First Time Out Miata

At last Sunday’s SASCA autocross I talked with some veteran autocrossers who were debuting cars new to them & to the autocross world.

Identifying his ride 

Cassio brought his ’91 Mazda Miata that he’s been working on for a few months.  Since he is running in the SM2 class, he is been able to strip out all sorts of comfort amenities that don’t add to the competitiveness of his car.  For example, no more HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and the cruise control is gone.  Note the austere metal panel on the center of the dash & the new gauges where the vents used to be – looks great & practical, too.

Miata utilitarian dash 

He has added a small turbo, currently running only 5 to 6 pounds of boost, but he says it sure spools up quickly.  Of course, there is an intercooler installed, as well.

 The business end

To fit the larger than stock wheels & tires, he & a friend had to roll the fenders.  He was able to rent a “fender roller” tool (never seen one of those, yet) and it seems to have done a nice job.  The tires fit well & the flare of the fender looks slick.  Also, he has fitted a more secure fitting driver’s seat and the appropriate harness.

Miata rear fender flared

No-nonsense interior











Cassio had been competing in a few year old Acura Integra.  In the Miata, he is impressed at how well you can control the over/understeer.  In other words, you can steer with the accelerator, in addition to the steering wheel.  It is much more fun to toss through a course, while autocrossing.

Racing Ready is tossing about some future competitive ideas for future autocrossing!


Autocrossing a Saab Sonett

At yesterday’s SASCA autocross, I saw a rare, vintage jewel – a well restored 1968 Saab Sonett.  I have never seen one in person, let alone close up and in excellent condition.

Saab Sonett V4 hood ID

Steve has owned this unique car for a few years.  He rebuilt the looks part, a complete body off restoration, back in 1996.  Of course the body is fiberglass & Steve mentioned that Saab dealers have no idea what you’re talking about for parts.  So if he wasn’t able to find it on eBay, it was something he had to fabricate.  He just recently completed a second rebuild, the go part, specifically on the engine.

Steve, on the right, discussing his Saab

The engine specifics, modifications & updates: V4, 1700cc, fully balanced & blueprinted, oversized valves, Isky F6 ground cam, lightened lifters & flywheel, polished intake, Holly 450 single barrel carb, Koni shocks all around, & Jack Lawrence headers.  I’m sure there was much more to list, but these were the highlights that Steve wanted to mention.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a shot of all that rebuilt glory – Steve never did open the hood.

Saab posing, right front quarter

Saab posing, rear left quarter

The interior has been well-restored and nicely understated – it seems more sumptuous than spartan.  I think most of us would be comfortable here…

A pristine, nicely sorted of interior

As you look through that large back window canopy, you see a roll bar.  It’s not just for safety, it’s part of the structural bracing for the car.

Roll bar which serves as a structural roll

This run was his debut at autocrossing this cherry little car.

Ready to rumble out to the course

I wasn’t able to get back with Steve @Sean Park Law Atlanta to see how he did.  I could tell, though, that he had fun & nothing broke.  That was probably the best news!

Saab Sonett on course at speed

Besides autocrossing, Steve calls his Saab his “taco truck”, just used to go around the corner for the occasional eggs & milk, etc.  In other words, this is clearly not his daily driver.

An interesting Saab wheel design

As you can seem you don’t need a current model vehicle to autocross.  This 40 year old example may seem extreme, but it just goes to show you what you can do.  Racing Ready will continue to give examples of what you can & should do!


Paul Newman, a Man’s Man Remembered

I just returned from a good, hot day of SASCA autocrossing, but now I must give pause to recognize the passing of Paul Newman – he was 83.  I found out last night while reviewing a quick, but potent e-mail from Greg on the Spokes Mailing List.  To quote:

He was a man’s man, a ladies man, and one heck of a driver.  SCCA national champ 4 times and last drove competitively at age 81.

And then there are his movies.

Sad day 🙁

Greg’s words sum up all fellow racers’ feelings, as some told me at the autocross today.

Paul Newman, his blue eyes 

I always enjoyed Paul Newman as an actor, but was most impressed by reading about his racing exploits later in life, starting in 1969 at age 43 and enjoying it though age 81 in 2006.  It gives me hope, as I’m “later in life”, too.

Paul Newman, last competing in 2006! 

He was filming the movie “Winning” as an Indy 500 driver and the race bug bit hard.  He was inspired to compete at various amateur & later professional level events.  He won 4 SCCA championships in the 1970’s and later shinned as a sports car endurance driver in a number of 24 hour racing events.

Paul Newman in Winning 

Here’s an interesting quote about Paul Newman’s comfort level in a racing car:

“I was never a very graceful person.  The only time I ever really feel coordinated is when I dance with Joanne,” he once told The Associated Press, referring to his wife, Joanne Woodward.  “And that’s not my doing.  But when I’m behind the wheel of race car, I feel competent and in charge. It’s something I really enjoy.”

Besides enjoying racing and being co-owner of IndyCar team Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR), he was a philanthropist.  Paul Newman helped to start the “Hole in the Wall” camps across the world.  These are for children with life-threatening illnesses.  He made sure that 100 percent of the profits from his popular food company, Newman’s Own, would continue to benefit such camps and thousands of other charities.  Who of you out there hasn’t enjoyed one of his tasty Newman’s Own salad dressings, sauces or other well-made, quality grocery items?

