|The V8 Targa Miata project|
|March 11, 2012 - Here's the intake in place.|
The filter is just above the mouth opening in the nose, visible if you get down to squirrel level. It will have no shortage of cold air there! I'm missing one piece of bodywork in the nose here, the one that seals around the front of the rad. I'll cut it to clear the intake next.
This should provide a comfortable power gain under hard use. The GM engine computer pulls timing starting at 80F intake temperature. And I was well, well above that. All of my ductwork on the driver's side won't be needed anymore, so it's possible I'll pull the NACA duct headlight cover off again and reinstall the turn indicator in place of my mesh unit. There's no advantage to ramming air in behind the radiator.
|March 12, 2012 - Here's a view of the filter from squirrel level.|
Cold air? Yes.
|March 12, 2012 - The finished intake.|
I made a flat plate to cover the MAF sensor hole and glued it on with some RTV. The bellows have a flat spot on one side to clear the drive-by-wire throttle - flipping that piece over gave me a nice flat spot to poke a hole for the air temperature sensor. A piece of rubber gasket that used to be around the front of the filter does a nice job of sealing the cutout around the blocking plate at the top of the nose.
I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.
|March 14, 2012 - I'm almost done preparing the car for Laguna Seca.|
I've swapped the plain headlight cover and stock turn indicator back in. That's a bit of a shame, it really did look cool. But aerodynamically they're all wrong now, so they had to go.
I also cornerweighted the car last night. I disconnected the sway bars, rolled the car back and forth and bounced to to get rid of any binding on the wheels. And it came out at 50.0% cross weight. Well then, my work here is done! The front/rear distribution ended up at 55.5 front (without driver/passenger weight) and 50.0% left/right balance. In the race, it has an extra wheel and a tool bag in the trunk which would pretty much bring that back to 50:50.
All I have left to do now is a check of the alignment and then to clean it up. Then I get to scrub in the tires at a track day in a week and a half, and it goes on to the trailer for California!
|March 24, 2012 - Can you change the air filter on your car without even opening the hood?|
I can! It's easy to reach through the mouth of the car.
This Attack Blue air filter arrived today. That's the stock one beside it, imitating a roll of blue paper towels. The stock unit filters well, and if you want lots of flow the stock LS9 unit (used on the supercharged ZR1) will drop right in. This cone filter flows as well or better than the LS9 part according to some dyno tests. I wanted it because it's tucked back a bit further inside the housing and gets the filter out of direct insect strike range. You can no longer see the filter surface unless you're lying on the ground looking up.
The retainer that holds the filter in place would be a good place to put a coarse mesh, something to act as a strainer for bugs and the like. If I see any signs of that being a problem, I'll do something along those lines.
I have to give TKO Performance a mention here. They weren't able to ship my filter right away when I ordered it, which meant that I wasn't going to have it in time for Laguna Seca. I made a call to them asking what was going on, and they volunteered to bump it up to 2-day shipping so I'd have it in time. The fellow on the phone also knew his stuff, discussing the installation process without having to think about it. Nicely done.
|March 27, 2012 - Time for a quick track test before Laguna Seca.|
With the number of changes to the car, I had to get at least an idea of what to expect even though I had a pretty good idea. Besides, the tires needed to be scrubbed in.
Overall, it went pretty well. The track is a short tight one, not like Laguna Seca at all. But it's got one long 70 mph sweeper that I use to evaluate overall balance. Through there, the car seemed fairly well balanced with a bit of a bias towards oversteer under power - of course, the power level could have something to do with that, as I'm right in the meat of the powerband in 3rd as I try to balance the car in the turn.
Elsewhere, the car felt good with a quick turn-in. I'll probably leave it as is for the big track, or possibly drop in a slightly softer rear sway. The new front aero could be causing a bit of high speed oversteer due to increased front downforce, it'll be an interesting experiment.
Overall, the car felt just a bit low on grip. RA1s are like that on their first day out, they don't seem to develop maximum grip under after a heat cycle. My times in the first session were very consistent, which is usually a sign of a good handling car. As the day went on, they dropped with just about every lap. My last lap was my fastest, with a 1:03.388. That's a personal best in this car, and next time out the tires will be ready for more. The fact that there were cones on the apexes in the chicane meant I had to take a slower line than usual through that section.
So, a good day. A very short bug list of problems to deal with, and I'm ready for Laguna Seca. One nice side note is that the car's light throttle behavior seems improved, with less snatching than before. I'm thinking this is a result of the new intake. I like it.
|April 5, 2012 - Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca!|
Always a fun track. On the first session of our two-day visit, I got my first chance to try out the car on a big track with an engine up to full power and a track-prepped suspension and tire package. It was a lot of fun. It's been two years since I was at Laguna, so I was still feeling my way around. But the car felt pretty good, well balanced and very strong.
