Saturday, May 5. 2007
Well, college is now in the history books so I have some time to work on the racecar again. Roebling Road is fast approaching and I have a TON of work to do to the car as usual. I have been getting pretty tired of my brakes and the car dancing around so bad under braking, so I got a pimptastic carbon fiber wing off eBay to settle things down a bit. Eventually I’ll probably make something out of aluminum that offers more downforce, but this was decently priced and saves time, which I’m short on right now. Because it hangs so far off the back, I’ll probably add some braces to the rear bumper to take some of the force. I played with foilsim and this wing should be good for 200lbs at 100mph. That should help keep things in check under braking.
Still on the list in the next two weeks….
SS Brake lines
Install Hoosier 245/40/17 tires
Convert to DIS
Install 3.64 gear
You could say I had my work cut out for me. I’ll keep the updates coming.
Wednesday, April 18. 2007
Road Atlanta has come and gone, and I was far to slack to write a blog about it. Suffice it to say I started 26th Saturday, finished 27th and 4th in class. Sunday I started 26th again, and finished 16th overall. My tire conservation strategy paid off, even on nearly corded Hoosiers. It was enough to get my 3rd in a class of 6 ST-2 drivers, for my first podium finish in such a large field.
Two weekends later, I attended an event at Seat-Time to instruct. Jon puts on a fantastic show and we got over 4 hours of track time in two days. If anyone hasn’t tried it out yet, you are really missing out! Seat-Time.com
Which brings us to Rockingham. With three races down, I only needed one more to complete my Provisional and earn my full race license. Lucky for me The Rock offers 4 races that weekend to choose from. With no one else in ST-2 that weekend, I threw on my street tires and brought the RX-7 out for some fun. Saturday’s first race was a total crap shoot on my part. I started in 9th and took the track for my warm up lap. The Rock is just too short to get enough heat in the tires and brakes, and my brain is a bit to dense to put that together. On the start lap, I passed two cars in the oval, and took a Cobra under braking into turn 3. Unfortunately, as I dove down and hit my brake marker, I realized that the temps just weren’t there in my brakes or tires to make the corner. I should have known better, but I ended up spinning in front of the Cobra, and off the track. In three turns I managed to go from 9th to 6th, then 10th. The rest of the race was spent trying to catch the rest of the field to finish 9th overall.
The second race of the day was much more fun. Combined groups gave me a starting position of 16th in a field of 30ish. With more of the cars in front being E30’s, I wasn’t too worried about getting by. I knew my car was faster coming out of turns, and very slow in them (thank you street tires), so I played the “dive and stuff” to get by the 8 Lightning cars I needed to and catch up to the CMC guys. The rest of the race was a fantastic battle with me in the middle of two CMC cars. While the RX7 has the power to weight advantage, the CMC cars on RA1’s were considerably faster in the turns. Finally, the battle was decided when both cars dropped out, netting me a solid 7th place finish. Unfortunately, the Megasquirt decided to act up and the car was unable to make Sundays races.
But fear not readers, for I was not to be car-less on Sunday. Chris Fairchock brought his 1995 M3 out to spectate, and it was a perfect TTD candidate. After a quick tech, we swapped the transponder and started to go after the TTD record of 1:11.3 at The Rock. The day was a fantastic mix of torrential rain and drying out periods that assisted my in some beautiful drifts. During the rain sessions, I gave rides to a bunch of workers and brushed up on my slide techniques.
As the track dried out, I started clipping out some fast times in the borrowed car. The last session of the day was the only really dry one, so I ditched the passengers, and started going for the record. My previous best of 1:14.5 from the last session soon melted to an overall best time of 1:11.1, good for the TTD track record. Unfortunately, with no way of knowing I already had the record, I continued to push the car until I finally buried it into the sand trap at turn 3, DQing my times from that event. Oh well, we’ll have to try again in June.
Next up is Roebling, hopefully with some new tires and horsepower to boot.
Wednesday, March 14. 2007
This weekend I spent instructing with the Peachtree BMW club at Road Atlanta. For starters, I just want to say that these guys put on one top notch show. I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the event, and will certainly be coming back every chance I get.
For those of you not familiar with the way they have their DE’s setup, BMW runs four student groups and one instructor group. All the student groups, A, B, C and D (with A being the most advanced students) run limited passing with a point-by. The instructor group runs open passing with point-bys. For this weekend, I had a student in group B and one in group D. Peachtree handed me a packet when I signed in with all my student’s information, schedule, track map, list of entrants, you name it. Basically everything I could have needed for the weekend was nicely organized for me. Armed with this information, I set off to find my students for the weekend.