Paul Newman, eyes still blue

Life goes on, but the world will pause and give recognition to Paul Newman.  I think we can all learn something from the way he treated life.  It was a full & fulfilling way of living…

Racing Ready will be in black this week in rememberence of Paul Newman.


An Autocross, Finally

Finally, after 3 weeks, an autocross to attend.  It seemed like a long time…

Tomorrow, on Sunday, will be Autocross #9 of SASCA (San Antonio Sports Car Association).  I hope to get a relatively early start & I’ve got new camera batteries.  I should be able to get a bunch of new pix.

Here’s the course layout for tomorrow’s autocross.  Finally, they are going in the clockwise direction.

SASCA course map - 2008-09-28 

Attending this autocross will be like a Racing Ready shot in the arm & good for this blog!  See ya’


Smart Car Conversions, for Fun

A while back, Brian (my motorcycle riding co-worker) forwarded me some interesting conversion kits for the new, tiny, Smart Car.  So for fun today, I wanted to share these (in light of my new car autocross suggestions from yesterday’s post).

Here is the Actual Smart Car in a size comparion to a Chevy Suburban:

 Smart Cart and a Suburban

The Smorvette:


The Smorche:


The Smorsche Traga:

Smorshe Targa 

And the Smerrari:


Obviously someone had a lot of time on their hands & a good grasp of Photoshop.  Do you think these would be practical autocross runners? 🙂

Here’s to having a good weekend as the Fall weather approaches.  At Racing Ready the weather change is appreciated, all the more comfortable for an all-day autocross event.


New Car Autocross Candidates

As an observer of autocross activity, I’ve been considering a bunch of what if’s.  One of those is about having the ability to choose whatever new car for under $25K.

There are a good number of new cars available today, in that price range.  These are the criteria I would use to filter what I’d choose:

  • Practical – having at least 4 doors (a sedan or wagon)
  • Frugal with gas – usually that means a 4 cylinder engine
  • Standard shift transmission – of course
  • Fun to drive – not the entry-level, strippo model
  • A daily driver that would also shine on the autocross scene

Therefore, in no particular order, except alphabetical, here are the candidates I would consider:

Mazdaspeed 3, 5-door Hatchback ($24,455 – 263hp, turbocharged 2.3-liter).  A hot hatch of a sports car – all the reviews written seem to love this car, both practical & fun to drive.  Zoom-zoom!

2008 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 

Honda Civic SI, 4-door Sedan ($24.590, the 2.0-liter engine has 197hp, with 6-speed manual, & the hot-rod Mugen trim).  Requiring premium gas, the Si model returns 21 city and 29 highway mpg.  Seems a bit stealthy, but a fun sounding vehicle with Honda quality.  BTW, I owned a 1993 Honda Civic EX Coupe I bought new for 9 years, putting on 130,000 miles.  I miss that car – would be a great autocrosser now… 🙁

2008 Honda Civic Si Sedan 

Subaru WRX (2009 WRX at $24,995 for the sedan and $25,495 for the 5-door hatch).  It’s all-wheel drive and has a turbocharged kick.  Numbers?  How about 13.3 psi of turbo boost, 265hp with 244 lb-ft of torque.  Plus it looks close to it’s STi “big brother”.  Need I say more?

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX 

Volkswagen GTI, 4-Door Sedan ($23,300 – FWD & turbocharged at 200hp and 207 lb-ft of torque).  German autobahn heritage in a small, but potent package.  I have a soft spot for VWs.  My Dad bought a 1964 VW Bus new when I was a kid, and my wife (then girlfriend) had a new silver Bug/Beetle in Mexico City in the early 1980’s…

2008 Volkswagen GTI 4-Door Hatch 

And 2 spoilers, out of curiosity & desire…

Suzuki SX4 Sport – I’m sorry (143 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque).  I just like the way it looks & it seems to be a great value.  No, I haven’t test driven one, but it’s on my curiosity list…

2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport 

Pontiac G8 GT – I know, it’s outside the budget, it has 8 cylinders & no standard transmission (damn!).  But, I like this one, too.  It has those great Aussie Holden roots.  Go Bob Lutz!

2008 Pontiac G8 GT 

Now, if you feel I completely took a wrong turn here, or that there is another equally qualified car to add to this list of candidates, please express your opinion in the comments below.  Racing Ready is always up to the task of being challenged.


Develop Winning Habits

Although here in South Texas the climate is good for a couple more months, here are some things you may want to consider doing as the racing season starts to wind down:

  1. Assess your past season’s performance.
  2. Based on the past year, set new goals to aspire to.
  3. Start a game plan for possible performance upgrades & other improvement strategies.
  4. Organize the “stuff” you bring to your racing event – make it easier to get going – a posted list helps to avoid forgetting that one important item.
  5. Think about mental racing improvements, getting psychologically prepared.
  6. Make a plan for all the above, stick to it & get busy.
  7. Don’t procrastinate!

“Procrastination is the fear of success…  Because success is heavy, it carries a responsibility with it; it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the someday I’ll philosophy”.  David Waitley

I’ve moved one more step forward…here’s my new Racing Ready business card: - the real business card

I’m going to start getting busy handing these out at events I participate in as observer.  I’m sure you’d like one or 2.  If so, e-mail me your mailing address & I’ll snail mail you some!  Thanks…