Tuesday, February 27, 2018

NMS North Update

500 Madness Springs

The team out in the garage at NMS North has been VERY BUSY this week with TWO new arrivals that will bump the mighty FIAT into the Street Touring Hatchback class for SCCA autocross later this year.

First off, nothing beats the smell of fresh tires in the morning, and we're happy to announce that for the third year in a row we'll be riding on the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tires. Just in case you forgot, tires are those round black things that connects the car to the road, so they're kind of important! After squeezing two years of autocross out of our rear tires, we're looking forward to having new tires all the way around the car this year. Hopefully that will easily cover an autocross once a month or so, plus a HPDE weekend somewhere in the NASA Northeast Region, like Lime Rock up in Connecticut. Thanks to Discount Tires Direct for the great service on ordering these tires, complete with FREE SHIPPING!  Discount Tire Direct

Smell Like Tires in Here!

Secondly, the garage now has four new springs for the suspension, so we'll be lowering the car an inch or so, which should result in not only a lower center of gravity, but hopefully less frequent going up on two wheels on sharp autocross corners. Thanks to 500 Madness for the quick response to our order on their in-house branded springs at a discount! 500 Madness

Combined with the Koni shocks that we won direct from Koni (Thanks Kyle Ray-Smith), our next order of business will be to get the tires, springs, and shocks all installed. After that, we plan to get some miles on those shiny new tires, see how the new suspension settles in, and try out some of the different settings on the adjustable Konis. Along with driving in a new-to-us region this year, that adds up a LOT of variables before we have any idea on how we'll perform this year. Let's just summarize as saying we're going out in 2018 to drive in some new places, meet some new faces, and just have fun and not worry about where we finish at the end of the year. Sounds like fun!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Formula 1 Fires Up Monday

1st Place! (in a video game anyway)

Starting Monday February 26th, the Formula 1 teams will all be testing at the Circuit de Barcelona, so let's just go ahead and celebrate the start of the 2018 season! Heck, the MLB baseball teams are already playing Spring Training games, NASCAR has started, so why not F1 too!

The past week or so has given us the unveiling of 9 of the 10 team's cars, so we'll also get our first look at the Force India car on Monday too. Then for four days the teams have time to test their cars on track, swap out drivers and various parts to get a good baseline on their newly designed cars for this year. Guess what happens after the four days of testing? Well, there will be another four days of testing later in March too, and then the first race on March 25th

Here's a quick run-down of what we hope to find out from each of the teams in pre-season testing.

--The big question is who will win, which means "will Mercedes win for a 5th year in a row, or will we finally get someone else to win!" If Mercedes wins, it would likely be 4 time champ Lewis Hamilton, but just maybe Valtteri Bottas can get ahead of his team mate. 

--If Mercedes doesn't win, can Ferrari take their place, and improve on last year's close-but-no-cigar car that was competitive as long as the drivers weren't crashing. Hey why not, they have their own four time champ in Sebastian Vettel, as well as one time champ Kimi Raikkonen. Both these guys can do it, but they have to have a car that's on pace with Mercedes. I'm rooting for Ferrari, just in case there is any doubt!

--Could the Renault engines get a bit faster? If so, that will put Red Bull up with the top two teams, and might even let the Renault factory team and/or McLaren fight at the front of the pack. Hmmm, this would be the best thing since sliced bread, and possibly give us 5 teams fairly even and just maybe lots of great racing. That sounds more fun than the last 4 years of mostly Mercedes winning easily!

--Last year's 4th place team Force India has been on a roll for the last two years, but can they close the gap to be in the fight for race wins? I think they have the drivers with the experienced Checo Perez and no-longer-a-rookie Esteban Ocon. Like the Ferrari guys, these gentlemen need to avoid hitting each other (like last year). Not hitting your team mate is rule #1, so if they do that then we could make it the top 6 teams in the fight.

--Will the youngest pair of drivers give Williams better results? This is one of the longest racing teams in F1, but they seem to have fallen into the middle of the pack the last few years. The big news for 2018 is the retirement of veteran Felipe Massa and the rookie season of Sergei Sirotkin. Paired with 2nd year driver Lance Stroll, we might see Williams fall even farther in the standings, but on the positive side they will still have Mercedes power driving the wheels. Could go either way this year, but I'd have to guess that Williams drops a few places from last year's 5th. 

