Tag Archives: Mazda Miata

Gnarly California Trip 2017

Another radical trip in the books… this time I spent nearly two weeks on Monterey Peninsula in Northern California enjoying myself at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

This post will act as a glossary of all of my activities and adventures, which included:

  • Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (volunteering)
  • Driving an NC MX-5 Miata around Laguna Seca
  • Visit to the Canepa Museum in Scotts Valley, CA
  • Grand Prix of Monterey (PWC season finale)
  • Global MX-5 Cup (post-season finale, int’l race)
  • Global MX-5 Cup Miata Flying into my Flag Point
  • California 8 hour – Intercontinental GT Challenge

I’ll be writing the individual posts over the next few days so please stay tuned…

The trip went absolutely wonderfully. It’s been a while since the last event so I was well rested and enjoyed the experience very much. Instead of paying for a cheap flight I broke down and burned some frequent flyer miles to get to California. Which meant I could do some crazy routing to finally fly directly into Monterey. On the way over I used my Alaska miles that I got by converting Virgin America points (which Alaska bought out)… luckily two out of the three legs of the trip were actually on VX which was super enjoyable. I love their Airbus A320’s. I flew New York to San Francisco. Instead of getting off the plane and driving two hours, I spent the next four hours in the air over California. First taking another VX flight to San Diego where I connected to an Alaska Air operated by Horizon prop-plane Bombardier Q400 to fly back up to Monterey. My goal was to fly over Laguna Seca and take some shots, but 7:30pm this time of year meant complete darkness… so the only visual I have of the track is what I saw… it’ll stay in my mind instead of captured on a cell phone camera.

Car rentals at MRY weren’t cheap… as expected. But instead of paying $400-500’s for convenience I instead booked a car from Hertz Local Edition in Seaside (and Salinas as a backup)… it was only $162 which is a great deal for a two week rental. Got a Hyundai Accent which got a solid 33mpg! And because I’m so broke I tried not to do too many California road trips… ironically when I returned the car I had put 805 miles on it, which surprised me!

The two events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca were fantastic!

I got a chance to get a ride in all versions of the NC Miata… the early years NC1 – my buddy Daniel from Gerogia who drove his 2008 all the way cross-country for this event. Then hopped into the same NC2 I drove around the track last year (the owner let me drive it again which was awesome!) And finally my host in Prunedale owns an awesome looking NC3 which I was lucky to ride in again. We met at the Miata’s at Laguna Seca event last year and him hosting me for the duration of the trip was probably the only thing that made this all possible.

I can’t say enough positive things about my Cali visit this year. It’ll probably be a while before I get a chance to go again, so I’m going to savor the memories and share them on this blog along with many pictures.

 

Caffeine & Carburetors in New Canaan, Connecticut Sept 2017: Lotus Elan

The one car I’ve wanted to see more than any other recently is a Lotus Elan… the car that a Mazda Cosmo and later the Mazda MX5 Miata were based on.

Look how pretty it looks:

Compare and contrast with the first generation Mazda Miata (NA):

Check out the other posts from Caffeine & Carburetors here:

Track Day Bro! Hooked on Driving MX5 Miata at NJMP Lightning Raceway

It was a great weekend spent at New Jersey Motorsport Park not just because of MotoAmerica bikes I  volunteered for on Thunderbolt but also because of cars I got to check out on Lightning. Camping at the track I was looking for things to do to kill time before calling it a night. Went into town to pick up some Chinese, ate it at the Tempest circuit watching kids race go karts. As I was about to leave I see an NC Miata being trailered into Lightning for next day’s event there… Hmm… what have we got here? I went over to take a look and the owner of the Miata was as excited as I was to see another NC MX-5 (he thought I’d race there too). We had a chat and the next day I stopped by during lunch time to take some better shots of his great looking Limited Edition (that metallic paint looked awesome!) with better light conditions.

Anyway… here’s the pix:

My shitty cell phone camera barely captured the metallic paint job…

The car sounded amazing. Very nice tone to the exhaust. And the owner was kicking ass on track, blowing past other cars including Camaro’s and Porsche’s… (at least the passes I got to see)

Oh look a Heinlein tuned Moostang Shelby!

Is it a rental?

Watching the Miata kick ass in the Carousel.

