Targa Miata
April 4, 2010 - No pictures of the new intake yet, but I have track videos!

Fastest lap
Smoother fast lap

The track day went pretty well. It was a fairly cold one and I only got about three sessions in the Targa car (along with the chance to drive a 350Z, a BMW M Coupe and a couple of FM Miatas), but my best time was a 1:04.959. That's about 0.2 seconds off my best in the car, nothing to be ashamed of. There was a time when simply dropping below 1:06 in any car was unusual!
The dual spring setup does allow for some body roll, but the lap times would indicate the car isn't suffering too badly. It absorbed the berms well and was very stable under braking. I'm trying to decide if I want to keep this setup for Laguna Seca or if I want to pull the secondary springs so the car corners flatter and has quicker reflexes. Tough call. If it can still hustle around our little autocross track here this quickly, I'm thinking the dual setup is working.
The engine felt good. For the first time, I noticed a lack of pick-up coming out of one of the hairpins at 4000 rpm - that's the dip in the torque curve. The heavier throttle pedal (due to a stiffer spring) took a little getting used to in order to be smooth, but I adapted pretty quickly. Nobody noticed that the car was particularly loud, so I'm hoping that's good for Laguna Seca sound levels. Hoping hoping hoping. I did have one person ask me if it was a V8 because it didn't sound like a four-cylinder!
Pictures of the intake are at work, I'll put them up tomorrow.
entry 742 - tags: video, GJMS, testing, track, IRTB
April 14, 2010 - Welcome to California!
Three days of track time with two drivers, mixing it up with faster cars. It's a good thing this little car is tough.
The first day was sunny and beautiful. The track day was run by the Checkered Flag Racing Association, which is basically a grown-up version of the Red Rock Racers I run in Grand Junction. Sessions were 30 minutes long and full of some very serious machinery. Even the novice group had a Porsche GT3, a fast little Caterham and a couple of Nissan GT-Rs. The Nissans were being driven extremely quickly, and were really in the wrong group. Overall, a very experienced bunch that were good to share the track with.
The goal for the Friday session was for it all to be about Janel. She's spent so long hanging around as I run around at the track it only seemed fair for her to have her own track day. So our friend Rick Weldon offered to give her personal instruction, and I was pit crew.
We started off doing a sound check. The limit was 92 dB, and we went by the meter at 93.3 dB. After a certain amount of chaos on the part of the organizers who all told us different things, we found that by holding 4th gear through turn 5 we tripped the meter at 88 dB. So there's that solved then.
Rick was running behind, so I went out with Janel for the first three sessions. We had a good time and everything seemed to be working fairly well other than a car that was very grouchy when cold. The biggest problem was dealing with the traffic.
Rick showed up just as we left for the third session, so he only got to ride with Janel for a couple of sessions. She was all warmed up and ready to go, though. He's a fantastic instructor and not only helped her with her lines, but also with how to deal with traffic. She's a great learner, and if you tell her to go full throttle through a certain corner without lifting, she'll do it!
I was running a stopwatch, and we saw her times drop by about 12 seconds per lap - partly due to the way that she dealt with faster cars passing her. The big grin is from her last session, when she spent two or three laps holding off a 911 GT3 (really!) before the monster power on the straight finally proved to be too much for the little Miata. She was putting down consistent 2:00 laps with only a few tenths of a second of variation, plus one solid 1:59.28. You can see her session on the video page. After seeing the times, Rick commented that she'd be a great endurance driver. On the way to dinner a couple of nights later, she asked me how you get involved in endurance racing...
Does she look happy to you?
entry 748 - tags: janel, laguna seca, track
April 14, 2010 - After Janel had so much fun on Friday, it was time to meet the hundreds of Miatas that had come for Miatas at MRLS.
The plan was for me to drive the car in the fastest A group and take people for rides, and Janel would drive in the C group. However, when I first jumped in the car, I discovered that it was very unhappy under part throttle. It was too late for me to do any more tuning on the car, but spending a single session with a laptop jammed under a seat would have made a big difference. Still, it was easy enough to drive around. I also discovered that while my spare rubber was up to pressure, I had the tires on the car about 7 psi low. Whoops. So the car should have been faster on Friday for Janel if I'd been able to take a quick test drive. Sorry!
For the rest of the weekend, the car pounded around and around the track. The other cars from Flyin' Miata were under orders not to run at 10/10ths to ensure they'd last, but that didn't apply to the Targa car. So I ran it pretty hard, and I know Janel did as well. This is one solid little critter, and so much fun.
