Monday, August 29, 2016

1 Week Until Nationals

With one week to go until we leave for Lincoln, we're tearing through our final to-do list.

First up was switching from the more aggressive brake pads we put on a month ago back to the Mazda pads.  Overall they have more feel and gave us more control that the track pads that need a lot of heat to work well.  It started out as a simple job until we found a stripped bolt on one of the front calipers.  We'll reach out to Panic Motorsports for a replacement and wrap this job up later this week.
Over at Jason's place working on brakes and wheels.

While I tackled brakes and let the car cool down, Jason is working away refurbishing a set of ultra-light weight wheels we're borrowing just for nationals.  We'll show some pictures when they're all ready to go.
Getting to the troublesome AC parts involved a front bumper removal.

The second job we dove into was replacing the failing A/C compressor, flushing out the system and getting our frosty air back.  The compressor swap went as planned, however when flushing the system we found out the accumulator was failing and leaking little desiccant BBs, so $20 on Amazon will have us a new one in a couple days and we'll finish that later on too!

You can see the desiccant that's been ejected while we had the lines disconnected.
The 1 week to go to-do list:
  • Replace the A/C compressor and re-charge the system (MORE parts on order)
  • Replace brake pads and rotors Replace a caliper
  • Cut and apply some additional vinyl (numbers, class letters)
  • Finish painting the trunk lid 
  • Mount fresh tires

We'll check in on Friday with our final progress on the car before we head out and hopefully have time for a photo shoot with the final graphics and new wheels.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Season Standings in Virginia

After this photo shoot I'm jumping in the water
Here in Virginia, I've been driving the NMS FIAT Abarth in autocross events with the Tidewater Sports Car Club, and after six events this year (one event per month, started in March), I'm now in 9th place overall in the PAX points. The PAX standings allow every car in every class to be compared, so I'm really happy with being in 9th out of 198 drivers. My goal this year has been to improve over last year and finish in the top 20. Last year I ended up 29th out of 73 drivers that completed at least 5 events.

Of course, not all 198 drivers this year have competed in all 6 events, so that puts me ahead of some people just for showing up! Nothing wrong with that, I'm just reporting the facts! Sometimes you can do OK in life just by showing up! If you don't believe me, try not going to work for a week without telling your boss and let me know how that works for you!

Also, there will be a good number of drivers that pass me up by the end of the year, and here's why. During the entire year the club will hold 9 events, but only the top scoring 7 events count for any one driver. That means that some of the faster drivers so far this year have missed one event, so for now I'm ahead of them, but by the time the "drop two events" rule kicks in, those faster drivers will end up ahead of me. Oh well, for now I'm loving it!

In the teeny tiny G Street class, we've only had two of us at any events this year, so saying I'm winning the class doesn't necessarily mean anything, but I'll say it anyway! John Henderson in his VW GTI and I have been pretty close on times at several events this year, and counting an event with another club I think we've both beaten the other one twice so far. While its always fun to drive fast even if you're the only one in your class, I would say that it kicks things up a notch knowing that someone else in your class is trying to be faster than you!

If you want to check out the season standings, here's the link: TSCC 2016 LINK

Monday, August 22, 2016

2 Weeks Until Nationals

With just two weeks remaining before the biggest motor sports event in the world, NMS South is back in Savannah with the Buccaneer Region SCCA for some final practice.

NMS and TTT open the gates early Saturday morning.
Since we're not getting paid to race just yet and the jobs that do pay money take priority, some of the technical work on the Miata is still pending but that didn't stop us from wearing out our tires just a little bit more.

Hanging out in grid at Hutchinson.
Saturday was a test and tune session that let me focus on practicing downshifting from 3rd to 2nd gear in preparation for the higher-speed courses in Lincoln that we are counting on requiring at least one downshift. Sure we shift up and down every day, but when you're braking as hard as you can and then immediately turning the car again, you need to have quick coordination between your feet and hands to keep it smooth. I'm glad to say it was a mission accomplished and I am feeling exponentially more comfortable on the downshift.

Jonathan making us all look slow in his 99 Miata.  
Sunday both Team Too Tall and NMS South faced some great ES drivers and got some hands-on feedback on our cars and driving from fellow ES driver Jonathan, who is always a top contender at the national level.  We've got a few more tweaks to make, but overall we've confirmed the cars are in good shape and it all comes down to how well we can drive them.

