Targa Miata
August 26, 2008 - With the car finished, other aspects of preparation are moving into high gear.
I'm busy gathering up documentation and tools, and starting to wonder about things like having cellphones that don't cost $1/minute in Canada. The truck should be serviced before it goes into harness. I need a haircut. Janel and I will be taking our First Aid certification in a couple of days. Do I have everything? Have we thought of everything?
All through the build of the car, I've had the luxury of time. Lots of time. And now I'm aware that there's only a little bit of time left and little room for error if I forget something.
And I lied about the car being ready. It's on the dyno today, making sure the engine is happy. Then it's time for a bit of heat insulation and an oil change, and I need to scrub in the race tires. But it's close.
So close.
entry 518 - tags: preparation
August 29, 2008 - Janel and I took a First Aid course yesterday.
Both of us have had fairly extensive training in the past - I used to be a swimming instructor, her job in the construction industry opens up the option for all sorts of gruesome problems - so it wasn't a difficult thing. Still, it's good to shake the dust off those skills again.
While going through the regulations one last time to avoid problems at scrutineering, I discovered that our first aid kit (supplied by the good folks at Rallylights.com) needed to be in the cockpit instead of in the trunk where I'd mounted it earlier. Finding room for the big white box was a bit tricky, so I stuffed everything in a small tool bag. This is strapped up under the dashboard where it can be in Janel's hands in seconds, but it's out of the way. It's also less than half the weight it used to be!
entry 521 - tags: skills, preparation, safety
August 29, 2008 - Something else that showed up in the rereading of the regulations was that the car should not have antifreeze in the cooling system.
This is fairly common with race cars because antifreeze is really slippery stuff. I should have thought of that. So the coolant was drained and refilled with straight water and Water Wetter. It's a water pump lubricant (as per the regulations) that also drops the surface tension of the water to avoid spot boiling. According to the bottle it has all sorts of magical properties, and it really does work according to some testing we've done at Flyin' Miata. It's also the coolest color.
entry 522 - tags: preparation, cooling
August 29, 2008 - Preparation goes beyond working on the car.
I need to pack enough tools to deal with any job I should be expected to do, from the nightly nut-and-bolt to a rebuild of one corner of the car. But I want it all to fit in my super-cool wheely toolbox with extendo-legs so it's easy to deal with. Thanks to the recent track visits, I have a basic tool load figured out - I started taking notes about what I commonly packed so it's easy to duplicate in 15 minutes before leaving.
In this case, though, I'm also packing a smaller toolkit to go in the car. It'll include emergency tools, the sort of thing I need to perform roadside repairs until I can rendezvous with the mothership. Radiator stop-leak, a test light, duct tape (and the superior foil tape as well as electrical tape), the Holy Trinity of Miata wrenches (10, 14 and 17mm), zip ties, etc. The toolbag also includes the required tow strap. I'm apparently the first person to ask how long it should be!
So, almost ready then. I've been going through the tech inspection required before leaving, and just to be sure I changed the front brake lines which had a little damage to the cosmetic colored sheath. So I need to bleed the brakes and then cornerweight the car with the correct tool and people load in it. I'm trying to decide if I should scrub in all six race wheels or if I should just take them as virgins. Maybe I'll stop by the track on Wednesday and give them a few laps to get the initial scuffing done. But even if I do that, I'm almost ready to go. It's getting close!
entry 523 - tags: preparation
August 31, 2008 - Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed an addition to the menu on the left side of the page: RACE UPDATES.
Hopefully the purpose is clear! During the race, I'm planning to make regular updates on our progress. There are no guarantees that I'll find time or have the ability to do this, and it'll only happen in the evenings if I do. But I will do the best I can.
The weather in Colorado today is almost exactly the same as in St. John's - wet (I think we got half of our 6-9" of annual precipitation last night!), cool and kinda blah. I pointed this out to Janel and she said "Uh oh".
entry 524 - tags: announcements, preparation
August 31, 2008 - Remember how I said the weather today was like St John's?
