Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dirty Dactyl on the PODIUM(s)!**!

After a little more than 6 months of dormancy Sandy was released back into the wild at Palm Beach International Raceway.  Predicting that I would be a little rusty behind the wheel, I decided to do the Friday test day.  Since I didn't want to prematurely burn through the prime heat cycles on my new set of HoHos, I bought another set of wheels so that I could get warmed up my old rubber.  It turned out to be a wise decision as PBIR is extremely abrasive and chews through tires faster than any other track I have been to.


This track tears through tires so fast that your unloaded front tire will pick up enough tire worms that it makes it feel like you have a flat tire when it gets loaded up again because the tire is out of balance with all the crap it has collected.  Once the tire is fully loaded all of those tire worms get flung into the brake ducts, wheel wells, wheels, etc.  After the enduro we pulled over 5 pounds of rubber from Sandy's underside.

Ok, back to the story,  Friday went well other than the GoPro shitting the bed again (they have since sent me a new one free of charge!).  There were only a handful of other Spec Miatas(SM) there, not enough to properly judge my pace.  The Data Aq was working flawlessly and helped me figure out which lines worked around the giant late apex corners of PBIR.  On the last session of the day, a couple laps before I came in, I noticed a vibration through the steering wheel whenever the left front was loaded.  I came in to see if the tire was low, it wasn't, but it had accumulated a large clump of tire turds.  I removed the excess rubber and prayed for the best.


Big Ups to my whole race crew(Kyle, Angela, Thomas, Brent) who made the trek to PBIR by Saturday morning.  My first session was qualifying for the SM sprint race.  The vibration from yesterday hadn't gone away, in fact it was getting worse each lap.  I had to pit, only completing 3 or 4 hot laps.  I brought the car in  and jacked up the left front.  The wheel had about a half inch of  back-and-forth play a.k.a. the wheel bearing was effed.  I was pissed.  I had literally just replaced that specific wheel bearing a couple weeks ago with one of the top shelf "blue-printed-special-secret-sauce-greased-bad-ass-almost-cheating-but-not-quite" wheel bearings sold.  Luckily I had brought my spare 239,000 mile wheel bearings that Sandy came with.  Crew Chief Kyle and I, (read mainly Kyle) removed the necessary components and got to swapping.

That is not supposed to look like that
The final torque on the axle nut was set by me standing on a one-and-a-half foot breaker bar and jumping.  Science.  I downloaded the Traq Mate file from the last session and increased full pressure about 1 psi based on the logged Air-to-Fuel Ratio data.  We dropped tire pressures a tad and had the car ready for the next session which was qualifying for the endurance race.

I got back out on track and cautiously felt out the left front, making sure everything was good.  It was.  I tried to find a car with similar speed and hook up with in qualifying to bump draft down the back straight, but didn't get the chance.  I also noticed I still didn't have the power that the 99s had on the straights.  Bummer.  The rest of qualifying went well and I qualified 4th for the enduro.

Sprint Race:

I wish I had in-car footage for the start of the sprint race.  Holy Shit.  I will try my best to describe what happened.   Here it goes... So the field was SMs combined with ITA, ITB, ITS and a couple others, it was relatively packed.

Everything started normal, cars were in 2 single file lines and the pole sitter as usual begins to go to full throttle as the pace car peals off.  Same as every race.  I gap the car in front of me then make an aggressively early start anticipating the green flag, it works and as the green flag drops I am making a solid run on the car in front of me, but then in an instant a huge cloud of tire smoke plumes up ahead of us.  The car in front of me dives to the left and as he cuts across me I see a car that is nearly stopped -- right in front of me.  So I swerve hard to the right, off the track, narrowly missing him.  I still have my foot pegged to the throttle, cause obviously I don't want to loose any positions.  Now I am in the grass drivers right side of the track, maybe 500ft passed the Start/Finish.  I get the car straightened out as I see I am rapidly approaching a slightly raised access road running perpendicular to the track through the grass.  I clinch as Sandy hits the ledge of the pavement and briefly gets airborne.  I slam back on to the pavement, but seem to be no worse for the wear.  I ease the car back on to the track and slot into traffic.