The new suspension wasn't a big hit with Janel, and it certainly did allow a lot of lean. Still, it put down the power well and seemed friendly enough. I wanted just a bit less understeer but didn't want to mess with it after Janel had spent so long honing things with Rick.
I spent a lot of my time staying out of trouble with the A group, populated with winged beasts and drivers that were considerably faster than me.
Janel had a different problem. She was much faster than everyone in her group, and so she spent most of the time waiting for the slower driver to point her by. It was frustrating. She really should have been in the B group.
Sunday started off cold and looking like rain, and it started to sprinkle fairly early. Janel came into the Corkscrew with the back end of the car quite loose and almost looped it, and I found the grip level changing on every corner. So we parked the car, and shortly afterwards the skies opened. The track was closed early due to the deep water, and we packed up to go home.
A pretty good weekend.
entry 749 - tags: laguna seca, track
August 9, 2010 - Now THAT was fun!
Last weekend was the Flyin' Miata Summer Camp, previously known as the Open House. Some may remember that the car made its track debut at the Open House in 2007 - it's hard to believe it's been three years. That time, the car managed a best of 1:07.977. These days, I'm consistently in the 1:04.xxx range on the same set of tires I used in the race.
The original plan wasn't for me to drive the Targa car. After some memorable battles for the lap record in 2008, a decision was made that the staff should spend more time taking customers for rides. I was scheduled to drive the supercharged 2006, which is a pretty fun car. I did get the Targa car all reassembled and bedded the new brake pads in, just in case. I actually ended up using it as transport to get to the track that morning.
It became apparent fairly early on that something wasn't right with the 2006. It had some wiring problems recently due to a poorly installed O2 sensor hardness and we're still chasing down gremlins. The car was way down on power so we decided to park it. I jumped in the Targa car and took people for rides in that instead.
Halfway through my first session, I just started laughing and yelled out "it's great to be home!" This is such a good car. Without the secondary springs I'd been running before, the 600/450 lb setup made the car super-responsive. The balance was a bit understeery (I hadn't had time to set up the sway bars) but the car still worked well and could be easily balanced.
By the second session, I was taking the "AFCO line" through the chicane, actually leaping the inside wheels across the gap inside the corners and probing the limits of the braking zone. In the FM cars, we had to be a bit conservative to make sure the tires and brakes were good and we gave the customers a good ride. But the Targa Miata is like an anvil, and I could push it to the limit without having to worry about anything. It's made to be run hard.
We didn't have transponders on the cars, but it would not surprise me if I'd been in the 1:03 range. The car felt that good, and a number of my passengers commented that I gave them the ride of the weekend.
Oh man, was that ever a good time. What a great little car.
entry 759 - tags: track
September 11, 2010 - Track day at High Plains Raceway!
To celebrate scrutineering and odometer check day for Targa Newfoundland 2010, we headed to a new track near Denver to try it out. HPR is a 2+ mile track with a surprising amount of elevation, and I'd heard quite a few good things about it. Not a quick drive from Grand Junction, but not far off Pueblo where I did a lot of the original development of the car.
The day was put on by the Z Car Club of Colorado, and I think they only do a couple of days a year. There was a very complex and ambitious schedule that was broken by the time the driver's meeting started 40 minutes late, but that happens. They were quite safety conscious, so no complaints there.
It took a bit of time to become familiar with the track - there are two sections that look fairly similar, and a number of blind spots. But after a couple of sessions, I was up to speed pretty well. The sessions got longer and longer as the day went on, and my last time out was a full 30 minutes. I was only going to do a portion of it, but I got chasing other cars. You know how it is. The best was a new 370Z which was a bit of a chase - great fun.
Janel also spent some time in the driver's seat, of course. She started off a bit tentative, but got faster and faster as the day went on. On her last session, she pointed by a couple of cars and then proceeded to reel them right back in again. It really got her competitive juices going and all three drivers had a fantastic time.
The car felt good, but not perfect. The right front shock felt low on fluid again, so I'd get some shaking through the wheel on hard right turns when it was unloaded. It didn't affect grip at all and it worked fine when the wheel was heavily loaded on lefts, so I just dealt with it. Otherwise, the car rotated nicely with a good high speed balance, and the new diff worked well to pull the car out of corners very strongly. The tires were working well, even though I have a pair on the front that I used to set the car up for the Targa more than two years ago! They're pretty well worn as you might imagine. A few other drivers commented on how quick the car was for a naturally aspirated Miata! Part of that was the car's ability to hold speed through the corners, it really reeled in other cars on the fast corners. Both Janel and I found it comfortable to really smear around the track at high speed, forgiving but agile. Like a Miata is supposed to be.