If I had the money I would totally do a track day… although instead of using my own car I would probably rent one. There were plenty of rentals all over the parking lot… great variety to choose from.

Oh yeah, back at Thunderbolt spotted this gem… the only Miata in attendance for the MotoAmerica SBK race, and must be a member judging by the license plate frame:

Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA at VIR the debrief

People often ask what’s my favorite race track, and it’s a hard question to answer because I frequent some of the best of them in the world. VIR though is one of the very best in my book! I can say that with confidence and I would encourage people to come and check it out for themselves.

The IMSA at VIR event was my second trip to Danville, Virginia/Milton, North Carolina this year. Of the two this was arguably the bigger event and it showed with amazing crowds of spectators that showed up in force. For the third time now I failed to read the instructions given to volunteers to camp in the South Paddock and instead did what I did before and set up my spot in the North where the usual spectators camp. I say the usual, because most of my neighbors were there for PWC weekend earlier this year, and they were there last year for IMSA as well. One of the spectators made a comment complimenting my Miata saying he remembers it from before… COOL! I even got a visit from a “Mazda Santa” this time who mysteriously dropped off a few new Mazda lanyards by my tent. ALSO COOL!

My first accomplishment of the trip was finally getting to try out Biscuitville… I’ve seen their restaurants before in this area but they were always closed by the time I had free time to visit.

To my surprise Biscuitville sponsored the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, which is nice to see. Local businesses supporting the Motorsport activity in their region.

We were extremely fortunate this weekend to be blessed with perfect weather. It wasn’t too hot or too cool. It didn’t rain. It was perfect. Our pit fire team consisted of a bunch of visiting marshals from Daytona which was very neat. Some very experienced firefighters that follow the NASCAR circuit around.

And then there was me in their midst. Good educational experience.

Nothing noteworthy happened in the pit boxes I was responsible for. But I’m happy to say it was a lot to see right in front of me from the Weathertech Series down to SCCA Pro Formula 4. And specifically the ITM sponsored Kiwi Motorsport driver that hails from the part of the North Island in New Zealand where I got my start as a marshal. It was very cool to see them in action, and even though the guy didn’t win he certainly crashed enough… as the saying goes, if you’re not crashing you’re not going fast enough. He was fast!

I already mentioned this in a previous post but for some reason the burgundy Acura NSX really caught my eye this weekend. It was easily the nicest car on the grid. And it just so happens I was manning their pit box.

The blue one looked pretty neat too… neither did particularly well unfortunately.

Big thanks to IMSA for sending out an ice cream lady with free refreshments during the big race. They did this last year too, and it was a very nice gesture at a perfect time. This was neat!

My local New Jersey dealership sponsored Lamborghini team expanded again, with the paddock growing from 3 cars to 5 now. They didn’t do so well except for one. Which I guess was good.

All the usual NC Miatas had a great race too, but a NISSAN won, which was somewhat appropriate as VIR is NISSAN sponsored track. Nevertheless I enjoyed watching them race.

I didn’t get a chance to check out the infield with all the displays and such, but I did get a chance to walk past the local SCCA region tent which had this car on display…

Figures that the local club would feel this paint job was appropriate to attract new members. But whatever.

All in all a fantastic weekend. Car was covered by an inch of dust by the time the event was over. I would love to be back again at this track… what an amazing facility. As the Radio Le Mans commentators put it, “its a very old school track, no run off areas… you make a mistake and you’re off in the grass”

Happy I was a part of this race weekend!

Post Card from IMSA at VIR Michelin GT Challenge and Formula 4

Greetings from beautiful VIRginia International Raceway where IMSA has brought some of it’s best classes with support from US Formula 4 open wheelers. I’m excited to say I finally got to see F4 after a number of failed attempts in the past, and it was very exciting to see a field of 30+ cars do three races over two days. IMSA brought everything except for the Prototypes which was awesome as well as I love GT3 and GT4 machinery and all the spec-racers like Lambo’s and Porsche’s.  All in all it was fantastic!