Then the heavens opened. On my next session, it was raining so hard that I was hydroplaning all over the place and struggling for any sort of traction. Add in some bad visibility from both the rain and windshield fog, and I pulled in after two very sketchy laps. There was nothing to be gained by throwing the car away and I wasn't comfortable. My top speed was lower than it had been on the Targa, and in that case there were times when I was following a faint yellow center line through the fog on an unknown road. But there you have it, I wasn't up to speed mentally yet.
The rain tapered off for the next few sessions, and grip levels started to come back. It was entertaining slithering around in the corners, but I would have preferred the ability to use full throttle once in a while just for fun! I can report that there's no concern about water inhalation with the new intake, though. Even through the comically deep puddle at pit exit.
I was getting a few odd messages from the steering in the fourth session, though. I was convinced that the wheel was off-center in places. But not always. And the car seemed to understeer sometimes. It was making me wonder. I pulled off the front wheels and checked everything over but I couldn't find anything. I even had Janel turn the steering wheel as I held the tire in place - she won and the tire turned. Puzzling.
The track had dried out, the sun was shining - it was time to go and have some real fun in the last session of the day. The first lap was exciting, as my passenger and I got released right in the middle of a big group of experienced drivers of varying levels of aggression and car speed. Lots of passing, both by us and of us. On the second or third lap, I went to turn into the fast turn 10 and the car just didn't turn enough. You don't get a second chance at that one so we went sailing off the outside of the corner. Luckily, it's right by the pit exit so we carried on and back into the garage.
I pulled everything apart and checked things out again. All of my alignment cams were in the correct location - after the alignment cam slipped at the Summer Camp, I'd marked all of their positions - but I did find one that was a bit looser than the others. My toe plates indicated that the toe wasn't right, so I figured I'd slipped again. I checked the condition of the tie rods, the inner and outer ball joints, everything I could think of. Nothing. So I torqued everything up hard and headed home.
It was bugging me. I hadn't had the usual clunking noises of slipping alignment, and the car hadn't seemed darty enough for the amount of toe-out I'd found. Driving the truck in to the track the next morning, I was still trying to figure out what was going on. Nothing was coming to mind, but I didn't feel like I'd found it. I jumped into the car and headed out to line up for the track - and with a squeal, the steering wheel moved 90 degrees off center. Then I moved it back with another squeal. The wheel was obviously not connected to the front wheels. So it was back to the pits again and more time on the jacks. Again, I had Janel turn the wheel while I restrained the hub - and this time I was able to make things slip. Once I pulled off the new undertray and splitter, a shiny spot on the steering rack told the tale. The rack was moving. The mount on one side had broken. I got lucky, the failure could have been a whole lot worse than a ride through the gravel. Imagine if it had broken at the Targa!
So that was the end of my weekend. What a shame, I'd been looking forward to having the engine back at full sea level power again and I barely got to use it due to the conditions.
Janel fared even worse, she'd only managed three laps before the rain came and later in the day she missed out because I was trying to figure out what was going on. Luckily, our good friend Rick Weldon stepped in and sent her out in his car. It's got a character very much like the old 4-cylinder version of the Targa Miata, and Janel proceeded to have a great time. She took me out as a passenger in one session and showed me what I was missing - those big sweeping fast corners at a bit of a slip angle that you just don't get to do on the Targa. So that worked out.
So why was the toe off? Probably because I hadn't managed to get the wheels straight and I was seeing the result of Ackermann. And more importantly, why did the steering mount break? After talking to V8Roadsters, it appears the mount was accidentally made of the wrong gauge steel. There were a few subframes made with these incorrect parts, so Flyin' Miata and V8Roadsters are working to determine exactly when they were made and where they went so the problem can be addressed. Boy, am I glad it let go the way it did...
|April 11, 2012 - The 2011 Targa TV show will be aired this weekend on Speed.|
1 pm EST on Saturday, April 14, to be more precise. It's already aired in Canada on TSN, but this will be the first chance for those south of the border to get a peek.
The show is an overview of the entire event, so it attempts to cover every team. It's a good way to get a feel for what was going on over the course of the week. Apparently the version shown in Canada had absolutely no Miata content, despite the fact that both FM teams were leading their respective divisions at the end of Day 3. The version to be shown on Speed, however, apparently does mention the Targa Miata briefly. If you want to see extensive Miata coverage, you'll have to be patient a bit longer until our own DVD comes out.