Blue car was thirsty.  It drank almost 2 liters of water.
Unfortunately on the way back home, the blue car hit some teething issues with the new motor we put in a few weeks back and it was over-heating.  Luckily we managed to get it back home after a cool-down and more water in the radiator.

The 2 weeks to go to-do list:
  • Replace the A/C compressor and re-charge the system (parts on order)
  • Replace brake pads and rotors
  • Cut and apply some additional vinyl (numbers, class letters)
  • Finish painting the trunk lid
  • Mount fresh tires

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August AutoX Awesomeness

77 = My favorite number, even the NAVY likes it!

Sunday August 21st was the monthly autoX with the Tidewater Sports Car Club (TSCC), and from the seat of the NMS FIAT Abarth it looked like this:

In the G Street class we once again battled with John Henderson in his VW GTI for "Fastest Car From the WWII Losers Club" (since these cars are from Germany and Italy), and this time the Italians won! We had 4 runs each, so it played out like this:

RUN 1: The VW took the lead after the first runs, 38.033 to my 38.038.  Yes you read that right, I was in 2nd place by 5 THOUSANDTHS of a SECOND! Very close, and I figured I could go faster, so the challenge was finding out how fast the VW would go too!

RUN 2: I raised my tire pressures just a tiny bit, pushed harder and drove a bit more on the edge, to include staying in 1st gear a bit longer to get more torque going into a slalom, and sure enough I was faster, down to 37.555. My competitor was a bit slower than his first run, so now I had a lead of almost half a second. Remember that only the one fastest run counts, so it was now my 2nd run beating his 1st run. Two more to go though, anything could happen.
FIAT Abarth, Bobby Smith's Porsche 911

RUN 3: Luckily "anything could happen" did NOT include rain. We'd had a very hot day in VA today, and right before we drove about 10 rain drops hit my windshield, but that was all, and it didn't affect our driving at all.
So, run 3, I again raised my tire pressures just to see if it would help, and sure enough, after mentally running the course in my mind a couple times after the 2nd run, I managed to go faster, now down to 37.122. That felt really great, and I knew that again the VW hadn't improved his time from run 1. OK, one run to go, and at this point I've got about a 0.9 second gap, but now that I was on 37.1 I wanted to get into the 36s. Could the FIAT do it, and would the VW make a dramatic come back and beat my time?
GOT CIVIC? With John Henderson's VW GTI.

RUN 4: This time I kept the tire pressures the same other than evening them off side to side, and tried to get around the cones even faster. It felt pretty good, and especially at the ending sweeper and flick back the other way to the finish line I was pushing it more than previously, and at least it felt faster. Crossing the line and checking the timer later, I saw that I made it into the 36 second range, final and fastet time in G Street class of 36.860. I think this makes it two victories each between the FIAT and the VW this year, so we've got a great battle going on in our little tiny class of only two cars most of the time!

We had a fun day in Virginia Beach with our local TSCC, and can't wait for the next events in September. For this driver that means another autoX on the 18th in the same location, and another unusual event that's a bit out of the ordinary. Before then we'll take it easy next weekend and probably just watch the Formula 1 race from the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. After two weekends in a row of being out in the upper 90s hot weather in SC and VA, keeping cool sounds like a great idea!

Grant Cook's  Brand New GOLF R!
Keep driving, Look out for the other guy, and buckle up!



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

3 Weeks Until Nationals

We already covered the very positive results from this past weekend's autocross in Charleston, but tying my best of 4th overall for the day felt pretty good with only a margin of 0.3 seconds behind first. Despite the success, we're still not happy with the more aggressive brake pads we changed to, so we'll most likely look to do another swap back to the original compounds for the big show.  Otherwise the car is feeling great and we're really getting the swing of locking in tire pressures and making on the fly adjustments to the shocks to adapt to the different courses.

At the starting line in Charleston about to take on a sea of cones.

Unfortunately no other progress was made on the car this past week so that leaves a pretty good sized list to take care of. This coming weekend we'll wrap up our pre-Nationals practice with two days of autocross in Savannah. Nationals registration has already hit it's limit and there's a wait-list forming with over 1350 people registered and 55 in ES alone.

