Endurance Honda: Race cars take as much time as you have

Over the last few months we’ve relearned the old adage, building a racecar takes exactly as much time as you have.  The car did it’s best to not run after we installed the engine.  Here are the list of things we did to try to get it to run well but did not fix it: injectors, injector wiring, fuel rail, fuel pressure regulator, fuel filter, fuel filter, disconnect and blow out all fuel lines, fuel pump relay, fuel pump wiring, coil, plugs, temp sensor wiring, cam position sensor wiring, ecu, throttle body, air temp sensor.  After all that it still wouldn’t run.  Out of ideas we just started disconnecting random things to see if we could get it to change how it ran.  This was done on Saturdays and Tuesdays over the course of a month.  In the end disconnecting and cleaning out the idle air control valve seemed to fix it.

Now that it is running (and next weekend is my driving school to earn my wheel to wheel license) we are down to finishing up things on a list taped to the window.  Last Saturday we installed the exhaust and welded in seat rails to mount the seats.  On Tuesday we will install a fire extinguisher, bleed the coolant, and test drive it around the parking lot and put it on the trailer.  I’m not sure why, but race cars always take as much time as you have.  Nature abhors a vacuum.

Endurance Civic: New motor

We got our replacement motor in and started going over it.  We noticed that all the injectors looked new and left those alone (for now).  The head shield over the exhaust manifold was missing some hardware and the mount points were a bit rusted so we cleaned those up and found replacement hardware.  We took apart the timing belt to discover that we bought the right belt but the wrong tensioner and water pump so we ordered the correct ones.  We removed the power steering rack and mount for it and the air conditioning as we have a manual rack and no ac.  We cleaned up any corrosion on the hose connections and replaced all the rubber hoses.  We removed the valve cover and replaced all the rubber on it.  Next time we’ll finish the timing belt and attach the wiring harness.

Endurance Civic: Installing the Subframe

Installing the subframe proved more difficult than removing it.  The first step was bolting in the steering rack.  That was made difficult by damaged threads in the subframe.  Using a tap we cleaned them out.

Next we had to get it into the car.  First you should install the rear engine mount.  More on that later as we didn’t do that first.  Everything in the suspension in held in tension so installing the stubframe is a difficult processes of doing everything in the right order and the correct application of a hammer and pry bar.  Next you have to get the steering rack hooked up to the column.  This should probably be the second step after doing the engine mount but we did it after the subframe was bolted into the suspension.  If you do it the hard way like us you have to unbolt the column from the dash to get enough play to get the joints to go together.  After we did that we discovered that we’d need to install the rear engine mount.  After removing the heater core valve and fuel filter and using the 1/4″ socket with a flex joint we were finally able to attach the rear engine mount.  I wonder now if the right way to do this is to bolt everything to the subframe (engine included) and then jack that up and into the car.  That might be the way this is all assembled in the factory.

Endurance Civic: Replacing the Subframe

Since we had the motor out we looked carefully at the subframe and realized why we were not able to get a good alignment on the front right wheel.  At some point the car was crashed hard enough to crack up the subframe and it had plates welded on it to repair it.  Ryan went to the local junk yard and pulled one impressing those around him with his skill.  The steering rack is contained within the subframe and to remove it you have to disconnect it from the column.  At the junk yard ryan used the weight of the motor to disconnect it and then separate the steering rack from the subframe.  To do this last part is made difficult because the rack has to be partially dissembled to remove it from the subframe.  After getting it back to the shop we cleaned it up and removed the broken one from the shop.  Next time we will put it back in the car.


Endurance Civic: What went wrong?

Our plan is to have fun doing some endurance racing with our civic at our local track, High Plains Raceway.  With the hope of an inexpensive rebuild we tore down the motor to discover almost everything had been damaged.  Our theory as to what happened is this.  On the pistons we found no clips holding the wrist pins in and stamps showing that the pistons themselves were aftermarket.  The wrist pins seem to be seized to the pistons and moving the connecting rods on them is difficult.  Because whoever build this motor didn’t install the clips for the wrist pins they moved around in the slot and caused extra heat and friction causing them to warp.  This caused the connecting rods to overheat and the bearings to melt.  Some of the metal from the bearings clogged up the oil pickup causing engine to be oil starved and the oil and coolant overheated.  All of this means that the motor is not rebuild-able as we would need a short block or a full rotating assembly.