All of the commotion at the start had completely shuffled the running order.  I started 6th and managed to come out of the chaos in 3rd.  Kaakaaa!  I closed in on the two cars in front of me and figured out where I had an advantage on them.  I found I could out-brake them and generally carry more speed through the corners, but I couldn't hold them off of me on the back straight.  I made my pass on the 2nd place car by  out-braking him into turn 3 and made it stick by drafting the 1st place car on the back straight.  A lap later I made a move into first place  in the same spot going in to turn 3, that lasted until we came around to the back straight and the 2nd and 3rd place car freight-trained right past me.  Now in 3rd, a few laps later, I made a pass on the 2nd place car that stuck for a while.  In the closing laps he tried to retake 2nd place by dive-bombing me at the end of the front straight.  I held my line and was carrying significantly more speed by taking a later apex.  He went way way inside, and basically parked it trying to regain control.  Placing his car directly in my line and having no where else to go, his left rear bumper and my right front bumper collided and sent him spinning.  I kept at it and chased the leader, but began getting nervous when the fuel needle dropped below E.  The last few laps I backed off a little and brought it home to finish in 2nd place. The highest result to date for Dirty Dactyl Racing!!!!!!

The last 3 laps or so I began short shifting because I was worried I wouldn't make minimum weight in tech.  The top 3 cars are weighed right after the race, and if you don't pass you get DQ'ed. That stands for Dairy Queened.  I was so nervous when we rolled the car up on the scales.  The women working the scales said something to the effect of, "Wow, these guys really know how to set the weight of their cars!"  I wish I could have seen the final weight, but I am pretty sure we were within 1lb or so of the minimum.

Click to see the panorama of us in the technical impound
Endurance Race:

I am soaked in sweat but still feel relatively sharp, which is good because I still have an hour-and-a-half endurance race to do.  To prep for the enduro we rotate the tires, front left to rear right, and vice versa, check the AFR data to set fuel pressure, check oil level, drain the car then add 8 gallons of fuel, set tire pressures, fill my drink bottle with ice-water, ready the refueling jug, eat Gatorade chews and a banana.


The enduro starts with 2 pace laps then the green flag.  I make a good start steadily working my way up through the field.  In the enduro there are several different classes racing at the same time, so the disparity in speed can catch you off-guard if you aren't paying attention.  I managed to get into the lead in Spec Miata for the first 7 or so laps until my tires started going off.  I got caught by a pack of  newer Miatas that were bump drafting together.  I couldn't match their pace anymore.  I noticed looking at the data later that when the tires went off my times dropped about 1.5 seconds a lap.  No longer a contender for the lead I fell comfortably into 5th place and clicked off lap after lap in auto-pilot.

This race's pit stop went 10x better than the last endurance race we did.  We still have a little work to do on our race gear prep as apparently a balaclava, fire suit and glasses aren't sufficient protection for the refueler.  So I had to refuel the car again, but this time we had the speedy-pour jug and a funnel.  I was able to refuel, chug Gatorade from Race Dr. Acton and make it back into the car with plenty of time to spare.  I came out still in 5th.  I notice that the tires have cooled enough in the pit stop that they life in them for a lap or so.

 Fast forward until about ten minutes are left in the race, still in 5th, probably 30 seconds from 4th.  A car spins and stalls on track.  BRING OUT THE FULL COURSE CAUTION!!!.

