|The V8 Targa Miata project|
|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.
|July 20, 2012 - I've had enough with hot transmission tunnels.|
The exhaust heat was actually enough to melt the heat shielding on the tunnel. So I decided to delete the catalytic converters. They're the source of most of the concentrated heat right beside our legs.
Now, it says in the Open Class regulations that the car has to run cats if it came with cats. In the OE location, too. Obviously, the latter isn't really possible due to the engine swap. But I overheard that at least one of the other Open Class cars was in Open because they had removed theirs. Racing gossip, of course. But I decided to ask.
The answer was "run them if you can, but we know you build legal cars so we'll understand if it can't be done for heat and packaging reasons". I've always been very careful about sticking to the regulations, and I'm glad to see it's been noticed. Then again, I'm probably the only person who's ever required about the minimum required length of the tow rope...
Anyhow, I cut the cats out of the car and replaced them with pieces of straight pipe. I discovered while doing this that one of my cats had actually been damaged at some point. Quite a while ago from the looks of the battered core that came out of it. Interesting.
With the cats gone, the car is noticeably louder. It has more ground clearance, too. It's too early to tell if it's going to be cooler, but taking that broken cat out of the exhaust can only be a good thing.
|July 20, 2012 - Here's what the core of the cat looked like once I got it out.|
That's a piece of broken ceramic core cat on the left. The round one is a metallic core cat, which is probably why it simply bent and banged up instead of shattering. It's a pretty compressed little unit, though - it's about 1.5" smaller in diameter than it was originally! It's just about small enough now to slip into the 2.5" pipe. I'm thinking it just kept on getting banged around inside the housing and eventually got smaller. Good failure mode I suppose, it didn't clog anything the way a ceramic one can.
The housing had an impact mark on the bottom. Not that bad compared to some of the other stuff under there and it probably pre-dated the skid plates, but the cat had taken a hit.
|August 7, 2012 - Summer Camp track time!|
The Summer Camp is where the car made its first tentative laps of the track and is usually the last test before the Targa. Not this year, of course. But it's always a bit of a milestone.
This year, there were three back-to-back days and I was to be giving rides all day, every day. That's at least 150 laps if all went according to plan. Because of the upcoming movie premiere, I had reverted the car to full Targa spec, right down to the tires and the tall ride height.
Okay, that wasn't a great plan. The weather was hot, the usual 95F sunshine we get in Grand Junction in August. After two laps, the rear tires simply turned to slime followed quickly by the fronts. Even if I tried to drive very conservatively, I'd only get two and a half laps before the rear started to behave like it was on castors. It actually wasn't that much fun to drive. The car was also having trouble staying cool. Every car was, actually - even a stock Z06 and the other V8 Miatas.
Then, just as I came in to the difficult braking zone, I heard a clunk and the steering wheel shifted. I'd had the car aligned the week before and hadn't put a wrench on every single bolt, and one of them had moved. Just like last year! Luckily, I had marked the cams so it was a simple matter of putting the bolt back in to position and torquing it hard. All the others were nice and tight. I let the car cool for a bit too, it was getting pretty warm under there to do suspension work.
For the next day, I put my undercar ducting on, swapped in the RA1 tires and dropped the car by 5 turns on the spring perches. Much better. The car was fun again, and reasonably quick even though I wasn't going for fast times. Average lap times were in the low 1:04 to high 1:03 times, which is as fast as anyone was going. The improved front airflow seemed to have solved the cooling problem too, as the car was happier all day while all the others continued to wilt in the heat.
On Friday, I went out for my first session and the car felt great. We came in to the pits and I popped off the steering wheel and laid it on top of the instrument cluster, as normal. It slipped off, so I lifted it a bit higher and put it back on - and when I did so, the padded rim of the wheel bumped against the windshield. It wasn't that hard, so I was shocked when I looked up and saw the big star in the glass. It wasn't safe to drive like that so my day was over. What a goofy problem!
A local glass company had the windshield in stock, so I scooted over there and had it installed. I was back at the track a few hours later, but decided not to push my luck as the adhesive was still curing. It's the third time I've had a new windshield put in this car, and I have yet to actually break it in a traditional manner. In sympathy, Nancy decided to take a rock later in the day and also cracked the glass.
