It’s been hard sitting out part of the race season due to injury. Especially while transitioning the Miata to Super Touring 6. But I did my time and took it easy for 8 weeks to rehab the severely broken right big toe. Going full throttle at Barber Motorsports Park is not a bad way to return.
I was medically cleared to return to racing one week before the event. After spending weeks walking with a cane and a knee scooter, I can’t say I was super confident the toe would hold. It ached all the time and on more than a few occasions, I was sure I had reinjured it, no matter how careful I felt I was being. But I had done everything as prescribed, and it was time to hit the track once again. Which meant it was time to hit the garage first.
Prepping the ST6 Miata
In the previous post, Converting the Spec Miata to ST6, I spoke mostly about weight and trying to get the NA Miata’s power-to-weight ratio more in line with a proper, and more expensive, NB Spec Miata. I never got to test those changes with the pesky broken toe. But seeing as I have already experienced heat management issues in the spring while drafting for extended periods, I knew a bit of cooling strategy would be in order.
Unsurprisingly, it’s hotter than $#!% in Northen Alabama in July. And don’t get me started on August. Regardless, the plan was simple. Add a few hood vents and reseal the radiator shroud. So, I ordered the (Singular Motorsports) hood louver kit and got to work. Unfortunately, that work had to take place in record heat the week before the event. Did I mention I’m still having to work on cars in the dirt, outside right now?
Needless to say, with all the other work I had, a questionable toe, and a giant rat that took up residence in the engine bay, I only got to the center vent. Fortunately, that was all that was needed to keep the under-hood temps in check.
Heat issues solved, I had just enough time to rework the interior (still a work in progress) and install a rear-view camera. I have been experimenting with a POV camera view and decided to ditch the traditional rear-view mirror as it obstructs the POV angle quite aggressively. (You can check out the rear-view camera install in a future post.)
On to the Racing
Overall, I had a very successful return to racing. Finishing first in all three races and setting the ST6 track record. I will go ahead and point out that I was in a class of 1. However, it’s the times that speak for themselves. The changes I made thus far are yielding times 2 seconds faster than last year and finally within striking distance of my benchmarks. After the next round of improvements (suspension and alignment) I should be able to drop the time significantly.
Race 1: Overheating Driver
The racing itself was great. I started behind the 944 Spec and Spec Miata fields and had lots of passing opportunities throughout all three races. What wasn’t great was the heat and the fact that I was unable to install a functioning cool suit system before the event. This was a much larger issue than I anticipated.
I am a very aware driver and halfway through race one on Saturday I realized I was losing focus. It may not look like much on video, but I was starting to make little mistakes as the race progressed. I knew I was overheating when on the subsequent laps I was having trouble regaining and then holding onto that focus. I did the smart thing and retired the car. I knew my issues would only get worse quickly and it’s not worth risking a big off when you already won the race.
Race 2: Morning Sprint and Horrible Camera Angle
Race 2 took place early Saturday morning. I wasn’t too concerned about the lack of driver cooling for this one. I once again started behind the Spec Miata and 944 Spec field. Giving me plenty of opportunity to carve through the field. I must apologize for the horrendous camera angle though. I am still experimenting with the POV footage and needless to say, part of experimenting is failure. Hopefully I can nail the proper angle next time. The footage from race 2 is below with notations on the YouTube description.
Race 3: Avoiding Heatstroke
Without a driver cooling strategy, race 3 was the gauntlet for this weekend. With a longer format in the afternoon heat, I was screwed. Or was I? In the heat of the moment, I developed a last-minute strategy, ice in my race suit.
As I pulled towards grid, I flagged down my buddy Arnie standing next to the after-race cooler and had him dump handfuls of ice down my race suit. After 5 handfuls I zipped the suit back up and proceeded to my grid spot.
This worked way better than I had anticipated. By the end of the race, not only was I cool (relatively speaking) but I had ice to spare. More importantly, I kept a level, focused, and non-overheated head throughout. I honestly would choose this method to keep cool over messing with the hoses, cooler, and additional layer of the cool suit. But I suspect if I were to make this my go to method it will be frowned upon. But by thinking outside the box and solving an immediate need, I finished the longest race of the weekend, set my fastest time of the weekend, and had a great race. All captured on that wonky angle from race 2. Enjoy.
Little known fact but Barber is now my home track and moving forward, I plan on going there way more than once per year. As for my return to racing I have no complaints. The changes on the 1.6 Miata to ST6 are building a more competitive package. But what I am most thankful for this weekend is that my foot held together, and I am back in business.