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Old 05-05-2021, 11:20 AM   #21
clyde
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Cool. My plan was to be out of the house at 0700 but that depends on many factors so it may be a bit later.

What's the longer toll-free route up there? I've done the I-95 to I-295 route the last few years. It's not toll-free, but it avoids most of the Turnpike and is actually a fairly nice drive.
I think I83 to US30/222 to I78 to I287 to I80, but not sure. Kevin's plan.

Also, just sent you an email about food. Kevin and I are iffy about indoor dining and trying to figure some things out so we don't have to once we're there.
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Old 05-05-2021, 11:25 AM   #22
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Ah, okay. I've gone up US222 a few times before and it's got a lot of slow two-lane. I guess I'll see you up there.
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Old 05-05-2021, 11:38 AM   #23
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There's also 83 to 81 to 78 which Google Maps says is five minutes slower, but is all freeway. Like I said, Kevin's plan.
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Old 05-05-2021, 11:54 AM   #24
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There's also 83 to 81 to 78 which Google Maps says is five minutes slower, but is all freeway. Like I said, Kevin's plan.
I would definitely encourage that route vs. 33 / 222 if you have any influence over Kevin's direction. I'm gonna grit my teeth and pay the tolls to save an hour. I'll try to save you a parking spot.
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Old 05-05-2021, 02:22 PM   #25
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I would definitely encourage that route vs. 33 / 222 if you have any influence over Kevin's direction. I'm gonna grit my teeth and pay the tolls to save an hour. I'll try to save you a parking spot.
Thanks! I think we'll be there by 1:00pm.
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Old 05-10-2021, 11:20 PM   #26
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First big event in Oscar was this past weekend and it was awesome, but also kind fo a mixed bag. The car is really loose whenever we touch the brakes. Just wants to instantly swap ends. Add a low grip sealed asphalt surface and a little bit of rain under regular Hoosier A7s and it was like driving on ice Saturday for my first run. It dried out a little by Kevin's first run and both our second runs, so that helped. Rain started again right before my third run that made it almost as bad as my first run, but dried up enough that it was much less of an issue for Kevin's third run.

On my first run Saturday, I spun twice. There's no excuse for that, but it easily could have been four times. Kinda sucked because the course really looked amazing. Great mix of tight and technical with open and flowing and lots of transitions all along the way. In addition to the spins on the first run, I collected a bunch of cones on my second and third runs.

My driving was tentative and cautious. Mostly trying to just hang on. With the weather, I'm not sure how much my head was in it.

When all the times of all 53 drivers in the first heat were adjusted to indexed times (an overly simplified way to compare/rank different cars at different prep levels that is very, very flawed, but provides for endless bench racing), I was in last place. When the second heat which drove in nearly fully dry conditions for much of the heat finished, I was last of 206. It rained solid through the third heat and it was quite wet for the fourth and final heat, so I was able to move up relative to the bottom…but not by much.

After Saturday's competition, we started looking at and under the car. Visually, it looks like the right rear has a lot more camber than the left rear. The eccentrics that control toe and camber in the rear were marked and it looked like they had slipped. After putting a wrench to them, we found the washer was moving and the marks were not indexed to the bolts. So, maybe they moved, maybe they didn't. The stock eccentrics on the NB Miatas do not hold up to autocross driving with sticky tires for very long at the factory torque spec. The common practice is to way over torque them and hope stay in place longer than if torqued less. When they do eventually slip, realign and start over. We found some locking eccentrics that we're going to try, but none of that helped our immediate problem. We tightened it back up and planned to just ride it out on Sunday.

We also started talking through what else could be causing the looseness and identified a few checks and potential fixes.

