It’s been a few years since I discovered I have no future as a race car driver… that feeling came about behind a wheel of an SRT Charger as I was screeching tires making a turn into one of the high speed corners of Road America in Wisconsin. Since that time though I did three more SRT Track Experiences around the country… but instead of pursuing that sort of “racing” hobby I figured it would be much cheaper to volunteer as a marshal (even though that is expensive as hell in itself). BUT… boy was it fun!
The SRT Track Experiences were run by Richard Petty Racing School. It was one of few subcontractors SRT and other performance brands like AMG relied on to help teach their customers how to drive their cars without actually using their cars… Chrysler for example provided more than a dozen cars, everything from a Crossfire to the Viper… and I as a guest of the Track Experience got to drive every single one of them, multiple times. And at the end of the day I simply walked away… no need to buy new tires, or fix any issues that the car could have developed after being flogged by amateurs around the track. Arrive and drive events in someone else’s vehicles are awesome, certainly better than messing with your own car.
And that’s where the Bondurant Racing School comes in. I remember Bondurant when they ran orange SVT Mustang Cobra’s… I remember that because someone at the company sent me a list of cars for sale when they decided to ditch the blue oval and move on to GM (remember those yellow Corvette’s and black Cadillac’s?) and now they do Chryslers… in particular the Dodge SRT line that I got to experience several times with Richard Petty… luckily FCA, the parent of Dodge also has non-HEMI powered machinery for which Bondurant has a whole separate web site, calling it Fiat Trackside https://fiattrackside.com/ which seems like a perfect way to experience the Abarth line-up and in particular the Abarth Fiata: Fiat 124 Spiders… and I intend to one day take advantage of their offerings to experience this Italian (Japanese) creation…
If anyone has a hook-up, my birthday is coming up in September feel free to get me some time behind the wheel of the Bondurant Fiata… I’ll take care of the flight to Arizona but the rest I’m too broke to afford.
Bondurant Racing School also offers a Teen driving program, which is probably more up my alley than an actual high performance Abarth experience, but I wouldn’t turn either of them down if presented with an opportunity.
I’m not sure how these track experiences operate, and if they carry any similarity to the SRT track experiences which I’ve done several of in Wisconsin, Colorado, California and Florida… I’m sure there are some good folks on the Fiata forums that would spare their VIN# for me to experience these cars on track at the Bondurant facility.
This weekend Chris hosted a car wash & detail clinic day.
I joked that I was preparing for this day by not washing my car for at least two weeks… and several road trips on some rainy days for Motorsport events like the visits to Lime Rock. But in reality every time I do wash my car it seems to rain the next day messing things up. All the pollen in the air, the dust, and it’s a pain in the ass to keep the car clean. I don’t think I’ve ever actually detailed my car, until this weekend!
Chris has a collection of various detailing products that were put to a good use. One of my favorites was the one that turned my headlights that have started to get cloudy to bright and clear again.
This yellow RX-8 was my favorite Mazda at the event… I love the color. I think my next MX-5 will be some shade of yellow!
Yea, please don’t suck Mazda!
Good to see Bill show up with his 2007 GT soft top… I think in the past I’ve assumed it was the first model year NC but I was wrong.
Isn’t that yellow gorgeous?
Tackling the headlights…
This is what they looked like before, very cloudy on top…
and this is what they look like after:
as compared to Bill’s car:
and compared to Chris’s car:
and even without washing or detailing Chris’s car looked the best:
To end the day we had the bright idea of attempting to adjust Bill’s new Tokico’s… and then Chris dropped one of the brace nuts into the engine bay… that was the last time we saw it. Even though a lot of time was spent looking for it, it was never found. Luckily the Advance Auto nearby stocked just the right size bright and shiny new ones which I went to pick up to finish the job.
To be honest I’ve given up on Club Racing this season… But since I still hold a valid SCCA license and my friend Jamie offered to let me work on the Starter stand with him, I jumped on the opportunity!
Boy am I glad I did.
I came for the Miata’s, but stayed for all the variety that was there.
The various Spec Miata fields were huge… I liked the battles going on from my vantage point. And since there were four of us on the Start stand I got to rotate into every position available for a few sessions at a time… so I got to Start and Chequer races. I got to work as a backup. I got to do lap charts. And finally, got to do comms. It was neat to say the least and much needed practice I wanted to have as I did make mistakes a few weeks ago at Lime Rock working the PWC race as a backup starter.
But anyway. For the NA and NB Miata fans there was a lot to love. I only spotted one NC there. Briefly thinking a few Honda S2000’s were Miata’s as they were under car covers… Ooops! They sure do have similar dimensions and it’s especially hard to tell when you can only see wheels, and both Mazda and Honda tend to use the same Enkei wheels.