I’ll write in more detail about my role for the weekend in another post, but here are some photos from Day 1, walking around the paddock…

So my plan was to sleep during the day and drive to VIR overnight. The sleeping part didn’t happen, and foolishly I departed for the 8 hour trip around 9pm. Twelve hours later I arrived in Danville, VA

I felt like a zombie even after stopping a few times along the way for a snooze. But first order of business after collecting my credentials and setting up my tent was to get some food at Biscuitville. I saw them on my last trip but they close at 2pm which was way earlier than I could get there in the past. This year Biscuitville actually sponsored the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The food was delicious, I ordered a bunch of biscuit sandwiches to last me through Friday…

The others I ate in the car while watching the cars practice on track.

stay tuned for more…

Sunday Fun Day: Ice Cream down the Jersey Shore

Perfect weather today for a little trip down the Jersey Shore for some ice cream! Of course besides my friend Bill and I, everyone else in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York had the same idea… the traffic was atrocious. Everywhere, all the time. But we followed through with it and had a great time hanging out and sampling some delicious ice cream from Charlie’s Creamery in Seaside Park, New Jersey

Originally my plans for this weekend were to volunteer with Team Pocono for the Indycar race at the tricky triangle. Unfortunately for me they did not invite me back. So I had the weekend free to have other fun in the Miata.

We met up at Cheesequake Service Area on the Garden State Parkway. I expected some traffic along the way, and there was some… lots of volume of cars on the road heading south. But when it came time to cross the bridge in Perth Amboy it was just bumper to bumper, it took me half an hour to cover 95% of my trip, and another twenty minutes to go the last two miles to the service area.

Bill was already waiting…

My plan was to continue south on the Parkway until Seaside Heights, visit one creamery and then work our way back up Ocean Avenue to the second creamery in Asbury Park before heading home. But because of traffic that plan was scrapped. So instead of getting back on the GPS, we took the local route, 35 in South Amboy towards Hazlet and Atlantic Highlands.

First stop was at the Navesink Twin Lighthouse park where the skies were so clear you could really see Manhattan and Brooklyn in the distance… no haze or humidity at all.

Part of the big backup on Route 35 before hitting the Ocean was the fact that Sandy Hook had filled up to max capacity. Everyone was waiting in line just to find out the park was closed and then sat around weighing in their other beach options.

The traffic further down the shore wasn’t any better. With pedestrian crossings every few hundred feet, most of the way we were going less than 20mph.

Hey I spotted a Holden Commodore!

The famous Windmill hot dog place…

Lots of cool cars out and about today… the weirdest thing about this Ferrari was a strong smell of burning plastic. We only followed it for a few miles at relatively low speed, but the bad smell coming off this thing was scary!

Gas prices down the shore were all over the board. It varied almost 50 cents between stations for the same grade of fuel. For whatever reason this Mobil was only $2.77 for 93 premium. Surprising!

The further south we went the less the bad the traffic got. As soon as we cleared all the towns with Boardwalks along the way, the pedestrians were less and less of an issue. And the traffic sped up. Obviously! It was a good opportunity to scout beaches to take the family to in the future.

Tons of people at the beach!

And we finally arrived… 2pm ice cream breakfast! Got a parking spot right in front of the joint…. one NJ.com highly recommended as one of the best ice cream parlors down the Jersey Shore!

Luckily the ice cream was very tasty! But since we lost a ton of time driving down here we scrapped the idea of following Ocean Ave back up… instead opting to go directly back to the Parkway and fighting the traffic there. The road was busy but not as much as it would be a few hours later when all the beach goers packed up and headed home.

It was an awesome, nearly 200 mile and $30 in fuel trip, just to get a $5.25 ice cream…

Mazda MX-5: Miata Horn Upgrade to Something a Little Louder

When I first bought my Miata it became painfully clear that most other bigger cars on the road are on the mission to kill me. Multiple times I found myself taking defensive action to avoid a pick up truck or an SUV veering into my lane, completely oblivious that I was there. My solution was to buy a dash cam so at least I would have evidence when someone runs me off the road. My buddy Bill instead opted to get a louder horn.

Today we went ahead and installed his Thompson Engineering sourced horn. The Tornado/Marco labelled model (Made in Italy) it says… looks a lot more bulkier than the puny stock horn. It was a quick and easy bolt on once we go to it by unbolting a whole bunch of plastic that packages the bumper area of the Miata nicely. At one point I was excited and a little bit worried we will have to take the whole front bumper off. But apparently there are 80+ fastening points one must remove, and I’m glad we didn’t have to resort to that. Nevertheless there were quite a few 8mm screws, 10mm screws and a bunch of plastic fasteners that had to be loosened to get to the horn.

