This will serve as a fresh compilation of my 2016 building and campaigning of a 1999 Miata in NASA's PTE & TTE.
First, a little background:
From 2006 through 2015 I had an NA that made the gradual transition from sole transportation, to local CSP ringer, to HPDE car, to TTE/D car. I used nearly 100% plug and play, bolt on solutions for everything. There was nothing custom about the car.
Ultimately it ended up as a BP4W swapped, NB subframe/rack/spindle swapped, sport brake'd, door bar'd, 142whp, 800/500 Xida'd, 4.77 OsGiken'd, lexan top'd beastly little street car.
But, due to the sheer number of miscellaneous(ricer) modifications, the car ended up in D on points and I was severely outgunned. ~140whp@2550lbs on 225 NT01s outgunned.
Fastest ever Mid Ohio lap in this car was a 1:42.9. Set with the aero and 205 SM6.
Because I wasn't having any fun being an also-ran back marker in D, and I didn't want to gut, cage, trailer this "clean" Ohio car I started thinking of Plan B's.
In November of 2015 I jumped a deal to buy a friend's mildly prepped TTE NB1:
I am going to break this down into stages.
Stage 1: "The Early Days" Not sure I wanted to "heavily invest" in PT or w2w in general. Nov '15 - April '16
Stage 2: "All-In for Regional Lulz" April '16 - August '16
Stage 3: "Pipe Dream" Aug '16 - 2017
Stage 4: 2017+
It was still pretty simple. Mods were light enough that it could be easily converted to "state of the art"
It was literally what I imagine most Miata.net cars are like.
What I got for my moniez:
1999 Emerald Green Mica:
Racing Beat front sway
Racing Beat header - wrapped
Racing beat powerpulse exhaust
Goodwin cat'd midpipe
Racing Beat cold air intake
Flyin Miata springs
15x7 Team Dynamics w/205/50/15 NT01
15x7 Sport Edition w/195/55/15 Blizzaks
15x7 Rota Slipstream with 205/50/15 ZII
A quick cleanup + the wheels from my NA later, I was at a 3 day track-weekend event for a thorough test/shakedown.
As it was, I was nearly matching what my NA can do on street tires. Strong. NB1 hype is real, even though my car was basically an NB.
Carfest was a blast. I could easily see how some light prep could make this thing a strong regional TTE car. Also, I had just entered into a small business with a friend and we had a truck and trailer available, so a lot of the logistics were already in place. I kinda dragged my feet all winter. Here I was, suddenly with 4 miatas, 3 of which were track prepped. Which one do I go forward with?
Ultimately I decided to send all of my autocross and lapping day budget in a more "serious" direction. Let's go see if I can hang in track competition. Why not?
In February 2016 I had the car dynoed and started prepping to get it caged. I also applied for a Provisional NASA comp license.
-Do all the cheap points-free modifications; dash delete, lexan, sound deadening, etc.
-Use the car nearly as-is
-scavenge my NA for anything and everything "fast"
Going forward, every decision was made on the premise of doing it as cheaply as possible above all else. This was a secondary track car, probably 4th on my hobby priority list.
I would keep using the Sport brakes until I used up the pads. Only then would I swap to regular 1.8 calipers freeing up points to move the OsGiken over from the NA, etc.
Key budgetary considerations:
I used Winding Road contingency money from TT to help cover w2w safety gear: HNRS, Nets, Mirrors, etc.
I used second hand takeoff SM6s to win R7s
I won free Hawks using whatever was on the car.
Cage came back fitting amazing. VERY glad I ponied up for the custom cage.
I sold the OEM top and helped organize a group buy here on MT for a small batch of CCP lightweight tops which I made a run of DiY lexan windows for.
Further prep was both nets, a seat back brace, moved the Xida's over. All this took until like Thursday the night before I left to the season opening weekend at NCM in March 2016.
Unloaded at NCM, National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. Stickered it up and set toe in the paddock. Ride heights untouched, unkown camber/caster. I had simply moved each endlink and coilover assembly over from the NA to the same corner of the NB.
Fresh built car, new to me track.
The TT record was pretty soft @2:28.x since none of the faster PT guys double dipped last year. I think Aaron’s PT record is 2:24.201. That's set IN a race only, qualifying laps dont count. I watched his incar video about twenty times in preparations for this event..
