Targa Miata
November 4, 2007 - An unfortunate finish to the day.
Bill took the Targa car out to see how it was working, and I borrowed his Westfield. The little car was working beautifully and I was quicker in it than I had been in the Miata. With 700 lbs less weight and only a bit less power, that's not a big surprise. Bill wasn't lagging too much, though, and some slower traffic bunched us up. Shortly after getting free, we entered turn 5, the best turn on the track. It's like a baby version of Eau Rouge, as one driver pointed out - an uphill corner with a nice compression at the bottom and a blind exit. Very entertaining and nicely quick. I came out of the series of bends and noticed Bill was gone from my mirrors - and there was a big cloud of dust on the inside of 5 with a Miata shape inside. The car had stopped just short of a flag station and tire wall.
Back in the pits, we saw the typical damage for an off-track excursion around here - one tire pulled off the wheel and another with grass jammed in the bead. There were some scuff marks and scratches on the nose as well.
We pulled the wheels off and headed for the local Discount Tire. I was still wearing my driving suit, and when I got out of the truck a little kid asked "are you a racing car driver?". Not really, but I'm trying!
The staff at Discount were really helpful, getting right to work despite the fact that it was the middle of a busy Saturday. They pulled off the tires, vacuumed them out (to our great amusement) and reseated them in about 4 minutes. Then we were called in to have a look at the balancing machine. One wheel was wobbling badly. There are custom-made SSRs and can't be replaced, nuts. It's a good thing that I have access to a total of 8-12 of them.
Oh well, we figured we'd see how it felt. After all this, the tire shop didn't even charge us! Note to self, always wear Nomex to a tire store. Thank you Discount.
Back at the track, the tires went on and I headed to the track for some gentle exploratory laps. Heading down pit lane, I noticed that my steering wheel was off center. That was it, I headed for the trailer. Between a potentially shaky wheel with some damage and unknown suspension problems, it was not time to go push hard.
Nothing was obviously bent under the car although it appears one of the caster adjustment cams might have slipped. I didn't get the chance to mark the suspension settings before loading on to the trailer, unfortunately, and this simple change may account for the steering wheel offset. I'll check that out shortly. The paint damage is all on the lower half of the front bumper and should be easy to fix.
A sad finish to the day, but nothing that can't be repaired fairly easily and nobody was hurt. We never did figure out exactly what happened to cause the off, from looking at tire marks I think the car simply ran out of grip, possibly brought on by a slight crest in the track there. This is why we test on the track instead of the road, though!
entry 336 - tags: testing, other cars, tires, crash
November 6, 2007 - I pulled the differential out last night so I had the car up on the lift for a good check-over.
Underneath the nose, the plastic ducting for the radiator got smashed up in one corner. Easy to replace. The engine undertray got pulled loose from one bolt but a washer will solve that problem. I can fix up the paint damage easily enough of course.
There's no other sign of damage underneath although I'm still wondering why the steering wheel is offset. It has me worried as you might expect. I'm considering replacing the left front control arm regardless, that's the corner that hit hard enough to damage a strong SSR wheel.
About the wheels - I took a new wheel and the bent wheel/tire down to our local tire shop to have it mounted and balanced. I was waiting at the door when they opened up in the morning, as I needed to have the wheel and tire back on the car by the time Flyin' Miata opened for business so I didn't tie up a lift. First thing on a Tuesday morning, it should be quick. Not so much. It took over an hour for the single tire to be mounted and balanced and I had to be a bit of a pest to make that happen. A dramatic contrast from the friendly, speedy (and free!) service from Discount Tire in Pueblo. I wasn't wearing the race suit, that might have been the key.
entry 337 - tags: crash, suspension
November 12, 2007 - This engine bay used to look so nice.
It's amazing how much of a mess one little off-track excursion will create.
entry 338 - tags: crash
November 12, 2007 - This wheel used to have about 1.5 degrees of negative camber.
Now, it has none. A quick check with the toe plates indicates close to an inch of toe-out. Once I'd pulled the shocks out again (they're going in a street car for final evaluation as a Flyin' Miata product), I also pulled out the lower control arm on this wheel. Yup, looks like a crease in the top. That would explain the alignment problems.
Honestly, after bending a wheel like that, I'd be shocked if the control arm hadn't bent. They're intended to be the weak point in the suspension, absorbing the punishment to protect components like the subframe. I'll stick another control arm in, that's an easy fix.
entry 339 - tags: suspension, alignment, crash
November 19, 2007 - Comparing the new control arm to the one removed from the car, I can't measure any difference.
The crease I saw is normal. That's not completely reassuring, I'd like to know what's up with the alignment. I'll put things back together and see if I can get the car sorted. The subframe appears to be undamaged.
The suspension can't go together until the springs and shocks are back from street car testing. They're performing well though.
entry 340 - tags: suspension, crash
November 23, 2007 - Back on the wheels.
The AFCO shock setup is still under evaluation in another car, so I grabbed a set of springs and shocks from the pile at Flyin' Miata and put the car back together. I used a new front lower control arm for the time being because I have one, but measurements seem to indicate that there was no problem with the original. An initial check of the alignment would indicate that everything is straight, but I will have to drive the car to make sure everything's settled first.
So, the car's back on its wheels and drivable. The next step is some dyno work, to see if I can liberate a few more RPM out of the car. The engine is great down low, it just needs a bit more sparkle up top. I did come across a stillborn product at FM that might be handy, I'll have to keep scrounging for parts to make it work.
