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Discussion Starter #101
Runoffs entry has been filed, but SCCA is holding my trusty #7 for last year's T3 entrant. In the meantime, I've gone ahead and taken #7 8, which was available and used by another Colorado entry at Sonoma to do well...
 

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Discussion Starter #102
Race time: the final SCCA Majors race for the 2018 season is this weekend and we have six Porsche Boxters, BMW Z4 M Coupe and Nissan 350Zs on the entry list. Just finishing loading the car and will be at High Plains Raceway later tonight for tech inspection. Wish me luck!

Also, SCCA released race numbers for the upcoming Sonoma Runoffs and I was successful in getting my prized #7 back for the Oct classic.
 

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Discussion Starter #103
I headed out to High Plains Raceway (about an hour from my house) on Friday to set up for the "Last Chance SCCA Majors" and help with tech inspection. I didn't have any pit support this weekend as my usual crew member wasn't available. But the 350Z was prepped and ready, with a fresh set of BFGoodrich R1-S tires ready to bed in. For qualifying, my preferred pattern is to start with two easy laps, working my way up to two blazingly hot laps and then a cooldown lap to get the best out of the tires. This was disrupted by traffic, and I only ended up getting one quick lap in before the end of the five lap session. In that short period of time, heat became apparent and the HR seemed louder than last race. This was confirmed when I went over the scales at impound, and the chief of tech commented: "you've got a severe exhaust leak".

Back at the trailer, I got out the wrenches and checked each joint from the header on back to the Y-pipe, but there was nothing to indicate the problem was down below. After further checks, one of my race buddies confirmed the sound seemed to be coming from the right (driver's) side bank. OK- it took awhile with a hot race engine, but pulling the heat shield and checking header bolts, there was nothing loose UNTIL there it was: a small crack encirculating the #6 primary tube. It looked to be over an inch wide and a quick turn of the engine confirmed it. Not only would this cut power, but it also explained the resulting heat and meant I'd be exposed to more carbon monoxide over the race. Worse yet, there was no time (or parts) to repair this, and I was faced with whether it was safe to run. "Screw it- let's race" was somewhat the decision and off I went to the grid. Very tough race, as I briefly held the lead but fell back as I raced with the #8 NISMO Z of Spero Leon. We've been a pair this season, and had several side-by-side skirmishes until I made an error in turn 2 and carried a bit too much speed in. Didn't spin, but the resulting slide allowed the white NISMO to gain position down the backstraight. Still, a fourth place finish kept me in the hunt for the championship, but was a bitter pill to take after higher hopes.

Exhausted after the late Saturday race, I elected to head home rather than bleed the brakes. That was my first mistake, as when I returned Sunday and went through my standard race prep routine, a bigger problem surfaced. I'd also noticed my Z wandered a bit towards the end of the previous race, with additional steering needed to maintain my line in some sections of the track. After the last tire was being remounted, to my horror, it still wobbled after being bolted up! Despite my repeated checks of the right rear hub bearing, it had picked this race to pack it up. Worse yet, when I went to check my spares box, I had THREE front hubs and NO rear ones! Crapola- pack it up and kiss your championship hopes goodbye. Closer inspection revealed the hub bolt had backed itself off and the safety cotter pin had kept the wheel from exiting the car. Borrowing a 32 MM socket and retorquing the nut was my last, and only option. While it was clear the bearing and hub were on the way out, maybe this would get me through this final race. I still needed a good finish to clinch my first Majors title.

Still sweating by this point, at least I had a good start when the green fell for the Sunday race and I found myself smack in the middle of A-sedan and GT3 cars. Despite the good start, I soon noticed my lap times were falling off as the HR warmed up. This Majors race was the longer of the two races in the weekend, and it soon became apparent the rear hub was "walking" around again as the steering got that floating feel again. Still, it was with a bit of elation that I passed under the checkered in third place and finish the year with 155 points to win the Mid-States T3 title. Can't remember another SCCA weekend where I had to fight so hard in the pits to even make the frickin' race. Now, you can bet there'll be new headers and hubs on the car (and in the trailer) before the Runoffs!
 

