We just successfully finished another 8+8 hour race this past weekend! It was Canada's 150th birthday too on Saturday, so what a way to celebrate!
The weekend went well from most accounts. Everyone had fun, each of the drivers set new PB lap times and we were racing fairly competitively for most of the weekend.
I started on Saturday morning in the rain. Was somewhere around 30-35 place when the green flag dropped and I proceeded to put the hammer down! I don't mind the rain and slippery stuff and was having a blast doing it. Picking cars off one by one and ran as high as 2nd place (out of 45 starting cars). Heck yeah, showing everyone else what a Mazda can do! At around 1:45 while running in 4th place there was a Full Course caution, so we pitted and changed out drivers.
The car ran well until my mother got in. Yes you read that correctly, my 69 year old mother drove her first race this past weekend! She did really well and brought the car home safe and sound which is rule #1. Over the radio it sounded like she was getting pretty tired, so we brought her in after about 40 mins. Until that time she was looking to be getting more comfortable and was bringing her lap times down. She had called in over the radio that she ran something over but didn’t know what. A big bang under the car while going down the back straight. Car seemed to be running ok though, no worries. When she came in it was fairly clear that there was an exhaust leak somewhere around the reader header or flex pipe. Nothing we could do so we soildered on for the rest of the day.
I got in the car to finish off the final hour or so. I started to notice that the car had developed what I think is a failing front left wheel bearing. It wasn’t too bad, so kept pushing on. There was a fairly strong vibration and noise in all right hand corners and it would disappear altogether in left hand corners. We ended up finishing in 10th place overall, qualifying us for the year end Championship race which was a bonus. All in all, I think we did pretty well too, very happy to be top 10.
So on Saturday night we tried to do a bit of trouble shooting. First off, we had no spare wheel bearing and couldn’t find one as all stores were closed for our national holiday Canada Day long weekend L. Also, I tried to get a set of used spindles from a wrecker last week, but when I went to pick them up on the way to the track on Friday I found that they weren’t from a 626. So we had no backups ready. Jacking the car up, we can find no end play in the wheel. The wheel feels solid when trying to wiggle it. It also seems to make no noise when spinning (straight or with steering wheel cranked) from either the bearing or CV joint. At this point we decided to just run it the following day and see how far it would make it. Amazingly it made it the entire 8 hours. Again I finished off the race and seem to feel like the vibration hadn’t really got any worse. Weird. So now we can get into the tear down process and see if we can find the issue. Any thoughts?
Now, to the exhaust leak. I started by check the bolts and gaskets on the headers and exhaust. All good. I started looking around a little bit more and found what can be seen in the picture below. It is hole, approx just smaller than a quarter, blown out of one of the exhaust header tubes. I would almost think it was the bung for the O2 sensor, but the sensor is actually further downstream and still attached. So that would explain the bang that my mom thought was the car running over something. It didn’t seem to effect performance all that much, but was sure causing a whole bunch of back firing when lifting off the throttle! Blowing flames every time too. At least it looked cool!
I have no idea why this would have happened (cheap Chinese steel?) or how we are going to go about fixing it. Hopefully once it gets pulled off, we can get a patch welded on and not have to replace the whole thing.
So we raced the remainder of Sunday without real incident until my final stint. It began to rain quite hard and I was again having some fun in the slippery stuff. I ended up going around the outside of T9 when a yellow CRX decided that it wanted to be in the lane I was in…. Not sure how he didn’t see me, but such is life I guess. He gave me a pretty good dent on the rear driver’s side door and spun me around. Luckily no other cars picked me up in the process and I was able to drive away. He also managed to miss the rear wheel altogether so the car ran strong and didn’t have any alignment issues post hit. I ran the rest of the race and was pushing hard until a few spins made me rethink how fast I really needed to go! I backed off and just brought the car home from that point on. We ended up in 13th place overall, not bad all things considered.