As I take my break on my journey to northern California, I would like to share the prep done to Monty before going into battle on Sunday.
I went to replace the stock 1.6L Miata flywheel with a much lighter 9lb one from F1 Racing. I thought I’d do that since I was diagnosing a slipping clutch problem since late January. Turns out, nothing wrong with the clutch or the flywheel; it ended up being the clutch pedal assembly and the threaded rod that accuated the clutch master cylinder. The threads on both the welded nut on the pedal assembly and threaded rod were completely shredded from myself incorrectly adjusting the free play on the pedal. Doh…
Regardless of the bad mistake, repairs were possible thanks to a thread chaser kit.
Again, my journey as a racer is still rough one as I still comes to grip with being a decent mechanic.
After all the hoopla surrounding the 25 Hours of Thunderhill with Team 949 Racing and Team Supermiata, it’s back to work on Monty and racing it again. I plan for a March debut in the NASA WERC 2012 series at Infineon, so as a shakedown before that important race, I tried out some new alignment settings and suspension components for Monty at the debut round of Miata Challenge 2012 at Buttonwillow Raceway.
It had been a while since I have competed in an MC event. Also, this is the first time Monty has been to MC. And with the 2012 rules changes, which includes a new modification points cap on Modified class, Monty fits in well enough to be a real contender. For sure, I was looking forward to MC in more ways than one.
Monty did perform well and won it for me in Modified class with a 2:06.196. But I know it could have gone into the 2:05s (Spec Miata lap record territory) if I didn’t have a warped brake rotors and a slipping clutch, both I couldn’t have noticed during prep for MC. The last time Monty was raced was at the Chumpcar 14-Hour race in October and I didn’t drive the second day of the weekend, from when I think both problems originated.
In terms of fine tuning the handling characteristics, I think it was a good improvement from the last time Monty was at Buttonwillow. Aside from driving in daylight, the already good handling is improved and the car went a full second faster. With Round 2 at the Streets of Willow Springs coming, I’m going to look forward to fixing the clutch and brakes and playing around with another suspension modification, assuming the parts come in time for me to do so.
I leave you now with some pretty shots from the Speed Ventures/949 Racing Miata Challenge 2012.
Group shot of the Miata Challenge cars (left) with the S2000 Challenge cars (right), photo by Aaron Kupferman.
And finally, I woke and had time to have everything soak in my head about what had just happened.
First and very most, I can’t thank the entire team on accomplishing an amazing 1-3 finish in E2 (second slowest class in the race, beating the faster ESR, E0 and E1 classes to take 8th overall and taking the title of the fastest sub-2.0L car in the race, in the one of the most grueling and the longest endurance race in the world. Only ES class (the fastest class of the 25-hour race) escaped our relentless advance up the 86-car field. And to do this on our very first try at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is truly staggering.
The crew, OMG, the crew. With what you guys called the “Hell Hour,” is the defining and testing moment of our win. I finished my first double stint at night (a little more than 3 hours), I got to sleep to rest for my next double stint at around 3 or 4am. Both cars broke in some way after holding 1-2 up until that point and you guys literally put the hammer down to get both car in race form again. I didn’t know it happened until hours after the cars were both down to 3rd and 5th in class and got briefed by the team before I got back in Enzo. You guys are the heart and spirit of what this team is about and what we came to do. You fed us all when we were hungry, you fueled our cars while risking catching fire and cancer to do so, burning and cutting yourselves to keep the cars racing and dog-piling a car to get one car with dead brakes to stop on pit lane. You guys did it all.
Oscar Jackson Sr.: the crew chief and master strategist. The man that never left his post and never slept through the whole 25-hour race. Without his experience and wisdom, this achievement would not be possible. Critical communication between the crew and the drivers were very clear, precise and effective for winning this and having a smooth operation even in times of peril.
Emilio and William: the crazy and innovative masterminds that thought this race was a good idea in the first place and also schemed the tuning philosophy behind both sister cars, Crusher and Enzo. Also, you two personally are my mentors that influenced me to become a wheel-to-wheel racer and continue getting better and learning more from you two.
Fellow drivers: We all did our jobs. As we put as Rule #1, “Protect the cars.” We did that and proved that we as team can drive past the big boys, show that our speed, crafty dogfighting, strategy and heart and passion as racers can move mountains, as well as our cars across the finish line in podium positions.
