Ask a brake nerd: part 1. Everyone says buy the cheap rotors, should i listen?

Today’s Question comes from Pacheko

Originally Posted by PaCHeKo! View Post
I run Sports Brakes all around on my turbo’d 1990. I decided to go with regular/jobber rotor with my HP+ since a lot of people told me that expensive rotor was money thrown out of the window… Knowing that the car don’t do more than 30min session, I’m daily driving it and I get no brake overheat.. Are these people right? Would it be beneficial to get proper rotor performance wise?

I’m on my second year with HP+ and I’m curious about trying something else, what pads/rotor combo would you suggest for my current setup?

Thank you for your time, this thread will be interesting.

Thanks for the question Pacheko!
There are a lot of different aspects when it comes to a rotor.
What is it made from (Iron, Steel, Aluminum, Carbon ceramic, Carbon Carbon)
Where is it made
Is it 2 piece (hat made from aluminum, Rotor ring made from iron)
if it is 2 piece does it float?

Not wanting to spend all day I’ll try to keep the answer short. and focus on the standard parts store rotor.
Standard rotors that you find on Rockauto, Autozone, and so on come from china. They are covered and machined with oil, the material to make them is not as pure as it should be, and are never made engineered for racing. allow me to explain.

The machining process for Chinese rotors involves blasting the machining surface and tools with an oil to keep them cool, this lowers maintenance costs on the tooling machines. After machining factory workers will warp the rotors with an oil impregnated paper. This oil is in an attempt to prevent rust, the oil paper works well at rust prevention. The problem with using so much oil is that, it will impregnate itself into the iron. once that iron is impregnated the oils will come out under extreme braking. Most of the time when you see issues creating and keeping a transfer layer, Impurities like  oil inside the iron is causing that issue. The impurities in the rotor are kicking the transfer layer off. Racing companies like PFC, Brembo, AP, will cut the rotors “dry”. Machining “Dry” means to machine the parts without any cooling oil. It is higher wear and tear on the machines, and  that means its more expensive to do. Dry cutting will increase the rotors ability to obtain and keep a transfer layer and increase it’s performance. This will also extend a rotors and pads usable life. do try and avoid rotors with impurities. lately the trend has been to paint the rotors or cover them with powder coat. this is 10x worse than using oil. it is very hard and time consuming to remove the paint from a rotor and pad. The contamination is mind boggling.

Next is what it’s made from. Iron is easily one of the best materials used for rotors. Size for size an iron rotor will outperform a carbon ceramic rotor. If you have 14″ rotors, one in carbon ceramic, one in iron. The iron rotor will generate a more consistent and higher TQ output over the carbon ceramic rotor. Not to go too off track but that is why you see 15-16″ carbon ceramic rotors on oem vehicles. The oem manufacturers need the increased size to get the performance. Carbon ceramics will outlast an iron rotor and have a larger temperature range. …Sorry. Back on topic, right iron.. Iron is one of the densest materials in the universe. How pure the iron’s casting is makes a considerable margin in braking performance. Rotors that are casted in china are known to have quite a few impurities, and are sometimes labeled incorrectly. Anyone that has dealt with 304 *chinese* stainless will know what I’m talking about. These impurities will have a decreased effect on braking performance. Effects like decreased overall braking torque, decreased rotor life, and unstable tendencies at thermal capacity (AKA exploding rotors).  I like to find Rotors manufactured and casted in the USA. The us has a higher standard of casting.

Finally the engineering in the rotors could take year to explain, so I’ll focus on balancing only. When a rotor gets hot it cones, it beds, and it looks like a wave. it’s never still. The material is constantly flexing. (FIGURE 1 A&B.) think about a top fuel dragster tire in slow motion.. It’s not 100% the same but it is close. That rotor is constantly trying to keep itself together and not explode. On the outer edge of a rotor will have high and low spots, these spots will cause an imbalance in normal 20+ mph operations. In order to stop a rotor from shaking suspension components all brake manufacturers need to balance them. Top Motorsports brake manufacturers will balance the rotor by cutting the entire outer perimeter of the rotor on a lathe(FIGURE 2) . This ensures that when a rotor is at thermal capacity, there will be no places of excess or minimal material. it makes the rotor stronger, and more resistant to cracking. Part store rotors balance the rotors by finding the heavy spot on the rotor and cutting that off. (FIGURE 3). In Motorsports this is a huge no-no. The hard edges give a place for cracks to start, the material has a thin spot on the rotor, and it means that the material that is spinning is not balanced through the assembly. it can lead to a cracked rotor, a long pedal, and unusual pad wear.


