25 hours of Thunderhill

25 hours of 69

For many people across the USA, the days after Thanksgiving means one thing. To them, it’s the start of the Christmas season. The beginning of holiday shopping, pumpkin spice lattes, and the best home cooked meals you can’t wait to dive into.

However, for a small select few group of individuals and teams, it’s a time for something completely different. It’s a time to see what you are made of, a time to put it all out on the table. A time where you know if the past year of planning, testing, and preparation are about to reward you greatly or tear you down completely. It’s the time where you hope to be able to stand up on a Sunday at noon and can say proudly “I survived the 25.”

For those lucky few (some call them crazy or stupid) the weekend after the Thanksgiving Holiday is what you might call a different type of holiday.

For the past 15 years, the 1st weekend of December is when some of the worlds best pro and amateur drivers descend upon a small city in Northern California known as Willows. Just on the outskirts of this quaint little city lies a little well-known road course titled merely “Thunderhill.” Now what makes Thunderhill so unique, well it’s probably the fact that this venue host the longest and most extreme endurance race in all of North America. For 25 hours straight; teams, coaches, drivers, and fans endure the rain, cold, dark, lack of sleep and more to try and make a name for themselves, and this year CorkSport did just that. Made History…

 

 

While attending the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is nothing new for CorkSport as we have spent the past several years supporting Mazda North America and their racing efforts with logistics, crew, and parts. This year was the first year where we entered a new team ourselves and brought our car, crew, trailer, and everything else you need to try and survive 25 hours of racing.

Sadly MNAO did not attend this year so it was up to us to make sure that the brand and name would make a forceful showing at the event and that is precisely what we did.

 

 

To start this whole thing off, we brought out our 2016 Mazda 3 GT. You guys are more than familiar with this car as Co-owner, and founder of CS Derrick Ambrose has been piloting this ride for two race seasons now in SCCA racing. We spent several weeks leading up to the event preparing the CorkSport Mazda3 for this daunting task.

.

We got extra safety equipment installed, upgraded our data acquisition package, optimized and engine tune for the  2.5L engine, and even installed some upgrade prototype pieces to have the car suited for the race.

Some of the CS goodies that were on the car during the run where our SRI, Cat-back exhaust, RMM, sway bar, and some prototype pieces like our aluminum skid tray and upgraded transmission engine mount. We needed the best parts we could get in there if we wanted to be competitive and make history.

No one has ever raced the 3rd generation Mazda 3 for this long in any endurance race. This car started off just like any other Mazda 3 and still retained a full OEM chassis, transmission, and engine. The engine internals where untouched and the transmission received a CorkSport LSD.

 

The team showed up on a brisk and cold Thursday morning, and we went to work. We immediately set up and got the drivers briefed. We got some practice in on Thursday followed with some qualifying on Friday all to be prepared to push this car to the limit for 25 hours. The team grabbed the pole position, and we were 1.5 seconds ahead of the next car which was fantastic. It showed we had the pace and ultimately the faster car. Fast forward to Saturday, and the flag drops green.

We had a great start and excellent drivers in the car. We struggled a bit through the night with consuming tires at a rate faster than we had anticipated and also had a few issues with how quickly we could get fuel into the car, despite the problems the team and the car pushed through the night. With just a brake change and tweak to the exhaust through the night, we maintained a good pace that ultimately got unwound due to the fuel issue mentioned above.
There was a Miata in our class that could get better fuel economy and tire consumption and slowly crawled there way up to lead during the night.

As the sunlight begins to break through, we are in a healthy 2nd place but a bit far off the leader, however, it does not worry us too much as we still have a shot at a win. Things were looking good till right about hour 22. One of our driver’s radio’s in and let us know he lost 4th gear (that’s not good). None the less we keep pushing knowing we have a spare transmission should we need to swap.

 

Now at hour 23 we get another message. “I lost 2nd gear” The transmission has now lost two gears, and we get a bit nervous. The car is still going and driving strong but our lap times do suffer from not being able to use all of the gears. After a quick powwow with the team, the decision is made to leave the car out on track and finish the race between 3rd and 5th gear.

