Until further notice, the only payment method we will accept is cash or, at our discretion, personal and business checks. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Until further notice, the only payment method we will accept is cash or, at our discretion, personal and business checks. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
I headed out to the track last Thursday without much optimism for my chances of winning, or even racing at all, that weekend.
First of all, I wasn’t ready; due to the car not running well and me being busy with various other projects I hadn’t been to the track in almost 6 months, my longest time away from the racetrack since I started doing track days back in 2004. Secondly my car wasn’t ready; at the last race of the 2010 at Laguna Seca the engine had started misfiring very badly, which ultimately cost me the race victory, and though a new engine was in the works I had not had time to complete it or debug the current engine, other than adjusting a few things. I went to the track fully expecting to find that the misfire issue persisted, in which case I would park the car on the trailer for the weekend and switch roles to a volunteer race official for the weekend.
The Thursday test day proved to be a mixed bag. The good news was that the engine seemed to be running just fine, without any hint of the persistent misfire that had plagued me throughout 2010. The bad news was that my driving skills were rusty. I was turning lap times around 2:10, seconds short of where I needed to be. Granted I was using old tires but the new tires weren’t going to make up the difference. My main rival in ITS, Will Powell (#77), showed up later on in the test day and pretty much drove circles around me. But at least the car was running and I’d be racing that weekend.
Friday practice went uneventfully; I scrubbed in the new 225-wide Hankook race tires but didn’t gain a whole lot more speed; 2:09.1 was my best time. Then came time for qualifying; I went out near the very back of the pack , doing a slow out-lap to build up a gap in front of me. This worked well and I was just about to complete my first fast lap without encountering any traffic when the black-flag-all came out late in the lap and I was forced back into the pits. I first thought to try the same strategy again, pulling aside in the pits to let the “pack” go out before I did, but changed my mind when I saw there were only five cars in front of me and none of them were the “fast” ones. On the out-lap I charged hard and was able to pass all five before the end of the lap, and was rewarded with a clear track in front of me for several fast lap attempts. My best effort, however, yielded only a slightly faster time of 2:08.7, good enough only for P5, and fully 1.3 seconds behind Powell, who was starting P1. I had my work cut out for me for Saturday’s race.
Saturday morning, race time. A couple of guys starting in front of me had cars that double as Spec Miatas and I knew I had a sizeable horsepower advantage on them. The first challenge of the race was the start itself. Starting in a tightly-packed grid I found that I was totally unable to see the starter stand, as it was blocked by the canopy of the Miata in front of me. And so I started “by ear”—when I heard everybody’s engine revv up I put my foot down. It was after shifting into fourth that my car’s low-end-torque advantage showed itself and I surged towards the two cars in front of me, Niemann (#42) and Dykhouse (#66). I tried to go left of #42 as we approached Start/Finish but he moved left and closed the door, so I quickly scooted back right and threaded the needle between him and #66. Powell and second-place starter Vodden (#1) jostled for the lead as we entered T1 and Powell dipped his left tires into the dirtjust before the T1 apex berm. His car wiggled and recovered but it cost him a lot of exit speed and I got alongside him as we entered T2. I was able to brake a little bit later than he and managed to complete the pass for the ITS lead.
Several intense laps of hot pursuit ensued, as I did everything I could to focus on my own driving and put Powell, at times barely an arm’s reach behind me. I replayed the voices of my past trackday instructors in my head: “get to the apex!”, “track all the way out!”, “nail that braking point!” Little by little I outpaced Powell and he sank a little further back each lap. It was at this time, driving under pressure, that I set my personal best lap time of the weekend, a 2:06.2, over two seconds faster than my qualifying pace and less than a second short of the ITS lap record. (2:06.2 is also faster than I’ve been around the track in my 300+ horsepower Evo, years ago; how far I’ve come!)
