Project Turbo Miata: Post-Race Maintenance

Update by Tom Suddard to the Mazda Miata project car
Apr 4, 2018

Thanks to Road Atlanta's gravel apexes, we needed a new windshield.
It's always good practice to wash a car before rolling it into the shop for work.
Rather than rebuild our old axle with a torn CV boot, we opted to just put a new one in.
Fresh headlight bulbs should help as we (hopefully) drive into the evening during this 14-hour race.
We should be able to run longer stints now that our fuel pickup is properly installed.
To keep our turbo from separating from the manifold again, we added some inconel studs sourced from Flyin' Miata..
We ended up having to drill out our manifold and add Heli-Coils.
Once we were confident in our threads and fasteners, we started fixing it all back to the engine.
We also took off the stickers we didn't have to run for this ChampCar weekend and scrubbed off most of the remaining Elastiwrap.
We changed the oil and put in some fresh synthetic oil from Liqui Moly.

We finally finished a race at Road Atlanta without any major issues, but before we could race in our next event, The ChampCar Endurance Series Presented by RVA Graphics & Wraps Marathon Coach Daytona Beach Enduro, we needed to put our car back under the knife. Every race takes its toll on a car, and ours is no exception.

Here’s the list we started with after Road Atlanta:

Figure out why the car only runs one hour on a tank of gas.
Install number panel lights.
Replace tires.
Replace brake pads.
Fix broken headlight.
Replace windshield.
Replace wiper blades.
Add inputs to our Racepak CL1.
Change oil.
Check all fluids.
Replace torn CV boot.
Install bigger hood vents.
Inspect bearings.
Replace turbo studs.
Add coolant pressure warning light.
Add negative camber.
Bleed cooling system.

See? It’s not that big of a list. We usually work on the car together, with everybody on the team coming over for a work night once every week or two. These aren’t the most efficient way to work on a car–at least one person is always watching instead of working, as there are only so many people that can work on a car at once–but group work nights keep everybody on the same page, and make it into a bit of a social event. We even get pizza if we’re feeling fancy.

We knocked a few things off the list almost immediately: Number panel lights, wiper blades, brake pads, fluids and that torn CV boot were done by hour one of the first work night. Rather than rebuild our old axle, we opted to just put a new one in. The price? $39 from RockAuto. We replaced the tires, too. What did we install? The tried and true Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R, of course. We’ve found this tire to be long-lived, easy to drive, and fast. It’s not very expensive, either. We replaced both headlight bulbs just to be safe.

What did we use for oil? Unfortunately, our Miata is a little hard on its oil: We know its turbo causes higher oil temperatures than we’d like, but we don’t have the ChampCar points allowance to add an oil cooler. Instead, we run special oil—10W-60, specifically—because it stays thick enough to keep our car happy when subjected to high oil temperatures for 14 hours straight. We chose a synthetic oil from Liqui Moly to feed our Miata for this next race. Why? Our friends at FCP Euro have had good luck with it in their race cars, and the company even sponsors their AER race car. We like to support brands that support our industry. Plus it’s a good deal: We paid just $8/quart on Amazon.

What about that broken windshield? Yeah, we called a glass company. We’re many things, but we’re not glass people. Thanks to Road Atlanta’s gravel apexes, we’re now one windshield and $300 poorer.

Oh, and how about our fuel usage issue: Somehow, our car was only running an hour before needing to be refueled. Chalk that one up to a simple mistake: When one of our teammates installed our Holley HydraMat fuel pickup, they didn’t notice that the stock tank’s fuel bowl was still in place. As a result, our HydraMat was being held 3” above the bottom of the gas tank, causing us to run out of gas with 1/3 of a tank remaining. To fix this, we just grabbed some tin snips and removed the offending fuel bowl.

Once we’d finished the easy stuff, we moved on to the bear under the hood: Reattaching our turbo. We used sub-par hardware when we attached our WRX turbo to our Chinese turbo manifold, and every single bolt was broken or horribly stretched. And, though we tried, we couldn’t get the pieces out of the manifold. Time for plan B: Heli-Coils! These thread inserts are actually stronger than a tapped hole when installed properly. We removed our manifold, clamped it down on the drill press, and drilled out three of our four turbo mounting holes (the fourth hole, remarkably, still had good threads). Then we used the special tap and installation tool, and just like that our exhaust manifold was better than new.

Of course, we’d be idiots if we threaded in the same hardware store bolts we used last time. We decided to go for the nuclear option: A set of inconel studs and Stage 8 locking hardware from Flyin’ Miata. This kit is specifically designed to keep turbos attached to manifolds, and we’re hoping it lasts longer than the steel bolts we’ve tried before. What’s inconel? We’ll let Wikipedia explain this one: “Inconel is a family of austenitic nickel-chromium-based superalloys.” Basically, it’s way more resistant to high temperatures than steel, making it perfect for an application like this.

Our car isn’t ready to race quite yet, but after a solid work night it’s much closer. We’ll be back out in the garage tonight to finish prepping the car.

Notice we haven’t addressed the elephant in the room: How we went from a disorganized, constantly-failing team to one that can actually keep their car on track. There’s a huge story on what we changed and what we now do differently in the next issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe now to read it.

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Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
4/4/18 7:26 p.m.

Wow.  A bear under the hood and an elephant in the room.  How did you fit the crew in there too?  New garage looks great by the way.

ChasH New Reader
4/5/18 10:41 a.m.

Not sure of the rules, but if it's allowed, don't glue the replacement windshield to the car. Use retaining tabs and foam rubber for a seal. You can change the windshield yourself, even at the track if you carry a spare.

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