Jahn posting- So I have developed an out-of-the-blue weird online auto relationship with a fellow MK7 enthusiast Karl, the writer of the "Session MK7" drivetribe. It started with me asking technical questions of the MK7 platform since I am new to it and he seemed to be have knowledgeable unbiased posts on some MK7 enthusiast facebook groups we are members of. I personally don't post too much because I'm stock but enjoy reading what others have to say and the limits people are pushing with this platform. After a few back-to-back private messages, we kicked it off. He understand my love for all cars and that is sometimes rare with people being one-sided thinking of whatever car make/model they have MUST be the best in the world. If you read his autobio post (here: drivetribe.com/p/establishing-credibility-NxuR3XpQQtCeLY9cb1MAOw?iid=anltd_HkREqxA5VonyyLAg) you will see how he got started. This got me wanting to follow up with a few additional questions and thought it would be interesting to compare a motorsport background to mine which is more or less self-taught through trial and error in less than idea questions. I'll start this off with his replies to some questions I had for him:
Stolen from Karl's images.
Jahn- You state that you had a knowledgeable instructor, your father, as you were growing up. An instructor for 15 years and co-owns a private HPDE school. What made him switch from Hondas to BMWs? - He sounds like he owned many different generations of BMWs, e28, e30, e39. Of those cars, what did he like most? Least?
E28 M5 borrowed from http://momentcar.com/images/bmw-m5-1988-1.jpg
Karl- His all time favorite is an E28 M5, closely tied for second with an E39 M5. The e28 was the car that introduced him to BMW, so I think he has a soft spot. Besides that, I think the sedans have a smoothness that appeals to him. Both cars, despite being about 15 years apart, both have the same rawness. N/A engines. ITB's. Mechanic Limited Slips. But yet they are capable in canyons as well as GT cars. My dad loves all kinds of driving, so it's not always about the track.
Jahn- You told me he also had an Alfa GTV6 at one point. What other cool cars has he had in his stable?
If you know me (Jahn,) You know that a twin spark Giulia Sprint is my dream car. If this was Karl father's car, I am a jealous bastard. (Picture from photo archives)
Karl- So I firstly have to apologize, he had an Alfa GTA -- with a 4 cylinder. It did have the weird rear brake setup though! The most unique car in the family is actually owned by my grandfather, but I'm going to include it as part of the family. A 1959 Borgward Isballa coupe. It's fully restored and fully driveable. It has a 1.5L 75hp inline 4 with a single carborator. It's got fully independent suspension, no power steering or AC, no seatbelts and a 4-on-the-tree manual gearbox.
Borgward Isballa coupe, what a beaut. Borrowed from https://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/459001-1000-0.jpg?rev=2
Karl- For something directly in the family, we once owned a 1985 BMW 318is with a Metric Mechanic engine. I don't remember it well because I was very young at the time. The car most people will appreciate was a 1990 BMW M3 he owned. It was prestine, with just 59K miles on when we bought it. It was setup with Bilstein shocks, a H&R Springs, a Supersprint exhaust (complete with DTM tips), and coolest of all -- Shrick cams with a Motorsport Valve cover. The car was pristine, and I'm grateful I got to drive it.
Karl got to experience the unicorn in good running condition that many enthusiasts dream of. (Borrowed from https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xkgZvuOT7r0/WPjOM7gajVI/AAAAAAAA7Xc/ZvZZtSS2zGAndcgVm2V0MIkSt8Gc-BK1ACLcB/s200-c/1990-bmw-m3-e30-5.jpg)
Jahn- You said that you had a lot of passenger seat time on track days growing up. You noticed his smoothness. I have heard elsewhere that smoothness is key and differentiates amateur skill level from professional training. Is there in any particular car control that he was exceptional at? Steering rate? Brake feed? Throttle input? Or was it all?
Karl- I think it's an overall thing. Much like canyon carving, track driving has rhythm or a pace. If your smooth in one area you're typically smooth in all areas. The anthesis is usually true as well. I can't really elaborate on it more than that. He was just very smooth with all his inputs -- turn in, braking, unwinding. There's often a saying in track driving that "pretend there is a string attached between the wheel and accelerator pedal, and as you unwind the wheel you can apply throttle. I think he executed that perfectly.
Stolen from Karl. You can't tell me his father doesn't look like Luke Skywalker. No wonder they're so fast. It's in the blood. They're using the Force..
Jahn- You say that you weren’t afraid of the edge of grip- do you mean that you liked controlling tire grip at the limit? Or that you wanted more grip out of your car?
