Ok ok ok! After a lot of travel and getting some time to process the videos we have I can finally post some of them up here.
As expected (knock on wood for future races!) the 626 performed fantastic! As mentioned previously, the engine pulled like crazy. We were keeping up on the straights with all but the very fastest cars and were leaving many behind (including several E30s and hopped up civics. Even one E34 5 Series BMW was having trouble keeping up).
The weekend started with Friday test day that we took advantage of. I wanted to do a back to back tire test then planned to hand off to all the other drivers just to get some seat time. Didn't quite go as planned, but more on that in a second. Tire test results first:
We bought a set of 235/45/17 Hankook Ventus RS3s to compare against the 23/40/17 Nankang NS2Rs that we have been running. Both sets started as brand new sticker tires. Having run those previously and having an initial feel for them, I took out the Nakangs for the first stint to get a baseline. Wasn’t trying to push the limit and set ultimate lap times, was more interested trying to feel them as much as possible. The 2nd stint we switched just the front tires to the Hankooks with the idea being that we should be able to feel the difference in grip better through changes in balance between front and rear. Overall I felt like the Hankooks had a higher ultimate grip level, but more importantly had a more progressive feel in going from grip to sliding. The Nankangs really felt to be on/off, once they started to slide even a little bit the grip disappears.
In the end we decided to start the race on the Hankooks.
So during the test sessions, I went into a braking zone and locked up all 4 tires. Whoops, wait, ABS isnt working? That was weird. Next brake zone, same thing. So I finished the session being easy on the pedal and practicing threshold braking. With the bite of our Mazda 6 setup and ST-43 pads it was pretty tough. They had enough force to lock up the tires with ease. If one were to be racing without ABS, it would probably make sense to get a pad with a bit less bite. Driving with ABS is just so darn easy!
So in the off session times we set about trying to find the problem. As we were trying to diagnose, we also found that once we turned on the master kill switch the ignition would fire right away and the starter would not turn off. Whoa, that’s a bigger problem than we thought. We also found the TNS relay (? I have PNS in my notes, but that doesn’t sound right) fuse to be blown. After quite a while searching and testing connections and such, I finally noticed that the wiring loom inside the left quarter panel had fallen from its plastic mounts to the chassis and was sitting on the top of the tire as it spun. What a mess, a whole load of wires had been worn down and fused together including the wires for ABS, ignition, etc. We managed to pull the loom apart and spice in wires to fix the connections. Phew, that’s a relief. Especially considering the forecast for the following day.
Pics of the fused/shredded wiring loom:
We wake up on Saturday morning to POURING rain. I had previously convinced the only driver on our team that has yet to start a race to take the first stint. He has never driven the track in the rain!! Nervous? Yeah, I think he was S&!##ing bricks! Hahaha. I gave him final instructions to take it easy, find the rain line (way off of the dry line) and try to keep it clean. As we were warming the car up the tachometer stopped working. We still had some time while everyone was on their out lap. So we played with the power connections and got it working again. It would work sporadically throughout the entire weekend. He managed to get out on track in time and would join the back of the pack on the lead lap. In the end he had a fantastic stint. Only had a few minor spins (as you would in the rain) but was consistently getting faster and faster as he got more comfortable and ended up passing a bunch of cars in the process. Importantly he brought the car back in one piece. By that point, the rain had stopped, sun came out and we had perfect cool and sunny conditions for the rest of the weekend.
Here is the first stint of the race:
We managed to cycle through all of our drivers without issue over the course of day 1. One small black flag incident for contact when we were tapped on the rear quarter. The driver managed to save from spinning and the other cars driver came to apologize after his stint. Racing incident, all good.
Sunday again went without issue and we cycled through drivers in reverse order. Everyone was having an absolute blast and getting faster each lap. I think everyone finally is starting to get a taste of what it is like to actually race now that their lap times are becoming at least competitive and are loving it. Fantastic stuff! The car came into the pits unscheduled twice, once for a loud rattle, that seemed to solve itself and once when the driver thought the front left tire was going flat. No problems found and the car was sent back out both times.
I took the final stint to finish the race. We ended up a couple of laps back of the car in front and a couple of laps ahead of the car behind, so no real push to try and gain a position, but as the final stint of the year I went out guns blazing anyways! That stint was the most intense I have had so far. All was going smooth and I was running fairly fast lap times and then this Miata shows up in my mirror. I wasn’t all that keen on letting him by, so I started pushing a bit harder. What ensued was by far the hardest 30 minutes of racing I have ever had. We duked it out going back and forth the whole time. I was trying to push as hard as I could through turns 2 and 4 and even thought at one point “dammit this is too intense, why won’t he just back off or pull away so I can take a breather”!! It all ended at around the 45 minute mark in the video when a 944 and an Integra came together in T4. I got hard on the brakes and managed somehow to avoid the whole thing but also avoid being collected by the Miata and BMW behind. Miata wasn’t so lucky and his day was done.
Immediately following the ensuing FCY I got myself into another battle with an E30 325. This one too went back and forth and we raced harrd all the way until the end. With about 15 minutes left I started to get fuel starve under hard braking into T5. At one point the BMW almost rear ended me. I backed off thinking I didn’t want to run out of fuel before the end. But with 5 minutes left or so I just couldn’t help myself and put the hammer down again! Hahaha. Ended up running my fast lap of the day on the 2nd last lap (1:41.6) and finished ahead of the BMW which is always very satisfying!
My final stint of the race:
Throughout the stint the brake pedal felt a little bit soft, so a good service of the calipers is probably needed and a full flush of the fluid in the spring. The other issue we encountered is what we believe to be a failing 4 gear syncro. Shifting from 5th to 4th was making grinding noises every time so I ended up just taking Turn 8 in 5th and skip shifting directly to 3rd. We have a spare transmission waiting in the garage, so willlikely be prepared to change it out at some point very soon. The tire wear was fantastic over the weekend. The right rear is hardly worn at all (can still see the flames and “Ventus” markings in the tread. The front left probably has about 1/3 of life left on it. So we will need to wear those and the Nankangs out next year before we get to put on the big 255s I have waiting in the basement!
The black mamba on the front straight:
Fuel run after day 1. Nearly $200 worth of fuel.
Parc Ferme at the end of day 1. We have 10 minutes to get driver out, remove radios and gopro and tarp it up for the night. No other work allowed:
Team (minus me, Im in the car) at the end of the weekend. Exhausted but happy!