With only 2.5 hours to go swapping out the transmission did not make sense as we were very secured in 2nd place. So we did just that and pushed on through, and you know what happened? We did it. While we didn’t get the P1 spot like we had wanted we did what no other SKYACTIV-G Mazda3 had done before.

We survived the 25. We proved the chassis and the platform, we pushed harder, longer, and further than absolutely anyone else has. The car was relatively unscathed, and minus the transmission, the vehicle performed excellently. All of the CorkSport parts did precisely what they needed to and outperformed all expectations.

We took the 3rd gen platform and solidified it as a competitive car and chassis that can be used and used well at all levels of motorsports.

So, what happens next?

The Mazda 3 made it back home and now lay dormant inside of HQ. We will be spending the next few weeks going through a ton of data and running through the car with a fine tooth comb.

We’ll take the transmission apart and see what her demise was. We’ll likely strip the SKYACTIV 2.5L down as well to check out what two years of racing looks like on her. The oil is already out of the car and on its way to the lab so be sure to stick around and see what we find out there.

Now one of the great things about this is what our success brings to the community. Everything we learned here can and will be applied to all of our parts and products moving forward. When we win, you guys all win. So, celebrate our accolades with us and wish us luck as we begin to prepare for the 2018 race season.

 

Do we tackle the 25 hours again next year? Do we show up with a turbocharger and more aero? And do we fight our ways to a P1 finish? You better believe I am going to try.

 

-Vincent  

Guest Blog – Mazda Takeover Event

Recently, we’ve been posting a lot of blogs on clubs and connection in the community, and I’m sure you’re wondering what that’s all about. We’re hoping to help people get connected in their local areas and start throwing more meets!

What way to better understand how to get a HUGE group of MAZDA ENTHUSIASTS together than ask a Mazda Meet Organizer?

Keith Eggert has been an influential event planner for a lot of West Coast Mazda clubs. Below, he walks us through how it was for him setting up the first couple Mazda Takeover events. We hope it inspires you to start the process of creating your own!


KEITH:

Let me start off by saying that I am by no means a professional at getting a large gathering of people together, nor am I very organized. However, I love the Mazda community and enjoy connecting with fellow Mazda enthusiasts.

A unique opportunity was laid out before me: Get as many people with Mazdaspeeds together here in my area. (For those of you who don’t know where I’m from, I currently reside in the greater Boise, Idaho area.) 

Dale Owen, head honcho of the Mazdaspeed Idaho group on Facebook, who also runs Gem Tuning (yes, he tuned my car), approached me with a yearly meet idea.

He explained how it’d be a huge help if I lent a hand in helping organize our yearly Mazdaspeed group meet, since I live in the epicenter of the majority of the Idaho members.  Of course I said “Yes”, and just minutes after I told him yes, I had an idea:  “Let’s do it big!”, I said to Dale:

“Let’s make this thing huge, not just a simple one-day hangout, let’s put this party on the map!”

He reluctantly agreed to that, and since that day over two years ago, I took the reins and ran with it.  I figured I had to give it a name, but more importantly, I had to figure out what we were going to do for two whole days. It had to be exciting, it had to fill empty time, it had to connect Mazda Groups from all surrounding areas.  Most importantly, it needed to be fun.  I decided to call it the Mazda Takeover because that’s how I envisioned it; Mazda after Mazda after Mazda, driving down the road to locations in the valley where events were set up. It was a beautiful thing to see.

I invited anyone in the Mazda Community willing to make the drive from as far as Utah to come up.  I invested about three months into getting known, talking to people, and helping members with their questions on the Utah Mazda Enthusiasts Facebook group.  It paid off. As luck would have it Cody Allington is kind of the go-to guy down in Utah, and with his help he generated interest, and brought up 7 cars with him in the first year, which blew me away given that the planning span of 3 months was all the time I gave him to gather a group willing to drive up.

Friday through Sunday. That was the game plan, come to find out, clearly waaaay too short of a time frame.

