A few months prior to the purchase of the new racecar, my wife forgot to put the passenger window up on our Tahoe and it rained that evening. Unfortunately this time the rain caused a short resulting in both the passenger side window and the electric seat not operating. (Just two sentences into the article, my wife is already yelling at me with rebuttals!) Now granted, I must admit it could have easily been me who did this, but there is gratification that I can blame her this one time for something legitimate. (I swear everything else I blame her for must be true!) I replaced a blown fuse, and was able to get the window up before it blew again. Eh, it was just the passenger side and the seat was where we wanted it anyways.
Just after I planned the trip down south to pick up my new racecar, mysteriously the seat and window issues decided to swap sides. Suddenly the passenger side electronics worked, but the driver’s side did not. The seat position was tolerable, but the pedals height that could be adjusted electronically were all the way toward the driver. Great for my wife; not so great for me. After spending too much time attempting to diagnose it, I threw my arms up in disgust. Fortunately a good friend, Jake, who also writes articles here, offered to join me on the journey to pick up the racecar and take his truck. It’s newer, nicer, immaculate, smells kinda new, is more powerful and doesn’t have a handful of French fries that my son has definitely stashed in our Tahoe.
The drive from CT to VA went well. Jake and I don’t see each other regularly, so it was a great time to catch up. As we met the seller of the racecar, I was like a kid on Christmas day. The car looked great! The weather was spectacular, and a fun night in Charlottesville awaited us. What could go wrong?
After going through it, we were ready to load it onto the trailer. The guy I bought it from asked if I want to drive it up onto the trailer, but I was totally fine having him do it. Since the car has an air dam which protrudes fairly low to the ground on the front bumper, it was necessary to use two boards to make a less steep incline in addition to the normal trailer ramps. As the Miata went up the ramps, the rear wheels decided to kick one board away and somehow the ramp fell off the trailer. All of a sudden the car became a tripod with the left rear wheel totally unsupported and off the ground. That was a close call! Of course, I got a lecture form Jake on proper ramp attachment! Eventually we got the car on the trailer and headed off on our separate ways. Since the drive down from CT to VA was a nine hour trip, we opted to get a hotel and spend the night in Charlottesville, VA (the home of the University of VA). Besides, it was a great excuse to enjoy a night out on the town.
As we approach the hotel where we were staying, Jake mentioned that the trailer was really binding when turning. Odd because it didn’t when it was empty. As we observed it more, we realized it was actually the truck that was binding. A service 4WD message appeared on the dash, and we realized that the truck somehow put itself into 4WD high. Not good! We tried to change it to 2WD but nothing happened. We then disconnected the battery in hopes that would fix things, but no such luck. We took the trailer off the truck in the hotel parking lot, parked the truck then began to diagnose it further. After several failed attempts, we headed on up to the hotel room and turned to the internet and our favorite racing chat forum for some ideas. Amazingly, we had a top GM tech on the phone within 10 minutes! Score one for great communities and the internet. We decided to go back out to the truck with the new information we learned, Jake stepped in, turned on the truck but didn’t take it out of park. As I opened the passenger door, it lunged backward towards me. Ummm… Jake?! He said that he just turned the car on and didn’t touch a thing. The positive news was that the truck magically went back into 2WD. The service 4WD message was still present but at least we could drive it without fears of damaging the truck.
We enjoyed a night out on the town and without many more incidents, we both arrived back home in CT the following day.
The next evening I took the car to Kessler Engineering, a top notch race shop in CT. Matt Kessler began inspecting the car, and I felt like a doctor was prodding me followed by several “hmmms” while shaking his head. I wondered what horrible things might have been discovered? Overall the car inspection went well, but there was a leaking fuel regulator. I barely saw a leak and just had to ask the dumb question, “so I can’t do the high performance event tomorrow with it like that?”
As Matt often does when I ask mechanical questions, he chuckled, shook his head, and responded with “it’s a fuel leak in your engine bay. What do you think?” The great thing about Matt is that even though he enjoys giving me crap, he’s amazing at what he does. After looking through some of his parts bins in hopes of finding a spare Miata fuel regulator, we came up empty. The shop did however have a well prepped Miata racecar which he rents. Matt took the regulator off it and installed it in my Miata. He told me to just go get a replacement and bring it to him soon. Such a great guy!!
The primary reason I brought the car to Matt was so we could put it on the dyno and do some tuning. Onto the dyno the car went.
The performance numbers were not what I was hoping for. The result after tuning was 124 HP at the wheels on a dynapack. The racecar is classed in ITA (Improved Touring A) and with a full build, should make a fair amount more HP than this. Normally I don’t get caught up in dyno numbers as there are so many factors which can influence it. Yet in this instance we were able to compare it directly to another ITA Miata at Matt’s shop and put on the same dyno. The difference was 12 HP at the wheels which is a pretty big difference in this type of racing. On top of that, Matt believes that other car still has power development to be done. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with the numbers. Matt immediately began to diagnoses what could possible be causing this. I had been following my new car’s build blog for about two years and knew just how much time, money and development went into it. For these reasons and several more, I was surprised with the dyno results.
By now it had gotten later in the evening, was pitch black outside, and of course it was pouring rain. Time to call it quits and load the car onto the trailer. My mind was thinking about what could be wrong with the engine, and I couldn’t see that well outside. (The Miata has no side or passenger window due to the roll cage construction.) I made it up the ramps and onto the trailer, but then hear a crunch followed by Matt yelling “stop!” I pulled up too far and destroyed the air dam. You’ve got to be kidding me! Now I’m even more upset.
Sadly, the air dam is in much worse condition than it appears in this photo. I really did a job on it.
I proceeded to strap the car down. I was cold, soaking wet and just wanted to be home. I elected to make a quick stop at a liquor store along the way, walked over to the cooler while still in a fog thinking about the past couple of hours and picked up a six pack of beer. As I got near to home, I looked over at the beer and suddenly realized I managed to buy a six pack of Coronitas (a small size of a regular Corona beer). OMG, really?
The next day I arrive at Lime Rock Park for the high performance driving event. The rain from the previous night had let up, but not stopped. During my first session out on track, I got through two turns before receiving a black flag for the car being too loud. Gee, that was fun. I did bring a Supertrap muffler extension (see photo) which made the car a bit quieter. The rain began coming down harder, there was literally steams flowing through the paddock, and I needed to get under the car to put the Supertrap on. I’m already wet, so laying in a puddle to get under the car didn’t really matter at this point.
I got prepared for my second session out on track, get in the car then leaned forward to adjust the race belts, and wack! Ouch. I reached up to my head and I was bleeding pretty good. I got out of the car and into the tow vehicle where I had paper towels. That was not good. I considered going to the medical building but was a embarrassed (and stubborn). After cleaning it up and holding several paper towels to it, the bleeding finally stopped. I missed that session but got to go out in another session. This time I managed to at least get a few laps in before being black flagged again for being too loud.
I decide that the car is no longer going to be named Mackenzie, and seriously contemplate renaming it Christine after the possessed car movie. Things have to get better.