Targa Miata
January 28, 2007 - It's chopping time on the car.
I cut out this folded steel bracket. It's the original seat mount. In order to maintain both a low seating position and some adjustability, I decided to remove it. I'll bolt the seat rails directly to the floor. For those concerned about the strength implications, the car will have reinforced floorboards and frame rails as well as the full cage. I might put a small cross bar in front of the seats but I don't anticipate there to be any need.
entry 20 - tags: weight loss, ergonomics
January 29, 2007 - A test fit of the dashboard substructure.
It's a little shocking how light all this is. I did remove one of the support braces in the middle of the beam, and this may not have been a great idea. I've spent a fair bit of time on track with a car with a similar dashboard and never noticed any steering column movement, but it is possible to flex the beam slightly by hand if you yank on it. Perhaps one vertical brace would be a good idea.
It would also be a good idea to clean up the footwell of the car!
entry 24 - tags: ergonomics, weight loss
January 30, 2007 - As part of checking the ergonomics, I test-fitted a seat with the cage.
It's a bit of a tight squeeze unless I reshape the transmission tunnel very slightly. We're still investigating various seats as well. Most Spec racers use aluminum seats, but they don't have the comfort we want for a week-long race.
entry 27 - tags: ergonomics, seats
February 20, 2007 - Time to test-fit the cockpit!
The seat isn't the FX1 Pro that we'll be using, but an older Forza. But it lets us try things out while we wait. The pedals are the ones that were on our chassis originally, and have big MOMO pads on them. The one on the clutch pedal is in the way if I want to use a dead pedal, but the gas and brake ones should come in handy for heel-toe. The doodad taped to the transmission tunnel is the proportioning valve, as I'm trying to find a good place put it where it's out of the way, easy to plumb and accessible from the driver's seat.
entry 73 - tags: seats, ergonomics, brakes
February 20, 2007 - The co-driver's cell.
A panel from a 1991 Miata should fit in to give a nice solid foot rest. The seat is jammed in place pretty nicely - it's possible we'll have to do a little trimming. The passenger's side is slightly narrower than the driver's side, and the door bar ended up a touch more inboard than for the driver.
entry 74 - tags: ergonomics, seats
February 22, 2007 - The current state of the cockpit.
I'm spending a lot of time poking and prodding at ergonomics right right now. Why? Because it's easiest to change things at this point, although I really won't know for sure until the real seats get here. But really, it's fun.
Note the gas cap release in the usual place. It weighs next to nothing and means I don't have to figure out a way to make it work otherwise. The factory dead pedal is in place and the MOMO pad has been taken off the clutch pedal. The one on the gas pedal might get shifted over a bit, it's a bit close.
entry 79 - tags: ergonomics
February 22, 2007 - The final positioning of the brake proportioning valve.
I can't take credit for this, Josh Castaldi emailed me with pictures of his own setup. I'll have to buy some touch-up paint due to a bit of paint damage, but it's very well placed to be out of the way and easily accessible. The brake lines stay in the transmission tunnel and a minimum of alteration is required. Very nice!
entry 80 - tags: ergonomics, brakes
March 16, 2007 - Our Corbeau seats are here.
They're the FX1 Pro, a nicely fitted fibreglass seat that fits in small cars. We also have a set of Corbeau harnesses for each occupant of the car.
entry 91 - tags: sponsors, seats, ergonomics, safety
March 16, 2007 - As we've found with some other Corbeaus, the padding is a bit on the thick and firm side.
This puts the driver too high in the air while not providing the comfort you might expect. We've ordered some memory foam to fill this cushion. Well, what I really did after calling upholstery shops was order a mattress topper from Amazon. For about the price of 4 square feet, I can get a whole bed's worth of the stuff!
There's some experimentation ahead.
entry 92 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 20, 2007 - In order to make the seat sit as low as possible, the rear factory seat mounts were removed.
So much for having the interior of the car nicely painted! I'll have to get some more of the paint in an aerosol can for this sort of fix. Then again, it'll be under the seat so nobody will see it.
entry 93 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 20, 2007 - The next obstacle in the battle against seat height?
These nice little feet. The seats have both side and base mounting options, so we'll use the sides.
entry 94 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 20, 2007 - The risers at the back of the seat are no longer.
They were actually wooden pegs inside, that was a bit of a surprise. This seems a terrible thing to do to a brand new set of race seats, but Miatas aren't that big and I have a tall torso.
entry 95 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 20, 2007 - The result of all the seat abuse.
The driver's seat is well placed and ready to be bolted down. The codriver's seat is unmodified. There's a drastic height difference.
entry 96 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 20, 2007 - The end result, being tested with the hardtop on the car.
It's a snug fit, but everything goes nicely in place. I always like to get the ergonomics sorted out early in a build, as an awkward driving position causes all sorts of problems down the road. All that's left to do is build the side brackets for the seats and mount the sub belt.
entry 98 - tags: seats, ergonomics
March 22, 2007 - The memory foam for the seats is here.
