Our Miata Survives Sebring

David S.
Update by David S. Wallens to the Mazda Miata - Sunburst Yellow project car
Oct 7, 2013

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As the Sebring ChumpCar event approached, we had a largely untested car. Yeah, we had a few tests, but we wouldn’t call them stellar outings as problems kept cropping up. So we had a group huddle: Do we go to Sebring or wait until the car is tested and operating at 100 percent?

We went to Sebring.

Our driver lineup would consist of Publisher Tim Suddard, Editorial Director David S. Wallens, Associate Editor Alan Cesar, Marketing Assistant Darren Vanoy and Intern Tom Suddard. Rennie Bryant, an old friend of ours and enduro expert, would join. Dave Wiegand, another friend, also joined us. Our crew would be the same group.

The weekend itself started nicely. Our Sunshine Yellow 1992 Mazda Miata sailed through tech relatively easily, and later that evening we enjoyed a barbecue feast with our friends from Very Cool Parts.

Saturday morning we made it to the track on time and took the green flag—and that’s when things got interesting. Publisher Tim Suddard did the first stint, and a few minutes in he came on the radio: “Someone spun in front of me and I hit them. I’m coming in.”

The damage was minimal as we weren’t dropping coolant. The main casualty was a front marker light. We’d deal with the banged up sheet metal later.

Soon the car was back in the pits; this time we were losing power. We took the car behind the wall to investigate.

We also used that opportunity to bend the hood back into form. The radiator core support also needed a few hits to realign the hood release.

Thanks to our Race Capture data system we quickly traced our loss of power to a faulty alternator. In fact, we knew about the problem before pitting thanks to the constant stream of data. (By the way, you can review our data here: here.)

We had installed a rebuilt alternator before the race, but obviously didn’t get a great one. We replaced the unit, but the car still ran poorly—even just idling there in the paddock.

Some quick deductions told us that we were still having fuel delivery issues, so we pulled the injectors. Some black gunk fell out of one. To quickly get us back in the game, we sprayed them with injector cleaner and reassembled things. Success, the engine ran smoother.

Other than a tossed belt sometime during the day—a quick and easy fix—the car ran like clockwork. All. Day. Long.

Our team operated as a single unit.

Our BFGoodrich g-Force Rival tires delivered safe, consistent laps. One set got us through the entire race.

Our driver changes got better as the day went on.

Our Speedcom radios kept communication flowing.

And as night turned into day, our Hella lights illuminated the way.

Most importantly, we had fun.

Despite not having the fastest car out there, we slowly dug ourselves from the hole created by that 2-hour morning stop. And when it rained that evening, we just kept on a safe, consistent pace, despite the fact that our team contained a few rookies. Check out this video of one particular rookie, Darren Vannoy, taking the rainy night session with care and skill.

When the checker fell after 14 hours of competition, we sat in 53rd place out of 94 starters. We made up one position minutes before the checker and had another team in our sights. That’s not bad for a largely stock, largely untested, 21-year-old Miata.

What’s next? Time to give the car a proper bath and get it ready for its next event.

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10/7/13 1:16 p.m.

Glad to hear RaceCapture helped you guys! This link is the one for a summary of your data http://race-capture.com/events/chumpcar-sebring-14hr-2013/device/yellow-miata/summary

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/7/13 2:06 p.m.

Gotta add, having pit-to-car radios helped so much. As my stint wrapped up, the red flag came out for a bad, bad wreck. I saw the red flag, but at the same time Tim told me over the radio. It just made things more relaxed being able to talk back and forth. We have come a long way since using a pit board--or, as we once used, a beach umbrella.

Wildchild New Reader
10/7/13 10:40 p.m.

I was driving a Black Honda Prelude, #714 (MoneyShot Motorsports) during the first stint. I had just passed Tim and I was attempting to pass the car that broke loose in front of me and I missed him by a foot or two... I checked my mirror's to see what happened and he corrected and Tim had no where to go. From my angle it looked like a major impact but the Miata didn't suffer very much damage. Anyways congrats on the 53rd place finish... We finished 56th due to faulty headlights so we stopped with an hour to go. Might as well save the car if there is no reason to continue as far back as we were...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/7/13 11:23 p.m.

Tim was totally calm when he radioed in the incident, too. In fact, he was so calm I think I asked him to repeat himself. "You just hit someone?" Anyway, yeah, the damage was minimal.

We have a work night scheduled for later this week, and we'll get the hood and front fender a bit straighter. We also want to take some measurements and make sure everything's still square. Installing hood pins are also on the to-do list.

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