Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying. It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though! But after a couple of months of being back in England […]
Archive for October, 2008
Yup, it’s that time of year again when the quick cars in Okinawa make their way up to the north of the island to Nago “circuit” and try to get traction on the ice rink they like to call a drag strip/racing circuit. Those of you who know about Nago circuit, either from my posts before or through personal experience, will know how slippery that place is. It is partly due to the fact that the surface up there is coral-based like the roads were up until a few years ago here. That’s fine for the most part until it rains. However, over time even in the dry the surface gets slick to say the least. Plus, here in Okinawa the drag strip is a pitiful 150m (not even 1/8 mile). The reason is that we don’t really have a 400m (1/4 mile) stretch of straight road here in Okinawa without a set of traffic lights, a sharp turn at the end or a high probability of a drunk driver pulling out of a blind turn into the road without looking! So with the short stretch of track to race along and the slippery surface, getting traction can be much more important than having a big turbo to make power. This is where the AWD cars have a big advantage, and with a new turbo setup and a couple of other extras in my car I was eager to see how it would perform.
On a personal point of view, right up until the last second I was debating whether to go. I had a creaky wheel bearing (yet again!) which was sounding pretty bad and I was more than a little worried. Although it would give me a secret weapon in the race (nobody would be expecting my front left wheel to come off midway down the track and start rolling towards them!). Unfortunately, someone at the circuit informed me that this would be a one-time only weapon and so I would have to choose my moment very carefully! So I woke up at 6am to see rain coming down and dark skies ahead. Checked the weather radars though and they looked pretty clear for the north so I decided to jump in the car and head up there.
Turnout was ok, although there seemed to be fewer people compared to the Omega Drags in July. I’m partly thinking this is due to peope still recovering from heat stroke and dehydration due to the unbearably long and hot wait between qualifying and the tournament itself last time. We must have waited for 2-3 hours in the midday and early afternoon sun up in the mountains where there was virtually no shade at all. The cars were coming in though and in my class (6.5-7.0s) there were 6 or 7 cars taking part. I like to get there a little early so I can prepare without feeling rushed. I took some air out of my tyres, did a couple of final checks and then sat down and waited for the drivers’ meeting. There was a bit of light drizzle in the air which looked ominous at one point, but which had blown over by about 9am. Unfortunately, the day had already at this time claimed its first victim. An American guy with a 900whp Skyline had blown up 1st gear on his aftermarket OS Giken crossmission on a first practice run of the day he did before everyone else got there. He’s had some bad luck recently with his car although when you start making crazy power like that then things do have the tendency to go bang sometimes. So he’s now in a race against time to get a dogbox transmission ordered, installed and tuned before the last drags of 2008 on November 16th. It’s going to be a tough ask but hopefully he can do it.
The usual cars were there, although the number of Fairlady Z’s has increased quite a bit. Am not surprised with that as they are damn quick cars which always seem to do really well at Nago. That’s despite one of them being driven by a guy who seemingly has a hatred for foreigners for some reason. Was pleased to see a Porsche Carrerra there, as well as the blue Aristo drag car which has had some modifications made to it to get it to pick up traction here. It had become a bit of a laughing stock in recent drag tournaments, getting beaten by everything but it performed pretty well up there this time and is certainly looking better than it did. There was one more Evo there which was gutted out inside but which was in a slower class than me. It was an Evo III and I think it’s taken part before. Speaking of that, hopefully in the next drags my buddy and tuner will be taking part with his new engine/turbo/exhaust etc in his Evo III. It should be close to a 10s 1/4 mile car so if he can keep traction he’ll do pretty well at Nago.