Between the Friday evening’s Line the Streets meet, Saturday mornings dyno day, Saturday nights drag racing, and Sunday’s farewell, I think everyone managed to get about 3 hours of sleep each night. That needed to change. We absolutely needed an extra day; that way people wouldn’t feel burned out, and would have time to relax and just talk to people. So, for Year Two, we did just that.

Mazda Takeover’s second year was much more organized, spanning from Thursday night through Sunday.

Three days to dyno, race, and have a scenic cruise.  It was perfect, and even had people making the trip in the late evening on Saturday just to make two passes down the drag strip before the lights went out and everyone went home. We now have a perfect amount of days, but there was still quite a bit of downtime that we attempted to fill with a garage day, which was way too stressful given that it was hours before we all left to go drag racing. That won’t be happening in Year Three.

So what did I learn in all of this?

Two successful years, triple the amount of attendance from people outside of Idaho, states I never contacted via Social Media wondering about the event and contacting me directly…  I think I have a recipe to keep this thing going.

Here is just a little bit of wisdom should you find yourself wanting to have a huge meet.

  1. First things first: PLAN PLAN PLAN.  Do not fill a day with too much.  Two events per day spaced out is perfect.  Dyno in the morning from 9-2, then have everyone meet for a BBQ from 4-7.  However, you wish to fill the day, keep in mind: the key to a successful meet is to utilize the reason you are there.  If you get Mazda people together, do Mazda stuff.  Go for a cruise, schedule time for how long that drive will take, and any pit stops needed for photo shoots, fuel, etc.
  2. Second. When doing two events during a meet, NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES DO TWO CAR RELATED EVENTS IN THE SAME DAY. Meaning, don’t schedule a dyno day and an evening of drag racing in the same day.  Can you? Sure you can.  Should you? Probably not.  Cars are like people, too much stress and they break.  Don’t need to go breaking any cars; this is supposed to be fun.  And if you do, know your groups of attendees. Scheduling an Autocross event and a drag event on the same day is far more acceptable, since autocross drivers are less susceptible to drag racing, and a drag car sure as hell won’t ever see an autocross course.
  3. Third. Keep in mind, you are doing this for a group so that everyone can have fun, yourself included.  Call ahead, give businesses a heads up that a group is coming on a certain day, that way it alleviates stress on the business and on you as the administrator. The less stress, the more fun everyone has.

With those three key ingredients, you can build the foundation for a successful meet.  

Keep in mind, if you are planning on doing a multi-day meet, the more notice the better.  Also, keep in mind that not everyone can make it, even with six months of notice.  Life happens fast, and things change quickly.

I think the biggest thing I learned is to not fear failure.  

The first year of the Mazda Takeover, THE DAY OF the start of the meet, I had doubt, fear that no one would show, a sinking feeling that three months of phone calls and planning was all for nothing.  Push that aside, people will come.  Hype up your meet, make it sound like the best weekend people near you with a Mazda could ever have. I did just that for two years worth of events.  Last year Corksport sent Luke McCarvel and Barett Strecker to the event.  This year I got Luke and Barett, and Brett White got the chance to join them.

Evolutionary Performance out of Salt Lake even shut it’s doors for the weekend to relax and have a good time.

So that just goes to show: If you never settle for OK, and constantly push to have bigger and better meets, performance shops will come to your meet, retailers can come to your meets, tuners can come to your meets, but most importantly, people will have a good time.

Lastly, a shameless plug for the Mazda Takeover 2018. – June 7th-11th in Boise, Idaho.

Dyno, Drag, Karting, BBQ, Scenic Cruise. Whether you drive a Mazdaspeed, Miata, Protege, or just regular Mazda that you’re proud of, you won’t want to miss this year’s event.  We hope to see you there. Camping is encouraged!!!

Cheers,

– Keith Eggert

Check out the Mazda Takeover Event Page on Facebook!

If you’re looking for an excuse to connect with your local Nator Club, Mazdaspeed Group, or Mazda community, Keith has shown you how to stick with it and come up with a great event. However, if you don’t want to plan your own, stay tuned as we’ll be working with clubs all over the US to promote events and meetups throughout 2018.

If you’re a club and you have an event page, email kim@corksport.com so we can be sure to get you on the calendar!

