There’s still a few days of 2016 left, but I wanted to jot down all the fun things I’ve done with my MX-5 Miata this year and share it with my readers (and soon to be listeners) in an upcoming Miata Fiata Radio thing I’m launching… yes we’ve already launched Miata Fiata talk the podcast, but I wanted to create a supplement where it’s just me talking about my car and my adventures.
If you think marshal invitations for Lone Star Le Mans & Petit Le Mans are early, you haven’t gotten an invite for 2017 yet… mine showed up a few days ago from Australia. The Bathurst 12 hour race is in February of 2017 but V8 Supercars or just Supercars are already recruiting!
Having done it twice, I highly recommend this event!
What is it; Bathurst 12h
When is it: February 3-5, 2017
Where is it:Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Who’s recruiting: Supercars
Who will be there: Australian GT + multiple international entries. Typical support races include production cars which are 1970’s style HQ Holden taxis, Northern Muscle Club from Australia bring their vintage Trans Am cars, etc.
How to get there? Fly into Sydney (SYD) and take the 4 hour drive to Bathurst. Public transport is possible with train connections in Lithgow, but I’d recommend hiring a car instead. Alternatively you can probably go on Flag Marshals of the World and bum a ride from a local… I’ve rented a car in 2013 and mooched a ride in 2016.
Where to stay? The cheapest place: Mt Panorama campground. The camping is shared with spectators but is pretty close to the Marshal Mustering tent, with convenient access to the track and stations. In the past I also used CouchSurfing to stay in the surrounding area. But camping is convenient (as much as I dislike it).
My eBay “Made in China” reverse camera paired with the Pioneer AVH-X2700BS has been rewired today and is in perfect working order… YaY!
So I initially installed my backup camera back in January when I tackled the touch-screen head unit install. It was freaking cold and freezing but being on a high from the Southeast Asia MX-5 Road Trip I decided to go ahead and do it because the guys really inspired me at all three places I visited: Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, everyone wanted to show their’s, and everyone’s looked different.
The issue was, my cheap eBay china-made camera came with the wrong wire. It was missing the bit that connects to a wire on a head unit labeled “Reverse Input” which is meant to be spliced into the reverse light in the tail light to activate the display on the head unit.
I went ahead and ordered the $3 wire (and another $2 bux shipping from China) in March, it arrived in April but I’ve been putting the install away until the weather got warm and pleasant. Today was exactly such a day. Armed with the correct video cable that has the extra power wire built in, I tackled the re-routing job this time starting from the trunk, rear of the car, and working my way up forward along the sidewall and into the dash, the back of the unit. It was far easier to do now than the initial install!
First I melted away the soldering I did originally (I built a far bigger blob than was required) added an additional wire and re-soldered it in place making things nice and neat. Then I wrapped the whole thing with a good amount of electrical tape and worked my way forward threading the cable from the trunk, along the side of the rear quarter panel (having to open the PRHT top to do it) down along the side sill, under the glove box and into the area behind the unit. Easy Peasy!
Here’s some photos of the re-route:
The soldering job.
The insulation job.
Nice and Neat!
Along the right rear quarter panel opening PRHT for access.
This little bugger with the extra wire (besides video) for power to the “Reverse Input” on the back of the head unit harness was all that was needed to make things work perfectly!
I also took the opportunity to clean out the area on the back of the tail lights. The way the car is designed water drains out from the hole between the trunk and the quarter panels under the tail light and behind the rear bumper. The back of the tail lights were filthy!
So I went ahead and cleaned them out… very easy job.
Notice how dirty that right tail light is towards the bottom of the pic
Also cleaned the dust build up on the bumper surrounding the light.
To shake things down I took the car for a spin on a ride to Walmart to pick up another jug of Pennzoil full synthetic 5W20 which slickdeals alerted me was on sale for under $8 bux! There’s a $10 manufacturer rebate from Pennzoil and another $5 rebate from another app that works with Walmart. Everything worked well. Except for the damn rattle that comes from the hood around the speedometer cluster. I added a bit of electrical tape to dampen the rattle but it’s still there. So when I got home I stuck a little bit more electrical tape, hopefully it works better this time.
The reverse image comes on as soon as I put the car in reverse, and unlike last time, it turns off when I shift out of “R”! Perfect!
