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Author Topic: NASA MidOhio Track Day Recap Share.  (Read 621 times)
Aaron
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« on: August 25, 2018, 10:18:13 AM »

In March I bought a low miles, rust free, bone stock Mazda RX8. This controversial decision was based off the Mazda's notorious rotary engine issues that lowered their price, but that was over looked by it's dynamite chassis and excellent aftermarket support. I threw some cash at it to get it freshened up, with upgraded radiator, wheels, tires and brakes to name a few improvements. After about 5 months of life mixed in the fray, the track car finally made it to the track.

On Friday Simi and I attended a HPDE event with the NASA school. HPDE is short for High Performance Driving Experience. No lap times, no umbrella girls. The event is just a bunch of like minded, fast driving car people out on a close race course having a GREAT time. My prior experience landed me in the fast drivers group.

Simi was there as pit crew and photographer. She even acquired a photo vest to safely jump the fence and get right up in there for photo taking the cars on course up close. Our good friend Brian lives in Mansfield and he joined us for an afternoon at the track taking photos, and acting as pit crew and just general hang out time.

The adventure started when Simi and I loaded the Mazda onto the trailer Thursday night, and  were then up at 6am on Friday to make the drive to the track just 40 minutes north. Unloaded the car, unpacked, and went through tech inspection where I met the lead instructor, Eric. We then kinda played the waiting game for session 1 of 5.

Buckled in and I was literally the last car on track in the 1st session. Just wanted to take it easy, and see how the car felt. I ended up catching a good bit of the group, and the first cars out that were insanely fast ended up catching me. Had a good time in that 20 minutes on track. Back to check the car, and there was fluid splattering in various places on the engine, seemingly coming from the coolant tank. Checked the fluids, the oil, nothing. No idea where the leak was coming from, but nothing terminal and worth ending the day for. I'd keep an eye on it for sure.

Session 2, back out, mid pack. Several great cars to chase down. I was building confidence. The Mazda's chassis handles amazing. Super great balance and easy to toss around in the corners. On the straights of the track, it was just awful. The tiny rotary engine was screaming making liquid fuel into pure noise, but I held my own best I could. Once the corners showed up I was on top of the "fast in a straight line" cars and they pointed me by.

Session 3 started with random selection of 2 people within the group. I was teamed up with Matthias from Hamburg Germany, currently residing in Dayton, OH. He was driving a full spec BMW race car with easily twice my power, and my street tires were no match to his race tires. We were instructed to lap the course giving each other passes around the outside, inside, and anywhere we felt it was justified. This very advanced drill was great for spacial awareness. Generally when on track, a driver is alone on track by his or herself, and is going for the perfect racing line around a corner. This 3rd session forced driving off line or in weird spots where you normally aren't pushing the limit. After a very fun and safe session, Matthias and I both had huge grins as we met back up in paddock after it was over. Our lead instructor Eric took notice as well, singling out Matthias, myself and 4 other drivers in the 25 person group to give us applause for doing the passing drill the best. Simi put our video camera on the fence and recorded some of the passing here:

https://youtu.be/YAv2ryaugX8

While that congrats was well deserved it was continued chasing down the mystery leak. It kept on spraying and with a 2 hour lunch break after session 3 and before session 4 I began to take apart things under the hood. I immediately found the smoking gun when the car's battery was soaked, and there was fluid just dripping out of the vent ports on the battery. Yeah, that's no good. I then began a rough clean of the spattering, but the acid etched a splash pattern on to the aluminum air intake. Live and learn.

We left the track and ventured to the local Mexican restaurant for replenishment and then as luck would have it, the battery pulled from the car was a NAPA brand, and there just so happened to be a NAPA store in town near our lunch locale. The battery had a free 1 year replacement, dated 8/17, and just so happened it's still August. Our super excellent customer service guy at NAPA typed in the keyboard, and we offered up him $4 for a bottle of engine cleaner and degreaser for any remaining acid and he handed over a brand new battery and our cleaner.

Back to the track with 45 minutes to spare, the engine was thoroughly cleaned and the new battery placed into it's home. Checked the car for start up, added more fuel and then decided it was finally time to put the camera in the car for Session 4. The camera recorded some fun driving and some amazing machines, but after about 15 of the 20 minutes, the exhaust gasket by the catalytic converter blew out, and the noise was deafening to have no functional muffler. I opted to save the women and children from ear bleeding, and pulled in early. Just regular wear and tear and finding the weak spots and making slow steady improvements to the car as well as the driver.

The exhaust wasn't repairable on site and it was a pretty eventful day, and time to pack up and go home, just calling off the 5th and final afternoon session. Back on the trailer (loudly!) and the smooth easy drive home to unpack, and find out how to fix the gasket - and possibly make an upgrade for the next future event. The car had no overheating issues, no excessive oil burn. Transmission felt great, and just the weird issue with the battery, an easy fix. The exhaust just part of having a 13 year old car from driver to racer.

Here's the onboard video from session 4. Edited down w/ snippets: Chasing a Mustang, monster Corvettes passing me (why did I lift?), getting destroyed by a $300,000 Porsche GT2 RS, and finally the exhaust lets go (camera doesn't have a good mic, but it's loud!)   :

https://youtu.be/GWiivDg6opE

Here's a link to the photo gallery:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/6KUaTNreZFmGNXwx9

As always, thanks for reading

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#117 SS / SSR 996 GT3

The object of autocross is to do the least amount of autocross.
BirdBoy
Sr. Member
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Posts: 147


« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2018, 10:59:24 AM »

First thing is first.  This was very well written.

That looks like a lot of fun.  Do you have any plans to try and build up the drive train to make the car a little faster?  I know that it's probably overkill for things like autocross but for road racing it might be interesting.

Just curious.

Thanks for sharing.
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1993 Ford Thunderbird LX
Aaron
AX Chief's round table member
Forum Veteran
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Posts: 423


« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2018, 11:14:40 AM »

First thing is first.  This was very well written.

Thank you!

Do you have any plans to try and build up the drive train to make the car a little faster?  I know that it's probably overkill for things like autocross but for road racing it might be interesting.

I think a LS swap is in the 18-24 month plan.  Wink

We'll retain the Porsche for the cones and cruising (and maybe pay off the house the way the values have soared), and have the Mazda for future TT / HPDE build.
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#117 SS / SSR 996 GT3

The object of autocross is to do the least amount of autocross.
BirdBoy
Sr. Member
****
Posts: 147


« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2018, 07:35:08 PM »

Sounds pretty awesome.  It will definitely be interesting to see how it turns out.  Good luck.
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1993 Ford Thunderbird LX
Rich Grunenwald
Global Moderator
Street Racer
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Posts: 3442

Stirring the pot...


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2018, 11:54:09 AM »

What's up with those 3 ft tall wings on the Mustangs?

I'm not an aero-knowledgeable person, but they look like a flipping place to set your tools.

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I have two big heavy 'Murican race cars. Must be an old guy thing.
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