September 22, 2008 - I'll be posting video of many of the stages over the next few weeks, after I get home. But spectator video is starting to show up. You can see us at about 5:05 in this particular one. The Clarenville stage is the one where we caught up to the Corvette in front of us. Watching this, it's no big surprise why. It's really interesting comparing people's lines here. Keep in mind that this is the slower half of the pack, part 2 shows the rest of the field and the lines are better.
September 25, 2008 - Video! Not mine, this is from Flatovercrest.com. It's the highlights video we were shown at the gala after the race, and you should see pretty much every car in it. As I mentioned earlier, we didn't do anything dramatic enough to merit a lot of screen time. But you can see me briefly chasing down a Corvette with great enthusiasm.
September 26, 2008 - Another video! This is from the Brigus stage. There were only three or four corners on the entire rally where I hung the tail out more than was really necessary - and this is one of them. It was just so much fun, I couldn't help myself. You can hear me short-shift into the next gear due to the misfire. My appearance is at about 4:50.
October 29, 2008 - All of the videos are online! It's taken quite a while to add meaningful comments to these, but hopefully they add something to the viewing experience. Videos!
They're available both in fast Google video format and high-quality DivX. You can download and keep the DivX ones to watch over and over, but there are about a gigabyte's worth so be warned! entry 639 - tags: video
February 21, 2009 - A better look at the surface. These patches are actually similar to those I remember from Newfoundland, but thinner. Still, it's enough to toss the car around on corners, especially when combined with a number of creases and lumps. In the winter, this road gets a fair bit of grit poured on it so it's a nice substitute for the gravel that gets thrown on to the roads in the race. Plus it's only a few minutes from my house!
I was up on the TSR testing a couple of video cameras. One is a cool little unit called the Motorsport Hero that comes with a suction cup and a fisheye lens. I'll put some of the results online - it's really fun to play with. The other is a cheap HD unit I picked up that records to SD cards. Unfortunately, while the video quality is okay, the sound quality is abysmal. The car is simply too loud for it. I'll have to see what I can do about that.
The car's working well. I'm pretty happy with how the suspension is working. It's going to be so much fun to get it back to sea level where it'll see a 20% power increase. entry 657 - tags: testing, video
September 8, 2009 - Targa 2009 starts this weekend. I wish I was going to be there and I've been daydreaming about it more and more in the last few weeks, but so it goes. As we said right from the start, we always knew this was liable to be a one-time race for us. The cost of taking part is just so high - and not just in terms of money. Someday we'll be back. In the meantime, I'll be trying to live vicariously as much as possible.
Matthew Oldford, who ran a turbo Integra in the Open Class last year, posted a new video that shows the event pretty well from inside and outside the car. Just what I needed, something else to get me all wound up even further about the race. Watch for us at a couple of spots! entry 697 - tags: video, 2009
October 21, 2009 - The Stillen team has posted video. Watching Brigus, a few things become obvious. First, that car simply could not put down any power in the wet. Stillen claimed 620 hp, a big task even for an AWD car in those conditions. The thing is a beast.
Secondly, I don't see how this team could have won. The navigation simply isn't up to par. There's nothing wrong with running a novice navigator - heck, we did it - but while Steve Millen is doing a great job dealing with it, he's simply not getting the sort of instructions he needs when he needs them. Watching Gander reinforces this. Put a top-tier navigator like Brian Bourbonniere in that car and I think it could have easily taken the win. Maybe some better wet tires too. But blaming the factors isn't right.
Want a comparison? Watch us through Brigus. Because of the radical difference in conditions, our time was only a few seconds slower than the GTR. Listen to the pacing of the navigation instructions and how clear they are. Remember, they're being delivered just as fast as in the GTR. entry 705 - tags: 2009, video
March 28, 2010 - One of the first things we wrote on our "things to do differently" list after the Targa was "get a better video camera". The little Canon DV camcorder we used actually took some very good video, but after a couple of years of track use it was starting to malfunction. The biggest problem was that it would decide to start zooming in, and combined with the wide angle adapter this meant we lost focus. I wish I could watch the entire Leading Tickles stage, but alas all I have is the audio.