 I let my tires cool down after I caught the field. The tow truck got the stalled car out of the way with about 3 minutes left.  I gapped the car in front of me and got a decent start when they threw the green flag.  Everyone was fighting for position, it was a Last-Lap-Hail-Mary-Battle-Royal.   I set-up  the two cars battling in front of me by making sure I had a solid exit from turn 2. I passed both of those cars with 2-wheels off the track on the inside of turn 3. Then passed an ITA car on the outside of turn 4.  I kept to the inside of turn 5 and passed another Spec Miata and another ITB car going into 6.  I kept that gap by drafting an ITA car down the back straight.  I protected the inside on the final horseshoe and prayed that the checker was coming, because the 3 Spec Miatas I had passed were quicker than me.  Sure enough they threw checker and I came in 2nd. It was sweet.  I went from 5th to 2nd in class, and since all the cars on track were on the lead lap, so I ended up moving from 10th overall to 4th overall! If it had gone another lap I don't think I would have been able to hold my position.  Sometimes its good to be lucky.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DiNO TiME <^>

Finally the time has come to see how healthy Sandy's new heart is.  I wish I had been able to dyno the old motor for comparison, but I do have longitudinal accelerometer data from the tracks I have run to compare old to new ass hauling capability, so.

With the super thick break in oil still in the motor, we warmed Sandy up, established a baseline and then began tuning.  We ran through a series of different ignition timing and fuel pressure settings.  All in all we did 28 pulls.  The new motor is strong.  I am stoked.  

I was hoping for mid to high teens in terms of horspower, like 117hp would be bad-ass   When we were done Sandy made 123hp / 117lb ft.  I couldn't believe it!  I can't wait to get back on track, I'm gnawing my arm off over here. Check out the video of Sandy on the rollers below.

In other news fAceMast (seen below) and I made a dollar bet on who could get their own engine running first.  I won.  This was my welcome back to work after winning, and yes his eyes are naturally that shade of red.

Taking a lesson from my failed attempts of refueling during my last endurance race, I found out that you can cut out the fuel flapper door legally.  So I did.

Post Hole-Saw-Action

Now look what fits!

 And finally probably one of the sweeter items I have been gifted, my mom got me a inflating guardian angel.  Perfect.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

You like working on cars, right? The sequel

So there I was almost ready to crank her up.  The engine had oil, so next up was adding coolant aka water aka the wet stuff.

Round 1: I begin filling the radiator up and everything is going smoothly, until all of a sudden a leak springs free from the hard line tube that runs into the block.  I drain the water, pull the exhaust heat shield and remove the tube.  Turns out the O-ring was effed.  I run to Lowes and then subsequently Advance to find a new O-ring.  I find one, bam, back in business.  I put everything back together.

Round 2:  I fill Sandy back up with H2O and this time no leaks, hurray!  Now, as per my break-in procedure I need to crank the motor without firing and make sure I have oil pressure.  So I pull the plug wires, disconnect the CAS, say a few prayers and turn the ignition.

Round 3: RRrrrraarrrrRRRraarrrrRRRaaaarrrrrr says the starter but my mechanical oil pressure gauge is reading zero.   Hmmmm, I think to myself maybe the gauge line is damaged or blocked.  After removal and inspection all appears to be well with the gauge and adapter. My next thought is the motor or oil pump is shit.  Cool.  I find some literature online saying the oil pump sometimes needs to be primed with either extra oil or jacking up the rear of the car so that the oil runs to the front of the pan, priming said pump.  So I lift the rear and get to cranking.  RRrrrraarrrrRRRraarrrrRRRaaaarrrrrr voila!!!! OIL PRESSURE!!!! Hurray!

Round 4: I say several more prayers while re-attaching the ignition components.  Now I am ready for that fateful moment when gasoline and air and spark all mix together to create that sound we all know and love. I close my eyes, press in the clutch and turn the key. RRrrrraarrrrRRRraarrr   KaaabbllaArAArRrRaaaRAA   SHE'S ALIVE!!!!  And water is gushing out of the back of the block faster than something-something-something at a frat party, so I immediately kill the engine.

Round 5: I notice there is a 1/4 inch plug missing from the back of the head.  I search my old motor, find the missing part, pull it, then re-install it on the new motor.  Fire up the motor again, this time no leaky! But then I hear a loud crrlarghnt crrlagnt crrlANGT CRRLANGT!  So I shut the motor down again, fearing major internal damage.  It  seems the idler pulley had decided to come loose and try to eat the alternator belt. I spend half an hour trying to stretch the belt back into the correct position and then tighten the pulley up.

