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TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
3/18/23 7:53 p.m.
infernosg said:

It looks like we're going to miss eachother most of the year. I'll be at VIR next weekend (3/18-19), hoping for Dominion in May, Pitt Race in July and then Summit Point in Sept, Oct and Nov.

I'll probably see you at the November Summit event if it's the NASA MA fall finale. What's the Pitt Race event?

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
4/1/23 11:36 p.m.




Once the new hub was pressed in, the knuckle was re-installed and I set preliminary ride height. Man this thing looks good! I was never able to drop much lower than stock height without running out of shock travel on my old setup.

 

 

I borrowed some Paco Motorsports hub stands from a friend, and used a co-worker's scales again to properly corner-balance the car. 

 

 

These stands are so awesome that I got a few friends together and we all chipped in and bought them! This video by Flyin' Miata helps show how to use the features built into the hub stands to do your own alignments as well!

 

 

Here's how the car was set up on the old suspension. I was told to think of it like a table with uneven legs. Find the short leg and lengthen it, or the long leg and shorten it, to keep the table from wobbling. 

 

 

This video by Flyin' Miata is super helpful showing how to approach corner-balance.

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
4/1/23 11:37 p.m.

 

Here it is after corner-balancing: a massive improvement in cross weight with nearly perfect 50-50. These weights are with me sitting in the driver's seat. After that, I did my first DIY alignment and was ready to take on Summit Point Shenandoah Circuit!

Alignment specs: Front camber -3*, Front toe 0, Rear camber -2*, Rear toe 1/16" in

Shock settings: 3 clicks from full soft on all corners

 

 

Looking at the forecast I knew that it was going to poor weather most of the day Saturday. Fortunately the actual precipitation mostly stopped right after the morning driver's meeting, but the track was absolutely drenched for half the day, with parts of it starting to dry by the last couple sessions after the sun finally came out around 3pm. 

 

 

After the last session was finished, we headed out to walk the track. I've only ever had the opportunity to walk NJMP, so I was eager to do the same here. Shenandoah is basically a gigantic go-kart track with tons of road crown and road camber change, so walking it is pretty darn helpful. 

 

 

Of course the most notable feature of this track is the scale replica of the Nurburgring's famous Karussell turn - a banked concrete left-hander. Getting the entry drop-in on this turn is tricky!

 

 

Saturday ended on a much brighter note than it began. What started out as a freezing, rainy mess turned into quite a nice day at the very end. It was also quite a day of firsts for me - first time on Shenandoah, first time on track in the rain, and first time driving on the new Fortune Auto 510's. I think the slower pace for the rain ended up being quite helpful, as it helped me learn the track and the handling characteristics of the new suspension at a much lower speed. 

 

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
4/1/23 11:39 p.m.

 

Sunday was a stark contrast to the previous day, with bright sunny conditions allowing for fun all day. I was able to apply everything I'd learned in the wet slippery sessions and dial up the speed, which was very fun. 

 

 

The Karussell - or Carousel, depending on how pedantic you feel like being - presented a unique challenge as the bumpy surface would certainly let you know if you didn't have something in your suspension torqued to 110% of spec. At one point both RH strut bolts and the height adjuster collars  for the coilovers started to loosen and required some extra torque to make sure everything stayed tight. 

 

 

The Fortune 510's feel absolutely fantastic, and were worth every penny. I really feel like the car responds in a much more predictable way now, especially under breaking. With my old setup, the car always felt like it was sitting on top of the springs, rather than actually using them, if that makes sense. The 510's make it feel like an actual car, not something that was cobbled together from scraps.

 

 

In all, it was an absolutely fantastic way to start the season. There was one session in particular that had some of the most fun laps I've ever had on track, chasing a Fit and a Miata. I have to give a shoutout to the Washington DC Region SCCA folks for throwing a great event. This was my first time running with them and it certainly will not be the last!

 

 

Here's my fastest lap from the weekend, a 1:52.4, not too bad! The next event up will likely be either a trackcross or DE at Dominion in April, followed by Hyperfest at VIR in May. Hope to see you out there!

infernosg
infernosg Reader
4/3/23 10:40 a.m.