Team 949Racing, thank you. THANK YOU for the memories. I will cherish this throughout my life.
Seriously crazy day. A few crashes, a rollover and Team 949Racing qualified 1st and 4th in E2.
Looking forward to tomorrow.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves for now. But in case you are wondering, the two days are epic.
The day is here. As I type, Team 949Racing is on its way to Thunderhill. Lots of manpower, prep and coffee went into this.
I am going to try and update as often as possible for this week. For frequent to-the-minute updates, please follow the team on the Facebook page (Team 949Racing) and Twitter (@Team949Racing).
This was a very anticipated event for me as it was my first sanctioned race at night and at Buttonwillow, a track I know extremely well. I was hoping for my first official NASA win for Team 2nd Chance Roadster. Also, most of teammates and crew for 25 Hours of Thunderhill effort were there to practice and test, including the team’s halo car, Crusher, and Enzo with a fresh coat of paint.
Team 949Racing’s halo car, Crusher, finally ready for its first endurance race.
Old faithful for Team 949Racing, Enzo, with a fresh coat of paint.
Left to right: legendary tuning guru and crew chief Oscar Jackson Sr., his son and fellow driver Oscar Jackson Jr., team owner/driver Emilio Cervantes and fellow driver Richard Gray.
JIm Tway and William Chen discussing strategy for Team 2nd Chance Roadster.
I really did not want to miss this event, and I had to get my cage fixed by order of NASA officials from the Thunderhill event. So I asked Moti from Blackbird Fabworx to help, especially under short notice, which had to do with a flaw I discover at the last minute after I thought the the came was fixed. Moti worked with me even despite getting delayed by a day due to getting a flat tire on my trailer. He even gave me a spare tire to run on while I get the flat tire replaced! Seriously, the nicest guy in the world!
With the cage fixed, Monty’s light setup revised and having experienced night driving in Chumpcar event back in July and missing my first official NASA win back in August, I really wanted it badly and thought I had prep ready to win this race. However, I don’t think it was meant to be.
Here’s my codriver for the day, Jim Tway, being prepped for the lead stint of the 3-Hour night endurance race for Team 2nd Chance Roadster. I was on deck for the second half of the race.
Team 2nd Chance Roadster ended up finishing in 3rd place, a miracle considering that at one point of the race, we were dead last in class (8th place) at one point in the race. Here is the story. Jim (an experienced and fast SCCA T1 Corvette wheel-to-wheel racer and S2000 Challenge driver) did a great job keeping Monty and Team 2nd Chance Roadster in 3rd place by the time he came in for a driver change. However, it was very unexpected since the radio in Monty stopped working and we did not have a communications backup plan. The cause of the radio outage was due to my shody electrical wiring work I thought I was proud of in my last blog entry. And that was only the beginning of the disaster…
When Jim climbed out for the driver change, we had another real problem: one part of the seat harness had come loose from its mounting point. The cause was a broken exhaust hanger, which I thought was fixed before the event. You’d probably thinking, “How was that the cause?” Well, the hanger broke during the race and caused the exhaust to move and bang against the transmission tunnel, which rattled the bolt out of its threaded hole holding part of the harness. I can’t help but feel very bad for Jim for the screw up because I feel that I am responsible for killing a perfect race for the team since I was the one who prepared Monty. On top of that, we got a pit speeding penalty during the stop. Not Jim’s fault, but again purely mine since the speedometer cable was still disconnected from fixing an electrical problem earlier in the day and simply was forgotten about. It seems that the errors were not from the race itself, but beforehand. Chalk it up for a hard lesson learned. Several minutes later, the harness was fixed and it was time to take the pit speeding penalty. During this time, I couldn’t help but kick myself in the head for letting potential victory slip away like that. With radio silence and being in last place at this point in the race, I decided to do what I do best: drive flat out.
At one point, I felt like time was slowing down and that I didn’t have to see where I was going anymore. Even the fact that the dust that loomed over the entire track was like a dense miasma, I was zooming passed car after car and it didn’t even phase me one bit. The only thing that mattered to me was to salvage the race the best I could. Without any radio communications, I left alone to my own devices to gauge my own pace that would be sustainable for the next 1.5 hours. It turned out that I was going much faster than I should have gone and making risky passes, according to William after the race. That’s because I was catching some slower E2 and E1 class racecars and actually racing them in the technical portions of the track. While this was going on, I passed half of the E3 field. It was to only consolation to what I thought was a lost race, or so I thought.
