Progress on the EVO

Well when Dave Kern starts something he is most likely going to finish it. I mean seriously. His wife Allison recently recounted the time that the motor blew during a race, fire was shooting out of the hood, over the car in large balls of glowing heat and she had to tell him that it was over, they had to pull over. Well, this same determination goes for fabrication of the ultimate race car too.

This years car features a complete composite body, about half of which is being fabricated by Dave with a bit of help from me. The other half are commercially available parts. The new car will feature larger, stickier tires, more elaborate aerodynamics and a full flat bottom to also aid in the aero. Wow, it is a ton of work and wow I wish I had more time to help him out because I feel bad that he is going at most of this alone!

Check out some photos from the build so far.

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My composites professor from Metro has decided to tackle the front aero. With a brand new splitter that should actually weigh about 1/3rd of the weight of the current splitter… well this thing should be mean

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Check back for more and check in with RaceKern for even more details on the build.

Kern Racing’s Evo build for 2012

With a build of my own this year has been a bit hectic. Trying to manage my time while being committed to building and helping with the Kerns cars has been quite an undertaking. I am sure Dave would love more help, but this year sleep is a consideration…

So last year on the mountain was quite an effort by Kern Racing. They have been pushing it to the limit and as they say, if you aren’t crashing you aren’t getting better. Well, they did crash last year, then they finished 4th. Yes, that is pretty impressive considering they sat on the guardrail for 35 second, then raced 6 miles on a missing tire and a busted shock! At the end of the race last year their car looked like this.

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Race Kern PPIHC Tire

So when they assessed the damage the realization was that the body work needed to be done and that means that there needs to be some thought into the future of the car. The race is all pavement in 2012, so the car will need to be wider, the tires will be bigger and it will need to be ready to accept them. So how about we modify the overall width of the car with a widebody kit? Well, if you are going to do that, then why not lighten the car by removing the rear doors? And if you are going to do that, why not make the entire body out of carbon fiber? Well that is what the plan boiled down too and they are in the midst of making that happen.

Dave got started on the car by ordering up a stock widebody kit and we got crackin on getting that installed. You can check out all the details of the assembly on RaceKern.com

With all the body work in progress I took a day or two to stop down and work out the details. It is a lot of work doing all the bondo work for a job like this but we got it to race car quality and we’re pretty happy.

Once it was all finished up a good waxing went down we made a mold of one side of the car. This is a big panel and we are glad to get through it without any issues.

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With the mold curing still and the polyester resin still stinking up the place we rolled the car on over to the lift and started cranking away on other projects. We switched out the rear suspension, the rear brakes and installed the new front fenders. Then we cranked on the new beefy rear sway bar and looked at the front brakes only to realize we didn’t have the right wheels nearby to fit over the rotors.

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So we worked on a plan for the rear wing mounting, we worked on a plan for the new front splitter and we called it a day. Tomorrow we will meet with John Wanberg. John was my professor at Metro and he is getting a bit giddy to make really cool composite projects happen. Tomorrow we are talking aero elements and primarily the splitter. I am looking forward to see what he comes up with!

Testing and tuning with the EVO

What do you get when you take a high powered EVO made to run the toughest hillclimb in the nation and put its rally shoes back on? Well, you basically get a low level aircraft!

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After a bit of a rough ride at Pikes peak this year the car is back in action and ready for another local hill climb. Monarch is part of the CHCA series, in fact it is the last race of the series. The Kerns currently hold the record on the hill when they ran previously in the EVO with almost 200 less horsepower than it has currently. After fixing damage, replacing parts and basically converting it back to a rally car we took the car out to CORE to test it out.

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The EVO has so much power that all four wheels spin in nearly every gear on the dirt. It is a bit of an incredible thing. In addition it goes so much faster than the BMW that when you are going along the same course you spend close to double the time simply off the ground. There were several times when I thought: “Hmm, I sure hope we can land, regain traction and make that corner right there.” The funny thing is that the Ohlin suspension is so smooth compared to the BMW that even though you can tell you are going faster, the visual inputs are coming at you quicker, but it feels so smooth that you feel as though you are either going the same speed or going slower than the BMW.

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After a solid run at CORE we packed it up and headed home. No need to run it all day but we had a good solid test and it was a bit humbling to see Dave say with what appeared to be genuine surprise. “Wow, after testing with the BMW all summer, the EVO is FAST!”

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PPIHC: Video Number One

Yeah, I decided after working on this first video and realizing that YouTube now allows uploads over 10 minutes that I will also put together individual race runs this year. I will work on that later today actually, for now, here is the first edit from the mountain. Ride along with Spencer Steele, Jimmy Olson, Savannah Rickli, Rebecca Greek and Dave & Allison Kern. It’s quite the adventure and keep your eyes peeled the race runs were, very eventful!

You can also see this on My Life @ Speed

Carbon EVO Dash | Part 2

I don’t know why I forget this stuff, but I am remembering how much work making a mold is… Yeah. It is one of those things that I remember when I really think about it, but when I haven’t done it for a while I convince myself that it will just take a few hours.

If you haven’t seen part one of this build check it out here. This time I have been going layer after layer, working my way up and trying to get a nice smooth final product. There have been some tricky parts like the airbag area and the vent holes. In addition the portion that I have made with foam is a bit tricky as well, occasionally when you get beyond the bondo layer you find out what happened very quickly when you hit the soft foam! I reached a point where I needed a much better visual indicator of what was going on. So I had to put a coat of glossy paint on in order to see the lines better than I could with the flat primer. So I chose a red paint and painted it up. It gave away some issues immediately. There were some sanding marks that were a bit deeper than anticipated, some waves that I needed to sort out and basically it just did exactly what it needed to do.

Carbon EVO dash project

Carbon EVO dash project

Carbon EVO dash project

So I did a full wet sand on the part and really smoothed it out. some spots got all the way back to bondo again through the paint layer and the primer layer. Once I got it all smoothed out another layer of glossy red and WOW! what a difference! It looks very good right now. There are a few little imperfections, they are all pits and will actually be easier to fix in the mold itself so I am going to leave them and sand them out of the final mold.

After the mold was fully prepped we took aluminum tape to create the rest of the part. Basically the part needs draft, so using the tape is much faster and easier to shape for portions of the mold that we don’t care about. Plus it doesn’t really stick to the fiberglass, so that helps as well.

Carbon EVO dash

Carbon EVO dash

Carbon EVO dash

I believe that there will be two more parts to this project, one more for the mold making and one more part for the final part that we pull off the mold. Check back soon!

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