In reply to TheDailyDownshift :

I'm running Pitt Race with a group called AutoInterests. They mainly run tracks in the Mid-West and Great Lakes regions and I have some friends from my time in Ohio that instruct with them. I've run with them at SP in the past and had a good experience. More technical instruction than NASA-MA or WDCR SCCA but not as intensive as I remember NASA-GL being. Speaking of, I'm glad you enjoyed your session with WDCR SCCA. I usually go to their Dominion and SP events.

It's ironic you posted about hub stands. I'm seriously starting to look at those. I'm fortunate/privileged enough to get a yearly bonus and I think this year's may go toward a set from Paco Motorsports and some scales.

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
5/30/23 5:24 p.m.

 

After a very successful first drive on the Fortune 510's at Summit Point Shenandoah, I decided to go ahead and swap the rear springs form 6k to 7k, more in keeping with Fortune's initial recommendation for this car. The car felt so planted that I felt that the extra rate in the rear could help make the rear a little more lively, as well as reduce the tiny amount of rear tire rub at full compression I was hearing when tackling curbing especially hard. With a quick alignment refresh, the car was ready for Hyperfest at VIR!

 

 

My friend John arrived extra early and saved me a good spot in the paddock on Thursday evening. It turned out that this event in particular was "early bird gets the worm" as Friday morning would bring absolutely insane lines to get into the event as registration seemed to hit a series of hiccups. There were reports of people waiting in line for 3 hours just to get in. Hopefully VIR/NASA/Hyperfest staff learned some valuable lessons and next year goes more smoothly. There were a lot of very disgruntled guests. 

 

 

The rest of the crew arrived and set up camp in the traditional spot we have occupied since Hyperfest moved to VIR years ago. This year marks the twelfth consecutive year that this friend group has had representation at Hyperfest, going back to 2009 at Summit Point. Friday was mostly spent hanging out and checking out the sights the event had to offer, as the NASA driving didn't happen until Saturday/Sunday.

 

 

Unfortunately this is how most of Saturday went. On the fifth or sixth lap of the very first session on Saturday morning, I put the throttle down to pull out of Oak Tree, and had zero acceleration. Fortunately there is a super handy pit lane there for South Paddock, so I was able to pull in there and remain safely out of the way for the remainder of the session. A flat tow back to the paddock later, the crew was on their way up from South to lend a hand diagnosing the car. The obvious issue was lack of fuel pressure, but it seemed that the relay was functioning, and power was being sent to the pump. The only way to dive deeper was to drop the tank. 

 

 

After a lengthy struggle of trying to get the extremely full fuel tank to a more manageable level, we were able to get the tank out pretty quickly. Fortunately, the issue was immediately apparent once the fuel pump hanger was removed: the ground wire connecting the pump to the hanger was broken. 

 

 

I have to give a shoutout to Steve, Clayton, and Brian who did a bulk of the work getting the tank prepped for removal while I was out sourcing a new pump just in case. 

 

 

Once the broken wire was re-made and repaired, the pump went right back in, and the tank went back up into into the car, and it started right up!

 

 

VIR has a policy that I had not previously heard about where placing jackstands directly on the paddock pavement can land you a fine. We borrowed some wood to place under the stands from a neighbor, but to get the car up that las 1/100th of an inch to get the stands under the frame rail, one of the guys was gently lifting up on the rear fender. In the process, he accidentally leaned too hard on the rear quarter glass which was popped out in the vented position. It immediately exploded into a zillion tiny pieces. 

 

 

At least with the fuel pump fixed, I was able to get the car back out for the last session on Saturday. For this particular event I signed up in HPDE3 which allows passengers. I really enjoy taking people out on track, as it was just such an experience that got me into this whole hobby to begin with. Usually at this high-speed track I would prefer to register in the slightly slower DE2 group, but at Hyperfest it's worth giving all the point-bys.