Drivers meeting was brief and to the point (“Start here… finish here… mountain there… try not to hit it”). Drivers were allowed 2 practice runs and the slowest cars went first. There were a couple of kei cars there (660cc cars) which always add some fun to proceedings as they go up to just have a fun time running their cars, as well as a VW Beetle or 2. It’s not many places that you see sights like this:
But soon enough it was my first run. I was eager to make a good start to the day, but in this first run a little too eager. I tried to time my launch just right but was marginally too quick off the clutch and red-lighted. I still smoked the guy next to me though and was easily pulling away from him at the end of the run. But these practice runs are to get the mistakes out of my system before I really start going in the qualifying. At this point I was considering enabling the new launch control code (which allows me to stay at my launch control rpm of 5400rpm until a certain speed, in an attempt to control wheelspin), but wasn’t sure it was the right time or place to be messing with my setup, so I left that for a later date. The second run was much better though. I was launching with probably 0psi of boost and wasn’t spinning wheels much on my launches. I was a little conservative regarding my launches last Sunday as I didn’t want to spin so quickly through 1st it hits the rev limiter before I can shift, and thereby causing misfiring in 2nd gear and ruining my entire run. In retrospect I was probably too conservative and had very poor 18.28m/60ft times (2.04s was my best one). Something I really need to work on in the future as that’s where I have my advantage over the other non-AWD cars.
A good sight and sound of the day was seeing a red Corvette pull onto the track for the 2nd drags. In the first time it had a hellish time with distributor problems but this time it was making traction and looking damn quick. As well as the V8 making a lot of noise – everyone was covering their ears as this thing flew down the track. I think it managed both practice runs and one qualifying run before it encountered problems. I think the bellhousing came off his transmission or something like that, and basically ended his day prematurely once again. Shame that didn’t really get a chance to run up against some of the big boys as I’d love to see how it would perform.
By about 10:15am practice was out of the way and it was onto business with the first of 3 qualifying runs which would be timed and would determine our placing in the tournament in the afternoon. Got up to the line and glanced across at the car in the other lane which was a red Fairlady Z which was in my class. Didn’t think much of it until I saw the “Goyu” sticker on the car and the guy’s helmet. Goyu is a tuning shop here in Okinawa which is pretty famous for building up quick drag cars. Their main car (which also took part) can do the 1/4 mile in the mid 8s range and has the record for the 150m up at Nago (4.7s, I believe). Ah well, guessed it would be a nice way to gauge how well the car was doing.
I got a fairly decent launch although in the shift to 2nd gear the Goyu car pulled away from me slightly. Those Fairlady’s have a long first gear which makes them ideal for dragging here. As soon as we switched to 3rd gear though I was back up level with him and pulled away pretty easily. Finished the run feeling very good about it; we’d both been racing flat out for good times and I’d pretty comprehensively beaten him. A couple of friends told me how surprised they were at how well I was pulling away from him in 3rd gear at the end of the run. It surprised me too, and is probably down to the new turbo. With the old one, I loved 2nd gear. Providing I got a good launch, 2nd gear was where I could do my damage as the turbo kicked in strongly and got me a good head of steam. With the 50-trim turbo though, I’m all the way through 2nd gear before the turbo has fully spooled up and so I don’t feel the full benefit of it. 3rd gear is where I get a strong pull though, and through the whole day no matter who I was racing, when I got into 3rd gear I was gaining on them.On the 2nd qualifying run of the day the inevitable happened. No, my wheel didn’t fall off but I hit the rev limiter. Got a little too confident and launched with too much boost. All 4 tyres broke free and before I had a chance to react I was up at 7700rpm and then misfiring all the way through 2nd gear up to about 5000rpm. I still wish I knew what caused that problem; all I know is that I’ve got to keep off that limiter at all costs.
The 3rd run came along and I was determined to make up for my earlier effort. I was lining up against a 660cc Cappuchino but the opposition didn’t really matter as I was racing against the clock. I got a great start, hit all my shifting points and roared through the finish line. Well I say roar, it was more of a roar with the constant creak creak of a wheel bearing rubbing. Got back to my parking position just in time to hear I had done a 6.57 150m (without reaction time) which was easily a personal best, beating my previous best of 6.72s. So I finished the morning and went into the lunch break feeling pretty good about myself and the car. Aside from the misfiring run I had beaten everything I’d gone up against and spirits were definitely high. And I still had 4 wheels attached to the car!