FIGURE 1A:   What rotor wave will look like. Vehicle: Jaguar XJ after an Autocross run.

FIGURE 1. A full-field 3D deformation measurement of a brake rotor is obtained from a VIC-3D high-speed DIC system using Photron SA5 high-speed cameras. (Courtesy of Correlated Solutions)

FIGURE 1 B:    A full-field 3D deformation measurement of a brake rotor is obtained from a VIC-3D high-speed DIC system using Photron SA5 high-speed cameras. (Courtesy of Correlated Solutions)


Figure 2: A PFC rotor with all edges machined for a perfect balance.

FIGURE 3 – A thick part of the casting is removed in one spot. 

In conclusion. Are high quality rotors a waste? Like tools, good quality parts are never a waste. On average a motorsports rotor will outlast a parts store rotor long enough to justify the increased price. The increased performance is nice to have too.  Parts store rotors have been known to work, they also let a lot of people down. If it was my money paying for my track day, I’m putting the parts on my car that will insure that I have a fun weekend. I’m not looking not fight the issues with a $30 rotor that costs me $800 of track time. Allot of people might say “they worked fine for me”. Truth of the matter is 80% of the Motorsports population knows how to build a motor, 10% know how to build a braking system. When the brakes that they said “worked fine” didn’t work “fine” and that person has no idea what the problem actually is.

Originally Posted by PaCHeKo! View Post
I’m on my second year with HP+ and I’m curious about trying something else, what pads/rotor combo would you suggest for my current setup?

Thank you for your time, this thread will be interesting.

For the street/race duty pad you got it. The hp+ pad is one of the few compounds from hawk that I like. They can do double duty and are available for many applications. Unfortunately they do have a heat range that can be exceeded easily on a demanding track.  They have a new pad compound out now called the “5.0”. I have a set in my garage right now, and I’ll let you know how they work.
when you’re looking for  rotors. Find something with a curved vein. Curved veins add strength and rigidity to a rotor. they also aid in rotor cooling, but I find the added strength is the most beneficial. Also find one manufactured in the USA,GB,Italy or australia… if you can.
To answer the title and main focus of your question. No, Don’t listen. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” . Many times a higher quality rotor will out-break, out-last, and give you a headache free weekend at the races. Many times the higher price rotor will have a lower overall operating cost, when it’s usable life is taken into consideration.

Letters to a Brake Nerd: If you having an issue with your brakes, Ask the brake nerd (Johnny C). Or if you are looking to upgrade your brakes, ask. The majority of club racing related braking issues that come across, are from individuals who tried to upgrade their system without knowing the in and out of braking systems.

About the Brake nerd: ” Johnny C is the majority of my real name. I’m a “brake guy” by profession and by hobby. I have an obnoxious amount of brake tech swirling around my noodle. If I crammed that info into a Book, nobody would read it. It’s some of the driest information anyone could imagine. If and only if you have an issue with your brakes would you pay attention.

I’m a former PFC factory Rep. I’ve worked with top racing teams like Joe gibbs racing, Ganassi, Rum bum, Irish mikes, so on, and so on. I’ve been in the Motorsports world professionally starting in 2006. I’ve worked hand and had with teams and engineers to build braking systems and to fix issues with braking systems. ” – Johnny

If you have a question please send it to

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Bell Carbon Fiber Helmet Visor Panels

We recently received an e-mail from Bell Racing regarding the trend of aftermarket Helmet Visor Panels. Let’s first start with the basics of what a Helmet Visor panel is. Initially developed for Pro-level Open-Wheel racing (F1, Indy, etc.), the Visor Panel is designed to add additional protection from debris to the upper helmet/visor gap. An excellent video can be found here:

Bell Racing has worked together with the FIA to develop a Zylon Visor Panel that can be installed to the FIA8860 HP7, and RS7 racing helmets. The panel is custom installed by Bell for $499.95 plus the cost of a new shield.