I bought three more of these backup cameras to take as gifts on my trip to Australia and New Zealand. And my buddy Guy who requested one of these from me installed his camera under the trunk lid which is what I initially wanted to do. But after a little bit more thought I think I’ll keep it exactly where it is now.
A few observations from my previous trip to the Sydney, NSW area… there are a ton of MX-5’s already on the streets and the community is pretty tight with multiple events happening year round. I would seriously consider doing one of these rentals on my next trip there, especially if a cruise somewhere exotic was involved like a drive to Bathurst or even something up the coast through Bondi Beach, etc.
I’m thinking the company is targeting international visitors as generally Car Rental companies in Australia are called Car Hire (soooo British!). But anyway, I’m all for supporting MX-5 businesses!
If anyone has information on other places I could rent a Miata or a Fiata with the upcoming release of the Fiat’s version of the MX-5, the 124 Spider or even the Abarth 124 Spider, I would love to hear all about it. Please share the information in the comment below!
One of the coolest things I got to see on my trip Down Under was the NC MX-5 Miata rear quarter trailer made by Paul Byers. Unfortunately I only saw the thing very briefly and the fuzzy/grainy picture above is the only proof as I ran down the sidewalk fumbling my phone to get a shot before the car started moving once the traffic light turned green. I was going to have another encounter with it during the Bathurst 12h but thanks to V8 Supercars organization cancelling the MX-5 parade lap an hour before it was meant to take place, that never happened.
Luckily Paul was nice enough to stop by my post and have a brief chat before meeting him again during our big Sydney Fish & Chips run a few days later. The car wasn’t there, but luckily I was able to raid Paul’s facebook page to get some pictures of the build process to share in this post here.
The rear quarter NC trailer creates just enough storage for an MX-5 to make the car practical. In fact Paul made it out of necessity to haul a spare set of tires and a tool box with him to club track events. Since then he’s made a few more trailers that he proudly shows off on a dedicated facebook page here: www.facebook.com/Pauls-Trailers-481817561952940/ I could certainly use something like that for my upcoming trip down to Gulf Coast of Florida for a few racing events.
And now the build process:
And the finished product:
a Pisser’s Racing creation 😉
With time the development of the trailer included faux-tail pipes, antenna, and brake disks… probably a tad over the top but certainly tastefully done and fits with the overall image of the car and trailer.
Paul also has other trailers that suit various MX-5 towing needs.
There’s much we could learn from CAMS: Confederation of Australian Motor Sport and I would hope all international ASN’s are taking note of the things this club is doing RIGHT.
The latest Officials Newsletter ticks all the right boxes for me:
First, there’s a call for action: Marshals Wanted!
I really applaud this national ASN reaching out to their entire membership base, including those of us who are overseas / international marshals and asking for help at a particular event. It is not below them to ask. They aren’t losing any face doing it. There are positions to be filled and they are doing the right thing seeking help from the obvious resource: their licensed members. Kudos!
Second, there’s information about Training!
Brilliant. CAMS is one of the few organizations that I’ve had the privilege of working with that push sophisticated and regular (constantly updated) training modules onto it’s membership base. How appropriate! There’s an organization that recognizes that things change in the Motorsport industry, the change is constant. And they make sure that the membership stays abreast of the all changes by offering standardized training from the national organization down to the individual clubs on the ground like those in the state of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and others.
Third, the most convenient of training modules: e-Training!
One of the hardest things for any club to organize is to bring its membership together at a time and place for a particular event of significance like Training. Solution? Offer Online training! Simple, effective and convenient to both the organizers and the individuals taking advantage of the opportunity to brush up their skills from the comfort of their own home on their own terms (time/place/mood?).
This is why I like CAMS!
It’s not just because they have trained me from the very beginning of my marshaling career. But because they continue to offer me opportunities to further my career in this hobby by doing things right. And not a lot of ASN’s out there take the time or make the effort to keep their membership base engaged and wanting to participate more.
The last e-mail notice I got from my current local club was a reminder to pay my dues…
The highlight of my visit to Sydney by far was the Fish & Chips run organized by Guy Coles through the MX-5 Club of NSW, Sydney Chapter. Guy scheduled a 6pm meetup under the Sydney Hourbour Bridge on the North Sydney side in Kirribilli to drive along the northern suburbs to Balmoral Beach for a light dinner.
