NASA Race at Hallet

First time at Hallet Motor Racing Circuit, and it was hot. Like temperature hot. The weekend was 100F with 98% humidity. Felt like I was in a sauna. It was tough in the race suit.

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Regardless of the sauna weather, the track is very fun to drive on. It a shorter track more suited to the lower HP cars. The straights, you’ll hight 4th gear with fast flowing corners. The elevation changes are nice, and blind corners, will test how big of balls you have.

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During practice, my contact on the left eye became misaligned. I could tell, because my field of vision was foggier on the left, and the right was very clear. Couldn’t really remember where my turn in was or braking zones.

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Then in race 1, my exhaust decided to yeet itself. Thankfully no serious accidents. What happed was I had an old crack on the exhaust which got worse from the heat and eventually caused the part of the exhaust pipe to break off.

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Thankfully, the guys at Texas Track Works and Norwood North Italia did some track side welding! Got me ready for the next race. Unfortunately, I didn’t race in the last event because it was too hot. I was already fatigued and didn’t want to risk crashing because of heat exhaustion.

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My friend Tony, gave me his old cool shirt set up. I’ll have AC in the race car for the summer races!

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It’s okay if I didn’t do my last race. I still had a great time with the homies. We had crawfish on Friday, Saturday was cheeseburgers, and for late dinner. We had midnight ribs, the Oklahoma BBQ way. I will be back next year. Next race is at Leguna Seca!

NASA National Championships

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What a week. First time going to nationals, and first time going Laguna Seca. I have been prepping for this since my race in Hallet. I got enough race points to make nationals, and now 100 percent committed.

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I paid for transport with the other Spec Miata friends. The cost was 3,000 USD to transport round trip. Yes, its expensive, but I would have paid roughy that much if I trailered the 86 with my LC. Since I had enough points on my credit card, I got a free round trip ticket to Monterey and back to Houston. Win, win.

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Best part about the transportation,  is having space bring my tools, and sets of tires. I wish I was paid to race, and fly all over the world. One day maybe.

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My car made it to Leguna Seca before me! Getting excited, and also nervous.

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I arrived later that day and picked up my Turo car rental. It was cheap rental, but the car was kinda eh. Thats a different story. Anyways, I got my rental, and then drove 20 mins from the airport to Laguna Seca!! I was so stoked at that point. I met up with Anthony for the driver registration. We recieved a swag bag, umbrella, and couple paddock passes.

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Then I picked the 86 from the SM crew, and I parked next to the Honda Challenge boys. Mainly because we all sharing the Airbnb. Easier to go in one group.

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Wednesday, I arrived 4pm and made it just in time for registration. Thursday I didn’t sign for the extra day of practice. I explored the Pacific coast highway with Anthony. My non racing adventures I’ll make another blog post. Lets just say Norcal, and Bay Area are very beautiful with the perfect weather.

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Leguna Seca things. Unfortunately there is a sound restriction, because of the home owners complaining about the noise for sometime. The really sad thing is, Leguna Seca was built before the homes.

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Friday was my 1st day of practice and qualifying. I went around the ring road to get views of what other car where doing. Some corners, they were not lifting, or just a brief lift of the gas pedal.

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I did my first practice session and was great! Manage a 1:57 on my first time out. But in Grand Turismo 4, I was getting 1:48 with similar set up.

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Post race, just waiting at impound. Make sure my car is in compliance. Unfortunately I have the lowest HP in the race class, and 320lbs over my minimum competition wt.

After practice, it was qualification number 1. we Had 4 quali before the Sunday race. The quali was there to help determine the race group for the green flag.

In the 2nd quali, I had two exhaust bolts that decided not the live this life. Ended up dragging my exhaust to paddock, and interestingly, I didn’t get black flagged. I knew my car was super loud, basically running open headers.

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That is why I have spare bolts. This time I double nut and red loctite on the bolts.

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No issues after that!. Except for my exhaust mounts was bending from the g forces of corkscrew. The car ran great, and that’s all I cared about.

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Saturday, I arrived at the track early to make my dyno appointment. This was to make sure my car is compliant with ST6. Which honestly, would be surprised if I was over my HP.

