Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lewis Hamilton: Four Time World Champion!

Helmet: Don't Leave Home Without It!

Congrats to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton for winning  his fourth world championship today in the F1 race in Mexico City. With two races still to go, he's locked it up again, and now stands tied for 3rd all time in championships. Michael Schumacher is still by far the leader with 7 titles, followed by the immortal Juan Manuel Fangio with five, and now we have Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Alain Prost all as 4 time champs.

Also good job to Max Verstappen of Red Bull for taking the race win today, not bad for a 20 year old, and certainly he's a future champion as well.

Our US based F1 team Haas managed to score some points with Kevin Magnussen in 8th, so they are now only 1 little point behind the factory Renault team for 7th overall. Good luck to Haas in moving up with more points in the Brazil and Abu Dhabi races!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

NMS Expands 90s Stable of Cheapness

There are unconfirmed reports from somewhere that rhymes with "South Carolina" that the infamous Team Coronautski/Lemons racing team has just acquired a 90s Ford Probe, with intentions of actually racing the vehicle in Rallycross. These spy photos (obtained from a pirate in a backstreet alley in Shanghai last night) seem to reveal a faded hunk of junk that doesn't run (since it's on a trailer), as well as a huge gash in the front windshield. Based on these few photos, we'd estimate that the purchase price seems to be approximately one handful of magic beans, obtained from a very large Giant living at the top of an enormous green plant. 

Our sources indicate that Ford intended the V6 five speed Probe to be the "new" Mustang when it was developed, but now many years later this is just an interesting little bit of blue oval trivia. This specific car seems to have what engineers refer to as "wheels", a "motor", and some sort of "interior", but for now we're going to have to wait for more information to confirm or deny that any of the Coronautski or NMS team are actually involved with this Craigslist find.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Driving North

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
OK, so this blog is about driving, so here's some driving for ya! Moving from Virginia Beach to Long Island (or, "Lon---GUYland") last week had the mighty FIAT crossing the cool Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, up the Eastern Shore of Virginia (flat, flat, farms), through some of Maryland, a bunch of Delaware WAY off the interstate just for fun on two lane roads, onto the Interstate and New Jersey Turnpike (yes, you still can't pump your own gas in NJ), and then past Newark airport, MetLife Stadium, over the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway, down over the Throgsneck Bridge (gotta look up that name some time), and out onto Long Island.
Looks like Maryland up ahead!

From having driven on toll roads, turnpikes, and bridges/tunnels with tolls over the years, the new EZ Pass stuck on the front windshield made the trip very simple as far as paying tolls goes, so if you are anywhere near a toll road I can vote thumbs up on the ol' EZ Pass, since it really makes things EZ. Sure, it still stinks to be paying to drive on a road, but whattyagonnadoaboutit?
Day 1 = 40MPG on the FIAT!

Hey, and thank goodness for travel apps and GPS too! Thanks to technology I can say that this was the easiest trip thru New York City I've ever done, and that's now a grand total of TWO! Some years ago I drove over Staten Island and Long Island, and then north to West Point, so I guess I'll recommend always taking the train, bus, or limo if you have a choice!

George Washington Bridge into NYC

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October Rallycross Report

Sunday the 1972 Datsun B210 was finally turning some serious laps at rallycross, and I even got to drive!
Dirtie Dirtsun, decked out with tons of painters tape.

The team replaced the destroyed radiator from last month and had the car ready to roll Sunday morning for SCR's October event.  I'm happy to report the car survived (mostly) all four drivers and their eight runs each.
We made the antenna more "arrow"-dynamic

I managed to wheel the little hatchback consistently faster than the rest of the team, but managed to pick up enough cones to drop to second fastest overall when all the penalties were tallied up. The car handled great and was a complete riot to drive.
Tearing it up on course.

Congrats to Matt for pulling down the overall fastest cumulative time in the car!  Also a massive thanks to Justin, Shellie, and Matt (Team Rising Dirtsun) and Greg who pitched in for getting the radiator replaced and out to the event.
A mess of painters tape, rust, and a car in there somewhere.

Three drivers in a Crown Victoria managed to beat us in the Modified Rear-wheel Drive class (MR).  It was hard to keep up with the V8 power of the big Ford boat. The event revealed the shocks on Dirtie are utterly dead and are up next on our replacement list to hopefully close that gap to the top of the field.
Matt almost jumps the car coming out of the one bad rut on course.