I'd been thinking about a pro-level unit like a ChaseCam, but they're expensive. When we do go back to the Targa, I might bring one along. But for the time being (and for the big event at Laguna Seca in a couple of weeks), I decided to try one of the cheaper options. Meet our new Flip Ultra HD. Because it's 100% solid state, I'm hoping it won't fall apart like the Canon did. It takes some decent footage as well, and is very affordable.
The biggest problem is that it's got a fairly narrow field of view. But with an inexpensive wide angle lens and a bit of superglue, that can be changed. The lens screws into a threaded ring, so I can go back to the normal Flip lens easily. entry 734 - tags: video
March 28, 2010 - Here's a before-after peek at the wide angle lens, taken up on the Targa Simulation Road. I think I need to move the camera up a bit in the car, but the wider field of view helps a lot with the sensation of speed. My other concern with the camera had been the lack of image stabilization, but that's not a problem. In fact, the video was rock steady even on this very bumpy road. So that's a big winner then. I'll post the video soon - that's another advantage to the Flip. Very easy to post video to various hosting sites.
I was up on the Simulation Road to see how the new dual-spring suspension worked. Pretty well, I have to say. After a couple of stops to set the shocks (it never ceases to amaze me at how one click makes the difference between "hmm, it's okay but not great" and "wow!") the car seemed pretty happy. This is a tough stretch of pavement and the car was certainly pitching, but it was stable and well-connected to the road. I doubt it would have worked as well if I'd been running the main spring rates alone - 650 and 425 lbs, I think. That's a lot of spring! I'll take it out on the highway later today to see how stable it feels at speed without the massive headwind and with the shocks set up. entry 735 - tags: video, suspension, testing
March 28, 2010 - Dyno run video. It's not exciting, I know. Really, this was just an excuse to practice uploading video off the new camera and make the changes in the website code to use YouTube instead of the no-longer-accepting-uploads Google Video. But if you want to hear how the engine sounds with the new intake, well, it might be worth your time. Video entry 738 - tags: video, dyno, IRTB, noise
March 29, 2010 - Another new video. This is a run up the Targa Simulation Road to test both the springs and the video camera. I'm pretty happy with both. We'll see how the springs do on-track this weekend. Video entry 739 - tags: video, testing, suspension, video
April 4, 2010 - No pictures of the new intake yet, but I have track videos!
The track day went pretty well. It was a fairly cold one and I only got about three sessions in the Targa car (along with the chance to drive a 350Z, a BMW M Coupe and a couple of FM Miatas), but my best time was a 1:04.959. That's about 0.2 seconds off my best in the car, nothing to be ashamed of. There was a time when simply dropping below 1:06 in any car was unusual!
The dual spring setup does allow for some body roll, but the lap times would indicate the car isn't suffering too badly. It absorbed the berms well and was very stable under braking. I'm trying to decide if I want to keep this setup for Laguna Seca or if I want to pull the secondary springs so the car corners flatter and has quicker reflexes. Tough call. If it can still hustle around our little autocross track here this quickly, I'm thinking the dual setup is working.
The engine felt good. For the first time, I noticed a lack of pick-up coming out of one of the hairpins at 4000 rpm - that's the dip in the torque curve. The heavier throttle pedal (due to a stiffer spring) took a little getting used to in order to be smooth, but I adapted pretty quickly. Nobody noticed that the car was particularly loud, so I'm hoping that's good for Laguna Seca sound levels. Hoping hoping hoping. I did have one person ask me if it was a V8 because it didn't sound like a four-cylinder!
Pictures of the intake are at work, I'll put them up tomorrow. entry 742 - tags: video, GJMS, testing, track, IRTB
April 14, 2010 - New videos have been uploaded! There's a video of Janel's fastest session on Friday as well as a couple with me driving in the middle of a fairly entertaining group. Videos
On Saturday, the event organizers gathered a few of us together for a video shoot. There was a hand-held camera in one of the cars, and the rest of us were basically tasked with putting on a good show. Two Spec Miata drivers and a couple of modified super Miatas - and my little rally toy. I was probably the least experienced track driver of the bunch, so I had to pedal pretty hard just to keep up! The extra horsepower of the Targa car let me reel in the Spec Miatas most of the time, but not always.
