Zach’s Road to CorkSport

The Journey to CorkSport

Ever wonder what it was like to win the lottery. You ever let your mind wander and think what it would be like to actually “Live the dream.” I know I have, well, until I joined CorkSport! My name is Zach Sprague, and I wanted to share with you my experience of joining, what I believe to be, the best well known and respected company in the Mazda Community. Let’s take a look at my journey.

I’ve always been into cars and have had a pretty big obsession with FWD Hatchbacks. My passion for this platform started back in 2014. I sold cars for Toyota in Southwest Washington for about four years. During my tenure, I drove some pretty amazing vehicles, one of them being a 2013 VRM MS3 Tech pack. I knew what a Mazdaspeed was, a Turbo FWD Hatchback, and at that time that was more than enough to pique my interest in the platform. It was temporarily sitting on my lot, and I had to drive it back down to Portland to our sister store.

Before jumping into the seat, I didn’t know any horsepower or torque figures. I didn’t know what kind of emotion it was going to spark when I drove it. I had NO idea that it would become the screen saver on my computer. I slid in and pushed the button. (You know those Cold Starts) This car’s exhaust made my heart drop and gave me goosebumps. I honestly felt like an 8-year-old on Christmas Morning. 

Once on the ramp, I slowly shift into third at about three and a half grand on the tach and just sent it. Torque steer was prevalent as I was gently pushed back into my seat. I slammed 4th, and I hear this intoxicating PSSHHHHHH. I was done, I was hooked, addicted and didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so intrigued I stopped at every rest stop on the way down so that I could feel this car accelerate back onto the freeway. <insert uncontrolled giggling here>.

Flash forward a couple of years, and a guy I worked with, now one of my best friends, went out and bought a VRM Speed6. Everything on that car from top to bottom was stock down to the wheels. I slowly watched his build progress over the year and transform into one of the most inspiring builds I have ever seen. In that time he was kind enough to let me pick his brain about these cars and what they like, what they don’t like.

In 2018 this is when things got interesting! After a few months of looking and 100 YouTube videos later, I was finally ready to pull the trigger on one of my bucket list cars. I snagged a 2013 MazdaSpeed3 in liquid Silver. I drove almost 4 hours and paid an arm and a leg for sales tax, but it was worth it.

Miles of Smiles 

I was grinning ear to ear the entire way home; 4th gear dumps on the freeway, testing the grip of the tires out at a few stoplights, full-on shenanigans. I tell you what; I made it home a lot quicker than the drive up.  

I had the car for 3 weeks before I added my first mod. I already had a vision for the car, but first things first, I had to take care of those sloppy shifts. My shifter bushings and short shift plate showed up from CorkSport. At that time I knew they made great parts and were one of the very few places that even made parts for this car. What a difference that made! It felt robust and more responsive.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

I always joked with my friends about working for a company like CorkSport. I just thought it was this elusive dream that I’d be sitting behind a desk helping other people build their dream cars. I never thought in my life that an opportunity like this would come into fruition. 

My buddy, who helped me get into Mazdaspeeds, sent me a message on FB, letting me know that CS was hiring. I thought to myself; this is no lie. “There is no way on god’s green earth I’d ever get that lucky.” However, I applied. What’s the worst thing that could happen, right? 

CorkSport isn’t a revolving door, and the team is made up of a close-knit group of professionals that also happen to be car nuts. They carefully consider who’s going to be a good fit with their existing team and identify candidates that are going to get the right shit done well. I knew this was a different company, and their standards were high because they didn’t just accept my resume; there was a pre-test.  

A funny little story. I got a message from CorkSport saying they wanted to set up a phone interview! I couldn’t believe it! That Friday, I called to set up a meeting for Monday. This is where the humor known as my life kicked in; I BROKE MY PHONE ON SUNDAY! *RED ALERT* My dream job was calling me on Monday, and I didn’t have a phone, so I went out and bought a little prepaid flip phone. 

Although I almost missed this opportunity, it went well enough for CorkSport to schedule a second interview over Skype. I must add, this occurred over two weeks. I was losing my mind; I couldn’t believe it was happening. All my buddies knew I had the job, they knew how obsessed I am with cars, especially my speed 3. I still was in shock couldn’t believe I had my second interview.