Well, during one heavy burst of rain, I looked at Janel and said "I should take the car out and test it in this weather". She looked back and said "I'll come along". So we buckled in and backed the nice clean car out into the storm.
Unfortunately, traffic was heavy on my Targa Simulation Road and there is absolutely no place to pass on it. So we were stymied going both up and down and didn't get a chance to feel what the RA1s were like in standing water at full chat. But it wasn't without merit. First off, I learned the car is pretty resistant to hydroplaning. I wasn't able to travel too fast (curse the luck) but my best efforts were met with dogged traction. So that's good.
We also got a chance to test the defroster. Finally! It worked a treat on my side, but it blew off one of the ducts on Janel's side and was less than effective. I'd disturbed things when working on the dash light wiring a few weeks ago and never bothered to tape it all back up again properly. It's an easy fix, but an important one. Had it happened in Newfoundland, I would have have had everything needed to fix it in the car with me.
So that's a success then. I'll crawl under the car and see if my new, improved heatshield mounting held up as well - I have high hopes for it. All I did was scrape the undercoating off in that one area so there was smooth metal for the tape to grab, and I know from experience that this tape loves the smooth metal.
It's quite refreshing to be able to spend the day just poking around like this, two weeks before the start of the race. There's no big list of problems to solve or jobs to do. The car's basically ready to load into the trailer. This is very unlike normal racing practices but exactly the way I wanted it. Tomorrow, I think I'll do some painting inside the house.
I've just jinxed myself, I know it.
entry 525 - tags: preparation, testing
September 3, 2008 - Lots of detail work today.
I needed TOW stickers for both the front and the rear and I only had them on the rear. So I cut a couple out of reflective blue vinyl. Why not? They shine!
I also spent some time chasing insurance. The latest revision of the regulations require us to carry a million dollars in liability insurance. But normal auto coverage has a half-million limit. Of course, as soon as I mentioned racing to the insurance company, they got all nervous. The coverage is only for the transit sections but they were still spooked. A call to the Targa organizers and everything was sorted out quite easily. Whew.
entry 526 - tags: preparation
September 3, 2008 - So, it's Wednesday night.
I'm leaving early on Saturday - and the car's in the trailer! This seems so wrong. Race cars don't work like this. The tools and race gear are loaded up and I'm pretty much ready to fire up the truck and head east. I should probably pack some clothes other than my race suit, though.
I forgot to mention that I cornerweighted the car on Tuesday night. It was actually just about dead on. When I throw the electric impact gun in the back, it'll be perfect. The car, with about 3/4 tank of fuel, has 49.8% of the weight on the back wheels.
So that's it then. All the documentation is gathered. The car is ready. The trailer is loaded up. It's time for the last couple of years of preparation to be put to the test.
It's important to manage expectations though - while I think the car has the potential to win the event, Janel and I do not have the experience needed. The goal is to finish and bring the car home in one piece.
entry 528 - tags: preparation
September 5, 2008 - I'm heading out tomorrow morning, bright and early.
Here's what's bouncing around in my head. I'm still doing some last-minute prep - printing out a checklist of things to do to the car each night so that we can make sure that one of the crew does things like fill the Camelbaks, torque the lug nuts and replace the battery in the intercom.
The load of spares is a tough one. Miatas are hardy cars and I don't anticipate a lot of breakage. I have a spare set of brake pads and rotors as well as a different rear sway and a set of lower control arms in case of a big mistake on my part. But that's about it other than the usual repair parts like racer tape, electrical connectors and hose clamps.
It looks as if the ferry service to Newfoundland is running a little slow due to weather - the sort of weather that gets given a name. Right now, it appears we won't get to St. John's until 11 am on the morning of registration and tech inspection. Normally, we'd be coming into town about 4 hours earlier which is perfect. Oh well, it's not as if Newfoundlanders aren't used to weather delays. I'll get my way through it.
For some reason, all of my focus is on the drive out there, making sure I have everything and getting through scrutineering. The race? Not even thinking about it. Although I'll probably watch my in-car footage from the Kloosterman team over and over again on the trip out. I have a week to do nothing but sit in the truck and think about the race.
