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The Cart Before the Horse: My Spec3 Build


TaylorGoesFast
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Picked up another engine from a guy in DC. Decided I would NOT open it up unless it seemed completely needed since I was clearly messing up something along the way with the last engine. Pulled the current engine and found that the head gasket failed on the driver side of cylinder #5 for no apparent reason and that Cylinder #2 was low on compression as well from the bottom end. The radiator seemingly took a big lick when something flew off another car and broke out my grill going into Oak Tree, but I'm not sure that really affected cooling capacity. 

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 Installed my baffled oil pan, safety wired oil pump nut, new gasket, new o ring for the dip stick, valve cover gasket, rear main, and some other seals on the "new" engine and also found that my oil filter housing had a huge piece of plastic jamming the drain back valve open which answers my question about why the engine took so long to build oil pressure on startup. I also bought all new equipment for the cooling system (new CSF radiator, aluminum expansion tank, stewart water pump, hoses, thermostat, etc), Installed the engine and got everything bolted back up and started going through my wire harness to fix whatever caused the small fire I had. It seems one wire I cut actually had THREE ends, and thus was still connected even though I cut one end. It was the 12v charge signal from the alternator to the gauge cluster that controls the alternator light and also excited the alternator itself. I ran a new wire for that and double checked everything else. I think I should be fine to run one more race before I send my harness off to a pro to get thinned.

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Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • 4 weeks later...

Well... it happened AGAIN.

Junk yard motor was amazing until it wasn't. Battled some issues with the cooling system to start the day, but got it sorted and ran a new Personal Best by 2 full seconds (consistently) and qualified 5th out of 15 drivers for the Friday race. My mirror fell off during the race, but I ended up in 4th place with the 3rd place guy in my sights and running similar times, then with 2 or 3 laps left... I dropped a valve. 

Lesson learned? Replace valve retainers on these cars before anything else. I've got some horrible luck (no one else has seen a failure rate like I have), but also that's on me for slapping a junkyard motor in all willy-nilly like that. 

I picked up a built head from a fellow racer, but the head is undocumented, meaning I don't know for sure what was done except valve seals, and 14 new valves. I'm 80% certain the valve retainers were replaced, but I'm not sure I want to chance it. Depending on when parts get here, I may try to have everything back together for an even I'm instructing at next Thursday. Fingers crossed. 

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  • 5 months later...
Posted (edited)

Long time update coming. I managed to order the last valve spring retainers from Bimmerworld and got them to the machine shop to install on the head I bought. I pulled some long hours in the garage and got the new head on the engine days before the November Summit event. When replacing the head I found that the junkyard block was not in great shape. Heavy pitting on the deck surface and a chip was knocked out of the cylinder edge from the valve hitting the piston and knocking the cylinder wall. I knew the block would need to be reworked or replaced, but I needed to get it back out there and there was no time for anything else.

Summit went well and the car felt decent, but a bit down on power. I asked a fellow Spec3 racer to take my car out himself to see how it felt because I was concerned how I wasn't able to even get close to 5th gear on the front straight. He said it felt fine (but this may have been a red herring seeing as he ended up finding his motor was bad too). I keep pushing, thinking I was just not driving well or something. I was also struggling MAJORLY with oil leaks. Crazy valve cover oil leaks that I could not get to stop. I think that distracted me from the from the real problem soon to rear its head.

I was rounding T10 and lost all power and starting SPEWING oil smoke out the exhaust. I dove in to the paddock at Pit-Out and limped back to my paddock spot. The engine was done. I packed up early and headed home. Thinking this was somehow my fault and that I had failed at the head gasket job, I decided to throw in the towel and have someone else work on my car for once. I contacted one shop and planned to drop my car off in January. This shop also happened to have an M50 they could sell me, so I paid them for that with the plan to swap it in when my car got there. However, this shop ended up having some family medical issues that did not allow them to work on my car so I ended up taking my car to GTPeace well behind schedule if I wanted to make March VIR. 

I dropped the car and new engine off at GTPeace with a huge box of parts from FCP Euro and waited. It wasn't long before I got a call to explain that one of my pistons had melted. Yes, piston #1 melted. Seemingly from an injector failure or something else. This caused major blow by, which caused the pressurized crank case and crazy leaks from the valve cover. So I expected the block to be toast, so no worries there, but then comes the concern of the built head I had just purchased and installed. 