I caught up to within inches of Vodden (running in ITA, a different class) a couple times but couldn’t quite manage the pace to overtake him, and I was not about to try any drastic moves that might jeopardize my class win. Eventually I let him drive away and settled him to what seemed like an unending series of laps, broken only by the occasional lapped car. Finally the starter gave the “one lap to go” raised index and victory was in reach. I drove the last lap carefully reminding myself to stay focused and not make any foolish last-lap errors, and took the checkered flag for my first dry-weather race win!
That afternoon it was time to qualify for the second race. Same strategy as before: go out late, build a gap in front of me, then go for it. However I wasn’t the last car out, and Halliday (#36) decided I was going a bit too slow on the out-lap and passed me. I let her run ahead as far as I could before I could start seeing the front of the pack starting to catch up behind me. The first few fast laps were hampered slightly by having to overtake novice drivers going real slow. Finally I was on pretty good flyer when I caught up to #36 near the end of the back straight; she waved emphatically at me meaning, “please don’t try to overtake me, I’m on a good lap”, and there was no point ruining both our laps so I slowed down early to stay behind her as we entered T14. She quickly let me by on the front straight but unfortunately the damage was done and that lap, even with the slow-down, would end up being my fastest, 2:08.4. On the next lap the black flags came out and a lengthy wait followed as the emergency crew towed a couple of disabled cars. I was able to get out again and quickly get by the lone car, an ITA RX-7, that stood between me and a couple miles of clear track, but I failed to capitalize on the one clear lap that I got before the session ended. Result: P6, starting next to my “nemesis” Powell in P5. This was going to be interesting.
Race time, early Sunday afternoon. Niemann (#42, P4) elected to not start the race due to some worrying indications about his engine during dyno testing earlier that day. That put Powell a row in front of me, and me starting P5, same as the day before. This time the “starting by ear” did not work out well; I thought I heard the engines revv up and I surged forward only to realize the green flag had in fact not flown, so I had to let off to get back into proper grid position… whereupon the green flag did fly.
Despite the botched start I was able to muscle past Cicatelli’s actually-a-Spec-Miata ITA car (#96), but Powell got a decent start as well and I found myself behind him as we headed for T2. The chase was on! Powell and I ran nose-to-tail for the next four laps. Running behind him I was able to observe that I seemed to have a good speed advantage between T8 and T9, and that he generally braked a bit earlier than I where I would. On the fourth lap I finally was able to stay close to him exiting T6 and through T7 and T8. As we headed for T9 I drove up alongside, to his left, to attempt an inside pass in T9. I was going to outbrake him in the turn, take an early-apex and hope that I could keep him behind or at least beside me towards T10, whereupon I would again have the inside line.
We raced towards T9 and I braked hard, took the apex, and tracked out not all the way out, leaving Powell just enough room on the right at the exit of the turn. But he wasn’t there, and in my rearview mirror I saw a cloud of dust go up as he spun across the track. Had I miscalculated, not left enough room and effectively pushed him off the track? That would be a seriously dirty move and I worried about it the rest of the race.
The remaining laps, I battled half-heartedly with Makishima (ITA #80); I didn’t want to go all-out and risk a mistake or incident that would cost me the class win, but I didn’t want to drive complacently and risk Powell catching back up to me. I traded places with Doug (#80) a few times but eventually let him go after I put two wheels off the exit of T5 and drove down the hill with the bottom of my car riding on the exit berm. I briefly smelled fuel and worried that I had maybe damaged a fuel line, which runs under the right side of the car pretty much where I had “surfed” the concrete berm.
The car seemed to run okay but as I was halfway through T9 that same lap the right-rear tire suddenly, without warning, lost grip and I battled to keep the car pointed straight. Next lap, I again encountered unforeseen oversteer going over T9 and this time was forced to drive off the exit and drive for a hundred yards in the dirt at track-right before gingerly getting back on to the tarmac. Luckily there were only two laps remaining, and unbeknownst to me Powell had spun again, so I drove carefully to a second ITS class win.
