The company that I work for release a news article quarterly and this time they decided to add a little piece about me autocrossing my Mazda Rx8. Here is the article they published.
After gaining permanent residency in America I purchased my Mazda Rx8 and very quickly found that at there we very few enjoyable roads in and around Sarasota. Not wanting to waste a nice sporty car I looked into cheap ways to legally race it, I discovered Autocross
Autocross is an individual time trial event where each driver takes it in turns to race around a cone course as fast as they can. It is usually located on an old airstrip or in a large parking lot. It costs $20-$45 which includes plenty of driving, instruction where needed and lunch. After going to the first event I was hooked and have been going at least once a month since.
Since starting I have modified my car to make it faster doing all the work myself, learning what to change how to change it and tuning the set up a car to make it as fast as possible. Over time my driving has improved as has the Rx8. I am at the point where I am one of the fastest drivers at each event and my car is relatively competitive especially considering it is a daily driver and also instruct at the Gulf Coast Autocrossers novice school which I really enjoy.
2012 has been a great year for Autocrossing, I have made lots of new friends all over Florida while racing in Orlando, St Petes, Zephyrhills, Sarasota, Ft Myers and Florida Keys I have won about 10 trophies from various events, including being given the cone killer award out of about 300 drivers I hit the most cones in 2012, the yearlong STX class champion in Ft Myers and the year long open class (non-Porsche) champion with the Porsche club.
After gaining permanent residency in America I purchased my Mazda Rx8 and very quickly found that at there we very few enjoyable roads in and around Sarasota. Not wanting to waste a nice sporty car I looked into cheap ways to legally race my car, I discovered Autocross
Autocross is an individual time trial event where each driver takes it in turns to race around a cone course as fast as they can. The cars are broken up intro Autocross PAX classes which is like a handicap in golf, based on car an modifications. Autocross is usually located on an old airstrip or in a large parking lot. It costs $20-$45 which includes plenty of driving, instruction where needed and lunch. After going to the first event I was hooked and have been going at least once a month since.
Modifying my Mazda Rx8
Since starting I have modified my car to make it faster and staying withing the SCCA Autocross Car Class Rules, I do all the work myself learning what to change how to change it and tuning the set up a car to make it as fast as possible. Over time my driving has improved as has the Rx8. I am at the point where I am one of the fastest drivers at each event and my car is relatively competitive especially considering it is a daily driver and also instruct at the Gulf Coast Autocrossers novice school which I really enjoy.
2012 Autocross Trophies
2012 has been a great year for me Autocrossing, I have made lots of new friends all over Florida while racing in Orlando, St Petes, Zephyrhills, Sarasota, Ft Myers and Florida Keys I have won about 10 trophies from various events, including the also given the cone killer award for 2012 out of about 300 drivers I hit the most cones, the year long STX class champion in Ft Myers with Gulf Coast Autocrossers and the yearlong open class (non-Porsche) champion with the Porsche club.
Well I have decided to start building my own car, it will be based on the Locost design (Lotus 7, Caterham, westfield etc) using lots of parts from a Miata and hopefully a more powerful engine from another car such as an S2000 but I will have too see what I can find.
First step is to build a table to make working on the car easier.
This is my step Dad helping me build the table. It is two pieces of 8′-4′ ply wood the top layer is 3/4″ thick and the bottom layer 1/2″. Then between the layers there are 4 pieces of 3″ x 2″ beams to help keep the table rigid. The legs are 4″ x 4″ with lockable caster wheels on the bottom so I can roll the car into the corner of the garage when I am not working on the car.
Purchasing the right tools
I already have a lot of automotive and power tools but I went out and purchased a few to help with the build here is the list so far.
I purchased all the wood for the table locally at the hardware store
I bought 6 x 24′ lengths of 1″ Square steel tubing for the frame. I had the steel suppliers cut the lengths in half so they would fit in my wife’s mini van.
Building the frame
Start of the space frame chassis
I have started to cut all the steel to length and lay it out as it will be when the frame is built. Currently I have not purchased a welded so I have paused until I get it and start assembling the frame.
I will post back soon when I have purchased a welder and got more of the car completed.
Driving fast is all about seat time, setting up your car and learning how to get the most out of your car. When you get to the track there are 3 main things you want to concentrate on to drive fast they are the driving line, looking ahead and driving smooth.
1. Know the driving line
Getting the right line is key to driving fast. It is very important to make sure you have the car in the right place facing the right direction. The correct line on an autocross track is nearly always the shortest line between the significant cones on the track. Prior to racing the course you should perform a course walk, when doing so pay attention to which cones force you to drive around them and which cones can be ignored, typically only about 10-20% of the cones really get in your way. Once you have established which cones you need to drive around start visualizing the route that your car needs to take around the important cones. Visualize getting the car as close to the important cones as possible and which directions the car should be facing as you pass each cone so you can carry as much speed though each element as possible.