Sunday was dry, but kinda cool so we weren't able to get a lot of heat into the tires, but it kind of went better for me. My first run was a DNF because I went off course while saving myself from a spin and I collected multiple cones on my second and third runs. It was also the first time I got to try shifting to third. If every generation of Miata has an Achilles heel in autocross, it's short gearing. Different generations and transmissions have different top speeds, but the NB tops out around 61 or 62mph in second gear which is not enough for courses like we had this weekend. In trying to go to third, I either went to fifth or didn't get past neutral in four attempts. Kevin also had similar issues. Part of the problem is the shifter which has a really tall arm and makes it pretty tough to feel what's going on quickly without a lot of movement. A new shifter will be in shortly.

Missing those shifts cost me a lot of time on each run. Even so, my third run was the first time this year I've been close to Kevin. According to the data, he picked up about a 0.5 second lead through the first few elements, I made it all back up over the next few, we were equal for the few after that and then I had a bigger missed shift issue than him and I feel back a bit, made it back up and then fell back a few more tenths in the last few elements.

This was the first run I've had in the car where I didn't feel so tentative. I think I am so calibrated to bigger cars that weigh 60-70% more with two to three times the power on street tires that it's been tough to make the adjustment. This time, I starting to throw it and it was mostly working.

I still have an issue with using all the throttle, though. There are a couple things I think may be going on. The exhaust note of the car is like a swarm of angry bees. It sounds much more furious than it is, but I think 80% or 90% throttle tells my brain that it's at full throttle until I consciously tell my right foot to push harder…which takes time. I also remembered reading something from early on in the Miata days about Mazda making the throttle pedal travel longer than other cars to make it more satisfying for the driver. I am wondering if when my brain sends the "full throttle" signal to my foot, my ankle is bending to where it thinks full throttle is. I had a similar issue in the RX-8 a long time ago and found that if I reprogrammed the "full throttle" signal to "push the pedal until it won't go any further" the problem went away. So, I'll be trying that again.

What's also been interesting is how people have come out of the woodwork to offer their unsolicitied thoughts, advice, and assistance. There is something about this car and the autocross community that knew Mike. There's something very cool about it.

Kevin had the car up on stands as soon as he got it home after dropping me off. Today, he confirmed that there's no bind. The brake proportioning valve is set to almost all the way forward which means the rear brakes are only getting about half the pressure as stock. That could be a factor. The shocks are 5 years old and have never been rebuilt, so something could be going on there. One of the rear brakes could be slow to apply or release. Spring rates may be off where they should be. Like I said, alignment could be the problem. Kevin is running through things and has ordered some parts and lined up borrowing (or buying?) some special tools. I wish I lived close to make it easier to help in the evenings. Meanwhile, people keep texting us.

We're hoping to get as much as we can to a known baseline level before we head to Lincoln in a couple weeks where we have to Tour events over four days and a test and tune course going on the whole time on the surfaces of the National Championship event.

We'll see.
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Old 05-25-2021, 10:49 PM   #27
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Some interim Oscar updates…

After New Jersey, Oscar's had a little attention. In New Jersey, we spotted what looked like a slipped alignment bolt. When trying to adjust it back to the markings, we found that they weren't properly indexed, so it's entirely possible that there was no slippage.

Once the car was back at Kevin's and ran through things, he tried to install the Paco Motorsports rear control arms that came with the car, but were not on the car and found out why they did not come on the car. Each side is bent or deformed in some way that makes the distance between the ends a little too small. An eighth of an inch on one side and a sixteenth on the other. Their arms are the go-to for adjustable control arms and make alignments MUCH easier for NB Miatas than the stock arms or any other manufacturer (that I'm aware of). Their website says they are out of stock, but we were hoping they might be able to find a set if we stopped at their site in Kentucky when we're on the road to Lincoln Wednesday…but they don't. They do think they can fix them, so we'll be sending them in, but they won't be a help for a while.

After putting the suspension back together, it got an alignment on Friday. Things had been moved around so much, we don't know where things were before, but we now have a baseline to work from.