Now, before continuing with the story, I guess it is important to preface with the story of the night before. Friday night was spent installing a passenger seat in the RX-7 for instruction purposes. Unfortunately, the time I thought I was going to have was severely truncated when I realized I had made commitments to inspect a friends recently purchased Spec E30, and to go see a movie with a group of friends. Long story short, I ended up not getting on the road until 3:30 AM Saturday morning. Having to be awake early meant I received about 2 hours of sleep the night before the event. What a good idea before instructing and driving the whole next day.
The weekend started off well enough. I got out to see how Road Atlanta had changed, and had an interesting session in the RX-7. Next up was my session with my group B student. He had recently done some work to his car including a new motor and LSD, so he spent the weekend learning to harness his new found power. Our session went well, with him being an exceptional driver. He really only had a few small issues to work on, and we spent the second half of the weekend doing off-line drills. My D student on the other hand, was relativity new to track days and had never been to Road Atlanta. We started off working on learning the line around the track. Our second session out is where things started going downhill.
I’m still not totally sure how it happened, call it lack of sleep, call it dehydration, heat stroke, or just what I ate for lunch…. But I was not a happy camper my second time on track. I found myself pretty ill after our second session, and had to immediately hop into my other student’s car to instruct him. I fought the urge for the whole session, and was so grateful when I saw the checkered flag. I promptly hopped out of his car, and doubled over my trailer as I met my lunch for the second time that day. Facing the reality that I still had 3 more sessions to instruct for, I grabbed some water, cranked the AC in the Explorer, and took a short nap. I felt much better, and went out one more time. Unfortunately, my new found healthy streak didn’t last long, and we had to cut the session short lest I ruin the pretty interior of the Mini I was riding in. I was lucky that two instructors graciously covered the remaining sessions, as I limped home with my tail between my legs.
I returned Sunday with new vigor, a good night sleep, and a good solid breakfast under my belt. After speaking with a few other instructors, I found that several have gotten motion sick in the past, and a few even had some Dramamine that was offered. I happily accepted, and added some over-the-counter drugs to my system of McDonalds and Gatorade. It turns out that the instructor that took my D student out yesterday found himself student-less on Sunday, so he continued to instruct my student on Sunday, leaving me with only my B student to focus on. By the end of Sunday I was still holding down my food, and having a great time to boot!
The car itself did great. The fuel modifications I have done held up and the car ran well below ½ a tank with no starvation to speak of. I was hoping to run less fuel but I opted out of two sessions on Saturday because of how I felt. Gearing is still an issue for me though. Even with the taller 17” wheels I simply ran out of gear. I found I needed 5th coming out of 5, after 7, and on the front straight. With the smaller 15” wheels my race tires are mounted on, it’s sure to be worse. I have found a 3.64 gear that is on the way, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough for my setup. I guess we’ll find out this weekend. The other issue I’m now struggling with is the stock shocks. CMP wasn’t really an issue but the curbing and bumps at Road Atlanta make the stock shocks painfully apparent, although the huge tank slapper I did coming out of 5 sure was fun. I just hope I don’t blow an axel this weekend….
Wednesday, March 7. 2007
One of the biggest problems with the last race at CMP was fuel starvation. Even though the RX7 gets great mileage, using less than 8 gallons during the 51 minute race, below 3/4 tank the car started to hesitate coming out of corners. This problem got progressively worse as the race progressed, partially leading to a drop in lap times of over 5 seconds. To solve this problem, I inverted the fuel filter, and converted it into a surge tank using a second fuel pump left over from a previous project. The basic diagram looks like this;
As you can see, fuel is pulled out of the fuel cell with a low pressure, high volume pump . The unit I'm using is a Carter 72 gph pump that is roughly $65. Next, fuel (and sometimes air) flows into the top of the surge tank. The Carter pump flows almost twice the fuel as the Holley HP pump, so a vast majority of the fuel is flowing out of the top fitting, back into the fuel cell. The idea is that also flowing out the surge tank are any air bubbles that might have gotten in. The tank acts to separate any air before it gets pumped into the fuel rail. Filtered fuel flows from the bottom of the surge tank into the HP pump, which goes into the motor. Interestingly, you don't need a very large surge tank with this setup because the surge tank is only being emptied as fast as the engine can consume fuel, not as fast as the pump can drain it. Excess fuel from the engine re-fills the surge tank, giving several seconds of uninterrupted fuel supply.
Another step I took was to relocate the fuel pickup hose more towards the center of the fuel cell. Not only will it take longer for the pickup to become uncovered, the surge tank should provide several seconds of fuel without any coming from the fuel cell itself. I guess we'll see at Road Atlanta.
Construction of the surge tank is pretty straight forward. Ideally, a good tank should be constructed from aluminum and welded. Good tanks can be purchased for less than $200, but I wanted to build my own because of the AN lines I'm using. All told, I've spent about $35 in fittings on this project. Starting from scratch, expect to spend $150-300.
For my tank, I drilled two holes in the top of the filter, and used a good aluminum epoxy putty to secure the fittings. The rubber lines in the pictures were used to dyno the car. SS lines will be used before Road Atlanta.