A List of Your Local NATOR Communities – What Makes Us Family

Ever wondered how to connect with your local Mazda crews and clubs?

Or have you ever gotten connected and then lost your ride somehow? For some of us it’s a crash, others of us sell our beloved Mazda and aim at our next dream car, or heck, even the necessary minivan.

What happens then? Not only did you lose your favorite car, but seemingly you lost out on the community as well. Does it make sense to show up to your favorite meets if you no longer drive the “proper” vehicle?

When it comes to the Nator groups, the love is still there regardless of what your next ride.

According to Micha Fullen, this is exactly how it goes; and it’s about so much more than the cars themselves:

“While at the annual Midwest meet this year in St Louis Missouri, washing my hair in the shower I had a thought, “Micha, why do you still come to this event when you don’t even own a Mazdaspeed anymore?”

I told myself, that being a Mazdaspeed owner past, present or future, is like being in a family. Especially when you involve yourself in the community and clubs that are offered throughout the country. Me, I’m a Nator Guy.

Year after year, we collectively travel thousands of miles to attend an event centered around vehicles that some of us don’t even own anymore. It’s crazy huh? Do the same thing, show up without owning the ‘correct’ Model Vehicle, at a VW or Honda meet and you get blacklisted and shunned.

Mazdaspeed owners don’t kick you out, or tell you that you shouldn’t be there. We just call each other; funny, and sometimes very rude, names. Then ask to race your new vehicle on a track, dragstrip or parking lot.  (More recently it’s been even helpful to all of them that I bought a truck… because we all know with spirited driving, and some showing off, something is bound to go wrong)

 I am closer to my Mazdaspeed family than I am to my own. This has been true since I bought my Speed 3 Jun of 2011. I had some problems with my car(s) and my Mazdaspeed (Nator) family came to my aid. But when that same family had problems of their own, I drove many miles or sometimes across multiple states to help them.

Corksport goes out of their way to attend these events. Not so much pushing parts, but to welcome family with open arms and stay connected to the grass roots of our community.

I met Barrett this year and even having never talked to him, he was the top 3 nicest dudes I have ever met. He got involved and talked shop with the majority of everyone in attendance. Kim is also a major voice in the community, listening to what the people want and bouncing ideas off of people to find how CorkSport can continuously push and evolve in this platform. She shows up to multiple events a year, stays in contact even throughout the winter and is always helping her “brothers and sisters” with their own endeavors, even if it doesn’t involve Corksport.

This year, if you were at the Midwest meet, you would see that a good majority of people have moved on to new platforms, specifically the new ecoboost options from Ford being very popular. Adrienne K with her Focus RS, Matt D with his FoST and Ryan P with his brand new FiST, and myself, I went way to the left with the new Raptor (Hey it has 2 turbos mmmmmkay).

It doesn’t matter what happens in your life, or even if you have moved on, we all got our start with Mazdaspeeds and we always stick with Family.”

As you see, being a Mazda owner is about the community, the family, the connection to other Mazdaspeed Enthusiasts.

And being an enthusiast isn’t always defined by the fact you still own a Mazda. It’s defined by being a car family. There may be groups that require you to own a Mazda to show up, but when it comes to Nator, once a Mazdaspeed Nator Family member, always one.

If you’re curious about where to connect, who to reach out to, or how to get in touch with your local Mazda club, check out the list below.

While we would love for this list to be exhaustive, it’s not, so if you’re currently involved in a club not listed, please let us know and we’ll be sure to make it easier for other CorkSport followers to connect with your group!