--The Renault factory team will likely be improved this year, thanks to the team being more established and that they've been busy expanding their work force and facilities. With drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, they're likely to get the best out of the Renault engine, so if the chassis and aerodynamics and reliability are there, Renault could score a surprise podium finish this year. 

Easy to be the world champion on a computer game!

--Is there any way that the Toro Rosso team can avoid last place? This question has to be asked because the team will be switching to Honda power this year, and after three terrible campaigns powering McLaren, hopes for a reliable Honda engine are dim at best. While every other team seems to have a good reason to be positive, the Honda engines seems to be a dark cloud over the future of Toro Rosso. 

--Can the US based Haas team improve on 8th place in both of their first two seasons? Given all the other possible 2018 potential up and down the grid, this is going to be tough! While they've scored way above what most people thought possible for a brand new American team, now that they're heading into season three, I think the battle gets even tougher. With Grosjean and Magnussen returning, the drivers have a good shot at moving up IF the team can provide better reliability on the mechanical side. At a minimum, they need to score more points that in 2017. 

--Last year's 9th place (sounds  better than next-to-last) McLaren team is another big question mark. They have tons of room to improve on the upside, a new Renault engine deal, and they return both drivers, two time driver champ Fernando Alonso and youngster Stoffel Vandoorne, so like the Renault team, I think that McLaren just might be fighting for podiums this year. That would be a great thing to see, and as an Alonso fan, I'd be more than happy to see him fighting at the front of the pack instead of retiring with engine issues like the last three years!

--Swiss based Sauber should have a HUGE improvement this year, since they will be powered by the latest Ferrari engines, which has to give them a big boost. Last year they were using year old Ferrari power, so the real question is, will Sauber's improvement move them out of LAST place, or will the other teams improve an equal amount and keep Sauber down? Another thing that may not make them faster, but make them cooler, is the new sponsorship from Alfa Romeo, so we'll be cheering for the Alfa Romeo Sauber team no matter what!

Monday, February 19, 2018

2018 Tune Up

This weekend the weather warmed up and with Presidents Day off of work, it was time to knock out  a bunch more car projects. Up first, the truck had a pretty bad shake from the steering rack as well as some leaks. With just a few bolts and a couple power steering hydraulic lines, the old rack came out and the new one went on.
New steering rack up top, old down below.
Fresh power steering fluid was flushed through and it all bolted together. When installing the new rack I realized the outer tie rod ends had ripped boots and had oozed grease everywhere, so a quick trip to the parts store solved that issue to replace those. 
The O-rings on each power steering line met the end of their life and were spewing gunk all over the old one.
While the truck was in the garage I wrapped up an oil change and replaced what looked like factory original spark plugs and wires. That leaves only the transmission filter and differential fluid flush to complete the 100k mile service. At 114k miles I'm only a little behind. In the mean time the truck is getting new tires and a fresh alignment to keep it towing and hauling racecar parts for a few more years.
7 of 8 spark plug wires came free easily, but one was determined to no go quietly.
With the truck done, the Miata came in to replace the factory cast iron and restrictive exhaust manifold with a new high flowing Racing Beat 4-1 header. In addition to looking cool, it should free up a little more power and shed a few pounds of weight.
New header at the top, all one piece.  Old exhaust below.  The cast iron half that mounts to the motor easily weighs as much as the whole new one.
Next Sunday I'll be wheeling a Corvette with SCR-SCCA in Myrtle Beach. The following week the Miata will be back on track with NASA at Road Atlanta!
New and shiny!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Track Night in America

