Beta #23: The First and Best

image of beta #23

Beta was our first challenge series car.

The car known as “Beta” was the initial development mule for SB Racing and SVOC.  This was the car that started it all.  The one I said, “Ok, I’ll bite, let’s see what we can do”.  We found Beta through a contact of SVOC, and I was assured that, while the car wasn’t running, it would be only a small effort to get it on the track.  This was a complete leap of faith on my part.  Jeff Harris and I were friends, although not close ones at this time, even though through a strange twist of fate, we’re neighbors without even knowing it.  I could sense that Jeff had some sort of higher knowledge that was being tapped into, so I went for it.

 

Beta had a few names.  My son nicknamed it “The Titanic” after our first few laps in it.  It definitely leaned and listed a bit.  We figured that was a very poor name for a race car… and I come from the software industry, hence our “Beta” car was born.

Beta spent 10 years resting in a field, or a yard, or God knows where.  It was ugly:

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Beta as we got her, plus some sticky tires

It didn’t run when we acquired it.  A new fuel pump later we were able to defog the neighborhood of mosquitoes:
burnout beta

That’s a lot of smoke for one wheel

I’m simplifying the development of the Beta car here, we had our kinks.  We had an electrical gremlin that exposed it’s ugly head on wet mornings.  It magically went away when we stripped the car.  We goobered some CCRMs in the process of chasing that demon.  Beta pissed power steering fluid like a middle-aged man pretending he can get by without taking that much-needed leak before a road trip.  We hoped the track management didn’t notice.

 

But throughout our development, it grew on us.  The first time I drove it around Harris Hill, I saw the potential that Harris was talking about in taking these unloved, underpowered cars and making them competent momentum-style race cars.  In it’s stock form it was easy to drive, but hard to drive fast.  The Beta car was the first car to do something very specific to me on a racetrack.  It made me smile.  Even though it was not something to look at yet:
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Beta in lovely primer grey.  We ran like this for a few months to stay incognito – it didn’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love driving on track, but driving high-horsepower cars that want to constantly kill you is tenuous at best.  With Beta, I found myself relaxing and enjoying driving, and I found that I could concentrate on lines, shift points, brake zones, etc. much better than I could in a 300, 400 or 500 horsepower car.  So Beta was our first, and still to this day, remains the one car that we still aren’t sure why it’s so good.  It just is.  It’s the first car we put people in who want to test drive our cars.

 

Shortly thereafter, as we were further developing the platform, we put a stock passenger seat in the car.  I was able to ride “shotgun” with Jeff as he raced a Miata around the track.  As if I wasn’t convinced enough, this definitely sealed the deal.  We were competitive with a Miata in most areas of the track, and our car had nearly 200 lbs of BS in the passenger seat laughing like a schoolgirl.  If you’re ever offered a ride around a track in a car that has one race seat, and one stock seat, I highly advise against it.  Notice the spartan race compartment with the stock seat just off to the right:
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early testing stage… minimum roll cage, but a passenger seat

When we sat down to do some analysis, we had some “oh wow” moments with Beta.  First, we were able to hold 1.3 gs in a corner on Dunlop Direzza tires.  That’s exotic car handling territory.  Second, the car weighed in around 2680 lbs without driver, and our front/rear balance and cross weight was nearly dead on.  This was no nose-heavy V8, it was a well-balanced corner carving momentum car that breeds the thrill of track driving when driven at the limit.  It’s forgiving, it’s easy to drive, it’s just plain fun.

 

Truly, it had only one flaw:  a sunroof.  That was against our rules.  As I recently posted, we fixed that issue.  Beta is now living out “her” or “his” (we haven’t sexed the car yet) life at Harris Hill Raceway these days, innocently sitting in the paddock waiting for the next drive.   The car has more than 6000 track miles on it since we started the build, and all we’ve had to do is change tires, oil and make minor racing-related repairs.   Beta is pretty much spoken for for season 2, but we have six other cars ready and raring to go, and with our season opener on February 13th, we hope to see some admirers at the track this season.  Stop in and say “hi”.  Beta, and the rest of the fleet would be happy to see you.

Beta #23

Beta, in all his/her glory