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Author Topic: New to the SM field and building one... need guidance
Mike Kelly
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Hi, I'm Mike and I'm a car-aholic. My sons and I have three miatas, and one of those is a track specific car that we're planning to convert to spec miata standards in order to race in an endurance series in 2010 or 2011, depending on how the money goes and how well the 2010 HPDE education for the boys goes.

A little back ground:
Both sons are in their early 20s and one has spent a weekend in HPDE. I am an instructor with a couple of clubs and plan to get them both to a number of events in spring. I want to get their feet wet and then get them into a licensing program by late summer or early fall. I'll also need to get myself thru the licensing program for which ever series we decide to run in, and with whichever club.

The car is a 1992 car that a co-worker built for HPDE, but did not do a good job building. The car has a 4 point bar (harddog hardcore) and Kirkey seats with 6 point harnesses (need to check the date on them) Along with a Sparco removable steering wheel.

The guy spent good money on GC coil overs and Koni adjustable shocks, along with some aftermarket swaybars and adjustable end links. With the amount of money spent on the car from the receipts, I have no clue why he didn't just build an SM, but he didn't. We'll weld in a rollcage from one of the vendors and then over the spring buy and install the suspension kit.

I'll do as much research as possible and use the SEARCH button, but what would you guys recommend based on what I've posted so far?

I tracked this car this year as an instructor, and after a number of years DEing my modified Porsche 911 turbo, before that a modified corvette, and before that some seriously modified first gen Datsun Zcars, I have a new found respect for the Miata... This car is the HARDEST car I've driven fast and it takes more effort than ANYTHING I've driven since my early days in Datsun Zcars...

All advice/comments welcome. We have an enclosed trailer, and do our own alignments, and also do our own welding... i'm really looking for good DOS and DON'Ts from those who "been there/ Done that!!"

Mike

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Mike,
Welcome. The first thing I'd recommend is look in the classifieds here and look for Dave Wheeler's book on building a SM. It's in the "accessories" section. It can save you a bunch of searching and finding wrong answers. It's money well spent to give you a good idea of what you're looking at WRT your build all in one place.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

Eric Barbaric Verified Driver
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Mike, I'm curious why you think the Miata is the hardest car you've driven fast and requires more effort.

It definitely requires more talent to go fast. Anyone with a big engine can go fast on the straights.

Being a low-powered, well-handling car, it is all about momentum.

You can't throttle your way out of trouble like you can in a lot of cars. Keep it on the track and it will reward you with reliability, low maintenance, and will teach you how to drive ANY car faster.

TR6
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Car #: 500
Year : 2002
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Interesting. I came from an older 911 (RS America) to the miata. I actually thought the miata was easier to drive than my 911. To me, it seemed like the 911 would bitch-slap me off the track backwards if I lost concentration for even a nano second. Switching to the miata, the first thing I noticed was how much more forgiving it felt in the corners. I could just slide it into corners in a nice comfortable drift. If it was getting close to letting go, it seems like it gives me plenty of advance warning compared to the 911. Something like this:

911 in a corner: "Push, push, push, yeah I've got tons of grip left... ZING! WTF just happened and why am I heading towards the wall backwards."

Miata in a corner: "Hey man, Just giving you a heads up, I'm starting to feel a little loose here. Might wanna be ready cause I'm thinking about letting go."

Now, where the miata challenges me much more is that it forces me to stay in the throttle and never lift where all my instincts are screaming to lift, even a little. I'm still working on that learning curve. In my 911, I could use the loud pedal to cover a lot of my mistakes!

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Greg H.
2002 red Miata #500
Denton, Texas

Frank Todaro
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quote:
Originally posted by TR6:
I actually thought the miata was easier to drive than my 911. To me, it seemed like the 911 would bitch-slap me off the track backwards if I lost concentration for even a nano second.

Amen brother, coming from someone who was Bitch-slapped by a 911. I am not sure exactly what your looking for but from recent experience, you have to start with putting together a build parts list. the manual listed above is a vary good start. the process of building the car is not that difficult So I would start with a list of the parts that have to be purchased and shop that list, some stuff you may find used. I built my car in 6 weeks I had a fabricator do the cage and I had help with the dif and clutch and bushing. otherwise it was an after work project.

--------------------
Frank
Member: No Pain Racing

Mike Kelly
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Thanks to those who have given advice on miatas and building our famuily project.

Let me explain my comments about my 911 turbo... mine is a 2001 all wheel drive model that is HIGHLY modified, brakes, suspension and powertrain all.. The car comes with ABS, PSM, and is just simply easy to drive fast. I turn 2:07-2:10s on street tires with ease at VIR and 1:20s at Summit. The car is easy to drive hard and fast.

The Miata is harder to drive fast because of the "lack of aids" and the lack of power assist, along with the added concentration required to make the car GO properly around the course at speed. Previous owner removed the power steering, and I've flat-spotted 2 sets of tires re-learning to threshold brake this year.