When CorkSport called me to let me know, I had a final interview with the Company’s President, Corey – Hello nervousness, glad to see you again! I can’t put into words how excited I was; it was pure bliss and absolute disbelief. “IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!” I screamed at the top of my lungs when I got off the phone. I showed up a half-hour early. It was cool; I got to meet someone I’ve stalked on Instagram for a while and who has been a significant influence on me since I got into the Mazda community – Brett White.

It’s so surreal when you get an interview for a job you’ve always wanted. Above all, I remember from the interview is telling Corey, “Even if I don’t get the job, knowing I made it this far and am sitting here with you having this interview is honestly a dream come true.” It’s unreal to think that one mistake, such as breaking my phone the day before my first interview, could have kept me from writing this blog for a company I’ve looked up to since I’ve been into Mazda’s.

I cannot believe I’ve been here a little over a year already! It’s a fun environment where everyone is looking out for one another. I’ve been able to FLY in the fastest thing I’ve ever been in (Barett’s monster Gen Juan), and had the chance to drive a car I’ve drooled over on social media (Brett’s Baby) for years. 

Barett’s monster Gen Juan

Looking back, it wasn’t even four days after joining the company before the guys a CS put lowering springs on my car. It took a little over a week for me to buy an AccessPort and a Dual VTA Bypass Valve, and that was just the start! You don’t want to be an employee driving a stock Speed with a CorkSport Sticker on it.

Stay tuned to see where CorkSport and I go with my car. I’ll catch you on the flipside and, thanks for reading my first blog!

Zäch Fröm CorkSport

Mazda Nostalgia – 323 GTX

Nostalgia

I recently got a good dose of nostalgia when I agreed to help my dad pick up his new (to him) car, a 323 GTX.  A longtime friend of mine had one sitting in his driveway looking pretty sad and I had mentioned it in passing to my dad that he was looking to sell it.  

Like most GTXs you find for under ~1k they need some love and this car was no exception and it needed to be towed home.

After spending an hour looking the car over once it was home I realized home much I still remembered about these cars.  Honestly, it has been 7 years since I looked at a GTX in person and the floodgates in my mind popped open with piles of information on what we needed to check out first in the car.  

As we continued to look over the car, answers to why things were not working just came right out. A good example is why does the cooling fan turn on when you crank over the engine? I didn’t even have to look, I knew there are several sensors which the car looks at to #1 turn the fan on and #2 what speed to run it at based on temperature, the A/C is turned on, etc.  Turns out the car didn’t have either of the two temp sensors plugged in or they are broken.

As we went over the car I was listing off items we need to check or replace to get this car back up and running as it should be a funny feeling came over me.  I really felt good to be working on one of these cars again. This time the money pit isn’t mine thankfully, but if I ever want to get that “good old days” feeling from my early twenties all I have to do is go over to my dad’s house and pick up a wrench as there is almost certainly something which will need to be fixed.

The fun part of this adventure is the answer to why did he buy it.  Like most 323 GTXs they are meant to be raced and this is no exception as it will be run in the Gambler 500.  Never heard of the Gambler 500 before? Well, it is like chump car or Lemons racing, you can prep a cheap car and go rally racing with it. Having a ~500 car survive the weekend of navigating GPS and not breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the challenge.

Some of you remember my old GTX which was sold to another local GTX aficionado sitting in the normal position of being broken and needing time and money thrown at it to get it back on the road again.  If you haven’t seen the car before here is a few pictures of it in it’s natural habitat which I have dug up.

If any of you decide to pick up a GTX, remember it doesn’t take much to get your 323 to do this and not leave the transmission in pieces….

-Derrick

5 Classic Mazda Models To Dream About

If you’re new to reading our blogs, you may not know how we feel about Mazdas. (Spoiler alert: We like them. A lot.) As a companion piece to our post last year, 6 Hilariously Classic Mazda Models, we’ve got a fresh batch of Mazdas to delight and destroy your ideas of what a Mazda should and shouldn’t be.

Mazda MPV

Mazda MPV Minivan | CorkSport

Nothing screams OG like a minivan with rear-wheel drive and the option to switch over to four-wheel. The MPV remains in production today, though we prefer the attitude of the ’89 model. Hell, drop some speakers in the back, and you’ve got a WMD. Check out this video of one crushing a body of water.