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Discussion Starter #104
The SCCA Majors Tour began back in January, but the Mid-States took longer to thaw out. Our schedule began in April and ran through five states before finishing the last weekend in August. It took countless hours of work, four sets of tires (both rain and dry) and a lot of passion to earn this Majors title. I started the year just hoping to make it back to being competitive and ended it by earning the class championship. Can't imagine any 350Z enthusiast not being challenged, or satisfied, by this 2018 battle.
 

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The SCCA Majors Tour began back in January, but the Mid-States took longer to thaw out. Our schedule began in April and ran through five states before finishing the last weekend in August. It took countless hours of work, four sets of tires (both rain and dry) and a lot of passion to earn this Majors title. I started the year just hoping to make it back to being competitive and ended it by earning the class championship. Can't imagine any 350Z enthusiast not being challenged, or satisfied, by this 2018 battle.

I told you just after "THE BIG HIT" last year you'd be here now. Do you listen? Apparently you did. :laugh: CONGRATULATIONS, David!!!! See you at Sonoma! (Don't forget to eMail me off forum with your details!)
 

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Discussion Starter #107
Race prep for the SCCA Runoffs has been heavier than usual. The header crack turned out to encircle the entire collector and could not be rewelded. New VQ35HR header flown in and installed this past week. Checking the rear hub/bearing failure revealed both sides needed to be changed out, together with an inspection and work on the LR Brembo caliper and disc. Fresh set of BFGoodrich R1-S mounted on Enkei PF01RR wheels will be used on the later qualifying days and the race, which is now scheduled for Sunday, October 21 at 8:30 am.


There's plenty of competition from BMW at this year's race, and Ford V6 Mustangs (including a new EcoBoost model) will line up against four 350Zs in the race.
 

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Discussion Starter #109
Mustang GT won the Runoffs, with BMW E46 in second and third at the Sonoma Runoffs. Slowing the 350Z down in 2018 with smaller restrictors (37 mm with the HR), weight (3350#) and smaller size tires (245-40-18) have certainly been effective.
 

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Discussion Starter #110
Quick summary of my 2018 Sonoma Runoffs: finished 13th after starting 16th. My suspension setup (full front bar and NO rear bar) was somewhat effective in allowing me to drive the car "on the nose" while sensing understeer, but less effective in using all four tires to their max. The LR axle nut came loose again, and this compromised my race. Also suffered some LF damage when a Shelby Mustang hit me hard enough to break the front wheel and shred the bumper and fender. Despite that, I managed to see the checkered flag and limp around the cool-down lap. Elected not to pursue a protest against the Mustang driver, as it wouldn't help me get my Z repaired in any case. Sonoma is an amazing track and satisfying to drive, but this was a tough year to race.
 

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Just discovered this thread and read it start to finish (I need to get a life :))
Thanks so much for the detailed reports. I've found it quite interesting reading the thoughts of someone that is actually racing a 350.
I've got a 2003 Track model, and have been to a number of track days now and also done some tarmac rally stuff.

How are you overcoming the understeer that the Z33 is renowned for?

I've got MCA race Prime coilovers (lowered by about 10-15mm) and Nankang AR1 semis on Enkei RPF1s (18x9.5+15). This has helped immensely, but I reckon it could be improved even more.
 

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Discussion Starter #112
Just discovered this thread and read it start to finish (I need to get a life :))
Thanks so much for the detailed reports. I've found it quite interesting reading the thoughts of someone that is actually racing a 350.
I've got a 2003 Track model, and have been to a number of track days now and also done some tarmac rally stuff.

How are you overcoming the understeer that the Z33 is renowned for?

I've got MCA race Prime coilovers (lowered by about 10-15mm) and Nankang AR1 semis on Enkei RPF1s (18x9.5+15). This has helped immensely, but I reckon it could be improved even more.
Swaybars are the biggest macro tool at your disposal for tuning handling. SCCA rules allow us to use bigger, adjustable bars and you can really tune a lot of the understeer out. I've done the same with my '03 pre-order track model, except that I don't need or want to have to tune the handling characteristics as much. I credit the NISMO S-tune swaybars, Koni 8241 SA shocks and Eibach prokit springs for tuning the Z back towards a more neutral state.
 

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Fantastic.
Yeah sway bars will definitely be my next purchase.
I'm in Australia so we don't have SCCA out here.
Just looking at super sprints, the odd production sports car race and tarmac rally at this stage :)
 

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Discussion Starter #114
Fantastic.
Yeah sway bars will definitely be my next purchase.
I'm in Australia so we don't have SCCA out here.
Just looking at super sprints, the odd production sports car race and tarmac rally at this stage :)
SCCA rules allow us to use a maximum of 32 mm front and 25 mm rear swaybars. There's a maximum of six settings for each.

