Despite the misgivings of some folks here, the good news is that our 95 Ford Thunderbird 3.8L NA automatic ran flag-to-flag at Infineon raceway this past weekend and placed way better than I could have ever expected from our 6 person all noob team: 66th out of 164 cars (almost in the top third) by clocking in 271 laps and 617+ mi. We then slapped the lights back on the car and drove home. Our race was almost flawless; the good news is the guy that punted us in the butt on a yellow has offered to help me straighten the car so I can't be that upset with him.
Dangerous Homemade Tech
Three homebrewed systems that helped our car were the System monitor and the radiator mister.
- I gutted a Sega Dreamcast case and installed a monitoring system that constantly monitored the ATF temp, coolant temp, and oil pressure. Whenever something went out of spec, it would honk a car horn mounted in the driver's cabin. This would tell the other drivers to back off lest they find themselves being chased around the pits by me and a 1/2" cheater bar.
- I hooked up the existing windshield washer pump to a mister mounted in front of the radiator. If you heard a honk, you'd hit the rewired cruise control button on the steering wheel and it would spray a fine mist on the radiator/AC condenser turned ATF cooler. If the temps were above 210, you could see them drop quite quickly.
- While it did add weight and was aimed slightly wrong to generate downforce, my birch plywood front diffuser offered two distinct advantages: it prevented air from spilling out before the radiator since i sold off the underbody diffuser and it protected the undercarriage a bit when one of my drivers took two wheels off the WRONG side of a berm due to traffic. No complaints on this one.
- My fourth "brilliant" idea, a variable wing controlled by another microcontroller and miata headlamp motors, worked brilliantly in front of the judges but my actuating (not control) mechanism needed tweaking. We eventually dropped them (and the entire trunklid) to save weight).
While our car could outbrake and out handle most of the competition (thanks to our new shocks, scrounged cut-SC / eibach springs, SC sway, PBR swap, ATE super blue fluid, Classic tube SS lines, and $200 Porterfield R4-e pads), the car was the 10th slowest on the track. We were like a mobile chicane -- even a minivan walked us once you hit a straight.
I do have a few questions about the performance of our 3.8L but I will post them in a separate tech thread.
Thanks again for buying all our take-offs and offering all kinds of advice. We now need to decide how to proceed if we race again (our car isn't crappy enough to win the Index of Effluency -- yet -- and I'm not sure if we can make it fast enough to compete out here with all the cheater E30s). I definitely see room for improvement with our pitcrew though (we came in far too often to swap drivers).