I was pretty amazed with the turnout… the parking was a bit scattered but looking back at all my pictures I counted at least 20 cars! For a weekday, after work meeting that’s incredible turnout. All those people wanted to meet me? Really? Probably not… As naive as I would be for thinking that, the MX-5 Club of NSW does these fish and chips runs pretty frequently. But to show my appreciation I certainly thanked every person whose hand I shook for coming. And then proceeded to take a million pictures of their cars:
Every generation of the MX-5 was well represented. I was super happy to see all those NC’s! But there were certainly a number of beautiful NA’s in attendance. As well as a bunch of NB’s including the rare factory turbo SE models that were badged as Mazdaspeed in the US. Plenty of NC’s including the NC1, NC2 and NC3’s. Several special editions among them, including a few 25th Anniversary models as well as some cool colour options like the twin Yellow ones. I was surprised to see that Copper Red Mica (like mine) was such a rare option in Australia while there were plenty of brighter red ones. Someone joked at the start of the event that Black NC’s were the most common option in the club, but soon after that statement was made a bunch of variety rolled in. Some MX-5 owners even brought their “other” car, including a beautiful RX-7.
We started to roll-out towards Balmoral as some people were still rolling in to Kirribilli to join the cruise. It was fantastic! I was very lucky to catch a ride for the cruise with the only ND in attendance. Chris (originally from Queensland) was a recent transplant to NSW and happy to share the ride with me. And while it didn’t seem like it until it happened, that ride was actually my first time being in an ND, it turns out I haven’t had a chance to drive one yet… Hmm!
While we cruised to Balmoral Beach it was incredible to see other MX-5’s along the way. Including this red PRHT and another blue that passed us going into the opposite direction. Sydney seems to be a Roadster heaven! They certainly got the perfect weather for it.
Upon arrival in Balmoral Beach the parking lot was well and truly dominated by the MX-5 club. It was quite a sight to see, especially if you’re into this sort of car, which a few beach goers, especially the younger ones seemed to be. I wasn’t the only one taking pictures of the cars with my phone there.
The Fish & Chips were great! But the company was even better. I’m so happy Guy organized this event and even happier with the amazing turnout. I certainly wouldn’t be able to put anything remotely like that in New Jersey if an Aussie came for a visit. So thanks to Guy… and to the MX-5 Club of NSW/Sydney for being so awesome. Someone even handed me a hat with the club logo on it. I shall wear it proudly!
The drive back to the train station was pretty neat also as all the MX-5’s scattered into different directions. We got a beautiful glance of Sydney skyline from one of the hills which made me really miss living in Sydney. If only I had started this hobby a little earlier, I would have enjoyed the company of these awesome people back in 2009 when I lived in Australia on a working holiday.
Before coming to the big event in Kirribilli I had to pay a visit to Bondi Beach, my favorite place in Sydney. And sure enough I spotted an MX-5 there which I wanted to share in this post. As tempted as I was to have Fish & Chips for lunch at Bondi, I’m glad I found a place serving Kangaroo Burgers instead… between the scenery, the food and the MX-5 community meetup this was one awesome day for me!
Much like the faux-Miata shopping trip in Singapore took me to a few dealerships on the island, my chauffeur for the day – James made a special effort to stop at Blue Mountains Mazda on our drive back to Sydney from Bathurst to check out some MX-5’s on the lot… and there were quite a few of them (though no NC’s unfortunately).
James’s mother Jean purchased her beautiful ND MX-5 from Cameron the owner of Blue Mountains Mazda and so James thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to check out the place and meet Cameron. Just minutes after meeting him he offered me the keys to his personal ND for a test drive which I politely declined.
But the selection of Roadsters on the lot was far better than anything I’ve seen even here in the US, and I’ve got three Mazda dealerships within a 10 mile radius from home.
Here are some shots I took of the cars (along with the obligatory selfie):
There were a few cars in the garage getting prepped for delivery:
As well as this gem in the lot:
The NB SE model in Australia was the Mazdaspeed equivalent offered in the US which means it was powered by a factory turbo. Something Cameron said he was very fond of having raced this car with the MX-5 Club of NSW at various track rental events at Eastern Creek and others I’m sure.
This was such a great experience I forgot to ask how much does the new ND go for in Australia. They are lucky enough to have choice with both 1.5L and 2.0L engine options along with numerous trims for performance or comfort. James mentioned Jean’s car was in the $40,000 range which makes it more expensive than the US models but way cheaper than those sold in Singapore.