Anyway, here’s some pix of my favorite cars this weekend:
This fella raced one of the SAC NC Miata Cup Cars during PWC.
Love the paint job on this Formula Vee…
Surprised how flashy some cars looked wearing sponsors on their liveries…
Woo Hoo… NC Miata!
Not a Miata!
But it’s wearing a +5HP sticker…
This thing kicked ass in the rain, winning one race.
Stock vs. Non-Stock S2000’s… probably my favorite looking race car at the track… wonder why they created a class that eliminates the windshield of a car…?
This thing too had a very dramatic last lap, front straight, chequered flag finish… dash to the win!
Several young female racers, which is awesome to see on such grassroots level of Motorsport.
I’ll be back for more tomorrow… Saturday = Race Day!
Sunday Fun Day! A heatwave is hitting Northern New Jersey, and a ton of people came out for this month’s Cars & Coffee event at Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, NJ
I overslept… didn’t wash my car but wanted to hang out with a few people at the event. So I rushed over… and as soon as I pulled in around 10am everyone else started leaving… all the McLaren P1’s, the Porsche 911’s, the Lamborghinis and Ferrari’s of very recent vintage, but the few cars that remained still caught my eye. So I wanted to share some pix of them…. I realize a lot of the cars are classic and vintage, which you’re likely to see at your neighborhood’s weekly cruise night. But I don’t care. It was a great mix of new and old and for me these oldies stood out….
especially the Figaro:
It’s also important to remember that this area of Jersey is still very European… there’s BMW North American headquarters just across the street. There’s lots of Italians still living here. The real Mafialand… you know where Soprano’s are from. So it’s nice to see all these Alfa Romeo’s, Lancia’s and Fiat’s around. The classic type, the ones that you don’t normally see here. That was nice to see!
Oh and I also really loved the Geländewagen:
Haven’t seen these in a while… but I have seen them before… in Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. It was nice to see them again!
How is this car a “Historic”?
It is registered as one… look at the Trianglular inspection sticker.
Seeing the Mercedes-Benz 300SL in both convertible and gullwing was awesome… seen both of them before but they sure stood out.
Memorial Day oil change deal alert at your local Advance Auto Parts store… while I’m not due for an oil change and I still have a perfectly good jug of Castrol EDGE 5W20 from a previous purchase, along with a bunch K&N HP-1002 and PS-1002 filters for my Miata, at this price I decided to stock up on a few more.
The deal is $22.99+ tax for a 5QT Jug or 5x 1QT bottles of Castrol EDGE full synthetic oil plus a K&N Wrench-Off high performance oil filter… which at Advance Auto typically sells for $36.99 just the oil and $16.99 just the filter. Of course I like to shop around and have purchased oil and filters cheaper individually but in this case the combination of the two work really well, I’ll explain why.
Advance Auto is currently running a promo through American Express also, where you get $10 rebate on your AMEX card for a $50 purchase. Similarly, Advance Auto SpeedPerks rewards program allows you to earn $5 (coupon you can apply to a future $20 purcahse) for each $30 you spend. Naturally the $22.99 deal is after rebate, so the $32.99 you shell out upfront qualifies for this deal.
The Castrol EDGE Extended Performance oil is also on sale, a 5QT jug of that is $24.99 after rebate with the K&N filter included. So what I did was purchase both, sending my total with tax to $70… I quickly got an e-mail confirming my AMEX rebate. I’m hoping SpeedPerks comes through for at least $5 maybe even $10 since I spent over $60 (2x – $30) and in the end it will be a fantastic deal.
Almost as good as those end of fiscal year clearance sales where Advance Auto or AutoZone clear out their oil supply and sell 5QT Jugs of various oils for like $5 bux. But alas those deals are hit or miss and sometimes only apply for specific oils. For example two years ago I managed to buy Mobil 1 for $5 a jug, except it was only the 0W20 weight. I read about Pennzoil Platinum going on sale for a similar price but out of the three oils I have used in the Miata, the Castrol EDGE goes on sale least. And I found out it’s the oil that performs best in my car, yielding the best gas mileage!
No better way to spend Memorial Day weekend than at my local Cars & Coffee. This meetup at Tice’s Corner in Woodcliff Lake, NJ is always a treat, check out the pix:
I arrived a bit late, after 10am which meant may cool cars were either leaving or had already left… like the Enzo Ferrari and McLaren P1… but the Miata’s were still there, and after parking lot clearing a bit we decided to get them together for a photo op:
At this point it was around noon and everyone was hungry so we headed down to Hackensack to my favorite BBQ joint… Cubby’s!
