Showdown at PIR

Much to my delight, when I signed up for the SCCA Super Tour National Races at Portland International Raceway on July 13th though 15th, there was another B-Spec car registered to race against! My competition was a 2009 Honda Fit who was on the track for the first time over the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon the race between our B-Spec cars went off with a bang. By the first turn, all of the cars in the run group had passed the lowest horsepower car, the Mazda 2. I wasn’t too concerned though, there was still 35 minutes of racing to catch back up to the Fit.

Within three laps I had caught up with the Fit and started looking for spots where I was performing better than him. There were several spots where the 2 really out performs:

    1) Braking. I was hitting my brakes about 100 feet later off the front straight and on the back straight allowing me to gain a little bit of distance back on him lap after lap.

    2) Corners. Corners 4 through 7, where power isn’t as much of a factor and handling is, the Mazda2 excelled.

The Fit has more power than a Mazda 2, which you could really notice on the straights as it slowly started pulling away. By late braking as much as possible and using the entire track (and parts off the track too), I was able to pass the Fit on lap 7 by jumping him on the apex and late braking, forcing him out a little further to gain the lead.

Eight laps later, after nose to tail driving between both cars, the Fit was able to pass me up on the straight before the chicane to regain the lead.

After going back and forth for several more laps I was able to get along side of the Fit in the chicane. The Fit didn’t see me on the inside of the lane and I was forced to do some “off roading”. After getting back on the track behind the Fit I found the wheeling had caused the front pads to loosen up a bit which made slowing down into the next corner more exciting!

I got past the Fit on corner 7 again and led for six more laps. With one lap to go, the Fit drafted me and was able to get a good run and out brake me into the chicane. I stayed as close as I could to the Fit so I would be in position to pass again in turn 7.

One of the faster cars in the group, a Honda s2000, caught up to us just before turn 7 and dropped between us. I was cut-off from going through the corner and getting the lead. I could have tried but it would have resulted in a three car wreck. This gave the Fit a little bit of a gap between us on the back straight that I was unable to close. The Honda Fit was able to hold me off for the final two miles for a 0.480-second BFGoodrich Tires Super Tour win.

I may not have won this time, but I will have my revenge when we meet next. He may have won this battle, but the war is far from over.

Derrick-

To see more pictures from the event, go to http://dougberger.zenfolio.com/orscca-july2012-group-16-race

Hitting the Track

The time had come to see what the Mazda 2 could do at the track. The race weekend I signed up for was the Oregon Region SCCA April Showers Event which was a two day race. Each day there was a 20 minute qualifying session in the morning and a 25 minute race in the afternoon.

With the car being brand new to the race track, there were a few extras which were required so I showed up early. I had to get the Mazda 2 a log book and the car received a full tech inspection which included checking out the cage and safety equipment which takes some extra time. The car passed with flying colors and the cage received lots of compliments on the design and quality of the installation.

Saturday morning was looking like it would be a raining all day but the clouds cleared up and the sun came out in time for the new race slicks to be installed. This was the first time I had driven the 2 on a race compound tire which was an interesting experience. I let the tires warm up for the first lap of qualifying before I really started pushing the tires. The level of grip with the BF Goodrich R1S tires is outstanding on the 2. I was able to increase my speed through the corners as the qualifying session when on. I was able to drop the lap times from a 1:46 to a 1:40 which is a good start.

Out of the 23 cars which were in the run group I qualified 15th overall. Considering the cars in the run group this wasn’t too bad, 8 Porsches, a 350Z, a couple of STL and STU miatas, and 1976 HP Rabbit driven by Monte Shelton. Behind me were an ITJ Mazda Rx7 and a Ford Maverick and a few Porsches which finished less laps during the qualifying session. The Rx7 was the closest car in group to the Mazda 2, it was faster on the straights but the 2 was better in the corners. The maverick was really fast in the straights but horrible in the corners making it difficult to get around because it was all over the place.

We lined up Saturday afternoon and the race went as expected. There were two slower cars behind me as the faster cars slowly pulled away…ok, the Porsche GT3 disappeared really quick. He completed 18 laps to my 15 lap, due to a 20 second faster lap time. During the race I discovered several of the Porsches were slower than the Mazda 2 in corners. There were a few times when they would try to pull away in the corners and would get squirrely and have to slow down so I could get closer. Once the straights came up they would disappear down the track again and I would be back to checking my mirrors for the next fast car to come up on me again. The result of the first race in the 2 was 15th overall. The lap times were slower during the race which was a surprise to me. With letting the faster cars go past you give up some speed around the track.

On Sunday our run group was merged with another since there were only 3 cars running in the group. One of the more notables was a tube frame SPO Panoz which was running close to the same lap times as the Porsche GT3. Qualifying was improved over the day earlier, the lap times were consistently in the 1:42s to 1:40s with a best time of 140.527. The qualifying location came up 15th again in the run group with the ITJ Rx7 behind me again.