It's really odd stuff to work with, in a constant state of slow melt. It's easy enough to cut with a good set of scissors though.
How does it feel? Good. A single 1.5" layer in the bottom cushion to replace the stock hard foam (shown here on top of the memory foam sheet) lets me sink much further into the seat, while giving better comfort than either the stock foam or nothing at all. I'll call that a win.
The co-driver's seat has also been modified to sit a bit lower, so I'm almost done with them. I'm going to trim a little bit of 'glass off the side of the seats to allow them to sit inboard a touch, but first I have to figure out how to disassemble them far enough to do that without hurting the cover.
entry 99 - tags: ergonomics, seats
March 23, 2007 - One last bit of seat modification.
In order to move the seats inboard a little more, I had to cut a chunk of the corner off. Once I had the covers off it was easy enough, although I think the end result will look a little nicer once I get some glue under the upholstery.
With that done, I was able to sort out the final seat location and give myself an excellent driving position. The floor has now been drilled for the mounting points - I was able to use the rear mounts on the seat after all, as the threaded portion is embedded in the fibreglass and not the little leg I cut off. The co-driver's seat will be finished up later.
entry 100 - tags: ergonomics, seats
April 24, 2007 - A donation from Jason on the Grassroots Motorsports forum - a Sparco navigator footrest.
It reeks of obsession. Not only are the hinge screws countersunk, all of the lightening holes are chamfered and of course there's an engraved Sparco logo on top. Beautifully made for what is really just a metal plate. But it's going to be a good rest for Eric's pretty little feet and it saves me the effort of fabricating one. Thanks Jason!
entry 148 - tags: ergonomics, sponsors
May 2, 2007 - Part of the fun of building a car like this is deciding where to put all the knobs and switches.
The main cutoff is going to go inside the car somewhere. I was going to put it here on the transmission tunnel, but further experimentation (ie, I pretended to drive the car) showed me that it would be pretty easy to flip open with my elbow. Now that would be an unhappy moment! Now I'm looking at installing it in front of the gear shift. First I need to see if there's clearance underneath.
entry 157 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
May 3, 2007 - Ahh, more wiring.
It's the job that never really ends. But I feel as if I'm making some progress, as parts are being hooked up and large sections are being called finished.
The final location for the cut-off switch can be seen here. It should be within easy reach for both occupants, but also difficult to flip accidentally. The location works well for the wiring as well - the main line to the battery runs just underneath.
entry 159 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
May 12, 2007 - A little more ergonomic work.
I need to find a place to stash our intercom. The harness pads are a perfect place to run the wires.
Of course, I also spent some time in the driver's seat playing with the controls. The clutch pedal feels good with nice weighting, just like the twin to this unit that I've driven on the street. Given that it's a prototype unit that's no guarantee! My tall torso still puts my head awfully close to the roof of the car, but unless I build in some sort of Gurney GT-40-esque bump there's not much I can do about that. The Peltor helmets are pretty thick.
entry 171 - tags: ergonomics, intercom
May 23, 2007 - Okay, the wedding is out of the way.
Some good discussion on the Targa forum has reinforced my decision to run the Toyo RA-1 or possibly the upcoming R888. We'll see about the latter, availability may be a problem as it's a brand new tire for North America.
Over the course of the wedding weekend (essentially a 4-day BBQ with a short ceremony stuck in the middle), Eric got a chance to see the Targa Miata for the first time. Good news, he fits in the co-driver's seat and I was able to sort out the location for the footrest.
Time to get back to work.
entry 179 - tags: tires, ergonomics
June 13, 2007 - One of the gauges I'm going to run is a Revlight.
It's a tachometer made of 11 LEDs that light up sequentially. Six green, three yellows and two reds - and it automatically dims at night. I have one on the Seven and I love the little thing. Of course, they're not made anymore and Flyin' Miata (at my recommendation) managed to empty out the last stash in the country.
I've been trying to figure out where to mount it. On the rollbar? On the gauge cluster? The A-pillar? I'm thinking the top of the gauge cluster is the best bet.
entry 209 - tags: ergonomics
June 13, 2007 - This particular unit is a used one that I picked up off eBay, and it doesn't have the usual black housing that makes it a little less obvious and prevents accidental backlighting.
Five minutes of work and I have a little aluminum house for my Revlight. I'll clean it up a bit, paint it black and rivet it to the top of the cluster.
entry 210 - tags: ergonomics
August 8, 2007 - This looks worse in the picture than it does in person.
I took some high-traction tape for stairs and stuck it on to the floorboards to keep my feet from sliding around. I've also found the Momo pedals to be on the slippery side despite the stylish rubber nubs, so they got some traction tape as well. As an added bonus, the yellow reflective strip will make it easy for me to see the footwell in the dark!
entry 277 - tags: ergonomics
August 9, 2007 - A lot of little jobs got done on the car tonight.
The most obvious underhood is the installation of the red valve cover - that's an instant 15 hp gain for sure, although I need to get a filter for that cam cover breather. I installed an interior rear view mirror, the plastic cowl at the base of the windshield, cleaned up a bit of wiring, changed the throttle cable bracket and generally did a few small things on the car.
