Tuesday, April 28, 2015

99 Miata Build, Part 12 : VICTORY!

It took lots of help and even more time, but the Miata finally has a fully upgraded suspension, rollbar, and fresh clutch.
That silver bar is a block of aluminum that reinforces the sway bar mounts.  More details to come in a future technical post.

On Thursday the new control arm, and replacement shock were installed along with some welding done (thanks again to Chuck!) to add some additional reinforcement brackets to the end-link mounts.
The bigger sway bar also needed some additional reinforcement on the mounts that attach it to the lower control arm (just to the left of the yellow shock).

A few more stickers were installed.
Mazda logo on the rear quarter and Mazdaspeed logo on the front. 

And the car was given a fresh alignment just in time for the Sunday autocross with SCR.
Lots more stickers on the rear window.

I have to say, it's a whole new car.  The numerous upgrades had the car handling better than ever and the shifts were smooth as butter...well, if butter had a very satisfying mechanical clunk as you sliced through it with a shift knob.  The end result is a first place finish for me for the first time with SCR!  Victory over the installation issues we encountered and also in racing.
The new rollbar needed some mozzarella sticks so we stopped at Sonic for food and a photo.

Great results as the NMS South team closes the gap to first place for the season.  There's a few more bugs to shake down and the clutch needs a few more miles to thoroughly break in before the big track weekend with NASA in May, but the car has come a LONG way since October.  Stay tuned for some future technical posts about the upgrades completed to date and why they've been chosen.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

99 Miata Build, Part 11

Here's a just a quick look at some other recent developments at NMS-South in Columbia SC. The #86 Miata will be competing in autocross action at the Florence Civic Center on Sunday April 26th with a huge amount of upgrades that have been installed recently.  Most of these were covered in the  Miata Build Part 10 blog post last week.

OK, the new roll bar (just visible in the first picture) does add some weight to the car, but it is required for driving on the track, and it is a safety feature, so that might slow the car just a tiny little bit, but here's some more go-fast parts:

What could be faster than a MAZDASPEED sticker!!
New shocks should be fun!!
Sure to come through in the NEW CLUTCH!
We predict the course workers will be happy with the Miata improvements!

Friday, April 24, 2015

April Autocross Report

Factory Five 818 Launches!
On Sunday April 19th the Tidewater Sports Car Club  TSCC LINK held their second autocross competition of the year, and on a beautiful spring day in Pungo VA, in a field of three drivers in the G Street class, the NMS #77 FIAT finished on the podium in first!
Factory Five Cobra Finishes!

The course was a lot of fun, and the weather was just right for the morning drivers, even though a few drops of rain might have impacted the last driving group in the afternoon. The GS class was made up of yours truly in the Italian Abarth, and two drivers sharing a German VW GTI. During the day I chatted with the other two drivers and enjoyed the chance to meet some more AutoX fanatics! Their car was also driven in another run group by a third person who was a friend of theirs in the Ladies GS class, so as the announcer noted, their VW was the most driven car of the day!

VW GTI = GS Class Competition!

Below you can see the run times from each driver's 4 runs. In autocross, only your one run with the fastest time counts. That's what drives the competition that makes each driver always try to improve whatever times they've set so far on the day.  For me, I was happy to get the first three runs clean without killing any cones, and see each one get a bit faster. On the final run, I got a bit too agitato and molto vivace, and therefore did not get a clean time. Still, my third run was more than a full second faster than the first run and gave me first in GS, and all 4 trips behind the wheel were a blast!
Behind the Abarth you can see spectators watching the action!

Run 1: 49.177 so I end up just 0.139 ahead of 2nd place, so it's going to be a close day!

Run 2: 48.490 improves my time by 0.687, and the gap over 2nd is a bit larger at 0.524, half a second.

Run 3: 48.041 an even faster time knocking off another 0.449, I'm ahead by 0.633 with one to go!

Run 4: 50.683DNF A little extra speed early in the run and I totally missed going around one cone entering a big 180 degree turn,  ending with a DNF, while the other two drivers manage to hit a cone each.  Knocking over a cone officially adds 2 seconds to their run times shown here, so in other words we've ALL managed to blow our last runs! This means no change in the final standings, so it's Italy in first, followed by the Germans!!

Class # Name Color 1st Run 2nd Run 3rd Run 4th Run Best Difference
GS 77 Nixon, Robert Red 49.177 48.49 48.041 50.683+DNF 48.041 [-]0.633
GS 103 Sill, Gary White 49.316 48.924 48.674 48.827+1 48.674 0.633
GS 310 Smith, Joseph White 54.843 51.833 51.621 50.129+1 51.621 2.947

Overall, using the PAX multiplier to compare all 92 drivers, I ended up 21st fastest, so that was a pretty good day for me. Comparing the PAX time to all drivers certainly reminds me that there are some very seriously fast drivers out there that are way better than me! While there were 20 people faster than me,  on the positive side of the coin, that also adds up to 71 folks that were slower. That's one fun part of driving, it's a skill that you can always try to improve. Like getting to Carnegie Hall, all it takes is practice, practice, and more practice.
View of the Street Class Field from the Abarth!