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The dyno graph look healthy with nice flat torque line throughout the RPM and nice increasing HP line till redline. Made 110 whp and 90 tq. Small numbers, but I’ll take it. Yes I miss the power of the M3, but the 86 is teaching me soo much as a driver.

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The NASA inspectors where gawking over my 86. I think I’m the only grip 86 that is legit racing. I really need to get the word out, that the 86 can be great grip cars too. Nice battle for the old Hondas and Miatas.

After dyno, I had my 3rd quali and still managed 1:55. Not really improving on time and other racers in my class was at least 3 seconds faster then me. I was only faster then one car. Not really great, but I know the car is not optimized for ST6 like the other cars here. So knowing that, it did give confidence I could be a good driver. But also made me think. I might need a driver coach to teach me where I can improve. Yeah I could mod the car more to optimize ST6, but I think I should do driver mod first.

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Dai had cracked rotors. He is on willwood 4 piston front, but its a conversion to Corrado rotors. No one in the Honda crew has Corrado rotors. Dai ended up having to buy a GSR spindles from the racer friends to run his willwood BBK to GSR rotors.

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Dai didn’t get to finish his race weekend unfortunately. But he made the most of it, and explored San Fransisco with his family. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

Quali 4 was the last one before the big race on Sunday. But the quali was different. This was a race quali. So wherever you placed in this race will determine the grid position in the big race. I love race starts, I try to take advantage of the cold tires, and get in front before the tires start to warm up for the competitors. That way, I can be in front, and get defensive to hold my position. Basically hold them off till the checkered flag. Works most of the time.

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I finish the race, and place 5th. But I was DQ’d, and will start at the very back. During impound, my lip on the bumper was 0.5″ too long. Not within ST6 rules. Bummer, but rules are rules. I did manage to find a way so I wont get DQ’d for my Sunday race.

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Scott had some spare foam rolls, and I just ziptied to the lip. Now Im compliance. Tacky, but you gotta work with what you have. Main goal is racing, and finishing it.

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Zip ties for the win.

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Sunday comes, and its a big day. Rain was called in the forecast. I woke up to heavy rain, and getting nervous. I have no wipers. Yes, I have rain-x on the widows which helps wick water away, but not sure how well it would hold up.

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The Spec Miata race was before our race, and looked like the track was drying up with sun out. But in the near distance, you can see dark clouds looming. Norcal is know for its micro climates, I just hoped the rain stayed out for our race. This was probably the most nervous in race that I’ve felt. I was thinking “if its rains, will have have that inner Tsuchia in me or pull my inner Aryton?” Nah, probably not, those drivers are Gods. Im just here trying to have a good time.

Thankfully the rain held out just in time for finish line. I made it!!! Raced Leguna Seca, and the car drove on its own power!!! The best feeling in the world!!! I might not have gotten podium, but just being here was a win for me.

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Takes a lot of hard work and overtime to make racing possible. I always ask myself why even do it. And moments like these is why I do it. I do it because speed, and going fast is in my blood. I respect my life and the others around me, so I race at tracks. I get the need for speed here. Just being one with car, is something you never experience on public roads. This is my hobby. This is my passion. I do have people also discouraging me, but in the end of day. I’m the one that still has the drive to keep going. And I will, till I can’t anymore. Thank y’all for the love and support. Appreciate it.

Throwback

Going though the old photos, I stumbled on old nostalgia. Back when where all broke, and in college.  Austin was still a cheap place to live, I-35 rush hour traffic was only on rush hour. The cars we had people didn’t want, and now probably worth a lot if we didn’t mod them. Good times with the Natsukashi Garage crew. We all grew up, but the same vibes.

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Racing on a Budget

On the last post, I was talking about how to get into racing, and cost behind it. Some of you might get discouraged, and maybe not want to go into racing.

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But there are ways to hopefully make racing more budget friendly.

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You can volunteer your time with a track organizer for corner work, or whatever they need you for in exchange for free track time. Organizers always need volunteers since renting out a track for an event can get expensive, and probably don’t enough money left to pay for additional staffing. Personally, NASA offers free track time if you volunteer your time to help out. Volunteer you time for a track weekend, and you’ll get track credits for upcoming events.