The Mazdaspeed MX-5 turbo muffler sounded terrible, so it's been replaced by a Flyin' Miata part instead. That sounds a lot better and also drops a few pounds. I also determined that my recent addition of a no-slip patch was a total failure, as it started to creep around the footwell and announced itself to be a hazard. So it's gone now although the bits on the pedals remain.
The car's heading for the alignment shop tomorrow morning and then on to the dyno to get the engine into shape. It's part of the push for the track debut at the Flyin' Miata open house.
entry 281 - tags: ergonomics, exhaust, alignment, engine
October 7, 2007 - Miscellaneous work this weekend.
I installed the Revlight tachometer to the top of the instrument cluster. I really like these little guys, it's a shame they're out of production. A bright LED was added to the front of the cluster cover as well for a low oil indication. Yes, I have a proper gauge, but in the heat of competition a bright red TURN THE ENGINE OFF NOW! light is good. I have video of a driver on the track with all the unwatched gauges screaming danger as the engine destroyed itself. A big red light would have saved us a lot of work in the pits the next day as we had to install the new engine...
Anyhow, in the process of installing the oil light, I managed to crack the 16-year-old plastic of the instrument cover. This was after gluing the mounting brackets back on. Maybe it's time for a new one.
Meanwhile, Brandon did a bit of work on the driver's footrest. I also managed to get most of the parts for the VICS (a variable intake setup) fixed up and ready to install. This will add a bit of top-end power.
entry 322 - tags: ergonomics, engine, wiring
October 23, 2007 - The Targa Miata gets mod.
MOD.07, to be exact. I fell under the spell of this gorgeous MOMO wheel a while back and finally decided to move my old crusty Champion to a different car, and treat the racer. There's a method to my madness, though. The suede grip will make the wheel easier to hold in my sweaty hands during the race, and the deeper dish puts the wheel usefully closer to my chest.
I ordered one with a silver center, and got sent a black one. I didn't realize until the wheel was already installed, and I doubt the supplier has both. Oh well, it looks good in the businesslike interior.
entry 328 - tags: ergonomics
December 5, 2007 - I fabricated a plate to cover the missing center console cutout and give me a place to mount some switches.
Of course, I counted the switches I needed, came up with four and then carefully drilled 5 holes. Nice work. That's okay, I'm sure something will come up that needs an extra switch. The one under the guard is for the wiring for auxiliary lights. I don't expect to have them installed very often and I'd prefer not to accidentally turn them on. Of course, that's just a justification for using the cool guard.
Finally, some work that isn't suspension!
entry 344 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
December 5, 2007 - Since the switch panel stood a bit proud of the dash surface, I wanted to try to make it integrate a bit.
So I curled the edges back. I'd love to take credit for mad metal shaping skills, but really I just bent the lip with a set of pliers and a vise, then did a little extra forming with a body hammer. A grinding wheel cleaned up the edges and a wire wheel gave it a nice sheen. I might paint it black, but it looks pretty good au naturel.
In other news, I ordered the bilge blower for the defrosting system today. First I visited a local boating store, where I had a hard time communicating that I needed a bilge blower and not a bilge pump. They were completely unhelpful, so Amazon came to the rescue. Maybe I'll set it up so it acts as an electric supercharger when I don't need the windshield defrosted!
entry 345 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
December 10, 2007 - Ah, a 3-day weekend with no plans.
Time for a whole lot of work on the car, right?
Well, I did get the navigator's footrest installed. This is the one that was donated by Jason over on the Grassroots Motorsports forum. Thanks again, Jason! My original design for the bracket was made of steel tube. I took a second look before starting up the welder, and realized I could do better. The rear support is aluminum angle, putting the strength where I need it. The side brackets have a couple of holes so I can adjust the angle of the footrest, remove the whole thing or simply lower the main plate to get access to whatever's behind it. It's nice and solid and probably 1/4 the weight of the original plan. I'm pretty happy with this.
I also discovered that the switch for raising and lowering the headlights is double-throw, so I've ordered a few switches to allow me to wire the car properly and this has put off the installation of the switch panel. I've also been doing some research into header collectors, more on that later.
So, what else got done? Well, the master bedroom in the house has been repainted. Didn't see that coming, did you?
entry 347 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
December 15, 2007 - An electric supercharger has arrived for the car.
Well, it would be an electric supercharger if it were being sold on eBay, anyhow. For me, it's a bilge blower that moves about 240 cfm. Perfect for defogging a windshield. The SPDT switches I need to finish up the switch panel also arrived.
entry 348 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
December 15, 2007 - After a bit of crawling around, the switches are installed.
And labelled, of course. The "eject" switch is for Eric if he gets too nervous.