Still, it was like a little race. One of us would take the lead, then allow someone else to pass. Meanwhile, the camera car was zooming back and forth. I certainly wasn't the fastest driver or car in the group, but I consoled myself with the thought that if there was a speedbump in the middle of the front straight, I was the only person who could take it at full speed!
The Targa Miata is one solid little car. This picture was taken after Janel ran for a full day on Friday, and then she and I both drove the car on Saturday. On Saturday, the car was on the track for 20 minutes, then parked for 20 minutes before it went out again. And that's the state of one of the tires. A tire that we used in the Targa. A week long race, followed by a bunch of local track days, followed by two days at Laguna Seca last year, then repeat the local track days and two more days at Laguna. And it's only about half worn! Amazing. entry 750 - tags: play, laguna seca, video
September 13, 2010 - New video! I've put up a clear lap of the High Plains Raceway. I have a few more with me chasing down various cars, and I may put them up later. Janel's the one who got in the best scraps anyhow! Video
There were some truly delicious cars at the track day. The green 260Z in the foreground looked great. The 635CSi hiding behind it is one of my favorite car designs, but I have yet to convince Janel of its inherent goodness. entry 764 - tags: video, high plains raceway
September 14, 2010 - More video! Again at High Plains Raceway, but this time there are other cars to play with. I'm still learning the track and not running as fast as the other video at the same track, but it's fun to see where the Targa car gains on the high power turbo car. Video entry 765 - tags: video, HPR, GTR, turbo
July 6, 2011 - A new intercom for the Targa car. This one, a Peltor FMT120, has a few features the old FMT100 didn't. Aux in (for a phone), separate volume controls, etc. Most importantly, it has an audio out. When combined with the new video camera that arrived last week, this means we'll be able to have Janel's instructions as audio for the in-car footage instead of just engine noise. That should make it a lot more interesting to watch.
The old intercom will go into Nancy, the sister car on the team.
Progress on the car should resume shortly. Lots of fine-tuning to do. entry 868 - tags: intercom, video
August 13, 2011 - I finally have everything I need for the in-car video system. It's taken a long time to get to this point! In 2008, I had an old Canon camera that recorded on to DV tapes. It took pretty good video when it was working. But I did lose the video from a few stages as it started to inexorably zoom in and eventually lose focus. The other problem was the soundtrack - it was ambient noise only, and you simply couldn't hear Janel unless it was a relatively slow stage.
This year, I've got the new intercom with an audio out. That'll feed in to one channel on the camera. An in-car microphone will feed in to the other side, so we'll have the choice of playing the ambient noise, Janel's instructions or both blended together. This means a collection of adapters. I managed to find the only Radio Shack employee left in the world who knows his way around the stacks of bits and pieces in the back instead of just trying to sell me a cellphone, and he provided the last couple of parts I needed to adapt the microphone output to my various patch cables.
The camera itself is a Kodak Zi8. It's a "Flip style" camera, with the added bonus of being able to record to SD cards. I can also power it off the car's power, so this means we never run out of recording time due to space or battery. Excellent. It's got an audio input, which is pretty unusual in this type of camera. And I've even seen in-car video footage from a rally car, proving that it gives a good picture and does everything it's supposed to. Woohoo! The real test will come in a couple of weeks when I return to the track for the last time, but so far so good. entry 906 - tags: video
August 24, 2011 - The tune for the engine computer is coming together pretty quickly. Changing tacks and concentrating on the MAP-based tables did the trick. It's close enough now that the computer's effective short- and long-term trims will keep everything in line, although I'll do a little extra tweaking once I get down to sea level. I'm also going to keep working on it before I leave to fine-tune as much as possible.
I did discover a vibration from the rear at high speeds. I'll see what I can find. It's not massive, but it's enough to make me look for it.
