't seen the car since. It was super cool, though.

I've been autocrossing and rallycrossing for only about 6 years on and off now. I was placing very well in rallyx until I started to travel heavily for work. I was running my Cosworth modified Focus for a while, not very competive on the parking lots, but fun out on the dry lake beds. I'm not good by any means.

Never got out of second on this course, and I don't expect it would ever happen at an SCCA event. They are pretty strict on the rules for speed and you figure a Vette getting up to speed is going to happen much faster than a Cruze getting up to speed. We'd just need too much room on most courses.

Cars to beat out there are the Mini right now in most of the lower classes. The Mini will pretty much destroy most the cars out there in HS, but FSP changes the game. When I used to run FSP, the Scirrocco was doing very, very well. Lorin Mueller does very, very well in their FSP prepped Focus.

Adding the tune would throw the car into FSP and at that point you'd be running against much lighter cars with cut fenders, lsd, wide wheels and tires, full suspension, intake and exhaust manifolds, etc. I think that the Cruze with just a tune and perhaps some wider wheels would still get destroyed out there in FSP. Its just too heavy.

Brakes seemed to hold up fine. I've never had a problem with drum brakes on the back of any of our weekend warrior cars. I suspect the bad reviews on the Cruze may deal with brake fade on the front due to so much weight up there, but you'd need much more time on the brakes than what we are doing. I got the wheels to lock up a couple times at the end of a straight into a 90* right to where the ABS grabbed, but most of the time it was accel, quick brake stab, turn, accel again. So I was never on the brakes long enough to see any poor perfomance. I was looking at the front rotors this past weekend and they seem awefully small. But who knows?
 
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