A 3rd place finish from last (8th place) in about 1.5 hours was something that I should be proud of, but at the same time, I can’t help but think what would have been without the mechanical gremlins. But as Emilio and Oscar Sr. have said to me, “That’s racing.” A comforting thought too was that Oscar Sr. was impressed with my pace in the dark. That meant a lot to me. Also, a pep talk with Emilio after that weekend made me take some very solid and wise advice as well.
Both wise men’s words are things I take truly take to heart as I continually develop as a member of Team 949Racing for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Lesson learned is that complete racer is both a driver and a wrencher and that I need to function as both to be truly successful.
It’s almost time for the NASA 3-Hour enduro night race at Buttonwillow Raceway (October 8th) and I have a few things to do. Due to a recent suggestions for safety from Emilio and John, my electrical kill switch needed to be relocated for easy access for both the driver and emergency crews. The kill switch has been moved from main roll cage hoop on the passenger side to the transmission tunnel next to the radio. Since I have no concept of how wiring is done, I asked Manny to help me with this so I won’t electrocute myself or set fire to Monty. Also note the switch panel is now painted black and rounded off on the corners. Formerly, it was duct-taped in black to cover sharp, jagged edges and to prevent glare. Much cleaner.
While we were at it, I decided to start cleaning up the wiring a bit (shortening and rerouting) and also revise the aim of the lights and simplify the switches related to it.
Painting the light bar lavender to match the 949Racing 15×8 6ULs and roll cage. The bulb covers also add a nice touch when the car’s being transported.
And this started flowing ideas to play around with, like test-fitting a front lip from a 3rd-generation RX-7.
Yes, it’s bit wide. The thing most Miata guys do to fit the OEM bumper is to trim the middle portion to fit. But as you see, you can potentially cover up the front tires with a spat to fill the gap between the lip and the bumper for reduced front-end drag and some resultant downforce.
I’m not sure if the lip will be used for the upcoming 3-hour enduro, but for sure, I’ll be testing this in the near future.
Written 9/13/2011. This whole experience of my first sanctioned races I’m about the sum up would not be possible without:
I thought it be more fitting to sum up the last months activities in one post, since my first 4 races in NASA were so close to each other and I barely got time to breath, much less write about it. But really, it’s been an amazing experience. And because of the completion of my first 4 races with NASA, I now have a full license. Each of the four days and races has it’s own separate epic novel I can write for them (in my head), so I really try to not bore you with too many details and get to the point. Pictures and video will be used liberally here.
July 30-31: NASA Debut, PTE Races at AAA Auto Club Speedway
I was nervous going into the gates of AAA Auto Club Speedway during the morning of my first-ever NASA race. However, it wasn’t from getting myself psyched up for the race; it was more about getting Monty to pass stringent safety technical inspection before setting foot on the racetrack.
Up until this point, Alex of 2nd Chance Roadster and I had worked around the clock to get the last little tweaks and pieces to get the proper required safety equipment to make sure NASA doesn’t think I’d die in a crash. Manny, who lived minutes from the track, was one of my saviors for helping me install a kill switch and getting me a drill to make a last-minute modification to a seat bracket (thanks Ryan!) to properly mount the FIA-rated seat (thanks Erik!) I bought the night before to pass tech. I had bought a very nice racing seat, a Cobra Suzuka Pro from Sube Sports in Huntington Beach earlier in the week, but I found out that my seat barely didn’t fit because of the cage design in Monty wasn’t taken to consideration. It fit when I test-fitted the Cobra in both an NA and NB Miata (it fit fine in both), but both were street cars… DOH! Anyway, I’m currently getting a custom bracket to lower the seat and offset the seat slightly to fit in Monty for later races in October.
But back to the story. Fortunately, Monty eventually passed safety inspection after much time working in the paddock, but only after both my practice and qualifying sessions for Saturday’s race was over. This meant that I still could race, but had to start from the back of the grid. This among other cars from other classes. In my head, I didn’t care. With friends there (Manny, Darryl and Brandon) and experienced fellow racers/mentors like John Wing, William Chen and Rob Burgoon helping me out, nothing else mattered. Just like the Chumpcar race back in July, despite the setbacks, I was happy just to even be in it at all…or so I thought until the race happened… What happened in the video below will explain it all.