Curious about what your entry fees are like in Oz. Here in the US, a divisional SCCA race usually runs $300-350, while the next step up is a SCCA Majors at $400-1,000 (depends on track). Finally, the National Championship race (last year at Sonoma, 2019 scheduled for Virginia International Raceway) entry fee runs $1K.
 

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As dkmura said, sway bars are the best "fine tune" tool in the box. However, keep in mind that suspension tuning the car with bars, shock settings, coil pre-load, etc are NOT maximized without the key to it all: proper alignment. Whether you're running within stock range or minusing the camber for track use, it is the key to doing it right. If you don't already have adjustable camber (through camber/toe arms out back and/or adjustable FUCA out front, consider doing that FIRST to establish a tuning baseline.)


Also consider your ultimate tire/wheel setup before adjusting sway bars... stagger versus square (on your squared wheels) then adjust the sway bars to your liking. Not sure if what we have in the states applies to you but any of the adjustable bars from the big name companies work fine.... Eibach, Stillen, Hotchkis, and all have roughly same number of adjustment lever points (holes). Also keep in mind, further down the road, that sway bars can be adjusted on a bias (side to side using offset/different lever points) to suit a particular track or to suit your preferences on the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #116
You know, it's great to have MicVelo stop by here and provide some depth and wisdom to the discussion. Yes, suspension tuning can take many dimensions and he's listed more of them. In racing we use all of them, but get the macro tuning done first. Then, the fine tuning boils down to small things, like adjusting tire pressures around the car (if there's enough time). Do one thing at a time, and see what the effects are.
 

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Discussion Starter #117
For 2019, I'm seriously considering running my 350Z in Touring I trim all season long. That means no ballast, no air restrictors and wider wheels (18x10) and tires (285-30-18). Still, against Corvette Z06, Mustang Boss 302, Ferrari F430 Cup, Lambo Gallardo, Porsche 911 GT3 and other high-end cars, it'll be bringing a (plastic) knife to a gunfight!
 

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Discussion Starter #118
Looking back at SCCA records reveals the last time I entered a SCCA Majors race was in the 2015 season. Competing against the perennial T1 Champ in his Corvette Z06, I was several seconds down EVERY lap as I was out-braked, out-cornered and out-accelerated at almost every turn at Pueblo Motorsports Park. I recall catching a break in the second race when I noticed the black 'Vette slowing and coming back towards me as I pushed the pace. A wheel bearing had begun to degrade and the Vette tried to limp into the finish. Yes, I won on a hot summer day almost four years ago to score the only Nissan win in Touring 1 that I'm aware of in SCCA history.
 

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Looking back at SCCA records reveals the last time I entered a SCCA Majors race was in the 2015 season. Competing against the perennial T1 Champ in his Corvette Z06, I was several seconds down EVERY lap as I was out-braked, out-cornered and out-accelerated at almost every turn at Pueblo Motorsports Park. I recall catching a break in the second race when I noticed the black 'Vette slowing and coming back towards me as I pushed the pace. A wheel bearing had begun to degrade and the Vette tried to limp into the finish. Yes, I won on a hot summer day almost four years ago to score the only Nissan win in Touring 1 that I'm aware of in SCCA history.

Time to make some more history!! Touring 1 is going to be a tough nut, David, but if anyone can do it and be competitive, I have a lot of faith in your abilities. Your record speaks volumes!
 

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Discussion Starter #120
2019 race season is underway in St. Louis. The SCCA Majors is at Gateway International on the "roval" (road course + oval) 1.65-mile circuit that fit the Z pretty well. For 2019, I've elected to race in Touring 1 against cars much faster (think Corvette Z06, C7, Shelby Mustang, Ferrari F430 Cup or Porsche 911 GT3) because the Z doesn't have many restrictions on it. Besides dropping the T3 air restrictors, I can use wider tires and less weight. Yesterday was dry and with only two T1 cars I predictably finished second to a Z06. Today is wet and it's time to bolt up the rains for the afternoon race before starting the 850-mile trip back home to Colorado.
 
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