Brian at Carolina Motorsports Park

OK, it might be a BIT difficult to get on track and be a NASCAR driver (hey, they're racing this weekend!), we'll admit that. However, there is one program that let's you get on a race track in your car just about anywhere across the USA and it's very simple. The Sports Car Club of America is again sponsoring what they call Track Night in America in an effort to make it as easy as possible to go DRIVE your CAR on a TRACK! As you can tell from the title, this takes place in a land called AMERICA, kind of late in the afternoon!
While it's not free, and you won't get paid a huge salary (since you do have to pay a little bit of $$), this is still just about the cheapest and easiest way we know to do some driving on track. Brian has done one of these events, and says he had a blast!
Head over to their website for more information about SCCA Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack    TRACK NIGHT and check it out for all the details. 
Here's a list of locations, and dates, where you can get out there: 
Atlanta Motorsports Park; Dawsonville, GAApril 9, May 8, June 7, July 12, August 22, September 19
Auto Club Speedway; Fontana, CAFebruary 24, June 16, August 25
Blackhawk Farms; South Beloit, ILMay 3, June 19, July 24, August 23
Buttonwillow Raceway Park; Buttonwillow, CAApril 26
Carolina Motorsports Park; Kershaw, SCAugust 21, September 18
Charlotte Motor Speedway; Concord, NCApril 12, May 2, June 8, July 11
Dakota County Technical College Driver Training Facility; Rosemount, MNMay 15, June 6, July 10, August 3
Dominion Raceway; Woodford, VAApril 19, May 17, June 21, July 26
GingerMan Raceway; South Haven, MIMay 18, June 20, July 25, August 22
Harris Hill Raceway; San Marcos, TXApril 11, May 9, June 6, September 19
Heartland Motorsports Park; Topeka, KSApril 20, May 31, June 28, July 19, August 16, September 20, October 11
High Plains Raceway; Deer Trail, COJune 6, July 11, August 15, September 12
La Junta Raceway; La Junta, COMay 4
Lime Rock Park; Lakeville, CTMay 24, June 14
Memphis International Raceway; Millington, TNMarch 27, April 24, May 22, June 26
MotorSport Ranch; Cresson, TXApril 10, May 8, June 5, September 18
New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Loudon, NHMay 25, August 3
New Jersey Motorsports Park; Millville, NJApril 25, May 22, June 20, July 19, August 14, September 11
NOLA Motorsports Park; Avondale, LAApril 12, May 10, June 12, September 20
Pacific Raceways; Kent, WAMay 25, June 13
Palm Beach International Raceway; Jupiter, FLFebruary 13, March 6, April 10, May 8, June 5, Sept 18, Oct 9, Nov 6, Dec 4
Palmer Motorsports Park; Palmer, MAMay 3, June 5, June 28, July 17, August 9, September 6
Pittsburgh International Race Complex; Wampum, PAApril 26, May 23, June 19, July 10, August 2, September 12
Pocono Raceway; Long Pond, PAApril 18, May 10, June 14, July 12, August 28, September 17
Portland International Raceway; Portland, ORApril 13, May 18, June 8, August 10
Ridge Motorsports Park; Shelton, WAApril 12, May 16, June 7, July 24, August 8, September 13
Road Atlanta; Braselton, GAApril 25
Roebling Road Raceway; Bloomingdale, GAApril 24, May 16
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park; Thompson, CTApril 24, May 15, June 19, July 5, July 24, August 14, September 18, October 4
Thunderhill Raceway Park; Willows, CAApril 19, May 24, June 14, July 12, August 16, September 13
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park; Chandler, AZMarch (TBD), April 20, May 11
Willow Springs Int'l Raceway; Rosamond, CAMarch (TBD), April 27

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NMS-North Brings HUGE Upgrades to 2018!

Without any further ado, here's the big upgrade for 2018 on the NMS-North FIAT Abarth:

New Sticker

Yes, a new sticker! The city of Great Neck NY has a stop on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and as a resident, I am now the proud owner of a RESIDENT sticker that enables me to park at the LIRR commuter parking lot! Of course I don't commute by train, but if I did, then I could park there! In reality, it lets me park at the train station for the occasional trip into Manhattan. Regardless of the purpose of any sticker on your car, remember that it adds at least 5 horsepower per sticker!