The Miata is an awesome platform, which is why I'm stoked to continue with it this coming year, both instructing and letting the kids get up to speed. I have no doubt we'll all three learn as we go. I will be jumping between three cars, so I hope my track times this coming year will fall, and I expect those dropping times to be affiliated with what I learn instructing and driving the Miata. Our goal with the Porsche is to enter it in the Ultimate Track Car Challenge, as the car is really ideal for that type of situation. I just need more seat time, and I'll get that in the spring.

Mike

[ 12-18-2009, 08:22 PM: Message edited by: Mike Kelly ]

Keith in WA Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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One other bit of advice I can think of off the top of my head is get to know the local Miata racers and race shops. You will need their assistance from time to time whether it's help turning a wrench, finding brake pads on a Sunday morning, how to fix a horrible handling problem or just someone to hand you the gloves you left on your roof when you're already strapped in the car and everyone else is gone.
[yep]

Amazingly friendly group of competitors who can be complete SOBs in the heat of battle and then laugh with you about it over lunch. It's sorta funny how we bend over backwards for each other with time, parts, tools, and the occasional oily sliced open knuckle when a problem pops up so that we can try to put each other in the rear view mirror.

--------------------
Keith Novak
(Will work for tires)

TR6
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Year : 2002
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike Kelly:
Let me explain my comments about my 911 turbo... mine is a 2001 all wheel drive model

THAT explains it! I thought you meant an old school 911. All wheel drive and full electronics do make it a bit easier to drive fast. [Wink]

It does take a bit of adjustment to learn to threshold brake with no ABS if you are coming from an ABS car, but not as long as I expected. I had it down in one weekend (although once in a while, I still lock them up if the track is a little slick). But in general, the miata is a very forgiving platform compared to most.

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Greg H.
2002 red Miata #500
Denton, Texas

Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Having gone through two of the Skip Barber schools and refined my threshold braking skills.......I can tell you that if you threshold brake in SM you will be in the back of the field!

The best advice I was given when I started was that in order to go fast...don't use the middle pedal much (thank you Dewey). Because we are a momentum class and don't have tons of horsepower you can't recover your speed when you threshold brake like you can in other cars. The biggest improvement in my times this year was learning to roll into the corner and then get on the gas. It took me several weekends and buying a Traqmate to realize how much speed I was bleeding off in the approach to the turns.

[ 12-19-2009, 04:57 PM: Message edited by: Gatoratty ]

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Paul McLester

Mike Kelly
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Paul, That is indeed what I found out quickly during the six days that I've driven the car at HPDEs. According to my track data I'm taking corners faster in the miata than I have in my other car, which is very interesting.

Mike

Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Mike, find out what data acquisition system the racers in your area use....and buy one. Swapping data with the front runners will get you and your sons up to speed much faster. I see you are in Virginia....call Mike C. and go see his cars.

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Paul McLester

Ken Wilkinson Verified Driver
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Mike,
I just finished building a 99 SM in Oct. and then did the comp school...the grin I had after my first race was definitely wider than the grin after a DE!
The info you will get out of Dave Wheelers manual and out of this forum will make things much easier.
After your safety improvements and brake system upgrades the best improvement I think is the SM suspension then the exhaust.
The Traqmate DA system is the one to have and then learn how to use it, that is my next challenge!
I live in the Richmond area and will PM you with contact info if you have any questions.

--------------------
Ken

Mike Kelly
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I've been communicating with Piper over the last few days and they are going to cut me a deal on the price of the cage, since I'm a repeat customer. We're going to strip the interior out of the car and get it to Mitch in February. This is very helpfull in a couple of ways... Time is hard to come by for me (business owner and full time consultant) and Piper is within about an hour to an hour and a half from me. Some of the other folks I was speaking with were much further away.

We also got the book on building SMs by Advanced_Autosports (along with their lexan 1/4 windows) and we're on our way to building a SM.

The one thing I'm confused on is how to get into the whole "mazdaspeed" club so we can start getting the discounts on SM suspension and other stuff...

Mike

Mike Kelly
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So far everyone I've chatted with is using a traqmate, which is also what I'm using. The plan is to get the two boys to about 5-6 HPDEs this spring/summer, and then get the three of us to the comp school in the fall.

Mike

quote:
Originally posted by Gatoratty:
Mike, find out what data acquisition system the racers in your area use....and buy one. Swapping data with the front runners will get you and your sons up to speed much faster. I see you are in Virginia....call Mike C. and go see his cars.


Gatoratty Verified Driver Made Donation to Website
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Mike

Go to the racer registration portion of the website. If you have any questions just call them and they will walk you through everything.
http://www.mazdaspeeddevelopment.com/index.php

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Paul McLester

Cliffy Chains
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike Kelly:
So far everyone I've chatted with is using a traqmate, which is also what I'm using.

You'll notice that all the front runners for the majority use Traqmate systems, and then compare when we need to go faster (all the time) I would say this is how many of the track records keep getting reset to faster times. Technology rules..... Now if I could just get some more power for my poor 1.6

--------------------
BDR Motorsports, Autotechnik
Cliff Blanchard
Down on power 1.6
Sluggish overweight 99'

Mike Kelly
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Yup, I'm using traqmate as well, and love it... I'll continue using it in the Miata as we develop the car. Thanks!

Car goes to Mitch Piper in three weeks.
Mike

   

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