Wednesday, February 28, 2024

F1 Fantasy League: Let's Go!

Ferrari F1 car I spotted at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia a while back.
Will Ferrari improve on their team 3rd place last year? 

The F1 season starts this weekend, so right about NOW would be a good time to join our FREE NMS F1 Fantasy League! Here's a couple of easy steps on how you can create up to 3 teams of your own, pick 5 drivers and 2 constructors for each Fantasy Team, and then enter our NMS-RACING LEAGUE too! Just like Fantasy Football or Fantasy any other sport, you can tweak your drivers and constructor teams for every race!

2-Then you'll have to register (for free)

3-You can pick 1, 2, or 3 teams to build, each with 5 drivers and 2 teams, wisely spending your 100 Million Dollar Budget. Hey, we spare non expense at NMS!

4-Use this code to enter your team(s) in the NMS-RACING LEAGUE: C5AXY5VDP08

5-Then for each race week you can tweak your drivers and constructors. 

6-Good luck!

7-Did I mention it's FREE?!?!

Note that the first two races are SATURDAY events, with qualifying on Fridays. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

February Autocross Report

One Internet saying is "pictures or it didn't happen" so here's a picture at ZMAX.

After a few months off in the cold winter of the Carolinas (How cold was it? Glad you asked! There wasn't any snow, but I still had to scrape frost off my truck a couple of times! Talk about ROUGH!) we finally got back to autocross. Kicking it off with the Central Carolina Region of the Sports Car Club of America, the #77 NMS Cayman took on over 150 competitors up at Zmax Dragway. There were four other drivers in my class (B Street), so let's see how the Cayman did against a Supra GR, a BMW M2, and two drivers with an Aston Martin! Here's my only clean lap, just a hair under 55 seconds:

                                      My best lap on YouTube

Want to autocross a 50's Triumph? BRING IT!

Basically, I didn't drive great, and took 4th out of the 5 drivers. I could complain that they all had more horsepower in their newer cars than my 2009 with 265 horsepower, but it's mostly all about the driver. On two runs I hit cones, and another run I missed a gate, so there was no way to be competitive making mistakes like that. Only my final run was clean, and it was my best time of the day. Better luck next time. 
Want to autocross an Aston Martin? BRING IT!

Out of 203, yes, TWO HUNDRED AND THREE drivers on the day, I was well down in the pack, with my best in the PAX modified time that takes into account what class you are in. There I was 108th, so close to midway. On the positive note, that put me ahead of 95 competitors. Negative wise, 107 people did better than me. That's life in a nutshell, you can look at it either way, so I'll throw in that another 320,000,000 or so Americans did NOT show up and drive, so I was faster than all of them too! Hey, sometimes you have to really look hard for that silver lining or pony!

There were lots of little Miatas, and one with a BIG WING...SPOILER ALERT!

Want to autocross some Classic American Muscle (CAM class)? BRING IT!

One of two VW Scirocco's! 

Want to autocross a truck? As long as it meets the rules and won't roll-over, BRING IT!

This kart was the Fastest Time of the DAY (FTD) by over 2 seconds over the next car...

2nd fastest on the day, Porsche GT3. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

F1 and Autocross Kickoff, Plus Drive to Survive Returns!

Brian at Daytona

We just got NASCAR up and running at Daytona on Monday thanks to a Sunday rain-out, and the racing continues this week with F1 pre-season practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Then on Saturday I'll be in my first autocross of 2024. That's all the good news, but unfortunately with the time zone differences, the F1 practices run from about 2AM to 11AM, and if you want to watch live, you still need the F1 TV app. Oh well, the main thing is that racing season is back!

Julie and Robert at the 2019 US Grand Prix in Austin

Another highlight at NMS, is the new season 6 of Drive to Survive starts streaming on Netflix this Friday! This show will relive the 2023 F1 season, and it manages to take a look behind the scenes with each episode focusing on one team, one driver, or one aspect of F1. This series has been credited with growing the fan base around the world and bringing lots of new fans to the sport. While some older F1 fans think they invent controversy just to make more drama, I think they keep things pretty much focused on so many topics that it's OK and lots of fun to watch and learn more about the sport. Here's the TRAILER for Drive to Survive Season 6: NETFLIX TRAILER

Our view at the start of the F1 race in Miami, 2023.

Also, we've got a short time to the first F1 weekend, with the first real race on March 2nd. Drivers, start your engines!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Another Weekend at the Track! Show Me the Data!

Legends racecar.

Last weekend we headed out to Carolina Motorsports Park for two fun-filled days on track with the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). For the first time in the NMS-North car, we fired up a shiny brand new AIM Solo 2 data logger and boy did we do some logging! Yes, I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK, I sleep all night and I work all day! If that sentence doesn't ring any bells, you need to find the Monty Python Lumberjack song on YouTube quick!


Har de har har! Seriously, the data logger can help show me where I can go faster. As you drive each lap, it also shows you lights so that you know if you are faster or slower than your best lap so far. Kind of groovy technology!

