Destination SSM One Miata's Journey through Hell

21Jul/15Off

The Mad Dash to Crow’s Landing

Now we're at April 1st and the car has a barely-broken-in motor. The Crow's Landing NT is 4/17-4/19, so I need to hit the road on the morning of 4/16. This doesn't leave a lot of time.

IMG_3493The first road tests determined that my tuning software was missing a bunch of maps that I needed to do anything useful with the car, including live tuning. So, that stopped me pretty dead in my tracks almost immediately. While debugging that, I killed some time adding a digital boost gauge and wideband gauge to a cute little cheapo Lotus-specific gauge pod that doesn't actually bolt to anything. A little Gorilla tape fixed that problem.

Throughout the week of 4/5 to 4/13, Hannah was off in Europe on a trip, so I had all the time in the world to go batshit on getting the car ready. This turned out to be essential, since I basically barely slept that week. The tuning issues took a few days to sort out, and, on the second outing, the car puked out the lever arm that attaches the bypass valve to the VSV on the supercharger, so it was randomly boosting and not boosting. BOE was awesome and overnighted parts on 4/8 so that on 4/9 I could continue my tuning. While this was all going on, I was frantically trying to line up the last work that needed doing on the car to get everything done in the last week -- dynoing, ballast, alignment, wing mounting, clam cutting, etc.

IMG_3509The front clamshell had still not come in yet from ORE (3 months late at this point). I told them that if it doesn't arrive by 4/10 that I would reject the package, reverse the credit card charge, and just cut up my factory clamshell. I was out of time. Magically, late in the evening of 4/10, I get a call from the shipping depot that the clam actually showed up. It was bashed to shit with lots of cracks, but at least it showed up. A call to ORE had them offer to pay a body shop whatever it took to get the clam fixed to OEM, so home it went with me.

IMG_3511The next morning was dyno day. As it always does, it turned into a total cluster. The tuning software had more issues (you'll notice a theme here), and we had to tune without live tuning. So, any change to any tune parameter required shutting the car off and initiating a 4 minute reflash. What was supposed to be a few hour afternoon endeavor turned into a 13 hour death march.

2015-04-11 - First TuningWe didn't even get around to an E85 tune or anything, with all the issues we had with the fuel pump wanting to die if we ran it too warm, etc. We ended up right around 300rwhp/200rwtq on 92 octane. Not anywhere near what I was hoping for (mid 300s), but the best we could do at the time, and it was a nice safe, consistent tune. I put the car back on the trailer and got back home at 4am Sunday morning.

I wish I had pictures of Sunday, but at this point, I was so drained from the last week of absolutely nonstop work that I didn't take any. The clamshell from ORE, in addition to being all bashed up, also had almost no mounting tabs or boltholes or anything precut into it. Fortunately, my friend Scott came over and spent ~6 hours with me as we slowly ground down things, measured and cut holes, and got it closer to working. After he left, my dad came over and spent another 6 hours with me continuing on more of the same. Around 2am, the clam was finally on the car with all the lights somewhat attached (corner lights attached with duct tape since they wouldn't stay in the holes themselves.) I loaded the car onto the trailer and went to bed.

2015-04-16 AlignmentNext morning, the car went down to Chase Race for the final round of work. The car still had no wing, no alignment, no ballast, and couldn't fit big tires. Doug threw it on the scales with all the parts that were going to go on to get a rough number for final weight. We got to 100 lbs of ballast being a good answer. We measured it out and decided a rhombous of steel at the passenger footwell would be the best answer. Doug continued working on the car while I called everyone in Seattle trying to find someone to make me laser-cut steel plates on zero notice. I managed to get someone in south Seattle to make me some plates by Tuesday afternoon, so I ran and got those while Doug got the mounts ready. The plates were exactly 49.9 lbs each, right under the per-segment limit. Perfect! Over the next day, Doug finished creating mounts for the wing, cutting the fenders for the larger tires, notching undertrays to clear the exhaust, and then finally aligning and corner balancing the car. After finding out that, at the new ride height, the street wheels definitely needed spacers, I secured the car to the trailer and dragged it home, having never rolled the car on the race wheels yet. I went home, packed the truck/trailer, and slept like the dead.

11149406_10204444739414767_5272960899409277639_nEarly Thursday morning, we (my dad and I, in separate vehicles) departed for Crow's Landing. After rolling the car off the trailer Friday morning, I changed over to the race wheels and carefully drove down past the paddock area to some open runway and proceeded to slalom a bit at 15mph to see if any horrible noises came out. Much to my surprise, none did. So, I headed over to the practice course and took some runs. On the very first run the car ever took in anger, other than hitting 3 cones (killed em dead, apparently this car actually turns in when you tell it to), it set the fastest raw time of an SSM car on the course and left me with a huge grin from the drivability and handling characteristics of the car -- it just did what you told it. I was already more confident than I ever had been in the Miata. Unfortunately, a quick look at the tires showed a bunch of rubber stuffed against the rear fenders, so I had to locate Ryan Johnson, another Lotus racer on site who, fortunately, had fender-cutting equipment with him, and shaved off a bunch more from the fenders. I took two more practice runs, found more rubber, and repeated the exercise. I guess Doug and I guessed wrong about how much suspension travel I'd get in real-world use...

IMG_3517From there, the rest is history. There's really not much story to it. That weekend, the car had zero issues, and I drove to an 0.875s victory over the class, 17th in overall PAX. We flew home, flew back the next weekend, and I drove to a 1.375s victory over the class, 5th in overall PAX. The course was pretty ridiculously tailor-made for a slalom-happy car, but I was still pretty happy with that showing. Other than the fender rubbing, the car didn't raise a peep either weekend. We drove home and let the car finally rest.

I neglected to take any video at the NT -- I was just too focused on making sure the car worked and learning how to drive it to deal with video. For the ProSolo, I remembered to bring and charge a camera and took some (crappy) video: Left Side and Right Side.

Posted by David de Regt

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