Well, the bad news is that head is cracked. So there's no way I'm making March VIR and the machine shop will be swapping everything from the built head over to the other head from the new engine I bought, and hopefully I'll be ready for April at Summit Point. 

https://imgur.com/ugUsjSn.jpg

https://imgur.com/M9IsxFs.jpg

Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • TaylorGoesFast changed the title to The Cart Before the Horse: My Spec3 Build

Finally a good update!

I got the car back just in time for my move to Pittsburgh. I barely touched the car until a few days before the April Summit event, but I did get a chance to install new calipers, guides, rotors, pads, and also some bimmerworld strut spacers to give me some much needed camber to the front wheels. I also installed a fire system and a center net so I can run with BMW CCA if I want.

My focus on the first day was just finishing a race, so I didn't really push hard. Still managed a 4th place finish though. The car was much more planted and had much better turn in with the added camber. The engine felt great and it's really nice having an engine that actually works for once. This may be the first time I haven't been down on power. The bad news is, the car is 100lbs over the minimum weight with not much left to remove from the car. So it's time for me to lose some weight and to also finally do a real wire harness thinning. I ordered a lightweight battery to shave 20lbs off before the next event.

For the sunday race, I'll just share the race recap from NASA SpeedNews.

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Summit Point Motorsports Park - Summit Point, West Virginia. A scenic facility an hour outside Washington, D.C. and the location of the second event of the NASA Mid Atlantic race season. An Easter Weekend event meant racing was on Friday and Saturday and a much less crowded Paddock than the region is used to seeing. Even with those circumstances, NASA Spec3 fielded one of the larger classes and even had their second rookie of the 2022 season complete their competition evaluation and join their ranks.

Friday

Friday saw Sean O’Hara take pole with a blistering 1:24.838 lap time, followed by Jon McAvoy, Joey Thomas, Taylor Johnson, and Edward Higginbothom. Edward being one of the latest racers to join the class in 2022. The race that evening started with a typical standing start with McAvoy and O’Hara battling for 1st going into turn 1 and Thomas and Johnson battling for third. Over the next 30 minutes these two games of cat and mouse played out as expected until a new variable was thrown into the mix. A Spec Miata dropped oil in the famous “carousel” portion of the track which consists of a high speed drop during a right hander dubbed “the chute” followed by a hairpin left and a long sweeping right. This tricky part of the track requires careful throttle modulation, left foot braking, and a lot of nerve.

The oil caused the race pace to change considerably and the Spec3 leader became its first victim. As the remaining laps counted down, O’Hara maintained his lead but had significant pressure in his rear view, and a loss of traction in turn 5 due to the oil slick caused enough understeer to send him through the grass. McAvoy took advantage and claimed the lead position but his success was short lived as the rear of his car stepped out aggressively in turn 7 near where the Spec Miata had pulled off track after their spill and the Spec3 national series leader spun off track toward the tire wall. Luckily, speeds at this part of the track are at their lowest and McAvoy was able to slow to a stop and rejoin the race, now a distant second place again.

Meanwhile, the battle for third had been won by Joey Thomas, who enjoyed a lead of over a second on the fourth place Taylor Johnson. Now, however, Thomas was within striking distance of McAvoy for second place after his spin. The two spent the remaining laps jostling for silver position while Johnson used the battle to his advantage to gain ground. Ultimately, the remaining laps dwindled to 0 and the finishing order was O’Hara, McAvoy, Thomas, Johnson, Higginbothom.


Saturday

Saturday Morning saw the qualifying race, the “Beast of the East” which allotted extra season points for the winners of classes within the field grouped by their best time from the race the previous day. Group #1 saw the 5 fastest of the lightning racers, McAvoy, O’Hara, and the front runners of the Honda Challenge class. Group #2 saw the next 5 fastest and this included Thomas, Johnson, and the lightning fast Jason Crisgavage in his Spec E30. 3 more groups of racers followed behind as well.

The qualifying race churned on with not much out of the ordinary until the racers encountered a red flag as the result of the newest Spec3 racer in the field going off in T1 and rolling the car onto its side. The driver, Edward HigginBothom was unscathed, however, during the incident, the windshield was damaged and an engine mount was broken. This marked the end of the qualifying race with Jon McAvoy taking the overall winner position as well as winning his group.

Saturday Race:

The race grid for the Saturday Lightning race saw Sean O’Hara once again on pole, followed by McAvoy, Thomas, Johnson, Thomas Norton (who had just completed their competition evaluation the day before), and Edward Higginbothom, who was racing with no windshield and only one mirror after kicking the windshield out and replacing a broken motor mount to get his car back on track after his rollover.

