Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Up and Comers for 2011

Last may, I wrote about my plans for the 2010 racing season. These included a lot of work on the Miata, which I couldn't take on because of limited time and/or money. Let's recap.

Things I did accomplish:
  • Completed a welding class. Got a welder for my birthday -- thanks, Mom and Dad!
  • Ordered all my LeMons don't-catch-my-ass-on-fire gear.
  • Tore down the free Miata engine (pictured above, though it was last weekend, not in 2010).
  • All my LeMons-related goals! Engine swap, cage build, wheel/tire fitment, finding enough drivers, getting accepted, and racing! Holy crap, racing!
Things I did not accomplish:
  • Race in enough events to be eligible for an autocross trophy.
  • Replace Miata suspension bushings.
  • Install Flyin' Miata frame rails.
  • Rebuild any Miata engine.
LeMons took a lot more research, effort, and straight up wrenching time than I anticipated, and limited what I could do on my street/autocross car.

What's coming up this year?

Complete my first (and perhaps second) engine rebuild ever.
The rusty Miata block is getting an overbore and new OEM pistons, but the bottom end is all in pristine, low-mileage condition. So that's staying as-is. Saves me the effort of Plastigaging all the bearings, and I'll have an OEM-quality bottom end. And that saves time too. I'm already on borrowed time with my timing belt, and I want to swap engines before the belt snaps.

I'm buying a cheap rebuild kit on eBay with standard bearings and rings. I'm initially just using the gasket set. After the first rebuild is done, I'll take my quarter-million-mile engine and give it a complete rebuild with the bearings and rings from the kit, buying just a gasket set and some Plastigage to complete the job.

Give the Miata a few little upgrades.
Namely, those same FM frame rails and perhaps those Energy Suspension bushings I wanted last year. Replace the speedometer cable. Get a new set of tires. Replace a few other small comfort or function items. Deal with the rust on the windshield frame. Fabricate a custom cat-back exhaust. Install new, not-from-a-junkyard speakers. Y'know. Just a few little things.

Race the Team Resignation Escort in one or two LeMons races, and break into the top 10 on laps.
Last year, I led Team Resignation to a Heroic Fix trophy at the Blago 500, and managed 60-somethingth place with 200-some laps despite almost an entire day of down time. We also got some internet and mainstream press coverage and earned a couple accolades. This year I want to keep it on the track and make it into the top 10 when LeMons returns to Autobahn in October. With a little luck, we might also run the July race at Gingerman.

A top 10 finish is ambitious, but top 20 is definitely within reach. The car will need more camber (as part of a real alignment), better exhaust, better springs, and a better engine computer, and a complete wiring harness that hasn't been hacked to pieces. All these things have either been purchased or are coming soon. We'll also need to seriously work on cutting down pitting, fueling, and driver-change times. Giving everyone specific jobs for each stop and practicing it all will be part of that, as will arriving at the track on Thursday to get a good pit spot.

And, of course, we'll need to not have catastrophic failures. To prepare for that eventuality, I want to...

Strip the parts donor and prepare a spare Escort drivetrain.
My old commuter car is still sitting in my parents' driveway, with the LeMon's blown engine in the trunk and its original transmission zip-tied in the engine bay (you read that right). I'm getting a spare engine and rebuilding that transmission (it needs a new shift fork), and mating them up. I want to have a complete drivetrain ready to swap in if anything goes bad, so we can get back on the track in (kind of) a hurry.

We're also stripping any usable parts off that ZX2 to keep as spares. Wheel bearings, brake rotors, and steering rack, primarily. And selling off the rest to offset some of the costs of racing.

Racing autocross events this year will primarily be to shake down the Escort and test suspension settings. I'm not renewing my SCCA membership this year because it's too expensive and I don't have the time to devote to it. Besides, the frame rail reinforcements aren't legal in STS class, and the SCCA is too serious and not-fun anyway. Which means there'll be an ugly, rusty, Contact-papered Escort running the cones with a bunch of Miatas. It'll be great. I'll run the Miata when I have time.

This is going to be one big damn year.
I'm pumped!

Oh yeah, the Supra.
My brother-in-law reminded me in the comments that he's got a Supra that's been sitting for a couple years. I agreed to toy around with it and see if I could troubleshoot its hot start issues.

I suppose it's more apt to say "I convinced him to let me do pretty much what I want with it while he's gone." And I have not lived up to my promise, since it's still sitting at his parents' place untouched. Oof. This is gonna be a big year indeed.


  1. No Supra on your to-do list? I guess I'll have to put in on mine! :)

  2. Holy crap, I knew I forgot something! It was on my mental list when I started to write this, for sure. I'll add it in now.

  3. I can't concentrate on your 2010 Performance Review when you have your fingers up your nose all the time.

    Seriously, you are writing my Performance Review next year. This shit sounds good.

  4. Good thing this isn't also your first year dong LeMons. Because, I suspect, the rest of the list would still be just as long. Too bad spring doesn't start until May!


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