You can also buy a copy of the DVD from the Targa Newfoundland website. It's the Canadian version, the one with no Miatas.
|April 17, 2012 - The Targa TV show is now available for streaming on the event website in case you missed it on Speed.|
Watch it here. It's the US version, which means it does have a brief mention of the Targa Miata, most of which has ELECTRICAL PROBLEM displayed on screen. Not quite the coverage I'd hoped for, but I can't lie about that part. Scroll to 29:00 if you don't care about the other cars and just want to see us drive across a bridge in the rain.
Otherwise, it's primarily a Dodge show. The organizers of the event consider Classic and Modern to be the "headline" divisions, and Touring and Open are just support classes. That's a bit disappointing, but so it goes. It would be pretty difficult to make a Miata competitive in Modern these days, although one based on a Mazdaspeed might have a chance. The factory turbo makes all the difference.
In other news, we've been discussing a title for our own video project. "Nancy Does Newfoundland" is probably not going to get the nod...
|May 10, 2012 - The replacement subframe from V8Roadsters arrived on Tuesday.|
On Wednesday night, Bill and I swapped it into the car. That's the broken one on the floor. It took about three hours total to do the swap. The jigs at V8R are obviously pretty good, because it slotted right into place with no hassle whatsoever. The biggest hassle was dealing with the fact that I routed the oil cooler and power steering lines through the middle of the motor mount brackets, so those had to be disconnected.
The car's going in for an alignment tomorrow morning and then it'll be as good as new.
|May 19, 2012 - Last weekend, we went racing in a different way.|
The track days that usually run every six weeks or so were replaced with a two-hour kart enduro. Not the fastest karts out there, but we were racing wheel-to-wheel in equal vehicles so it added quite a different flavor to the day. There's a lot to be learned by doing this - not just the usual of how to set up a pass or figure out why someone is just a little bit faster through a corner, but usually passing someone involved an unusual line which could be helpful in rally. Huge fun, especially after the field had spread out a bit and there were slow karts and fast karts all mixed up. I did get called "merciless" by one of the other drivers!
Janel and I shared a kart and came third overall out of 10 teams. She's fun on the track - if someone's in front of her, she'll push hard to catch up. She needs a rabbit to chase. In the picture, that's me in the white helmet and Brandon's in the black one. We got a chance to have a bit of fun chasing each other around. We're usually a very close match on speed, but I had a bit of an edge with the karts for some reason. I don't expect that to remain the case if we do much more of this...
|May 19, 2012 - Tracy and Adam Costa came to Grand Junction to shoot the final footage for the DVD project.|
The title's been set: Racing the Rock: Six Days at Targa Newfoundland. The world premiere is going to be at the Flyin' Miata Summer Camp in early August, and Zach should be joining us. It'll be fun to watch on the big screen.
We spent the weekend shooting various interviews and bits and pieces needed to fill out the script. Here, Brandon and I are giving a walk-around of the cars while recovering from the kart escapades. I also took them up on the Targa Simulation Road for some driving shots. I'm pretty jazzed about this project. Adam's great at what he does and I know he's got a lot of good footage from not only his own cameras, but also two other camera crews that were at the Targa as well as all our in-car shots.
|June 1, 2012 - Motor Trend has published an article on the Miatas at Mazda Raceway event from a couple of months ago.|
I was interviewed for this, but it's not really about us - it's about the event. Ignore the bit about the L39 truck engine :)
|June 2, 2012 - Ever wonder what happened to the original Targa engine?|
It was sold to a Miata enthusiast named Nate. Then it sat around the FM shop for some time as we waited for Nate to get the chance to drop his car off and for FM to have the time to work on it. And finally, after all this time, it's ready to head off to a new home in Michigan. And yes, there's still a brass plate on the cover that states that it was built for the Targa Miata.
It's been detuned a bit for street use. The cams have been changed out for stock ones, the intake is the modified stock one that was used during the race and the header is a standard Racing Beat unit. It did drop a bit of power but it's much better mannered in day-to-day driving. The car got a number of other upgrades at the same time, such as a V-Maxx suspension and seam welding.
Before installing the engine, FM gave it a once-over. There was a small fluid leak from the head gasket in one corner so that was fixed, and the bearings were checked out. They all looked good with the exception of the rod bearings. Those ones were hammered! The bearings were simply failing. Not due to starvation (this engine has always had very high oil pressure), but just due to stress. We swapped in some new ones to take care of that, as all the clearances were good. This is an engine that has about 6000 really hard miles on it, by my estimation. Not just the Targa itself, but lots of track days with multiple drivers and a redline set at about 8000 rpm. About the only time it wasn't being driven flat-out was during the transits during the race. Otherwise, it was getting caned. To put it into perspective - the very successful Miatas I worked on at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill did about 1900 miles during that race. This engine has gone around three times that distance. What a trooper.