This is a Radical brand of racecar. These things are mighty fast on track!


Each of the two days we got in four 20-minute sessions with other drivers, not racing or going for time, just doing laps and working on our own driving skills. This kind of driving is known as High Performance Driver Education, because it's broken up into beginners that have a coach in the car and progresses to drivers with more experience that can drive solo. The other progressive part is that as you go through their four levels, each level has less restrictions on how you can pass slower cars. Beginners can only pass on long straights, and the top-level folks can pass anywhere on track. This is a GREAT way to keep things safer on track and make sure that all drivers are engaged and aware of the OTHER drivers. 

A couple of cool looking racers.

Bottom line, I managed to drop several seconds off my best time, by not really paying attention to the timing on course, and then looked at the times later. For each session I set different goals, like "go faster in the kink at turn 10" or "don't go so slow at the kink in turn 10." With 14 corners, our group coach suggested picking only a few spots to work on for each lap and use the repetition of driving 7-8 laps to work on those specific spots. I think that was great advice, and of course I worked on more spots than just the kink at turn 10!

Lots of Mustangs, Miatas, BMWs, and other brands of cars, but I only saw one HULK.

If you're going to go, go in style!

By then looking at the data, I could identify more places to try and improve, and for me it was more time to gain in the slow corners. If you can go faster in the slow corners, then you're carrying more speed into the following element (straight or another corner.) If it's a long straight, then your higher speed keeps you faster all the way to the next corner, since even a caveman can step on the gas pedal. Getting faster/smoother at braking and cornering and exiting was my main focus. I could say "braking and entering" but that might sound criminal...and believe me, my slow driving IS criminal! Har-de-har-har!

My car uses just premium, but you can get a racecar that uses race gas if you want. That's $10.99 a gallon at the track. 

Besides having too much fun driving for two days, the rest of the time I was also having fun checking out other cars on and off track and talking to other drivers. Oh, and with the huge number of drivers, there were a ton of cool tow vehicles, trailers, and high-end rigs to check out also. Well, more than a ton!

AIM data showing my best lap times on Sunday morning. It was a chilly 36 degrees, and the cool air gives you more horsepower since the air is denser. The right column just gives minimum and maximum speed per lap. 

While I wasn't competing in wheel-to-wheel racing, I will go ahead and claim a new NMS-Racing lap record at Carolina Motorsports Park, since Brian said he hasn't gone any faster than my best time on Sunday, 1:51.02. Given enough practice, I can go faster than that also. To keep this in perspective, I saw the times from the Time Trial drivers, and the best time there was a 1:34 something, so that's miles faster than me. 

I analyzed all the data and have finally determined that this picture shows the reason why my car is so needs a better driver!

One final data point, by combining each of my best 6 sectors per lap over the two days, my fastest "theoretical" lap would have been 1:49.158, nearly two full seconds faster than any single lap I managed in reality. There's always something to improve, and like Ken Miles says in the Ford vs. Ferrari movie, "the perfect lap is out there, but no one has driven it yet" or words to that effect!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Prep for Track Weekend!

Wheel is off, let's change those brake pads. 

Whew, it's halfway into February, (plus or minus leap year day in 2024) and finally time to do some driving on track this weekend. I'm looking forward to two days at Carolina Motorsports Park and going out and having some fun. From looking at all the other drivers that are signed up, there will be a good number of people in my HPDE 2 group, and we'll be on track for 4 or 5 sessions each day. There's even some other Porsche's in my group, so look for an update on how it turns out next week. The weather is looking dry, temps into the 50s during the afternoon, so that sounds great to me! Whatever you do this weekend, have fun, and be safe!

Here's the normal view, let's take some of this stuff apart. 

My main prep for this event was checking the car out this week with swapping in my best set of front brake pads this afternoon, checking the wheels for torque, and also the brake fluid. Last week I did an oil change, and a short drive this afternoon felt really good, so the car should be ready. I still have to pack up some stuff for the weekend, and with track driving it's good to have extra goodies like another set of brake pads, and whatever tools would be needed for those brake pads. I'll take along some food and water to keep the driver going, as well as safety gear like a tow hook, helmet, gloves, etc. One new item for this event is a digital GPS lap timer, the AIM Solo 2, so I'm looking forward to getting more feedback and data from this device and using it to help me go faster. 

Here's a quick look at how easy it is to swap out brake pads on this car: 

Using some pliers to pull out the cotter pin.

I've taken the pin halfway out of the back of the calipers, it was held in by the cotter pin, and held the piece under it which holds down on top of the two brake pads. 

With the pin all the way out, just grab the metal retainer that sits on top of the brake pads. 

Just grab one of the two brake pads and lift out.
PRO TIP: The side of the brake pad with the material on it goes TOWARDS THE ROTOR!

One pad out, one more to remove. 

Grabbing the 2nd brake pad. 

2nd brake pad lifter out, this is an ATE brand. 

A quick peek at the thickness of the pads I just removed, they're in great shape, but not designed to hold up to track driving. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Track Night in America 2024 Schedule Released

NMS in 2023 at Track Night in America, photo by Tradd's Photos. 

