2013 in Review

It is pretty crazy to think about all that has happened this year.  Mostly the first half of the year, at least as the car is concerned.  It was this time last year that I decided to try, blindly I might add, a track day at NOLA Motorsports park.  At the time, I had a filter, an ECU tune, and a lightweight crank pulley on the car.  I also had changed out all the fluids (brake, oil, transmission, and differential) with what I felt was upgraded fluids (sure cost like an upgrade).  I still get goosebumps when I think about how much fun I had on that weekend.

There were some pictures taken of the car and upgrades to the car between that weekend in February and the weekend that I spent at NOLA again in July.  And that was the last time that I wrote in this blog (sorry about that).  Again, it left me smiling ear to ear, eager to get back out there again as soon as it was possible.  Come to think of it, I didnt upload any of the track-day pictures that were taken.  I went with 2 friends, one with a car and one with a camera.  For the low low price of…a $200 zoom lens..(split 3 ways)..I had my own photographer for the whole weekend.  I am sure most of you have seen the best pictures, so I will try to add those and some others here in the next couple days.  Anyway, it went great and I learned a lot once again.

Unfortunately, the rest of the year has been far more difficult and less interesting than I had hoped.  I have had one upgrade that I havent covered, and the rest of the year was quiet (ish…read below).  That upgrade (if you desire to call it that) was changing out the stock front pipe for a Berk Cat-less Test Pipe.  A fellow FRS/BRZ owner traded his armrest (which isnt stock on these cars) for it, but really had no need for the new pipe. So I purchased it off him for about half the normal asking price. Image

The picture is a little odd, but imagine the engine is on the left.  For those who know nothing about cars, it flows from the engine, through the header, over pipe, front pipe, mid pipe, muffler, and finally out the back of the car.

The install was relatively easy, though some of the exhaust bolts were a bit stiff and took some time (and extra WD-40) to get loose.  There was a bit of shielding that also had to come off, which was around the catalytic converter that had been there.  It was a little twisting and turning puzzle, but in the end, it came out too.  And ultimately, the job took about 30-45 minutes from start to finish.  The result was a slightly louder exhaust note, but no real difference. It rumbles more when it first starts up, but usually quiets down after a few minutes.

In other news, the Opticoat coating that I had put on the car is still doing its magic nicely.  It seems to bead up really easily with just a quick wash and for the most part the car has completely avoided any chips in the paint.  Bugs are a little harder to get off now than they were before, but that might have something to do with the work that I had done on the front bumper this year.  In any case, less than 2 hours work and the whole inside and outside of the car shines.  The car now has over 25k miles on it, for 18 months of ownership.  I still cant walk away from it without looking back and smiling a little bit.

Also of note, we had a Pensacola area meetup for FRS/BRZ owners, and I am proud to say that we managed to get 12 owners in one location.  McGuire’s Irish Pub worked great for lunch, and then we hung out and took some pictures in a local parking garage that was otherwise empty.  That is a record for the area, beating the previous record of 8 cars at a Destin meetup.  Hopefully we can continue to grow and get more and more cars out at our monthly meets.1512734_10202111263037376_583218355_n (1)

All in all, 2013 was a great year from a car perspective.  I have learned a lot, enjoyed a lot, and cant wait to see what the future brings.  I hope to return to the track at least 3 times in 2014, but we will see if life will allow that.  Thank you for reading and have a happy new year.

 

Track Weekend!

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For the second moment in time, I was a race car driver and my GT-86 (FRS) was my race car. I wasnt actually racing anyone, but traveling at high speeds around a track and pushing myself and my car to the limits makes it close enough. It is an odd feeling, spending a whole weekend feeling like a race car driver only to go home and have to get back to a normal job and normal life. Returning to normal speeds isn’t as hard as it sounds, being that I gave it my all and was exhausted from the weekend. I cant wait to go back and do it again.

Pictures and Videos will be added at a later date, as soon as they are ready.

I wont bore you all with the camping details, but we decided the best, and cheapest, way to manage the weekend was to camp at Bayou Sagnette State Park around the corner from the track (maybe a mile away). It is a well kept park with lots to do, including walking trails, a boat ramp into the nearby waterways for fishing (I think), a pool, and a wave pool. And all for $25 per night. We grilled steaks over the open fire with a tripod grill under the light of this years “Super Moon”. It was definitely bright, especially later in the night. The trip was made by myself and 2 friends from work, one who was driving his own car (a Sentra SE-R Spec V) and one who came as our personal photographer. With the moon out, we took some very fun night shots of the car using a flashlight and long exposures to spotlight the car. I’d never done anything like it, and it turned out great.

