A month ago, Team 5 HP Racing regaled you with tales of limited glory from Watkins Glen. Over the past weekend, we returned to race with American Endurance Racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park. If you're at all interested in racing, this series is both beginner friendly and filled with experienced drivers who are more than willing to offer a helping hand (to wit, this series is easier to get into than our #65 Miata).
Similarly, our more experienced #360 sister team also provided us with help when necessary. They rocked an E36 art car. The decade: the 70s. The chance of rain: higher.
Additionally, we were lucky enough to have race shop (and team partner) Stable Energies nearby. They were a driving force in getting our Miata race ready, and they also came in clutch by providing us with brake pads after we, uh, forgot extra. It's the presence of pros like them that balances out our ineptitude. They're an awesome shop and a great resource for anyone looking to get into track driving.
Friday morning made good on its bleak forecast, soaking the track in puddles of rain and turning New Jersey Motorsports Park into New Jersey Motorsports Water Park. Though the rain had stopped by Friday afternoon qualifying, it left its mark on the dry racing lines and various crevices of the track surface. Challenge accepted.
See, Team 5HP Racing benefitted from some meteorological intervention. To our benefit, NJMP Thunderbolt is a (marginally) slower track than Watkins (seriously- that's one fast track), and the rain also served as an equalizer between cars with actual horsepower and us.
(We Want To Know: Have You Ever Seen The Miata?)
Putting the Miata's ~100 wheel horsepower was a terrifying prospect, and the rain put cars with 2-3 times that power on relatively shaky, albeit even, footing with us (at least for a few minutes at a time). Add in some Friday evening fluid and spark plug changes, and you've got a recipe for at least starting on the grid the next day.
(This Is One Umbrella We'd Be Happy To Stand, Or Sit, Under)
Saturday morning came around, and the skies were dumping rain as fast as an old British car leaks oil. As we waded through to our pit lane, we were overcome with misguided optimism about how well the #65 car would fare (spend enough time around gasoline vapors, and you'll believe a stock engine Miata is capable of anything).
The green flag dropped, and lap 1 went by. Cool. Lap 2 passed in a rainy breeze. Great. Lap 3, and what's that we spotted at the entrance to pit lane? Take a wild guess.
Revelation: if NA Miatas do anything quickly, it's eating through alternators. While we swapped our alternator out, we also swapped our position in class for last. We would remain there for the rest of the day, but while on track, our little Miata was able to keep lap times comparable with the various E30s, SN95 Mustangs, and Miatas that comprised the more-leisurely class 1 grid.
(If You Need A Quick Miata Alternator Swap, Team 5HP Racing Is There For You)
With the race set to end at 6pm on Saturday, we were ready to welcome the car to the garage with open arms, a few wrenches, and toweling. Unfortunately, 15 minutes before its curfew, we caught a glimpse of the Miata limping into the pits (at this point in time, it looked slow even for a 1.6 Miata). Our driver confirmed that he lost 2nd gear during a bout of accidental off roading. Whoops.
(The Grass Is Greener On The Other Side Of The Suspension)
Unlike another group of friends from New York, we weren't stuck in 2nd gear- we didn't have one at all. And because our Miata loves 2 for 1 deals, it turns out first gear was written off too. However, our spirits held (again, blame the gasoline-fueled optimism). Sunday called for warmer weather and clearer skies, and NJMP Thunderbolt in the (relative) dry is a 3rd gear and up course, even in a Miata.
Sunday brought a drying track and average times 25 seconds or so faster than in the rain. Team 5HP Racing and spectators watched in awe as our Miata made multiple passes. Read that again. Multiple. The racing in class was exciting, and running door to door with courteous and competitive drivers never gets old.
(Stranger Things Have Happened. Maybe)
Unfortunately, for the first (and probably last) time, our race was ended by logistical issues on our end rather than mechanical. But no matter- the Miata still lasted 6 hours of Sunday racing with plenty of energy left. That's a win in our book.
(Even In The Pits, The #360 Team Kept Us Humble)
What's next for the #65? Well, Team 5HP Racing might have to turn into Mystery Inc. to figure out what's wrong with the transmission. We have a feeling the answer will be "all of the above."
But since we always have so much fun with American Endurance Racing, we're itching to go back. Currently, the team is in the process of soliciting a more suitable tow vehicle to help bring us to Summit Point in September. You can be sure more tales will follow.
Special Thanks: Stable Energies, American Endurance Racing, and the grid of friendly/courteous racers.