Karl- I'd say overall I pushed the car more than he did. When we first started that wasn't the case. But as I gained experience, I felt more comfortable at 10/10ths. My dad would always tell me he drove at 8/10th's, maybe 9/10ths. However, I wanted to find the limits of what I was capable of. Interestingly, I didn't have many off-track excursions. But I did find myself having occassional laps where'd lock tires on our non-ABS equipped miata, or cook a corner. Or zero-steer out of a sweeper. I just liked running to the ragged edge on track, because that's something you can't, or shouldn't, do on the street.
Stolen Pic from Karl. Tortured rubber. A sign that he goes hard when he can.
Jahn- Learning from your build process of your e36, it’s hard to think that with all the history your dad has with BMWs, did he not have any advice to shape your build or was this a project you wanted to be solely influenced by you?
Karl- So, interestingly my dad guided me in that build. I think he guided me to building a car that HE thought was good, but not what I wanted. I wanted track machine. I was going to spring for poly bushings, he insisted on heavy duty rubber, saying poly would be miserable on the street. I was going to spring for Tein or TRM coilovers, he ended up buying me some H&R Sport (not even race!) springs. When I finally did take the car to a race shop for my alignment, I was surprised in a bittersweet manor. The told me it was great that I did the bushings, but because I had used rubber, on track the dynamic change in geometry would render a good alignment useless. That my overall setup was too soft. Just as I had thought -- but it was too late now. The car was great on canyons because it was still complaint enough, but it was too soft for track duty, which is what I wanted.
Jahn- Do you have any idea at all as what your next short term goal for you as a further developing driver?
Karl- For a specific -- left foot braking. It's feels like the last "techinque" I need to add to my wheel house. Something I'm really not confident in. However, I also want to say that learning FWD has been a crazy experience. In near stock form (springs, sway, tires), I could get every ounce out of the GTI. For reference, I turned a 1:55. I later added nearly 100hp, coilovers, better brakes and tires, and only squeezed out about 1.5 seconds. Clearly the car had changes that made more than 1.5 seconds difference, but driving the car was a different animal. I don't know that I can specifiy a specific here, so maybe it's more of a long term goal, but, I'd like to see a 1:4X with my current GTI setup.
I need more pictures of my car
Jahn- Street bred
I've probably talked about it a little in my own autobio but for my whole life, I've really only experienced various Hondas for long in-depth reviews. It was what my family trusted and continually bought. That said, my father loved to test drive other cars and had no issue pushing 7/10s in a test drive. He often got the comment from salesman "you're not from around here are ya?" Seeing my dad's car control on the road was fun to observe. Seeing how he steered and accelerated and accepted a certain level of lateral G-Forces. He was never reckless but he wasn't shy with running a car harder than most. That probably started it for me in wanting to explore that type of car control more.
I met D'Sahn(co-contributor to Ridge Road) in high school. As stated before, we had humble beginnings. I had a hand-me down Accord Coupe and he had an automatic Grand AM coupe. When we became car friends, we clocked endless miles running backroads and exploring backroads because at the time, he was a much better driver than I was with more experience and I would be the co-pilot looking for new roads, critiquing his skill, and playing DJ. He drove that Grand Am in ways I am sure designers and engineers did not design it for but he made it work and it was great. We then departed in some of our experiences while in college(around 2008-2009). I worked as a lot attendant/auto transport for a Mercedes Benz dealer and felt what the goodlife was like, I experienced many different models. I experienced how quiet and refined an S class could be, and I learned how much I would love owning an E63 for a short period of time. In the mean time, he was lent a manual pathfinder when he was home. That was a true SUV and what my standard for SUVs are.
Besides the wheels being bigger than we liked, we loved having driving adventures with something different.
Then as I have said in the past, my next car was a used manual TSX. It was fun but not confidence inspiring, it was hard to have the car handle the exact way I wanted and I used mods to bandaid it's deficiencies to make it in tune more with how I drive but it never excelled in a way I hoped for. I tried autocross and I learned it could be fun but it honestly was too boring for me, atleast at my local track. You really only run one gear maybe two. The surface area is completely flat, and there aren't any imperfections or cambers on the track which I believe help make backroads fun. The TSX just wasn't lively or set up right to mesh with me. I suppose possibly similar experiences with his e36 Karl.