We actually had to drive further to get our breakfast at McDonalds than we did to get to the track itself. Arriving at the track was uneventful. I need to get a new helmet with a Snell SA rating (mine is a motorcycle helmet, so it has a M rating), but otherwise things were quiet. My instructor Brandon was younger than I, but claimed to have a course lap record for his car class. I dont know if it was true because its hard to find the course records currently for the track, but I know I certainly got faster with his help.

Again, we used the long course (in yellow) at NOLA Motorsports Park, 2.75 miles. Again, I have the track picture posted to help you understand when I give turn numbers.

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First session on the track I turned off traction control (at Brandon’s request). HPDE isnt focused on racing, but we are trying to drive fast and learn limits, and holding back wont help me to improve (or rather, I wont improve as fast). I ran the car hard, pushing as best I could. The new brake pads were almost too good, so I had to find new braking points that were much later for all of my turns. Going into turn 9, on what would have been one of my last laps anyway, I went in a little too fast and didnt brake enough. The back started to come a little loose as I went back to the gas. Instinctively, I am told that I let off the gas a little when I should have giving it a little more, and it caused the car to spin. Really, I just turned sideways and slid across the track until I came to a stop. The car ended up with a check engine light and didnt want to start at first. We sat for a moment and then tried again, with a little extra throttle, and it came back to life. As per track rules, we headed for the pits/paddock area to check the car out. Using a bluetooth OBD2 reader and an app called Torque (for iPhone or Android), we pulled it up and found it was a map sensor that was upset. The code cleared easily and the car didnt give me any trouble for the rest of the weekend.

Just like last time, each time on the track got faster and faster. I wasnt reaching the same speeds that I did last time, but I felt like my cornering speeds were higher and I was generally faster throughout the whole course. Brandon seemed to enjoy working with me and pushing the limits of myself and the car. By the end of the first day, the paint on the backs of my new brake pads had boiled and blistered up from getting so hot. I feel thats a pretty good sign that I was really using their full capacity.

Usually, braking at high speeds is done in a straight line. If you brake while you are starting to turn, you force all the weight on the front tires leaving the back tires without any weight on them at all. When you turn, the back end comes out and you spin. There is a technique that is quite used called Trail Braking. For cars, normally that are lighter weight, you can brake really late and hold your brakes until after you start to turn. The act of turning and the sideways movement causes the car to slow a little. Combined with getting off the brake and onto the gas, it allows you to take corners at a speed perhaps higher than what you should be able to. After the first run in the morning, Brandon looks over to me and says something along the lines of “You are too good to be braking in a straight line. We’ve talked a couple times about trail braking, next run, lets step it up even further and go after it.”

Trail braking is definitely something that will take some time to really master and employ all the time. I was able to use it, in likely a poor fashion and not every time, on turns 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 13, and 16. Brandon says that eventually, I should feel it/use it on nearly every turn on the course. So it gives me something to work on next time I get out there.

The afternoon started with another spin for me. This one is on video, so you can see the fun. As you can tell, I come into turn 5 fast (faster than I used to), brake, and give it some gas before turning because my personal timing is off. That results in the car spinning. Good thing is that I was a little more prepared for it, so I just relaxed and let it run its course. It was fun.

There were a few classroom sessions this weekend that were included. We talked about the different flags and what they all meant. In one of the classes, the instructor broke down the turn into three basic parts, the turn in, the apex, and the exit. There was a discussion on how to corner, where to look and to always keep your eyes up and down the course further, and some questions and answers. I brought up the topic of what to do during a spin and that was all covered too. All in all, it was very relaxed, casual, friendly, and open. Everyone at the track seemed willing to talk, give advice, and help. The race group guys were awesome too, letting us look into their trailers and check out their whole operations setup.

And then there was a long trip home.

Preperations

Track weekend is 2 weeks away.  NOLA Motorsports Park on the 22nd and 23rd.  So with that in mind, and the fact that I was at 15k miles (in less than a year…yikes), I decided i need to do an oil change.  I found amazon had a deal going, buy 6 quarts of Mobile 1 and get a free oil filter.  I had amazing service from Fedex too!  I ordered from Amazon on Thursday and received my oil on Saturday afternoon!  That was fine with me because I need 5.5 quarts for the car anyway.  The oil change went smoothly enough, which is great because nothing else seemed to go right.

I have my brake pads sitting on the counter right now, waiting to go on the car.  One thing I’m not sure on is when I will install them.  It could be next weekend, or sometime a little later next week.  I need to bed them in though (heat them up and transfer a layer of the pad to the rotor so it grabs really well), and I have heard they might squeak a bit after I put them on.  I really dont want to drive them a week with them squeaking.  So maybe I will wait until the middle of the week before I go to the track.  By the way, here are the pictures.  They dont look like anything special, but they should really help on the track in the heat.

These will be on the front.  They are racing pads and are supposed to provide really good stopping power and resist heat soak (getting so hot that they no longer stop the car).