I need to get cracking on a lot of the detail work that needs to be done on the car. Items like the codriver footrest, the required gear and a way to stash it, and various electrical accessories that have been neglected. There's always something...
entry 341 - tags: suspension, crash
November 26, 2007 - Study material.
My coworker Jeremy dropped a binder on my desk this morning - the course material from the California Rally Series rally school. It's a pretty good collection of information, and it should be good prep for the school itself. I'm hoping to take it in early 2008.
A note about the car's alignment - I've had a couple of comments about my "alignment difficulties". I wouldn't characterize the results of the damage as particularly difficult. I've been writing about it a lot because I haven't been doing much else, but really all I've done is replaced one suspect part with a known good one. Once I get the chance to check the car, I think it will be all good. The fact that the suspension had to come out for evaluation in a different car is unrelated.
entry 342 - tags: skills, crash
December 4, 2007 - The car is all healthy.
I finally got around to taking it for a short test drive after catching up on some of the rest of my life. Using the scientific method of the steering wheel location when driving in a straight line, it appears that I have a healthy car. When it came off the track, the problems meant that the steering wheel was badly off center. Now it's almost right, which means I just need to align the car and I should be good. The car sure is dusty, and the temporary suspension that's installed sure isn't any good!
So, it's time to get down to work. I have a good list of jobs to do on the car, all in nice bite-size chunks. None of this "weld in roll cage, build an engine and paint a complex paint scheme" that I had before. I have some time between now and the new year so it's an excellent chance to get a lot of the required detail work done.
I also took the opportunity to take both my Mini and the Seven out for a spin yesterday. In all three cases, the last time the car was driven was either on the track or the autocross course. I think that's a promising sign.
entry 343 - tags: crash, suspension, other cars
July 14, 2008 - Since I have to paint the new door bars, I'm going to touch up the damage on the nose from the little off at Pahrump last year.
I'd like to point out that I was not driving at the time, for those that don't remember! It'll be easy enough to fix, I simply need to respray the bottom half of the nose.
I have to say that pulling the front bumper off the car makes it look derelict almost immediately.
entry 494 - tags: crash
July 15, 2008 - With the nose off, I got ready to sand it down for the fresh paint on the lower half.
It sure was thoughtful of Mazda to put that groove halfway down, it's a perfect place to put the seam between the two layers of paint.
Looking at the scratches on this, I can't imagine just what sort of ride Bill went on with this car. I'll bet it was exciting.
entry 495 - tags: crash, paint
April 29, 2013 - This is not something you want to see out the windshield.
That's my rear brake rotor. I came down the Corkscrew, hit 4th gear and turned into the fast turn 9. Just before I reached the apex, I heard a bang and the car snapped into a spin at somewhere around 80 mph. My first clue as to what had happened was seeing my right rear wheel rolling along the pavement as we rotated the first time, then we went into the dirt after the second spin. On the dirt, the car lifted a little bit like it was trying to roll, but stayed happy side up as we scrubbed off speed.
A big thumbs up to the track designers - we finished our ride safe and sound without hitting anything but a small drainage ditch. Then it was just a matter of sitting in the car with our helmets on and watching the other cars come around the corner, seemingly aimed directly at us. Finally, all the traffic was cleared and the flatbed showed up.
entry 1083 - tags: crash, failure, laguna seca
April 29, 2013 - This is the least amount of damage you can do if you lose a wheel in Turn 9 at Laguna Seca.
The bumper is just out of place. The exhaust got pulled out of shape and took some of the brackets on the body with it so the trunk floor is probably messed up. The skid plate under the diff is deformed and I want to check the subframe carefully. The front wheel is dented and the rear is all scarred up. But it's almost all bolt-on parts. There's one small dent in front of the missing wheel but otherwise is looks like the tub is untouched. Amazing. I got very, very lucky.
The car's back in the trailer (thanks to the help of Emilio and a number of other onlookers) and heading home to Colorado. I'll drag it out there and take a close look at everything underneath.
entry 1085 - tags: failure, crash, laguna seca
May 1, 2013 - Crash video.
How quickly did the failure happen? Pretty much instantly. Why did it fail? See the next post. http://youtu.be/3k2u2zaIA3c
entry 1086 - tags: video, crash, laguna
May 3, 2013 - Let's hear it for rally cars.
Nearly five years ago, I added some small ramps to the bottom of the control arms to protect the lower AFCO adjuster. Last weekend, they did their job. In fact, all of the skid protection worked as designed. The plates just behind the front wheels took a beating, as did the engine skid plate. The differential protection really shows a lot of scarring, but the differential itself is untouched. Almost nothing touched the ground that wasn't designed to touch the ground. The car was built to fail well, and it did.
entry 1088 - tags: damage, crash
August 22, 2013 - It's been a long time between updates.
Mostly because it's been a long, long wait for parts. The replacement axles took forever. I took the opportunity to upgrade from the standard axles to the G2 version, which have stronger CV joints and come with the new, beefier hubs. Good thing, too - you'll see why soon.
Elsewhere on the car, I replaced the bent-up muffler, fixed an alignment problem up front and went over a few other things. One bent wheel and one questionable wheel were replaced as well. Since the muffler had burned the rear bumper cover during a dyno run, and then it got all scarred up in the crash, I decided to cut it out further than before. I liked the look better before, but not all the damage.
The car is now back on the ground and self-propelled for the first time in forever.
entry 1089 - tags: repair, crash, axles, exhaust