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Discussion Starter #1
We passed on the race at Sonoma in March so we'd have a good car for the 50GT event. Now, with 1000 problem-free miles on our latest motor we are making final preparations for next weekend's race at Thunderhill Raceway. Thunderhill is our home track. All of us have turned many laps there in various cars and this is where the Tinyvette made its Lemons debut. It always feels special being back there to race.

Drivers are Zep Brattesani (Alan's son), Jon Harlan, Eric Beckman, and myself. We bring a lot of experience to this race, and more importantly, the right attitude. Smart, patient, and quick enough, I couldn't ask for a better team.

Kurt will be crewing for us.

The to-do list at this point is pretty short and contains fairly simple items:
  • Change oil
  • Flush brakes (We have DOT3 fluid in the system now, thanks to a roadside repair during the tour.)
  • Turn or replace drums. They got a lot of heat during our brakes issue during the tour.
  • Repack front wheel bearings.
  • Install fresh brake pads.
  • Remove Lexan windows.
  • Remove passenger seat.
  • Install cool-seat.
  • Remove wiper and wiper motor.
  • Clean the car inside and out.
All this is pretty routine. Recent races involved throwing a motor together and shoving it in at the last minute.

Jon is bringing a motor home, Kurt his camper. Accommodations will be excellent. Temperatures at Thunderhill this time of year are not bad, maybe 90F, but this is the time of year when we see our first 100+ days.

We leave on Thursday, testing and inspections are on Friday, racing on Saturday and Sunday, sleeping it all off on Monday.

Wish us luck.
Mike

P.S. Additional details here: Vodden the Hell Are We Doing?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Other than adjusting the valves we are ready.

We've been having braking issues lately. Power brakes were intermittent and brakes pulled to the left. I installed a brake booster canister and it seems to be working. I'm going to put a vacuum gauge on it tomorrow to see just what we are getting. For the other problem I just kept looking for loose suspension and steering stuff and issue with the brakes themselves. I found plenty. Three of the four nuts holding the bracket for the lower a-arm were loose! How did this happen? Those were new bolts and top-lock nuts. I also ground the brake pads to give them a radius on the side hear the hub. That edge was straight and it rides up on the center section which was not surfaced. It should be curved. It is curved now.

Finally I spent about a half hour trying to locate the source of a little steering play. At first it seemed like it was the outer tie rod on the left side, but it turned out to be a loose bolt holding the steering arm (don't know its real name) to the steering knuckle (I think that's what it is called). I could even see a gap between the two. Small, but noticeable. Tightened, the other bolt checked, and the other side of the car too. It seems the pull to the left is gone. Finally.

Add these items to the maintenance list.

I start packing tomorrow and should be out of here by mid afternoon. Racing starts on Saturday. We are going to DOMINATE! (It's a crapcan racing phrase.)

Mike
 

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FYI, for consistency I would lose the power brakes in any race car.

Power brakes require vacuum for assistance. For vacuum you need a closed throttle. How often under racing conditions are you idling with the throttle shut?

I'd get an aftermarket alumimum small bore M/C and bolt it to the firewall, lose the "bridge" between the firewall and booster, the booster, and the cast iron master cylinder.

Easier brake access, consistent braking, and maybe 40 lbs saved off the front of the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
FYI, for consistency I would lose the power brakes in any race car.

Power brakes require vacuum for assistance. For vacuum you need a closed throttle. How often under racing conditions are you idling with the throttle shut?

I'd get an aftermarket alumimum small bore M/C and bolt it to the firewall, lose the "bridge" between the firewall and booster, the booster, and the cast iron master cylinder.

Easier brake access, consistent braking, and maybe 40 lbs saved off the front of the car.
The problem is recent. It could be our driving style has evolved but for the previous 7 years we had reliable power brakes. I suppose the problem could be the booster itself.

We have raced without power brakes, intentionally. That was our first race after installing vented rotors and BMW calipers. Rain was expected and we wanted better modulation.

I have a brake system vacuum pump available. We'll see if I need it soon enough.

Mike
 

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Other than adjusting the valves we are ready.

We've been having braking issues lately. Power brakes were BLA, BLA, BLA, BLA ...

Mike
Is it me, or is the silver GT on the right side of the picture a 4 door station wagon? It looks like 2 door handles and the roof line looks to be "squarish" toward the rear! Another secret project at "the orchard"! Really?

Doug

:lmao:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
OK. Here it is. The results for this weekend.

We finished 80-something out of 125 cars. That should tell you two things. 1. We had trouble. 2. We finally finished a race. After a year and a half, a non-DNF weekend!

The car ran great over the whole 1000 mile tour of the southwest. Once home again it needed a few things but no actual repairs. It was running great and not leaking any oil whatsoever.

Then, a few days before the race I took it out for some sustained freeway speeds to monitor the gauges. EGTs were a little high. A/F, too.

At the track, on Friday, another highway test, and even higher EGTs with higher A/F on 3rd and 4th gear pulls. It was now going over 1400F on all cylinders and 14 on the A/F ratio. The car was leaning out.