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And these ones are on the back.  They are performance street pads, so they arent as aggressive as the ones on the front.  However, since there isnt nearly as much load on the backs, I decided to go with these because they are a little cheaper and should still be an upgrade from the stock pads.

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Well, I think that is all for now.  Feel free to leave comments.  I will be updating a little more in the coming couple weeks with thoughts as I get ready for the track, and then of course results from the track.

June Update

So I ran into a lull for a time, but I am back now.  My next HPDE is just a few weeks away, so I have some updates to go along with that.  I’ve done a few things to the car.  Pictures will come a little later.

First things first, the bad.  I dont know how it happened, but I damaged my front bumper.  If I hit something, I never heard it, didnt see it, never knew about it.  It was along the bottom on the passenger side (i dont have a picture, sorry).  The paint was scraped along at an angle that would make you think that it would hit the tire, but there is nothing on the tire or rim suggesting that it hit anything.  It seems that it will be a mystery forever.  I got it fixed by Freeman Brothers Body Shop in Pensacola.  It cost me a little over $500, but I have to say, they did an amazing job.  It looks like it never happened.  The paint matches up perfectly.  I would recommend them to anyone in the area needing body work on their vehicle.  In the process of all this, I learned how to remove a bumper.  It turned out, on my car, to be pretty easy.  Now I know how to do it for the future.

In taking out the bumper, I ran into some other issues.  The LED turn signals that I had installed in the front were rather particular about how they sat inside the sockets, needing to sit just right to make contact and work.  In taking the bumper off, I had to remove them and then put them back in after I got the bumper back.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get them to make consistent contact anymore, so they are no longer in use.  I had to switch back to the blah yellow ones for now.  I also had a LED running light go out, so I removed those and am going to be replacing all of them shortly.  It all seemed to happen at the same time, so I guess it just wasnt a lucky time for my lights.

Onward to the good stuff!  I got the windows tinted.  I went with a ceramic film, 30% (means it lets 30% of the light through).  It took about 2 hours to get done and turned out great.  It had several bonuses.  First, the car just looks better in my opinion.  Its not so dark that it looks cheap, but its dark enough that you have to get close to see through it.  It also has made a noticeable difference to the interior temperature.  If I add the window screen, the car barely warms up, even on a 90 degree day.  So it has definitely been worth it.

Also, I received my new race brake pads for the track!  I ordered some Hawk HP+ pads for the front and Hawk HPS pads for the back (which receive noticeably less wear for obvious reasons). They will be sitting on my counter, waiting for the opportunity to go into use at the track.  I will have to bed them in first which will be a new experience for me.  I will wait until I get to the track to do that though.

Of course, I am excited to go back to the track.  The date is June 22-23.  It will be a HPDE1 event, meaning I will have an instructor again.  I decided that I want an instructor in the car for the next several times still, just to make sure that I dont develop any bad habits.  I also figure that each instructor will have a different approach and perhaps different good ideas that I can pick up.  I will be at NOLA (New Orleans Motorsports Park) again.  The campground reservations were made last night, so it is all set and ready to go.  Now I just need the 2 and a half weeks to pass so I can go push my car to the limits again.

I have some more things I am thinking about and looking into, but for now I think it is best if I hold those back and wait for another day.  It would be nice to have things to post later.  I should have pictures up soon (need to get the car washed again), so you can see the new tint.  Take it easy.

Decisions

Two weeks have gone since I’ve posted anything.  I dont really have any new relevant additions or changes to the car at this point.  If you are looking for changes, it will likely be a little while.  But I will offer some thoughts as I try to get my own mind straight on what I want to do.

There are a lot of things I am interested in doing.  The issues stem from the amount of options and trying to figure out would be good vs what would turn out bad.  I am not a fan of going cheap, so I tend to research items I want (perhaps a little too much at times).

Forced Induction:  Some have heard me talk about it all ready, but I plan on doing it.  And the thought right now is this Twin Screw Supercharger from Innovate Motorsports.  Its not available yet, and there arent any numbers on it yet, so I am not positive.  I dont know if it is just because it looks cool, or because I like the idea of it.  It is supposed to give a very smooth torque boost and get rid of the stock torque dip, as well as a decent enough boost in HP (rumors indicate 240-250 hp..right now I should be around 175 hp).

Rims and Tires:  I want to change these out as well, especially by the time I add the supercharger to the car.  Trying to decide on rims is really difficult.  First, they are expensive.  And second, there are tons of options to choose from.  And of course, the ones I typically like (which I think are pretty simple, either a 5 or 6 spoke design, normally in black) are always expensive.  I know I want to stay with 17 inch rims/tires though (cheaper to replace 17 inch tires than 18s).  I plan on going with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.  They are the best rated tires for performance and I have heard great things about their uses on and off the track.  So at least that is easy enough.