One or two people asked about buying it because of the value of the parts inside - it was cheaper than buying a stroker kit and the head. No sale! I wanted to see this engine stay together.
|June 6, 2012 - I forgot to mention these when I was preparing for the Laguna Seca event: a set of brake ducts.|
After seeing the bad wear on the inside face of the rotors, overheated pads were the verdict from Performance Friction. An interesting note about PFC97 pads - it would seem that they don't lose braking performance as they overheat, they just start to destroy the rotors.
The solution was to keep the brakes cool. I was looking to build my own ducts, but these ones from Trackspeed Engineering pretty much covered all the bases. They're designed to take a 2" hose and bolt right in. They're now available through Flyin' Miata. Ideally, I'd like to see the hoses aimed closer to the center of the rotor so the internal rotor ducting would take care of air distribution, but that's not possible with the ABS sensor in the way. I use the ABS sensor to drive my rally computer!
|June 6, 2012 - In order to provide a good supply of cold air for the brakes, I built a couple of ducts to mate up to the front air dam.|
It was a fairly easy job using some thin sheet aluminum, a piece of 2" exhaust pipe and some rivets. A bit of foil tape took care of sealing inside. Aircraft SCAT hose took care of the air transfer duties.
How well does it all work? Difficult to say. Laguna Seca was too wet to put any real heat into the brakes, and the car was parked once the weather cleared up.
|June 15, 2012 - Check it out - the Racing The Rock poster!|
It's going to print shortly. The website for the "minor motion picture" is also starting to take shape at RacingTheRock.com.
Adam's been putting a huge amount of time - and no small amount of money - into this project. I'm really looking forward to seeing the final result. The premiere at the FM Summer Camp will be quite an experience!
|July 12, 2012 - A new toy showed up.|
I've been thinking about doing some more aero investigation. There are a number of things that could be addressed, such as a smoother underbody. I've already made a few steps in that direction of course. But I've also been toying with the idea of a wing. There's no question that they work.
I've been working with a metal fabricator around the idea of building my own wing from scratch. I also have an HPM wing that was previously used in World Challenge racing. But there's a particular option that's available right now that kept drawing me back.
Back when NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow, the cars had a wing on the back. This was fine (well, not according to the traditionalists, but let's ignore them) until it was discovered that they'd generate lift when the cars starting going backwards at high speed, which is something that NASCARs do. So all the Car of Tomorrow wings were torn off and replaced with spoilers. Where did they go? Where old race parts go, into the used market. You can buy a nicely designed carbon fiber wing with interchangeable end plates for under $500. New, they were over $3000.
It's a big boy. Not something for a car that's low on power. But it should be fairly effective. The biggest challenge is going to be figuring out how to mount it - the hood pins on the trunk are in just the wrong place. But I'll think of something. I've got a few ideas. I'm also going to do some research to figure out where the best place to put it will be.
The wing investigation won't happen right away, though. The Flyin' Miata Summer Camp is coming up in three weeks, and I'm going to revert the car back to Targa specification for the Racing The Rock premiere. I also have three days to give joy rides at the local track, that should help burn up the R1R tires! Once that's all done, I'll go back to track spec.
|July 19, 2012 - I took the car to a local car show on Saturday to see if I could drum up a bit of interest in the upcoming premiere for <a href="http://www.racingtherock.com">Racing The Rock</a>.|
Hint - it's on August 3rd at the Avalon Theater in Grand Junction. Anyhow, it wasn't much of a success. I had the only imported car there. Well, technically the new Camaros being shown off by the dealer are imported from Canada, but don't try to tell anyone that.
Still, it was a nice day to spend hanging out in the grass, and there was a guy there with a very cool home-built off-road buggy that I spent some time examining.
|July 19, 2012 - Suspension time!|
In preparation for the upcoming Flyin' Miata Summer Camp, I pulled the track springs off and installed the Targa setup. During the event, I'm going to spend three days giving rides on the local track. I've decided to fit the R1R tires to the car for this, mostly because I have a stack of 10 of them left over from the race and development and I don't want to burn up my track tires doing joy rides! There's not much point in loading up those poor R1R tires with a full track suspension and I figured people might enjoy feeling how the car was set up for the rally. I'll be using the same ride height as well, although I've changed the sway bar settings to give me a handling balance that's more suitable to the tight little track.
After the summer camp, it'll be mutation time. I've been thinking about how to mount the wing and I think I have a really good setup figured out.
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