Mounting summer wheels and tires on the TSX
Installing a rear chassis brace in my TSX
The next chapter in my development was from passenger seat time in D'Sahn's next vehicle. A manual Impreza 2.5i. No not the turbo WRX. the base Impreza. Think about how soul crushing that is for an automotive enthusiast to have handed to you. That said, we had fun stock but it wasn't long before the mod bug hit and we were was in full swing with both of us modding. If one car(my TSX or his Impreza) weren't taking up garage space, we were out going for a drive.
Stolen from D'Sahn- Injecting a little bit of sport in a base economy car. Wish I had a picture of the final product.
It's always interesting beoing around non car people who have he same thoughts when we're working on our cars "what broke this time?" "ummm nothing, just trying to make it better"
His modlist was with bolts on involving an SPT short shifter with bushings, front camber bolts, wheels and tires, custom damper unit, sway bars, SPT exhaust, a few STi interior pieces, pads and rotors, and my favorite...custom driving light mounts(the round hella ones, not the new LED bars). He seamlessly mounted it through the top grill to increase night time visibility with not light housing shake over bumps. This is different from the usual bolt on bumper crashbars that people use as to add toughness and use as driving light mounts. He wanted a solid connection for better visibility.
Eric, as you can see, he didn't bother trying to increase power output as apparently it is too hard to do on his motor. That didn't take away from the fun and growth with this car. I watched him learn to drive an AWD platform in a manner that worked from him. He was quite quick in it and the few times we were able to run-in to others that chased us or wanted to be chased, he had no issues of keeping up. This experience and growth of his really made me decide to try to get to his level, perhaps surpass his abilities possibility, all while doing it in a FWD platform. So with my late 9th gen civic Si, I practiced on trying to drive that car hard but it required such a fight that my growth as a driver was slow but still getting better with each try. I'm not going to go on a rant that the MK7 even stock is amazing but it is extremely capable even without an LSD. There is a ton of confidence in the vehicle and you certainly get the chassis to play with you. Stock tire limits are not hard to reach and playing with it's inherent grip limit seem to match the roll and pitch of the car. On a track, that is a completely different story. I quickly felt at home in the GTI and now that D'Sahn has an R53 Cooper S, he has realized he knows how to drive AWD well on backroads but he is lacking skill in the FWD department so he is developing that.
So in conclusion, what is the difference between Karl and I as drivers? Quite a lot. I always wanted to do track days growing up but I'm from modest backgrounds and whatever vehicle I drive I have to use in the rest of my life. Additionally, I prefer backroads with variables and more dynamic changes. It requires me to stay alert and adds technicality in a sort stretch of road. You inheritenly cannot find tracks like some particular backroads. Now this is where I have to say please, I do not condone squids flying through backroads. D'Sahn and I have got this down to a science and can correct for that one drunken guy walking on a backroad that leads to nowhere, and we never cheat the lane divider. Why make a more difficult turn, easier? Man up. If there was a a shrunken Nurburgring that would be perfect. A track where high power figures aren't needed but lots of unique turns. That's different from some tracks that have the availablity of 3-carwide tracks to use inevitably making particular turns much wider and less technical than trying to stay in your own lane on the road. That said, I am rarely pushing above 9/10ths which aren't as track fast as Karl's 10/10ths, but my lower limits are possibly better controlled on the road than his. My development was a slow progression that took thoughtful analysis. I read as much as I could and practiced at various on/off ramps and clover leaves. I don't have run off areas on backroads and I have many more variables that can turn a fun night into a terrible one. I learned quickly there was a way to drive spriritedly in certain conditions to maintain as much control as possible while maintaining an emergency margin for error. I believe with my current experience on the road, I would be able to comfortable hold my own driving 7-8-9/10s more comfortably compared to others,maybe even with others having grippier tires, with my developed weight balance and grip control. Karl is able to extract every bit of speed available which is a completely different reward on the track from my drives. It would be interesting to be in each other shoes for a day and see how much improvement/ non-improvement each could make. I had to self teach myself what actions made the car perform better or worse with my inputs. Talking to him and learning from him, he has it down to a methodical science using scientific theory to improve little by little. As different as we are, I couldn't be happier to have him as a technical advisor and a friend.
So asking myself the same question I asked him- What is my next short term goal? Track days as well as left foot braking like he said. I never had the opportunity to before but I think I will in the future and I will make it a priority. There is a whole 'nother 10th for me to explore and perfect. It would be great to compare our driving techniques both on his playground and mind. As always gets out there and clock some miles. Again, check out his drivetribe "Session MK7" and subscribe to our tribes if they interest you.
Driving is never a chore for me.