Carbon EVO Dash… Part 1

Well, I always find my way into various projects. It is funny, the more things you say yes too the more that you can learn. So with that in mind I set off to make a new dash for the Kern Racing Pikes Peak EVO.

For those of you not familiar with this car, I have built a few parts for the Kerns already. Last year I worked on their Aero Package and in the last few years the Kerns, piloting this car, have held the record for the Time Attack 4wd class at Pikes Peak. This team is unstoppable with the proper equipment and I am happy to be able to help them with their quest.

This year they are switching to Pikes Peak Open. This allows them a few more options in lightening the vehicle. Weight is a huge advantage in racing. Lotus has a saying “performance through light weigh” this saying just means that you don’t need as much power if you have less to move. So with the new possibilities every option needs to be considered. So Dave has been working on ideas. Remove brackets, replace windows with lexan, remove lights, remove dash…. wait. We can’t remove the dash, we need that to block reflections from the windshield. we need it to hold critical components like the speedometer and switches that we need. So instead it needs to be a composite dash of some sort. Now to give you an idea, the current dash weighs in at 38lbs. That is a lot of weight! Why does it weight that much you ask? Well, glovebox, vent plumbing, plastic bits, tabs, mounting brackets and more stuff that isn’t needed in a race car all add up pretty fast. With a carbon dash, we should be able to get that down to about 2 lbs! 36lbs of weight savings!

So to start I began with the original dash. This is to provide the form of the dash that we will end up with rather than try to duplicate it out of foam. The first steps were to mount this to a board, and begin creating the form of the underside of the dash. This dash will have a slightly different shape than the original in order to minimize material and make it very stiff and light.

Carbon Dash Project

I started shaping the foam and coating it with bondo in order to create a nice solid surface to create the mold from. Any factory dash is going to have texture to it and I needed to eliminate that texture. So coating it with bondo while starting to fill in the holes was pretty crucial. We are eliminating all of the vents on this dash except for the defrost vent. This one we will still need!

Carbon Dash Project

Carbon Dash Project

After the first layers of bondo a lot of sanding goes on, I kept smoothing this thing down so that the dash shape stays the same. I don’t want to lose the form of the dash while slathering it with all this bondo, so I figure work my way up slowly. Once I got to a point that I felt comfortable I started filling in gaps. Vents on the sides were the first stop.

Carbon Dash Project

The vent holes on the front needed to be filled next, so a piece of foam went in and bondo was applied over top. This is a bit complicated because we really want to make sure the shape holds true to the shape that the dash gives us already. The last thing I’d want is for someone to be able to identify where the vents were at one point.

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Slowly I built up layers and sanded them back to get the shape correct. Over a few attempts I got this thing pretty close.

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I am sure you can see that there are a lot of colors going on now. Primer grey, bondo (grey), glazing putty (white) and the actual dash (black). All these colors start taking away the visual cues of the lines that you are looking for when you are trying to make a part. So the best plan is always to coat it again every once and a while. get a good idea what it looks like in one color and start working hard at the areas that need improvement. I knew that I wasn’t ready to be done, but I really wanted to see where I needed to work the hardest so I did a quick coat of primer. Nice and heavy and this time I did black so it would give a good visual indicator.

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I am sure you can see that there are some inconsistencies in this thing. It isn’t perfect by any means and it isn’t perfectly straight or anything. But this is getting very close. I have a bit more sanding to do, I have a bit more bondo to do and hopefully in the next day or two I will be able to finish up this part of the project so I can start waxing it and pulling a mold off this buck. Check back for the next part. If you have any questions, post them up! I’ll try to answer them.

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Oh, notice as well, all the seams are filled, all the switch locations are filled and everything is pretty close to smooth. Details are next!

Check out Part 2 of this project here

CORE with the Kern’s

It’s all part of building a race car. Nothing works perfectly the first time around. Ask Rhys Millen. They built a million dollar car for Pikes Peak last year and without enough testing they had issues with the wing, the transmission and on and on. Well, for the Kern’s it isn’t that different. Each test has revealed a problem. The first showed some issues with the diff. The second test showed some issues with the suspension and between those tests we had some issue with the oil pump.

Yesterday we headed out to CORE and we tested again. 11-2:30 with only a few stops that were each under about 10 minutes. About 3 hours of running at 80-100% (except when I was driving that was probably more like 50%!) This thing is proving itself! The engine runs strong, very strong! The transmission is working nicely and the suspension is nearly dialed. One more switch around with valving and possibly a bit of a change on the rear spring rate and this thing should be ready for whatever you can throw at it.

Check out some video from the day and don’t forget to check out RaceKern.com for updates from the Kerns

The ice is where it’s at!

This year has been quite the year for speed on the ice for me. I have raced nearly the entire season at Georgetown and now I have had the chance to run up at Bridgestone Winter Driving School as well!

Georgetown is a pretty amazing thing to have nearby. The Our Gang Ice Racers provide very affordable racing very nearby. Heading up there takes an hour and the racing usually lasts all day. For only $20 on the race days and $5 on the fun days, well it is pretty tough to find any racing that comes close to that type of affordability. We’ve been having a lot of fun getting to know the crew up there as well, attending meetings and just basically hanging out with the guys and gals that run the racing up there. What a great group! I’ve had a great time getting to know them, racing with them and working with them on new ideas. With Jon’s suggestions they have started making some longer tracks which everyone seems to be enjoying. So now we have half to 3/4 mile tracks to run rather than 1/4 mile tracks, combos of sweeper corners and tight hairpins and man they are fun! Check out a video from the last race of the year.

Since I know some people in the racing world I happen to know some instructors at the Bridgestone winter driving school. Since I attended the school back in 2007, I was invited up there by Dave Kern. We headed up with two sets of studs, one car and a closing day at the track.

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Bridgestone is a pretty cool place. They create the same ice tracks each year with the help of Gordon Speck, their track manager. It is all laid out by GPS and it is an amazing site when seen from the air. Unfortunately I don’t have access to that video to share with you, but hopefully I can dig something up for you in the future. In the mean time check out www.winterdrive.com for their information.

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Bridgestone teaches winter driving skills to students that are novices up to advanced drivers. They do their entire school on bare rubber with Bridgestone’s Blizzak tires. They also do truck and trailer driving classes which are pretty incredible to see as well. We were fortunate to be able to try out the studded tires on the track. From what I understand this is either the first or one of the very few times a studded tire has ever been run there. I can tell you that it was an incredible experience!

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We bolted up the tires on my car and we bolted up Jon’s set on Mitch Williams rally car. WOW what an awesome time. The studs hooked up like crazy, the track has big walls of snow which provide a bit of intimidation, but man, when you nail a corner it is just an incredible feeling. The studs scuffed up the track a bit and combined with the temperatures make the Blizzak’s hook up even better. HERO GRIP! So I bolted my studs onto another car to let others have fun with them then ran my Blizzak’s and had a blast as well!

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In addition to driving the track it was incredible to be able to ride with some awesome drivers. Dave Kern took me for a spin in the Rally car and what an awesome experience. We hit 90+mph on the ice and the confidence and control that these guys have is amazing. Matthew Johnson was out in the rally car as well and it was amazing to see him tearing up the track.

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I am sure you are wondering, where is the video from Bridgestone… well look no further! Click play and enjoy. Keep your eyes peeled for some rally cross videos this summer.