Almost out of sight is the bilge blower. It's been mounted in the footwell under the new Sparco footrest. The plumbing worked fairly well (you can see a bit of it in the picture) and there's a distinct breeze coming up the surface of the glass. This is the time of year to test it, too - next time it rains (instead of snow) I'm going to get all wet and try to fog up the car.
entry 349 - tags: ergonomics, wiring
January 31, 2008 - More header work.
Someday I'll have to move on to something else. But I spent some quality time with the belt sander ensuring the flange is nice and flat. Then I laid a gasket over the flange and did a little porting. In a few spots I needed a bit more material so I added it in with the welder. Now, more sanding then more grinding.
Once that's done, it's time to build the lower half and move on to something else!
In other news, I did install the navigator light provided by Rallylights.com and it will be wired in shortly. I'm also trying to figure out how to put in another door bar on each door. It's not going to make the cockpit any roomier, that's for sure.
entry 393 - tags: header, safety, ergonomics
February 21, 2008 - I spent a few minutes setting an approximate ride height for the car.
Nothing too precise or difficult, but it gets me into the range I want instead of being slammed down low. The driver's rear was down at around 12" (measured from the hub to the fender) so I lifted it up to 13.25". This is a ride height that works pretty well on a street-driven Miata and I think it'll be a good combination of ground clearance and CG location for the Targa car. I'm running 13" in the front. This will be fine-tuned later after the car's up to its final weight with a full load of tools, spare tire and other gear.
I did take a quick spin in the car last night to give the defogging system a test. It worked - if I turned off the fan the window would start to fog up a bit, but flipping it on cleared things up nicely. It wasn't a harsh test, but it was the best I could arrange in our climate.
So, time to install the intercom. First, I need to install the amplifier box itself. This needs to be accessible while driving so I can adjust the volume. It also needs to be accessible so we can easily change batteries - assuming I don't hard-wire it into the car. So I put it in front of the shifter, then spent a bit of time making sure the wires were properly corralled. Everything is on rivnuts so I can quickly pull the intercom (a Peltor FMT100, by the way) out of the car and install it into another. And because I haven't posted many shots of the cockpit, here's the big view!
entry 410 - tags: suspension, intercom, ergonomics
February 27, 2008 - Time to mount the rally computer on the dash.
My original clever idea was to embed it in the dashboard, but a quick check using a handy co-driver pointed out that this would put the odometer out of reach. Not a clever idea then.
So, after a fair bit of looking and thinking and turning the computer over in my hands, I came up with what should be a fairly strong solution. I'm concerned about the mount vibrating around, causing various failures and making it hard to read. So this box is meant to be nice and solidly mounted.
First step is to prototype it using cardboard. And not just any cardboard, race cardboard! It's the box from Janel's helmet. Reduce, reuse, recycle kids!
entry 415 - tags: ergonomics, computer
February 27, 2008 - The Coralba, fully installed.
The bracket turned out to be immensely stable, making the computer a solid part of the car. That's good. It also weighs next to nothing, also good.
The computer is partially wired in, enough that I can verify that it's functioning. Good news, the modified ABS wheel sensor appears to be working perfectly. I did a rough calibration using the car's odometer and drove around town pretending I was on a stage. It's a very cool little unit with a lot of capability, and thus it will take a bit of work to understand it properly.
Other than the wheel sensor, I also wired in the reverse signal. This prevents the odometer from adding distance when the car is reversing. I can add a second remote to the computer if this feature is ignored, which can be used to finish a stage and display all the useful information. Hmm, I'll ask Janel which she wants. She was very excited about the reversing feature though. I sure hope she wants to keep it, it took me an hour to splice in one wire due to the position of that wiring harness. Ouch.
entry 417 - tags: ergonomics, wiring, computer
February 27, 2008 - Since the Targa involves long days - and a full week of those - it's important to stay hydrated.
These Camelbak "Unbottles" are going to get mounted in the car so we always have water available. Here in the desert it's also important to stay watered, and I've found I drink far more water when cycling when I'm using a Camelbak instead of a bottle.
The Unbottles are different than normal Camelbaks in that they don't have shoulder straps. Instead, they're designed to be strapped in using various methods. That's perfect for us.
entry 418 - tags: ergonomics
February 27, 2008 - On the driver's side, there's room for the Camelbak to sit between the seat and the roll cage.
A strap on the top of the Unbottle lets me hook it into place so it won't move. Perfect. Now I just need to figure out how to fit one around the navigator's seat. That seat is moved further aft and there's no room between the seat and bulkhead.
The intercom plugs and water tube are attached to the shoulder straps via some clever little velcro ties. They're more secure and easier to remove than the elastic band I was using before.
entry 419 - tags: ergonomics
March 13, 2008 - I've decided after the day at the track and some street driving that I really like having a Camelbak installed in the car with a handy drinking tube.
It's amazing how often I find myself taking a sip. On the front straight of the track, on the back roads, on the drive home from work. Highly recommended!
entry 436 - tags: ergonomics
April 20, 2008 - Traction pad!