With exterior temperatures being a solid 100F outside, this was some pretty hot work. It's hard to say exactly how much the intake temperatures have dropped thanks to the louvers, but they're far better than they were when I started. I did confirm that the hood doesn't bulge or flutter at high speed the way it used to, even in 4-cylinder configuration before I had to start altering the underhood bracing. So that's good, and hopefully an indication of the lower underhood pressures.
The screenshot is from the video camera I'll use during the race. I fitted a 0.5x wide angle lens to the camera to get a wider view and I'm pretty happy with the result. Between having the camera wired to car power and the ability to use removable 32GB cards that store over 4 hours of HD video, I should be able to get coverage of every stage without having to worry about space or power. entry 926 - tags: testing, video, aerodynamics,
September 6, 2011 - The video project is on! Thanks to a lot of pre-ordered DVDs and posters, Adam Costa's raised enough money to bring extra crew. This means more footage and a better final product. It's not too late to order a copy. Everyone involved is pretty excited about this. Also exciting is the fact that Adam has released some raw footage from the Summer Camp, including both the Targa Miata and Nancy on the track and Bill talking about the upcoming race. This was before he went all lumberjack and was removed from the driver's seat by a log acting in self-defense. Big noise from a little car Bill speaks entry 935 - tags: video
September 13, 2011 - We weren't completely free of technical difficulties over the day. Just as I crossed the finish line of Pleasantview the first time, I felt the engine go a flat at 6000 rpm. We stopped for gas and the car seemed to be running fine, but it now had a check engine light. We had the long and fast Point Leamington stage ahead before I could get to our service truck, and nobody seemed to have an OBD-II scanner on hand. So we decided to just go for it. It felt like a coil.
The car worked fine through the long stage, even turning off the light until after the stop to help the Subaru. When we plugged in the scanner, it identified the #1 coil as the problem. Odd, that's the same one I changed back at the Summer Camp. I talked it over with Maxime Vadeboncoeur (who we competed against in 2008) and we decided it was heatsoaked. I started using lower engine rpms on the stages at that point and the problem didn't return. Still, I changed it for a spare when we got to our service at the end of the day. I also pulled the heatshield from my air intake, which was trapping heat on that coil. Hopefully the replacement will no longer have a problem. There are no LS1 coils in Gander right now, but we'll have another spare one tomorrow morning thanks to some hard work by Trevor and a local parts store employee.
In the picture, Trevor is also replacing the windshield washer reservoir. We melted the hose.
The biggest problem is that our video camera seems to have fried. There was a wiring fault that started with the intercom power adapter and ended up playing havoc with the USB power that ran the camera. That's all fixed, but I can't seem to get the camera to power on. Such a shame, we didn't get Gander. AGAIN. We'll find a way to get some sort of camera of our own in the car tomorrow. It was working perfectly up to this point, too. My videos are my biggest souvenir of the event, and it's so frustrating to lose them. entry 970 - tags: 2011 race, coil, video
September 22, 2011 - Race videos. I've been gradually working my way through what in-car footage I have at the moment, and uploading them to my YouTube channel. There are still a few to come. Due to the untimely demise of the camera, there are some gaps in the coverage, but more videos will be added over the next few weeks. entry 995 - tags: video, 2011 race
January 24, 2012 - Targa 2011 videos are online! Not every stage - yet - but there are 19 videos from the race uploaded to the Targamiata.com video page as well as the Targa Miata YouTube channel. Bumpercam, roofcam, crewcam and even the classic in-car shot. The patch from Janel's intercom means excellent audio in most of the in-car clips, so you can really hear what she's saying as well as the hollering of the big engine. More videos are gradually being added when I have a spare minute here and there.
The DVD project is well underway. Adam is working on it, and has plans to make one final trip to meet up with Janel, Brandon and myself to do some followup interviews. I'm really looking forward to the final result. entry 1013 - tags: video, 2011, race
May 18, 2012 - Tracy and Adam Costa came to Grand Junction to shoot the final footage for the DVD project. The title's been set: Racing the Rock: Six Days at Targa Newfoundland. The world premiere is going to be at the Flyin' Miata Summer Camp in early August, and Zach should be joining us. It'll be fun to watch on the big screen.