 

 

Every now and then I would be fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a point by, but those opportunities are few and far between. VIR is a huge track and 102 wheel horsepower is just not enough to keep up with faster traffic.

 

 

The new retina-scarring yellow gloves did their job and communicated point-bys clearly - something the old black gloves occasionally did not do well. The car performed well all day Sunday, but there wasn't much chance of setting a new personal best with all the traffic, old tires, and extra weight in the passenger seat. 

 

 

The very last session of the day ended early for me. I was finally getting good rotation out of the car going into Roller Coaster, and tried to replicated it in Hog Pen. However that turn is in a compression zone and the extra grip did not let the car rotate as I had hoped, and I went straight off through the dirt, hitting a bump and absolutely wrecking my splitter. 

 

 

The eBay Civic mounts held up incredibly well, as did the hardware store turnbuckles. However the mounts punched straight through the ACM sign material, deforming the whole piece. 

 

 

This will likely be remade in a similar fashion with similar materials. RIP to a real one. Not the ideal end to the weekend, but it could have been worse!

 

 

Within a few days, 1/8" polycarbonate was in hand, ready to replace the rear quarter windows. I started by tracing the remaining intact window. and then cutting/test-fitting/cutting again until the replacement polycarbonate panel fit well. 

 

 

To mount the window, I drilled 21 holes in the window flange for M5 riv-nuts. 

 

 

I re-used the OEM seal, slightly trimmed to fit around the bolts and riv-nuts. 

 

 

I masked, scuffed, and sprayed a black border around the edge of the polycarbonate to replicate an OEM look and cover up the ugly seal. 

 

 

And there's the finished product. I repeated the process for the other side and it came out just as nicely. Unfortunately these don't pop open to vent like the factory glass did, but the glass is hard to find and is heavy, where the polycarbonate is light and readily available. 

Up next: a new splitter!

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
8/4/23 2:49 p.m.

Once the gaping hole left by the broken window had been filled with polycarbonate, it was time to move on to rebuilding the splitter. There was basically nothing usable left from the original, so new ebay Civic quick release brackets, sheet of ACM, a piece of house siding, some brackets, and a bunch of rivets all went together to make an entirely new splitter.

 

 

I started with a 72x36 sheet of ACM (aluminum composite material) and cut it in half lengthwise to make two 72x18 sheets.

 

 

The two sheets were glued together with a whole tube of construction adhesive, riveted, and clamped for good measure. This massively increases stiffness over the fairly flexy single layer of material.

 

 

The old splitter was used as a template as the new one was cut to shape.

 

 

Once the brackets and house siding air dam were added, the whole thing was painted black and mounted back up for a final test fit.

 

 

While the new splitter lacks the diffusers of its predecessor, it's stiffer and smoother. All the rivets were installed from the bottom up, allowing for a much smoother surface underneath. 

 

 

A couple weeks later a bunch of us went to an SCCA track day at Dominion. This was Tom's first time on track in a car, and the first outing of his new-to-him Porsche 944 Spec car. It was also Jacob's first time on track in his turbo NA Miata. This was by far the most people we've had on track at one time in our friend group and it was a bunch of fun.

 

 

One takeaway I had from looking at pictures after the event was how the car leans and dives more than I'd like. The 7k springs in the rear seem to be doing a good job, but the 10k up front could use a little more beef.

 

 

A quick email to Fortune Auto and I soon had a pair of fresh 12k springs for the front. 

 

 

Soon the day came for Gridlife's NJMP event. Steve and I once again set out to tackle one of our favorite tracks. The trip there was fairly uneventful, and we even arrived before sundown which was a welcome change. However much like last year, my weekend at NJMP would be marked with mechanical failure and a scramble to find parts.

 

 

When Thunderbolt's infamous long left hand turn - the "Octopus" - claimed my right front wheel bearing only two sessions into the weekend, my heart sank. While I was able to find a bearing locally, the hub was much harder to get. I was not looking forward to a repeat of 2022 when we had to drive all the way to Connecticut for a replacement knuckle to finish out the weekend. This time it was a more palatable 2.5 hour trip to meet my friend Clay in Maryland who brought up a set of AW11 MR2 rear knuckles for me to cannibalize a hub from. 

