Project MX-5 has come a really long way in a relatively short space of time. To find out how things have progressed to date please feel free to click here.
Until now I’ve been using the car solely for track days, but the goal has always been to go racing. Towards the end of last year I targeted the start of the 2016 season as Project MX-5’s race debut.
But as the summer break came around I was in holiday mode and very little happened in the off-season. As 2016 rolled around I dusted off the car and started to think about what needed to be done. I drew up a list of what was essential to be race ready.
That list was long and daunting, and would seemingly consume more time that was available before the Cape Town regional race series kicked off on the 20th of February.
Garrin Tuck, proprietor of GT Graphics, is an old friend from previous events and he’s been involved with CAR. He is one of the fastest talking people you’re likely to meet. Like many guys in the motorsport/racing game Mr Tuck talks a good game. However, unlike most others in this sport, he actually delivers.
As a fellow petrolhead and part-time racer he generously offered to help with getting my car race prepared. Between us we identified critical areas that needed attention and suppliers who could help us achieve those goals. The catch: we only had 10 days.
I called up ATS Motorsport, long-time supporters of my race career in the form of OMP safety gear, in the hope of procuring a race seat and harnesses to match. ATS is the country’s premier supplier of specialised racing equipment and there’s hardly a racer in SA who hasn’t bought at least one item from this store at some point.
Director Kobus Roos was only too happy to oblige with an OMP TRS seat and ATS harness. Only problem was, ATS is in Johannesburg and I am not. A quick call to freight company Bigfoot Express, whose MD happens to be racer as well so he understands the urgency in such situations, and the equipment was delivered to the Mother City within a day.
One other major safety consideration was the roll-over bar. For that we went with a bolt-in item to get us to the first race, though we plan to replace that with a full roll-cage soon.
Even with almost 170 000 km on the odo, the engine in my car seems to be in great health. Instead of going in search of more power (though that is definitely on the cards) we opted to upgrade as much as we could on the suspension to help reduce lap times.
At a previous outing I have managed to complete a quickest time of 1 min 42,63 sec. So with that mark to beat we set about looking for areas of improvement.
Low and stiff
My car is now getting on for a quarter of decade and in that time has probably never had any of the suspension bushes renewed. We approached local firm Poly Performance for some advice.
Proprietor Andre Zimmerman was keen to help out. Within two days his company had created a bespoke set of polyurethane suspension bushes (34 in all) for all the suspension arms and links. Remember that an MX-5 is suspended by double wishbones at each corner.
While the car was off its wheels we also sent the springs and dampers off to local suspension guru Ian Glass. His firm, GT Shocks, is known as the best in the Cape racing and modifying fraternity.
Mr Glass worked his magic on the stock dampers. In absence of decent shorter springs we took the rather rudimentary route of just lopping half a coil from each corner. Not ideal, I know, but desperate times and all that.
Time running out
We had all the components back in hand from the various suppliers with just a few days to go before the race weekend. The reassembly process took a few long nights fuelled by coffee and fast food but in the end the car landed back on its feet and drove out of the workshop into the sunlight on the Friday before Saturday’s race.
A major snag
I was eager to get going and feel the difference the upgrades had made, but my heart sank when I pressed the brake pedal and it went all the way to the floor, not slowing the car at all in the process.
While the suspension was off we decided to refurbish the entire brake system, it seemed like the sensible thing to do ahead of a race debut. West Coast Clutch & Brake in Montague Gardens took on the job of servicing all the calipers, the master cylinder and skimming all four discs. We headed back to West Coast Clutch & Brake to troubleshoot the problem.
In our haste to get going we didn’t bother replacing the pads, which proved to be a silly move. The old pads were unevenly worn and caused the calipers to flex as the pedal was depressed. WCCB replaced all the pads, thankfully they had the right items in stock, and bled the hydraulic system, which brought it back to perfect working order.
In the nick of time
Unbelievably, we made it to the track on Friday afternoon, just in time to head to the scrutineering bay to ensure that the car was all in order. The technical inspection showed a few small items that needed to be rectified but nothing that couldn’t be sorted out overnight.
I’ll follow up with a race report of the car’s debut competitive meeting soon. But for now I extend a huge thank you to all the sponsors who provided services to upgrade and race-prep the car. And especially to Garrin Tuck for the time and effort given to keep his word by getting the car to the track for the season-opener.
Have your say
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page.
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