As soon as I parked the car I spoke with Will, and asked him if I had pushed him off the track; he assured me that it had been a clean pass and he had spun due to his own error. Whew!
To say that the weekend turned out better than I had expected would be an understatement. But with those wins out of the way, it’s now time to get ready for the next races at Laguna Seca, where I expect some of the even faster ITS regulars to make an appearance…
At this past weekend’s (April 8-10) SCCA San Francisco Region Sunoco Season Opener races at Thunderhill Raceway Park, driver Viet-Tam Luu successfully wheeled the Extreme Performance Improved Touring S (ITS) Mazda Miata to back-to-back race victories.
In Saturday afternoon’s race, following a disappointing qualifying performance and starting in fifth position (P5), Tam managed to exploit a driving error by polesitter #77 ITS Will Powell to take the ITS class lead (2nd overall) early in the first lap, and never looked back. In the process Tam set a new personal best lap time of 2:06.231, only about a second shy of the ITS lap record for Thunderhill.
Disappointing Saturday qualifying results led to another P5 start in Sunday’s race. After a clean start and Tam and Will began an intense nose-to-tail pursuit that lasted until the fourth lap, when Tam was able to make a pass to move ahead with an inside move in Turn 9. Subsequent handling issues caused Tam to give up one overall spot to finish P4 overall, but still P1 in ITS class.
“Coming here this weekend I didn’t think me or the car were ready,” said Tam. “So two wins was much more than I could have hoped for.”
The SFR-SCCA Sunoco series next goes to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 28-29.
Just a quick word to let our customers know that ATE Super Blue and Typ 200 (“Super Gold”) brake fluids are in stock again. Please call us to verify pricing and availability.
Well, it’s 2011 and a year’s worth of racing has gone by in a flash.
We started off the year on a pretty high note, with the Extreme Performance ITS Miata being driven to a decisive victory at the SCCA San Francisco Region’s season opener race at Thunderhill Raceway. Despite some engine teething troubles Tâm found the fast way around the track in heavy rain, outpacing the second-place car by almost 8 seconds a lap.
The next race weekend, at Laguna Seca, was one of highs and lows. The new Hankook Z211 race tires proved very quick with Tâm setting a new personal best lap time of 1:45. Unfortunately the event went downhill from there with the Miata being involved in multiple vehicle-to-vehicle contact incidents, forcing an early retirement from the weekend’s first race and withdrawal from the second following an encounter with the concrete pit wall during qualifying.
Following that disastrous race weekend the car underwent repairs and was given a new “school bus yellow” paint job to improve its visibility on track.
The rest of the season went uneventfully with car and driver doing relatively well, taking a couple of second-place finishes despite worsening engine misfire problems. Said engine misfire issues came to a head at the final event, when deteriorating performance cost Tâm a race victory as he was overtaken in the final turn of the final lap of the race.
Moving forward to the 2011 season the Extreme Performance crew is working on building new engines for the Miata and for the Extreme Performance Mitsubishi Evo 8 which we hope to return to action sometime this year. The Miata will also receive a number of other incremental upgrades to push it closer to the limits of the allowances of the Improved Touring class.
The Extreme Performance #14 Improved Touring S (ITS) Miata is on display at the 2010 Silicon Valley International Auto Show which is going on now through Sunday, January 10, at the McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose.
Our car is part of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) San Francisco Region’s display in the main entrance hall that is fully accessible to the public—no admission ticket required. Please stop by and say hello and we’ll be happy to show you around!
We at Extreme Performance would like to wish our customers, partners and friends all the very best for 2010. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Trying to find the perfect gift for someone who loves to drive their car to the limit?
If you’d like to help them pull harder, stop faster, or turn tighter, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to help you find something that will both suit your budget and put a smile on their face!