For the real updates to 2018, my list of "stuff to do" still includes:
-spark plug change
-new rear window wiper blade (somehow damaged in the last snowstorm, our  hint is to NOT smash    into your wiper blades with your ice scraper)
-install Koni shocks
-install lowering springs
-somehow improve the loose nut behind the wheel
-upgrade to premium fuel for autocross events
-new autocross tires for all 4 wheels, likely to again be the Bridgestone 71R

Friday, February 9, 2018

NMS-South Announces More Cylinders for 2018 Autocross

Early morning for the Corvette at Virginia International Raceway.
NMS-South is announcing a new partnership for the 2018 SCR-SCCA autocross season with Luke O'Hara and the #22 Corvette C5Z06!  On the heels of their second 24 Hours of Lemons race, the driving pair has decided to take the fight to Pro class with the now Super Street Prepared car. Look out for Luke (#22 PSSP) and Brian (#122 PSSP) at the upcoming season opener in Myrtle Beach on February 25th.
Brian, Luke, and Jason at the 24 Hours of Lemons race.  We now suspect there was collaboration beyond road racing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Coronet Goes Racing Again

This past weekend I headed down to Barber Motorsports Park, just outside of Birmingham, Alabama to race with Team Coronautski in our second 24 Hours of Lemons Race.  It was epic! Strap in for a ride.
The 17 turns of Barber Motorsports Park.

Friday we arrived early in the afternoon to check in, go through tech inspection and get our paddock spot set up for the weekend.  Lots of teams were already there making practice laps, but with our practice session a few months back, our team was confident in the car and our driving and decided to forego the Friday testing.
Team Coronautski waits in line for tech inspection.

We had a few very minor updates to make, but otherwise passed with ease.  Somehow, we were bumped down from B to C class with zero penalty laps! There was nothing stopping a Coronet victory in C class! We knew we had pace to run near the top of the entire field, so we were all extremely excited for the race Friday afternoon.
Jason gets his driver gear inspected by Lemons founder, Jay.

From tech we took advantage of a team that brought their mobile dyno to find out exactly how much power that ancient cast iron motor was still making. The 318 cubic inch motor is putting down 184 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque.  Not surprisingly, the big heavy V8 isn't making the horsepower needed to keep up with the front-runner cars, but still has enough torque to surprise most of the field. The biggest thing we learned was that most of the power falls off dramatically after 4,500 rpm, which was crucial in understanding when to shift to maximize our power output.
John keeps an eye as Kyle gets ready to run the car on the dyno.

Saturday morning we were at the track bright and early, got the car fired up and Kyle strapped in. Unlike our first race, the car was in grid and then out on track near the front of the field.  Like clockwork, we pitted Kyle in just as planned after an hour and forty five minutes on track from second place in C class.  I was suited up and ready to hop in to take my turn behind the wheel.
Kyle gets ready to drive Saturday morning.

I hit some heavy traffic on track right away.  Just seconds into the race it was clear this would be a much bigger challenge than our last race with 91 cars competing on the 2.27 mile track. After about 15 minutes I had finally gotten to a comfortable pace and was starting to line up passes and move through the field.  By an hour into the stint, I had the car up into first in C class!  Things finally started to flow and I was having a blast.  Barber is a fun, flowing track with lots more elevation changes than most tracks I've driven.
I check my mirror as I pull out into pit lane.

Unfortunately, about twenty minutes left in my stint, I lined up and committed to a pass into the downhill left-hand turn one at the end of the front straight. I was so focused on getting the 17 foot purple boat around the other car safely, I failed to notice a waiving yellow flag just before I made the pass.  Rookie mistake. Yellow flags signal an incident or some situation ahead that needs your attention.  No passing is allowed once past the station waiving or displaying the yellow flag.  Sure enough, later down the track I was shown the black flag and I had to make my way into the pits to serve the penalty. 
Kyle swaps out the worn front tires right after my black flag.

Luckily, it was my first and only mistake and after a few minutes of safety lectures by the supreme Lemons judges, I was released back to race.  Knowing the tires were worn-down and I was almost done with my scheduled stop, I opted to get the car back to paddock to make the tire swap and get Jason in the car.
Jason makes a pass coming out of turn 6.

Jason took off with fresh front tires and just kept going faster each lap.  Unfortunately he also got hit with a black flag for going four wheels off of the racing surface.  Again, a minor infraction and after a talking-to, he got back out on course.  Just as we were making track position up again, the car started getting hot.  Really hot.  After running at 160 degrees all morning, Jason radioed in reports of 250 degrees. 
Winning strategy.  Brian, Luke, and Jason plan their turn on re-fueling the car.

