Monday, April 11, 2011

Boss Frog Roll Bar

Last weekend was a busy one! I drove two hours to get to Monroe, WI by 8 am on Saturday morning. That's the home of Boss Frog, one of the two top Miata roll bar manufacturers in the country. It was time for me to get a roll bar, and, since they're local, I decided that they would be the ones!

Once I arrived, I met Todd, who was an awesome guy - we got along well, and he really knew what he was doing when it came to the install. He spent time where time was needed to make sure that the final install looks fantastic.

We were working on the car, making sure it was as nice as possible from 8 am to almost 3:30 in the afternoon. I splurged and went for a harness bar as well.

I'm really happy with the roll bar so far - it really firmed up the entire rear of the car, and it looks great. Take a look:

Needless to say, I highly recommend Boss Frog!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Volunteering for ChumpCar

Last weekend I volunteered for the ChumpCar race up at Road America. I wanted to post an update on how ChumpCar is run, and my general experiences.

The event was split up over three days. Friday was a test and tune day, then Saturday and Sunday were each 7 hour races. Each day was a separate, unique race. The only "special" thing about the race on Sunday was the winner of the race on Saturday was started with negative laps - the difference between their lap total and second place's lap total, plus one. This attempts to "level" the field and cause different winners between the two races.

Friday morning I drove up to Road America and got there around 9:30 am. A bit early, but gave me a chance to look around a little bit. Weather was cold, but fairly clear and it was a beautiful drive up in my Miata. Some attendees had already arrived, including several LeMons teams that I recognized - the most recognizable being the #22 "Mutt Cuts" - the carpeted car. After a while the ChumpCar crew showed up and I got to work helping to organize the event. All of the crew were fairly low-key and wanted to make sure that the event was a success.

I ended up working Grid on Friday - I checked for safety equipment. The tech inspectors were doing a "quick tech" of all of the cars before the test and tune, with a full tech for later. I was a bit surprised that some people tried to get out on the track with their suits unzipped or no neck protection! Everyone was nice and followed instructions when given. Overall, it went really well. I think we had 1 or 2 cars go off and need to be towed, but past that nothing too special. One car blew it's engine on the front straight, dropping quite a bit of fluid, so, since it was a test and tune day race control pulled everyone in while it was cleaned off. This was only one of two "stop the race" events on the track the entire race weekend.

Toward 3:30 or so they opened the full tech - they did it in the Skip Barber building near turn 5. I really didn't get much of a chance to see the process (I was still working grid/pit-in), but what I did see looked very similar to LeMons, with no separate "BS" inspection. Not sure how the values were evaluated, but I do know that some teams did get some penalty laps... I showed the inspectors a picture of our roll cage and they said "I'd pass that" and "No problems there" - so I don't think we have a problem with our roll cage for ChumpCar.

Friday night I drove back home - I tried to do the weekend on the cheap, so I decided to stay at home in the evenings.

Saturday morning I got up way too early in order to get to the track before the 8:15 driver's meeting. I ended up getting there at 7:45, so I set up some cones on the pit lane to help direct pit-in traffic to either the hot pits - where they could fuel and do driver's changes (and some maintenance?) or to the paddock. Pit in turned out to be my "home" for the weekend... But that's getting a bit ahead of the story.

The driver's meeting was very similar to what I expect from LeMons - don't do stupid stuff, track is set up this way, flags, if it rains we keep racing, etc. Oh, and one difference - they enforce a "Fuel Stops are a minimum of 5 minutes" rule. They have someone(me) stationed at pit-in that gives a time slip to everyone that pits, then as you exit the pits they examine it and verify the time.

On to the race - no pace car, they just sent out the cars in whatever order, let them circulate the track for maybe one or two laps, selected a car at random and gave that car the green flag. The race was on, and continued without any full course yellows or other extended delays for the entire 7 hour time period. We had numerous cars go 2 or 4 wheels off, quite a few spin, and 2 or 3 end up hitting walls. A couple also needed to be towed in.

Now - the unique part - there were only perhaps 8-12 black flags for the entire day. Re-read the list above, then look at the number there again - 8-12. ChumpCar does not black flag for wheels off or any other accidental driving like that. They do track it, and if it goes from occasional to often, then they'll black flag and talk to the driver, but only then. They want the team to be out there racing, not in the pits "doing stupid stuff"(to quote them). They would black flag for technical issues - loose exhaust, fenders/hoods/trunks loose, etc, but not for "things that are normal in a race". Additionally, even when a driver/car is black flagged, they're typically just talked to (5 minutes or less), then sent back out on the track, unless it requires repair.