 

 

Even that proved to be a bit of a challenge. When I go to the track, I remove the rear seat bottom cushions from the 4Runner to allow for more head room with the air mattress in the back. In order for Steve to tag along in the trip to MD to pick up Clay and the parts, we borrowed a seat bottom from a total stranger in the paddock who also happened to have a 4th gen 4Runner, as well as a really cool EK Civic. 

 

 

We got back to the track from MD at around 2:30AM Sunday morning. After a few hours of sleep, I woke up and immediately set to work. Clay lent a hand while I used the mini sledge to press the bearing and hub into the knuckle. I absolutely couldn't have pulled this off without everyone's help. Steve disassembling the car while I was out getting the bearing, Clay providing the hubs last minute, Isaac letting us borrow his fancy garage space, Chris letting me borrow his 4Runner seat, Ross keeping our spirits up, and Joe cooking a bangin' breakfast - everyone lent a hand. Track people are just the best.  

 

 

With all hands on deck we were able to get the car back up and running for the first session of the day Sunday. I can't thank everyone enough.

 

 

Even with an eyeballed alignment, the car has never driven better. The 12k springs were a massive improvement in how the car felt on track. Though I did seem to continue experiencing front pad knockback, so I suspect the left front wheel bearing will also need replacing before the next event, as well as the front brakes given a thorough going-through. It seems like front bearings are going to become an annual maintenance item regardless of actual wear. 

 

 

The rest of Sunday's sessions went well and, aside from a bolt going missing on Steve's Miata and Ross' Fit breaking two wheel studs, nothing really went terribly wrong. I was able to set a personal best first session out and then beat that again by the end of the day, even on what were by then very tired tires.

 

 

 

It was also the first weekend that I got to use the Garmin Catalyst and man is that thing impressive. 

As for the rest of the year I'm not 100% sure what is to come. I'd really like to finally pull the trigger on a proper brake kit for the front, as well as replace all the wheel bearings on the car as preventative maintenance. I suspect a Dominion event in September is on the table, and I'm really hoping to make my first trip down to Road Atlanta for an early December event, but we shall see. 

TheDailyDownshift
TheDailyDownshift New Reader
10/3/23 3:59 p.m.

 

 

After the hub/bearing failure at NJMP, I decided to add those to my stock of spares, as well as making those an annual service item. However I quickly ran into some issues with the aftermarket hubs. The stud holes are a smaller diameter than the OEM ones, so to fit the OEM-sized ARP studs the holes have to be drilled out to 35/64" per ARP's website.

 

 

Another issue I ran into with the aftermarket hubs is that the OD of the wheel hub flange necks up 1-2mm for some reason, which interferes with rotor fitment. I purchased several new hubs and had them all turned down/drilled out to the correct diameters. I took the opportunity to replace the left front bearing so now both sides up front are on fresh parts.

 

 

With those fresh hubs replaced, I decided to go ahead and adorn them with some upgraded brakes from Fastbrakes.com while I was at it. I had been running the MR2 brake setup up front with good results for a few years, but I wanted to go ahead and upgrade to a Wilwood setup for a couple of reasons. 

1. Serviceability - Toyota calipers are becoming more difficult to source, and I got a full set of spare seals, bleeders, and retaining clips for $30 for these Wilwoods. Parts are readily available and CHEAP.

2. Hardware cost - A set of pads in the 7112 shape these Dynalite calipers require is a hundred bucks cheaper than the same pad in the OEM Toyota shape. Also the Mini Cooper rotors are a larger diameter but the same price as the MR2 rotors, and easy to get.

3. Brake bias - in the past I'd had significant struggles with locking up the rear brakes on this car, to the point that currently the bias valve is turned all the way down, and cheap parts store pads are installed back there. Even then I still had issues until the Fortune Auto coilovers went on, which helped quite a bit. Having a larger rotor with 4-piston calipers should increase the braking torque of the front, which may allow me to feed more rear bias back into the system, greatly improving braking overall which has been my number 1 insecurity on track. 