Download PDF of List:  NATOR Clubs List

CorkSquad https://www.facebook.com/groups/1634041806878345/ Savannah GA
Souther Street Crew https://www.facebook.com/groups/454444514600458/ GA
MMOC https://www.facebook.com/groups/MIMazda/ Michigan
ClubMPS https://www.facebook.com/groups/clubmpsnz/ New Zealand
LVMazdas https://www.facebook.com/groups/LVMazdas Las Vegas
NoVA Mazdaclub https://www.facebook.com/groups/321399927926454 VA
Mazda MIata Mx5 WA/OR https://www.facebook.com/groups/1698103380420298 WA/OR
Mazda Militia https://www.facebook.com/groups/mazdamilitia WA
Nothern Mazda Militia https://www.facebook.com/groups/286006598276940
Texas Mazdaspeeds https://www.facebook.com/groups/TexasMazdaspeeds TX
PNW_Mazda https://www.facebook.com/groups/PNWMazda WA/OR
Mazda 3 Owners Australia https://www.facebook.com/groups/Mazda3OA AUS
Mazdas of Kileen/Ford Hood https://www.facebook.com/groups/texasspeeddemons TX
Nator Oregon https://www.facebook.com/groups/NatorOR OR
Nator TN/KY https://www.facebook.com/groups/206647016088166 TN/KY
Nator Oklahoma https://www.facebook.com/groups/NATOROK/ OK
Nator NC/SC https://www.facebook.com/pages/North-Carolina/104083326294266 NC/SC
Nator Minnesota https://www.facebook.com/groups/NatorMinnnesota MN
Nator Georgia https://www.facebook.com/groups/163448653866393 GA
Nator Florida https://www.facebook.com/groups/1298072073575997/?ref=br_rs FL
Nator Missouri https://www.facebook.com/groups/natormo MO
Nator Arizona https://www.facebook.com/groups/708796579135806 AZ
Nator New Mexico https://www.facebook.com/groups/270637012974823 NM
Nator San Diego https://www.facebook.com/groups/natorsd/about/ CA
Nator DC Metro https://www.facebook.com/groups/147772498652109 DC
Nator WA https://www.facebook.com/groups/948847285235072 WA/OR
Nator WI https://www.facebook.com/groups/379868465454404 WI
Nator Chapter E https://www.facebook.com/groups/176597409073225/ FL
Nator New England https://www.facebook.com/groups/255796874460817 New Englan
Nator Houston Miata https://www.facebook.com/groups/446031202177809 TX
Mazda Owners of Nebraska https://m.facebook.com/groups/733704760063616 Nebraska
Speed Squad https://www.instagram.com/speedsquad.tm/ Quebec Canada
Mazda Flow London https://www.facebook.com/groups/934300966591060/ Ontario Canada

Charging for the WIN!

Track Tested CorkSport Approved AXM Parts – Leading the Pack.

The last race weekend I had available before the runoffs turned out to be pretty interesting.

Locally there are very few T4 (touring 4) class cars so I often find myself running with other class cars and this weekend was no exception at Portland International Raceway. I showed up for qualifying on Friday morning with a new part to test and a suspension setup with something I had not tried.

I looked over the entry list the day before, and there read a list of cars you would expect to clobber a Mazda 3 on the track. 3 Porsche 911s, a pair of V8 mustangs, an STL Miata and more.

To make sure I had a clear track for qualifying, I hustled to the pre-grid to make sure I was the first car out. Straight out of the pits, I went flat out to get some distance on the Porsches to be able to push the car for the entire time I was out qualifying. As I watched the lap timer in the Mazda 3, my times kept dropping lap after lap. 6 laps in and I had already bested my fastest lap time at Portland by a second, so I called it quits and pulled in to the pits.

On the way out of the track I grabbed the time sheet to review and see where I placed. A quick review of the sheet showed I had qualified the Mazda 3 in second out of 10 cars and I was in front of 2 of the Porsches.

The start of the race didn’t go that great. Out of all the cars on the track I was in the bottom ½ for horsepower. But I was making up the speed in the corners.

One of the back cars jumped the start a bit and managed to take us 3 wide into a corner which is only good for 2. I was forced to give up some room to one of the Porsches to keep from having contact which put me back to 4th. Several laps into the race one of the Porsches who got ahead of me at the start spun off the track so I was able to move back up a spot while trying to chase down the leader who was running ~1 second a lap faster than I was. The 30 minute mark came pretty quick, and the race ended on a not-so-exciting note of me being in 3rd, and the leaders ~ ½ a lap ahead and all but a few of the rest of the field being lapped.

The big question you all want to ask is: “What were you testing for the 3rd Gen Mazda 3?”