I had fixed a vacuum leak between the carburetor and intake on #1, so we doubled down on that and all other possible leaks. The fuel filter looked fine. I took the car out again, creeping through the paddock at 2000 rpm and A/F was hitting 14 and temps 1400F again, at 2000 RPM! On the highway, not as severe. On my return through the paddock things seemed more normal. Zep and Eric took the car out and things seemed to have improved. Junk in the fuel, possibly cleared?

Zep took the first stint on Saturday and it was going well, until. After about an hour he reported sputtering and missing and brought it in. A/F had been going way lean. We swapped the fuel pump and sent him back out. He came right back in. We replaced the coil and sent him back out. He came right back. We inspected and cleaned the jets. No improvement. Dang. I'd never been in a situation where we might DNF and not know why.

We went to town for lunch, to change the subject for a bit, then to look at it afresh. All four barrels were going lean. It had to involve something they all had in common. Fuel filter? No. Fuel pump. It was new, as was the previous one. Coil, no. Fuel lines. Maybe. Fuel tank, possible, but symptoms were nothing like the fuel tank problem we had a little over a year ago. Even so, we'll pull the tank. That, or go home.

It took about an hour to get it out, mostly because it was full and our siphon slow. Once we got it out.. OMG, huge flakes of epoxy near the drain, and looking farther in, the epoxy for half the tank was bubbling and about the peal off. I could also see rust spots coming through the epoxy, everywhere. Talking to several people about this they all reported having this problem after ethanol was added to our fuels. Thanks, ethanol.

Sitting there with the tank in my lap, beating on it to try to shake the flakes out, did nothing. Eric's idea was twist up some safety wire and insert it into the outlet. That would prevent any flakes from covering the hole. Small flakes might plug it, but there seemed to be few of those and luckily we had not broken up the big ones.

The car was back together in time for Eric to get in a nearly full stint. The engine sounded a little rough as he drove away, but he didn't come back in. I guess everything was working.

Finally the day's racing was over and Eric came back in, almost. He ran out of gas about 100 yards from our pits, still in pit lane. A bunch of guys jumped off the wall and pushed him to our pits, one of them telling Eric they would have never done that for a Miata.

Eric said the car drove well except it was down on power. Brakes were good, too. He also said the oil light had started coming on briefly during high-G turns so he nursed the car. On his last lap it was on solid.

We have an Arduino-based gizmo in the car that monitors the gauges and reports problems by turning on a second shift light and lighting LEDs on the dash. What Eric was seeing was the low-fuel warning. The engine was good, except for the low power issue, which bothered me but Zep and I tentatively wrote it off and Eric's judgment call in a car he was still getting used to and had not driven in months. Eric did mention low EGTs on #2 but that didn't register with us at the time. Things had been so crazy all weekend. Let's ignore this one for the time being and get some dinner, courtesy of Restart Racing.

After performing basic maintenance and inspections we grabbed dinner. In the morning I'd get to drive the car. I had driven at Buttonwillow last fall, but that had been my only time in the car in a year and a half, since we started having engine problems.

At 6:30 AM I fueled the car, washed the windows, and installed the cameras. We were ready to race.

I dressed, got in, and drove off. The engine felt a little rough. Idling in pit lane while the field queued up everything seemed OK. Pulling out, not OK. It was running rough and #2 was cold. During our warm-up lap #2 never got heat in it and the engine felt rough. Not ideal, but we've raced on three cylinders before and did OK so I radioed in teh problem and said I'd keep going. I hated to have to do this now but that seemed out best option at the time.

A half lap later, the green flag not out yet, I decided to pit. The day was too long to run this way. Let's deal with it now and see if we could get things right and really enjoy the car.

I pitted and we popped the hood. The plug wires were fine. Plugs were tight. I looked in the carburetor and Zep saw immediately that #2's mains assembly was not screwed in tight. Fixed that, took it out, all was golden! We had a healthy motor, and good power.

I hadn't raced much in the past year and was having trouble finding any rhythm. Nothing felt right. This is not like street driving. I don't think I even used full throttle much for the first couple of laps. I realized soon enough I had to refresh myself on this course. Slowly things were getting better. The brakes were great, for the first time in over a year, but the car pushed, under-steer. Zep had asked for air pressures of 28 psi hot. I was wondering it that was too soft. I could get the car to push hard but the tires never squealed. I figured they were really hot.

Also, I could not find my pedals when I needed to heel-toe downshift. Seat position? Gained weight? What the f*ck? Why was this so difficult?

I finally figured out if I placed my foot higher on the brake pedal I could heel-toe OK. Things were getting better, but my driving was not what it should have been. Then some purple POS slowly reeled me and and passed me, but not without a fight. I now had a mission. Catch and repass him or her. I knew I had it in me.

For the next 30 minutes of so I'd catch up but not be able to pass. Traffic and yellow flags would separate us but I'd catch up again. If I could stay close long enough I could figure out where I had an advantage. Not lifting for turn 8 and heading up the hill was an option, but traffic...