I reset the record in session 2 to 2:26.109, and lowered it in session 3 to 2:24.337.
Won TTE Saturday with a new track record
2nd place Sunday in the rain
800/500 Xida +5
RB/MSM sway +2
Sport brakes +2
My debut w2w race ever, would be at my home track, BUT, going up against the most well prepared PTE car ever; "Bubbles"
Show up, need new W2W tech. Pass with no problems!
Qualify 2nd, amazing. I have no idea what I am doing so far up the grid:
Chris Kopitski is new to Mid Ohio, I am new to w2w in general. He picks to start from the right, thinking the green would wave on the front straight(it doesn't)
I am arguably LEADING my first ever race into T1 at my home track:
I struggle HARD in traffic and end up finishing 3rd in my first race behind Kopitski in "Bubbles" and Micheal Nueman in his E36. Nueman would end up being my Nemesis all season.
Post race I dyno @ 130.1whp on my 130cap. Round to the nearest hp, clear. I also win TTE that day.
Sunday I qualify 2nd again, but cruise flag to flag for a 2nd place finish.
Only 1.3 seconds off Chris's new rack record on 4yr old tires, rubber bushings, etc. Felt pretty amazing.
Post race dyno 131.9. WTF?! Disqualified. This also throws out my most recent TT competition session. My TT session 1 time holds on and I end up with a win there.
I come away from Mid Ohio dead set on vengeance. Vengeance against Nueman for punking me in traffic on Saturday. Vengeance on the dyno to prove I wasn't cheating.
I also come away with a new PB, 4 Hoosiers, Hawk bucks, etc!!
The month of May is spent learning about dynos and fine tuning the car.
I swap to regular 1.8 brakes which makes room for the R7s.
I also add SuperMiata engine mounts, a lightweight NA6 clutch setup, a stock cast iron 99 header, and a bunch of ballast. Most of this is prep to switch to a points only build. The header swap makes room for the AEM ECU from my NA. Mostly a break even on total weight between the lightweight mounts and clutch vs the iron header + ballast. The car only gained about 35lbs, less than a tank of fuel.
I had to start the races at Mid Ohio with a full tank and i came in dangerously low on Sunday. So I added the ballast so I could know, and therefore control, my fuel weight easier.
I do a DE day and run a couple sessions n the PT car for fun. It feels frickin amazing.
I offer Sonny from 949 a codrive spot for my final event back at Mid Ohio.
I decided that Sonny would race on the Pro Course on Saturday. This was the layout that Emilio raced on in 2012, so there was plenty of video and info to get Sonny up to speed(he didn't need much help). I would race on the Club Course on Sunday.
I would TT on Saturday, Sonny TT on Sunday. We primarily used the TT sessions for set up testing and recon.
We were double dipping into two classes (TTE and PTE) and we would be running two different track layouts. There was a chance at four track records.
PTE Club record is super strong, Chris Adam's VVT swapped N:. 1:41.xx. Fast.
PTE Pro just got reset early this year by Chris Kopitski. It was a strong laptime, and Sonny has never driven here before.
So we tossed the idea of a PT record happening.
TTE Pro was strong, but in nice weather and traffic free, I thought it was within reach.
TTE Club was the softest one. It was the longest standing.
The only prep for this event was additional ballast for when Sonny was in the car and a fresh set of wheels and tires.
Saturday August 27th 2016
I won TTE on my birthday with a 1:41.8x. In my first timed session in the car I was within a second of the standing record(1:40.9x), but it just got way too hot, way too quickly before session 2. I swapped on the new tires and made a couple changes in the setup, but I only went a tenth faster in session 2. I sat out the rest of my TT sessions to save the tires.
Sonny qualified on Pole after just 5-6 warmup laps at Mid Ohio in a car he'd never seen before. That should be a huge pat on the back for myself, Darren @ MidwestMiataParts and the science of 949 Racing for a well setup and capable car. Sonny had a fun race with Stuart Killian and Michael Nueman(NEMISIS) and finished on the podium his first time on Mid Ohio and in his first NASA race since 2013.
Sunday August 28th 2016:
We left the car exactly as it was after Sonnys race Saturday and I cruised to a very quick warmup time, earning me a front row spot(top 15) for qualifying. PTE is the slowest PT class, this was quite an achievement with ~64 cars in the rungroup.