Round 6: 6 times a charm apparently.  I fired her back up and basked in the warmth of exhaust fumes in a closed garage.

Next up: final prep before Sandy gets back on track

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You like working on cars, right? Part 1

Well kids the day has finally arrived.  My brand new(to me) motor was all together and ready for me to pick up; after I made my third easy payment, of course.  On a side note, to honor some of my new found followers, I will be using, extra punctuation in this episode.  Ok back to the adventure...

This is one wing of the BSI headquarters.  If you can't tell from the blurry picture, they have a lot of Miatas, this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  They recently acquired a Dynojet dynomometer, so I might be back in the near future to fully harness the power in Sandy's new beating heart.

Here she is freshly wrapped (insert condom joke here).  Now back to the bat-cave to begin the part-swap process.

So fresh and so clean...

Old motor sans trans.  I purchased this badass motorcycle jack at a yard sale for $10.  It works perfectly for a transmission jack.  Thank you AssMase for the engine hoist.

My plan was to reuse all the ancillaries from the old motor as long as I could clean them up and make sure they were in good condition.

Flywheel off

Flywheel post sandpaper rub sesh

Since everything was off I figured I might as well try to clean the 18 year old grime off. 

2 hours of cursing and scrubbing later we get this fine specimen.  Next up the new clutch parts go on the new motor

 Then new parts onto the transmission

After I thought everything was in place I created a sweet trans-loading-tray out of Styrofoam and slid the transmission into the engine.  Very nice!

Except I forgot that I am an idiot and didn't install the gasket that goes between the engine and trans.  So the next day I had to take everything off that I had spent the last night putting on and then do it all over again.  This will become the ongoing theme in this engine swap process.

When I removed the exhaust manifold from the old motor there was a little surprise waiting for me.  I had blown a hole in both sides of the block!!!  Pretty impressive, I know.  Side note I will entertain any/all sponsorship offers.

 Here is the exhaust and a couple other items installed on the left side of the new motor.

Coil packs, plugs, wires and all the crap on the rear of the motor made a seamless transition.

 Pre-Intake manifold and fuel rail.

There is a deep metaphorical significance to this photo that I haven't quite figured out yet.  The heart was ready for Sandy's willing embrace.  All I needed now were a couple strong lads who didn't mind spending their weekend moving metal around.

Check.  Mason can be seen demonstrating the Dirty Dactyl warrior dance mid-Taco Bell dining.  Crew Chief Kyle is content merely chewing and viewing.

Alright back to it, shes airborne.

Blue Steel?

And just like that kids.  I would love to say that it didn't take us much time at all to drop it in, but that would be a lie, and you can't lie on the internets.  It was one of those learn-as-you-do ordeals.  

After 3 or so hours of taking parts off, or changing the tilt, or raising and lowering the car we finally got the motor in place only to realize that the reverse switch plug wasn't in the transmission, instead it was hanging playfully beneath it.  The problem was that the switch is mounted almost at the very top of the trans, which makes it impossible to get to when the motor is in place.  We tried for an hour or so to reach it from the bottom.  No luck.  Next we tried to get access with a big monkey wrenc from inside the car through the shifter hole.  No luck.  So we took off the drive shaft and tried to swing the rear of the transmission down.  No luck.  Then we removed the longitudinal brace that locates the transmission.  No luck.  At this point we had probably put in 2 hours trying to attach this plug.  Finally we arrived at the only feasible option, pull the whole motor and trans back out again.  Fock.  Well I can  tell you this, Kyle and I got really good at attaching and removing motor mounts. So yeah, hopefully next time is a long time away. 

Well there she is.  The only thing keeping me from starting it was the thermostat housing.  For some reason this motor came with a 1.6L thermostat housing so the mounting flange was 90 degrees from where I needed it.  But I was too excited to let something as simple as that keep me from hearing Sandy's freshly beating heart.

So I topped her off with super thick break-in oil with extra zinc to make the bearings happy.