Now that we've completed two events, you can find the unofficial points standings on our page for 2015 standings!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

99 Miata Build, Part 10

The BIG WEEKEND! Things kicked off Friday with a trip in the NMS Ranger up to Winston-Salem, NC to Hard Dog Fabrication's new shop to pick up a rollbar for myself and fellow autocrosser, Harlan.
The Ranger: It's old and wimpy, but gets the job done again!

The Miata was loaded up with the parts that were piling up for the last few weeks and everything was moved over to good friend of NMS and SCCA racer, Chuck's shop.  We've had the Miata over there before and he was kind enough to let us use the lift and shop space for the big project.  Huge thank you to Chuck and his time, space, tools, and expertise.
Trunk full of parts ready to go!

The plan for the weekend was to replace the shocks (including bump-stops) and front sway bar, then install the rollbar, followed by replacing the clutch, and then put all the finishing bits back together. Unfortunately, we ran into a few problems once we started pulling apart the suspension.  One of the new shocks came damaged and is awaiting replacement and we also uncovered a damaged upper control arm from either the accident in 2005 when it was totaled or early last year when the previous owner hit a guard rail (and damaged that fender).
Building shocks: Once removed from the car, the new yellow shocks get installed in the old springs and assemblies

The team got to work removing a seriously bent bolt with some big hammers. Then the team had to get even more creative and break out the welder.  At the end of the weekend, friends Kyle and Philip chipped in huge and got the transmission back in the car with the new clutch, helped finish getting the rollbar installed, and mostly completed the sway bar.
Hammer Time.  A bolt holding on the control arm had to be smashed straight enough to slide out.

It was a long weekend with a lot of help from friends.  We completed a good deal of work and even diagnosed a sticking front brake caliper and leaking radiator hose that was previously not noticed.  More parts are now on order and the team is ready to jump back into it on Thursday when everything arrives to keep the #86 car on schedule for autocross with SCR on Sunday.  Check back for the dramatic conclusion and some more details of the install process.
Even after liberal application of large hammers, the bolt was bent just enough to need a little more persuasion.

Important Miata and FIAT News!


That's the starting MSRP on the low end for the new next-generation of Mazda Miata. How do we know this? Simple. We read the Mazda press release that says the NEW Miata started rolling off the assembly line on April 20th! The other two trim levels start in the 28K and 31K range, so you can read the press release for more juicy ZOOM-ZOOM details!

Miata Press Release-2016-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-Production-Kicks-Off-Today

Anything else happen  yesterday on April 20th? Yes! The new FIAT 500X started shipping from Italy, so, once again THE ITALIANS ARE COMING!!!!


Just go ahead and mark April 20th down as a day of good news for US fans of the Mazda Miata (MX-5) and the FIAT 500 brand!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

VICTORY in Autocross #2!

Well, there was no podium celebration with champagne and kisses from Miss America, but Nixon Motor Sports has again claimed first place in the G Street class for this year's Tidewater Sports Car Club autocross season! This time we're happy to report that there WERE some other drivers in the GS field, and we'll get the full total results later this week.

Preliminary results show that the NMS FIAT Abarth took first by about 0.5 seconds over a VW GTI that had two drivers, so that makes it 2 for 2 in victories this year, and should put the only Italian car in the field well ahead on points.

On a beautiful day at Pungo Airfield, the weather held out with only a few sprinkles late in the day, but that didn't bother our GS cars who finished running well before the wet stuff moved in for the evening. Here's a few photos for now, more details and PAX standings later in the week.

Oh we also hear that Formula 1, Indy, and NASCAR were running this weekend, you can find out all about them elsewhere!

Great to see this mid 60s Corvette in Classic American Muscle class!
This is the first Factory Five 818 I've seen, awesome!
What's the Tidewaters Sports Car Club web site again?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Houston, We Have A Weekend!

(April marks two years since NMS first participated in autocross, so the photos here cover the last two years)
Can you find the SUPER UNIQUE sign?

Just a quick note to highlight that it's the weekend, so for NMS-South that means roll-bar purchase, and installation of various auto parts over the weekend! Stay tuned for an update in the near future as Brian gears up for autocross the following weekend, and some High Performance Driver Education at Carolina Motorsports Park in May.
2004 MazdaSpeed Miata, replaced with a 99 Miata

Farther north at NMS-North, the FIAT will take to autocross action in the second points event on Sunday, which might inspire a car wash on Saturday, along with checking tires, fluids, etc. The local Tidewaters Sports Car Club has confirmed that they will host a one day Evolution Performance Driving School for autocross, so I will be planning to sign up for that one when the registration opens on Sunday.
Stickers. Every sticker is worth 10 horsepower!