 

The 11" Mini Cooper rotors are the same thickness, but nearly and inch larger in diameter than the 87-89 MR2 rotors I had been using. They are still very cheap to replace, and pretty widely available. 

 

 

One thing I did not like about the Dynalite calipers was that they use a single-use cotter pin to retain the pads. I found that Wilwood made some nice retaining pins for use on some of their other calipers (part number 180-3862) and with some slight cutting/grinding to the "hook" end, they fit like a dream!

 

 

I suppose an additional benefit of this brake setup is that it looks wicked cool!

 

 

Speaking of brakes, I had received some feedback that even with the LED's my brake lights were hard to see on sunny days. I took the opportunity to go completely overboard and install a Lifeline FIA rain light as a third brake light. These things are bright as hell and will be good to have in the event that this car goes into more serious run groups in the future, as a small controller can easily be added to make use of the flashing rain light function.

 

 

I wanted to mount this at the bottom of the rear window, so I took the easy route for a mounting solution and made a polycarbonate hatch window to match the quarter windows. Visibility is not really effected by the aluminum angle support, and the light is crazy bright. I also added flash pattern modules to the inner brake lights, so when I hit the brakes it's extremely obvious.

 

 

To give the new brakes a good test, I decided to do a single day DE at Dominion. It just so happened that we were blessed to have a tropical storm coming through that day, so what followed was by far the wettest and windiest track event I have ever participated in. 

 

 

I was definitely glad I upgraded the brake lights, as visibility was pretty poor due to the spray. I also learned that polycarbonate rear window is in desperate need of some Rain-X, as rearward visibility was essentially zero.

 

 

The very tired RT660's did their best to cope with the crazy amount of rain, but the car overall felt pretty good. I felt like I was very slow, but I got a couple point-bys from some much faster cars so that was encouraging. 

 

 

 

Unfortunately in the second session things got a bit squirrely in turn 3. I held the slide for what felt like forever, before the car snapped left off the track, through a ditch, and into the field. I was able to drive the car back to the pits steaming like crazy, but nothing mechanical was broken. Water from the ditch had soaked the header wrap and was the cause of the steam, not radiator damage. 

 

 

RIP Splitter 3.0, we hardly knew ye. Shockingly the ebay Civic quick release brackets look like they are totally good to re-use!

 

 

After removing the splitter and making sure there was no further damage, I went back out for another session after lunch. By then, the central mass of the storm had moved in, and the rain was extremely intense. Even with 100hp, I was spinning all the way through 4th gear on the straights, with the various little puddle causing my open diff to shoot power left to right, threatening to toss the car at any moment. Anything over 80mph felt downright dangerous. I decided to call it quits after that. 

 

 

I learned a valuable lesson about Hawk DTC60 brake pads. Not only do they dust horrifically but that dust, when mixed with water, turns into a concrete-like substance that is very nearly impossible to remove from your wheels. It also is extremely ferrous and rusts. It is going to take literal hours with heavy duty cleaner and scotch-brite pads to get this junk off. 

 

 

Looks like that cheaper pad benefit is getting put to use a bit early. I'm going back to Ol' Reliable Porterfield R4 pads. So much for trying new things.

Looking forward, I need to build another splitter, as well as re-align the car and add RainX to the rear window. Once that's done, the car will likely make an appearance at the Fortune Auto open house on 10/15, and then it's pretty much done until December 2-3 which will be my first time at Road Atlanta. Very excited for that!

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/3/23 6:54 p.m.

I ran into the same problem with the hub flange diameter, unfortunately I tried to fit a set of rotors first, felt just a little odd going on, but that feeling was the rotors getting cracked wide open...

Your latest spring rates are similar to mine, I'm running 11.5kg/mm front and 11 rear on my AE92.

chiquito1228
chiquito1228 Reader
10/3/23 8:17 p.m.

In reply to TheDailyDownshift :

Get some iron remover. It would get that brake dust off. Make sure wheels are cool to the touch. No need for Scotch Brite pads

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