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Calm before the storm- 350Z racing 2019

Old 04-09-2019, 05:59 PM
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Default Calm before the storm- 350Z racing 2019

This weekend begins my 2019 SCCA race season with an 850-mile tow to St. Louis. The April forecast calls for blizzard conditions across Colorado and into Kansas as a late season winter storm sweeps across the country. My 350Z is freshly prepped and anchored inside the 24' trailer with my '08 Titan LWB 4X2 KC gassed up and ready. I'm relishing returning to the renamed "Circuit of St. Louis", otherwise known as Gateway International Raceway's roval circuit. It's somewhat unique as the high-speed front straight uses the banking of T3-4 to slingshot the VQ35HR to speeds upwards of 120 MPH.. The first turn reminds me of what Phoenix International's roval used to be like: high speed entry with light braking before balancing a quick bit of acceleration into hard braking and heel-toe downshift to get into the infield. The Z is great through the next several turns, as being smooth allow you to accelerate through to the far end of the track. Our six-speed tranny always feels great as shift-after-shift snaps off. Get ready to downshift and threshold brake into a large radius 180 turn, which tests your ability to balance the Z in a slight drift. Getting a good exit is important for maximum acceleration down a short chute. Then, it's hard braking for a double apex left hander turn leading back onto the banking for another lap.

This season there may not be as many Z cars racing in SCCA events as there have been in the past. The 2019 rules package do not favor us in any of the competition classes the Z33/34 are homologated in. Rather than being restricted in the Touring 3 class this year, I've elected to drop the 37 mm restrictors, extra lead and small tires that class requires. I'll be racing in the Touring 1 class, with Porsche 911 GT3, Corvette Z06, Ferrari F430 Cup and Audi R8 competition all eager to blow my doors off. But first, there's a blizzard to get through and adventures in the heartland of America.

Last edited by dkmura; 04-14-2019 at 06:42 AM.
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Old 04-10-2019, 06:06 AM
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Latest forecasts say winter storm Wesley could be a historic blizzard. We'll see,,,
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Old 04-10-2019, 06:30 AM
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That was always my biggest worry about starting so early. Good luck with the drive!
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Old 04-12-2019, 02:36 PM
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Sounds like you have the circuit all worked out, be safe and have fun.
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Old 04-13-2019, 04:13 AM
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Forgot to say that any, and all, local Z car drivers are invited to come out today and watch a SCCA race at Gateway International, Since I have no crew this weekend, I have three passes that'll get you in FREE. Saturday is supposed to be dry, but it looks cloudy this morning. Sunday is forecast for 90% rain, so we'll be torqueing up rain tires tonight.
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Old 04-13-2019, 04:15 AM
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Just sign in under 'David Muramoto' and come on by to say hi!
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Old 04-13-2019, 04:01 PM
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Hmm- no takers on taking in a SCCA Majors race at Gateway. Too bad, it was an interesting day and the Z acquitted itself quite well. Qualifying on the 1.65-mile counterclockwise oval (oval + road circuit) circuit was fun; balancing the unbridled VQ power throttle with predictable handling and great brakes. After qualifying third overall--behind a GT2 and a Z06 Corvette and ahead of the A Sedan field and Super Touring Lights class--I elected to start last. Whaa??

Fast as that time was, I remained 4.6 seconds behind my T1 competition in fastest lap time. Barring a mechanical failure or DNF, there was no way in hell I was going to win this race. But I could destroy someone else's race as they battled at the start for any advantage at all. By starting last, I allowed the other competitors to get their early skirmishes out of the way before I began hunting them down.

Today proved to be a fascinating race when the Z actually closed the margin down to the T1 Vette by 3/4 distance. Try as I might, I never got in range to truly challenge for the lead. Finished fourth overall and had a great time doing it. I wasn't the only Nissan driver doing so either. SCCA is promoting a new Time Trials (attack) series and there was a black Z33 and blue S14 out there flying around. Met one of them and gave him an old issue of Nissan Sport Magazine in recognition of representing the marque. After that, I checked over my Z, bled the brakes and got ready for the race Sunday. Such is the joy of racing.
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Old 04-14-2019, 06:51 AM
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The weather gods aren't done pulling my chain. Rained cats and dogs all night, and it's shaping up to be a wet race today. That's OK with me, as I actually like racing in the rain. The set of rain tires that have sat in the tire rack on the trailer may finally get some action! Might be a bit spooky on the banked turns, so my strategy is to be conservative until I find out what is the best rain line.

Mic- one detail that'll blow you away is the SCCA Majors allow your fastest times from the previous day to be used in setting the grid for the Sunday race. No real reason to go out in the driving rain this morning- and yes, I don't love racing in the rain THAT much!
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Old 04-15-2019, 05:33 AM
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Last post in this thread. Yesterday was coild, damp and altogether a bit miserable in the rain. That all changed when I climbed into the Z and buckled in. The start had two Corvettes throwing a lot of spray back and I had no good opportunity on the outside of turn one to make a move. Passed one car on the opening lap, but another got by me as well. Talk about a leaky ship! In the wet, the one place the Z had a marked advantage seemed to be on the banking all the way into braking for turn one. Unfortunately, the V8s I was racing against had an advantage in straightline speed once we came off the banks and shot past the grandstands. In T1 trim, the HR really sings with no inlet restrictors and I saw almost 128 MPH in that section before turning in to turn one (the Z06 was probably doing 145-150). I made no big mistakes (and caught plenty of small slides) in trying to get past the second place A Sedan ahead of me. He was sandwiched between the Corvette Z06 I was actually racing for first in class, but I simply couldn't get past without risking hitting him.