Remember my attempt at a traction pad for my heels from last summer? It was a failure. That particular piece of non-skid was from Home Depot, intended for use on stairs, ladders and the like. I stopped in at a local skateboard shop a couple of weeks ago and picked up a chunk of deck tape to try again. And it works beautifully. It was on the car for the recent track day and it's still solidly mounted to the car - unlike the Home Depot stuff which came adrift almost immediately. At 20 cents per inch, it was also a whole lot cheaper than the Home Depot option. So a win overall then.
entry 450 - tags: ergonomics
May 25, 2008 - Here's an overhead shot of the interior.
Mostly because I have the roof off, so it's easy to take! But you can see the new net I installed on the transmission tunnel, to help Janel corral all of her paperwork. The size of the car is liable to be a bit of a problem when it comes time to actually take part in the rally, as we're going to have more stuff than places to put stuff. Especially helmets. But if people can do this in a Caterham, we'll figure it out.
entry 459 - tags: ergonomics
June 7, 2008 - Janel, hard at work watching for instructions.
A TSD is more of a treasure hunt than the Targa is, and there wasn't as much navigation as we would have preferred. They have to be run in rural areas, though, and rural in Colorado means you don't get a lot of turn-offs because you're usually running along a valley or climbing a pass. Still, we did get much more familiar with communicating with each other, dealing with problems ("I said slow down!" "But it's sooo boring!") and Janel got to spend lots of quality time with the trip computer.
All joking aside, despite the warnings of others never to do a TSD with a loved one, we had no compatibility problems. Both of us were in pretty good spirits throughout the day. This was probably in large part due to our rally computer. See, the required average speed varied fairly frequently thoughout the stages. But for us, we set the Coralba to display the average speed and simply reset the tripmeter at each change. So I could simply look at the display and see that I was 0.1 mph high, or we could stop and wait until our speed dropped to the ideal level. Normally there would be much work with stopwatches and calculators along with a lot of stress. Our biggest problem was my apparent inability to drive very very slowly at times. We didn't get lost, though. That's the important thing. And any frustration was tempered with humor instead of anger.
We also learned quite a bit about the car. It turned out to be an excellent shakedown test as we'd never spent 12 continuous hours in the car before. First off, both Janel and I found we need more padding in the seats. My memory foam must not be thick enough. Our butts were asleep before we even got to the start line, over an hour from our house. Also, the car is hot and noisy on the highway and cracking the windows seems to draw in exhaust fumes through a number of small holes in the transmission tunnel. The latter is easy to fix. Hot, well, that's probably not going to be a big concern in Newfoundland. Noisy - it's time to look for some transit headsets. We won't be at a sustained 80 mph on the transits, but even the background nose at 40 would get tiring over the course of the day. I'm going to throw some light sound deadening at the back of the car to see if I can help this at all. I think I'm also going to go to a 4.10 rear end instead of my current 4.30, as I don't need such short gearing.
Mechanically, the car was faultless. Some sadistic organizer put a 20-minute stop in at Leadville. That's about 10,000' up, and you should have heard the poor carburetted British cars trying to struggle back to life. Let's hear it for fuel injection!
Okay, almost faultless. The suspension got a nice dirt bath after we spent about half an hour trying to maintain 38 mph on a fairly rough road, and it's creaking badly. I think I just need some bushing lubrication underneath.
A long day, but a good day.
entry 467 - tags: skills, testing, ergonomics, computer, seats
June 10, 2008 - Testing results.
The influx of hot air seems to have succumbed to my patching and the car no longer smells like exhaust fumes. So that's good.
The car is much happier with the 4.10 rear end. I've always liked this gearing combination. The stiffer mounts in the differential have cut down on shifter movement and the car shifts very nicely now. So that's an improvement. There should theoretically be an increase in NVH from the new mounts but it's rather hard to tell in this car!
I took the car out to the track again for a few laps, just to see if the rear end was hooking up any differently. And the answer is nope. Maybe a little bit better, but I can still spin up that right inside wheel if I am being aggressive. It takes a turn that's tighter than any that would be used on the street - aka, that would be found in the Targa - but I'm starting to obsess about this a little bit again. On the theory that the car is rolling too much and the rear sway bar just can't deal with this much articulation, I stiffened up the low-speed compression. While the car get a bit happier in transitions (I need to spend more time with this adjustment, as I should be able to really make it pivot nicely) it didn't make a significant difference.
I do really have to thank the guys at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway for working with me and letting me drop in once in a while. When I left today, they were surprised that I'd only taken a half dozen laps!
I'm probably going to swap all the control arms out. The bushings seem to need lubrication again. That's odd, because I've run these sorts of bushings for years in the past without any noise. But that dirt road really seems to have done a number on them and they sound terrible. So the arms have to come out at least partially, so why not experiment? I will check to make sure it's not dry sway bar bushings, which I don't think were very well lubricated on installation. Remember, I installed them at the track and didn't spend a lot of time greasing. Hmm.
edit - I did check, and it is the ungreased front sway bar bushings. Duh. The control arms are fine.