The race on Sunday was a smaller group as we lost a few cars in the morning qualifying. A bmw lost a connecting rod bearing and a few vehicle break downs which took out a few more cars. The race had 17 cars in it which gave more time for speed and less time getting out-of-the-way of the faster cars. The race itself has some interesting points. During the second lap the Panoz pulled off the track on a side road with the race being over. There was a 944 turbo which also suffered a failure and did not finish either. One of the laps one of the faster Porsches was catching up to me on the front straight. I had been working on braking into the corners later and later. With the approaching speed of the car I knew he wanted to get in front of me before the chicane. He found out that I could brake 100 feet later than he could as I watched him disappear from my vision on my right and I went through the corner first. It was an interesting feeling of satisfaction as I let him past me into corner 4 and I stuck with him through the rest of the corners until the straight came up again and he pulled away. The overall result from the race was 14th place overall.

The whole experience was a great first event and I learned a ton about the Mazda 2 and its characteristics at the limit. My goal for the next time out is to get the 2 into the 1:39s.

Derrick-

Pictures courtesy of Illiad Boyce and video courtesy of Brendan Hughes. Thank you both for the support and the footage!

Because Racecar

As some of you have read of the last few years I really like the Mazda 2. Before it was released in the US I had written several blog posts on my thoughts. When we picked up the first Mazda 2 delivered in the US we set out to develop a range of parts for the 2. We have also had a chance to drive 2 in autocross events and down lots of winding roads.

Once you get to the point of completing the parts you need developed on a shop car what happens next? In the case of the CorkSport Mazda 2 you turn it into a B-Spec racecar. Why would you want to do that to a new car I am sure some of you are asking? If you have read the blog about my participation in the SCCA driving school you know that I am working towards my alter ego race car driving dream and the B-Spec racecar gives a good way to approach this being cost effective.

This leads us back to the CorkSport Mazda 2. To make it a B-Spec racer requires some work. Make that a lot of work. The first thing to building the car is to install a roll cage which is it probably one of the most time consuming parts of the job. First you start off with your stock interior and take it out.

Once you finish up that easy task you need to remove all of the sound deadener Mazda installed in the chassis. There are two methods to do this. #1 is with an air chisel and being very careful to not punch a hole through the floor of your car and #2 use dry ice. The dry ice method is something I had not done before but it sounded easy enough. That and if you have left over dry ice a plastic 2 liter bottles can be lots of fun. Check out the video below of me using the dry ice to remove the sound deadener.

If I can offer a tip while doing this is to get 2-3 blocks of the dry ice so you can have several sections cooling down and keep working so you do not have to stock between the freezing of the sound deadener.

Once you completely remove of the insulation you get to start on the roll cage. This takes time and precision to get done. If you have never done this work before, I strongly recommend taking it to a professional to get done. The materials, welds, and design all need to meet the specifications of the racing sanctioning body you will be participating with. In this case we used the specs from the SCCA GCR (General Competition Rules) which are accepted by other road racing sanctioning bodies.

We went with a nascar style door bars to give the driver more space in case there is a side impact and a bit of an angle for easier entry into the car while climbing over the cage.

After all of the hard work is done with the cage getting installed you need to paint it. We wanted the color to match the exterior so we ordered up several cans of the 38P paint code color from an online supplier and got to work. After taping up the interior to limit overspray we got to work with the color and the clear coat. The finished product looks good. The picture below shows the rear section painted with the base coat.

The final product looks great and matches well with the exterior paint of the 2.

Once the paint had dried we got to work installing the safety gear for the car. We went with a set of Sparco 6 point harnesses and a Sparco Circuit Seat.

Mounting the harnesses takes some planning. After getting a good idea of where we were going to mount the seat we got to work on the mounting points for the harness. In the Mazda 2 there is only 1 factory bolt location that we could use for the lap belt. The other side of the factory seat belt mounts to the original seat. The rules require you to have a 4 inch square backing plate for the harness on the back side of the car body to make sure the anchor points for the bolts do not tear through if you are involved in a wreck. We had to do this in three locations on the 2, one for the lap belt on the tunnel side and the two for the sub belt. After planning the hole locations and making sure there was no interference (make sure when you are drilling hole into your car you look at the other side of the panel) parts on the bottom of the 2 which there was since the brake lines and fuel lines pass under the drivers seat, we got to work with drilling the holes and mounting the eyelets. The actual installation of the harnesses is easy, they simple snap onto the mounting eyes and feeding the harness around the cage bar behind the seat.

The seat is a 1 piece FIA approved bucket which is a side mount style. With the Mazda 2 being out on the market for a short time we found there were no mounting brackets available which meant we got to build them ourselves. Thankfully this is a pretty straightforward task in the Mazda 2. After sourcing some inch and a quarter steel we pressed the shapes we needed and mounted up the seat. We set the seat up so there is a slight bend in the drivers legs when the pedals are pulley depressed. This allows you to have leverage and keep a comfortable seated position when driving. We also mounted the seat as low as we could and still give the driver good visibility of the track. A lower position means lower center of gravity in the car and the best handling of the car.

This is where we are at for the moment with the 2. I will be updating the build in the next few weeks to show the final result of the car.

Derrick-