In other updates, I've picked up a really good deal on a used steering wheel and quick-disconnect setup for the Miata as part of the winter safety upgrade plan.  So far the hard top, harness bar, and steering wheel setup are on-hand.  In November I'm looking forward to a return to Discovery Parts in Atlanta to help Jason pick up a driving suit and I'll decide on seats and harnesses that fit best.
Sparco steering wheel, NRG quick release.

Monday, October 16, 2017

October Autocross at Pungo Report

Self Autocrossing Car Hands Free?

October 15th at PACE (the Pungo Autocross Center of Excellence), the NMS FIAT ran for the last time with the Tidewater Sports Car Club, and finished 1st in HS class, and 16th overall on PAX out of  42 drivers. Our honest and totally objective opinion is that the morning drivers (like us) were at a slight disadvantage to the 2nd run group, having to drive the green course in a very light drizzle that left the course slippery on the first few runs, so obviously if we'd run in the sunshine of the afternoon we would have been hundreds of seconds faster on the 38 second course! Nah, it was a blast to drive and slip around, with the NMS Abarth pretty much blowing two of the five runs by getting the car out of shape on a slight left-right maneuver. One thing always holds true, win-lose-or-draw, auto cross is a lot of fun!

1st RUN: 41.224 and off course or "Did Not Finish" for going too fast and sliding outside of a gate. The sliding was fun, so I just had to slow down  in that spot on the next attempt.

2nd RUN:  39.351, no missed gates and no cones knocked down, so a clean run. Still sliding around a bit but that actually was making the car rotate more easily in the big turning sweepers. Now to lower that time on three more runs!

3rd RUN: 41.320 Hey guess what? I still went too fast in the same spot as the first run, slid almost out side the gate and basically had to kill my time to stay on course. OK, once again, on the NEXT run I'll slow down and be careful there. Also, I'm going to hammer the last sweeper into the finishing straight instead of lifting off the gas, so that I can hit the finish even faster.

4th RUN: 38.692 +1 cone, each cone being a 2 second penalty, the official time for this run is 40.692. On the GOOD NEWS side, 38.6 is a good drop from run 2, but the BAD NEWS side is that the cone penalty wipes this run off the face of the earth. Coming out of the last sweeper before the finish, I knew the car was understeering and headed for some cones since I was staying on the gas, but sure enough I clipped at least one and probably both cones sitting on the last corner of the run! So close to my fastest of the day, but the cones tell the truth when you knock them down! One run to go, but I know where to slow down and avoid making these same two mistakes that are holding me back today.

5th RUN: 38.318  No penalties, stayed on course, and avoided the previous mistakes, plus dropped over a second from my previous clean run, so I felt good about this one. Fast enough to take HS over one other car on the day, and this run put me in 16th on the day of PAX time, right about on my average for the year at TSCC events, with best of the year up in the top 10,  and lowest at 21st for one day.

Full October results available on the TSCC page October 15, 2017
1 = 41.224+DNF2 = 39.3513 = 41.3204 = 38.692+15 = 38.318

Jason Lisner, Corvette Powered Fastest Time of the Day!

The TSCC has one more points event to be held in November before the overall championship is decided, but this is my last run for the year. NMS team managers predict the NMS FIAT will meet the pre-season goal of finishing in the top 15, and depending on how the November results turn out for the drivers from 1-11th, NMS could possibly end up as high as 12th when it's all said and done.

FIAT Abarth Scorpion Badge
For the NMS FIAT 500 Abarth, look for more auto crossing action in 2018 farther north. After competing for two years in South Carolina, and three years in Virginia, the NMS-North team is looking forward to more driving adventures in the future.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

An NMS Weekend of Firsts!

No, it's not our "first weekend", because we try very hard to ALWAYS have one of them at least once a week, 52 times a year, EVERY year! This weekend has a few firsts, as follows:

Brian will compete in a RallyCross on Sunday with the South Carolina Region of the Sports Car Club of America, driving the Datsun B210 (and some other letters and numbers, who comes up with these names!). After completing a few runs last month with a different driver, the radiator damage caused by the fan malfunction has been repaired, so we should have some fun results from Brian and the rest of the Dirtie Datsun Destroyers after tomorrow's event in South Carolina.

In the meantime, before tomorrow that is, Brian and the Dodge Coronet Lemons team are back under the hood and pulling the transmission to replace the failed clutch that hit during the Lemons race last week. Are weekends great or what?


