SCCA ITA Rookie Race Season

9 11 2010

As my blog is sorely out of date I figured I should at least post of few snippets about my on-track adventures and current cars. Much more detailed info, news and videos can be found on our team website at www.ThrustMotorsports.com

#81 ITA Neon at Roebling Road Double Drivers School - Feb 14, 2010

After selling the Mazda RX-7 last year I bought a race-prepped Dodge Neon car to race in SCCA ITA class club racing. I attended SCCA drivers school at Roebling Road in Feb 2010, earned my Novice Permit, and immediately launched into my first wheel-to-wheel race the very next weekend on the Sebring Long Course. The 2010 season went by quickly.  I ran at least one event every month throughout the year.

Mid year my buddy Doug came on board as a co-driver. Doug is the one who helped me with the RX-7 13B rebuild. He had years of circle track experience so I offered him the use of my Neon in order for him to attend Drivers School and get licensed. We then ran a couple 90-minute Enduro races in my car.

Doug got bitten hard by the bug, and within a month he had his own ITA Neon in the garage.

Right behind him came Matt who purchased a nicely prepped ITA VW GTi. They rented out the space connected to my shop and we instantly had a race team.

We ran mid-pack for most of the season with our best finish 3rd at the Homestead Enduro in July (with me and Doug driving).

I felt like I was pushing the Neon about as far as I could and decided that it was time to take it to the next level. After doing a bit of searching I found a very well developed2nd Gen Acura Integra in Georgia. The car was extremely well built and had a pedigree (2nd in the 2009 American Road Race of Champions and many, many poles & podiums during the last three years). So, I shelled out the dough and bought her, trailer and all!  What a good decision that was. I loved the Neon but the Integra is a whole different league of machine.

The previous owner was nice enough to offer to deliver her to me at Roebling Road (I had been invited to race the SARRC Invitiational Challenge there). So, we showed up, took delivery of the Teg and promptly hit the track. It drove VERY differently from the Neon. Lots of skinny peddle and it sticks like crazy. By the end of the weekend I still was not comfortable in it, but finished a respectable 6th in the SIC.

Two weeks later I took her out to our “home track” at Sebring for the first of the 2011 SARRC points races and a regional. Being more familiar with the track I was able to get more comfortable in the car fairly quickly.  My best lap time on the short course with the Neon was a 1:27. In the Teg I turned a 1:25 during the practice session, then a 1:24 for qualifying, putting me 6 on the grid for the SARRC race. I ended up winning the race with my best lap at a 1:21.9

That same weekend Doug sold his Neon right at the track. He searched around for a few weeks and just recently came home with a very nice 1st Gen Mazda Miata which he can run in both Spec Miata and ITA classes. He affectionately named her “Goose”. Don’t ask why 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s the brief update. As I mentioned before, you can get many more details about my racing exploits, team news, photos and videos at the Thrust Motorsports website.

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The 13B Rebuild Chronicles :: Chapter 11 :: Leak Correction

29 03 2009

Early in the week I called Mazdaspeed Motorsports and ordered two oil pan gaskets (one for between the oil pan and the baffle and another for between the baffle and the engine block).  While I was at it I decided to get new motor mounts as the threads on mine were pretty much trashed.  The stock mounts were $20 for one side and $30 for the other, but for $40 each they had the competition mounts which are 40% stiffer. Guess which ones I ordered?

I also took my alternator up to a local starter & alternator shop and had them rebuild it. For $90 I got a new rotor, brushes, bearing, and pulley. A little cheaper than buying a whole new reman, but these guys stand behind their work and they got it done quick. None of our local auto parts shops had the alternator in stock and they were all about $150 anyway.

So, Saturday arrived and Doug and I hit the ground running at around 8:30 AM.  Well, not so much running as worming around on our backs. We literally spent most of the day on our backs under the car amidst oil, grease and cat litter. It was a long, dirty, and tiring day to be honest.