We spent the weekend shooting various interviews and bits and pieces needed to fill out the script. Here, Brandon and I are giving a walk-around of the cars while recovering from the kart escapades. I also took them up on the Targa Simulation Road for some driving shots. I'm pretty jazzed about this project. Adam's great at what he does and I know he's got a lot of good footage from not only his own cameras, but also two other camera crews that were at the Targa as well as all our in-car shots. entry 1039 - tags: video, DVD
June 15, 2012 - Check it out - the Racing The Rock poster! It's going to print shortly. The website for the "minor motion picture" is also starting to take shape at RacingTheRock.com.
Adam's been putting a huge amount of time - and no small amount of money - into this project. I'm really looking forward to seeing the final result. The premiere at the FM Summer Camp will be quite an experience! entry 1044 - tags: poster, video
May 1, 2013 - Crash video. How quickly did the failure happen? Pretty much instantly. Why did it fail? See the next post. http://youtu.be/3k2u2zaIA3c entry 1086 - tags: video, crash, laguna
September 16, 2013 - Track time! I was back at High Plains Raceway. I've come to enjoy this track more than I did initially, it's actually pretty fun. The best corner is a long uphill sweeper that has a fairly quick entry. If you do it right, you can keep full throttle most of the way through as you climb to a blind exit with nothing but sky to see.
The car went pretty well. It took me a couple of sessions to work out some little bugs and dial in the handling for the track, then it all came together. I spent some time playing with two CMC-class cars, Camaro/Firebirds with V8 engines. For the first session, I was about the same speed. Then I got faster and started hunting down the Viper that was sharing the track with us. Overall, a pretty good day at the track.
For fun, I attached the GoPro to the front splitter to get some super-low camera angles. A bonus was the sound - it's directly below the intake. This is fun to watch with the sound turned way up. You'll meet the CMC cars in the second lap.
April 20, 2014 - First track test! Finally, a chance to let the big engine off the leash. And of course, it was raining in the morning. Yeah, that was a big slidy adventure with the slick RA1s.
But eventually, the track dried. And the car woke up. Let's get the fun stuff out of the way: it's a beast. No surprise. But holy cow, it's everything it should be. On the second gear corner exits, throttle modulation is the name of the game - or big black stripes on the pavement as an alternative. But hit third, and it'll hook up solidly and turn into a rocket. Third gear is awesome in the true sense of the word. The car just teleports forward.
This led to my biggest problem of the day - brakes. Thanks to the changes in traction levels, it took me a while to discover that I was set up with far too much front bias on the proportioning valve. That's a sign that my previous setup was definitely struggling. But even when I dialed it back, I was still having trouble getting the car slowed. Why? Because my braking point on the front straight had moved back by 40' or so, to the point where I was actually having to brake before the start/finish line. That's about the same place where Brandon was slotting third in his 1.6 Miata. I couldn't get past that, and kept trying to brake later followed by more big black stripes on the pavement.
I did manage to put down a 1:02.905, followed by a 1:02.908. Then I started overdriving and slowing down, eventually flat-spotting some tires as I tried too hard. So it didn't get any faster. I'm a bit disappointed I didn't manage to match my previous best, but that was a fast day when everyone was setting personal records. I'll spend some more time fine-tuning the brakes and go through the whole chassis setup, then we'll see what happens next time.
Mechanically, the car was solid. The engine never missed a beat and proved to be really easy to modulate. So that's a big success.
July 21, 2014 - More track time at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway. But first, some news from the last event. My maximum speed (into the wind) on the back straight at High Plains was either 215 or 217 km/h that day - I forget. At the previous event which was run with the old L33 engine, my top speed was 197. That's an 18-20 km/h (11-12 mph) speed difference. Huge! This new engine is a hero.
You can see the car's on new wheels. Those are Advanti Storm S1s in a 15x9 size. They're part of a new breed of light and strong flow formed wheels. Despite being the biggest wheels I've ever had on the car, they may also be the lightest at 12.1 lbs. Excellent.