ChumpCar also runs an "exception" class - they aren't eligible for awards, but they can participate in the race. There were 3(?) cars in that class - two spec Miatas, and one other. One of the spec Miatas took first (by lap count) both days, but just barely (by less than 10 laps both days).

Saturday night they do a "Beer and Pizza" party - tickets were $10/person and it sounded like it was all you could eat/drink. No idea, I didn't go to it. Evidently after that the ChumpCar guys went to Seibkin's and closed it. They were regretting it a bit in the morning :)

Sunday ran very similar to Saturday, although it was a bit more miserable. We had rain, sleet, hail, thunder, and lightning. When the lightning got close they paused the race, getting all of the corner workers into protection and everyone out of the cars, but that only lasted around 15 minutes or so. Beyond that, the race continued in the rain and general ugly conditions. Once again, a fairly clean race given the conditions of vehicles and the track. Oh, and I'm now a convert for those "tear open and they heat up" hand warmers. I had a good 6 of them in various places - one in each boot, one in each glove, and two on my back.

They did one awards ceremony for both of the races on Sunday. Two firsts, two seconds, two thirds(each with some money), and some other various awards for "the spirit of ChumpCar", etc. The awards are AWESOME - really cool welded up figures that are just really cool.

After the awards ceremony I helped clean and pack up. They also gave me some t-shirts, stickers (you'll see them when I autocross), and other stuff.

Well... That was a lot more writing than I expected. If you got through it, awesome!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A new heart... & Miata Maintenance

We found a new heart for Frankie yesterday. A nice SBC... Well used, but in reasonable shape. The awesome part is that we got it for the cost of a nice engine stand!

Past that, parts are starting to show up for my Miata. I'm excited to get out there and get autocrossing. Sadly, this week looks like it will be in the 30s for temps... Definitely not Miata weather!

Miata maintenance that I did today:
- Spark Plugs
- Spark Plug Wires
- Air Filter
- PCV Valve
- Fuel Filter (that was a little messy!)

Other things:
Loosened the spark plugs on the SBC for Frankie... Sprayed the engine down to loosen it up for future work.

It was a nice productive evening.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A bit premature?

Last night I decided to get my Miata out of "deep storage" and move it to my garage for some general maintenance. Well, sort of general maintenance - here's my plan:

  • Oil Change
  • Timing Belt Change, including Water Pump, many hoses, belts, gaskets - essentially the full 90,000 mile maintenance plus some extra to be sure for autocrossing.
  • I'm debating about radiator and associated hoses
  • Roll bar
I'd also like to get some new shocks, but my current budget doesn't allow both the roll bar and shocks. Roll bar won out due to the extra safety in an accident - and because I want my wife to know I'm as safe as possible.

Of course... This morning I went out to my SUV (now sadly parked outside) and there was frost on the windows. Perhaps I was a bit premature in pulling the Miata out?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First Sponsor of 2011!

All Right! We have our first sponsor of 2011!

Sprecher Brewery, one of my favorite local makers of fine Root Beer (among other things), has agreed to sponsor us with some cases of gourmet sodas for our races!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saw this quote, thought it was interesting...

Loose is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car, tight is when you hit the wall with the front of the car. Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall and torque is how far you move the wall.

Hope my wife doesn't read it!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wow... Another year! So, it's 2011 now, and we've been silent for a while. This isn't because we haven't been doing things... No, we've been so busy that we haven't updated!

So... What excitement has occurred?

We participated in two LeMons races last year - Gingerman and Joliet. They were both a blast, being competitive, although not finishing in the top 10.

We were incredibly competitive at Gingerman - we were in the top 10 after the first day - but then ran into transmission problems, losing 3rd gear. Then the fun kicked in - we found a transmission 2 hours away, drove and picked it up, swapped it that night (thanks to the guy who let us use his hoist!), and were back up and running the next morning.

And then, 3 1/2 hours into the race the second day, we lost 3rd again.

There goes the comeback.

Needless to say, we were a bit bummed - but it was still an awesome experience, and with the improvements since that race we expect to be extremely competitive at Gingerman this year.

The second race - at Autobahn Country Club, we did fairly well - in the top half. Quite a bit of interest on the first day, due to all sorts of rain. We're not good in the water... But once it dried up we were doing pretty well! Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch up from where we were after the rain.

On a personal note - I picked up a new "fun" car for myself. A nice 1995 Mazda Miata M Edition. It's a bit more "sophisticated" looking than lots of Miatas... Means that I can't go all "racer" on it, but it looks beautiful and my wife loves it.

Oh... And I got married last year.

See - busy!

More, rapid, updates to come!