One reason to swap out the arms is because I've managed to accumulate a set of 1999-05 control arms. The rears have only 1700 miles on them so they have nice fresh bushings, while the fronts are higher mileage. The later arms are more heavily reinforced for more strength.
Third, I'm also hoping it'll let me get a little more camber up front, which will allow me to run a smaller (or no) rear bar, which will help with the rear traction.
First, I'll check the cornerweights to see if the right rear is out of whack. The traction problem is not as bad with a passenger, and of course I'll have a passenger during the race! I can tell when I'm going to have problems with the traction, as it's all due to the weight on the right rear wheel. Actually, it's the weight on the right rear and the antics I get up to in order to provoke it.
entry 471 - tags: testing, drivetrain, ergonomics
June 10, 2008 - Hot.
It's a toasty day outside today (about 83F/28C) and the temperature inside the car was getting pretty warm on track. As I mentioned earlier, it's a hot little track to run. But even driving home it was warm. According to my pyrometer, the driver's footwell was 145F (68C). Obviously the ambient temperature will be lower during the Targa, but I am going to be generating lots of heat and I'm a bit concerned about some of the parts on the transmission tunnel. The intercom is right on top of it and is warm to the touch, while the brake proportioning valve is also getting the worst of it. So I think I'm going to find myself some adhesive heatshielding and see if I can cut down on the tunnel temperature from underneath.
entry 472 - tags: ergonomics
June 17, 2008 - After our sore butts following the 12-hour MG rally, I ordered some new padding for the bottom of the seats.
The blue pad is a "backsaver" pad from Pegasus Racing. It's another type of memory foam, but very different to play with. It's firmer than the original cheap bedtopper I was using before, and almost feels like a gel pad when you try to push it sideways. Weird stuff.
entry 477 - tags: ergonomics
June 17, 2008 - I had the car aligned today.
I had a 9 am appointment and the car went on to the (empty) rack at 10. Sigh. Still, by 11:30 it was all lined up and looks to be a decent job. The right front wheel wouldn't give any more than 1.4 degrees of negative camber, which is a bit of a shame. I was hoping for about 0.5 degrees more. It could very well be my ride height, of course. According to the Spec Miata Constructor's Manual, I should be able to do a bit better. But I know from hanging out with certain Spec racers that it's not unusual for the upper control arm to be accidentally and carefully bent a bit, giving more camber. Good book, by the way.
So, how does it work? I took the car out for a run on my local Targa Simulation Road (assuming the Targa has pinon tree, red rocks and 95F temperatures) and it feels pretty good. The front end sticks beautifully and it puts power down well. Of course, I'll have to take it to the track to see if the low speed, tight radius wheelspin is gone but fast road work is not a concern. I still want to spend a little more time fine-tuning the shocks but I feel the car would be quite competitive at the Targa as it sits.
The new padding for the seats seems to work quite nicely. It wasn't a 2+ hour test, but so far it's an improvement.
I also spent a bit of time tuning the engine with the new cams. They don't like to idle much, but I'm starting to get that under control. The car feels pretty strong and it's adding a whole pile of fuel at 4500 rpm or so - right where the previous cams had a big dip in power, and right where I need a big slug of torque. So far they're promising.
entry 478 - tags: suspension, testing, ergonomics, tuning
June 22, 2008 - While I was working on the rear shelf, I decided to move the Camelbaks back there.
They're more accessible now and I have a little more hose available. Velcro straps are riveted or bolted to the rear deck, and those slip through loops in the Camelbak "Unbottles". It holds the Unbottles in place quite nicely and they're fairly easily accessible. They'll boil in the hot sun around here, but that's unlikely to be a major problem in Newfoundland.
entry 484 - tags: ergonomics
June 22, 2008 - And voila, the finished rear deck.
The black piece is the stock sheetmetal, painted because it was really nasty looking. As usual for the Targa Miata, it was rescued from a salvage car. The Unbottles are strapped down and all the openings are closed up in the deck.
entry 485 - tags: safety, ergonomics
June 22, 2008 - I needed a place to stash the safety triangles where they're both out of the way and easily accessible.
I was thinking of putting them on the rear shelf, but finally decided to put them under Janel's legs. The velcro is riveted to the floor and they're nice and secure, but immediately accessible.
Those who have been paying attention will remember that I mounted the fire extinguisher in this same place. It's now been moved over in front of my seat. Why? Because the driver's side is a bit narrower than the passenger's side, and there wasn't enough room for the triangles on my side.
entry 486 - tags: safety, ergonomics
July 9, 2008 - The importance of seating.
I borrowed a coworker's Miata this week while he was using my pickup, and discovered something important. His car is fitted with a race seat of a major brand - I think it's a Sparco.
It's a terrible seat for me. It's snug around my ribs (I have a much wider build than he does) so I can feel the seat press in whenever I take a deep breath. It's fairly high in the car because it's on a slider. But most importantly, it put pressure on my right leg in such a way that I'd get cramps in about an hour of driving it.