I then went to Advance Auto and bought some flexible radiator hose and Jerry-rigged the set-up pictured above.  The awkward tubing arrangement meant that the intake had to stick up in the air all badass like that. 

In the next installment we will explore the process involved to get the motor running...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Titanic Brake Job

I had been putting off fixing the truck for a while.  Eventually the massive shaking of the steering wheel under braking got to me and I decided to replace the front rotors and pads.  Whoever changed the brakes last did a very thorough job in covering the caliper bracket bolts in locktite.  So thorough in fact it took me a almost an hour to get the first bolt out.  After freeing one bolt it became obvious I was going to need a lot more caffeine in order to finish the job before it started raining.  So I pedaled my way over to the nearest Chevron and bought a large Monster Crack-in-a-Can  and got back to work.  

Eventually I got the bracket off.  Mmmmm look at all that rusty-rust.

Yay new pads and rotors!  Its amazing how much more livable driving is when your car isn't constantly trying to kill you.

My engine is almost done, more to come soon...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sandy's Rebirth

Once Sandy is all back together she should be in her most competitive state to date.  The two major items that are being addressed are the brakes and engine.  Since the rubber seals on my old brake calipers were shot and I was getting noticeable brake drag, I decided to replace all four brake calipers with fresh rebuilt units.  The rears have also had the E-brake mechanism disabled, which reduces brake drag. I keep reading the key to making these cars competitive is to reduce all parasitic losses.  Ideally I would like to buy a rebuilt transmission but I don't yet have the money for that.

After the engine let go at Sebring I was talking to Stu of BSI racing about my different engine options.  He said, "Really the best thing to do is buy a new crate motor from Mazda then have an engine shop build it to the limit of the rules but, no offense, I don't think you have the money for that."  Called out for being poor!  He was right, I didn't have the money for that.  The new crate motor and shop build route runs anywhere from ~$5-8K.

  As we are talking, a man named Bill asks me what year my car is. I reply, 94.  He says he has an old race motor that has been sitting in a warehouse for years.  I ask how much he wants for it.  He tells me that I can have it.  I am ecstatic.  The motor is in south Florida and Bill arranges for Stu to pick it up at the next race which is in Homestead.  Stu calls me a couple days later saying the motor needs some work as there is no valve cover present and he believes the timing is off.  I decide to pay him to go through the whole motor, check it out, replace all bearings and wear items.  He quotes me $1200, which seems reasonable.  I have since paid half that amount and hope to have the remainder covered in the near future.

I plan on taking Sandy to the dyno first thing after she is back together.  I will also compare the horsepower function on the Traqmate when I run Sebring or Daytona again to get a feel for how much more or less power Sandy is making.  It would be awesome if I gained in the ballpark 5-10 hp with the new engine.  It would also be interesting to see how much more competitive that power would make Sandy and I.  We shall see.

One more item I still need to order is a race clutch from ACT.  That's another $350.  But it is one of those things that you might as well do while the motor is out.

Hopefully in the next month I will be putting the motor back in Sandy and she will be born again with a new stronger beating heart.

I will leave you with a couple GoPro stills, getting shacked

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sebring Enduro and Sprint Races

Well I got the car back together in time to make the next event which was at Sebring using the ALMS 12-hour full course configuration.  This particular event included an hour and half endurance race, my first.  There are a couple high speed corners on the full course that require larger attachments than the short course so that was fun.  

On Saturday I had 2 practice sessions, 2 qualifying sessions (1 for the Sprint races 1 for the Enduro) and the 90 minute Enduro.  Unfortunately my tires had already been through their "optimal" 8 heat cycles at the last event, so I knew I wouldn't have the most competitive set-up but I just wanted to make it to the end.

In the second practice session, unbeknownst to me a Porsche dumped a bunch of oil in turn 1 and I was the first to reach it. Turn 1 is taken at roughly 85 mph and there isn't a lot of runoff room to be had if you get it wrong.  Everything appeared normal as I entered at race speed. Mid corner the rear end decided it wanted to lead and I became a passenger at that point.  I remember thinking, "Noooo! not again".  I got extremely lucky and spun parallel with the wall about 10-15 ft from the concrete.  Major pucker factor, full vapor lock. 

