Targa Miata
September 15, 2011 - Well, we had some good fun in the sun.
We woke up this morning to a light drizzle, which changed to a heavy rain then heavy fog as we worked through a very long transit. By the time we got to the start line, it was damp and foggy. So the conditions were downgraded to Condition 2. That means the base speeds are a bit slower. Not a lot slower, but a bit slower. We took off on a very long (25 km!), very fast (130 km/h in clear conditions) stage, feeling out the car's behavior in the wet. It's just a Miata, of course, until you get on to the throttle hard. But I wanted to get a feel for these tires in the wet - and it was slippery at first. We had to cross a few wooden bridges on the way and they were like greased ice.
Luckily, we were caught and passed by Richard Burton in his Gumball STi. Luckily? Yes. Because right when he passed us, we went into a fog bank. Now, he runs a GPS in his car along with the rally computer. This lets him get an idea of what way the road goes ahead of time, instead of waiting for it to be visible. And when he passed us, we went into an area of heavy fog. So I just played "follow the taillights". I could see what way his car was moving, and that let me run a bit faster. Thanks to his help, we came across the line a bit ahead of time and zeroed the stage.
This was a pretty fun stage. Smooth and fast. And hard to see!
entry 982 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Boat Harbour
September 15, 2011 - I suspect that Boat Harbour is a very pretty area.
But we didn't get to see all that much of it as we lined up to run back. And as we rolled up to the start line, we were informed that the Targa class cars were going to run under Condition 1. Still looked pretty foggy to me, but that was the rule. So we had to go faster. 130 km/h average for 25 km. That's a long time.
Once again, the STi caught up. It took him a bit longer this time, but every time we came to a blind crest I had to back off until I could see what was going on. Sometimes that was just a bright yellow center line disappearing into the fog. Richard's magic GPS let him carry more speed - so once again I glommed on to his bumper and watched his roof over the crest. My plan worked, and we once again zeroed the stage. Success!
entry 983 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Petite Forte
September 15, 2011 - Here's what Janel gets to see of the Targa Newfoundland.
At least, of the competitive stages. And my apologies, we took one second of penalties on Petite Forte.
Our next stage was Mooring Cove. It's a fun roller coaster of a stage, with lots of blind crests and tight corners at a relatively low speed. We romped through it and came through one second late.
Now for Marystown. This is a hugely popular stage, and spectators line the bridges to watch the cars tear underneath. It's like being on a WRC stage. Unfortunately, we didn't get to run it as there was a fairly big accident. Nobody was hurt, but we did learn that a Ferrari Enzo will float. Seriously. So for us, it was a transit.
entry 984 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Mooring Cove, Marystown
September 15, 2011 - Time for Garnish.
This is a fast, fast stage with a very rough road. It starts off with crests (or "cresty" as it says in the routebooks, which I find to be a very amusing word), gets bumpy, then takes a detour into the small fishing town of Garnish where it becomes extremely rough, then back on to bumpy for another fast section to the end. We were catching air in fourth gear over the crests and really testing the limits of the suspension both on compression and droop. What a fantastic little car. We did punish the skid plates somewhat as you can imagine, and the rear finally buckled under pressure and bent enough to contact the exhaust. No real problem other than a big of vibration - and more importantly, no damage to anything important. If the plate hadn't been there, it would have been our exhaust and diff. We came in 29 seconds late, partly due to our lack of GPS and partly due to my self-preservation instinct on the hammered pavement. 200 km/h is pretty fast when the car's being thrown around like that.
Garnish was followed by a very short lunch, as we had to get back on schedule after the marine Enzo shenanigans. Two runs through Fortune, which is a tight town stage that's like a mini Gander. It works well for us, and we came through with 2 seconds of penalties the first time. The second time, I was faster but we had a tighter time and I think we picked up four. But that doesn't matter, because there was another accident that shut the stage down and that meant no scores for anyone.
So we headed back out to the Garnish course for a run in the other direction, named Frenchmans Cove. Long, fast, bumpy. Going through the town, I ended up using first gear and the handbrake to get around some of the corners and it worked very well. We were still suffering from a lack of GPS on the long cresty bits, which both of our main competitors in Open were using. Still, we were only 4 seconds behind the fastest car in the division and holding on to our lead. It was an exhausting run through the stage, both due to the physical battering and the mental stamina to drive that fast on that pavement for so long. There's no Miata in the world that could have done it faster.
entry 985 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Garnish, Frenchmans Cove, Fortune, skid plates
September 15, 2011 - And there goes our lead, as well as our hope for a Targa plate.