Saturday, the local club had an autocross school and we were able to do some testing after the school ended in the afternoon/evening. The school course is short, but a pretty good test and tune course. It begins with a start straight into a six cone slalom, followed by a 115 degree turn to the right, a quick jink back to the left, a near 90 degree sweeper-lit to the right, a juke left, a hard and tight right into a long double apex decreasing radius 170 degree left that spits you through the finish lights. It's very quick to learn and you can quickly try different approaches and settings to see what kind of effect they have.

The short of it for Oscar is that the alignment helped a lot, but it's still very, very wrong. It's pretty amazing in slaloms, but very, very loose on turn in with a lot of lift-oversteer that it shouldn't have. It's much better than it was, but it's still not good. Of the five of us that took runs in it, I was the only one that didn't spin it in the decreasing radius left at the end…but I came very close a few times.

By the time we were done, we had reduced the rear shocks rebound and compression to their minimums, dropped pressures in the rear tires, and were playing with the shocks in front to try to take away some of its phenomenal grip to better balance the car (we can't effectively make the installed front sway bar any stiffer and there's already no rear bar), but it's still pretty bad.

We think the rear alignment can use some additional tweaking (reducing camber from -3.0 to -2.5 and adding a little more toe in), but the big conclusion is the same conclusion we had in New Jersey…reduce rear spring rate. The plan is to back down from 450 pounds to 400. But…

The school course is on asphalt. Our national championship courses are on concrete. It's possible that the car's setup will work a lot better on concrete than asphalt. And we leave for that site in the morning. Over the next week, we have two competition events there on the surface where one of the championship courses will be set up in September and a test and tune course using 2019(?)'s championship course from that half of the pad.

The 400 pound springs are in the truck. We're hopeful we'll be able to take some test and tune runs on Thursday and we'll take it from there. If the car is good, we'll go with it. If it still feels wrong, we expect to change the springs, take some more runs and see what's what.

Another interesting thing we learned by way of doing this test and tune on Saturday is that the car is riding at least half an inch higher than it was when originally put together and turned to work well. We don't know when that happened, why, or how. That could also be a big part of our problem. How did we figure that out? One of the two guys that originally built it was one of the people that ran it on Saturday. At one point when we were standing next to it talking through some things, he said, "Oscar looks high." He couldn't remember the ride height settings, but described a test we could do to see where it is compared to where it was…putting the car on a certain trailer and opening the door. If the door cleared the fender, it's sitting higher. If the door doesn't clear, it's lower. When Oscar was working well, the door kinda sorta scraped the fender. Apparently, it easily clears. What does that mean? How did this happen? We're not sure yet.

On another note, having this test session allowed me to experiment with how I was driving the car without competitive pressure and it was tremendously helpful. I was essentially ran the same times as everyone else (although we were all hitting a lot of cones and some cones saved more time than others) and gained a lot of confidence in the car despite it still being "undriveable" in the words of the others that drove it.

To be continued…
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Old 06-16-2021, 04:22 PM   #28
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Oscar update:

Kevin and I took Oscar to Lincoln, Nebraska for our Spring Nationals. This year it was two Championship Tour format events instead of the normal one Pro Solo and one Championship Tour format because Pro Solo broke and was not yet fixed. This is the site where our National Championship event is held the week of Labor Day. Additionally, the local region held a low cost extended Test and Tune on one of the 2019 Championship courses.

To recap, the car was barely driveable in New Jersey in early May. We did some inspections, made some alignment changes, did some testing and pronounced the car "better…but still needs help."

When we got to the site Thursday morning, we swapped the rear springs from the 450s that were in it to 400s and did some runs on the practice course. We fiddled with shock settings some more and after that session declared the car "driveable…but still needs help." In the process of changing the springs, we noticed some other issues in the rear suspension and later in the day, got a call from Paco Motorsports that they cannot fix the rear control arms mentioned in the previous post.

