24 Nov 2013

By working on the book all day, all corrections have  been completed! This frees up a week I didn’t expect to have, so one more test copy was ordered as a “last chance” check. Even with express shipping, it’s unclear if it’ll arrive next Friday, Saturday, or the following Monday. This means that assuming nothing terrible is found when it arrives, the book will likely become available in about a week.

One think I’ve not discussed is price, which will be $100. As far as I know, there is no book out there that so fully covers the construction of a mid-engine sports car (or any car for that matter). Sure, a few books have plans but they’re light on actual construction guidance. Midlana is 393 pages of meaty detail, explaining why things are being done a certain way, the best way(s) of doing so, yet offering up many options along the way. It’s very doubtful that a Midlana owner will ever seen another car exactly like his (or hers), and that’s a good thing. Anyhow, I guess I felt the need to get out in front of any commentary regarding price and to explain the reasoning behind it.

23 Nov 2013

Received the last set of corrections from my copyeditor buddy. We were both shocked at how many “new” errors we found; we can’t figure out how both of us missed so many the first time through. In at least a few cases though, we were suspicious of TeX, the editing software used to create the book. Case in point, searching for the repeated-word phrase, “the the”, in order to find and correct my goof of repeating the word. Even though I had an example on the page right in front of me, the TeX search could not find it. Trying different search filters didn’t work either, so who knows what was going on. Changing the search terms to non-repeated words showed that it was working.

Anyway… the book is on schedule for release next weekend.

18 Nov 2013

Okay, here’s the video of Midlana at the Fontana event, taken from outside the car, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJUHfOcqU9Q. It gives a good idea of what shows up at track events, and it’s why I enjoy it so much. No rules (other than safety gear) so there’s a huge variation on what shows up, from Radicals, to near-stock Datsun 510s, to older NASCARs. Be sure to turn it up 🙂 I like the spitting and popping of Midlana on throttle overrun 🙂

17 Nov 2013

The week was spent fine tuning the book and adding comments regarding the track experience. My buddy is still checking his copy over for grammatical issues, which means I’ll have about a week to implement his fixes before the book goes live.

Forgot to mention that at Fontana last week, oil temperature got up to 126 deg C (258 deg F). For synthetic it’s “okay” for a while, but the high temperature also caused the oil to thin and oil pressure dropped to as low as 48 psi. I could either “fix it” by going with thicker oil, or do it the right way and get a larger cooler. The new one’s on the way.

When we were there, my brother recorded Midlana from outside with a handheld camcorder. It gave a good chance to see how the car sounds, and though it’s not edited down yet, I’ll post it sometime this week. One downside to Fontana is that from the infield (where everyone was) there are very few places to see much of the track. Anyhow, check back in a day or so for some cool engine noises 🙂

12 Nov 2013

Okay, a belated update for Saturday’s trackday event. There were multiple events going on at Auto Club Speedway: our trackday, a short demo session by – no kidding – Mazda GTP cars, a street racer/poser sort of show, and an autocross.

The trackday went very well. My windshield got cracked, not by rocks, but because the center support padding got compressed (by wind loading, no doubt) to the point that the edge of the glass contacted the bracket – instant crack. In addition, there were a surprising number of rock pits – the consequence of everyone running chewing-gum soft tires. (After the event, there were many impact marks where balled-up sticky tire rubber kicked up by cars ahead hit Midlana.)

Tire wear was very even, no complaints about suspension geometry 🙂

This being my first event ever at this track, in a car that I’ve never driven this fast, I was intimidated by The Wall around turn one and two. What I didn’t know was what Midlana would do if I got the back end out at speed. The concern was that it “might” step out, catch, and whip the car back to the right, up toward the wall. We were told that if our cars started to spin in that turn, to NOT counter steer, to instead, steer to the left, down the inclined turn. I don’t know about other drivers but I think it would be very difficult to undo what’s been engrained into our driving habits for decades, being able to suddenly steer the opposite direction that our reflexes dictate.

I was told that I should have been able to take that curve at around 130 mph, but was simply unwilling to find out what would happen. Of course, this means the question remains, what WILL Midlana do? When I first started driving at trackday events, it was back in the 1980s at Riverside International Raceway. Turn Nine there was similarly intimidating, and it took several events before I got to the point where I was okay with the back end of the Datsun 1200 stepping out slightly. Of course in that car, the speed was a lot less, and the weight distribution was far different. In a car with nearly 70% on the rear axle, it takes some getting used to.

The only “moment” I had (pointed out in the video) was while under hard braking for a turn and was about to heel-and-toe downshift. What happened was – from my perspective – the car didn’t slow. I didn’t panic because there was a ton of runoff, and simply drove straight off instead of attempting to turn. At about the same time I saw the front tires lock up, so I knew the brakes were working, so why didn’t the car slow? It was because I’d adjusted the brake pedal to be just above the gas pedal under braking… but under HARD braking, the brake pedal was lower, enough that my shoe caught the edge of the gas pedal. As a result, I had 400+ hp helping me continue straight, and that’s just what happened. This was a good learning experience, because had it happened with someone immediately in front of me, it would have required some quick thinking to not hit them.

Something I’d been wondering about was confirmed to have happened – Midlana spits flames under deceleration! Cool! Unfortunately I didn’t think to put the GoPro back where it could record it, and as far as I know, no one caught a picture of it. It’ll certainly be something that I’ll have to get some footage of 🙂

My brother found some footage from another car at the same event running in my group, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8CnfEjfo5E. Sure enough, there Midlana was, passing at 19:03 in his video. No exhaust flames, though…

At several times during the day, Mazda (yes, the factory) brought out a few of their “old” GTP cars, the ones with the four-rotor rotaries. Man, I wish I had more time to walk around (as a participant, your day is fairly busy). Anyway, I just loved the way the cars looked and sounded. As one idled through the pits, the doors were open (it was fairly warm) and I got a good look at the driver, who was a big guy. I was later told that it was Mazda’s president… nice perk!

Lastly, there was an separate event held in the pit area that I just couldn’t understand, a pseudo street racer car show. It consisted of a long row of cars on static display, showing off their visual awesomeness (enormous turbos, crazy camber, and little suspension travel), while cars that were heading out to the real track passed by. In any other context (read: away from a real track) I could better understand it. But here, at a real track, surrounded by real race cars, it just seemed absurd to pretend to have a bad-ass fast car, yet not drive it. Kind of like Hollywood impersonators hanging out at the entrance to the Oscars, hoping to be mistaken. Surreal.

4 Nov 2013

Thanks for all the notes of support during this week of helping mom cope. We found – as I’m sure many have found before – that it takes a surprisingly long time for a cremation to actually happen, what with licensing, permits, backlogs… seriously? Makes me wonder what they’ do in an emergency…

During my down time, the book cover art was finished and two draft book copies are now on order. That’ll take about ten days, then we have one more chance to find everything that we missed the last time through. So far, so good for a first of December release, maybe even earlier.