The car spent between three and four hours on track today, and was as reliable as an anvil. We just kept pounding around and around and around the track, with Janel and I doing back-to-back sessions so the car would usually run for a full hour at a time without a real break. A really fun day.
Video will come later, as will some reports on Targa 2010.
entry 763 - tags: track, testing, HPR
October 10, 2011 - Time for a post-event track day.
Why? Because I can! The car was in as-raced form, right down to the bag of snacks stuffed into the passenger's door. I'd never actually tested this swaybar setup on our track, and I'd made some tweaks to the shocks in Newfoundland. So I figured this would be an interesting check on how the race setup worked in the different environment.
The weather was quite a bit different than my previous test days at this track. Instead of the very hot temperatures that plagued the testing all summer, it was cool. About the same temperatures as seen during the race, actually.
My first session was very entertaining. The car was loose, very loose. I know it had some oversteer tendencies during the race but that was also coupled with great turn-in and lots of adjustability, so I was quite happy with that. Rally drivers hate understeer! But on the little tight track, it was too much. The rear sway was on the middle setting, so I tried disconnecting it completely. That led to too much understeer on turn-in. Setting the sway to the softest setting woke the car up again. It was still a bit tail-happy, but very controllable. I think the best setup would be a slightly smaller rear sway bar than I currently have, so I'll dig into my collection. On a bigger, faster track the current setup would probably work very well.
So how did it work out? I set a personal best in the car, a 1:03.661. My previous best time was 1:03.725. Not a big improvement - but it's significant because the previous time was set on the RA1 tires and with much stiffer and lower suspension settings. I'm thinking I'll pick up a set of R-compound tires for next summer while I continue to run the R1R on the street. That should make a considerable improvement.
I did have one failure on the day, though. When I was driving down the interstate to the track, one of the exhaust tips fell off. Not a major failure, and I didn't even notice until I saw the car in the pits. oops!
The picture has nothing to do with the track day, but I didn't have my camera with me. Taken by Zach Bowman.
entry 1008 - tags: testing, track
January 21, 2012 - Time to get the car ready for a different sort of use.
It's going to be seeing the track a fair bit in the next year, and that means a different setup than the rally one.
The R1Rs were good for the Targa, but they get overwhelmed on the track. So I went back to my old favorites, the RA1 in the same 225/45-15 size. Honestly, I would have put on some Nitto NT-01s if they were available, but they are not. Still, the RA1 is a good choice because they're just so consistent and long lived. I'll be running this set of tires for some time.
The springs will get changed, probably to the 750/450 set I ran for a while previously. It's a fair bit of spring, but the AFCOs make them work and it'll keep the car planted on track. It'll tame the rear end a bit, as I don't want quite such a mobile tail as I had during the rally. I'll drop the ride height as well. I'm thinking of dialing in a bit more front camber than I had before. We'll see.
I'll be at the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event again at the end of March, so that will be the first "big track" event for the car with a healthy engine. I might see if I can sneak over to High Plains Raceway for a test day before then, but that's a challenge with Colorado winter weather. Still, it's time to get the car out of the garage and tearing up the pavement again!
entry 1012 - tags: testing, tires, track, suspension
March 26, 2012 - Time for a quick track test before Laguna Seca.
With the number of changes to the car, I had to get at least an idea of what to expect even though I had a pretty good idea. Besides, the tires needed to be scrubbed in.
Overall, it went pretty well. The track is a short tight one, not like Laguna Seca at all. But it's got one long 70 mph sweeper that I use to evaluate overall balance. Through there, the car seemed fairly well balanced with a bit of a bias towards oversteer under power - of course, the power level could have something to do with that, as I'm right in the meat of the powerband in 3rd as I try to balance the car in the turn.
Elsewhere, the car felt good with a quick turn-in. I'll probably leave it as is for the big track, or possibly drop in a slightly softer rear sway. The new front aero could be causing a bit of high speed oversteer due to increased front downforce, it'll be an interesting experiment.
Overall, the car felt just a bit low on grip. RA1s are like that on their first day out, they don't seem to develop maximum grip under after a heat cycle. My times in the first session were very consistent, which is usually a sign of a good handling car. As the day went on, they dropped with just about every lap. My last lap was my fastest, with a 1:03.388. That's a personal best in this car, and next time out the tires will be ready for more. The fact that there were cones on the apexes in the chicane meant I had to take a slower line than usual through that section.
