You might recall the last time I did a track event, Project M3 was normally aspirated. But now was the moment of truth: How does the turbo kit behave on the road course? The answer: It's scary fast. Just when I was getting acquainted with the normally aspirated setup, I've got all of this turbo anxiety on the track to look forward to. Right now it's too much car for me.
To add to the fear of my own car, there were issues trying to fit the Eibach front swaybar back on, because it would touch the compressor piping of the turbo. The Ground Control shock housings aren't the same as stock, and all of these variables made it so there were an extra few millimeters which Project M3 didn't get at the time of track testing. This was a setup I highly do NOT recommend! Can you say oversteer? Yeah, forget about trail braking let alone using the 400 lb-ft applicator throttle to power out of turns. This was a day of testing to see just how smooth I could really be.
Since that event things have been fixed, thank goodness. In any case, I was more interested in finding out how the stock cooling system worked with the turbo kit under real track conditions than going for a record lap time.
I did my testing during an Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Southern California time trial event at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. I rolled onto the track with my black Fikse Mach V wheels, Bridgestone S-03 tires and big Stoptech brakes in the front, as featured in Part 7 (ec 2/02).
Throughout the entire day, the car performed extremely well. The tires held up and the brakes didn't fade, although I didn't push the car to the limit. The good news was the cooling system never caused the factory needle to visit past the halfway mark, even after running a couple of consecutive 10-lap sessions at 13 psi of boost! (I'm sure the cool 70F weather played an important role.)
The most amazing thing about the turbo kit was its smoothness with small applications of the throttle and under partial boost. Even with how bad the car was oversteering, I was able to go up the "Omega" turns 3, 4 and 5 safely without over boosting, and mimicking linear acceleration without any hesitation from the motor. Also, the power was there when I wanted it. Even though I was coming out of turn 9 at over 15 mph less than the last time I was at WSIR with 250 rwhp and R-compound tires, I still gained over 14 mph down the front straight without ever coming out of fifth gear!
However, the end of day two came, and I decided not to officially time trial. I felt I had had a good weekend with the car, despite the handling problems, and I wanted to quit while the car and I were still in one piece. I knew there were many more track-test days to come, and I definitely knew I needed a lot more practice with this car before I could really push it.
Since this event the front Eibach swaybar has been reattached with some minor custom fabrication--more on that next time. Stay tuned for track testing the turbo kit with R-compound tires.
Author's note: Special thanks to AROSC for allowing me the opportunity to conduct Project M3 testing. AROSC offers driver schools and time trials of all levels, as well as race events, at various tracks on the West Coast.
Alfa Romeo Owners of Southern California
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