The car had been developing a noise in the front end that was slowly getting worse. It was a sharp clunk that happened in certain braking/turning situations. I suspected the bolts that secured the lower control arms. Two days earlier I found three were loose, and these were secured with top-loc nuts. They should never get loose. Then the low-fuel indicator flashed a couple of times so I brought the car it.

We couldn't find anything loose. We could see that the leaf spring was rubbing the channel it was in. Maybe that was it. Odd. I'll have to ask RallyBob about this.

Eric was out next and we never heard from him until he pitted almost two hours later. He had had a great time and had turning in some great lap times, in the low 3:50's. Zep had a challenge to meet.

Zep was out for a while and like Eric was quite on the radio except once to let us know how good the car was. It had been a long time since any of us could say that.

After two hours Zep came on the radio, said something we could not understand, and within a minute was rolling through the paddock towards our pits. He was upset, not in an angry way, more like in a disgusted way. He had been hit. The way I recall his telling was he looked ahead and saw the next car far ahead, then checked his mirrors to confirm a Miata was still on his left rear quarter. He looked ahead again and he was about to plow into the back of the car that had been far ahead of him. It was the Metropolitan and it was really slow. Zep had to veer left and that's when contact was made. It wasn't bad, but we try so hard to race clean and keep the car safe and here were were again with damage, and on Zep's watch, too.

Zep was ready to call it a day. Neither Eric nor I were dressed for driving and we had 30 minutes of racing to go. We most definitely did not want to DNF, so Zep collected himself and agreed to go back out, after a brief rest.

Zep finished the race for us, and in doing so, in those final laps, beat Eric's best time by a fraction of a second. The checkered came out right after Zep passed the starter stand. He'd be the second to last car to finish the race, which is not a disgrace, just the luck of when the flag came out. But the important thing was, we finished!

I think we started Sunday's racing in 90th position. I moved us up 2 positions and Zep and Eric maybe 10. The details are foggy. I'll check the stats when they are published.

All in all a great weekend. Not out best, and certainly exasperating at times, but we finished a race.

The car will need to get its tank cleaned and the dent repaired. Kurt has already chimed in saying he could fix it.

Mike

Another thing to note, and that was the car was faster today than it had ever been. I repeatedly hit 5100-5200 rpm on the front straight. At 5,000 rpm we are going 105 mph. Eric reported hitting 5,500 rpm, about 115 mph. Fantastic!

Finally, two quotes we toke away from this weekend: "If you are bad a one thing, you are probably bad at everything". This was in reference to people who couldn't get their sh*t together on the rules, fees, pretty much any aspect of the weekend's racing. The second quote, part Eirc's and the gate keeper in pit lane, "If at first you don't succeed, [Eric's part], fail, fail and fail again."
 

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As I sit here at work this fine Monday looking at a hangar full of broken airplanes, your race day leads me to ponder most ancient wisdom:

"A bad day racing (or fishing) is still better than a good day at work!" :yup:

Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It was definitely a good day at the track. Not an easy one, but definitely a good one. But then again, our standards for what we call good have slid quite a bit over the past year. ;)

The engine appears to be in great shape. I'll get to it soon, but as it sits it is clean, no oil or even dust on it. Freaky. It came home from the 50GT tour looking like new as well.

Compression tests before the races showed 150-155 psi across the board. Leak down was 48/50, 48/50, 40/50 and 45/50. Those last two numbers didn't bother me. A tap on the valves might have brought them up.

Oil consumption was practically nothing.

Magical engine?

I'll find a radiator shop that can refresh our fuel tank.

We had a pretty good oil leak out the driver's side rear axle. I had just repaired that (new o-ring and gaskets) before the tour and it was good up until after about an hour of racing. The brakes never got oiled so the gaskets did their jobs. Any ideas?

Mike
 

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Looks like he took a minute to check his underwear before firing it back up.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I never got around to posting photos. We didn't take many, making these just that much more precious, right?

Roy, how do you like the Metropolitan?

2. Sunday morning, ready to race. It's been a while since we made it to Sunday morning.
4. Us, at the end of the race, the first one we'd finished in over a year. From left to right, Zep, me, Eric.
1. Zep starting the race on Saturday for us. He'd be back son enough. We'd spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what was wrong.
3. The fantastic Metropolitan, the car Zep almost hit because it could only get to 45 mph.

(This site changes the order of the photos.)

Mike
 

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Mike, That is not a 'factory' Metropolitan color and the pattern is not right for a Bumblebee !
I drove an aqua and white Metro for 2+ years, Took one 1,500 mile round trip, VA to VT, and don't
remember any problem keeping up with traffic. Well this was in the '60s, no 70+ mph speed limits.
Small engine, 3 speed, narrow track, not typical "race' car...Wait, this is LEMONS, what is typical ?
...But to answer your question, I like it, but sorry Tinyvette and Metro had to 'meet' that way.
 
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