First, we moved the jack stands to the rear of the front wheel wheels so that we had free access to the front of the car. Then we removed the front wheels to create more elbow room, and removed the skid plate from underneath.  Next we jacked up the engine from underneath the transmission, about 4 inches up.  It was not enough to be able to remove the oil pan around the steering linkage though.

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So, we then unbolted the steering linkage on each side. The driver’s side was easy (a 19mm nut) while the passenger side needed the cotter pin removed which was no easy task. We had to make a run to AutoZone to buy a ball joint removal fork (not sure of the technical term) and then popped the joints out and dropped the linkage down to provide easy access to the oil pan. While doing the AutoZone run we had also grabbed Doug’s air ratchet from his house so removing the oil pan bolts was quick work.

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After we had pried the oil pan off, we spent a good hour or so removing the dried RTV from the pan and baffle. I worked the baffle over with a chisel to get the bulk of the RTV off and then a wire brush air tool to buff it back to pristine shape.  Doug did a similar action on the oil pan but also spent some time straightening out the pan and grinding some rough spots down. When he was done the darn thing looked almost new.

Then, after another Autozone run (forgot to get more RTV on the last trip), we built ourselves a gasket sandwich with lots of black RTV. Oil pan, RTV, gasket, RTV, baffle, RTV, gasket, RTV. Used an entire tube of the stuff!

We then got back on the floor (again) and installed the oil pan (again) and gently bolted it down all the way around. It looks good, and I am confident that we will not have any leaks this time around.

Before we dropped the engine back down onto the motor mounts we removed the existing mounts and installed the new Mazdaspeed competition mounts. We reused the underneath nuts but had to use new nuts for above (10 x 1.25 if anyone needs to know).  After that we bolted the skid plate back into place and were basically back to where we were a week ago.

I am certainly no expert, but if anyone else is doing their first rebuild my advice is this: use an oil pan gasket no matter what the guy on  the rebuild DVD says!  By the time we got done I was covered in grime, had oily cat litter in my hair, and muscle aches from lying on a cold concrete floor all day. Thankless work.

Next step: buy new or rebuild the existing rear brake caliper…or maybe not. We put the front wheels back on, removed the jackstands, jacked up the rear driver’s side, removed the wheel, and pulled the caliper.  Upon inspection we found that the caliper was not ceased. It was dry and greaseless but still operational. We pulled it apart, regreased all of the seals and plungers, and made sure everything was moving smoothly.  Later this week I will grab some new brake pads and reinstall the caliper with pads. I will also check all the calipers all the way around, grease them as needed, and install new pads.

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Then we’ll pop her on the trailer and be ready for the Thursday night shakedown run at Desoto Speedway.





The 13B Rebuild Chronicles :: Chapter 10 :: The Moment of Truth

21 03 2009

Well, it is Saturday, March 21st, and rather than boring you with an essay on today’s adventure I am going to let you see it – albeit an abridged version – for yourself…

As you can see and hear above we got her running quite well today. The initial starter trouble that I had encountered last week was easily fixed when we realized that the sending cable (from the starter button) was not attached to the starter-mounted solenoid. Doug figured this out within about 10 minutes using his trusty test light.

When we first fired her up she sounded quite rough and was stalling consistently while also producing tons of smoke. The engine was flooding continually. I had to turn the engine over with the fuel pump off and then flip it on the moment the engine caught. The timing was obviously off but she wouldn’t idle long enough for us to use the timing light effectively. We messed around for a while trying to adjust the idle but it would not smooth out. After almost an hour I suddenly realized that we had not hooked up the Mass Airflow Sensor. Doh! That explains the flooding!  The poor ECU…trying desperately to meter air & fuel ratios without knowing how much air was flowing.

Once that was connected things got better quickly. The engine turned over and caught without having to turn the fuel pump on and off, but it would not run for more than a second or two.  Okay, now we’re getting somewhere though.

Next we pulled out the crank angle sensor (the thing on which the distributor is mounted) and reinserted it with the rotor pointing at the 1st spark plug in the firing order (front leading plug) and the engine at what we figured to be 15 degrees before TDC (top dead center). My pulley has numerous notches in it (rather than the normal two) and we had been using the first (TDC) notch up until now. But from my research I knew that we should ideally be somewhere around 16-26 degrees ahead of TDC. So we decided to use the furtherest (clockwise) notch which looked to be 15 degrees before top dead center (BTDC).

