December 28, 2010

2010 Race Season Overview

Now that the autocross season has come to a close, I'd like to look over the whole year with my car and with these clubs and go over some things I've come across, as well as year end results. The year started off pretty mild for me, having a few co-drives with my buddy, Shane. I really always like co-drivers or co-driving because you can learn a lot as a team with someone. Ego's aside, when you look at it all objectively, the information that you both gather as drivers can sometime be very similar, or very different, and that can be a very useful advantage on the battlefield.

As the year began progressing, I kept running into these problems with the car. Power steering, getting my exhaust built and taking a lot longer than projected, things of that nature. Because of those problems, I definitely was more stressed this year than I was last year, and pumping more money into the car definitely was not the answer. I think I'll do a "what if" post, if I were to go back and do it all over again, as I've put together a fantasy build, based off all the things I've learned over the past few years with my car.The month I had my car back after getting my exhaust done, was really eye opening though, I will say that. It helped me prove my point that if done right, the RX-8 as a naturally aspirated car can be fast, and fun as hell. Many people frown upon it for not being a two-seater turbo car like the RX-7, yet I had a few RX-7 owners take out my car and swear they would never make fun of an RX-8 again. When done right, the RX-8 really can be a fun, competitive car, but everything is about balance, especially with this car.
After losing my car in the car crash though, at first I was pretty hurt and upset. A car that I had become very attached to, had put a lot of time, money, and research into building up, had just gone down the drain in the blink of an eye. Luckily after some time, I've come to see the positive side of it and am now ready to take my next step in the world of racing. I'm going to be putting together all my resources, getting a few, very select people, and open up my own shop. I've wanted to race professionally for a long time, and having your own shop is always a big plus when I plan to get to that level in racing. Many other details about it, but look forward to seeing a blog about it when I put it all together, as it won't be for a while.Now onto the results. For the end of the year in SCCA, I came in 2nd place. Truthfully, it was luck. The only skill involved in keeping 2nd place, was battling the other contenders in SM, aside from PJ and David. If they did not blow their engine at the beginning of the year, I wouldn't have gotten those 1st place trophies... Which is fine, as I was racing to prove to myself what I could and couldn't do, and what my car was capable of on street tires. I learned a lot both as a driver, and as a tuner, so I have no complaints with how anything turned out.

For Renegade, I came 3rd in "Other Mazdas", but if you exclude the instructors, I came 2nd place. Aiming for 1st was surprisingly difficult as I was always a tenth of a second away from 1st, as the RX-7 that came first place was in G-Stock, so his pax time was always what saved the day. Regardless that all of my runs were 6 seconds faster than him, the club focuses on PAX times for the "Non Mazdas" and "Other Mazdas" classes. I learned a lot here as well though, and it was fun times going out there and driving all the other Miatas and becoming a better driver. Granted, I would have rather spent more time in my car, but becoming a better driver overall is always a bigger win. For their year end results, check here.To wrap everything up, 2010 may have looked sour at first with all my car problems, not having my usual partner-in-crime as a co-driver, and then losing my car at the end..But it was a great adventure. I learned a lot, spent time with great people, and now I have a better focus on what I want both personally and professionally. I'd like to thank both clubs, and I look forward to seeing everyone next year. Until then, stay tuned.

Below, some of my favorite videos as a tribute to Mid Night, my favorite lady who was fun while I had her.

December 5, 2010

Day 10 - Reflection

The trip home. Some say when you go on trips seeking something that you only find it if you are ready to find it. I believe I found exactly what I was looking for and more, as I feel pretty enlightened overall. I am filled with knowledge that would have taken me a long time to fully grasp and understand and to be able to fully utilize.

Working with Ray on this exhaust project has also been a great experience. I got to see what is considered when making a high quality, mass produced product that has to have perfect fitment and be the epitome of plug-and-play. It's not just his ignition coils that receive this special treatment, it's his whole product line. Seeing and hearing his final version on his new midpipe was also noteworthy, as it again is a flagship symbol of their great products. Hopefully all the research and development that was put into this header will be worth it to everyone out there as it was to me.I can't thank Ray and his girlfriend, Jennifer, enough for their hospitality while I stayed there but what's more is that I can't thank Ray enough for everything he has shared with me. Thanks Ray, I'm looking forward to our future endeavors together.