This place is so awesome… there’s nothing “bad” on the menu, everything is “great!”
I had no idea Canada turns 150 until I saw all the colorful banners at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. My 500+ mile road trip north was for the same reason I went last year. Victoria Day Speedfest event is an excellent combination of racing series at an amazing facility that makes time fly because you’re having fun.
Unlike last year the weather went completely haywire. On the first day it was warm but super windy. In fact the first order of business upon arrival in Bowmanville was to head to my favorite Poutine place to pick up a big plate of fries with gravy (which I ate in the car, parked at Turn 2 watching cars on track)… driving there I thought there was a sand storm, the wind whipped up all this dust it was hard to see the road in places. Next day it was cold. The following day cold and sunny, so I was freezing and got sunburned. And race day it rained which meant one of the feature PWC series got cancelled. But nevertheless I had a blast!
As usual took lots of pix:
Gas station food… it’s different in Canada!
1st Place Fries at Race Track gas station… yep!
…off to the track we go!
Welcome to Mosport!
Watching the test day activities from Turn 2.
Ironically, throughout the weekend I had the most unexpected favorites. The Micra Cup certainly kicked ass… it almost killed us at Turn 9 on Saturday as two cars lunged at us rolling in the process hitting the tire wall pretty hard while we scattered away. Both drivers walked away but it was a scary incident. Pinty’s Series did an amazing job racing in the wet on Sunday. Who says NASCAR doesn’t do rain tires? They certainly do… while PWC cancelled their Sprint X event because the track started ponding in some areas. But then the rain let up and the final race of the weekend took place… Canadian Touring Car Championship ran, but with half the field chickening out.
I tried to organize a Miata meet-up during the weekend. I failed for the second year in a row. This time I posted on Miata.net but apparently in an inconvenient thread because some dickhead jumped on me for hijacking the thread. And a few more assholes joined in the chorus speculating I must have voted for Trump because I made such a massive mistake posting in a thread where Ontario Canadians responded what cities they live in. To me that was the most appropriate post, but needless to say my efforts were wasted. Nobody wanted to meet. I did see several Miata’s at Mosport. One NA even gave me the flip up headlight “Hello” as I flashed my lights at him driving down towards Mosport Road, but that was that.
I did get a chance to visit my favorite gas station in Canada again… and refuel using the grade of fuel that sponsors the Canadian Porsche GT3 Cup series… Ultra 94. I suspect because of the rain and cold weather I never got better than 33mpg which kind of sucks. I wanted to match 36mpg’s from last year’s trip.
Just like in the US, the gas prices differ station to station. So note-to-self for next trip… the Petro-Canada in Cobourg, Ontario has the cheapest price along the 401… also important to remember that just like Sunoco Ultra 93, not all stations carry that grade of fuel. I foolishly visited two gas stations ready to fill up, only to pull away from them because they didn’t sell Ultra 94.
Final fill up in Canada, $40 CAD for half a tank of gas. Oouch!
Similar fill up at Sunoco south of the border… but with a more favorable rate.
Ultra 94 is all over the place at Mosport though, so I’m happy to do my part and support Petro-Canada rather than other Canadian stations like Ultramar, Husky or even Esso in favor of those that support local Motorsport.
I think the highlight of the trip was when my Google Maps GPS welcomed me back to New Jersey! That took me by surprise…
I almost forgot to mention… a few miles before the Canadian border at the Thousand Islands crossing I hit quite the milestone in my Miata 66,666 miles!
That’s the second time this year I’ve rolled over all 6’s, last time being in Wes’s Crown Vic driving it from Pennsylvania to Texas.
UPDATE May 7th: After three days of light/moderate/heavy rain with the new beltline on the passenger door, I’m still having the same issue of water retention. Not a damn thing has changed, except of course I’m out $50 bux…. not thrilled about this! Maybe it’s part of the design to open the door so the water flushes out but it doesn’t sound too reassuring. Certainly wouldn’t want it to start rusting if the car sits around for extended periods of time in all types of weather. Argh!
Ever since I bought my Miata there was a peculiar phenomena happening. After heavy rain or even just washing the car, a bunch of water would pool in the passenger side door that would gush out when the door was opened (otherwise didn’t drain on it’s own).
I shared this video in April of 2015 showing the issue after it rained:
The solution was quite simple, but pricey!
I bought the new beltline molding from Avondale Mazda in Arizona through eBay using one of their $15 off $75 purchase coupons. The part was listed for $65+ and I added another $14 item that I was missing, a battery brace to help secure my DieHard battery (some schmuck that installed the battery for the previous owner didn’t put the brace back on)…. and now the battery is held on only by cables.