So, using a wrench we turned the engine over until the timing mark on the front housing was lined up to the 15 BTDC notch on the pulley, and then re-inserted the crank angle sensor back into the front housing so it meshed back in with the gear (ensuring that the distributor rotor was still pointed squarely at the 1st Leading plug), put the distributor cap back on, and fired her up again. She fired up with one short push of the starter, no gas pedal needed, and idled beautifully at around 2,000 RPM. Doug tuned the idle down to around 1,200 RPM and she sounded GOOD. The last two video clips above are after we made this change. In the last video you will hear us revving her up to around 5K and she sounds smooth and sweet…like a gigantic mosquito right?

Next we decided to reinforce the radiator and the front airbox. We did this with some sheet aluminum, rivets, and self-tapping screws. Here’s a couple pics of that work:

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Now for the bad news. While doing this we had the car jacked up on the front to work on the radiator reinforcements and noticed oil on the floor. Actually two puddles. One was from the oil temp sensor. Some thread tape took care of that quickly. But the second puddle was significantly more ominous. Turns out that the oil pan is not holding the seal. I almost screamed out loud when we discovered this.  I do NOT want to take the engine out and put it back in again.  What we’ll do is remove the steering linkage from below the oilpan, and hopefully that will give us enough access to remove the oil pan and reinstall it with new gaskets from below. Keep your fingers crossed on that one for us please.

Also found that we have a warped alternator pulley and/or shaft. It is wobbling slightly and creating metal shavings on the pulley bolt when the engine runs. No big deal. We removed the alternator before shutting down for the day. $55 and a quick trip to AutoZone will handle that. *(Correction: discovered later that this was a misquote, actual price is around $15o but none in stock).

I will call Mazda Motorsports on Monday to order the oilpan gaskets and hopefully next weekend we’ll get the oilpan sorted.  Then we’ll do an all around brake job, check suspension, bushings etc. and hopefully take her out to Desoto Speedway test & tune night the following Thursday evening for a shakedown run.

Can’t wait!  And my best friend, Kimbo, will be back from Australia next week too, so I’ll get to share the fun with him.  Like Xmas in March it is!





The 13B Rebuild Chronicles :: Chapter 9 :: Engine Install, Part 3

17 03 2009

This Saturday was a short day due to commitments in the afternoon, so I planned on starting early but didn’t get going until after 9AM. Both Matt and Doug had commitments also, so I was alone.  My plan was to fabricate a brace for the radiator, but being that I have absolutely no metal working experience I was a bit lost without help.  So instead I just decided to find my original skid plate. I started at the back wall, next to the tire stack, and what do you know…hiding behind my spare quarter panel was a piece of aluminum in a very specific shape that suspiciously resembled the cavity below the engine bay.  Wow, sometimes things just happen the way they’re supposed to.

So, I bolted it up to the frame, then dropped the radiator in and bolted that onto the skid plate. Perfect fit!  It needs some additional reinforcement as the aluminum seems a bit weak to really hold the radiator safely, but for the moment it is in. Here’s a picture of it from below (not very exciting, but for the purposes of a complete photographic record).

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Then I hooked up the radiator hoses, screwed in the water temperature sensor and tightened down all clamps. Finally, I bolted up the air intake to the manifold. So, except for bolting up the airbox and inserting the air filter, we’re done! Well, for the moment at least.

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Next, I drained the fuel cell by disconnecting the fuel line and pumping the fuel over the edge of the engine bay into a fuel can.  As you can probably tell from the photo below it took me a couple of attempts to disconnect the correct fuel line. Between the time it took me to get from the engine bay to the cockpit to flip the fuel pump on and off I ended up with a nice pool of gas under the car. Never fear, we’ll be cleaning that up before shooting any flaming arrows around the shop.