Endurance Civic: Out with the broken

The Rally.Build shop acquired a racecar with a long history of both rally and endurance racing this summer.  It is a 1990 Civic hatch with a Rally America logbook and WRL tech stickers.  The previous owner was ready to move on after the motor overheated during a race and happily traded the car for parts for his new build.  Optimistically we assumed the head-gasket had just gone and caused the overheating.  Slowly over the course of many beers and snide honda-bro “vtec yo” jokes a new head-gasket was installed.  Unfortunately when it was back together it became obvious something much worse was wrong with the motor.  Starting it up there was a loud knock.  For a while the shop tried to sell the car to someone looking for a cheep racecar but with no serious offers we decided to fix it for endurance racing.  The plan is for the WRL 24hr race at High Plains raceway later this year.

The first step was to pull the motor.  On an old honda this is fairly straightforward.  There is plenty of room to work and the transmission comes out with the motor.  The most difficult parts were things that were installed after the fact.  On the speed cable from the transmission we found a terratrip speed sensor spliced in.  Disconnecting the speed sensor from the transmission became so difficult we eventually just pulled the whole stem out of the cable.  Now that the motor is out the next step is to disassemble it and see what is wrong.

Crewing for a team is an important, fun, and inexpensive way to get into Rally

You want to drive a rally car, welcome to the party, we all do. Driving a rally car involves allot of money and time and is completely worth it. Just because you don’t have the money to build a car or go to an event doesn’t mean you can’t have an awesome time going to events as an important part of a rally team. This year at the 100 Acre Woods rally I went as part of a two man crew for two cars from Colorado. Competing in a rally is a complicated task that is made much better with a crew. As crew we took the cars to tech, ran the service stops, and did many small things to make our teams successful.

Rally involves several logistical problems before the race even starts. First, for 100 Acre Woods, we tow two rally cars ~850 miles. After arriving you need to figure out Lodging, Registration, Recce, and Tech inspection. With a large group of people it is often more convenient and less expensive to rent a house then stay in hotel rooms. This year we stayed in a comfortable house, The Lodge At Fair Winds with wifi (important because there is no cell coverage). Ideally you’d want to find a place that has a garage you can use in case you need to do overnight repairs to the cars. This year we were fortunate to not have to do any repairs at the lodge as both of our drivers did a good job of keeping their cars on the road. Lodging should be coordinated before you arrive but there is still the task of getting all the vehicles to the location, checking in, unloading gear and finding the closest place to buy beer and food.

Recce (short for reconnaissance) is where the driver and codriver drive the stage roads with the stage notes at posted speeds in a non-race vehicle. This can only be done by the driver and codriver and is the first task on their mind before the race. For our team we used rental cars because they present the same perspective as the race car (vs a truck) and the roads are often times rough back roads that would really beat up the truck. Having a couple of crew members makes getting a rental and doing registration simpler because you have more drivers. Registration is the simple task of checking in with the organizers and showing them that you have all the required items (prof of insurance and registration on race and crew vehicles).

Often on the same day as recce a tech inspection needs to be done. Doing Recce alone is a really taxing activity as you are driving hundreds of miles slowly and checking the notes you received at registration. If you are experienced you are also writing pace notes (extra reminders that help you know where you can go faster). Working as a crew member you can make recce more successful by handling tech inspection. What that means is you drive the race car from the house or hotel to the place where the organizers are looking over the cars and inspecting the safety gear to make sure you are following all the safety rules. This is fun because you get to drive the race car and hang out by all the other race cars. In our case we got to see the Escrot build being teched. If you weren’t at the race you should go to the next race where they enter because that build is awesome. Pictures and video do not do that car justice. At tech inspection you will also register for service areas and at this point it is advantageous to try to get a good spot surrounded by others you know so you can help each other out.