Robert has wrapped up the rental house NMS-North HQ in VA Beach, and will run one more autocross event with the Tidewater Sports Car Club tomorrow. Our math-engineering-computer-analysis-team (ME-CAT, meow!) shows that with the October event and scoring some points, and then missing the season finale in November should leave the FIAT Abarth in at least 12th place overall for the season, a great improvement over last year's 20th place, and the 29th overall in 2015. If by some huge stroke of luck or paying off some drivers with huge sums of cash a few folks ahead of the FIAT manage to miss the last two events, NMS could slide up to 11th or 10th, but the odds against this (again as determined by some number crunching by the ME-CAT team) are exactly a gazillion to one. The NMS-North team just moved to Virginia Beach three years ago this month, so moving on to New York will be tough.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

NMS Supports October 10th as "Racer Day"

NMS: The Red Car Collection

We've introduced our share of new national holidays, such as "Give Thanks for Racing Day" on the 4th Thursday of November, and "Buy Your Buds Some Race Car Parts Day" on December 25th. Today we're announcing that we support the effort to make October 10th "Racer Day". The numerical designation for 10/10, or (10.10 if you're feeling European), or even 10-10, can be considered the same as a race car driver going all out, or "ten tenths." You really don't want to be going Ten Tenths in your everyday Toyota Camry on the way to the grocery store, because the car really isn't made to do that and all the other drivers will not know what to do if you wheel into the parking lot on two wheels. Everyday driving should probably be about Six Tenths, or maybe up to 70% of your maximum ability to use 100% of the car's ability. Unless you drive a Yugo, then you should probably be going all out all the time!

Our Favorite Track

Sure, there are plenty of other odd days that sound made up, like Asparagus Day, Asphalt Appreciation Day, or National Cookie Day, but we think that Racer Day 10-10 is something everyone can support. While it is close to Columbus Day, which should be replaced with Native American Day, it's still far enough away from Halloween and April Fool's Day (our favorite two days), to make the 365 day year just a little bit better! Also, it's just far enough after Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th, every year) to allow all the stores to re-stock from Piratey Stuff to Racer Stuff.

NMS Does Lemons

Whatever day you're celebrating today, make it a safe one!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Off Season Upgrades Begin

While NMS-North is prepping for a move, the Southern division is looking to stay put and make some improvements. First up, the facility improvements to handle the upcoming year include one new tool storage cabinet.  The garage has been overflowing with stuff in the last year, so it was time to make an investment and clean up the space.
There's even room for a whole sticker drawer now!

2018 will see the Miata get a few safety upgrades to keep continue participating in track days. Primarily the focus was going to be proper racing seats and five point harnesses to compliment my driving suit and HANS device, however this morning things took a quick turn.
Top and stand in great condition!

Late Friday night, a Miata hard top was posted on several Facebook groups for about 25% less than the normal going price.  I know these things disappear fast at any price, so first thing Saturday morning I was messaging the seller and suddenly found myself the first interested buyer and on my way to the south end of Charlotte, NC.
The Silverado swallows the top with ease on a very rainy day.

The seller was a great guy who was just trying to help is elderly dad sell his British Racing Green Miata that he had purchased new in 1993.  The car was in great shape and so was the hard top.  Lucky for me, he just wanted it gone and I made a really good deal on the top.
The two inch damaged spot.

He was even nice enough to throw in the original Mazda hard top stand too! They're a bit rare, so I'll decide if I want to keep it or sell it on and make the purchase an even better deal. The top only has one blemish where it was probably set down too hard on the stand but nothing structural or even very visible from a few feet away. Killer deal.

I'll keep saving up and later this winter we'll check back when I decide on seats and harnesses and install them. The top may get a coat of black paint, so stay tuned for that progress as well.

Friday, October 6, 2017

NMS-North Future Plans

2001 Ferrari at Auction, Michael Schumacher Not Included

At the NMS-North World Headquarters near Pungo Virginia, team spokesman and lead Italian car driver (he drives an Italian car, not that he is Italian, although he eats a lot of spaghetti and makes his own pasta, but since the car was built in Mexico, he likes tacos too) Bob Nixon announced that NMS-North would soon relocate to even farther north to New York. When asked if this move had anything to do with rooting for the Yankees in the playoffs, the Ohio born drivers said "no". When pressed for more information, he did hint that the NMS-North team would be looking into purchasing a new car for autocross.