But he's quite happy with it and has driven the car to Salt Lake City and back. That's about 300 miles each way. Obviously it fits him just fine. Another coworker also used to have this seat in his car and took it on road trips. So it's a matter of my particular physiology battling with the design of this seat, and that's a hard thing to anticipate without the chance to try a seat out. There's an important lesson here - treat race seats like shoes, and try them on if possible!
I approached Corbeau as a sponsor because I was happy with how their seats fit me, and the experience this week underlined how important that is.
entry 490 - tags: ergonomics
August 9, 2008 - A great shot from the last trackday at Pueblo.
The car's sitting nicely - this is a fairly fast corner with a quick dab of the brakes on entry, a bit of rotation and then back on the throttle. At least, that's how I do it. And I always exit this corner saying "next time, faster on entry..."
Back to the present day - the diff is in and working nicely. I'll know just how nicely after tomorrow. A surprise track day has come up at the Woody Creek track in Aspen, courtesy of the 25th anniversary gathering of the original quattro. This isn't a track we get a chance to drive very often. It's relatively short but is bumpy in spots and has a couple of challenging corners. I've only been on it once before. I'm going primarily because Janel has to work and because the weather forecast is poor. Hopefully it'll rain. It's not the usual wish for track work, but I don't have much experience in fast driving in the rain and I need the practice!
I have my new race tires all mounted and balanced. If it's rainy, I'll scrub them in and see how full-depth RA1s work in the wet stuff. Quite well by all accounts. If it's damp or dry, I'll use my well-seasoned test tires. I'm also going to drive the car out to see how the new padding works in the seat.
There's a Sport Quattro in attendance at the event. I can't wait to see one in person.
entry 510 - tags: testing, suspension, ergonomics
August 10, 2008 - In terms of rain, the trackday at Aspen was a failure.
For me, anyhow. One run group of Audis was lucky enough to get wet. I was the only one disappointed, however. Nobody else is any fun.
The day started with a really early morning (8 am driver's meeting and a 2.25 hour drive to the track). The good news? The new foam in the seats makes all the difference. No numb bum at all. That's a big win for the "backsaver" pad from Pegasus racing. Insert glowing testimonial here.
The bad news? The 8 am driver's meeting was at 9:50. My car was given a tech inspection four times. This kinda gives you an idea of the level of organization present. Still, we finally worked out way out to the track. I was staged right behind three Formula Fords that had me a little spooked - Aspen's track is a little on the small side, and I didn't want to accidentally squash one that had sneaked into my mirrors. That wasn't a concern. My biggest problem was trying to get one to give me a point-by. I had the same acceleration, better cornering and vastly better brakes than the driver in front of me, but he apparently didn't have mirrors. After seriously considering using the old "chrome horn" on an open-wheeled car, I ducked into the pits to get some clear track.
The car was okay, but it was hunting for grip. Both ends were skating. I checked the tire pressures and found I had them too high. The next session was better, but still too much hot pressure. Finally things settled down a bit. The car's quite safe right now, giving me lots of warning of what it's about to do. For a track car, I think there's still just a bit too much understeer. Of course, that means it will understeer, even mildly, on occasion. I can throttle steer the car fairly well. But given the unknown nature of most corners in the rally, that's a good setup. In my opinion, anyhow! I'll have the ability to tweak it at the rally if required.
And while it may not have been my preferred setup, a chicane at the fastest part of the track was handled very nicely, a high speed right-left jink that could have been a real problem if the car oversteered too much. Instead, it just screamed right through and surprised a few cars. I was also informed that my lap times were very good for running two-up with a chicane on the straight. Considering my lack of knowledge of this track, I'll take that as an endorsement.
So, despite the lack of rain, a good day. I had fun playing with some purpose-built race cars (who were a little surprised to see how fast this particular Miata could squirt out of corners) and Brandon had an excellent time bonding with his new Locost. Smiles all around.
entry 511 - tags: suspension, ergonomics, testing
August 27, 2008 - I spent some time under the car last night.
An oil change, a quick nut-and-bolt check and a general under-car inspection. Remember that red PPF?
I also decided to add a bit of heatshielding. You can see the factory heat shield that I've added above the catalytic converter in this picture. It weighs next to nothing so I'm not sure why I never put this in before. Probably because it's the sort of sharp, oddly shaped piece of metal that always gets first squashed flat by accident and then eventually thrown away.
There's also some Reflectix insulation inside the transmission tunnel. It's not very visible here, but it's near the white header. I attached it with waterproof foil tape which has been very effective in other applications, but which seems to disapprove of the particular texture of the bottom of the car. So while I'm happy with the effect of this shield, a quick peek under the car when I arrived home showed that the bottom tape had separated. Shame. The material itself is pretty neat, just a double layer of bubble wrap with a Mylar coating on each side. It weighs next to nothing (a 24"x25' roll is about 3 lbs) and can withstand 180F in direct contact. That's borderline for this use but the air space will help a lot. A good thing about it for under-car use is that it's also completely unaffected by water. I'll probably end up removing it if I can't manage to adhere it. Still, given the lower temperatures in Newfoundland, the heat shouldn't be too big a problem.
entry 519 - tags: ergonomics
September 22, 2008 - So, the race is over.