Also, the car made it on the dyno for the first time. An initial run showed what the car had at CMP, 196hp and 256ft/lbs. After tweaking the timing setup from the distributor, a second run yielded a more livable 214hp and 276ft/lbs. Not bad for a car that put out 225bhp stock. Expect some porting and a few tweaks in the next few weeks.
Coming soon: Part 2
4.11 to 3.64 gear swap, more power, less weight.
Tuesday, February 13. 2007
It is official; my rookie season is off to its start!!! After the successful completion of Comp School on Saturday, I entered my first race the following day and was super pleased with the results.
Saturdays format was simple, arrive at the track wicked early amidst sub 30 degree temperatures, and try to bolt in my harnesses and other sundry items to be able to run the car through tech. An issue Friday with the front calipers meant I arrived late that night, and couldn’t handle things the day before. After thrashing on the car for a few hours, I was able to make it through tech and get the car signed off. The Comp School format is basically a final test to ensure you have learned enough coming up through the ranks to be allowed on track. I was paired up with a gentleman driving a turbocharged Miata and we set off to run drills. First session out we ran on the left side of the track for 3 laps, followed by the right side for three laps, wash, rinse, repeat. While all this is going on, Randy Suddreth in his SU Corvette came out and put me through my paces. His job was to basically distract me, try to spook me, or get me to make a mistake. It was a ton of fun and that is one fast car. Had he not given me some great advice two weeks before that, I might indeed have been rattled. Unfortunately, my session ended early as my car decided to eat through the EGR plate I had installed weeks prior. The massive hole now in my intake manifold was equivalent to a stuck throttle body, so I had to pull in and fix it. A Dr. Pepper can solved the problem, and got me through the next session before it too, was consumed. The final solution was three layers of aluminum siding that lasted the rest of the weekend.
The second session out was side by side drills. My partner and I each took a side and ran the whole course two wide. After a lap or two we’d switch sides. That session was pretty uneventful. I was just happy to make it all the way through. Third and forth sessions of the day were passing drills. Running nose-to-tail we’d set up and make a pass in the major turns. This was far more eventful for the two of us. Third session out my foot slipped off the brake pedal as I was taking an inside pass, and I had to do a quick little correction to avoid getting into my partner. Later in that session, he locked down his brakes coming at my door, and I had to nearly go off course to avoid him. In the fourth session, we were joined by Pete Urbanski and his CMC Mustang. While going for a pass, the Miata spun on the inside of my door. To his credit he did a great job holding his car on the inside and I didn’t have to change my line to avoid him. It was interesting to see Miata tail lights 12” from your passenger mirror though. The rest of the session Pete gave me a work out, again, trying to rattle me. Good times were had by all!
Sunday is by far the highlight of the weekend. Given the drills I was running with a slower car, I had yet to get the chance to drive CMP at full bore. The morning practice session lasted all of 3 laps, but I had about 8 to see the course during qualifying. I qualified 12th overall, with a time of 1:55.296. At lunch time Jim took me around the track in his Pimp Wagon and gave me the finer points of CMP. That was a HUGE help to me, and I found several places where I was losing time.
The race format was interesting this weekend. Sunday’s race was a combined group, 60 min. enduro with both Small Bore and Big Bore cars. Since I am a rookie, I start at the back of the grid. I ended up starting in 33rd place, behind all the Lightning racers (small bore), and about 30 seconds down from the Thunder group because of the split start. In the first two laps I got to pass nearly all the Lightning cars which was a blast. Probably the highlight was going three wide into turn 1 on my very first race! Oh, and you know there's video! Having a 100hp advantage is a nice thing. The next 30 minutes were spent with David Coss, in his VERY NICE tube frame RX-7. We went back and forth several times but my car was not feeling the endurance format, nor was its driver. I managed to drive the tires off and about ½ ways through the race, I was having a lot of trouble getting power down through the corners. I will have to file that away in my book under tire management. The other issue I was facing is an interesting fuel starvation problem. At 2/3 a tank, I start to get air in the fuel system under heavy cornering. The result is a horrible sputter coming out of turns that gets worse as the race goes on. Not being able to put the power down for 50+ feet killed me. The second issue is my gearing. The RX7 differential in my car is a 4.11 which means 4th takes me to 100mph, then I have to use 5th gear. The 5th gear in a T5 is NOT meant to be used for anything other than overdrive really. Aside from being a .68 which kills the power band, it’s nearly impossible to shift into at speed. The 4-5 shifts took me longer and longer as the race drug on, and it was noticeable as my times fell. By the end of the race, my lap times were about 5 seconds off my best, but the knowledge I gained was priceless. I will be installing a surge tank to help the starvation problems, and a 3.6 ring and pinion to hopefully keep me out of 5th gear in the future. My final best lap time for the race was a 1:54.128 which is damn respectable given the current state of the car. Stock 15 year old shocks, 2 year old race tires, at least 25hp shy and using 5th gear. With a good setup and a little aero I think the RX-7 is going to be a real contender for ST-2 this year.
