SCCA Regional 18,19 September 2004

My car's performance this weekend was, in a word, passable. It is not too surprising that Miata might have trouble keeping up with a Stingray in the straights, however one would expect that Stingray to be made by Chevrolet, rather thatn Schwin.

The last time I drove the car on the track was for the Spec Miata day on 6 July:

In the morning, my best laptime was a 2:16.867. In the hot afternoon, I was running consistent 2:18s before one of my exhaust valves decided to "throw itself on a grenade", said grenade being number 4 piston. This resulted in a serious loss of power. That day, the fastest car on course was Dave Vodden who was running 2:12s in the morning and 2:13s in the afternoon.

Fortunately, or so I thought, I had a spare motor lying around. 130 k mile son the bottom end, about 10k on the cylinder head. Without going into boring details, I had a few issues getting the motor running properly, but eventually got things running fairly well.

I went up to Thunderhill for testing on Friday. I learned a lesson about replacing motormounts while the motor is out of the car. In left hand turns, the engine would lean over and the throttle linkage would rub against some sort of cannister. The symptom being that I'd let off the gas, but the throttle would stick in whatever position, lending a certain air of excitement to the whole exercise.

My times on Friday were very disappointing. Rather than the 2:16s and 2:18s I'd running two months ago, I ran one 2:22 and mostly in the 22:24 to 2:25 range. I may joke that I'm not allowed to take long lunch breaks at work lest I need retraining, but in reality my driving doesn't normally get that much worse in a two month period.

When I did a dry compression test the plugs looked good. The compression readings were: 170, 162, 166, 173

My hot tire pressures were a bit low, and after bringing them up, I knocked about 1.4 seconds off my lap time.

Over the course of the weekend, I basically learned the meaning of driving a "momentum car". I was barely hitting 90 at the end of the straight so I'd just barely lift at the entrance of one. I was flat well before the apex of two, and apart from a lift at turndown into 4 was flat from the second half of three up to braking for the crowsnest. I barely lifted in 6. Listening to the motor I'm not sure the lift actually did anything but no matter how many times my brain told my foot to stay on the floor, my foot just told my brain to perform an anatomically improbable act. There were several times that I'd come out of 6, 13 or 15 with better exit speed than the guy in front of me, and would still just get my doors blown off down the straights.

In SM qualifying on Saturday, I did manage to turn my best laptime of the weekend, a 2:18.946. In the afternoon races (SM and ITX bonus) I did manage several laps in the 2:19s. I di have a good dice in the SM race with (I believe) Mark and Lee. We were running nose to tail, three in a row for several laps, until I blew a defensive entrance to 14 and spun. Mark got past me, and I never saw them again. Bill Kabage may also have gotten past at that point.

In the bonus ITX race, Tom in the "cone orange" Oka car got past me at the start. It's been years since he last raced, and while he may not be dialed in for making a Spec Miata fast, he's definitely very good at making one wide. While I was caught behind him, I think it was Lee that caught us, and passed me. It took me a couple of laps and a couple of fairly aggressive moves, but I got past Lee, then Tom. I stayed to the left going down the main straight, and while Tom was pulling ahead on the outside, I had the inside going into one and was able to pull quite a lead on them. Most of the rest of the session was effectively clear track practice. I caught up to an Rx7 going into the cyclone and tried passing him on the outside coming out. This was working pretty well until my outside wheels went into the dirt. Spinning ensued. I cranked the wheel to the left to bring the car around, saw pavement, let the clutch out and charging for the pavement realized something looked wrong about the track. A quick look around, I regained my bearings, and realized the pavement I had been aiming for wasn't the track but the access road that cuts across the track. I changed my path slightly, shifted to WRC mode and, making sure thare was no traffic to tangle with, got back on the track, to finish what turned out to be the final lap.

I've been racing, or teaching when I couldn't afford to race, for about 16 years now. I think that the Spec Miata crowd is probably the friendliest, most closely knit class I've seen. I suspect that has a lot to do with it. It's great to meet everyone online, then connect in person at the track. Or should I say "talk in person"?

I've got to try to figure out why my car is down on power. I suspect that it's just a tired bottom end. I did go through over a quart of oil this weekend. I'm hoping that it is something simple, easy and cheap ( I *like* simple, easy and cheap) like my cam sensor coming loose and my timing being way retarded. If it really is a tired motor, I need to decide if I'm going to conjure money out of thin air, go through a bit of a thrash and try to get the car ready for the race in two weeks. Alternatively, I could start looking for a job. so that I can afford to spend this money on racing.

Copyright (C) 2004 Larry Colen
Most recently modified by lrc at Thu Oct 21 20:50:57 PDT 2004