This is the first track test of the Formula F “Fit” production engine and HPD-produced ECU. It begins at 5:30 a.m., with the team heading up the “Grapevine”. Lots of fog, but at least it’s not raining. The track is fogged in as we arrive and get set up. “Cold” is the theme of the day, with a high of only 58 degrees. We have a short debrief with our driver, Robert Podlesni , to go over our goals and get him familiar with the dashboard configuration. Robert drives the track in our support vehicle to see what the grip level is like. It feels slick just walking around in the pit lane. Thank goodness he has many miles here.
The fog lifts at about 10:00 a.m. and Robert heads out. Engine sounds good; but as he heads into Cotton Corner we hear silence! Oh … just a harmless spin in the damp conditions. Robert quickly gets back on track and gingerly does three more laps. “You get all the torque right away,” Robert informs us afterward. We nod knowingly, as we have observed this on the dyno and know it is a by-product of the restrictor.
After an installation inspection, the track having dried, it is time for some long runs. Robert says the engine feels good and shifts good, but he is locking the left front before the right. After some discussion, we agree to just monitor the situation.
The engine is running trouble free; all vital signs are good, and we get down to some 20-lap stints. (A typical SCCA national is 18 laps long). Robert is turning consistent lap times, occasionally getting the car up on two wheels in the “bus stop” portion of the track. The HPD crew is pleased with how things are going. “We just keep putting gas in her and watch her run” says crew chief Billy Fetterman. Robert tells us the engine is a blast to drive; very responsive.
As darkness falls, we end the day with 90 laps, 270 miles and some happy faces. Thanks to the HPD crew and thanks to Robert for a fantastic driving marathon. We can’t wait for the season to start.