From dead last in the grid to fight for 2nd in PTE (of 6 cars) by the end of the race. A podium finish, with no testing and breaking in of the new mods (new 10kg front springs, new alignment, Nitto NT01 tires) and no practice or qualifying to get myself warmed up and refamiliarized with the track. I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t help the feeling of joy being in a tough battle with RJ Racing to earn that spot on the podium. Now, I finally felt relaxed.
Driving flat out.
Sunday was a different story. In short, I did get on the podium again, 3rd this time around, but it was relatively boring race with the rival RJ Racing getting his revenge for Saturday’s race early on and never looked back. They overtook me at the opening lap and I never recovered. I held 3rd for the whole race.
At least I have some cool photos, especially one with William going by me at the bowl.
But Sunday’s race, in this case, wasn’t the highlight for me, it was the rain prior the race. In the morning hours, Fontana got some unseasonable summer rain. I can’t tell you how much this made me grin to the corners of my ears. I was excited, yet terrified to say the least. But my anticipated joy overpowered my fear by the time I got on the track (after a coat of Rain-X and Fog-X so I could see without windshield wipers). So much in fact, that I set the 3rd fastest lap of my race group and 2nd in class for qualifying.
Seriously, to podium twice in the same weekend and in my first-ever sanctioned races is something I can be proud of. However, I still say that there is definitely room for improvement, which I would take lessons from this weekend to the endurance races at Thunderhill Raceway 2 weeks later.
August 13-14: Thunderhill 1-Hour and 2-Hour Endurance Races
This was definitely an important weekend. And this was not about me; this was for Team 949Racing. This would the final time the team would be able to preview the track and competition in a real race situation before our main goal, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Going into the weekend, I was stoked to drive Thunderhill after not driving it for over 2 years. At the same time, I was hoping I hadn’t gone rusty was driving the track. Weirdly, I decided forego practice before Saturday’s 1-hour enduro to let William drive my car to free up Emilio to drive William’s car during the PT sprint race events beforehand. This was more to benefit the team to get more time for them at Thunderhill, since I’ve been there more times than they have. And since William and Emilio were out racing, I was out helping Vanna, Murat and John setup the pit for the enduro right after the PT race. And because of that, I had no time to set up my GoPro for Saturday’s enduro and didn’t get any footage.
Thanks to Vanna for taking this photo and a few more during the weekend.
Emilio being the crew chief for Saturday’s 1-Hour enduro for both William and me. Emilio here giving me last-minute advice before the start while John is checking if Monty will catch fire from the heat that afternoon.
My first enduro since Chumpcar in July and first with NASA. It was hot, 95 degF ambient air temperature, probably hotter track surface temperature. And again, I still am without a Cool-Suit, but I persevered. Even the race tires were greasy even during the start of the race. Luckily, I made it through the initial melee ok and the race without a scratch. I finished in 3rd place out of 7 cars in E3. William finished 1st in E2.
And now Sunday’s race… First, I’ll let you watch this.
In short, I was in nose-to-tail battle with Rob Burgoon, a rising star in SoCal Spec Miata, for about 70 straight minutes of the 120 minute race. At the 5:05 mark in the video, I even got a little bumpdraft from Rob, of course after another green Spec Miata #88 decided that I needed a bit of assistance down the front straight a few laps before Rob helped me as well. Don’t worry, Monty was fine and the bumper popped back into shape. Note: PTE cars like mine aren’t required to run bumper supports like Spec Miatas, so bumpdrafting causes my bumpers to flex a bit.
In the end, I ended up leap-frogging Rob in the pits F1-style, thanks to Murat’s perfect fueling skills. This gave me a comfortable 20+ second lead to cruise to a 2nd place finish in E3 (of 9 cars). Murat performed well for Emilio’s pit stop (now swapping crew chief and driver roles with William on Sunday) and launched him to an easy 1st place finish in E2. A great weekend for Team 949Racing to say the least.
Celebration time with the team. Emilio took this photo.
With a bit of a break from now until October 8th, I can chill out, but still plan for my next race: the 3-hour Buttonwillow night enduro. The lights will be on for Monty and I’ll be flying in the dark. Hopefully my experience at Chumpcar will come into play.
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.