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I drained it fully and then walked across the street to the brand new 7/11 to get some fresh fuel. I got 5.5 gallons of 93 octane and mixed about 7 ounces of Valvoline two cycle oil in with it. This is about a 100:1 ratio, which is what seems to be the more prevalent ratio recommendation that I could find online AND the one listed on the back of my Valvoline bottle. To be safe though I called Pineapple Racing to find out their recommendation. Rob at Pineapple said to use only 4oz of oil per 5 gallons of gas, which is a 160:1 ration. Just because I am super paranoid I also called Dan at Atkins Rotary and asked him the same question. His answer was: “read the bottle”.  He said that because each brand of oil is slightly different he recommends following the oil manufacturer’s mixture ratio as listed on the bottle. That did seem to make sense – and validated my supreme intelligence at the same time – hence it has been adjudicated as the official “right answer”.

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Not my best side I know, but I took the bloody photo with one hand while pouring gas with the other, so I don’t want to hear any wisecracks.

So, everything is now done as far as the engine goes except for starting the darn thing. Again I turned everything on but when pushing the started button nothing happened. Just a soft click and that’s all.  I climbed under the car and scoped out the starter. Everything looked fine. Ground and main attached properly. I wanted to test to see if power was getting to the starter by using a screwdriver to jump the terminals but, even after adding the floor jack in addition to the jack stands under the car, I just could not sum up the courage to turn then engine over while lying underneath 2500 lbs of steel without anyone else around. Safety first, right?

So, that wrapped it up. Another weekend down without hearing her purr 😦  It will definitely happen next weekend though, so be prepared to hear it. I plan to take a video clip on my iPhone and post it next week so that you can all enjoy the sound! Strange the pleasures we find in life.

Until then,

Grant Boshoff
Thrust Motorsports





The 13B Rebuild Chronicles :: Chapter 2 :: Engine Painting

26 01 2009

Okay, this may not be the most important part of rebuilding the 13B, but I needed it to give me a morale boost.  Here’s what has happened since my last post in November: not much!  I kept putting off starting the rebuild due to never quite having the appropriate funds available for the rebuild kit and replacement rotors that I needed.   Between the two one would normally spend about $1100-$1400. So, I lost myself in the holiday season and only just emerged a couple weekends ago to start the process in earnest.

With the new racing season fast approaching (Feb) I made a commitment to really get cracking and get my car done so that I can race a full season this year.  I jumped on eBay a week ago and, lo and behold, found someone selling a brand new, still shrink wrapped, Atkins Rotary master rebuild kit…for only $600…score!!  I scooped that up and at the same time found a set of decent used rotors for $56.  Hurdle number one jumped.

Then last weekend I went Harbor Freight and picked up their 1,000lb engine stand. I messed around for half a day trying to find a metal shop locally who could build me an engine stand adapter – like the ones that Pineapple Racing sells – only to discover that I really didn’t need it.  Not sure if it is just a myth or if Harbor Freight has changed their engine stands, but my end plate bolts up directly onto the engine stand without need for an adapter!  Another $60 saved!  My Scotch ancestors are smiling down on me 🙂

I then drove all the way to New Port Richey to pick up a parts washer from Harbor Freight there. The local Harbor Freight had a run on parts washers (yah, believe it). They sold their entitre inventory of parts washers out in one day, and it caught them so off guard that they couldn’t reorder in time to get a few of the 300 sitting in their warehouse to the store. Strange, but true.

Alright, finally to the good stuff.

This weekend, I hit the shop and with my hands submerged in mineral spirits proceeded to clean of and prep my end plates, rotor housings etc.  I got them all nice and clean and proceeded to paint them. I chose traditional Mazda blue and white color scheme.  I spent a lot of time masking off all contact surfaces where gaskets would need to be mounted as well as bolt holes, etc. etc. Not sure if I needed to be that anal, but I figured I would rather spend the time and do it right than blow my engine out because of a bad seal caused by paint where it doesn’t belong.

Here’s the photo story:

Beautiful, ain’t she?  How is it that a man can feel this way about hunks of metal?  It is a wonderous thing.

Grant Boshoff
Thrust Motorsports