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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

So Fresh and So Clean

Fresh from the body shop Sandy is making admirable gains towards recovery.  Test-fitting the shiny dark green fender inspires me to one day paint the car with a glossy finish.

The new-to-me parts I bought from Esteban needed some blue Rustoleom.  


It was trickier than I thought to mount the new bodywork because all of the brackets and tabs had shifted in different directions, making the alignment process time consuming.

Ol' Winky

I managed to line everything up to some extent and am ready to get back to rubbin' !!!!! 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Repair, Rebuild, Return to Racing

Well, onwards and upwards.  I said when I was leaving Daytona that I would take time off from racing  and save up money to build a competitive engine.  But then Monday rolled around and I wanted to go racing again.  It just so happens that there was an Enduro/Regional race at Sebring 2 weeks away, so I figured out what I needed to replace at a bare minimum to get Sandy back on track.  I figure with a little more hammering I only really needed to replace the front bumper, right front fender and intake tube.  So I called up my good friend Esteban in Orlando.  

Esteban has a warehouse full of wrecked Miatas(read Heaven).  I ended up trading him my A/C compressor and $85 for a new front fascia, fender, intake tube, and eventually hood hinges

With the new parts I towed the car down to the body shop next to Dave's alignment shop.  I expressed to the puller that I could do as much of the non-specialist labor as possible and that I am a broke race-addicted junkie.  They initially quoted me ~$600 for the job.

I guess Sandy was more cooperative than expected, because when I talked to them again they thought the total would be closer to ~$360.  Sweet!!!!

Once the body shop is done Sandy will go across the street for an alignment and then I will paint and fit the new pieces to the car, bash the headlights into submission, buy and install new hood pins, apply new SCCA stickers, zip tie in a new mesh screen and do a couple confidence inspiring shake down laps in Viera.  I am trying to decide if I will just paint the new panels blue, or try some crazy new paint scheme.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


So Daytona didn't quite go as planned

After qualifying 9th out of 40 cars, with 1 second separating the top 10 cars, I was in good shape for the race.

I got a horrible start when I missed the third gear shift moments after the green flag and immediately lost 3 positions.

I started to make a charge back through the horseshoe, and by the time I reached turn  6 I had pulled away enough from the cars behind me to use the full racing line, or so I thought.

Still not completely sure what happened, but I believe the guy behind me was trying to out-brake another car and couldn't get slowed enough and wound up tapping me in my right rear quarter panel (you can see the car in my right side mirror)  That bump was enough to  push me into another car then off track.  Unluckily for me it had rained last night and the grass was still  slippery.

I realized when I was sliding downhill that I had no control, I then shouted an expletive and smashed the car into the armco. 

The damage looked mostly cosmetic at first...

Then as we investigated further we found out several components were bent, ie control arms.  So Kyle, Jared and I began tearing into the car pulling parts, hitting things with hammers and wrapping the whole car in duct tape in an attempt to get the car back on track.

Well after replacing the left front lower control arm, tie rod, sway bar endlink, passenger side engine mount, upper radiator tube, intake tube, bashing and rolling the fender, bending the hood pins back in place, aligning the car, duct taping the hood to bumper to headlight to fender, we got the car ready in time to make a couple hot laps for qualifying.  16th out of 40!!! Success!!!!  It felt so good just to get the car back on track, because I had assumed my weekend was done.

During the race a vacuum line came loose from the intake manifold resulting in a significant power loss.  The car wasn't competitive on the straights, no one would even give me a bump so I knew we weren't going to win this one.  However there was a major incident that produced a full course caution, stacking the cars back up for a restart.  I had since moved up from 16th to 12th.

I got a great restart making multiple passes on each turn through the infield.  I was in the "zone" and Sandy was in her element.  I carried as much speed as I could through the bus stop and got sucked into a bump-drafting train that allowed me to dive bomb a couple more cars into turn 1.  In a little more  than one lap I had gone from 12th to 4th.  Granted that when I got to the back straight and no one gave me a push I went right back to 15th, but I didn't care.
I make a cameo appearance in this video, fast forward to the 8:50 minute mark and notice how important the draft is at Daytona.   

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Sandy performed beautifully this past weekend.  I entered Spec Miata and Improved Touring A.  My goal for the weekend was to get in the points by finishing one of the races 9th or better.  My overall goal for this year was to become competitive mid-pack.

I qualified 6th out of 18 cars and in my first race finished 4th.  It was awesome.  I qualified 4th in ITA out of 15 cars and finished 2nd.  I couldn't believe it.  After burning through and flatspotting the tires in my second ITA race, I bought and mounted a new set for my next SM race.  I instantly dropped a 1.5s off of my previous best lap time, completely checking out from the other mid-pack spec miatas.  Now I was hanging around the front runners, although not quite competitively.

Now I want to win.  Although the car was much quicker than in Daytona, Sandy still can't match the pace of the Pro built 99's.  I plan on continuing to develop Sandy and my driving skills so that one day I will be able to compete for a race win.  The next race I plan on attending is Daytona in August.

I have attached the opening lap from my first Spec Miata race below and the race start from my second race

Thursday, May 10, 2012


So before my first race, there were a couple items that Sandy needed.  The first is this super sweet NACA duct that provides the driver (Max) with fresh air, the purpose being to stave off heat exhaustion slightly longer.

The second addition is ballast, so that I could make minimum weight with only 1 gallon of fuel onboard.  I found a guy on craigslist selling a whole weight machine set.  Score!

Finally I added the "R" chin spoiler to the front so that Sandy could make crap-tons of down-force, plus it looks badass

It took me over an hour to sew the required patches on, and I'm pretty sure they are going to fall off in the near future.

Friday before Daytona

Some in-car footage of the first race for your viewing pleasure

Post Race Changes:

I recently found out I need to update the final drive to the '99s ratio of 4.3.  I called my friend Estiban and he happened to have just what I need.  Here are some shots of the old guy removed.  More to come, checkwii

Friday, March 16, 2012


Before comp school I wanted to take the car on track as a shake down to make sure everything was good to go.  It was a perfect weekend, Sandy performed flawlessly aside from consuming about a quart of oil each day.  I signed up for the time trial group and instructed a hpde1 student to pay for my track time.  I wound up winning my class on Saturday and finishing second on Sunday.  Lucky for me Saturday was the trophy day, so I got this sweet plaque.
Oh also since last time I painted the car, I am still editing the time lapse video, but here is the initial cut.

There was a Cup car in my time trial group which was baaaaaaddd assssssss.  I cut down some of my in-car footage to segments where he passed me.  If you watch my mirrors you can see him catch me and make me look like I am parked as he rockets by.