The 3 weeks to go to-do list:

  • Replace the A/C compressor and re-charge the system
  • Replace brake pads and rotors
  • Cut and apply some additional vinyl (numbers, class letters)
  • Finish painting the trunk lid
  • Mount fresh tires 
  • Re-check torque on all the front suspension

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Charleston SC: How Hot Was It?

It was so hot that, well, it was really hot in Charleston last weekend! About as hot as these two drivers burning up the course in the Miata!

Jason Rucker and Brian Nixon, smart to be in the shade!
Saturday's version of hot saw the NMS team driving at the Charleston Coliseum with the South Carolina Region of the SCCA, and we're happy to report a very good driving day all around! In the NMS-South Miata, Jason Rucker and Brian Nixon took 1st and 4th in PAX time out of all 113 drivers, and an outstanding 1st and 3rd in their Pro class as well!

Over in the GS class, the NMS-North FIAT Abarth brought home another first place (in a class of only 2 cars) by going 0.061 of a second faster than the 2nd place VW GTI! That's pretty darn close! The FIAT didn't crack the top 5 overall like Jason and Brian, but taking 18th PAX fastest out of all 113 drivers isn't too bad either. Kudos to the Miata guys, they win the 2016 NMS title over the Fiat guys for team bragging rights. Good luck to Brian and Jason at the SCCA National Championships in Nebraska next month!

Brian Nixon and Robert Nixon at the Tire Rack Street Survival

Sunday was also hot, but very rewarding as Brian and Robert both served as instructors for the Tire Rack Street Survival one day school. On Sunday we didn't teach speed, we didn't talk racing, and we didn't ask the students to be race car drivers. We only asked them to learn how to be better and safer drivers for the rest of their lives. This cool school is designed for young drivers under 21 to bring their own cars out to an empty parking lot and get personal instruction and practice in how to safely operate their car. Beyond basic driver training, the Street Survival is aimed at teaching the limits of safe driving in different exercises that focus on single aspects such as; straight line braking; braking while turning; the feel of going too fast in a skid pad circle and how to control the car; avoiding hazards in the road; and how to manage weight transfer to smoothly steer the car left and right.

Students signing in Sunday morning

The final exercise required the students to navigate a curving course (in the empty parking lot) while trying to send a text message. I know my student thought they could do this easily, but as soon as they started texting they totally lost focus on driving the car and went off course. The way I like to explain it is that we want students to make lots of mistakes in school so that they don't make those mistake in the real world where it can cause damage and injury. Thanks to the BMW Car Club of America and the Tire Rack company for sponsoring these educational events around the country. You can probably find one near you on their website schedule too, try Googling for Tire Rack Street Survival.

Yes, even a 1958 Edsel can autocross! 

The great results from Saturday really tightens up the Pro class points for the year, with some very competitive Miata drivers leading the way, Marty Bull and Jason Rucker fighting for 1st, and Brian Nixon and Kyle Ray-Smith going for 3rd, despite some serious leg surgery for half of Kyle's legs!

Tire Rack Street Survival

We'd like to share some links to other people's photos of the events this weekend, so click away for more info at each active link below. Like normal, you can always go to our favorite links on our NMS page to find the SC Region, SCCA, and other cool car places in cyber space. Mostly I'd recommend you check out the great camera work of HMDB Photography's Brad Baughman to see lots of great shots of smiling drivers from the Tire Rack Street Survival school, and also his shots from Saturday's autocross.

SC Region SCCA event results from Saturday: Results LINK

Video of Jason's fastest run on Saturday33.858: YouTube Video

Video of Brian's fastest run on Saturday34.172: YouTube Video

Video of Robert's fastest run on Saturday 35.758: YouTube Video

SC Region Points so far in 2016 with the NMS Miata in Pro, NMS FIAT in GS: SCR Points 2016

SC Region event photos by Brad Baughman and HMDB Photography: HMDB Photography

Tire Rack Street Survival photos by Brad Baughman and HMDB Photography: HMDB Photography: Street Survival

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Weekend Plans!

Haas F1 Team Summer Break!
I'd love to be a Formula 1 driver right about now, because they get about a month off between races smack dab in the middle of the summer every year! I think it's related to the union labor laws in Europe and the tradition of everyone seems to take the month of August off for what's called a "holiday." OK, really, I'm not complaining, because mostly I'm not a full time professional driver, just a guy with a job that pays the bills for my driving hobby!

Sunrise = Autocross Drivers in Rear View!