In the end, I finished third overall, and second in class again. A bit frustrating, but who am I kidding? Racing a Z06, with almost a stock Z33- the miracle just wasn't there. But I could taste it....

Last edited by dkmura; 04-16-2019 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 04-15-2019, 06:07 AM
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Thanks for the play by play, David! Makes me feel like I'm in the cockpit and my helmet visor wasn't fog treated. Hahahaha. See you at VIR!!
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Old 04-20-2019, 06:15 AM
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Next event up is in two weeks at the Rocky Mountain Division SCCA opener- a driver's school/regional race in LaJunta, Colorado. I try to support all my local SCCA races, as there's a distinct possibility there may not be any racing if those races fail. The track in LaJunta has some history, as it was built next to the local airport with only a fence separating it from an active runway! The track itself is short; only 1.3-miles long and run clockwise. It's a fast track that reminds me a bit of Lime Rock Park on the east coast without all the greenery. There's plenty to do to get ready, so I better get off the keyboard and out to the trailer RIGHT NOW...
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Old 04-22-2019, 08:52 AM
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Latest update to the LaJunta entry list is yet another Corvette Z06 Touring 1 entry. This one is a C5 though, so the LT1 "only" has about a hundred HP and ft/lbs of torque on me. It's entered by a veteran racer, and was built by Phoenix Engineering, so it should be capable of walking me, but we'll see...
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Old 05-05-2019, 05:55 AM
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Update from LaJunta on May 5th- Race #1 at this airport course went to the Corvette as his power was too much to overcome. He ran to the win and lowered my lap record by a second in race #1. My unbridled Z ran well and had a fast lap within a few tenths of my old lap record on old tires. One lesson I relearned in qualifying was that I need to run more than a quarter tank of fuel to keep from running out on a clockwise track like this. The g-force is enough to force all the gas onto one side of the tank and starve the pickup of any prime.

Race #2 was a bit crazy as the start was tightly packed going into T3, the Corvette dropped off the lead as an EP BMW and ex-World Challenge Jetta got ahead. Even more unexpected was that he had problems with his window net on lap 5 and had to take a pit stop to fix it. That was all the Z needed, as I ran to the checkered for the first win of 2019 in T1! Won't happen often in this class, but I'll take 'em where I can!
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:01 AM
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LaJunta on Sunday was like a lot of airport courses: hot and bumpy. I forgot to mention how very bumpy this track is and how this paradoxically helped the Z. If you were watching either of the races, you'd have seen the Z06 begin edging ahead each lap, but the truth was he was killing me on the front and back straights, as I made up time under braking and in most high speed transitions. After talking to the owner at dinner, I learned this particular Vette had no ABS and was a past Runoffs winner in the hands of John Heinricy, GM engineer and multiple time National champion. The current owner is an accomplished racer and made no glaring mistakes during either of the races, but also said he enjoyed having that extra power in passing lapped traffic during the race. He used that to good advantage, and won both races yesterday. I ran the Z as hard and fast as I was capable, but lost by some 20 seconds each race.
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Old 05-06-2019, 09:53 AM
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Ex-Heinricy car? Wow.... wasn't he like a big shot engineer ON one of the Corvette gens?

Whatever the case, I see his name on the grid on televised events. IMSA I think.
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MicVelo View Post
Ex-Heinricy car? Wow.... wasn't he like a big shot engineer ON one of the Corvette gens?

Whatever the case, I see his name on the grid on televised events. IMSA I think.
I think Heinricy has been one of the chief engineers on the C4 through the C7 (not sure what his involvement is with the C8) and a helluva driver. He's raced SCCA, IMSA and other pro-series. Mic, you'd have loved it! The C5 Vette at LaJunta looked just like the cars under the Phoenix Motorsports tent on the other side of the paddock at Sonoma from last fall. Black with yellow pinstriping and a red rollcage- all custom built.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by dkmura View Post
I think Heinricy has been one of the chief engineers on the C4 through the C7 (not sure what his involvement is with the C8) and a helluva driver. He's raced SCCA, IMSA and other pro-series. Mic, you'd have loved it! The C5 Vette at LaJunta looked just like the cars under the Phoenix Motorsports tent on the other side of the paddock at Sonoma from last fall. Black with yellow pinstriping and a red rollcage- all custom built.
Whew, that was an impressive tent...



But was still rooting for this one! (Pre-Mustang-shunt)


Nursing it home (but still completing the run under own power) after the Mustang took a bite.

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Old 05-06-2019, 01:04 PM
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Ah, thanks for the photos, Mic! It's a weak point for my threads. It's just that all that truck driving, wrenching and racing tends to take priority on my race weekends.
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Old 05-06-2019, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dkmura View Post
Ah, thanks for the photos, Mic! It's a weak point for my threads. It's just that all that truck driving, wrenching and racing tends to take priority on my race weekends.
That's part of the reason I was there! Chief cook, bottle washer, cheerleader, and photog! Hahaha.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:26 AM
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Thought this photo might be of interest to performance-minded Z drivers. The worn tires on the top rack of my trailer were the rear set I took off after my LaJunta weekend. These are what R-compound tires look like when they've been truly worn down to their last lap. It might be hard to see, but the wear is quite even across the tread face of these 245-40-18 BFG R1-S. They are only molded with 4/32" worth of tread when new, but these were flipped on the rim and rebalanced afteyr multiple heat cycles and race days. Notice the color change as well- used tires take on a faded blackish color as the heat takes its toll on the compound itself. The bottom rack has some mounted rain tires that offer a good contrast.
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