Saab 9-3 Racing Development
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’ve only been racing the Saab 9-3 for two race weekends now. The last two months are a bit of a blur but we’ve come a long way from a car with no suspension and no motor (but a fresh paint job from UMS&P) around March 15th to now a much more completely developed race car.
We ended the weekend at Watkins Glen with two major challenges to resolve. The first problem was with ESP / Traction Control and overall lack of power, especially at low RPM. The second and more concerning was not being able to carry enough fuel. Even with those issues we still had a relatively successful weekend. We ran the race on Saturday and most of the day on Sunday testing different tunes and brake combos.
We went into NJMP with some healthy optimism about the car and its relative performance in the field. We were able to spend quite a bit of time resolving our issues with the TCS and we diagnosed and improved our power issues in a dyno session where the cars maximum horsepower was 357 HP at 5,700 RPM before it hit a fuel cut. Don’t worry we didn’t enter the race putting down that much power. That would have certainly been problematic. We ratcheted it back about 80 HP but kept some added throttle response and overall increased drivability. The car is still a little slow below 3,800 RPM but we now have plenty of time to get that sorted out over the summer.
The second issues was not enough fuel. Our old c900 race car had a 22 gallon fuel cell and weighed about 500 pounds less than our current 2004 Saab 9-3 Arc. We could stay out on track anywhere from 120-135 minutes without any consideration other than the relative alertness and fitness of the driver. At Watkins Glen our time to empty was about 65 minutes. That just wasn’t going to cut it for such a competitive field, so we added an eight gallon well cell and a transfer pump that moves the fuel from the well cell into the main tank on demand from the driver. They system worked great in the shop but we needed to find out whether it was going to hold up under the pressure of a race.
Line Up & Results
The driver line up for the second race was also a bit thin. It consisted of hot-shoes Kip Moncrief & Mike White and team owner Matt Moran. We usually run a team of 4-5 drivers so entering with three meant a lot more time out on track for each driver. We ran lots of laps in practice and qualifying. So many laps that it brought our lap average down in comparison to the field and we ended up properly placed in Class 2.
Saturday the car was running great until the upper camber bolts backed out of our suspension causing the passenger side axle to pop out of its cup. We quickly changed the axle and ended up back out on the track after 25 minutes and finished 6th in our class.
Sunday started off very well. We were out on the track for over seven hours and running first in our class and 11th overall in the race. That is until our driver side axle failed. After inspection the boot had come off at some point and the axle overheated. We installed a new axle and got back out and running but that axle failed quickly. It was a rebuilt spare with used parts and apparently the outer CV wasn’t any good. That put us out of contention due to lack of spares and we ended up finishing in the points but only 9th in our class.
We have some things to work on for our next race at Summit Point in September but so far so good. Our Saab 9-3 has already performed very admirably and has been very consistent for a brand new car. With a little more work and development I’m certain it’s going to be a great race car. Stay tuned for a bunch of work this summer including a change from the 5spd to the 6spd gearbox, a new power steering cooling setup, and a new brake cooling setup.