On the second run through Marystown, we were running hard and doing pretty well. We'd cleared the hardest parts of the course and were hammering through one of the fastest sections when we made a hard right on a short downhill section, ready to howl under one of the bridges. And the car lost power. We were going fast enough that it took me a moment to figure out just what had happened. We had enough momentum to coast up the hill to a wide spot as I tried to get the car to refire, but to no avail. I pulled off the course in a safe place and we scrambled to get the triangles out and display the OK sign so nobody had to stop. Mission accomplished.
With the car safe and Janel signalling the passing vehicles (do we go past that fast? Holy cow!) I started to try and diagnose it. Nothing wrong underhood that I could see. And no fuel pump noise. Now, I'd been worried about the fuel pump in the past, but it was behaving itself. But when I heard it wasn't running, I assumed it was the pump. I checked a couple of wires but couldn't find anything obvious. So we gave up and watched the last few cars go by. There went our Targa plate, and we were pulled into the overnight stop on a rope.
We'd been running really well - Janel reports that we were about 4 seconds behind our base time when we stopped, and the best time in our class was a 34 second penalty. We were only a kilometer or so from the end. But that's how it goes.
When we got back to the arena, Brandon and I tore into the car. No power at the fuel pump. Odd. No power at the fuel pump relay. Odder. Brandon reported he could hear the main relay clicking over when I cycled the key, and could even feel it. But we swapped it out anyhow, just to see - and the beast awoke with a roar. We'd lost the main relay. The stock, unmodified Mazda main relay.
Now, if you call FM for tech support and you tell me that your Miata just stopped and won't restart, I'll usually tell you to check the main relay. I even had one in the car just in case. But I was so sure it was the fuel pump that I just stopped trying when I didn't hear it running. My bad. Had I identified the relay sooner, we may have been able to get running and get home without incurring the maximum 5 minute penalty. Or maybe not, the fact that it was clicking would have been a problem, and we still would have had to get reloaded into the car. Since we were running near the rear of the pack, I'm not sure we could have done this before the Road Open car arrived.
Did I mention that we did this right in front of a bridge full of spectators and our camera crew? Nicely done. We did provide a bit of entertainment when I had to pantomime to Janel that her OK sign was upside down, which was greatly appreciated by our audience.
So we'll be back in the competition tomorrow. Despite the rumors we heard that we rolled twice and were stuck upside down in a ditch, it was a simple mechanical fault that had nothing to do with the car's modifications. Usually that relay fails when the car is turned off, rarely does it let go while driving. So at least it wasn't an error on our part.
Tomorrow, we have serious weather on the way. Serious. It's going to be a fight to survive. Time to get to bed, it's late.
entry 986 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, Marystown
September 16, 2011 - We've got quite a storm coming, by all accounts.
Lots of rain and 25-35 mph winds. Waking up this morning, it looks like a little bit of the former and a good bunch of the latter are already here. It's survival time, especially since we're all running on tires that have seen four days of escalating competition. In our case, I've been preparing for this and have a set of very good rubber ready to put on. My rear tires from yesterday were only intended to end until the end of yesterday, so I was able to abuse them. Now I have lots of tread depth to deal with the treacherous conditions. One thing about the roads in Newfoundland is that they have some big grooves in them from truck traffic, and those grooves become rivers that like to hydroplane cars.
The big story on the internet is, of course, the Enzo. But for us, it was part of a demonstration class and was a bit of a sideshow. More important is the condition of the rest of the fleet. The M3 that is currently leading Open division had a cracked oil pan yesterday and barely made it home - but managed to do so without losing significant time or lunching the engine. The supercharged Exige snapped a halfshaft and missed three or four stages. All the cars are starting to look a big rough. Other than the electrical fault, we're looking pretty good. Janel and I are operating on fairly low sleep so crew management has become an issue, but I think we'll be okay today.
One stage today has been canceled, turning a long transit into a killer: 250 km. In the rain. Yuk. More importantly, we start the day with two long, fast stages that will be the last high speed test of the car and crew. Again, our priority is to bring it home.
entry 987 - tags: 2011 race, day 4, attrition, weather
September 16, 2011 - This stage looks even narrower as you're driving it.
If you're looking for pictures of the marine Enzo, check out Gordon Sleigh's gallery. He managed to catch it going in and being recovered. Lots of other great shots of the cars racing as well.
There was an injured spectator in one of the incidents yesterday. I don't know any details, but we're all hoping it's minor. Nobody wants this to happen, and there is a veritable army of volunteers to make the course as safe as possible. It's the first spectator injury in the event's 10 year anniversary.
entry 988 - tags: 2011 race, Enzo, day 4