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7/23/2011: Blindingly Fast Laps, Literally

Written 7/28/2011.  Many thanks goes out to Alex Renderos of 2nd Chance Roadster for his unyielding determination and skills for putting together Monty so well for the short amount of time we had, while having to drive many hours between Lake Forest and Victorville multiple times to do so.  Much gratitude to Emilio Cervantes of 949Racing for shop time and space (and giving me and Alex his expert and wise advice).  John Wing for his sheer kindness and saving me from my own grossly incompetent electric wiring skills.  And William Chen for lending us his old rally light setup, with which he and Emilio won Team 949Racing’s first enduro win last season.

Last Saturday (7/23), Alex and I took Monty out for another test.  This time, it’s at Streets of Willow in the dark, as you may have guessed by photo above of the lighting setup mounted in front of Monty.  This was a crucial test before Monty goes into endurance racing at night.  This was also the final shakedown for its NASA debut on 7/30-31.

As life always is, it happens to get in the way for getting time to further prep Monty, so we really had only 2 working nights to prep (Thursday and Friday).  And with lighting having to be done, it was a mad dash for me and Alex.  By email and phone calls, Team 949Racing’s William Chen and John Wing stepped in to help me and Alex figure out the what’s supposed to be easy wiring scheme.  However, for me, I’m a terrible electrician and essentially was useless at it.  Alex did most of the wiring work as I focused on other bits of the car that needed finishing Thursday night.  When pressed for time Friday afternoon, I had to bail for my second job in the evening and I have yet to finish the electrical work, as Alex was unavailable on Friday, but John came over and rescued me from potentially killing Monty and myself by electrocution.

So Saturday came about and yet again, I haven’t given Monty a full-on proper alignment and cornerbalance and didn’t have time to mount R-comp tires on the car, but then again, Alex and I were lucky that we got the car ready for the test at all.  And despite all of this, Monty once again showed great potential.  As I was watching Alex drive around the track, Monty was at home on technical racetracks like Streets of Willow and Buttonwillow.  And as night fell, Alex and John’s help and handy work was paying dividends as we were able to see in the darkness.

Don’t be fooled by the film above.  The lights are definitely working and the camera doesn’t deal with big contrasts of light very well.  The flickering is mainly the car pitching and rolling the light beams off the ground and Alex and I could still see a good distance ahead when that happens.

Overall, Alex and I are relived that what we set out to test is finished.  Now, it’s all about prepping for Monty’s big NASA PTE debut this weekend on the July 30-31 at AAA Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.

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7/10/2011: Shakedown at Buttonwillow

Written 7/17/2011.  A little late, I know, but between 3 jobs, working 6 of 7 days per week, working on the race car in my spare time and trying to rest to not burn out on energy, I need a little break and some time to gather my thoughts before writing.  All for the sake of going racing while staying on a balanced, responsible budget.

Thanks to 2nd Chance Roadster949Racing, the generosity of William Chen and a lot of effort working around the clock with Alex Renderos since Wednesday, July 6, Monty is now fully-functioning and showed a lot of potential during its very first shakedown at Buttonwillow on July 10.  It was really intense (having pulled 2 straight near-all-nighters) to get this ready for the track day, but Alex Renderos and I needed to know what to refine and tweak before the its debut PTE races with NASA on July 30-31 at AAA Auto Club Speedway.

The results of this test show great promise for Monty in terms of overall performance.  Mind you, Monty “as-is” right now is simply a stripped-down bare stock 1.8L Miata with used TEIN Flex on the car (borrowed from my daily-driver/beater 1.6L Miata) and no proper alignment/cornerbalance.  The well-picked parts OEM parts from 2nd Chance Roadster and high-performance racing parts available at 949Racing are a big part of it.  And it is amazing considering the car is still not fully dialed to full race specifications that I have in mind for its first race in a couple of weeks.

Owner of 2nd Chance Roadster, Alex Renderos, testing the fine machine he has just built.

However, the success was a result of a very difficult birth.  Though the car was fully-functioning by the time it arrived to the track, the car was far from being safe and ready for full-on, at-speed testing, despite the mad dash to put the car together for last 3-4 days beforehand.  We had to borrow Alex’s track wheels and brand new street tires (15×8 949Racing 6UL w/ Hankook RS3) off his personal track car and cannibalize select parts my daily-driver/beater 1.6L Miata, which included my racing seat, racing harness, battery, 4 lug nuts and brake light bulbs.  Not only that, Monty still had to be hastily aligned so we wouldn’t chew up Alex’s brand new tires badly.  The result of this killed 3 total sessions between the two of us before we double-checked everything before Monty’s first steps on the track.  Nevertheless, it was worth the sacrifice to make sure we were safe and ready to push Monty hard.

Suited up and thumbs up means "good to go!"

The office: where business happens.

Mmm... Carbon and lavender.

Having another Miata around in case for spare parts is definitely a good thing.

Being the first time for Monty, Alex and I were trying to figure out how to drive what was an unknown car to us.  No idea about its handling characteristic, grip potential and temperament, mechanically speaking. We both had turns taming this wild animal behind the wheel and finding out potential mechanical problems at full-speed.  Aside from the car running slightly hot for short intervals (found out it needs a complete coolant flush), nothing kept us from continually thrashing Monty session after session to find out if it was going to crack at the limit.  It goes without saying that Monty was feisty, as you can see my mishaps below with me behind the wheel.

Overall, I’m very happy that this experience so far is looking up to be a very eventful first year for me in wheel-to-wheel racing.

My cheesy presentation skills. LOOK!

Alex and I planning to do one more test this coming weekend (July 23 at Streets of Willow) to test lights for endurance racing in future NASA endurance races and Chumpcar.  Of course, there will be more to write about that later.

Update to 6/30/2011 Post: New Paint on the Racecar

Update to 6/30/2011 post, here’s a photo from last night right before testing the 2nd Chance Roadster’s racecar’s engine.