Suspension:  I am not sure if i should worry about this at all, but it something thats on my mind.  I’d like to change out the stock suspension with coilovers that should firm up the ride, lower the car a little, and allow for less body-roll when taking corners at high speeds.  Perhaps it isnt really important as I only get to go to the track a few times a year, but every little bit helps and I dont want to really hold back in doing things.  Do it right the first time, leave no regrets.  Problem, again, is i dont know who to go with.  Tien is supposed to be a solid company, made in Japan.  I will likely go with a set from them.  But there are a couple other companies like Racingcomp Engineering and KW Suspension that are worth looking into as well.  Too many options, not enough information.

Oil Cooler:  I may or may not need to add such an item if I stay off the track,but it gets really hot down here and I feel like going the route better safe than sorry.  Information seems to suggest that the FRS oil temps get hot (240 degrees on the road and 280+ on the track).  Issue is, I need the supercharger first so I know if/where an oil cooler will fit.  BAH!

Oil Catch Can:  I didnt even know these things existed until recently.  Basically, it catches oil before it gets recirculated into the engine.  Normally, it isnt really necessary, but with forced induction (turbo or supercharger), it seems to be necessary (at the very least, highly recommended).  Still, I need the supercharger so i can figure out where it will fit.

Brakes:  Yes, the car must be able to stop all the power that I am adding.  I will start by changing out the pads for track pads that should be better at stopping the car, but will that be enough?  Probably, but in the long run, it might be cheaper to buy a big brake kit and just get it over with.  Too bad a good BBK is easily $2k.  Ah well, for now it will just be pads and stainless steel brakelines.

Spoiler:  Nothing huge, probably not even very functional.  I am looking at just the Scion OEM spoiler for the FRS (which wasnt available when I bought the car).  I like how it looks.

I think that is about it really.  As usual, its all about function for me.  I dont see a reason to spend $5k on a Greddy body kit or anything like that.  It looks great to me all ready.  Just want to go faster on and off the track.  Too bad all of those addons cost money, otherwise i’d have them all ready 😦

Kartboy Transmission Insert Install

So, a little over a week ago, I found an announcement on the forums from Kartboy offering a free transmission bushing to the first 10 people to reply, and I was the second to respond.  I was a little skeptical, but it arrived within a couple days and has been sitting on my table until today.

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So, got the car up on the jack stands, followed instructions (from Whiteline who offers the same insert.  Kartboy didnt have instructions put together yet), and got to work tearing apart the under-side of the car.

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It gets stuffed into that space, after taking down the transmission mounting and looks like the following pic after its done (i borrowed the picture from Whiteline because their insert is yellow and easier to see)

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As for what it did..well..honestly..i didnt notice much of a difference.  The shifting felt nearly the same as it did before (it went into gear a little easier without the usual resistance, but it was 80 degrees today so that might have helped).  There might have been less vibration in the shifter, but again, it was hard to tell.

For free, it was definitely worth the effort.  And for $25 (if i would have had to buy it), it still was likely worth the effort.  Its not hurting anything, and maybe its helping the shifting feel a bit better.

New Driver

So..the wife finally got her drivers permit today.  Its been a couple of years since she drove, and while she had a license to drive a manual transmission, she’d only practiced on the FRS in the neighborhood.  So she was more than a little concerned when I suggested that she drive it home from across town.  There were some bumps, but she didnt stall it once and was able to keep up with traffic and using a left-hand drive car without any problems (her previous driving experience was all with right-hand drive).  She will be doing most of the driving over the next month or two, preparing for the road test to get her license.  She enjoyed the power of the car, but it didnt seem like it was too much for her  I am looking forward to riding along and watching her get to enjoy driving the car too :D.

Wash

Nothing too spectacular, just washed the car again.  It needed it pretty badly, with all the pollen that we have had blowing around here.  It came clean right away, just as advertised with the Opti-Coat treatment giving by Mirror Detailing.  Used to spend about 3 hours washing and waxing, now I can clean inside and out in an hour and fifteen minutes.  It cost a lot ($550 seems high), but it was worth it if it continues to perform as it is.  I will try to get more pictures of the car added to the blog later this week.  Thanks for checking it out!

Update…

Finally got around to changing the side markers on the car.  It had the yellow ones as seen below, which were replaced by clear ones that I have shaded in using VHT Nightshade.  The light from the bulb shows through just fine, and I really think it makes the car look cleaner.ImageImageImage

 

 

 

I also bought a canopy tent for when I head out to the track again.  It isnt waterproof, but should keep water off my stuff long enough for me to throw a tarp over it or pack it up.  And it will be great for offering some shade.  It is a little short (less than 6 feet tall at the highest point), but I plan on just sitting under it, not really living in it or walking around under it.  And its really portable when packed up.

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Well, thats all I have to update for now.  My next track event is June 22-23, so for now its just planning and preparing.  I cant wait.  I am sure I will write more about my excitement to get back out there later.