Bell FIA Zylong Visor Panel

Bell FIA Zylon Visor Panel (2030105)

The Bell V.14 Visor Panel is an original Bell Racing part made in compliance with FIA specification 2011 F1 visor reinforcement panel for FIA8860 helmets. The original Bell Visor and Panel must only be used with the specified Bell model, any use of other non-Bell certified parts on the helmet will invalidate the homologation. The Bell Visor Panel has been developed to match the contour and shape of the Bell SE07 visor and is not compatible with other Bell visor systems or other helmet brands. The Bell Visor and Panel are only valid with the unbroken warranty seal on the back of the shield. The Bell Visor and Panel can only be assembled / serviced by a Bell Racing Technician. Any modification or assembly by third parties will invalidate the homologation of the helmet and the part. Customers who want to re-use the visor panel on another shield must return the shield and panel back to Bell for installation on a new shield.

Sifting through all of Bell’s legal jargin, sounds like this isn’t something to be messed with. Can’t say I disagree – we’re looking at a safety feature that’s designed to stop high-speed projectiles from entering your helmet. This isn’t something that you want to half-ass the design and/or installation of. And now apparently there are companies that are selling stick-on carbon panels that look awfully similar to the FIA-approved design:

It has come to our attention that a company called Shell Shock is offering for sale an item called a “helmet saver” that is designed to look in appearance like a carbon fiber visor panel. As this “helmet saver” was not developed with any input from Bell Racing and we have no knowledge of its design, material composition or function, we are informing our dealers and customers that Bell does not support or authorize the use of the “helmet saver” produced by Shell Shock. Further, the use of the “helmet saver” with helmets or shields produced by Bell will completely void our product warranty. The user will assume all risks and liability associated with its use. We are concerned that customers will assume this item offers similar protection to panels produced by Bell and homologated to the FIA SPECIFICATION FOR VISOR REINFORCEMENT PANEL FOR FIA8860 HELMET and choose to purchase this item for use with their Bell Helmet.

Going forward, we will not support any similar items that are developed to function or designed to appear like a visor panel unless they meet the precise technical specifications published by the FIA called FIA SPECIFICATION FOR VISOR REINFORCEMENT PANEL FOR FIA8860 HELMET and have been approved by Bell Racing for use with our products.

As a company, Bell has dedicated hours of research and collaboration with the FIA on the design, function and performance of the Zylon reinforced visor panel and was the first company to debut the panel in Formula One in 2011. Further, the Bell visor panel is designed to fit the upper contour of the Bell SE07 shield and uses a specific adhesive material with surface tension properties that work in conjunction with the polycarbonate used in Bell racing shields. We have a specific procedure for securing the panel to the SE07 shield and the panel is not compatible with other Bell shields.

I did a quick internet search and found an image of the product. It does look awfully similar to the approved design. And although it doesn’t advertise itself as offering similar protection, looks alone can be enough to convince many to purchase in the name of added protection. Which everyone is free to do – just be aware of the criteria that is actually used in the development of a piece like this, then ask yourself if that is something you’re willing to compromise on.

If you need more information on the Bell Visor Panels, give us a call (1-800-934-9112).

Posted in Educational Posts, Product Related Posts

Where’s my SA2015 Helmet?

Something just doesn't smell right...

2015 is just around the corner. In the world of motorsports safety, that number holds a lot of significance, because it’s when all hell breaks loose, our warehouse starts to burst at the seams with inventory, and we find Rob (our warehouse manager) crying in the corner of the high-value room. And before we can even deal with 2015, we first have to get through 2014 and survive our single most frequently asked question: When will the Snell SA2015 rated helmets be available?

Helmet season is here!

Helmet season is here!