Pulling the car into paddock, we carefully filled up the radiator with almost three gallons of water and got Jason back out when the temperatures almost immediately plummeted back to normal.  We assumed the radiator cap might have failed and we knew we'd have to keep topping off the radiator to keep it on track.  It ran long enough to get to our final fuel stop of the day and get John into the car.  The new fuel jug modifications were doing the trick and we were turning some of the quickest stops down pit lane. Soon temps were rising again and by 3pm it was clear we needed to park the car and diagnose something serious.
We still have fun.  I made sure everyone knew they were HELLASWEET!

Once cool, we started tearing into the engine.  A spark plug hole full of water was the first clear sign we would need to replace a head gasket or pack it up for the weekend. We continued to disassemble the motor and found a variety pack of failure.  Spark plug wires were half-melted, the passenger side head gasket had failed in two locations, several push rods were bent, and one piston was significantly cracked.
The last of our water steams out of the radiator for the second time, which was time to park it.

By some stroke of luck, Landon had headed home in Georgia to take care of some family stuff and was headed back to the track, right near Summit Racing Equipment's huge store in Atlanta just after we diagnosed the issues.  He was able to pick up head gaskets, push rods, spark plugs, and a few other essentials for us and got back around 7pm.  By that time we had the top half of the motor laid out on the ground and were ready to start re-assembly.
The guys busy at work fixing the engine.

The team swarmed the car, cleaning up the motor and then piecing it all back together. Several other teams came by and offered help and even some free beer! Lemons is pretty cool since everyone is really there to just have fun, so it was nice to have a stream of constant encouragement while we wrenched away.  At 11:30 we fired up the car, confirmed it was back to normal and then did a quick oil change just before the rain hit.
The other half of the team cleans up the cylinder heads with the timing and scoring tower in the distance.

Sunday morning we gathered again, fired up the car, slapped on our second set of fresh tires on the front of the car and strapped Luke in.  The track was wet from rain all night and there was a very slight mist/drizzle all morning, but we knew Luke was up to the task.  The rest of the team made our way to the second floor of the mostly empty observation tower to watch the start of the race.  Not a minute later, up the stairs walked racing legend, SCCA Hall of Famer, and fellow Lemons competitor, Randy Pobst!  I knew he was just another car guy there to hang out and drive, so I said, "Hey, Randy! How's it goin? What are you driving this weekend?", and sure enough, he came over, shook hands and we hung out and chatted for about thirty minutes and swapped Lemons car stories.  Super cool!
John, Jason, James, Phillip, Randy Freakin' Pobst, Brian, Kyle (Sorry Luke and Landon! Thanks for keeping the car running!)

Luke worked through the field and moved up several spots during his two hour stint, getting us to the hour-long required lunch break without needing a fuel stop.  Amazingly, the engine seemed to be holding up and temperatures were back to normal!  Did I mention we couldn't find a replacement piston and were running the car with a cracked piston and still passing people?

The Coronet is on grid early, just past the Porsche Driving School's fleet that was parked for the weekend.
The hour break wrapped up and we had the Coronet, armed with our fastest driver, Landon (who holds a track record in his Camaro racecar with NASA) ready to keep our race alive.  The car made several laps before some of our competitors made it out on track and he kept ramping up the pace and eventually set our fastest lap as the track dried out.  The car was now up to 5th in class.
No engines during quiet hours at lunch time Sunday, so everyone chips in to get to grid.  The extra effort picked us up at least 2 laps on our class competitors.

The team put together a lightning-quick pit stop and got John back in the car since his Saturday stint was cut short.  John moved the car up the field even further and made the pass into 4th place!  With about 90 minutes left in the race our car was running and out-pacing everyone else in class.  Kyle was locked and loaded to close out the race. 
The Coronet pitted after the yellow car in pit lane and got back on track quicker!

With fifteen minutes to go, the third place car was knocked out of the race with a mechanical failure but it was just too late to pass for position.  With nearly worn-out tires, temperatures starting to rise again and the oil pressure dropping on left hand corners, Kyle stuck it out and for the first time in our team's history, brought the car across the finish line at the checker flag!
I make my way through turn 6, opening up the inside line for the quicker Porsche just behind, keeping both cars moving quickly through the corner.

