Going Pro Racing in a Fiat – Part One


The team decided the best way to learn everything they could about the Abarth was by taking it to the grueling 25 Hours of Thunderhill at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California.

Mike’s thoughts:

I did not drive the car but Anthony really liked it once we dialed it in. He told me it was pretty neutral and he could get it to rotate with lift throttle and trail braking.  I wanted to be somewhat conservative as three of the drivers don’t have FWD experience. I want to go to higher spring rates and loosen the car up a little more once all of you have had a chance to drive it. The idea was to make it easy to drive first.  My impression is that the car still has a little too much body roll.  With the three ways we can really fine tune the car.  The way the rear shocks are mounted from the factory isn’t the best.  It makes the wheel rate regressive, another reason why I want to get stiffer so we stay out of that zone.  

“The car also needs a bit more front camber and some more caster.  Caster isn't going to be practical as we cannot modify the shock towers to get it.  Once we get the final shocks from KW then we can try and get clever perhaps. The 3-ways should have more camber adjustment at the bottom so perhaps we can look at getting the front track wider and add some kingpin angle from the plates to keep the scrub radius and torque steer down although we are close to the limit of this already.

The team worked throughout the 25 Hours of Thunderhill as the race revealed several weaknesses in the Abarth. In one weekend the team learned what may have otherwise taken months of testing.

“Overall I was surprised how well the car worked on its first outing and how well it responded to basic chassis tuning.  Anthony was happy with everything but the traction control.  We will get the thing to handle even better.”

After another couple of tests, the team left its Northridge, California shop and took the trek to Willows, California for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. And how did it go? Something like this:

Rimicci Corse: 25 Hours of Thunderhill

Although Anthony managed to flip the car in practice – a combination of driver error and a large bump at the top of Thunderhill’s turn five bypass – the team had the car on the grid for the race. The race would not be trouble-free for the team however, as a string of parts failures in the front suspension had the crew working through the night to keep the little Abarth going. The team would ultimately finish the race in 58th position – but, thanks to the crew which worked together for the first time, it would see the checkered flag.

The Thunderhill experience enabled the team to learn about many of the weak points of the car, which was the goal of the whole exercise. Taking the lessons learned from that race, the team rebuilt the first car, and implemented them into the team’s second car. The second car will be driven by veteran Ken Dobson.

Thanks to the crew, the Rimicci Corse Abarth finished its first 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The team will take the lessons learned and apply it to both of the cars it will race in this year's World Challenge championship.

In our next installment, we’ll detail the build of the second Abarth and show you what it takes to turn a street car into a World Challenge Touring Car. There will be a lot of testing going on between now and the season opener at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on May 17-19 and MotoIQ.com will be along for all of it!

Twitter – @RimicciCorse



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