The battles for 1st and 3rd that took place Friday were back, and back with a vengeance. McAvoy and O’Hara spent the first several laps basically door to door while Johnson and Thomas traded third place back and forth. Each lap, Johnson orchestrated a run through the final turn that allowed for a pass crossing the start/finish line heading into turn 1, where time after time, Thomas would out-maneuver Johnson and the two would head into the high speed, blind, off camber turn 3 side by side. Down into the chute, Johnson was able to out brake Thomas and make up lost ground to follow nose to tail through the carousel and the whole dance would play out again, lap after lap. Johnson attempted turn 1 on the inside and outside of Thomas and could not make the pass stick either way.

This battle raged on until the closing laps where Johnson plotted to set up a pass to steal the final podium position. McAvoy had already managed to snatch first place from O’Hara with a pass between turns 1 and 3 laps prior. The racers received the white flag signifying the final lap and the Spec3 racers knew the time was now to execute their plans. However, Johnson’s fuel gauge had long since bottomed out on “E” and his fuel level was dangerously low. As the third and fourth place racers rounded the final turns of the track, Johnson’s car began to sputter as the fuel pumps struggled to find what remaining fuel there was. Johnson could finish the race, but there was no way a pass could be made unless something dramatic happened.

Then something dramatic happened. The front running Spec Miatas had collected each other right before the checkered flag and this caused a waving yellow in the final turn of the race. No passing allowed and the racers were forced to slow as they crossed the line. All of the racers escaped without injury and the Spec3 results showed McAvoy, O’Hara, Thomas, Johnson, Norton, Higginbothom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOCPGTjEkRg&ab_channel=TaylorJohnson

Spec3 Forum: [url]https://community.drivenasa.com/topic/58632-spec3-constructors-guide/[/url]
Official Website: [url]https://drivenasa.com/road-racing/spec3/[/url]
Facebook Media Page: [url]https://www.facebook.com/NASASpec3[/url]
Instagram: [url]https://www.instagram.com/nasaspec3/[/url]
Facebook Discussion Group: [url]https://www.facebook.com/groups/spec3[/url]

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good update followed by not so good! 

 

We had a few Spec3 racers head up to Watkins Glen to run NASA Northeast so I checked that track off the bucket list. I signed up for three days because all the sim time in the world can't prepare you for a track you've never been to! Friday went well for the first hour and a half of track time and I got down to a 1:28 or so which was faster than any Spec E30s, and that's always my minimum goal. In the 4th session I lost coolant and the car "overheated" (read, temp gauge went up) . Long story short, I chased that issue non stop for the next two days and never got it resolved. 10-15 minutes on track with perfect temps, then when it'd get near 180F, it'd pop the expansion tank and I'd lose coolant and have to get towed in.

 

The good news is that the Spec3 track record at WGI is now a 2.13 which was the fastest of anyone in the lightning class! 

 

You may remember that I stated previously that I finally caved and took the car to a shop to have the last head/engine swap done, so the car went right back to that shop and they tore into it to find the head gasket blew out between cylinder 6 and the big water passage back there. This is the thinnest part of the headgasket. Why this happened, none of us have a clue. The simple answer is "an air bubble" but the car was perfectly fine for an entire weekend before on the fresh head gasket job. Perhaps the engine never got hot enough to surface the issue at Summit Point. I'm not sure. 

 

The car should hopefully be ready for Hyperfest and this will be my second time ever having sticker tires, so I'm really pumped for that. We should have a good Spec3 field ready for our Spec E30 vs Spec3 vs Spec E46 battle royale sponsored by Bimmerworld and then hopefully I'm off to Road Atlanta with some others to welcome our FIRST NASA SOUTHEAST SPEC3 RACERS!!!!!!

 

Spec3 continues to grow! If you know anyone interested in joining the series as a racer/sponsor/partner, please reach out! 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Not good update followed by great update! 

GTPeace was really suspecting that I had a lean fuel condition again that lead to cylinder 6 getting hot, so we threw the kitchen sink at it and some other goodies.

New fuel pump, filter, pressure regulator, and injectors.
Euro coolant tank with the proper NLA euro hardline
2 new tires
Alignment 
GT Peace also did the R&R on the head gasket for free, which was really cool. 
They also patched up my body damage from WGI.
Lastly I got an AFR wideband installed so I could monitor my fuel mix on track and see if it was running lean.