Yeah, those pros have it tough, jet-setting around the world to race in Brazil, Japan, Australia, Monaco, Germany, Austria, etc. Those of us on the NMS team also get to travel around and compete behind the wheel, but the exotic locations sound more like Charleston SC, Charlotte NC, and Virginia Beach VA. Now that I write that out, it really doesn't sound so bad! I think I can say that since I've moved around a bit for my "job" and lived in places like Heath Ohio, Saint Robert Missouri, and Harker Heights Texas. 
Tires = Good!

So, back to this "holiday" thing and the upcoming weekend. Not complaining, but sometimes my job takes a bit of time, and of course I'm working on a degree that ends up being some  homework just about every night, and then there's that Mustang that doesn't run sitting in my garage that I need to work on too. So, on top of that, I'm looking forward to the weekend. 
Mustang = Only Moving on a Trailer!

Friday: work all day, then drive from Virginia to Charleston to get ready for Saturday. Splurge on a cheap hotel (because sleeping in air conditioning in a bed is a pretty good thing compared to not doing so).
Tools of the Trade = GoPro and Helmet
Saturday: Autocross all day, drive faster than NMS-South. Spend the rest of the day reminding Brian that I was faster. That will keep me busy. Or do homework that's due by midnight Sunday. 

Sunday: Instruct at the Tire Rack Street Survival school being sponsored by the South Carolina Region of the SCCA. Hopefully help out some young driver learn how to drive safer and have a lot of fun too. Pack up the car and drive all the way back to Virginia. Finish any homework before midnight that I ignored all week!

Hey, it's a living. You only live once, (YOLO if you have to say it another way.)
Brian Looking for Reasons the FIAT will Beat his Miata!

Monday, August 8, 2016

4 Weeks Until Nationals

This weekend team NMS South took on the competition with CCR-SCCA in Charlotte.  Driving at Zmax Dragway was our last place to practice higher speed courses before Nationals.  On top of testing our driving skills, we were trying out a new, lighter-weight custom exhaust that Jason is building.
It was a hot, sunny day.

My first two runs showed lots of improvement and decent pace, but I ended up pushing the car too hard and spun out on the last two runs.  It wasn't a great end result but it gave me a few items to focus on over the next two weekends of practice.  The goal is to get all my mistakes out of the way now.  On the positive side, the new exhaust is a great improvement and the car held up well to 3 drivers.
Phillip brings the car through finish at Zmax on Saturday with Jason instructing.

Sunday I was up at the Team Too Tall garage in Greenville helping swap in a new engine and transmission for their Nationals debut. Team Too Tall and NMS South are pushing each other hard this month to get our cars 100% ready and bring home the best result for all four SCR drivers in Lincoln.

The crew loads the new motor in the blue car.

NMS South goals for next weekend:

Complete the vinyl work on the Miata

Determine if the Carbotech brake pads will stay on the car for Lincoln

Drive faster than NMS North in Charleston

Thursday, August 4, 2016

NMS Proposes Three New Holidays!

We think this guy supports our idea!

If you check out our NMS Driving Schedule Page SCHEDULE LINK, you will see that we have added three important NEW holidays that we think should be legalized as National Holidays. After much discussion and debate, we think that the three dates we've come up with would be some great reasons to also give everyone some more time off from work too! Furthermore we're proposing that these "new" holidays happen each and every year! Then, to make them even more attractive, and to avoid conflict with other holidays like Independence Day and Memorial Day, we've grouped them together in the Northern Hemisphere's chilly time of year when there may not be much auto crossing going on, specifically November, December, and January. 

To get down to the details, we've randomly pulled some dates out of a hat, and come up with the following great ideas for these new holidays. You can start thanking us now!

--November's Third Thursday = National Give Thanks for Racing Day!

--December 25th = International Auto Parts Gift Giving Day!

--January 1st = International First Day of Getting Ready to Autocross in 2017 Day!

Another seriously great idea from these two guys!

Doesn't that just make sense? I mean really, following the excitement of Talk Like A Pirate Day every September 19th, and with NASCAR, Formula 1, and Indy Car all winding down about that time of year, a few more holidays kicking in at the end of November makes for a great year long festival of automotive fun!

So help us out won't you? Write your US Congress and US Senate reps today and encourage them to get cracking on a bill to introduce these important, and much needed, holidays!

Why do we need more holidays?