So, a good day. A very short bug list of problems to deal with, and I'm ready for Laguna Seca. One nice side note is that the car's light throttle behavior seems improved, with less snatching than before. I'm thinking this is a result of the new intake. I like it.
entry 1033 - tags: track, testing, suspension
May 18, 2012 - Last weekend, we went racing in a different way.
The track days that usually run every six weeks or so were replaced with a two-hour kart enduro. Not the fastest karts out there, but we were racing wheel-to-wheel in equal vehicles so it added quite a different flavor to the day. There's a lot to be learned by doing this - not just the usual of how to set up a pass or figure out why someone is just a little bit faster through a corner, but usually passing someone involved an unusual line which could be helpful in rally. Huge fun, especially after the field had spread out a bit and there were slow karts and fast karts all mixed up. I did get called "merciless" by one of the other drivers!
Janel and I shared a kart and came third overall out of 10 teams. She's fun on the track - if someone's in front of her, she'll push hard to catch up. She needs a rabbit to chase. In the picture, that's me in the white helmet and Brandon's in the black one. We got a chance to have a bit of fun chasing each other around. We're usually a very close match on speed, but I had a bit of an edge with the karts for some reason. I don't expect that to remain the case if we do much more of this...
entry 1038 - tags: karting, racing, track
April 1, 2013 - Now that's a fun bunch of cars to see at a track day.
That Formula B car had a tendency to simply appear out of nowhere and then just vanish into the distance.
Along with the aero, I was testing some new rear brakes on the car. I'm going to have a look at the pads shortly, but they felt great with lots of bite.
entry 1078 - tags: trackday, brakes
September 16, 2013 - Track time!
I was back at High Plains Raceway. I've come to enjoy this track more than I did initially, it's actually pretty fun. The best corner is a long uphill sweeper that has a fairly quick entry. If you do it right, you can keep full throttle most of the way through as you climb to a blind exit with nothing but sky to see.
The car went pretty well. It took me a couple of sessions to work out some little bugs and dial in the handling for the track, then it all came together. I spent some time playing with two CMC-class cars, Camaro/Firebirds with V8 engines. For the first session, I was about the same speed. Then I got faster and started hunting down the Viper that was sharing the track with us. Overall, a pretty good day at the track.
For fun, I attached the GoPro to the front splitter to get some super-low camera angles. A bonus was the sound - it's directly below the intake. This is fun to watch with the sound turned way up. You'll meet the CMC cars in the second lap.

entry 1096 - tags: track, hpr, video
July 8, 2014 - High speed track testing.
The recent track test at the local track was fun, but the car felt a bit like a caged animal. So I trekked out to High Plains Raceway to run with the Z Car Club of Colorado. These guys always put on a smoothly run day, with the opportunity for lots and lots of track time. I had new H compound brake pads and was ready.
How was it? Spectacular. I had a ridiculous amount of fun. The first session was one a mismatched set of tires, RA1s on three corners and a Nitto NT01 on the other. The Nitto wasn't working as well as the Toyos so the car had uneven handling left and right.
I then swapped on a set of new Toyo RRs on 9" wheels. Wow, what a difference. The chassis now had the grip to match the power, and I was able to go into full rampage mode. The chassis setup was perfect and I was able to just drive. I spent the rest of the day chasing down a variety of cars, including another LS3-powered Miata. The one car I never got to play with was a Viper with race rubber - he started one session right behind me, but pulled off after a single lap. Top speed was about 135 mph into a headwind. At the end of that straight there was a fairly intense braking zone which had me hanging off the harnesses and giggling.


Unfortunately, the car wasn't perfect. The speed and the braking zones (five major braking events per lap) meant I was putting a lot of heat into the brakes, and the fluid started to boil. I was using ATE Super Blue which is pretty good stuff, so I'm going to take a look at improving the ducting further and run something that runs a bit hotter. I could manage the heat in the brakes by being a bit cautious on braking. The coolant temperature was good - even on the very hot day and running for 30 minutes, I never got into a problem zone.

At the end of the day, I bailed early. This group starts combining run groups near the end of the day and extends the length, which meant that I had the chance to run for a full hour with a bunch of poor B, C and D drivers getting blown into the weeds by the Targa Miata. With the brakes soft, I decided there was nothing to be gained so I packed up after the end of the regular sessions. Still, it was a good day. So much fun.
entry 1124 - tags: high plains, track, testing, brakes