I picked up the car on Thursday on my way down to Hyperfest and had to install new brake pads when I got there. I used this time to also remove my rotor dust shields for improved cooling. The car ran really well all weekend, albeit hotter than it used to, but I suspect that was from the warmer thermostat and how poorly my front ducting/aero fits now after the crunch. The car noticeably had more top-end pep so I'm starting to suspect it really was fuel starved up high. The car was great Friday and Saturday and I turned times near my PB even with my timidness and warm temperatures. 

I finished third on Friday and 4th on Saturday in a field of 8 Spec3s (amazing to say that 8 is a really small field for us these days!) 

Then on Sunday I took my car over to the dyno and it dumped out all of the oil. In all of the haste as of late, the oil filter housing that got put back on my car was the super old style from an E34 engine that used an o ring, a plug, and a circlip to plug the casting holes on the back. Luckily I had a spare newer-style one in the trailer so I swapped that, but I missed qualifying so I had to start the race at the back. I got by everyone up 5th place and things got crazy. The leader got punted and had to retire, the then new leader got DQ'd, and then the third place (now leader) racer put their car in the wall, so I was in second place. However, the checkered flag flew for the car behind me (not me) and I thought it was for me so I pitted early like an idiot. Ended up with third place. I'm bummed because if I had made qualifying, I could have easily snagged my first win here, but those are lessons learned for next time! 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aycdKtzNWOA

Also, the start of the Bimmerworld race was really crazy due to some SpecE46 guys being... rambunctious. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX2CBrrnyu8

Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

TL;DR: Great weekend. Two third place finishes. Absolutely amazing racing the whole time and the Sunday race video is a must watch for some insane racing. Sunday link at the bottom.

Full summary: 
Great weekend for me! The car feels dialed in, predictable, and reliable so I'm just focusing on driving. Did nothing to the car except put gas in it all weekend! 

Saturday I qualified third, but Jake got by me with a great start, so I had to battle to get by him and try to chase down Joey to try to snag P2. Joey and I traded lap times back and forth all weekend so it was really tough to catch him from so far back but lapped traffic held him and Jon up enough to keep me in the chase. Finished P3 right behind Joey and Jon for my first Saturday Podium (I think this is Podium #3 for me?)

Probably the least interesting video, but still good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgbKLelYRYg&ab_channel=TaylorJohnson

Sunday in the Beast of the East Qualifying Race, Jon, Joey, Me, and 3 Honda Challenge folks were in the "White group" and battling each other. Joey ran away from me while I battled with Brian Maeng and Jack Cobetto and Jake Thiewes terrorized me in my mirrors, but eventually I got past Brian (or maybe he let me past so I wouldn't collect him with a missed braking zone) and I kept pushing but didn't have enough time to turn a good clean lap I was happy with. Qualified 4th for the race.

Exciting BOTE with lots of close racing with HC and Spec3:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uDqCd9hU7M&t=4s&ab_channel=TaylorJohnson

Sunday is when it got really tasty. I was behind Jake and we had a great battle. Joey started P1 and we had a great quartet of Spec3s zipping around the track for quite a while. I was able to box out Jake by using a slow out of class car as a roadblock and then I set my eyes on catching Joey for P2. I ended up catching him with quite a bit of time left in the race and I ALMOST made a pass stick in T1 but I still haven't honed my race craft enough to get passed the great Joey Thomas. Jon, Joey, and I finish the race out weaving throughout traffic while chasing each other for a very close 1-2-3 finish with me splitting two out of class cars to go three wide across the line. I turned a faster lap than Joey with a 1:27.213 so I have hopes I can best him one of these days! 

This is the video to watch: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMkaVQIyb3c

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Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Another great event! 

 

July was a crossover NASA Great Lakes and NASA Mid Atlantic event at my now "home town" track of Pittsburgh International Raceplex. It's a 50 minute tow from my house so I strolled up Thursday night to hang out and relax with my now establish camping setup of enclosed trailer, nice little cot, TV mounted on the wall, coffee maker at the ready, and some nice camping chairs and a big canopy. I'm trying to save money so I didn't sign up for test and tune and instead was hoping to rely on a few hours in Assetto Corsa on a Pitt Race mod track. The weather was decent and all was well until a fellow racer finally fell victim to the rattly transmission he had been ignoring for a year (I blame his fancy chassis mount shifter). We rounded up a transmission to get transported from Richmond, VA to Pitt Race and it arrived after 9PM. We got it installed by 12:30 at which point I left him to his own devices to wrap up and he was in bed by 1:30 AM after tidying it up.