First things first, the changes we made to the Mazda 3:
  • We made an adjustment with the CorkSport rear adjustable swaybar. Being able to make quick adjustments on the rear swaybar bar allows us to soften the suspension to match the alignment changes.
  • We had taken more rear camber out of the back of the car with the CorkSport adjustable camber arms, trying to decrease rear grip (yes you read that right). We have been having problems with front end push (understeer) so we worked on dialing rear grip out of the car.  – We had the CorkSport front camber plates maxed out for camber to the class limits, but it wasn’t enough to offset the rear grip.
  • We originally were running our CorkSport Mazda 3 adjustable shocks on the track but we had to remove them as they are not legal for the Touring 4 class. The adjustable shocks make a world of a difference over what I have to use on the car and I wish we could’ve changed back. Being able to fine tune the Mazda 3 suspension is a great asset for any performance driver.

Now to the fun, what I got to test that was new:

The engineers here at CorkSport have been working on a revised Mazda 3 Rear engine mount for the 3/6/Cx5 over the past few months. The best way we have to extreme test parts is on the track.

Think of the race-testing this way: I am driving full throttle, banging gears, and when I am off the throttle means I am on the brakes, so there is no time for the mount to get any rest. There is the maximum amount of heat, load, and stress in a compressed time line, compared to street driven cars, so if failure is to occur it would be on the track.

At the end of the month, I will be doing a test on a final version of the rear engine mount at the SCCA Runoffs and competing to bring home a National Championship for CorkSport and Mazda.

This brings me to my next point: All of the parts mentioned above have been punished on the track and had zero failures. I have been on the same rear sway bar, rear camber arms, camber plates, and short ram intake, and cat back exhaust since we started racing the car at Daytona in 2015.

You just can’t beat the fact that our CorkSport parts walk the talk when pushed to the extreme, which means they won’t let you down, no matter what you’re doing.

Charge for the WIN!

Derrick

How We Tweaked Our Mazda Suspension

One great thing about racing is that you always keep tweaking the car to see how you can make it better. Each track presents a different challenge and setup requirements to keep you on your toes.

Derrick Racing for CorkSport at SCCA

We’ve been developing our SCCA Touring 4 (T4) class 2015 Mazda 3 into a viable competitor, and we recently got the final piece we needed to make it a strong candidate in Indianapolis this year for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. That final piece was a limited slip differential.

CorkSport Limited Slip Differential

A limited differential helps with traction, but it changes the handling characteristics of the car when you install it. We entered the SCCA Majors event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, to see how the car would do with the new differential. The biggest change was the handling; it was tight which means the car wanted to understeer. The car’s existing setup for ride height, toe, and camber would need to be adjusted to help remove the imbalance we had created.

The first thing we changed in the car was the ride height. Some concerns were brought up during discussions with Kenton Koch, our driving coach for the weekend (and a championship driver in several series). He pointed out this was one of the easiest changes to make on the fly. One thing to note: When you change anything, you need to make sure your change did not move something else. Once we had raised the car up half an inch, we took a look at the toe and camber settings. In this case, the car was right where we wanted it, so we headed out to try the new settings along with a 5psi bump in rear tire pressure.

The changes yielded a big boost in performance. We went from 2:02 around the track to 1:58, and moved up during the race from sixth to third. The car was fairly neutral around the track, but we still were not getting any oversteer. We opted to raise the rear of the car another full turn on the springs to see if we could get the change we were looking for. Another check of the rear toe settings after the change showed the new setup was good.

CorkSport at SCCA

That last turn did the trick in regards to oversteer. There was a hairpin corner where the car would oversteer too much, and it required lots of counter steering to stay pointed in the right direction without looping the car. Creating rake in the car was counter to advice we had gotten from the manufacturer of the suspension we are running. Sometimes going against the grain of what everyone else is doing can lead to some good discoveries and lessons learned.

We are already working on a new list of things to try for the next event and the opportunity to make our Mazda 3 a championship-winning car for Indy.

Derrick

Meet Derrick from CorkSport. Loves racing, Mazdas, and his CS fam.