Just a few days ago I posted an update explaining how we managed to get Project MX-5 race ready in record time.

I left off by telling you we needed to complete a few minor changes to get through the scrutineering process. We managed to get the last of the mandatory alterations finished late on Friday night. Subsequently we had to pitch up at Killarney very early on race day for a final inspection if I was going to be allowed to participate in the qualifying session.

Inspection passed

With the technical inspection completed I was given the go ahead and allowed to qualify. It’s been some time since I competed in a race event and I was determined not to let the nerves get to me. There was also the issue of the widespread modifications we’d carried out so I was essentially getting into a car I had never driven before.

I decided to use the session as a shakedown rather than to chase lap times. My best time to date in the car has been 1 min 42,63 seconds. Even with less than a flat out commitment, the lap time tumbled to 1 min 40,430 seconds. That time netted me 13th spot on the grid, with two cars lining up behind me. The time gain came purely from the suspension upgrades, which you read about in the Part 6A.

Pole time was set by Geoff Bihl in a Porsche 944 S at 1 min 31,162 seconds. The bulk of the field fell in a bracket between 1 min 33 and 1 min 38 seconds, so I have some catching up to do.

Rolling start

Like many regional race series, Fine Cars uses a rolling start procedure with drivers forming the grid according to qualifying times. We are then led out by a pace car, which peels into the pitlane at the end of the formation lap.

Once the pace car leaves the circuit proceedings are controlled by the pole man. It’s quite different to what I was used in Polo Cup, where I made up many places from standing starts. I suspect that was a fortunate side-effect from years of acceleration testing.

Race 1

I gotta tell you, there are very few things that can equal the excitement at the start of a race. I am not a seasoned racer, but I do have a few starts under my belt and the sense of anticipation is always equally high. It is a sensation I sincerely hope that never dissipates.

What a buzz to be back in the heat of a wheel-to-wheel battle. The first few corners were an absolute blast. I managed to outbrake some of the guys around me and we were having a great tussle that lasted a few corners. My mid-corner speeds were high and I was keeping up with the pack.

When we arrived at Killarney’s back straight for the first time I suddenly realised that I have a big problem… a major lack of power. While the handling prowess of my car feels spot on power from the original 1,6-litre engine (with almost 170 000 km on the odo), it leaves a lot to be desired.

All the hard work achieved through the opening corners was undone as the rest of the field powered away. I tried to slipstream and outbrake the, obviously, more powerful machinery but it was futile. You can see the opening laps and evidence of the power differential in the video at the bottom of this post.

I saw out the rest of the laps in relative solitude, instead concentrating on my driving, trying to smooth, consistent and quick. At one point I was fortunate enough to have a battle with ex-250 Superkart racer Rob Toscano, who drives a car similar to mine.

The red Miata does have a few more horsepower than my car, with larger brakes, too, so the battle didn’t last long as Toscano bombed me under braking at T2 and cleared off into the distance; it was fun while it lasted.

When the flag fell I was in 13th, with four cars behind me, one classified in the race results and three having fallen off due to various issues. My reward for the tidy driving was a best lap time of 1 min 39,665 seconds; faster than I had ever gone around Killarney in this car.

Race 2

Sadly race two provided more of the same for me. The opening part of the race was the most exciting as I tussled with the tail-end of the field. Once the more powerful machinery had cleared off I had the track all to myself.

The lonely laps gave me plenty of time to consider how many of the original kilowatts still remained in the motor. When new this engine was good for 85 kW, at the flywheel, and considering my car’s age and mileage I doubt the figure is still that high. More power is needed, and in other news, the sun rises in the East.

I did manage to finish 11th though.

Trophy earned

To level the playing field across the diverse machinery that compete in this series Fine Cars results are based on the Index of Performance.  This essentially is a measure of pace and consistency as it takes your total lap time divides it by the total number of laps and expresses that average lap time as a percentage of your quickest lap.

When all the sums were done I was classified 4th, with an overall index of 97,787 %. Ironically, if I hadn’t set that quick lap time in race one I would have been classified even higher.

For the effort we had put in in the weeks running up to the race it was great to walk away with a trophy, though I would much rather have been further up the field battling with other drivers for track position.

Reader feedback

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.

Images courtesy of Jason Hanslo and Patrick Vermaak

 

Links to all updates:

Part 8: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/999241389/

Part 7: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-7-race-weekend-2/

 

Part 6a: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-6-race-ready-in-record-time-part-a/

Part 5: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-5-shiny-and-new/

Part 4: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-4-breathe-in-and-out/

Part 3: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-3-racetrack-debut/

Part 2: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mazda-mx-5-part-2/

Part 1: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-1/