I was up before sunrise, waiting in the parking lot for the Summit guys to deliver my parts. It was dark when they drove in, and I was the only one in the parking lot. I greeted them with a creepy “Where’s my drugs, man?” and they chuckled and handed over the parts. I got back to the RV and woke everyone up, telling them we need to get the brakes done, and why is the radiator water all over the floor?
We checked everything in the cooling system, swapped an overflow bottle, blew out all the water we could find, etc. We started the car and pressure-tested the system. But we just couldn’t figure out how all the radiator water dumped out. We vowed to keep an eye on the temperature and check the water level in the pits each time, and just trust it.
The brakes were another issue, Summit gave us the wrong parts. I later went back to them to figure out how this happened, and apparently the Hawk product info says that these brakes work on a 1994-2005 Miata. I politely explained that this is not the case, and that 94-97 are different than 2003-2005, at least in the USA.
I’ll get my money back, but the point is we didn’t have fresh brake pads, and must use the 3.5 hour old StopTech Sports that nobody is really trusting to go the distance. For braking power and feel, both Pat and Evan liked them more than the Porterfield R4E. More StopTech converts? In any case, Sonny gaves us new team orders: coast slightly before braking zones and use less brake throughout the race. As if.
Evan has never started a race, and so we gave him his wish. He started in 32nd position. The Audi R8 in first was going slow and bunched everyone up, which made for a tight group as the green flag dropped. There was a brief heart-attack moment as one of the cars had a mechanical, but everyone avoided the incident well. See for yourself in the clip.
We can set fast laps, but not in traffic, and on the 5th lap, we’d lost four places. But as the cars got spaced out, Evan got his head down and after 54 blazing laps, we were in 23rd position!
Evan is our fastest driver, but he’s also our youngest driver, and young people do stupid shit. For some reason Evan thought a good place to make up time was on the pit exit (WTF), and so he came in too hot. He had to make a split second decision between running over the RFID gate or hitting the tire wall. He chose the wall.
We lost some time in the pits pulling the bodywork straight and checking the car for damage. Initially we thought there might be radiator damage because of all the water on the car, but a quick car wash is one of the benefits of hitting tires. I learned that earlier this year in a Lemons race when a teammate did the same thing (but while racing, not while pitting, for fuck’s sake).
Sonny went next and started in P30. I went through his footage and found a cool clip. In the video below, Sonny points by a faster car quite early in the Carousel, which shows what an aware and courteous driver he is. Keep watching the full lap for a surprise ending for the faster car.
Sonny banged out 50 fast laps, safe and consistent, and brought us up to 22nd position overall. This put us nine places ahead of where we were yesterday at the same time, and things were looking really good when I got in the car.
A few cars passed us in the pits, and so I was out in P27, but was feeling my oats and got us up to P21. I had some good racing in this stint, real wheel-to-wheel action that was fun and intense. I’m still replaying some of those in my head.
I had planned to run the car out of gas in my stint, but I thought I saw Pat with his helmet on, indicating that they were ready for me to come in (my radio wasn’t connected). But when I pitted, Pat didn’t have his helmet on, Sonny wasn’t prepared, and Evan was nowhere to be seen. Must have been some other team that was ready! Still we managed a decent pit stop of 3:22, and when Pat got in, we’d only lost two positions.
Six laps later, all hell broke loose. To be more specific, the right rear wheel hub broke loose.
Pat was going 83 mph through T1 when the hub flange broke. This took out the brake disc, the entire wheel, and spun Pat around 720 degrees. Luckily there’s a big sand trap there and he slid safely to a halt. That could have been a lot worse, and I really only care that Pat is safe and unhurt. Damage can be fixed, and I’ll replace the rear hubs every year now.
Some thoughts in no particular order.
Miata hubs. Miathubs!
Everyone knows Miatas have weak hubs, and most of the time it’s the front hubs that fail. Evan examined my hubs before the race and declared they were crap. So I ordered a pair of Miatahubs at the very last minute. Justin Lee was also racing at Mid-Ohio (in the Finish First Racing Scion FRS, Class 2), and so he hand-delivered the new Miatahubs to us, and helped us install them on Friday morning.
Miatahubs aren’t cheap, but I was feeling pretty pleased with myself now that the car has a bulletproof solution for the front hubs, and they should last forever. Of course it was the rear hub that broke.
Aero vs power
Nobody had less power than we did, but we routinely out-handled and out-braked most cars in the field. A lot of that comes from a better aero package that give us more downforce and less drag. Case in point, here I am in a dead heat with a 1.6 Miata, the other slowest car on the track. I eventually pass him because my car has less drag, and I brake later.
The other NA/NB Miatas in the field were on RE71Rs, while we were on RS4s, and they probably had more mechanical grip than we did. But aero works better the faster you go, and that’s where we could take them.
Hankook RS4 225/45-15
The tires worked predictably throughout the weekend. At first we were on RS4s that had about 16 hours on them I’d guess? They were only about half worn, and didn’t wear appreciably the entire day. On day two we started on stickers, and we put down times that were 1/10th slower on average. The difference was down to warmer weather and has nothing to do with the tires. Anyway, Hankook RS4s are great tires, and I see no reason to use anything else for endurance racing. The fastest NA Miata team was on RE71Rs and we saw them changing tires after only 6.5 hours. No thank you.
No full-course yellows
We didn’t have a single FCY the entire weekend. Compare this to a race at Watkins Glen, where you can expect over an hour of parade laps each day. We had plenty of accidents, but the wrecking crew managed the entire event without stopping the race. They cleared the incidents quickly, and the flaggers were on their game. It was orchestrated perfectly time and again. Thank you Mid-Ohio staff.
I’ve heard some people complain that the speed differential in AER is extreme. The Audi R8 car was about 10 seconds faster than us, but it was easy to see coming and stay out of the way. There were other fast cars, and they did occasionally dive bomb us in to T1, T4, and T11, but you learn quickly to accept that.
So you drive your mirrors a bit more, and there’s the occasional “holy crap” moment when a car suddenly appears next to you. But most of the Class 4 and 5 cars were really well driven, respectful, and safe. The speed differential was actually a shit ton of fun. Those cars take different lines, and so you can still play with them in the tight sections, and even show them your tail from time to time.
Here’s a clip of me going though T1. I purposely don’t track all the way out so I can point by the horsepower car behind me. I stay on my line going into the chicane, he takes a different line, and we trust each other to dance the dance. It might look like a close call, but it isn’t.