We had a bit of a gamble with the prime-conditions Time Trial session butting right up against Race Qualifying at ~10am. So we set the car up for TT/Sonny, prioritizing a lap record for him over my race, counting on my home track advantage to carry me. We removed the ballast from the car and weighed it on a bathroom scale. We were also very particular about the fuel quantity added. 1 gallon of fuel is ~7lbs, remember this.
Sonny had time in the schedule(and fuel in the tank) for 2-3 hot laps before he had to come in. He needed to end his session early so that we could swap me into the car, pull the excess ballast from the trunk and add some fuel in grid before I rolled right back out for PT qualifying.
Well, he had issues with a certain TT3(four classes "faster") car being a rolling roadblock for a couple laps and ended up needing a 4th and 5th lap.
Eventually he got clear track, threw down an angry flyer of a lap and came in, late, using the full session. My qualifying run group released as he rolled onto the scales. He came in only 7lbs over minimum weight(2327lbs), so our prep was extremely successful.
I didn't make it to my grid spot in time for qualifying so I missed out on my front row spot and had to start the qualifying session from the back. I don't mind doing this at all, it's actually worked out really well for me all season.
I rolled out dead last, left a HUGE gap to the 944 in front of me and clicked off two flyers before being the first one off track. Good enough for Pole.
After I got done with qualifying, I learned that Sonny had posted a 1:42.4! We had to wait ALL day until after the 5th time trial session before it became official. Nobody went faster, so Sonny scored the win in TTE and the new record for "Team Dan Howard"!
I started my race from Pole, got a great start, maybe my best of the year and lead flag to flag, from start to finish. Ran a 1:43.3 on lap 11(late) in the race while ~50lbs over weight and 7whp down from cap and with 20* hotter ambient temps compared to Sonny's record lap. I felt super happy with that.
So here we are, the end of the(my) season. I only planned on doing those four events, NCM, Mid O, Gingerman, Mid O.
At the end of August my wife and I moved to southern California where I started a new job with 949.
I left the car behind in Ohio and I toyed with selling it or putting it in storage. Ultimately I ended up shipping it out to Cali. I had still not decided on whether it would stay a PTE car or be converted to a SuperMiata.
So begins Stage 3 "Pipe Dream"
"Pipe Dream" because the thought of going to either Championship never crossed my mind until after I won those Gingerman races. I didn't put any serious thought into, and never set aside the budget or planned the logistics for Watkins Glen until it was too late, we had already moved.
Western States Champs were even farther away, and even less likely at the time.
But here I am, working at 949, with Western States Championships being held only 4 hours away at Buttonwillow, and I did enough races back home to qualify to enter, and BW is sort of a home track for Sonny and Emilio, so... Hell yea, lets do it.
My car proved to be a decent regional contender as a rushed build, very mildly prepped and dyno reclassed. I(we) knew it would need to jump a couple large steps forward to put up a fight at the Championships on an unfamiliar track.
The plan was two parted: Chassis and motor.
The chassis would get a urethane bushing swap with offset front lowers for allthecamber. It would also get a full corner weight and Buttonwillow-specific alignment.
While the 6 point motor would get pulled and set aside for potential future SuperMiata use where it would be perfect with an oil pump and valve springs. In would go an OEM rebuild so that I could convert to a points-only build.
Conversion from dyno reclass to points only:
On my dyno reclass, I am using a 6pt Spec Miata cylinder head, 1pt intake and 3pt exhaust. 10 points worth of mods. Early in the year I had a header as well (2 more points) and was "only" making 128-132whp. Back on the stock header it only made 123.
I was also running at 2320lbs, 6 points worth of weight reduction from my base class of 2410.
I was getting 16 or 18 points worth of mods for just 7, at the cost of an * being added to my base class and being forced to run at 17.8:1. Awesome value based on parts I had and budget for prep. If I had run on points alone I would have been in D all year.
All along I had planned to swap the AEM EMS ecu from my NA to the NB. That would be a 3pt mod I would get for free on a dyno reclass. It would allow me to shape the powerband and make it much, much easier to ride the fine edge of my power cap. Probably worth another second off every lap all season had it been done early on.
The points theory is that if you have a fresh motor, and you have an ECU that will allow running e85, it becomes possible to hit the class maximum P:W with fairly few points spent on power production.
Going from PTE* at 17.8:1 to a points built 16.5:1 makes the car much, much faster, even though it has to be 90lbs heavier in my case.