Drag Racing: Just Like the First Time

Ask any of my friends or coworkers and they will quickly tell you “Barett Loves Curves!”

 I’ve always been the first guy to dive into the corner, hit the apex and power out with just a touch of wheel spin.  My car follows suit with its build; upgraded sway bars, big brake kit up front and the steering wheel to hold it all together.  Of course, my friends were always there with the peer pressure to hit 1320Luke McCarvel being the biggest offender (check out his “Drag Strip Checklist”).   However, one day my opinion changed.  

At some point I realized that I can’t knock it until I try it, so I finally succumbed to the straight line life.

So let’s go through the first line up:  Do a burnout…that was much easier than I expected.  

Ok now roll up to the staging line…don’t be that guy that rolls through and has to back up.  Knuckles white on the steering wheel, heart beating in rhythm with the launch control, closely watching the tree light up…GREEN LIGHT!  Launch…wheel spin to redline. Shift…wheel spin to redline. Shift…try to modulate the throttle, but still tons of wheel spin. Shift…finally the car hooks, builds speed then it’s over in the blink of an eye.  

All that build up waiting in line, doing the burnout, staging, launching and rowing the gears for a few seconds of intense adrenaline.  It was an absolute blast; I couldn’t believe how intoxicating just a single pass was. I wanted more and I wanted it immediately. Back in line, I went.  

My first pass was an awkward 14.37sec @ 119.8mph.  I say awkward because that is a slow ET for the trap speed.  It shows just how much tire spin I was fighting and how much time I was giving up because of it.  With full interior and street tires this was to be expected, however, the crowd thought it was quite funny either way.  

I proceeded to make 3 more passes as the night progressed.  Each time making a small change to the car or to my approach and control of the launch and throttle modulation.   Each pass rewarded me with a small improvement for my efforts. Each pass down the strip left me wanting more from the next pass.

The third pass was the most frustrating of them all.  At the start of the night, I set a personal goal to break into the 12s.  I didn’t know if it was realistic or a complete dream, but I had to start somewhere.  That third pass was also the one that drove me to get my shit together because it teased me with a 13.000sec @ 120.95mph.  So Close!

Alright one more pass, this was the one I could feel it.  30 minutes later I’m staring at the burnout box, line up drop 2nd and get the tires nice and hot.  Pull up to staging next to a real crowd killer (I mean Mustang).  

Yellow… yellow…yellow…….GREEN LIGHT!

Launch…little wheel spin to redline.  

Shift…little more wheel spin to redline.  Shift…modulate the throttle with only a tiny bit of wheel spin.  Shift…now the car really hooks but I’m a few lengths behind that Musta…oh shit there’s the turbo…I’m reeling him in…it’s so closeI fly past him with the rev limiter dancing.

 It’s over…deep breath…that was it I know it.

Now the quick jaunt to the end of the strip then back to the little building and the old guy that’s been racing since flatheads were a thing.  

“Car 610?”

“Yes Sir”

“Here’s your slip.  Is that a Maaazda?”

YES! Hit my goal for the night and the car can still drive me home.  I call that a success.

I parked my car, picked up my 120+mph club sticker and enjoyed the rest of the night with my good friends from Idaho Mazda Takeover.  It was a great night and one I plan to top in the near future.

Anybody have some stock brakes and drag slicks I can borrow?

 

-BS @ CS

Working on the Driver

I have been racing Mazdas on the track in wheel-to-wheel competition since 2013 and I have learned quite a bit.

I am nowhere near being the best driver. I have good moments and plenty of “WTF Derrick” things which happen on the track which are masked by good car control.

2 years ago I bought a Spec Miata (SM). Locally the number of B-Spec and Touring 4 classes are smaller.  This is not great for me, as I find my racecraft suffers when I get too big events where there are more than 5 cars and the racing is close.  I can always fight my way to 2nd or 3rd place but the top step has been elusive.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go to events where there are other T4 cars (they are not unicorns) but the travel cost, time away from CorkSport, and fuel gets pricey really quick when constantly towing to southern California.

I took the SM out a few times last year and found I was way off the pace I needed to be to even get into the top 25% of a Ppec Miata field at any events.  The Northwest has a really strong group of SM racers who are more than happy to beat the illusion out of you that you can drive fast on the track.

This year I have been working on the car setup and updating the drive train to the best I can get for my car.  I worked with Haag Performance to get one of their SM 1.6 engines which have been winning races up and down the west coast. I have been also talking with Joe Jordan on car setup and general SM advice as he has gone down this road before with multiple SM drivers including Joey Jordan and Will Rodgers to get them to the top.

Before the season started I knew I wanted to get some top-level coaching so I looked locally at Pro Drive Racing which offers race school for SCCA certification and high-performance driving classes.  After few emails finding which event I should show up with my SM it was determined the June 5th high-performance school would be the best bet and I could get someone on one coaching with Todd Harris the head instructor.

I have struggled with the braking too much in the corners, as past instructors/coaches I have consistently mentioned this to me. I needed to overcome this if I was going to have a chance to match times with the top 25% of the field. With Todd strapped into the “Thrill Seat”, we hit the first session at speed so he could see how/what I doing and work on it.

This was a good news and bad news sort of ride.  He found my approach and driving style to corners works but it was not the fastest way through them – I was giving up cornering speed and to be able to get back to the throttle quicker. By simply backing up my braking zones I had more control in the corner which allowed me to stay committed to the throttle without having to modulate it after the steering wheel was turned.  This doesn’t seem like a huge thing but the feedback from the SM was drastically different. I was able to roll speed into the corners and carry a few more MPH. Heading onto a straightaway this is huge. I spent the rest of the day fine tuning the changes and making sure they stuck with me.

