Squeezing More Out of Our LeMon

Update by Tom Suddard to the Mazda Miata - Sunburst Yellow project car
Feb 4, 2015

First up: an oil change. We used oil from MPT Industries.
We changed our differential and transmission fluid, too. We're big fans of running Red Line oil in these situations.
We threw away our Miata's rear anti-roll bar a few races ago in hopes of keeping our newer drivers on track. Wayne was kind enough to loan us the bar from his Exocet, as we only have experienced drivers this time around.
One consequence of letting a car sit: crud. It's important to vacuum it all out before every event.
Our old fire extinguisher was technically legal, but we didn't feel very fireproof with it.
The answer? A full system from SPA Technique. It retails for $1265, which is cheaper than skin grafts.
The system has three methods of triggering: a pull cable on the roll cage for corner workers, a button on the dash, and a temperature-sensitive pin on the extinguisher.
Don't hide your safety triggers: Wayne welded a tab in plain view on our roll cage, right next to the electrical shut-off.
There's no set number of nozzles, but you generally want at least one under the hood and one pointed at the driver. We have five: one on each side of the engine, two pointed at the driver, and one pointed at the fuel tank.
Zip-ties won't do to hold down a fire bottle. Wayne mounted ours with Rivnut fasteners, which provide a solid mount without requiring somebody to hold a wrench on the backside.
We needed a new seat, and had a Kirkey sitting in a corner of the shop. We bolted it straight to the floor and properly braced the back to the roll cage.
We caught some flack at our last race for sitting too close to the top of our cage. The new seat is lower, but we still welded in an additional bar to better protect the driver in a roll.
This time around, we're No. 10, not 100. A few scraps of white vinyl temporarily changed it.
Our cheap battery had started leaking and needed a better hold-down. We replaced it and made a new hold-down out of steel tubing.
Another consequence of sitting: contaminated fluids. We bled the brakes and clutch as a precautionary measure.
Flyin' Miata's hub stands make aligning a car easy. We wanted to double-check everything before another trip to the track.

Racing takes time and effort. Lots of time and effort. Continuous time and effort. Though our $500 Miata has seen its fair share of action on track, lately we’ve been busy making magazines and messing with other projects. The Miata, in contrast, just sat under a car cover. We even scrounged a few parts off of it. Urgent to-dos for this car that we scribbled down at the track were lost to the wind.

We needed some motivation to set this race car straight. So we signed up for a race that’s just three days away. We’ll (hopefully) be competing in the 24 Hours of LeMons ‘Shine Country Classic at Barber Motorsports Park. Sound familiar? It should. We raced there last year but had a less-than-impressive showing.

Honestly, we didn’t know how to run a proper race team back then. After all, we’re car enthusiasts and journalists–not crew chiefs. Luckily, we know someone who is: Wayne Presley of Very Cool Parts volunteered to show us how the (semi-)pros do it. He spends his days working on race cars and is a veteran of a few competitive ChumpCar teams. He also has a lifetime of SCCA racing under his belt.

So we drug our little lemon up to Enterprise, Alabama, and let Wayne work his magic. We identified a few main things that needed attention: Our seat was only barely safe enough, our roll cage was too short for our larger drivers, our “fire system” would likely let us burn to a crisp, our battery was held down poorly, and our suspension needed work.

The photos and captions tell the whole story, but we have to thank our sponsors. The following companies were kind enough to send us products for this update:

Very Cool Parts
MPT Industries
Red Line Synthetic Oil
SPA Technique

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View comments on the GRM forums
Klayfish UltraDork
2/4/15 11:34 a.m.

We'll be there too, driving the repainted truck in my avatar. I'll try not to hold you up too much...

2/7/15 9:56 a.m.

Something I don't see mentioned often is raising your idle for racing. My '96 miata takes to it rather well. Simple as turning the idle control screw on the side of the throttle body. A (miata) motor is far more responsive at 2000 rpm than at 750. Also helps prevent stalling if you have a "doh" moment. I've found rev matching, throttle blips, heel-toe all much easier and faster with the idle set high. For the '96 to set it back, put the timing pin (fancy paperclip) in the jumper under the hood and lower the idle, then remove the pin. My '00 miata reset procedure is a bit more specific to not throw a CEL but not too hard. -Good luck!

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