I've also swapped back to the fixed wing so I can concentrate on other things. It's still working well at higher speeds, but I didn't think it would help as much on the slow little Grand Junction track. I also want to experiment with some aero balance, so it's being used as a control for now.
Inside the car, I added some reflective gold heat shielding inside the transmission tunnel to mellow out the interior.
And of course, after all that work, the fuel pump failed as I was driving the car home the day before the track event. A late night run to the Flyin' Miata shop and a pump swap, and it was in full health again. It's about the best place it could have failed.
After all the planned and unplanned prep work, how was the track? Pretty fun. We built a black V8 track car at FM that has a lot of parts in common with mine. I accidentally ran a 1:00.2 in it while heat-cycling some Hoosiers, so it's quick. The new owner was at the track, and we spent some time playing tag. Here's the noisy result. While he has an advantage with those big fat Hoosiers, I know the track far better and you can hear me backing off the throttle early on a number of spots as I try to judge his braking points and adjust to his speed. Those Hoosiers are great around the tightest corners, but he was leaving a lot of time on the table on the long sweeper. Fair enough, it takes some time to get comfortable there.
I spent a bit of time haring around as well. The brakes felt good, although I was being careful to avoid lockups. The track's developed some new bumps in a couple of critical braking zones, although it's also quite possible that I'm going faster in said zones. The car was understeering in the long sweeper, which seems to be the fastest setup based on my times. Despite scorching summer temperatures nearing 100F, I put down repeated laps in the 1:01 range with a best of 1:01.692. I was hoping there was more in it, but I think the driver is too slow and it was hot!
Fun setup note: my tires were showing signs of a good setup. 100% consistent pressures at the end of a session across all four wheels, and the temps were dead even across the front tires. The rears were a bit hotter as I went inwards, which looks like camber. Not dramatically, though, and I'm going to keep playing with aero for balance.
July 1, 2015 - Track day! I was back at High Plains Raceway with the Z Car Club. Usually, this event attracts some pretty fast cars. But attendance was down and the top echelon didn't show up. There was one notable exception - a 60's 911 that had a bunch of modifications, including a MAST-built 7.0 l LS7 V8 stuck in the tail. We had some fun. I was quicker than he was on sweepers and I think I had the edge on him on high speed acceleration, but he had me under braking and on acceleration out of corners. It's hard to beat having all your weight on the rear wheels sometimes.
Otherwise, it was an exercise in passing and passing and passing. No worries, it's kind of fun to be Godzilla once in a while, and I had enough of a challenge dealing with my driving. The car was a rock star and didn't miss a beat all day.
The biggest problem was heat. It was a hot day - somewhere around 100F - and I was generating a lot of heat. Enough that I measured the temperature of the transmission tunnel at 196F and the heel of my shoe at 147. Yes, that was uncomfortable. After about 6 hard laps, I'd see the temp gauge start to move a bit on the dash, but that's still a very happy range for LS motors like mine. Even with 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off the track the car never flagged.
The brakes were much improved from a year ago. That's when I was boiling fluid and having to be very conservative. I've upgraded my brake ducting from 2" diameter to 3" and gone to 660F fluid. The brakes were still pretty hot and I wore out a set of front pads, but they never went away. I wasn't as aggressive as I could have been under braking at times - never my strongest point - but it wasn't due to a lack of braking power.
I love this engine. My maximum speed with the old one at this track was 197 kmh. Last time I was here, I had a headwind and peaked at 215 or 217. This time, I saw 222 kmh. That's a full 25 kmh faster than I ever managed with the old engine.
I had the prototype FOX suspension on the car. The Targa Miata was used as one of the development platforms, and this was the chance to get it out on the really fast stuff. After two sessions, I had it pretty dialed in and the car just felt fast and balanced. It's got great stability and fast turn-in, making the old rally-bred AFCO stuff feel surprisingly soft and wooly. I like it.
Video! Here's a clean lap, followed by the one lap I spent behind the 911. I had him on the straight, but decided to hang back and watch. Then he overheated.
This video is just a compilation of passes. NSX, Noble (or the new equivalent), new Corvette, WRX and a bunch of minnows.