After a long lunch break (nothing is every rushed here in Okinawa) and a bit of VHT was sprayed onto the track, the matchups were posted up onto the board for the afternoon tournament. I was lucky enough to have a bye in the first round which put me in a great position. One win and I would be in the final; a loss and I would still be in a 3rd place playoff match. So I was pretty excited about my prospects, but I had a minor hurdle to overcome. Even though I had a bye I had to cross the finish line which meant not red light-ing or doing anything silly. A few amusing comments were thrown my way and I vowed that if I red lighted I would just keep going after my run, drive off the track and straight home!
Got up to the lights and put the handbrake firmly on. There was no way I was going to jump the lights so I waited until they were most definitely on green before going. It wasn’t an impressive run by any means but my only aim in that run was to cross the finish line. So, all was well and good and I was into the semis. Unfortunately, at this stage we were down to only 2 non-Japanese drivers in the competition, and we were both in the same class! Fortunately, we were separated and so were both hoping for an all-gaijin (foreigner) final. I was up first and had a black Skyline (think it was) to contend with. I had beaten it pretty well in qualifying but that didn’t really mean anything now as it was knockout competition. If I won this I would be guaranteed a trophy.
Lined up and got myself staged first (I like to be at the start ready for the other guy). He did his burnout and I focused on what I was going to do. Got up to the rev limiter and launched with a pretty good reaction time (0.071s), but I did launch with too little boost again. No worries though as I was with the other guy through 1st gear and towards the top of 2nd I was pulling away. I never let off through the finish line and so hit the 150m mark at the top of 3rd with a pretty good win, which saw me through to my first racing final.
The other non-Japanese guy wasn’t so lucky though. He messed up his launch really bad and once that was done then the race was pretty much over as a contest. He came back pretty dejected but had been having the same problem all day and whatever he tried to sort it out wasn’t working. So it looked like the hopes and dreams of all foreigners in Japan were resting on me. Allow me to dramatise a little – I was pretty stoked at this point. And my opponent in the final would be, once again, the Goyu Fairlady Z. I know it was going to be quicker than in practice but I had beaten it previously which gave me confidence. Had a bit of a wait though as the other semi-finals and then the 3rd place playoffs took place. Unfortunately, the American guy lost his 3rd place race pretty emphatically too so no trophy for him to pick up.
So time passed and soon I was ready to get into the car and race for one final time in the day. Went through my usual routine and got to the start line first. The Goyu car did a burnout and a dry-hop before we went to stage. I was first to stage and then the Goyu car came up. It went past the staging lights initially so we both had to move back. I did so quickly to make sure I could stage and get settled once again before my opponent. We both got ready and watched as the lights went down. On the 3rd amber light I dropped the clutch and floored the accelerator. Once again my start was poor with less boost than I should be starting with, and immediately the Goyu car had the advantage. At the start of 2nd gear he was pulling away slightly but then towards the top of the gear I got up to speed with him. Slammed into 3rd gear and with a spike of 1.8 bar of boost holding to 1.52 bar I was chasing him down as the cones flew by approaching the finish line.
Unfortunately for me the finish line came a split second too early. I swear if we had gone on for another cone (10m further) I would have passed him, but it wasn’t to be. I was 2nd in class, and so my car creaked its way to my parking area where I stopped and went over to the guy from the Goyu car and congratulated him. The rest of the finals were pretty close run affairs except for the A-class of cars. I don’t know what exactly happened in A-class, but if my memory serves correctly the Goyu main car just did a run with no opposition.
So the day drew to a close and I was very pleased to be standing on the winners podium getting my trophy and some 80/145 transmission oil that I can’t use in my transmission or diff as it’s too thick! But considering it was only my 3rd tournament and I was placed second was a huge boost. Makes me look forward to the next drags which are only a month away now. Will have the wheel bearing fixed and so, providing my crankwalk test comes back all clear next week, I should have no major worries for the races. If I can smarten up my launches with some practice in the next few weeks I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be placed, or even possibly doing better than 2nd. Will leave you with a few more pics from the event. Hope you liked this writeup. For more photos see my photo gallery of the 2008 Zetalube Drags.