What car might that be? Well, the new Miata is a nice car, and the new FIAT version of the Miata that is built in Japan is nice too, but rumors are that NMS-North is considering a shift to a German made car that rhymes with "Porsche Cayman." When asked if this rumor was true, Nixon stated that the other top choice was the Formula 1 Ferrari driven by Michael Schumacher in 2001, since it will be up for auction in New York in November. Ferrari Auction

One of the reporters pointed out that pre-auction estimates  RM-Sothebys Auction  are that this car, which won the Hungarian and Monaco Grand Prix races in 2001 and helped Ferrari win the title would go for $4,000,000, but Nixon stated "no comment." Buyers of Ferrari Formula 1 cars can choose to have the car maintained at Ferrari in Italy, and drive the cars on tracks throughout the world, with all prep work taken care of by Ferrari. NMS has indicated that if you have to ask  how much these types of things cost, then you really can't afford it, but it's nice to have a dream! Ferrari F1 Clienti

Will we see NMS autocrossing the Ferrari Formula 1 car next year? Will the FIAT Abarth autocross on Long Island? Will NMS really consider buying a German car to go with their other "WWII" losers club of autos from Japan and Italy? Will we ever answer any questions on the blog?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Closing Out September in South Carolina

September was a pretty busy month for NMS South.

The first Lemons race with Team Coronautski got lots of coverage and was just way too much fun. The team is still prepping for some exploratory surgery in two weeks to get a final diagnosis on the clutch situation.
Me on track in the Coronet, courtesy of NMS-North.

Two weekends ago, the Datsun B210 I picked up earlier this year for SCCA rallycross was finally able to make some runs during an event. The car was looking great on course until it's time was cut short by an epic failure of the radiator fan.
Mr. Dirtie Dirtsun, the B210 kicking up the dust at rallycross. 

Unfortunately a bolt had worked it's way through the tabs holding the radiator to the chassis and slowly, over several drivers, managed to bounce into the fan enough that the plastic fan blades managed to grind through the aluminum fins, creating a huge coolant leak. Luckily the team caught the issue quickly and we're only out a radiator. Hopefully next event I'll get behind the wheel.
Dirtie getting towed back to the trailer in shame.

The month finally closed out with an SCR-SCCA autocross at Darlington Raceway. Even after not being at an autocross since June when I was behind the wheel of a Pontiac GTO, I came back strong in the Miata (first time competing in it since February!), and took second in Pro class AND second overall!

It's a good thing October is going to slow down a little and give some time to relax and enjoy the weather finally cooling down to a tolerable level.

Monday, October 2, 2017

So How Much Does This Lemons Thing Really Cost?

Following Team Coronautski's first race, we've had a ton of people asking about Lemons and what it takes to actually get started.  It's just a $500 car and we're racing right?

The 24 Hours of Lemons is a pretty awesome opportunity to get on track and go wheel-to-wheel racing. They've made it way more affordable than even the cheapest other major organization. Sure Lemons is more for fun than the other more serious competition of SCCA or NASA club racing, but for most of us, that's what we're looking for anyway. Here's what it takes to get going...
The "free" car that only took 9 months to build!

1. Find a team = FREE! We're off to a good start! Grab a few buddies, 4-6 total and decide to be a team. You'll need at least 4 and up to 6 drivers to actually register.  Not only that, you may want to some help covering the 14ish total hours per weekend the car will need to be racing on track.
One free team, check!

2. Find a car = "$500". What's with the quotation marks? The car needs to be valued at $500, excluding all safety equipment.  More on that in item #3. Some people buy a more expensive car and document how they sold enough interior parts and junk to bring the total cost of the car down to $500. Some people find a junker on Craigslist for $500 or less. The key is you need to buy and document some piece of crap with 4 wheels and body panels and convince the judges it's only worth $500. Another solution is to buy a car that's already run in Lemons online (eBay, Craigslist, the Lemons website). Expect to ad to read something like "$6,000 Roll Cage and Safety Gear, car included for free".

One free car, check!
3. Make it safe! = $$$$. This is where the real "hidden" expenses come in. You will need to remove all the interior parts and seats, headliner, carpets, etc (hey, that should be free at least!). Next you need to fabricate or have a professional fabricate a roll cage that meets Lemons safety requirements, install a fire extinguisher or full suppression system, add a proper racing seat, racing harnesses, wire in a master kill-switch to cut all electrical power in an emergency, and optionally add window and side nets.  You can scrounge around and pick up some used equipment online and maybe get it all done for about $4,000-5,000.  Going all new might run a few thousand more depending on what you choose.
Luke demos the not free safety gear, check!

4. Consumable Costs = $2000. Only three dollar signs, must be a little cheaper than safety equipment! For the Coronet we needed two sets of beefy brake pads up front at $250 per set, let's just say another $140 in rotors to go with those pads, two full sets of tires at roughly $1000 total, and then all that v8 glory cost us about 150 gallons of gas for another $360.
The last team didn't invest in proper brake pads and they ended up like this when we got the car.