Every 5 years, like clockwork, this time comes. A quick bit of background information for those who are new to this game. The Snell foundation releases a new SA-rating every 5 years. The SA-rating (SA stands for Special Applications) is specific to auto racing helmets; however, it is often used in any type of racing that typically occurs in a closed-door vehicle where you’re strapped in and in danger of burning to death (auto-racing, boat racing, truck-racing, even some karting). The basic idea behind an auto racing helmet, making them unique from other full-face helmets out there (such as Motorcycle helmets) are that SA-rated helmets are designed to protect from:

  1. High-speed projectiles (like the lug nut from your competitor’s car that he forgot to tighten)
  2. Multiple low-speed broad impacts (Rolling over and over in your car, as your helmet smacks the roll-bar again and again)
  3. Fire (because you’re stuck in a burning vehicle which is never fun)

Snell creates a new standard every 5-years. This is loosely based on their recommendation that a racing helmet should be retired after 5 years of use. They also use the opportunity to introduce new facets to the standard that will better protect the wearer. That’s right – it’s not a matter of Snell’s engineers needing to make the next payment on their new Porsche. They are actually designing things to help protect you from things like injury and death – because we all hate being injured and/or dying. Some years only have minor changes – for instance, there were not huge changes between the SA2000 rating and the SA2005. SA2010 brought significant changes in how the helmets were impact tested based on medical research (yes, actual science) that helped show different sized heads and their accompanying masses are affected by impacts in different ways. It also took into account the broader uses of Head and Neck Restraint devices (per the SAH-2010 rating that has since been absorbed by the more comprehensive FIA rating). You can read all of the details here (Warning: Big words, charts, and data are in the following link.)

Finding SA2010 sticker where to find

A Helmet’s SA sticker can be found inside the helmet behind the foam padding.

The upcoming SA2015 rating has been released and indicates that changes will once again be minimal. Some major improvements are that helmets must now be compatible and ready for Head and Neck Restraint hardware (this should make pre-drilling of helmets from the manufacturer mandatory). Testing has also been added for “Low-lateral” impacts (ie, secondary side-impacts with roll-bars, window frames, etc.)

Technical info aside, now is about the time that everyone tries to get the most for their money and purchase the helmet that will last the longest. Even though Snell recommends replacing your helmet every 5 years, most of the racing groups allow the use of a helmet for an approximate 10 year period. That means that an SA2010 helmet will be allowed for use though at least 2015 with the main sanctioning bodies in the U.S. I say at-least, because in the past, some groups have allowed up to a 2-year buffer period (depending on how many of their members complain about being forced to buy a new helmet) so that racers have time to replace their equipment. Many racers even get further exceptions to use past that 12 year period – it’s all a matter of what kind of day your tech-inspector is having and how big your smile is!

But lets go back to that 5-year recommendation. I’ll be the first to admit – if you attend a couple of events a year, have really good personal hygiene, and take good care of your helmet (no bounce testing, let it air out after you use it, don’t run over it with your car, etc.), it is fully within reality to get at least 10 years out of a helmet. HOWEVER, and this is coming from someone who has been working with all of you for a very long time, I’m going to one-up Snell and say that the average club-racer’s helmet should be replaced every couple of years. There’s a simple reason behind this, and it happens to be the same reason that I put on surgical gloves when installing Hans Device anchors on a used helmet – Your helmet is Disgusting! It smells, the fabric is falling apart, and a gritty, oily substance that is a combination of sweat, dirt, hair-gel, beard conditioner, and gasoline rubs off on my fingers when I touch it. All of that crap is degrading the protective foam and plastic that your helmet is made out of. And when you degrade that stuff, the helmet absolutely will NOT function in the way you want it to when it needs to be used. I’ll give a quick example – How long will that t-shirt you’re wearing last if you wear it every other weekend and never wash it? If you need further examples, just let me know – I have a bunch!

Something just doesn't smell right...

Something just doesn’t smell right…

Again, not all helmets are like this – but your clean, rose-smelling helmet is definitely the exception to the rule. In the end, what I think doesn’t really matter, rules are rules, and your friendly tech inspector will let you wear whatever you bring that has that SA-sticker on the inside. But for safety’s sake (and your personal health), when your wife/husband/son/daughter/friend/safety-equipment-guy won’t touch your helmet, it’s probably time to get a new one.