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Another way to get free or discounted track time is becoming an instructor. But to become an instructor you do need to have track experience under your belt, or better yet have MSF (motorsport safety foundation) accreditation. This option, you’ll have to pay initially. The MSF level 1 cost $50, then to get to level 2 you’ll pay $500. Once you become an instructor, you get the free or discounted rate for the race weekend. Again, you’ll give your free time to instruct, but you will have your own session tracking. The downside is, if your have car issues, you might have very little time to fix it. After your session, you’ll be instructing, and then go out racing shortly after, depending on the schedule.

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What about getting sponsored? Yes, you can do that, but I think its very hard to get 100% sponsored. I have sent sponsorship proposals to companies that I have used their products on the AE86. Only 2 said yes, and was very small discount. I got 10% off my order, and in exchange, I had put a sticker on my car. I think the only way sponsorship works for the benefit to the driver, is if you have a big media following. If you do get that big sponsorship, you’ll be in some kind of contract with that company to plug them in the media. That what I’m thinking since I’m not sponsored in a big way. But the pro drivers I see racing, that do have the big media presence seems to have the big companies logos on the car and race suits. If they are on TV or streamed, obviously people will see the company logos. For me, I just don’t have big social presence, but I’m working on it to hopefully make it grow.

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Regardless, you’ll still need to put in the effort. No one is going to hand you a free track day. I hope his article helps you. See y’all at the track!

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Links:
https://www.motorsport-safety.org/
https://drivenasa.com/

How I Got my Race License

Yes, getting into racing is expensive. Even at an amateur level, like me, its still expensive. But if you compared that at a pro level racing, that has a race team and media coverage. Amateur racing is pennies compared to pro. This is how I did it.

Tesla Camping

With summer upon us, that means Texas is going to get hotter. And hotter temperature makes camping for sweaty nights, or is it?

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One of the nice features of the Tesla, is camp mode. This allows the Tesla to be “on”, and turns off sentry mode to conserve energy. I would be able to sleep inside and tesla in full comfort regardless of the temperature.

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Wanting to see how camp mode works in the real world, I booked an RV campsite at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I book an RV site because it has electrical and water hook up. Accord to the Tesla GPS, I would have arrived 15%, and for sure would need a place to charge up.

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Currently in 2022, rising gas prices is making travel expensive. In Texas is about $4.30USD a gallon for regular, and diesel hitting $5USD per gallon. Anther reason to take the Tesla since EV charging is significantly cheaper.

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The downside with EV charging is more frequent stops and some places required longer changing. The longest I had to charge was 50mins. The next supercharger was decently far so, had to charge longer to make it. But you have to guess how much you have to charge. Tesla will automatically let you know when you have enough charge to make to the next destination. It very accurate and that easies the range anxiety.

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The RV site has 50amp hook up meaning its the NEMA 14-50 outlet. The same one i have at home. The is also 30amp hookup which charges slower and you need an adapter for it. I do have that adapter just in case the 50amp didnt work. Thankfully I didn’t have issues.

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Surprisingly, the weekend we arrived, there was a cold front. Temps in the 40s at nigh with highs of 70s. The Tesla didn’t have to work to hard to maintain a nice 68F. We brought black out shades to block the sun rays and also provide more privacy.

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The advantage with camp mode is I don’t have to bring as much camping gear since I can sleep in my pajamas and not worry about freezing or sweating. Camping at establish campsites, you are provided with restrooms, showers, water, and shaded area with a table.

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We stayed for 3 days and was beautiful. Palo Duro is the Gand Canyon of Texas and felt like I was in Sedona, Arizona or Red cliffs of Nevada. We hiked 6 miles, and end up becoming a 5 hr hike. Kinda tough on the climbing the ledges but the views where wonderful.

Weather was clear sunny skies, but air was dry and you can feel the UZ rays beating down. I got sunburned from the hike. Our dog, Lambo, was happy to be inside the Tesla and rested temps set at 68 degrees.

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Our sleeping arrangements was simple and comfy. Wifey set folded the rear seats and inflated the mattress made for the Model 3. It took a little bit longer to set up compared to the rooftop tent on the Land Cruiser, but wasn’t an inconvenience for us. Once set up, the space inside the Model 3 is tight. I think of sleeping in those Japanese pods. I think car camping in the Model Y or Model X would be better.