Qualifying went a little better, I qualified 6th out of 27 Spec Miatas and 22nd out of the 90 car field for the Enduro and then followed that up by qualifying 4th for the sprint races.  I was stoked!

Also here is a badass photo documenting my ascension from 13th to 4th at Daytona post wreck.  (Thanks Angela)

For the Enduro my Crew Chief Kyle and I had come up with a genius scheme of attaching my stopwatch with zip ties to the steering wheel.  We would both start timing when the green flag dropped.  The strategy was to come in for fuel around the 45 minute mark.  Now in this series they enforce a 5 min mandatory pit window for refueling.  The only problem was that the refueler had to have a Nomex suit.  OK, well my drivers suit is Nomex, so I will just refuel myself when I pit right?  I had purchased a race style fuel jug in anticipation of self fueling, with the idea that the race-style jug will flow faster than the lawn-and-garden jugs I had been using.  On race day I found out that the hose diameter was too big to fit in the hole.  Never heard that one before.  

So cut to 45 minutes into the race, keep in mind it is hot as balls and I had already done 4 sessions on track prior to the Enduro.  I am exhausted.  I pull into the pits and begin unstrapping.  I am very dehydrated.  I climb over the wall and grab the lawn-and-garden fuel jug and clamber back to Sandy.  Now with this particular fuel jug you have to constantly hold down a release lever in order for liquid to leave the container.  5 gallons of fuel has never felt so heavy.  I am trying to hold the bottle steady but I keep pinching the hose in my attempt to rest the jug on the car while holding down the release.  It is taking forever.  A quick look around the pits reveals that we(read me) are idiots.  No one else sucks this bad at planning and most teams have 2 drivers.  After what seems like an eternity, the car is fueled, I return to the pit wall to dispose of the jug.  While there Angela hands me a large red Gatorade.  I flip up my visor and take several large gulps before sprinting back to the car.  I strap in with Kyle's help, start up the car and head off.  

6 minutes and 31 seconds.  That's how much time it took.  A minute and a half over what was necessary. Fock.  We are learning though right?

The rest of the race I was in the zone.  Probably the most consistent 45 minute session I have ever had, it was amazing.  I have a new love for enduros.  The balance of the car was constantly changing over the course of the race from neutral/loose to pushing quite a bit, I managed by adjusting my corner entry braking and steering inputs.  

I finished the race, that in itself was awesome.  How did I do in class? 6th.  How about if I had taken a 5 minute pit like most people? 3rd and only a couple seconds behind the 2nd place finisher. Lesson learned for the next Enduro.  (Another awesome photo taken by the beautiful Miss Angela)

Yay. Onto Sundays Sprint races.  I started in 4th and worked my up to 3rd after a few laps.  But then a strange thing happened.  The people I had passed were getting larger and larger in my rear view mirror.     Exiting turn 16 I went to shift from 3rd to 4th as per usual but the revs were much lower than they normally were.  I get passed on the back straight like I'm sitting still.  Sandy never makes it to 5th.

  I round 17 and head onto the front straight, right before the 4th to 5th shift I hear crrrrggghhssdhhsdafggggghhhhhhhhhhh.  No power, only smoke and the sound of metal bits clanging around outside of the engine.

Well it was bound to happen at some time.  Sandy had approximately 239,000 miles when I bought her and had since gotten ~2,000 track miles before the engine failure.  The photo below is the under tray.  That is a hole created by molten hot engine magma.

Remove hood, check.

Remove engine, check.

Stand in engine bay looking like a tool, check.

Found this little guy hanging out on the sub-frame cross-member.  That is a connecting rod, it is supposed to be inside the motor and in one piece.

 I decided to clean the engine bay while I had the time, this is a before shot



Now it feels as if I am building the car again.  I have a long list of To Do's and not a lot of money.  That's racing I guess.  In my next post I will lay out what all is being done to get Sandy back out on track and in a more competitive state, I hope.