So this concludes my first race of the season. Next stop is Road Atlanta for what I’m sure will be one of the best races of the season. More to come…
Tuesday, February 6. 2007
There are a lot of safety features required to race in most series. Probably the most important is the roll cage itself. Lucky for me (a broke college kid), I have friends that know people. On Friday (27th) I took a trip into Norcross, Ga to pick up 1.75” .095 wall DOM tubing to build the cage. Total cost was $324 plus gas for the trip. We were supposed to spend the following Saturday back in Ga. installing the cage however my contact had to attend his kids soccer try-outs. Family first right! Well, as we’re making plans to install the cage this weekend (3rd), it turns out the guy has all the equipment to build cages, but has never actually done it. On top of that, he doesn’t really want to spend the whole weekend on the cage. In other words, it isn’t going to get done. Well, now I’m 7 days away from my first race, and no cage means no driving. I place a phone call to a friend in Charlotte with a shop, and make plans to come up there instead. So Saturday we hit the road and make it to Charlotte around 3PM.
Unfortunately, between me sleeping in and having to run some errands, we were about 6 hours behind schedule. No matter, Ken and I start bending. Keep in mind that neither of us has ever built a cage, and Jim was busy working on some properties, so it was a learning experience. We were up until 3AM the first day, and 4AM the following day. Between Ken and myself, there was probably about 30-40 hours in the cage, but it’s all finished. Now there are 4 days to go before I get my license and have my first race, and there is a LOT of prep still to go.
All pictures of the install can be found here. By the time I factor in gas towing the car back and forth to Charlotte, I have less than $400 in the cage. Of course, this only works if you know someone with a tube bender, notcher, welder, grinder, sander, you get the idea.
Fab Seat Brace
Paint Cage (prevent rust)
Remove Wideband (Needs to get fixed)
Box in Fuel Cell
Replace Rear Covers
Install Pads, bleed Brakes
Rebuild Front Calipers (if kit arrives)
Re-center Steering Wheel
Mount Window Net
Install Fire Extinguisher
Did I mention only 4 more days……. Stay tuned!
Sunday, January 28. 2007
Welcome to my race blog. At 24 years old, this will be my first season racing and I have a feeling it's going to be one wild ride. I will be a new driver in a new car and new class, which should provide plenty of learning opportunities throughout the year. Hopefully this blog will chronicle what it takes to prepare and race a car, and serve as a guide for beginners looking to make the leap from DE to a race group. First, a little background....
A few years ago I got mixed up with NASA (no, not the aerospace guys) and was introduced to the world of club racing. Wow, what an experience. My first event was at the absolutely gorgeous VIR in Danville, Va. I signed up for HPDE 1 and borrowed a 1999 Miata, stock aside from a set of track pads. What an interesting weekend that was. Prior to that event, I had about 4 years of autoX experience and several drift days under my belt, but had never really been around a real track. After a weekend of passing a lot of slower drivers (in group 1), I was hopelessly addicted and completely broke.
Enter NASA and their work for credit program. I had met Jim Pantas at a drift event the year before, and ended up a volunteer for NASA-SE. For every two weekends I worked, I got one for free. The next thing I knew, I was the Chief of Grid of a relatively new organization in their second year of existence. The perk of the job was free track time when I was able to get away from grid. This allowed me to take a few sessions a day in Group 2 at several tracks instead of having to wait every three events to drive. Next thing I knew, I was back at VIR in group 3 (NASA's advanced group, open passing), and ohhhh Nelly! After that, things progressed like wildfire and the rest of my events were spent with the big boys. That next year NASA introduced a new class called Time Trials, and I was able to bounce between Group 3 and Group 4 (TT). Unfortunatly this whole time I had no car to drive. I literally spent 2 years borrowing cars from friends. My roommates D15 Civic, Ken’s 1991 MR-2, an FC RX-7, 1991 Miata, and of course, the rental Cobalt. While there are tons of awesome stories to tell from those two years, the real focus of this blog is to chronicle my entrance into club racing, from a beginner’s perspective.
Over the last 2 years I’ve been building a 1985 RX7 with a Ford V8, Miata IRS, and FC3S front suspension. Figuring I could never race the car, I tried to sell the project a few times to get a Spec E30. Interestingly enough, this year brought the creation of a new class, Super Touring, and the RX7 is a perfect fit. So I invite you to follow the progress as the car turns into a track legal race car and I go to school to get my provisional. After that, we’ll be chronicling the progress over the season that will hopefully end at Nationals on my rookie year in motor sports. I welcome you all on the journey.
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