Australia and Sydney area in particular is a perfect place to own an MX-5 and I was lucky enough to spot a bunch of them on my visit there, including this beautiful white NC parked at Kingswood train station when I boarded my train back to Sydney CBD.
Hey remember that new Intercontinental GT Challenge series?
After volunteering Spa 24 hour in Belgium I’ve been obsessing about all things SRO, for a variety of reasons. One of the better ones being the quality of race cars participating in their events. This was true at Sepang 12 hour a few months ago, another event SRO decided to work together with SIC to put together and bring to the world. The SRO partnership with V8 Supercars, the new owners of Australian GT that runs the Bathurst 12 hour race around Mount Panorama was officially the season opener of the new series.
The event didn’t disappoint.
While the fields were smaller than the previous few years, the quality of racing improved in my opinion. There were fewer incidents including major ones at the top of the mountain like last year’s massive Nissan GT-R impact. The few incidents that did occur were relatively minor and many of them happened to happen right in front of me at Post 23, the very last corner before the main straight. I was so lucky to be assigned this spot, words can’t describe. The race set several records, including the fastest time for a GT3 car as well as the most laps done in 12 hours with fewer safety car periods compared to previous years.
Another lucky thing for me was the fact that a Kiwi driver took the victory in a Kiwi car: Shane Van Gisbergen driving the #59 McLaren. Coincidentally the next stop on my road trip was New Zealand.
The views from my post were absolutely awesome, both looking upstream and downstream. Though I did find myself having a lot of trouble with the Blue flag. More than once I managed to blue flag the wrong cars and that pissed me off, especially since I thought I knew these cars pretty well. Luckily we had the positioning tower directly across from us in pit lane, so after kicking myself with the first few mistakes I would glance over at the tower to see what order the cars should be running in and if the two were close enough I went ahead and blue flagged for the leaders.
The other disappointment wasn’t so much in the race as with the organizers. V8 Supercars decided not to allow the groups of owners holding a car show on the outside of the track to do a parade lap during the lunch break like they did in previous years. Instead they gave all the track time to a few Ferrari owners that for some unknown reasons thought they were race car drivers. I saw one guy wearing bright red racing gloves in his new Ferrari 488, while also wearing a short sleeve shirt. It was a bit upsetting to me personally because I was eagerly looking forward to jumping into one of the many MX-5’s that showed up to the event specifically with the understanding they were going to do a parade lap, a lap that never happened. Go figure!
Luckily there was a lot going on trackside to let me get over the missed opportunity of riding shotgun in an MX-5 around Mount Panorama. Besides a few spins and beached cars in our sand trap we had a few side to side, metal to metal contacts occur. As well as an exploded engine that happened just before the post as the car proceeded to cruise into our runoff. It was something else really, watching an old V8 Supercars Marlboro livery Holden Commodore blow an engine and a massive fireball coming around the car from the bottom of the front end. It was pretty amazing, something I haven’t seen happen so closely and vividly before.
The true highlight of the event for me was the people I had the pleasure of spending the time with. The team I was paired with at Post 23 was pretty amazing. Our post chief was really down to earth, positive and helpful. When I talked to him about my Gout flare up, he was very understanding. As was the rest of the team. Our communicator Dave runs a Mazda related web site called OZMazda which was cool. And a young girl from Queensland marshaling at Bathurst with her father who was posted at the next station gave me a hand with a bunch of incident reports I had to write as many of them happened on my watch while holding the radio in our rotation. Which by the way was actually an old American landline system using the same exact box we use at most street circuits including Long Beach, Baltimore and Belle Isle. The hum coming out of the headset was unmistakable.
Huge thanks to my friend Paul Kelly from Victoria for organizing my sleeping arrangements at Bathurst by not only providing a tent, sleeping bag and pillows, but also setting it all up for me and helping tear it down in the end. That was such a huge help! Also big thanks to Paul for driving me and the rest of our group to town every evening after track activities were over, all these delicious meals we had were thanks to his initiative to get us some real food (off track).
I got lucky on so many levels working this year’s Bathurst 12 hour. The weather was amazing, it started out a little cool but towards the end of the week I was frying in direct sunlight, it was literally burning thru my jeans. The post assignment was perfect. The team I worked with was super. And all the friends I got to catch up with over the four day visit really makes me miss the whole experience already, can’t wait to return to Australia again… hopefully next time I’ll get to do something completely new like one of the street races around Gold Coast… hmm!