And speaking of new, now the news you’ve all patiently been waiting for. When will SA2015 helmets be available?

October 1st, 2015. That is the date that SA-2015 helmets will officially be allowed for sale. However, this does not mean that this is the date that these helmets will magically appear on our shelves. Depending on the manufacturer, and based on what we’ve seen in the past 25 years, we’ll see delivery of these helmets anywhere between October 1st and the following Spring (2016).

If you’re hanging onto your SA2005 helmet, chances are you’ll be able to use it until 2016 or so (again, based on what I’ve historically seen from the racing groups). However, if this is your first helmet, and you’ve decided to wait for the newest rating, think about all that I’ve typed above. How well do you take care of your equipment? How many events per year do you plan on attending? Do you have a dog or cat and does it tend to pee in round objects? And finally, how long do you think you can make your helmet safely last?

Update 6/25/2014: We just received the following e-mail from Kyle @ Bell Helmets regarding SA2015 helmets:

We have received a number of questions regarding when the next Snell homologation standard will be implemented. The changeover to  SA2015 Snell standard will take effect on October 1, 2015. For the balance of the 2014 race season and the majority of the 2015 selling season, the Snell SA2010 standard is and will be the most current standard . No manufacturer is allowed to label or sell a Snell SA2015 homologated helmet prior to October 1, 2015 per the Snell Memorial Foundation.

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Simpson has released a very informative video. Watching it could save your life.

15 Minutes Can Save Your Life.

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Porsche switches from Brembo to PFC. Should you?

Photo credit -

Porsche Captures Another 24-Hour Victory

Daytona, FL – The Porsche Factory team, piloted by Richard Lietz, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, took home yet another victory at Daytona. Although this is Porsche’s 22nd win at Daytona, this is a year of firsts. Porsche announced that they would break with tradition, and institute PFC (Performance Friction Brakes Corp.) as the main braking supplier for factory GT3 cup cars.

As everybody knows, Porsche is not a company that likes to change it’s mind on a whim. They are a hard fact calculating company; one that bases decisions on results.  One that does not remove another brand unless its replacement is truly better.


Introducing the replacement – PFC’s newest brake system for the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup. This system consists of Monoblock 6 piston front and 4 Piston rear calipers, Large V3 Floating Rotors, and PFC Race pads in the 11 or 12 compound. The calipers come nickel plated to protect it from the extreme racing duty experienced during 24hr events.


The front calipers are built specifically for the 991 cup racing chassis.  The unique X brace design is an industry first, as it resists deformation while allowing the caliper to fit nicely inside the 991’s wheels.

What can you expect if you have a stiff caliper, larger rotors, and a world class pad? You can expect two things: 1. More consistent and reliable braking, stop after stop.  The last thing in the world you want to think about when diving into a turn is modulating your brake pedal. 2. Less drag – a deforming caliper will drag a pad across the rotor.  Brake drag costs power and economy. Nobody likes drag.  In layman’s terms your brakes will last longer, perform better, you’ll go faster, and win more races.

Should I switch my car to PFC too? In one word? Yes! It’s a safe bet that if Porsche can find value with PFC, then you will too. The problem is that the answer of  “Yes” is the same answer to the question: Do you want an F1 car? Do you want to go to the moon? Professional racing products, although unarguably awesome, can be very expensive. With price in mind, the professional stuff is sometimes not very practical for club racing.

How to switch to PFC easily – Lucky for us, switching to PFC doesn’t need to require a second mortgage. PFC has rolled out club racer ready equipment. Follow these 4 steps and you can have a professional braking system too.


Step 1: Install PFC Racing Pads:

PFC does not make a “cheaper” pad for club racers. The same endurance PFC 12 compound that is included in the 911 cup brake kit  is also available for your car. Best of all you can get world class braking without needing to pay “world-class” prices. Click here to find pads for your car 

Please call your OG-Racing Sales Representative to find out what compound works best for your application.