By the time this blog goes up, I will have raced again at the Oregon Region SCCA event at Portland Intl Raceway and found out how much the school improved my driving technique.  If I don’t screw it up too bad I should be able to take a second out of my lap times which in SM is HUGE! The weekend of June 29th I will be at Sonoma racing against 40 other SM drivers to really get a feel for where I am at skill level wise, I am prepared for this to be humbling, lol.

So, my advice to you, if you ever have a chance to take a driving school I really recommend it and specifically Pro Drive if you are in the Portland Oregon area.  They run a great program and you get one on one seat time with some of the best local drivers and instructors.

Look for future updates here at the CorkSport the blog on how it went.

-Derrick

What Is Required at the Drag Strip?

 

Good day all of my CorkSport followers.  Is anyone else excited for warm weather, and track days?  Now is the time to get that Mazdaspeed prepped, modded, and out to the track.  

The CorkSport team has plenty of experience when it comes to track days. We have noticed in the past year more and more people have been getting into a Mazdaspeed platform, and before too long they are modding the car to test its capabilities.  Derrick is our road course guy in his 2015 Mazda 3, and I am the guy that likes the 1320. So what do you need to be able to run at the track? Protecting yourself, and making sure the car is properly put together can affect if you will be able to run your Mazdaspeed down the 1320.

Clothing

You will not be able to race your Mazdaspeed unless you wear pants, and closed toe shoes.  Every track you go to will require you to wear these two things. Every little bit counts especially if you have a high horsepower Mazdaspeed.  We have all seen the videos of accidents happening. I would hate to roll my Mazdaspeed, break glass, and have glass bits hitting my legs. So don’t forget those pants, and yoga pants do not count to all of you lady drivers.

Helmet

Each track has standard rules when it comes to safety equipment.  Depending on how fast your Mazdaspeed runs will determine what safety equipment you will need in order to race.  13.99 and faster you will need to make sure and wear a helmet. Also, if you run 13.99 and faster, you will not be able to have a passenger in the car with you.  If it is your first time at the track and you run faster than a 13.99 without a helmet, the track officials will ask you to wear a helmet moving forward. Failure to comply could get you removed from the track.

Vehicle Maintenance

This is probably the most important part of the inspection process when going to the track.  If you have been racing when oil/coolant dumps onto the track then you know how long it can take to get that stuff cleaned up.  Here are a few things the officials look for when you are trying to race your Mazdaspeed.

These things are non-negotiable.  If your Mazdaspeed does not pass any of these then the track officials will not let you run your car down the track.  All you fast guys out there need to double check with your local track to see what you have to do to the car depending on how fast you run.

Additional Safety Equipment

If you do have a Mazdaspeed capable of 11’s or faster, then you will be required to do a lot more to the car in order to safely run.  I would double check with your local track, but every track I have been to require you to have a roll cage, and a fire suit if you are running 11’s or faster in the 1320.  Also, if you have your battery relocated into the hatch, you will need a kill switch mounted somewhere on the rear of the car just in case you roll when racing.

READERS BEWARE:

Going to the track is highly addicting.  CorkSport will not be responsible for empty wallets in an attempt to make your Mazdaspeed go faster.  CorkSport will also not be held responsible for pulled muscles in your cheeks from having too much fun.  However, if you must modify your Mazdaspeed, CorkSport will be there to help you reach your goals!  Stay safe, and ZOOM ZOOM people.

Cheers,

Luke

Kill The Nannies

Nannies. One thing we have discovered while racing our Mazda 3 is that the OEM safety systems in the newest generation of Mazda 3 work well, too well in fact for racing.

Each year, new safety features are added by Mazda which make the cars safer and reduces the risk of collisions. This is great for day to day driving and commuting, but it presents a problem if you plan to take your car to the track to race it.

The OEM system in the car really frowns on lifting a rear tire off the ground, or when you get wheel spin accelerating out of a slow speed corner. They design the cars against these things happening for safety purposes (understandably). However, Mazda does give you a button on your dash to turn off the traction control. This gets us racers around the limitations to a certain degree.

Let me explain:

When you disengage traction control, the system which measures yaw/pitch and ensures your car has all the wheels on the ground is actually still working, even with the button off. What the button does essentially is give you a sort of leash with more leeway, until the computer thinks you have gone too far of course, then it will kick in traction control again.

So, how do we get past these nanny systems so we can push our cars for maximum performance?

Can you simply unplug the computer which controls the this? I wish it were that simple, but you cannot. The systems in the car are all tied to each other, and the car may not start, it may not run safely, or it may run in a limp mode. A good example of this in our 2015 Mazda3 is: if you unplug the rear view mirror the car won’t start. The ABS is also controlled by the same unit, and this is very handy to have on the track.  The ABS is very good in the Mazda3 by the way, so I recommend you keep it.

The solution we’ve come up with at CorkSport is pretty simple: Leave the computer plugged in and turn it over.

That’s it, simple, nothing else is required. What happens when you turn the computer upside down is the computer loses its physical reference point, so it defaults by turning off the stability control and nannies, but most-importantly, the ABS still functions.

A big word of caution: The computer which controls the nannies also runs the airbags. If you race your car on the track, the airbags will have been removed from your car already. DO NOT drive your airbag-equipped car with the module flipped over.

The reason this solution works for the track is that our Mazda 3 race car has additional safety equipment installed, with the 6-point harness and halo seat, along with the rest of the driver’s safety gear, that keep you from injury in the event of any wrecks.

FYI: When using this “hack”, your Mazda 3 dashboard will light up like a Christmas tree from all of the warnings; but that is a small price to pay for the improved performance while racing.

–Derrick

DISCLAIMER: This modification is for racing purposes ONLY. Doing so will render many of your car’s safety systems ineffective. Installing other safety systems after this modification is essential.

 

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