So that was the end of the Summer Camp track time. Greasy tires, hot engine, broken glass and slipped alignment cams. But also some nice clean, quick runs and I tried a couple of things that may come in handy later. So it was not a complete waste. But it sure was frustrating.
|August 7, 2012 - The big premiere for Racing the Rock was on Friday night.|
We'd been doing publicity all week, with various team members and Adam visiting pretty much every media outlet in town. We rented the historic Avalon theater in Grand Junction and invited everyone to come out and see the show. For almost everyone there, it was the first time they'd seen it - even for most of those who were on screen!
We started by introducing everyone, then finally let it roll. It starts off with a black screen as you hear Janel and I discuss the upcoming stage, then the screen bursts in to life as we launch into it. It got my heart going right from the start. Adam did a phenomenal job of editing the thing, teasing some great story arcs out of Brandon and Zach trying to gel as a team as they also came to grips with Grand Touring, and about our run for the top of Open. I got right into it, trying to push the accelerator down as I watched the in-car shots. Even Janel learned some things, such as just how bad the visibility was the second time we went through Carbonear. It's funny, too - a montage of the classic GoPro starting shot of people squinting at the camera display had everyone laughing pretty hard.
After the film, we all trooped down to the front for a Q&A session about the movie and the race. Good questions for everyone, and the feedback was very good. Everyone loved the show. Adam looked very relieved.
DVDs of the film can be found at Flyin' Miata. If you're a car fan, a Miata fan or specifically a Targa Miata fan - I think you'll really enjoy it.
Photo by Ben Padolsky.
|August 10, 2012 - I've been going through the pictures from the Summer Camp.|
It's always interesting to see how the cars look when caught in the middle of doing something. I can see what other drivers are doing, how the suspensions are working and generally if the cars are in shape. This particular picture caught my eye - as you can imagine, that's maximum braking. There are a number of others that show the front compressed but not many that look quite this dramatic. I'm not sure if this was on Wednesday (slippery tires, tall ride height) or Thursday (stickier tires, lower height).
The car is fitted with 550 lb springs in the front, so you can see just how much weight transfer there is. It's not fully compressed in the front based on the remaining ground clearance, so the wheels can still deal with some pavement imperfections. Despite the tall stance of the rear, the car always felt stable like this. Some of the other pictures are rapid-fire shots of the car going over berms, so it's great to be able to see just how it deals with the impacts while loaded up. It's almost slow motion video.
On one of the other cars (not a Miata), you can see the front wheels going into positive camber on a couple of corners. Obviously a problem, we'll have to deal with that. And I want to take a good look at the data for how I'm entering some of the corners, there's one where I seem to have a different line from a particularly quick driver. Always something to learn!
Photo by Ben Padolsky.
|August 14, 2012 - There was a big V8 Miata meet at the Summer Camp.|
Zach took this shot and posted it to Autoblog. 4500 hp spread amongst 11 V8 Miatas. There are also are two more V8s to be hiding under covers in the back. Zach also covered the rest of the Summer Camp and captured yours truly blathering on about V8 Miatas. It happens a lot.
Autoblog also posted about the DVD. So did Hooniverse.
|August 16, 2012 - Time to start playing with the big wing I picked up a few months ago.|
The method of adjustment is actually pretty cool - by choosing your combination of holes, you can get surprisingly fine adjustments yet they are perfectly repeatable. Once you know what a certain hole is, you don't need to measure the angle of the wing. Much easier than turnbuckles.
|August 16, 2012 - The mounts are going to be interesting to build.|
I'm patterning them (partially) after the ones used on Porsche GT3 cars, as my wing mounting points are 1.75" closer together than my chosen mounting spots on the body. To make things even more interesting, they need to twist about 9 mm from front to back.
First, some cardboard templates before I commit to aluminum.
|August 19, 2012 - Some of the high-dollar equipment I used to make the uprights.|
I don't have a sheet metal brake at home, so I had to improvise. Two short pieces of angle iron, a vise and a C-clamp combined with some muscle did the job. My workbench is made of heavy steel and bolted to the concrete floor of the garage - people ask why. It's so I can romp on it when doing things like this!
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