Continue reading “5 Classic Mazda Models To Dream About”

Flashback Friday: 6 Hilariously Classic Mazda Models

We can’t wait for our new Mazda MX-5. Every time more rumors surface about the next Mazdaspeed, all of us at CorkSport can hardly contain our excitement. Still: We appreciate nostalgia, and for all the performance updates that Mazda has made over the years, it’s still fun to reminisce on their past accomplishments.

For a small player in the industry, Mazda has released some incredible cars over the years. Some have evolved into the models we mod out today; some disappeared like dinosaurs. They’re gone, but not quite forgotten, at least not by true Mazda heads. These are six of our favorite Mazda models from the past.

1. The Mazda Mazdago

First vehicle manufactured by Mazda
Mazda Philippines

Is it a motorcycle? Or an ATV? Or a truck? Technically, the Mazdago was the first “autorickshaw,” but we remember it more as the first vehicle manufactured by Mazda.

2. The Mazda Savanna RX-3

city-data
city-data

Long live the rotary, right? We can’t wait for the new one, whenever that will be, but we love any shot from the rotary family. Given the Savanna’s huge success in the 70s, it won’t ever be forgotten, but it’s sadly rare to see one of these morsels on the road today.

3. The Mazda Titan

goo-net
goo-net

Not to be confused with the Nissan truck, this commercial behemoth actually lives up to its name. The boxy Mazda Titan is still around, and still not the prettiest truck on the road.

4. The Mazda Bongo

cartype
cartype

Technically, these sometimes trucks, sometimes vans remain in production—at least for a little while longer. It’s the photos of the first models, though, like the first gen pictured above, that catch our eye. The Mazda Bongo has never been a sleek van, but that’s OK when their main job is to be functional.

5. The Mazda REPU

Flickr
Flickr

This was not a popular truck. Known for guzzling gas, its appearance right before the 1970s gas crisis might have sealed its fate. The Mazda REPU was a lot faster than its competition, though, and we kind of love that it had a rotary engine.

6. The Mazda MX-3

cargurus
cargurus

The Mazda MX-3 died out the same year CorkSport was born, and we remember it for the performance modifications. The MX-3 was basically made for Mazda performance enhancement. If you see one on the road today, chances are someone’s been under the hood, installing a lot of upgrades.

Did we miss any? (Rhetorical question, people. Mazda has made a lot of cars.)

 

Cheers,

CorkSport

Life in the FSAE Lane: A Year-Long Journey

Have you heard about FSAE? You Haven’t? Well, grab a beer and take a seat. We have quite the journey ahead of us.

The Basics

Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) is an international collegiate design competition held among colleges and their associated student groups. The project is to design and build an open-wheel race car (within the specified rules) to compete in both dynamic and static events.

The dynamic events include:

  • A 300ft drag race
  • Left/right skid pad
  • Single pass autocross track
  • A closed loop autocross track run for 20 minutes, which is also scored on fuel economy.

The static events include:

  • An engineering design event
  • A cost analysis event
  • A marketing presentation.

The goal of the project is to simulate a new startup company that designs and builds track day cars that are affordable for the average guy. All right. That’s the background. Now, I hope you enjoy my personal FSAE journey.

FSAE Sample Race Car Design

First Encounters with FSAE

For me, it all started in September of 2011. I had just transferred to Portland State University (PSU) to begin my upper division classes in Mechanical Engineering. The classes were difficult, and I didn’t know anyone at Portland State. One day, I came across the PSU Viking Motorsport Formula SAE student group. I was instantly hooked, getting whatever information I could from the couple of members I met. Before I knew it I was in the student group’s lab, tinkering with the car and asking way too many questions. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time, and I’ll admit: I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t know if I would have stuck it out any other way.

I attended a second meeting with enthusiasm, which landed me managing the cooling system for the next race car. A mixture of stress and excitement overwhelmed me.

Building an FSAE Race Car

You only have a year with FSAE, which means we had to work quickly. Within a few weeks the 2012 race car was beginning to take shape.

FSAE Race Car Frame

Remember: This wasn’t built from a kit. From concept to 3D computer model to the immense amount of fabrication, we did it all. Not to mention the 12-21 credits of engineering classes, and on top of it all some of us were working an hourly job—myself included. Sounds crazy, huh? You have no idea unless you’ve done it.