Some of you may already have seen this infamous forum thread on Honda-Tech. For those who haven’t, a hapless (and clueless) would-be mechanic damages one of the lug bolts on his VW, and after a couple of misguided attempts to extract it, uses a sawzall to cut away the wheel to free the broken fastener. A truly astounding and hilarious example of poor judgment.
Broken fasteners are a fact of life when wrenching on cars, and the older the car, the more likely you’re likely to experience one. Fasteners–bolts and screws–break in a variety of ways: bolt heads round off, screw heads strip, bolt and screw heads break off, threads strip, and fasteners as a whole can seize. Causes vary as well: overtorquing, rust and corrosion, heat and vibration, etc.
It’s important to understand how fasteners work: bolts, when properly tightened, are under tension, which means that the metal is slightly stretched (but generally not beyond its ability to spring back to its original shape). Overtorquing a fastener stretches it beyond its ability to hold its shape and permanently damages it, often causing it to break (most often, the head will break off). Overtorquing can also damage the metal a fastener is screwed into; most commonly I see bolts in aluminum overtighened which damages or destroys the threads, whereupon a larger hole must be drilled to tap threads for a larger bolt, or a thread-repair tool such as Helicoil or Timesert must be used.
Most screws in automotive applications tend to be Philips-head (“cross” shaped hole for the screwdriver) or sometimes Allen-head (hex key) or Torx (“star”), or some other variant. It’s important to use the right tool and right size of tool to tighten and loosen these screws; “improvising”–in my experience–with the wrong tool is what most often damages the head. The tool can also slip, or sometimes the screw has seized up and too much torque is applied in an attempt to break loose the screw; the result is that the hole for the tool will end up rounded and the tool will no longer turn the screw. For smaller screws that are easy to reach, I’ll sometimes use a Dremel tool to cut a slot into the screw head, allowing me to use a flat-head screwdriver to undo them.
Otherwise, or for larger bolt heads that have been rounded off (rounded-off bolts most often occur as a result of a 12-point socket slipping on a 6-point bolt head–ask me how I know), an extractor tool (e.g. EZ-Out) can sometimes help. You drill a hole into the fastener and screw the extractor bit into it; the bit is threaded counterclockwise so that as you tighten it, you loosen the damaged fastener.
In my personal experience, extractor tools don’t often work, for the simple reason that the fastener head was damaged in the first place because the fastener has seized or “galled” against the surrounding material and the bolt/screw head was damaged because too much torque was applied to try to loosen the fastener. Therefore, it’s unlikely the extractor tool will allow you to apply even more torque to loosen the fastener.
Instead, I prefer simply to drill out the head of the damaged fastener. In the case of screws or other “female” headed fastener, the rounded-off hole provides a natural centering guide for the drill bit. The goal is not to drill out the entire fastener, but rather to break off the head by using a drill bit slightly wider than the threaded or shoulder portion of the fastener. Because the screw is under tension, often it’s not even necessary to drill entirely through the material–drilling deep enough weakens the material enough for the fastener (which is still under tension) to break. Once the head has broken off, the part can be removed and the remaining threaded part of the fastener is usually easy to unscrew because it is no longer under tension.
The best way to deal with broken fasteners is of course to prevent them from happening in the first place; I use the following rules of thumb:
Broken fasteners will still happen. When they do, it’s most important to apply the right tools and techniques to correct the problem. Remember, fasteners are generally much cheaper and easier to replace than the parts that they hold, so it’s always preferable to damage the fastener rather than the part, if you have to choose between the two. Something the Honda-Tech poster should have kept in mind before he picked up the sawzall.
May 2011 update: a friend pointed me to an excellent article on this very topic by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
We would like to give a big “thank you!” to our customers, partners and vendors. We appreciate your past business and hope to be able to work with you in the future. Have yourselves a safe and enjoyable holiday!
We will be closed on November 26, but available on our usual appointment basis for the remainder of the Thanksgiving long weekend.