2. Look ahead to know where your going
It is very important to look ahead when you are driving fast the further ahead you look, the more time you have to get the car in the right position enabling you to drive a quickly as possible. When you are driving fast you need to set your car up for each element be it cones in autocross or a corner on a race track, look ahead and imagine the ideal racing line then put the car where you imagined that line to be. Once you have the steering wheel turned and the car is loading up the tires you need to be concentrating on the next element and then the next and so on. As you get more experienced you will look 2 – 3 elements ahead, enabling to take the current element faster and easily setting yourself up to drive faster through the next element.
Like many sports it is very important to look where you want to go not where you don’t. If you have played Golf you know that thinking about water when you take your shot, will likely result in hitting the ball into the water. Same thing with applies with driving fast, you will naturally make the car go where you are looking subconsciously, so make sure you are not looking at the run off area or the cones. Always look ahead and envision getting your tires exactly where you want them to enable you to drive fast.
3. Driving smooth is driving fast
Driving smooth is on of the most overlooked parts of driving fast especially when you are inexperienced. Everything should be smooth when you accelerate you need to press the gas pedal with enough force to get maximum power without losing traction, you should never stamp on the gas pedal rather apply the power gracefully over a few tenths of a second. When you need to brake you apply pressure and as the weight transfers to the front wheel you increase that pressure up until max grip of the tires this allows you to brake much harder without locking up the front tires. When cornering you should turn the wheel progressively loading up the tires, the longer it takes to load up the tires the easier it is to reach maximum grip allowing you to corner as quickly as possible..
Driving Fast at the Bay Bottom Crawl
This video is me driving fast in My Mazda Rx8 at Bay Bottom Crawl in Florida Keys. Now I don’t claim to be an expert driver as you can see in the video. However if you look at my hands they move relatively slowly and smoothly and when I change gear I do it with relaxed hands. It is difficult to tell how fast I am going so a good reference is that every time I change gear to 3rd I am going 70 mph and by the time I hit the brakes for each element I am going between 70 and 100mph. I look ahead and try to take the elements as smooth and quickly as possible. This track is quite dangerous, you may also notice that there is no run off on this track so I was driving about 95% through the elements. The track is amazing and so exhilarating allowing you to drive very fast.
If you are looking to get into Autocross then visit up your local club most of which offer some type of instruction. If you are in Florida then check out Gulf Coast Autocrossers in Ft Myers which is a great place to start driving fast legally.
I have always been into cars since an young boy and for the past 2 years I have been the proud owner of a 2007 Phantom Blue Rx8. It is my daily driver used by both myself and my wife and currently does about 15 miles per day on the commute to work. My Rx8 is also my weekend track car I am a massive Autocross fan and do about 20 Autocross events per year. I started autocrossing a couple of years ago, I bought the car and really wanted to experience how good it was at handling so I went down to the local club to try it out and have been going regularly ever since.
My Modified Mazda Rx8
I really enjoy modifying my car, mainly for the purpose of making if faster on the track but I have also installed a body kit which you can see in this video, the clip was made just after I had the kit installed. I really love how the car looks I think it is aggressive without looking too overstated. I will tell you more about some of the other mods in future posts.
Mazda Rx8 as a daily driver
The Mazda Rx8 is great as a daily driver in all aspect apart from fuel economy. I really enjoy driving my car around town it is fun to drive and corners like it is on rails. The seats are bucket seats straight from the factory and hug you keeping you planted whilst you take corners at high speed. Although the Rx8 is not going to win many drag races at the strip it is more then capable of pressing you into your seat as you accelerate from the lights. The greatest weakness the Rx8 has is its fuel economy which around town will be anything from 12-18mpg and Highway is 16-26mpg depending on speed. Overall the Mazda Rx8 is a very comfortable car and is as good on the streets as it is at the track.
Autocrossing my Mazda Rx8
After buying my 2007 Mazda Rx8 just over two years ago I was frustrated with the fact that I had bought a cool sports car and really didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy what it could do. I decided to do some research and find cheap way to get into racing, that’s was when I found out about the world of Autocross. I drove down to Ft Myers to race with the Gulf Coast Autocrosser and had an amazing time. Since then I have been going to every event I can make which is usually 8 or 9 of there 10 events each year. At the end of the first full season I won the Novice class (you can see the trophy in this Pic) since I started I have spent money to improve the car and have had lots of practice and now I am a strong competitor and have already won 4 trophies on 2012. The Mazda Rx8 is an amazing car to autocross it is perfectly balanced and is so easy to drive close to the limit.
My goal is to post regularly about my Mazda Rx8 covering what modifications I have done to it, what maintenance, DIY’s to help show you how to install parts on your own in your garage or on the driveway. I do virtually all the work on my own and once you have the right tools it is reasonably easy. Then share the joys and successes that I have when I am out racing my Mazda Rx8. Hope you visit the Mazdarx8.org website again some time soon.