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I think this is the future of camping. We drove a total of 1,314 miles, spent $94.03 supercharging and $52 for the 3 day RV campsite. If we drove the Land Cruiser I would have paid at least $500 on gas averaging 10 MPG. Not bad at all.

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Would I start camping in the Tesla more, then using the Land Cruiser? Probably not, and for one reason. The Land Cruiser will take me to places that cars or RVs cant go to. This leads to more private camping and better views that are less seen. To me, that the most important thing.

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Of course if Im going to established campsites, I will take the Tesla.

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Toyota Jambo 2022

Another Toyota Jambo in the books! Every year it’s family tradition, and this is our 3rd event. Always been a blast.

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My wife and I couldn’t make it on Thursday because of the work schedule. But we made it early morning breakfast on Friday.

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Tony was able to get in Jambo Thursday morning, and get us nice camp spot. Though it seemed Jambo was a full event, I didn’t notice much campers this year.

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Lots of Land Cruisers this year.

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My friend Kevin taking some nice action shots.

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My recent mod of going 35″ tires, and 5″ lift was a noticeable difference in wheeling. In certain sections, others were having issues, mine crawled over it like a mountain goat.

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Unfortunately Mike Jones was on a night trail and sustained a good amount of trail damage. He hit a rock and broke the spindle. Thankfully the other Mike, who wheeled his Tundra, was there and got a uhaul trailer to tow it back to Austin. Thankful for really good friends.

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I got some trail damage too. The AC belt snapped, thankfully I was able to fix it with a quick stop to Autozone before wifey, the dogs, and I made the trip back to Houston. Having AC in the afternoon summer is a must have.

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The side step got damage. I unfortunately hit a tree root hidden in a mud hole. I guess its time for a new sliders.

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I had a really great time with my friends. We spent 3 days just camping, off-roading, and cooking good food. Its all about the experience, including the good and bad. What matters the most are the people you surround yourself with.

Finally Bump Draft, Then Not.

For the race at Eagles Canyon Raceway, I scored a USDM bumper for free. My friend, Danh had a bumper lying around, and was nice enough to give me is old bumper.

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The bumper bolted right up, and now I have a rear bumper so someone can bump draft me. The USDM sticks out, but extra protection too, right?

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The rear bumper was about 25lbs, if i had to guess how heavy it was. Not noticeable, but the 86 was a tad bit oversteer. Race 1, I was able to finish 3rd with no issues. But race 2 was a different story.

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Early on in the race, my bumper caught on fire!!!! What happened was my Buddy Club Spec 2 exhaust sits very close to the USDM bumper. During the race, the bumper got too hot that it caught on fire. Thankfully from my racing friend, Carlos, he got my attention. We were battling hard, and then I noticed he was pointing at me in the rear view mirror. At first, I was thinking that Carlos was messing with me. But then I noticed the corner workers quickly picking up their radios. I didn’t see a flag, but I knew it was probably bad, and was for me. My instinct told me to pull over ASAP.

As soon as I stopped, I saw smoke in the rear. My gut feeling was a fire, and sure enough the rear bumper was on fire! I have fire suppression system, but it only sprays in the engine bay and cockpit. Thankfully I have a portable extinguisher, and was able to put out the bumper fire in time. Saving the car.

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I removed the rear bumper and was able to race again. Thankfully no issues after that. Some tips for the readers: If the exhaust sits close to the bumper, its better to remove the bumper, or reroute the exhaust away from the bumper. Always have a fire extinguisher handy. Most cost about $20, and good insurance to have.

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Im thankful it wasn’t worse. Just cosmetic damage. I’ll be able to race next event!

AE86 Mesh Screen

In my race at Eagles Canyon Raceway, I had a friend that blew the head gasket due to a small radiator leak. He was telling that debris caused the leak in the radiator and needed a mesh screen. That got me thinking I should probably do one for the 86.

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I bought this aluminum screen on amazon for $14. The screen was big enough to cover the front of the 86. The opening seemed more fine, then chicken wire screen. The screen looks too restrictive, but Ill find out next race if I have cooling issues. Its zip tied in 4 places. Seems secure enough.

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I think this screen should prevent debris from coming in, and busting a hole in the oil cooler of radiator, hopefully.