One cool event that the Sports Car Club of America sponsors is called Track Night in America. What is TNIA? Is it a girl named Tina for people that can't spell? How about Truly Nifty Ionized Atoms? Nah, it's a fun way to drive your car on a real track. 

These events are held across the country throughout the year, and this marks the 10th year for this very successful program. It was started to make getting on track easier, cheaper, and maintain safety and help grow the sport. It's not a race, there are not times or trophies, so if you are hyper-competitive and already drive in real races, maybe it's not for you. So, if you have NOT been on a track, and want to find out if you'd like it, NMS recommends that you try starting with a TNIA event. 

One way that his is an easier way than normal to get on track, is that you don't need a racing license, you just need a safe car and a helmet. You don't have to spend a full weekend like some track days, you can just head out to a nearby track about noon on a weekday and get 4 sessions driving on track. 

For all the info, check out the Internet! SCCA Track Night in America

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Automotive Technology Update #1

Kia 4 cylinder, removing the chains and tensioners.

On January 8th I started class in the Automotive Technology program at York Technical College, so from time to time I'll give a little update on how things are going. As normal with the NMS blog, I reserve the right to highlight dumb stuff (hey, that timing chain was broken before I touched it!) and leave out the bad news (like if I get bad grades!) and generally, show off how little I know about car repair. Along the way I hope to actually learn a lot and put it to use in the real world by taking care of my cars, and just maybe using that skill to drive faster at track and autocross events. Odds are that I won't get a big gig at a NASCAR team in Charlotte, or work at a Porsche dealership, but who knows!

In this video, we're looking to see how the engine mounts are holding up on a BMW Z4. If you watch the far side of the engine, it really hops up in the air, so it's time to replace those motor mounts. 

If you want to read about someone who went from being a mechanic at car dealerships (BMW and Ferrari in this case) to working on cars in Formula 1 (Benetton), as well as becoming a published author, check out the book by Steve Matchett titled The Mechanic's Tale. His description of applying for and getting into an F1 team, and the experience of his first weekend working at a race are eye-opening to say the least. Bottom line up front, if the team issues you new uniforms and work boots, you might want to get those boots broken in before working about 4 days straight at a race in Monaco! After his time in F1, Steve spent some time as a broadcaster on F1 TV coverage, so I enjoyed hearing his mechanic’s perspective on racing.

File this under "Some problems are easier to identify than others!" Broken connecting rod, with the top half pretty much welded onto the piston for good measure. The bottom end of the rod stayed connected to the drive shaft, so the damage inside the block was just "really bad" and not "catastrophic, but either way you can stick a fork in this one, because this block is done. 

My first class is Engine Repair, so in the first few weeks we've studied different engine designs, and then gotten into removing them from the car, disassembly, and cleaning. There have been reading assignments, with enough videos and hands-on time in the shop to keep us busy. We've learned about various engine checks, compression tests, oil pressure tests, engine mount checks, and covered the importance of being safe in the garage. We've been measuring parts and clearances in accordance with the specifications for things like piston bore, crankshaft parts, and oil pump wear. Our instructor is a Master Certified ASE technician, with decades of experience working in car dealerships that rhyme with "Ford." Along the way, I've seen him go way out of his way to connect with students, and help them with their own car issues, and mostly use his experience to help us understand what we're doing and why we're doing it. 


Besides learning in the classroom and taking apart engines on an engine stand, we’ve also done some work on real cars in the shop, sometimes using student’s cars too. Later this semester I'll also be in Emission Systems, Ignition and Fuel Systems, and some basic English class because this is an associate degree program. I was kind of thinking my English class from my bachelor's degree would count, but apparently not, so what the heck. Maybe I can learn me some gooder English two! Those typos were on purpose, honest. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

NTD: New Tool Day!

One of my tools came to my house on this truck. 
OK, it was a toolbox, not just one tool. 

As a student enrolled in an Automotive Technology program, my school has a list of tools that we need, so, well, I ordered most of them! One good thing about being a student in a program like this is that a lot of the tool companies give you a discount! So, thank you to Matco and Snap-On that supports students at my school. Oh, make no mistake, they aren’t free, but it's always fun to get new tools. 

A recent Snap-On delivery at NMS-North. 
I just bought some screwdrivers about 30 years ago, so I splurged and bought some new ones. 

If you think about your local mechanic working in a shop, it is amazing to think that almost all of them have to have their own tools. At least in the Army I didn't have to buy my own weapon when I was in Bosnia or Iraq! Heck, the Army even has rules that say you can't take your own personally owned weapon! Maybe the Air Force lets you fly around your own personal F-22, but I certainly wouldn't know about that. 

Not sure where the FedEx truck was going. 

As a home-garage type of mechanic, I usually just buy any tools when I need them. Most of what I have used at home have been Craftsman tools, from the old Sears days. One 3/8 socket set I have was a wedding present from my dad, so thanks for that dad, it still works!