In the end we didn't win any awards, but made an impressive recovery to finish 4th in class.  It was incredibly disappointing to drop to fourth from first, but I think we all felt overwhelmingly accomplished to have finished the race and everyone got a shot behind the wheel.  We proved that our transmission and cooling system improvements we made since our last race were exactly what were needed.  We also confirmed that we have six very fast drivers.  The lap time differences between us were generally only a couple seconds apart and everyone was moving the car up in the standings.
Final shot of the day of the timing tower showing the #155 car in 43rd spot overall.  Top half!

Huge thanks has to go to Alec for taking some amazing photos!  James and Phillip also gave up their weekend to man the radio and wrench on the car, which made all the difference in us being able to run our race and keep everyone coordinated.  We've got a crazy-talented team and I'm extremely glad to be a part of Team Coronautski.  Thank you again to everyone else that has been supporting the team and following along our progress!
James looking like a total bad ass during his time on the radio.

Phillip was also totally in the zone while helping with crew chief duties. 

We've got plans to re-build the engine and get the car out for one more race this year.  We are confident in every other aspect of the car and are determined to take a C class win.  More will come from Team Coronautski!
Fourth Place! Hellasweet!

Philadelphia Auto Show

Outside the convention center, waiting for the Lombardi trophy!
Congrats to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles! NMS headed down to Philly on the day before the big game, checked out the car show, saw some sights, visited some family, and made it home to NY in time to watch the game on TV. Overall a pretty good weekend, including the drive thru NYC and down the Jersey Turnpike. Needless to say, the traffic on a Saturday morning was way better than the traffic on Long Island on Sunday night!

The car show had a big crowd on Saturday afternoon, but you could still see everything if you were patient. Almost all the exhibits were in one room, but the Mercedes and Lexus vehicles were in a different room, and we didn't go over there to check them out on this visit. In addition to new cars, there were some clubs with older cars, an area for car related vendors, and the Jeep folks had a big indoor driving course to sample their off-roading on some obstacles. The vendor area was interesting mostly to see that a new version of Skip Barber Racing Schools is now open, and the guy I talked to there said they were mostly based out of New Jersey, with Mustangs as their race cars for students.

The most popular parts of the show seemed to be the roped off exotic and high end luxury vehicles from Bentley, Rolls, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren, and etc. These cars were not available for touching or sitting in, but man the ropes around them were jammed with folks taking pictures and talking about the expensive goodies. To their credit, the Jaguar and Porsche folks had their cars out on the floor not roped off, but then again they were all locked up so you couldn't sit in them either. Even Alfa Romeo had their Giulia and Stelvio roped off, so I think they missed a great opportunity for potential customers to even sit in one of their new models. Oh well, I guess I'm not in charge of making those decisions!

Here's some highlights from the car show:

VW Atlas, it's a BIG SUV!

Atlas starts at $30,750

Toyota makes a lot of cars, but the two tone paint didn't work for me.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV, but we couldn't get into it. 

The coolest auto badge still today!
In addition to new cars, some stars, like Tow Mater!

Vin Diesel's XXX car.

Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine. 

Knight Rider KITT. David Hasselhoff not included. 
News to us, the Skip Barber Racing School is back in business, new owners, now with Mustangs

You don't see an Allard every day!
Bugatti Chiron

I NEED to go 270mph!

Very Purple Jeep!
Obligatory SPOILER ALERT photo of the day.

This Chevy Spark got my vote for worst color of the day

And that color is known as "Sorbet"
Chevy Camaro

This monster is the Ford Expedition Max, sticker about $75,000

Ford Mustang Bullitt
Nissan had their Star Wars Rogue, Storm Trooper in background

I didn't see a sticker on this one!
McLaren, huge crowds looking at them, but we couldn't sit in them

Audi A9 Spider, V10 powered! ($177,100)


Nice Porsche display
Ferrari 488

Mazda talks about their brand

Julie checks out a Mazda
Jaguar display area, they make SUVs now too

Lamborghini in green or yellow