With a goal to have an operational race car by mid-February there were at least eight members spending 60-80 hours per week building the race car. There were many late nights—actually, “early mornings” are a better way to put it—that ended like this:

Working Late on an FSAE Car

But with every tough time there was a moment like this to remind us to have fun:

FSAE Fun Engineering

The Fruit of Our Labor

By March, only a couple weeks behind schedule, we had an operational race car, and we were feeling pretty awesome (to have an operational race car by then was impressive in this competition) and ready to start testing and tuning. With so much time spent in the machine shop and lab, we were all very excited to get some fresh air at the test track. Who wouldn’t be excited with a view like this?

FSAE Race Test Track

Our testing and tuning consisted of every aspect of vehicle dynamics. Tire pressure, camber, caster, anti-squat, anti-lift, toe, spring rate, and damping rate adjustment—not to mention the live engine tuning via wireless connection. Testing and tuning days were an absolute blast, but they were packed full of problems and solutions, because that’s the reality of a race car. On top of our private testing and tuning, we would also participate in local SCCA autocross events, because it was more testing and great driver training. These events were usually a bit more relaxed if there weren’t any issues.

The FSAE Competition

Let’s fast forward a few months to the actual competition held in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The most important step was getting through tech inspection. Tech inspection, or commonly called “scrutineering”, involved four stations, each testing a different aspect of the car. First, the car is thoroughly inspected by officials to verify all the rules had been followed. Second, accelerate for a set distant then apply the brakes at full force. All four tires must lock up and the race car cannot rotate out of control. Third, rev the engine to a set RPM for 3 seconds without overshooting the 110dB threshold. Fourth, the epic tilt table. The car and driver are tilted to over 60 degrees to check for leaks and to simulate a 2.5G cornering force. Sound nerve-wracking? It can be, but this is also pretty fun:

FSAE Testing

To our surprise, we were the third team to get through tech inspection. That may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but you need to understand that some teams never even get through tech inspection at all. The tests are exhaustive, especially for college students who just built a racing vehicle from scratch. With the tech sticker on our race car we were off to prepare for the next few days of static and dynamic events.

The next morning came, and the first event on our schedule was the design presentation. This was my biggest worry of the whole competition. Four very well educated and known motorsports engineers drill you for an entire hour with questions about your design and your decisions to get to that design. It was like standing in front of the firing squad.

Formal FSAE Design Presentation

All-in-all we did pretty well for being more of a hands-on focused team. The important thing was the most difficult event was behind us. Next were the other two static events, but I didn’t present in these, so we will just move forward to the dynamic events.

Like any good race car it was having issues that we couldn’t for the life of us diagnose. After limping the race car through the drag race and skid pad events, we narrowed the issues down to the fuel pressure regulator and a potential tuning issue. After completely re-designing the fuel system from an in-tank setup to an external setup we had the car running much better. There was still a mysterious tuning issue, but with only minutes to spare we pushed (all race cars had to be pushed to the events according to the rules) the race car to the autocross event in an attempt at least score some points.

Pushing an FSAE Race Car

The race car was difficult to drive as the throttle response was poor to say the least, but I managed to finish 25th of 90. I later found out that this was the highest score for the autocross event in PSU’s history.

Check out the Autocross event here. (Skip to 3:15.)

Last but not least was the endurance event. This event is worth 40% of the total competition points and is by far the most demanding dynamic event. On average, only 60% of the teams that start the event finish. The most common issues are engine overheating or failure to restart after the driver change, but sometimes you have an unusual issue much like the one we had to overcome. I was the first driver for the endurance event, so I was forced to improvise. The bracket that stops the accelerator pedal broke on my first lap, which resulted in the accelerator pedal being stuck wide open. I couldn’t get my foot around the pedal to pull it loose, and quitting wasn’t an option. With no other choice, I drove the next ten laps throttling through the corners with the clutch, leaving the throttle wide open. As you can see in the video, things got a little out of control for a bit, but I managed to finish my ten laps without blowing up the car.

The FSAE Endurance Challenge

We changed drivers and proceeded to complete the endurance event with a broken chain tensioner at lap 18. Through all those issues we finished 14th in the endurance event.

Check out the Endurance event here.

With all the points tallied up, we finished 16th place of 90 teams at FSAE Lincoln. This was and still is the highest placing in PSU’s history. None of this would have been possible without the support of my fellow teammates and our extremely supportive adviser, Evan Waymire. Of course we learned a ton about engineering, but also, and maybe most importantly, that life is not about the issues you face, but about the ways you solve them.

Barett Strecker-01