5. Personal Safety Gear = $1000. Prices here could be all over the place, but around $1000 seems like a safe estimate between driver suit, helmet, HANS device, gloves, shoes, any nomex(fireproof) underwear, nomex socks, and nomex balaclava. Throw a few more bucks into the mix if you want to get fancy and have a helmet headset and radio system for the team.

The team picks out shoes and other gear.
6. Registration Fees = $360. You can expect to pay about $600 per car (divided among however many on your team), plus $175 per driver. On top of that, you need to pay $60 per driver each year for an annual membership/license. If you camp at the track, you're team might factor in another $50.
Want to be a millionaire racing? Start out as a billionaire.

On top of those six items, you get to factor in travel to the track, car transportation to the track, food for the weekend, and if you don't already have a transponder you'll need to rent one for the weekend as well. Oh, and don't forget to figure out common parts that will fail or break and bring some spares to the track with you!
We keep it cheap and camp at the track and cook out as a team.

By this point you should be pretty much broke and considering a second mortgage just to go have fun, but oh man is it fun! Have more questions about how to get going on track? Drop a comment or shoot me an email: nixonbt at gmail dot com.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Brian's LeMons Recap

The Coronet chases down cars on track. 

After a solid nine months of working on the Coronet, we had an awesome time at CMP for our first road race ever. The speeds and exotic locations of Formula One, but the feeling of competing in-person was way more exciting and satisfying than anything you can go watch. Finally putting together all the skills I've been building for the last 4 years into one jam-packed weekend made the long hours and financial investment worth it. I'm already trying to get as many people as I can to get out and race in Lemons with us next year. (So should you!)
Staging before the parade to downtown Camden before the race.

The best part of the weekend was being able to share it with the most supportive friends and family on the planet. Having everyone come out to watch, drop off donuts, lend a hand when the car broke, or just cheer us on really made the weekend fun. I know everyone on the team appreciated all the support.
Tucking the Coronet in Friday night before the race weekend.

The Coronet ended up 22nd out of 67 for a top third finish. We ran all day Saturday with a clogged fuel filter and failing fuel pump, so conservatively we lost about ten seconds per lap all day. To add to that, our clutch disc failed Sunday afternoon with 90 minutes left in the race, dropping us down 9 spots from 13th overall. We're still very proud of our team effort with 4 out of 5 drivers complete novices to wheel to wheel racing in a 45 year old family sedan. 
Getting ready to race with tons of friends. (Note: Not all fiends and family pictured)

Team Coronautski is determined to make it out to the Lemons race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama in February. We've already got a long list of improvements and a new clutch to order. Our goal is a B-Class win and top 10 overall. After that, we'll keep looking for other excuses to bring the Coronet out and have more fun and competition to see how far we can take it.
Our race in a nutshell: Even after running off course and breaking the suspension, Luke returns all smiles. Even a broken racecar is fun.

Need a New Car?

Your Choice of Colours at McLaren!
The NMS team is made up of car fans, and while there is nothing like a new car, there are just TONS of used cars out there in the world, and they tend to be way cheaper than all the new cars. Most of us are familiar with the big three from Detroit of Ford, Chevrolet, and Chrysler (now part of FIAT), as well as all those other makes from Germany (Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, VW, etc), England (Lotus, McLaren, Bentley, Rolls Royce, etc), and other countries.

The McLaren Side of Long Island Sportscars
NMS North was recently visiting Long Island (which is REALLY long, over 100 miles, that place is appropriately named!) and without even trying, we managed to drive right by dealers from Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, and Bentley. Yes, we love being around cars that cost more than our house! To top all of those brands, our hotel was right next to Long Island Sports Cars, which is made of two more automobile brands, both of which are built in Great Britain. With Aston Martin and McLaren sales available in the same building, I'm thinking this is a nice part of town!

Too Many to Park Inside: Buy One Today!

Maybe there is a very beat up, rusted, hulk of an old Aston Martin out there that we could afford, but I'm afraid the reality is that the fantasy of walking into this place and buying a new car is not going to happen anytime soon. It would be a blast to win the lottery and go buy a new McLaren, mostly because you could drive over to Little Caesar's and get your 5 dollar pizza home REALLY FAST!
Bottom line, it was fun to even see these cars, and much more interesting than the rental car Hyundai Elantra we were driving. Nothing wrong with the Hyundai either.