 

Warm and Qualifying saw me running a 2:09 while the pole sitter ran a 2:03. This put me in 6th out of 8 on grid for the race, qualifying a few tenths out of 4th. I was really disappointed in myself since I ran a 2:07 last year with a tired motor and knew I should have been faster. I adjusted tire pressures and got my head right for the race where I jumped to 3rd on the standing start and was fighting for 2nd until halfway through the race when the series leader (who spun on the start) came rocketing through and passed us both to grab 2nd. I finished 4th while running low 2:06s on a hot day, which I was pleased with. 

 

Sunday saw more of the same with me qualifying 4th and battling for third the entire race, even passing Joey Thomas for third a few times and then giving it right back. We both ran very low 2:06s and almost broke 2:05. We ran within ONE THOUSANDTH of a second of each other for our best lap. Truly a great battle. 

 

Now on to VIR and NJMP in back to back weekends in August where I hope to work on smoothness on input to upset the car less and hopefully get some new personal bests. I only need a few tenths to start snagging third place consistently. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9ppl0C_52Q&t=84s&ab_channel=TaylorJohnson

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8m0UsuxFjis&t=11s&ab_channel=TaylorJohnson

 

https://imgur.com/weEfEEv.jpg

Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

August VIR! Good and relatively uneventful weekend. My previous best was a 2:16 something at VIR and I got it down to a 2:14.7 over the weekend. We had 8 racers and I qualified and finished 4th both days with some battling with Joey Thomas. Power Steering line failed Saturday morning and I knew it was bad, so that's my fault for not replacing it sooner. Patched it up and it help together fine. On to NJMP with NASA NE this weekend!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeANpBvRmyk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLFtQ6vbUIY

https://imgur.com/kPyi8Ii.png
 

Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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NASA Northeast! NJMP!

Thunderbolt is amazing. Such a fun and unique track and the facilities are superb. I wasn't expecting everything to be as nice as it is, but everything was top notch. The timing tower view is crazy cool, the officer's club is nice, and that's the best pro shop I've ever seen. So many garages and villas and power poles at every paddock spot! The course itself is very tricky but also very rewarding when you get it right. Hard braking into T1 with a near flat footed run through T2-T4 is really neat, then a very slow turn 5 with a high speed turn at 6 with a lot of run off begs you to push it harder and harder... then the octopus! Such a cool turn. So low speed and so long! Fighting for grip the whole time and if you get it right, it gives you a chance for a run down the front stretch to pass.

That said, I had never been here before, so it was a lot to learn quickly. The other folks did test and tune Friday and warm up Saturday was my first shot at the track. I ran a 1:37 to start, which is 4 seconds off the SE30 track record of 1:34 something, which was my goal all weekend. I got down to a 1:36 in the race Saturday and snagged my first win!

Sunday was very interesting. Northeast does a qualifying race with a rolling start, and I started in the wrong gear. Ed pulled past me and I followed him with the plan to keep just enough pressure to make him make a mistake and capitalize. I snuck by him a few laps in and then focused on pushing my lap times down. I was dropping a few tenths every lap until I ran a couple 1:35s and then pushed off track and through the grass. I checked my mirrors and realized no one was around me anymore so I backed it down by a lot and cruised to the finish. The whole weekend, I had been nursing 4 completely bald tires, crossing my fingers they wouldn't cord in the race, and I certainly didn't want to burn them in a qual race. I'm very confident a 1:34 or 1:33 was in the works with a little more time and some tires that had rubber.

Then the torrential rain came. It rained for at least two hours and completely flooded the place. Water flowing through the paddock and the track was under water. The race approached and the sun came out, causing us all to debate whether rain tires were the move. We all opted for the drys and went to grid. When we went out on track, there was standing water everywhere so we all were crawling around the track just trying to keep the cars pointing forward. Edward got passed me on the start (again I was in third gear when I should have been in second for the rolling start) but then he pushed wide in T1 and I passed. We fought back and forth for the whole race as the track dried but I had mentally decided this was not the race to push the car or bin it in a wall, so when I saw Ed go for a late pass on the inside into the Octopus, I gave him a wide berth and decided it was best to live to fight another day. Plus, it'd be fun to try to get around him again. I bided my time waiting for the white flag for one final push and I got a run on him coming down the front straight on the last lap to go across the finish line door to door. Official timing shows me one tenth of a second behind at the finish.

Overall, a very fun weekend at a great track. Hoping to get a field for Watkins Glen in October.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWErfvzh4SM

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