On the road tomorrow - here we go!
entry 529 - tags: preparation
September 11, 2008 - Testing today went smoothly.
It wasn't a major test, simply a run down the road to make sure the car was happy at sea level. And yes, it is. My biggest concern was knock, as the higher ambient air pressure at sea level means higher cylinder pressures than before. The tuning is good, though. Nothing showed up on the knock sensor at all. The 20% increase in horsepower is quite obvious, especially when the car gets on cam. The first time I ran it through the gears, I burst out with "Yeah! THAT'S my engine! Woohoo!" Followed by a lot of laughter. Yes, I'm a complete professional.
It's good to drive the car again too. The suspension feels nice and supple and the throttle response is very sharp. This is going to be fun.
So the car's good. My parents arrived this afternoon - and if I'd known to check the ferry schedules, I'd have realized that leaving today wasn't an option anyhow. Tomorrow, we get on the ferry for the long trip over and when we land, everything shifts into high gear as we go straight into scrutineering upon arriving in St. John's. Janel will be flying in and will beat us there by about 10 hours. There are at least two other racers on the ferry with us and I expect to see a number of others tomorrow.
So that's it for the pre-race. The next reports will all be on the race page. Here we go!
entry 533 - tags: engine, preparation
September 17, 2009 - Want to know how to prepare a car to win the Monte Carlo?
Let Paddy Hopkirk tell you. The bit about waterproofing your distributor made me laugh - I discovered that my Mini loses ignition right about the same time the windshield wipers get overwhelmed. That's actually a pretty good safety feature.
The article may be dated, but there's good information regardless. I'm not sure I'll be bringing a pillow along on the next Targa, but we actually did have one for Janel!
entry 703 - tags: preparation
August 29, 2011 - More preparation work.
The cars have to carry some tools with them, just in case. We don't plan on actually using these, but you never do. It's not a full complement of tools (and you can't see them all here) but it should allow us to do most of what we may need at the side of the road. The support vehicles will have a much fuller kit, although everything does have to fit in the back of a pickup along with our spares. We did manage to cleverly come up with two cars that have absolutely nothing in common with each other, which does make this task a bit harder.
The past weekend was actually fairly low-key. The car's in good shape, so it's just a matter of packing by this point.
entry 930 - tags: tools, preparation
September 9, 2011 - Looking for updates on the race?
Here are where you can find various members of our team posting.
Zach's Autoblog posts
Adam Costa's Kickstarter feed
Official results and entry list
and of course, this site.
Zach and Brandon spent the day running practice stages while Keith and Janel re-familiarized themselves with the Newfoundland roads and the car's different personality. The last members of the service crew come in tonight and then it all begins tomorrow morning.
It looks like the supercars are running in the newly created "Hot Tour" group instead of competing. It's pretty obvious from looking at them that they'd be leaving expensive carbon fiber shards all over the island if they tried to take all the stages at speed - the low speed bump in front of the hotel is about all the Enzo can handle. So they'll be running the closed stages, but without timing and likely limited to the same speed levels as Grand Touring cars are. So we'll get to watch (and hear!) them being driven properly without having to worry about seeing them get destroyed.
entry 938 - tags: race, preparation
March 14, 2012 - I'm almost done preparing the car for Laguna Seca.
I've swapped the plain headlight cover and stock turn indicator back in. That's a bit of a shame, it really did look cool. But aerodynamically they're all wrong now, so they had to go.
I also cornerweighted the car last night. I disconnected the sway bars, rolled the car back and forth and bounced to to get rid of any binding on the wheels. And it came out at 50.0% cross weight. Well then, my work here is done! The front/rear distribution ended up at 55.5 front (without driver/passenger weight) and 50.0% left/right balance. In the race, it has an extra wheel and a tool bag in the trunk which would pretty much bring that back to 50:50.
All I have left to do now is a check of the alignment and then to clean it up. Then I get to scrub in the tires at a track day in a week and a half, and it goes on to the trailer for California!
entry 1031 - tags: preparation