It's time for a bit of analysis. What worked and what didn't? What would I change?
Ergonomically, the car was great. A bit small when it came to helmet wrangling on the transits, but if we had time we'd stick them in the trunk. The Backsaver pads in the seats get a big and hearty thumbs up, as they were comfortable all week long.
The Camelbaks were a big plus. We were sipping on them the entire time, and the hydration helped keep some of the fatigue at bay.
Having snacks in the car - goldfish crackers, tubes of honey, granola bars and often an apple or banana - made a big difference as well. It's a tip that we picked up from the California Rally School, and it kept us both in a better mood as well as more able to concentrate.
One thing that we definitely missed was transit headsets. We wore earplugs on long transits to keep the noise from wearing us down, but that meant we didn't get much chance to talk other than shouted conversation.
entry 603 - tags: post-race, ergonomics
February 16, 2009 - Part of the preparation for the Laguna Seca event is a new windshield.
When I took the car out of the trailer on the way home from the race, I discovered a crack at the driver's A-pillar. There was no big impact mark, but the glass installer did discover a very small mark that may have caused the initial damage. Regardless, it needed replacing. So now it's super-clean!
I also spent some time with Janel fitting her in the car. No, not in the navigator's seat, but in the driver's side. She's proportioned differently than I am (much to her relief, I'm sure) and she needs to sit higher in the car. We originally thought she needed to sit further back as well, but the first test showed this wasn't the case. A bit of work with the leftover Backsaver foam and now she has her own booster seat. This means she can come out to Laguna Seca with me and get a chance to drive the car. The intercom will make it easy to coach her.
This is going to be fun. I want to do pace notes for the track. "Over crest into hard left over crest into medium right..."
entry 653 - tags: laguna, ergonomics
October 5, 2010 - Over the past couple of years, I've had a number of questions about the Backsaver foam that we used in the Corbeau seats.
It made all the difference in the world to comfort, but it's not cheap stuff. Well, a recent phone call from a customer made me dig up some of my old information, and I'm pretty sure it's actually Confor CF45 foam, 1" thick with an extra piece of fabric on one side and a rubber pad on the other. Armed with this knowledge, you can find less expensive sources elsewhere as long as you're willing to forgo the rubber and fabric. It's hard to believe, but aviation stores such as this one are actually a less expensive source.
If you're looking for a way to make a set of race seats more comfortable, this is a great place to start.
entry 767 - tags: ergonomics, comfort, seats
July 25, 2011 - Lots of little work on the car.
This oil light, for example. It's bigger and brighter than the old one, which didn't survive the disassembly process. The Revlight has been recalibrated for the new engine's redline. There's a power jack mounted in the car now so I can easily plug in things like laptops and phone chargers should the need arise. I'm working my way through a long list of things to do.
I did find out that my tire pressures were too high on the weekend. It turns out the R1R really doesn't need much pressure, and a number of people suggested dropping them to around 27 psi cold or so. I had them at 31 based on some feedback from an autocrossing friend, but his narrower tires may have been a factor. Regardless, I'll be back at the track doing some pressure testing in the next little while.
entry 883 - tags: tires, instruments, ergonomics
July 29, 2011 - Here's some of the other work done today.
I covered the transmission tunnel with Thermo-tec "Cool-it". This may not be necessary for Newfoundland, but as I found last week the tunnel gets very hot on the track in 100F temperatures. It'll make the car more comfortable.
I also put new grip tape under the pedals. I used skateboard tape, as it's both much less expensive and much more effective than the stuff you buy at Home Depot. It's about $2.50 a square foot! There's a new pedal extension on the gas pedal. The previous MOMO pedal cover was too wide for the new transmission tunnel. Not quite visible in this picture is a horn button - when I switched to the removable wheel, I lost my previous setup.
entry 888 - tags: ergonomics, heat shielding, pedals
September 30, 2011 - Brandon and Zach's office.
The tape with numbers on it are to remind the crew what the average speed for a given stage should be. The spare ones on the door are both souvenirs and spares in case another stage uses the same speed. The two egg timers are a Day 2 addition, one counting up and the other counting down. This way Zach knows if they're running on time. There's a pre-stage checklist on the dashboard as well.
Moving over to Brandon's side, you'll see red tape on the speedo to remind him of the overall speed limit. He's also got a GPS mounted to the dash as a backup to the Terratrip, showing average speed. It's a different sort of cockpit than we have in the Targa Miata, fine-tuned for a different purpose.
It should be pointed out that, after competing in the Targa, I drove this car home from Ottawa to Colorado because the space in the trailer was taken up by another car. Race numbers, interior additions and all. The fact that it's a real car with cruise control and A/C made it a lot more comfortable than you might expect - these Targa cars work in the real world too. Although they do attract a bit of attention to be sure.
entry 1004 - tags: 2011 race, ergonomics, Brandon, Zach