One of the big downsides to working as crew is there is often limited opportunity for you to spectate on stage because you have to be in service areas as need to be somewhere where you have good cell coverage to give your team the best chance of being able to contact you if they need to. However you do get to go to the shakedown stage (a short practice before the race starts on the first day). This can be a fun opportunity to see the cars launch. The organizers did a good job of marking out places where you could spectate as crew however just know that as crew you are just as much on a schedule as your team and they are depending on you being in service when they get there. When you go out to spectate you are taking the risk that you get lost, are caught behind traffic, or your vehicle has a problem and your team is without a crew when they need them. We attempted to spectate on stage 2 and managed to take a wrong turn that resulted in us only seeing the second half of the field. Thankfully on the way out of there back to service we had no trouble and made it to service before our teams did.

At service you have a limited time to try to fix anything that is wrong with the car and prepare it to continue racing. Because both of the drivers of our teams did an awesome job keeping their cars on the road there was no major repairs for us to do. To keep them going at pace we did small things while they got a chance to stretch their legs outside of the car. The cars went up on jack stands and we looked underneath for any damage, checked and adjusted tire pressures, checked the torque on all lug nuts, refilled water and other drinks for the driver and codriver, and got them food to eat. Lastly we looked up their times on stage and encouraged them to continue pushing for the win.

When you are competing in a rally you have many things to think about and keep track of as a driver/codriver team. One of the things you have very little time for is pictures and keeping up on how the race is going for everyone else. As crew you should be taking pictures to share online for friends and family and looking for updates on the competitors. This is fun and the driver/codriver team can focus more on driving fast with you handling the media side of racing and keeping them informed on their times and how their competitors are doing. You can see more of my pictures and follow me on instagram at tyler_128_. To find more pictures and videos of of 100 Acre Woods check out these tags #100aw, #100awrally, #100acrewoodrally, etc.

Working on a crew is an awesome way to participate in rally at a very low cost, build great friendships, and help your friends be more competitive. It is completely worth it and much more involved than you would initially think.  Special thanks to Steve, Scott, Sam, Joe, and Grant for letting me be a part of their team and participate in such an awesome event.

In the end both teams did well.  Steve and Scott pushed hard and drove the wheels off the car for a 3rd overall finish, 2nd in national class (OL and SP), and 1st in OL for both days regionally. Sam and Joe were successful in completing Sam’s first event as a driver and having a blast doing it.  Pictures don’t do this event justice, the roads are amazing, the local people are inviting, the competition was fierce, the organizers and volunteers ran a smooth event, and the weather was perfect.  If you want to get into rally you should find a team that you can crew with, it will not only be a great time but you will learn so much about the sport that will help you if you plan on building a car and competing yourself.

Get your technician class HAM radio license the easy way

A technician class amature radio license is the first step to using ham radio. The quickest way I found to learn the topics needed to pass was to use the HamExam.org website. You simply spend a few minutes each day, and a bit of time right before you go take the test, going through flash cards on this website. These are the exact questions that will be on the test and just learning the answers to these questions will teach you most of what you need to know. There will be a few with terms that are confusing and for that I would recommend you look up those questions in the ham radio book (all questions have a reference to where it is explained in the book). Learning with the flashcards and only looking up the confusing questions is an excellent way to learn because just reading the book alone you will easily miss much of the fine detail you need to know for the test. By first seeing the question you will know what exact information you are looking for when you look at the book. Using this technique I spent 15 min a day for a week doing the flashcards and was able to get through the whole question pool. Then before I went to take the test I spent another hour doing more flashcards. This allowed me to learn the material quickly and pass the test easily. To find a location near you where you can take the test go to: ARRL: Find an Amateur Radio License Exam in Your Area. After you take the test you the FCC will post your callsign online, mine is KE0LVX.

If you are into stage rally you should get your HAM radio license because that is how safety and control workers communicate. Having your license will allow you help out and volunteer for events in an official capacity. Also, if you work on a team it will help you know what is going on by listening to the different radio networks.