Anyway, it wasn’t easy to find instructions on how to remove the old beltline molding. The instructional videos from NA Miata, and the Miata.net how-to for the NB Miata are different. Luckily I had an NC Miata maintenance manual that showed a graphic how to do it. And in the process of attempting to release one of the plastic clips, I promptly broke it. I assume the plastic was brittle and didn’t take much effort to break.
Removal was easy. Re-install was a bit of a pain in the ass because of alignment. But eventually everything fell back in place. And I’m happy that there’s no more gap between the molding and the window. This week it will rain a lot so I’m going to test how the new molding is working out. But I think I’m happy with it!
As usual I took a million pix:
The new and the old molding… clearly the old one at 10 years of age is very much worn and lots of dust around it including some rust on the triangle part of the window to the front of the car.
So the last two weeks were spend exploring the Southeast again… I used the opportunity to volunteer two fantastic events in Alabama and Virginia to be a little bit of a tourist, a foodie, Miata Fiata fan, and of course a road tripper.
The trip included stopovers in Knoxville, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and Danville, Virginia (Milton, North Carolina really).
I volunteered two massive events: working as a flagger for the Alabama Grand Prix at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park and as fire rescue crew for PWC Grand Prix of VIR at the awesome VIRginia International Raceway.
Along the way I did a bunch of Miata Fiata stuff about which I wrote some previous posts, read about it here:
But in this post I’d like to wrap up and talk about the actual road trip part… after all I put nearly 2,500 miles on my Miata. Burned more than 60 gallons of fuel and spent over $160 bux doing it. I was lucky to average in the high 36mpg’s at one point hitting over 38mpg’s which is fantastic! And it was all trouble free… which is the best part!
I sampled a lot of good food along the way. Some fairly average food, and some I tried to skimp out on… like Chick-fil-a for breakfast many times… or the Steak ‘n Shake visits thanks to a discounted gift card I bought… $50 card for like $20 bux!
In many ways this Road Trip was a continuation of my drive to Texas in Wes’s Crown Vic… in fact I used that drive as a dry run to see what I should expect taking my own car to Alabama. I knew I would have a great time in Knoxville, TN because I stopped for lunch there before. This time I had booked a hotel in the Knox to stay overnight after a 700+ mile journey there from New Jersey. I googled some BBQ places to eat, went to pick up my order at Archer’s which came highly rated… and wasn’t all that impressed with the ambiance of the facility when I got my box to go. On the way to the gas station to fill up before returning to the hotel, I noticed a much more happening BBQ joint just a block away called Full Service BBQ… and there I was faced with a dilemma… do I stop by there and buy another dish? I had already picked up a fairly large box that was more than enough for me to have for dinner… or do I keep going and regret not visiting this busy place? I decided to come and visit… and to my surprise not only did they have everything I wanted (a mix plate of their ribs, pulled pork, sausage and brisket) but it was also smelling and tasting really good. So as usual I got way too much food. But boy was it fantastic! I left the box of Archers to bring with me the next day to Alabama, and had it for dinner there the next day instead.
Excellent food… Archer’s was great too in it’s own right, but Full Service had them beat with the ambiance of the place, and the big crowd of people eating there when I stopped by.
After a nice rest, I was off again for another 400 miles or so to my final destination. And I don’t know why but Alabama sure feels like “Sweet Home” even though I don’t consider myself Southern at all.
So of course the first order of business upon arrival in Birmingham was to go register at the track and take some pix of all those IndyCar sanctioned Global MX-5 Cup car Miata’s.
And straight after I went into town to meet up with my wonderful CouchSurfing hosts that welcomed me with great Southern hospitality going above and beyond what hosts typically do.
Perhaps my favorite activity with my generous hosts was sharing some amazing food with them. They fed me every night I stayed there, but one night I treated everyone to some Soul Food from Niki’s West… including two types of Catfish with all the fixins’
After a truly wonderful time in ‘Bama it was time to work my way back North to the next weekend’s events in Virginia. But since I had a few days to kill I visited Sakshik (my fellow Miata Fiata buddy) who now lives in Decatur, Georgia where he’s off to Law School.
The few days we spend there could be accurately characterized as a foodie tour! We had a somewhat disappointing experience getting Fried Chicken and Waffles on my first day there… unfortunately the place I went to last year closed (without telling Google, we arrived to find windows boarded up)… plan B turned out to be very snooty with a long wait time… and place C butchered the Waffle by making dough out of some cheddar mix that tasted awful. But our luck changed the next day when we went for BBQ and the following day when we did Indian food.