December 4, 2010

Day 9 - Camelback Trail with a Side Of Cars

The early afternoon was spent hiking up Camelback Mountain (which is a landmark in the Phoenix area), enjoying the view of Arizona and all it had to offer once I hit the summit. For my first ever real hiking experience, it was really fun and quite peaceful once you got close to the top. After that, we went down to the 5&Diner for some dinner, followed by the Scottsdale Car Show; the longest running car show in America. It takes place every Saturday and is hosted by a McDonald's restaurant in that parking lot. It was nice to see a variety of different cars, all sorted out in different sections by types of cars, years, and car clubs. I didn't take too many pictures as I was already burnt out by then.My trip was coming to an end and it was really unfortunate. I did have an excellent time though, and I learned a lot more than I expected from Ray, and I can't thank him enough. The morning was the last of my informational sessions with him, learning whatever else I could from him that could help me with my future endeavors, as well as an overall direction to other aspects of my life. The feeling was unexplainable, to have someone understand your side and where you're coming from and what you want to accomplish in this world of cars and aftermarket performance. I am confident in myself and my abilities though, and I will just have to fight to stay that way.

December 3, 2010

Day 8 - Touge Run

Early morning breakfast at Denny's with Ray and Erick before we drove up toward a place called "Tortilla Flat", which is anything BUT flat. The pictures I got of the area are nothing in comparison to how beautiful it is in person. The roads were narrow and very twisty, reminding me of some Japanese touge racing. Hearing the exhaust note as we went around the twisties was music to my ears, reminding me of the times with my own RX-8. Ray was confident with his driving abilities, so our little mountain run was safe, but by no means boring.On our way back from the mountain, we stopped at the exhaust shop so they could check out fitment and take pictures. A lot of comments were made about a few bends in the runners that didn't need to be there, some of the welds, etc. With that being said, it will be interesting to see what they come up with as a final product. Expect to hear more about it on the RX8 Club forums in the near future, but for now, the header is in the final stages of development. Here's a sneak peak at what is to come.Oh yeah, did I mention how awesome some of the restaurants are in the West Coast? In-And-Out Burger was quite the treat!

December 2, 2010

Day 7 - Getting Down To My Business

I spent the morning going over a lot of my plans for my future shop. If there are two things Ray is, he is an amazing teacher, and a great business man. He has the innate ability to show me all things from a 3rd person perspective, ensure that goals are met and intertwine together with each other and current projects, and more. I suppose it's one of those experiences you can't really explain unless you were there. I will just say this though; I learned more than I expected to learn, and I can't thank him enough. He really ensured I had a good understanding of what to look out for, to keep in mind, and helped me made some minor adjustments to my planning for both my business and personal finances.During lunch time we loaded up Jeff's rental Smart Car with a new Renesis 13B (yes, it fit, and it brought the rear of the car down quite a bit!). Hopefully he'll have better luck with this engine than his last one! Shortly after loading that in, we went on over to the shop to install the full exhaust system onto Ray's RX-8 so we could test fitment, sound, etc. I'm not always a huge fan of wrenching, but wrenching with Ray in a shop was definitely something I wouldn't mind doing again. With some good ole rock and roll, we got the install done in a few hours, with the header being the longest part due to install fitment issues.After all the hard work, we got to meet up with Jennifer and went to a Japanese restaurant called Kabuki. Nothing like some Japanese beer and fresh sushi to top off a long night of wrenching!

December 1, 2010

Day 6 - Exhaust Work

Ray introduced me to the exhaust shop that does all of the production builds for Black Halo Racing. There, I got to see what building and mass-producing a full exhaust components is all about, starting from the large machines needed, to how jigs (a template) are made, and more. From there, we got to discuss what we would like to see for the final version of the RX-8 header that Black Halo will be producing.

My old prototype had some areas in which it could use some improvement, so we got to iron those out with the exhaust guy. To ensure fitment, measurements, and clearance issues are noted, they had asked if we could install the exhaust on an RX-8 for them. Looks like tomorrow's task is going to be that! After some time there, we went back to the shop to hang out for awhile, see what everyone was up to and maybe grab some lunch with Jeff.

For lunch, some nice Greek salads and gyros at a little place down the street from the shop, with the two legends of Black Halo Racing (and RX-8 Club in my opinion). I guess now that I look back, I would say I feel pretty important to have gotten to hang with these two talk shop. At the time I was really just focused on all our discussions of product planning, the upcoming exhaust header and learning from both of them as much as I could.

Since we were on the topic of the header and potential power gains, I showed Jeff my data logs from just before the accident, as I wanted to hear his thought on how my RX-8 ran and if he could guesstimate how much power I was putting out. Judging by the numbers, Jeff felt I was putting down only 205-210 RWHP, without a final tune! It certainly felt like more but I guess that’s where lightening the car gave that illusion, matched with my final drive. Unfortunately, we will never really know since I did not get to dyno my car before the accident.