To simplify a bit, through the four days of competition and further inspection and tweaking what we had left to tweak we got Oscar driving pretty well and developed a high degree of confidence in things "most important to do next." At the top of the list:

Install a shifter that allows us to reliably engage third gear. The courses we ran were previous east side National Championship courses, as well as running them backwards. In the normal course of events three of the four courses would have required three shifts to third per run. Our collective success rate at shifting to third was about 16%. A few second to fifths, a couple second to neutrals, more than a couple second to can't get into anything back to seconds, and I personally did at least two second to firsts. Why? The guy Kevin bought it from put in a shifter with an arm that sits about five fucking feet tall because some road racers like it(?). There's no feel and it's such a huge lever. Ugh.

After running the last day, a friend came up to us and said, "I was working course. You guys looked miserable…you'd be flying and then, oh man, it just looked so painful. I'm so sorry. But it was rad because you were lifting the inside front through some turns."

So, while it looks cool, lifting a front tire is often an indicator that something less than great is happening.

Other things we learned: the car has a substantial rake that it probably shouldn't have. The roll center may be off of where it should be, there's a crack and possible bend in the front subframe, there is a new potential bind in the rear suspension that we have not located (and didn't discover until reviewing video after getting home where we could clearly hear something going on that shouldn't be), the (unnecessary) spring perch locators in the rear are cutting the axle boots, we probably have too much camber in the rear and maybe not enough toe, the shocks need to be revalved on new curves or replaced, and about half a dozen other minor things.

We also got to run in the rain on Hoosier rain tires. In some ways it kind of sucks to have had to use them, but it's totally awesome to have had the experience with them so we know what to expect in more important events.

We only had three drivers in the class in each event. Two other drivers were signed up for both events, but were no shows. It takes five drivers to make a full class. With five drivers, if Kevin and I placed first and second in each event, we would have won a total of six tires (assuming that Hoosier will award tires to codrivers if the other driver "bought" the tires), but with only three, there was only a reduced amount of Mazda money to be won. Kevin won both events and I was second in each so we both won a couple hundred bucks. That's cool, but our times were not very good relative to anyone else.

When we rolled out, we felt good about having a much better idea of what else we needed to do and happy that we'd made the car pretty easy to drive (although off the pace where we need to be). Basically, a successful trip.

And then it got fun…as in, you ain't really traveled through this country until you've towed a "racing car" through it. That part of the story is for another day.

The postscript is that after dropping me off, Kevin got Oscar back to his place, put the car away, backed the trailer into its spot, shifted the truck to "D" and there was no forward motion. Yeah, the transmission in his 300k+ F250 died at the very end of the trip. As of Sunday, the old transmission was out and the replacement was waiting to go in as soon as the old one was removed from the transmission jack. The shifter for Oscar has arrived, also, but still waiting on some other parts. Not sure how quickly it will all get put back together. As of now, it looks like we will be taking the Camaro to Bristol for "Summer Nationals" to do a Pro and a Champ Tour.
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Old 07-19-2021, 08:35 AM   #29
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Oscar update:

Oscar took a back seat to the F250 transmission replacement (Oscar wasn't going anywhere without the F250 anyway). All of the Oscar parts that were going to replaced in this cycle (front subframe, control arms, bearings, etc) are in hand (I think), and some things that don't absolutely *need* to be done right now will wait for later (like rebuilding or replacing shocks).

I'm not entirely sure, but I think the last thing to do before getting the car back on the ground is doing the front subframe swap. Was prepped and POR-15ed yesterday and everything was loosened in the car to facilitate. Once that swap is complete, the car will need to be realigned and then hopefully we can do some testing...

The calendar for the season is starting to close. There's a Pro Solo in Toledo next weekend, but while the subframe should be in before Friday, it's super unlikely we can get it on an alignment rack. Kevin also wants to get more miles on the new transmission to be comfortable using it on a long tow. So, we're taking the Camaro to Toledo. After that, there's only one more National event on concrete and it's the following weekend in Oscoda, MI, and we're not really wild about heading up there. Other than that, there's not a whole lot of options left. Our remaining "home" events are all at a lousy site that isn't very helpful, and "local" events that are not really local, and are better than the home site, but not much.

So, which car we'll take to Lincoln in September is a question mark at the moment.
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