Probably the highlight of my visit… besides hanging out with Sakshik, checking out Mazmart parts store, visiting both Mazda and Fiat dealerships and recording an episode with Daniel on our podcast; was visiting World of Coca Cola which I had been planning to do for the longest time but never had a chance (until now!)
My favorite part of the whole visit to the World of Coke was the “Tasting” room featuring soda pop from around the world… divided by continents and featuring some drinks I’ve tried in their home countries like Fanta, Crush, Inca Cola, etc.
Funny part is, I actually own some Coca Cola clothing, my favorites though were t-shirts from around the world with Coke in cyrillic for the Russian market or in Mandarin for the Chinese market.
After spending several hours in downtown Atlanta and almost getting sick on all the drinks I sampled at the Coke museum, we hit up a cool Indian place to sample something different. Sakshik lives in a part of town where lots of Emory University students live so it by definition is very diverse. And the Indian restaurant we went to was a good representation of this diversity. The food was excellent!
And of course Sakshik coming from India meant he knew what to order and how to eat the food properly. I enjoyed that experience!
And finally the time flew by super quick, and the rest of the road trip to Virginia came bright and early on Thursday morning.
The food I had in Danville, VA just outside of the track I tried before. Unfortunately most of the time I ordered late and got way too much, so I didn’t enjoy it as I really should have. I went to Mayflower for some seafood on the first night. And Checkered Pig BBQ on my last night at VIR. Of the two the BBQ was best… though having worked with a fella from Roxboro, NC he recommended a much better option on the North Carolina side of the border for my next trip.
VIRginia International Raceway is extremely impressive, I think one of the best race tracks there are in the United States!
And so the trip came to a close way too fast. But to slow it down a little I took a rather scenic drive back to the Interstate through Virgnia… at one point going parallel to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway… US 501 was excellent zig zagging along a mountain on a rainy morning… reminded me a lot of Skyline Drive or what I remember of it from my last visit to Shenandoah.
It’s always kind of cool exploring rural areas of various states along with suburbia to see what’s it like… spotted plenty of Miata’s along my way!
Can’t wait for my next Road Trip… and if I’m lucky it will be another Grand Prix Road Trip like this two week trip I just did. Stay tuned…
My goal was to be a tourist today while staying in Atlanta. I’ve been wanting to visit the World of Coca Cola ever since the first time I came to the capital of Georgia but never had enough time to do it… logged onto their web site to buy a ticket and was promptly informed that World of Coke was closed due to a private event today, boo hoo…. so plan B was to go shopping for a Miata/Fiata instead… My buddy Sakshik who’s hosting me for this layover lives nearby to two dealerships almost next to each other: Landmark Fiat of Atlanta and Jim Ellis Mazda of Atlanta, so I swung up there to take some pix.
I’ve heard of Jim Ellis before because they have a very reasonably priced Mazda OEM parts store online… the only issue is I never bought from them because the shipping typically kills any deals. But I was eager to check them out.
First stop was Landmark Fiat…. which isn’t branded as such. It’s just a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep dealership that is surrounded by Fiats… much like that last dealership I visited in Winchester, Virginia that had two white Abarth Fiata’s upfront.
Here’s some pix:
The white Abarth 124 Spider must be the most popular option. All three Fiat 124 Spiders on the lot however were Automatics also.
This gray seems to be a very popular Fiata color.
This being a Chrysler/Dodge dealership there was some serious performance on display, like this row of SRT Chargers and Hellcats:
Kind of weird seeing customers bring their Fiat 500 Abarth’s for service at a Dodge dealer…
But they’re obviously selling them here too.
And there’s a 124 spider I got to sit in to try for size, It fits!
Next stop, Jim Ellis Mazda of Atlanta:
As soon as I pulled up I was swarmed by salesmen greeting me. Very different situation from the Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat dealer where nobody came up to me during my whole stay there taking pix.
The RF’s were the only 2017 model Miata’s on the lot it seems, all of the soft top ND’s were 2016’s apparently. One of the salesmen that came up to me inside the dealership said they were selling really well
A customer Copper Red Mica NC in for service…
I really want to get one of these Copper Red Mica CX-7 SUV’s for my mom to replace her aging Ford Exploder:
Funny how FCA isn’t selling their Alfa-Romeo’s through the Dodge dealer, opting instead to sell Giulia’s via their Maserati franchise.
So if you’re in the Hotlanta area, of which I’m already jealous because you have the perfect Miata weather year round here, and you’re shopping for a Miata or Fiata, check out the dealerships on the Northeast side of town. There’s quite a selection to choose from!