The rest of the weekend will likely involve following the racing action from Bahrain with Formula 1, with qualifying on at 11am eastern, and the race Sunday morning. The Indy car series moves on to Long Beach for some more races, and surely it will be better than the rain-yellowflag-rain-yellowflag dance they had last weekend down in New Orleans.
Autocross at Michelin Proving Grounds, Laurens South Carolina

Today's historical note is that on this date in 1964, the Ford Mustang was first introduced at the New York World's Fair! Yep, 51 years of Mustang is a good thing, and I can say that driving our families used 66 Mustang when I was in high school was pretty fun, and the 04 Mustang that I had before the FIAT was a nice little pile of 260 horsepower too!

Autocross at Darlington Speedway, Darlington South Carolina

Whatever you are doing this weekend, be safe, drive safe, and have fun!
NMS paddock with deluxe canopy and seating!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Have I Over-Powered the Miata???

If stickers add more horsepower, than this post is all about POWER!  This past weekend I did some vinyl work on the Miata while waiting for more parts to arrive before this coming weekend's major maintenance session.  A while back someone asked if I would black out the A-pillar (windshield frame) when I did the Mazdaspeed's graphics.  At the time I wasn't too keen on the idea, but since then it's grown on me as I've seen more cars, like the Club Sport edition of the last year of the third generation Miata.
Grabbed some blue electrical tape laying around to mark off the first cut without permanently damaging the vinyl.

I started off with a 36"x60" sheet of gloss black 3M vinyl (the good stuff).  I used some window cleaner to get the big bug chunks off the glass and wiped down the painted surface I was about to apply the vinyl to.  I could have prepped the surface even better, but it was only going to get so good on this car.
Big sheet of extra vinyl left for more decals!

I placed it on the windshield, mapped out a rough cut to remove the material over the windshield for re-use but left enough room for error around the frame before using painters' tape to keep it in place.

Almost done, lots of spare bits laying around, but beats prepping and cleaning up from spray paint!
Starting on the passenger side, I carefully peeled away the backing and started applying it to the painted area and worked my way around, smoothing it with a small squeegee as I went.  I cut away big areas of excess with scissors and then followed up with an razor blade to get the final cut.

Top down. Looks like a nice fresh coat of paint, but as easy and mess-free as a sticker!
As I worked around I realized that the vinyl was stretching and laying not quite how I intended, even with the excess amount of vinyl available.  I made a seam right at the center of the top of the windshield and had to make a couple of small patches by the time I got to the bottom of the driver's side frame.  Looks good enough from 10 feet!

The black frame helps blend in with the black soft top when up.  Hoping to add a black hard top to the car for track days.
At the supreme risk of over-powering the tiny car, I've got a boat-load of stickers from all of the different suppliers that I've been ordering parts from for the car.  The exponential power increase from these decals alone is frightening, so careful attention will need to be placed on where to locate all of these. I've got a few more local places I'm hoping to add.  Brace yourselves.
Racing Beat, 5x Racing, 949 Racing, SCCA, Mazda / Mazdaspeed, Good-Win Racing, and a couple fun ones. Hoping to add Panic Motorsports and Pro Auto soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Williamsburg VA British Car Club Euro Auto Show Highlights!

Well sports fans, if you hit our Nixon Motor Sports Flickr website link over on the right, you can see all 93 photos from this morning's cool Euro car show sponsored by the Williamsburg British Car Club!  The Flickr website is a great FREE photo hosting site, and you can see these photos there, so to give you a sample of the variety, here are just a few of my favorites below.

I love seeing cars in person that I've only read about, and cars I've never even heard of too!  At this show we had some cool wheels from Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, as well as one lonely Saab from Sweden, although I didn't get a shot of the Saab 93. 

From England: Lotus? Got a couple. MG and Triumph? Tons! Jaguars and Aston Martins? Yes and Yes!

How about Germany? JAH! Eine Porsche 911, BMW Z3 und Zed Vier! Prost!

Italia? Si, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo!

Here we go...
Love this Lotus!

Nothing says HAPPY like a "Bugeye" Sprite!

Two Alfa Romeos! Mamma Mia!

Ferrari 328, surprise! It's in Red!
Peugeot 208 GTI. Nice!

Citroen 2CV. Bon Jour!
Z3 and Z4 from BMW

New Jaguar F-type!
This Spitfire owner really showed their colors with the flag under the hood!