Here’s some pix:

Bill bought the louder horn from Thompson Engineering. The kit came complete with the horn, several fuses, and all the mounting brackets, which was very easy to assemble. We made a trip to Lowe’s to pick up about 5 feet of quarter inch hose in order to route the air intake for the horn under the hood. Lots of zip ties were used to package everything nicely and it looked very factory in the end.

Beep beep!

Mazda MX-5: Miata Shopping in Canada: Montréal, Québec

I failed once again to meet any local Miata owners in Québec on my visit to Canada for the Formula E events on the streets of Montréal. Can’t say I was surprised. After all I had failed to meet any Miata owners on my previous trips to Mosport, Ontario as well. Just like on the last trip to Bowmanville I also failed to see a Canadian-spec Miata at the local dealership in Montreal as well.

However, I was very much impressed with the Amount of Mazda dealers in the greater Montreal metropolitan area and there surely are plenty of Mazda’s on the streets of the city… they just aren’t the little Roadsters. So here are some pix from my experience.

The closest dealer with easy public transport system access was Mazda Gabriel St-Jacques… I took the Metro, walked over to where it should have been, didn’t see it and walked around the block lost between a highway and a hospital. But on the second pass I found it! Lots of construction on the streets of Montreal, the orange flowers (orange cones) are in full bloom this summer!

At first… no Miata’s to be seen on the lot!

Oh putain…

But that’s no different from the Mazda dealer I visited in Ontario. So I went in to have a chat with the staff and see if I can get a Canadian-spec Miata brochure at least… surprise! they didn’t have any. The receptionist managed to find a 2016 spec sheet, and sent me on my way. I also visited their parts department to inquire about the Canadian-spec window washer fluid bottle, which is a different design, and much bigger than the American-spec. They didn’t have any in stock… no surprise there. But they could order one for $137 bux… YIKES! However, a stripped down version without a motor (which could be transferred over from the original on the car) was only $66 CAD… phew!

The staff were super helpful it’s just a shame there wasn’t any Miata’s on the lot I could sit in and look around.

I remember reading a Miata.net post that complained: Do they want to sell cars or not? It appears if you want to buy a Miata in Canada it’s a long term process with possible multiple visits to the dealership, ordering and waiting for the car to arrive.

I was so focused on looking for a new ND on the lot that somehow I missed this colorful combination of used-Mazda’s a yellow RX-8 which is probably my favorite color for this rotary car and a red NB… How do you miss something so bright? Glad I spotted them on the way out of the dealership.

Initially I didn’t even see any Miata’s on the streets of Montreal… but then I was proven wrong Thursday night where I spotted half-a-dozen, mostly NB’s in all different colors roaming around downtown Montreal… I suspect they drove in from the suburbs to get a front row view of the fireworks that were scheduled to start after dark on that night. The next day I saw a beautiful NC3 PRHT in white with the top down that came up behind me and left too quick for me to snap a shot of it. Here’s a few Miata’s I did spot on the streets of Old Montreal:

Ironically there were far more Porsche’s on the streets of Montreal than Miata’s.

I even spotted a right-hand-drive Nissan Figaro… twice!

Anyway… while the Miata community of Quebec is very hard to spot, other Mazda’s are all over the place. Tons of CX-5’s and Mazda3’s roaming around. Even used for official city business:

The older Mazda’s make it seem obvious why people hide their precious Roadsters… the rust isn’t kind in this part of the world:

I suspect the salt use in the winter eats right through the metal.

Anyway, I had such a blast in Montreal for the Formula E event even though I completely failed to make any contact with the local Miata community… and I even researched several Quebec MX-5 Clubs and sent them facebook messages asking for help.

Maybe I’ll get more lucky in the future…

Mazda MX-5 Miata Maintenance Day

I have tried and once again failed with another attempt to fix the metal to metal clanking sound coming from the rear of the car. It has appeared out of the blue once we swapped my OEM shocks to a set of Bilsteins from a newer Miata. Since then I have greased the rear sway bar bushings. Replaced the rear sway bar end links. Replaced the bushings on the rear sway bar that I had greased before with OEM parts and still the noise persists. So after much research it was suggested that the exhaust hangers may be faulty. They are rubber and after 10 years of use I’m sure they would have lost some of their rigidity.