Step 2: Rotors

The PFC V-Series of rotors are a full floating design that kills drag. Yes, these rotors will increase your braking performance!  These rotors are available to fit your OEM Calipers or go big with a PFC Big Brake Kit.  Click here to find PFC rotors that fit your car


Step 3: Fluid:

Performance Friction 665-Racing Fluid is the same exact fluid that is in the Porsche 991 GT3 Cup race car. With its super high boiling point it’s the last fluid you will ever need. Available here



Step 4: Calipers

Factory calipers are not built with racing in mind – rather, OEM calipers are built with cost in mind. Many look like racing calipers but will quickly fatigue and create large amounts of drag. PFC calipers are 100% American made – the aluminum used to create them is even sourced from American foundries. PFC calipers are the strongest and lightest on the market. Upgraded calipers are not cheap, but having the best is never cheap.  Please contact OG-racing to see if PFC calipers or PFC big brake kits are right for you.

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Race Seat Fitment: Sparco Evo Series and Pro 2000

Sparco Seat in Race Car

Seat fit is critical to driver safety and comfort.

How a race seat fits the driver is very important. You need a seat that holds the driver’s hips and sides into the seat firmly, and one where the shoulder belt holes align in such a way that the harnesses don’t have to travel up and over the driver’s shoulders. If the seat is too wide for the driver, the driver will still move around in the seat when going through tight corners. If the shoulder belt holes are too low, the harnesses may cause a dangerous compression of the driver’s spine in the event of a crash.

While it will be easy to identify which waist measurements accommodate which seats, giving an accurate shoulder belt hole height will be more difficult. To help, we’re going to make up a new measurement. While sitting in a normal chair we will measure from the bottom of the person’s, well… buttocks, to the top of their shoulders (see figure below). We will call this measurement the seat to shoulders measurement.

“Using the seat to shoulders measurement to approximate the right shoulder harness hole height for you will be a rough estimate at best. If your measurement is close to being too tall for the seat, we highly recommend calling so one of our experts can give their input.”

Since the person sitting will slightly sink into the seat, this measurement will be a crude one in relation to shoulder hole height, but it’s the best way we could figure out how to size it. We will then measure the bottom of the seat to the top of the shoulder harness hole, to give an approximate maximum seat to shoulders measurement that you can have before your back will cover the shoulder harness holes. We think this will be better than just listing the dimensions of the seat. If you know of another way to compare shoulder hole heights, please let us know in the comments below.
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Race Seat Fitment Introduction

Sparco FIA race seat

A properly installed Sparco Halo seat.

When choosing a race seat, there are two fitment aspects that you need to be concerned with:
1.) How the seat fits into the car
2.) How the seat fits the driver
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Cool Customer Cars Part 2

One of the biggest perks of working for OG is getting to see some of the cars our customers pull up in. It’s almost like being at a revolving car show some days. After all, if someone drives a nice car on the track, it’s likely that they also have a pretty cool daily driver too. Here’s some of our favorites since our last customer car post:

Porsche 997 GT3 Race car

Porsche GT3 RS

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Which ___ works best on the street AND on the track?

When trying to get your car to fulfill two purposes, there will almost always be sacrifices to be made.

At OG Racing, our sales guys answer a lot of questions. Sometimes they’re technical- “What data will this AIM system provide me from my vehicle’s OBDII port?” Other times they’re general- “What equipment do I need for my first HPDE?” But the questions are always coming in. After all, there is an incredible amount of information to know when it comes to racing cars, and nobody knows it all. Some questions we hear over and over again, which leads us to the subject of this week’s blOG post. In this week’s post, we’ll be answering the question “Which X works best on the street and on the track?”, with X typically being:

  1. Brake pads
  2. Harnesses
  3. Racing seats
  4. Steering wheels

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The Intercontinental Trophy Cup

Article by Mark Francis

In 2010, Doug Livingston had a vision: He would build a junior professional racing series utilizing the Porsche Cayman, as a clear and defined ladder program into professional sports car racing in Grand Am and ALMS. “I chose the Porsche Cayman because of its cost effectiveness to build and its mid engine platform. Plus it was a logical choice to go with a Porsche since I have worked on several professional race teams that campaigned various Porsche models,” said Series Principle Doug Livingston. The work commenced, sponsors and series partners got on board, and racing commenced in 2011. The Intercontinental Trophy Cup was born.

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