So I researched the ones to buy. OEM ones on eBay are nearly $20 bux apiece. There are two different kind and a total of five of them in use on our system. One on the pipe under the car, and four holding the exhaust manifold in place. Part # LF46-40-061 of which you use three of, goes under the car and on the back of the muffler closest to the rear of the car (tail pipes). Part # N3H2-40-061A are nearly twice the width of the other hangers and go on the front of the muffler closest to the differential.

But I was not going to spend $100+ bux on OEM hangers, they’re just cheap rubber, I don’t get why they cost so much. Even online part stores like Quirk or Tasca wanted over $10 apiece and something like $13 for the fat ones. No thanks!

The aftermarket hangers from Flyin’ Miata were $8-$9 apiece. The same ones on eBay could be had even cheaper from Kartboy and COBB with various offers for around $40 for a set of 5 with free shipping. But it still seemed excessive for what they really are.

So I started doing more research and found Advance Auto Parts sells Walker Insulators Part # 35119 for just $3 bux and with their generous 20%-30% discounts, it was just $11.55 with tax for the five I bought initially and $5.28 for two more that I bought to double up one of the muffler hangers to replicate the fat design of the OEM.

Everything looked so great, but after a test drive the noise is still there… Fuck me!

Here’s some pix:

A set of five from Advance Auto cost less than one OEM hanger!

The fat OEM hanger on the front of the muffler closest to the diff.

I used a lot of soapy water in a spray bottle to loosen the rubber, for whatever reason the 12mm holes on the OEM hangers were so loose that most of them just popped out with little effort.

new one on the right and old one on the left

the new hangers are 10mm so it took effort to put them on.

but with soapy water sprayed on both rubber and hangers it worked.

and then I had an idea to double up the rubber on the back hanger, it fit just right and introduced more rigidity I believe.

Although the brand name on Advance Auto web site and what I picked up in the store didn’t match, these seem to be good quality product, Made in India.

While inspecting the bottom of the car I noticed my X-brace was bent upwards in a place closest to where the exhaust pipe goes. So I took it off and straightened it out in a vice grip.

Oh how I wished this would have solved my clunky problem… it would have been so awesome especially how cheap the parts were compared to the new OEM end links and even OEM bushings. But fuck it didn’t work… the problem persists and it’s going to drive me crazy until I find the culprit!

Sunday Fun Day Cruising Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey to High Point State Park and Warwick, New York

Today was a fantastic day to go for a cruise… the weather was perfect! Not too hot, not too sunny… not too much traffic on the roads. So my friend Bill and I headed up Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey towards Wanaque Reservoir, up Greenwood Lake Tpk to Warwick Tpk to Clinton Road in West Milford, down to Route 23 and then up to the High Point State Park. From there we came back down to Route 94 in Hamburg, New Jersey and headed up to Orange County New York where we turned off on Route 17A and down Route 17 back into New Jersey.

Unlike the many trips to Bear Mountain New York this trip was far more laid back, slower speed and through much more residential areas. Bill and I joked we would do a Foodie Tour visiting the many Ice Cream parlors along the way. But the joke turned into a much tastier reality. Because instead of ice cream parlors we actually visited the source for the ice cream at the various Farms which featured proper Ice Cream Shacks and Barns where the fresh ice cream was Oh Sooo Creamy! We stopped for a root beer float in Orange County New York and then again in Sussex New Jersey for some Frozen Blueberry Yogurt. It was so amazing.

And of course I took a million pix:

Lots of cool cars out on the road today like this fat ass Porsche Cayman… obviously a ton of bikes too!

and some good looking British Midgets…

This ’69 was fully restored by the owner who was proud to point out he’s done a cross country road trip in it all the way to Reno, Nevada wow!

The 2007 Copper Red twins

At High Point State Park at the Northwestern tip of New Jersey

tractor man

The ice cream in this place was amazing. I got a blueberry frozen yogurt and it was finger lickin’ good!

Welcome to New York… again

Welcome back to New Jersey!