Giving autocross a try.

Posted By: 88ssBrent

Giving autocross a try. - 11/11/20 03:32 PM

So a guy I work with has a miata that he does autocross with. I didnt even know he did it but i brought it up at work that i would like to try it but i didn't think anything like that was around here. Come to find out they have a scca region and both places they run at are within an hour of me.

So, the questions I have is what are some things that would help the monte out for autocross and on the street handling wise? Only things done to the car are aldan coilovers on all 4 corners and drop spindles. Both done for a nice stance . I have the 17x8 n90's and 245/45/17 tires.

On the engine side I have 1 5/8" long tube headers into 2.5" exhaust with x pipe. Im also doing the work on the 305 with trickflow heads, 1.6 roller rockers, cam, and a few odds and ends. Should be a little over 315 at the crank.

So, my car does handle better than factory but everything I have done so far I was just going for looks. What are some recommendations? If you had $1000 to spend what would you work on first? I do have a little experience as I raced go carts for about 10 years when younger so I understand some of the basics but know nothing about monte carlo handling.

Posted By: SSLance

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/11/20 03:44 PM

Autocross will test every system of your car hard, power steering, charging system, cooling system, brakes...etc. Tuning those things up to handle autocross will not hamper street driving at all and in fact will make the car much more reliable in that sense. What I did was as each of those systems showed weakness the harder I ran the car, I improved them to handle what I was throwing at it.

As fast as going fast on course, your biggest hurdle first is going to be correcting the front suspension geometry to get as much tire contact patch under steering input as you can. In OEM configuration, your inside front tire goes negative camber under compression and steering angle and your outside front tire goes positive camber, both very bad. Next after that is getting some sticky 200 TW tires on it, they are the only four pieces of rubber that connect the car to the track and are of most importance.

You can take your car like it is and have a blast. I have friends that race in both of those regions and can set you up with them for advice, hand holding etc to get started if you like. You'll need to decide though if you just want to have fun driving your car in anger around cones in a parking lot vs getting serious and not happy unless you win. I've been autocrossing my MCSS since 2012 and have run the gamut, it's been a blast since day 1, but I also understand I'm bringing a butter knife to a gun fight and temper my expectations accordingly. The driver is HUGELY important and the only way to improve that factor is seat time...lots of seat time.

Good luck! Holler if you have any questions.
Posted By: Travis Jones

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/11/20 07:29 PM

I'd say the UMI front brace, a big front sway bar, adjustable upper control arms with taller upper ball joints (to correct the geometry with a proper alignment (about -1.5 to -2 degrees camber and 5-7 degrees of caster 1/16-1/8th toe in), taller lower ball joints. I'm always cautious to say tires first for a beginner, even though they will give you biggest performance gain, a good set of 200TW tires only has 50-60 runs in them before they start to degrade and its going to take you much more than 50-60 runs to learn how to drive the car (the serious people show up to the national events with three sets of tires: two sets of fresh 200tw tires for the dry and Conti ExtremeContact DW's for the wet) . I like the strategy of hard parts first, finding the gains you can get from improved geometry and flatter handling, then give the sticky tires a try and then fine tuning your results.
Posted By: mmc427ss

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/11/20 11:16 PM

What i would say is empty the truck of everything but the spare and jack, fill up the tank to full, remove the floormats, find a helmet that's legal for where you are going, and have a fun day. Don't worry about mods, check your oil and fluids is enough. find a roll of masking tape that will look good on your car when you need to have a numbers/class on the door. GO HAVE SOME FUN. The learning curve is steep to be quick. Again, just go and have a fun day.

Myself have only done 6 autox over a period of a several years. But know each time is like starting over, you realize there's a lot more to it than a good car.

As mentioned there is room for improvement in every system is a car, and the cash you can spent to make each better can get out of hand.

If you do pretty good don't be surprised if the outside corners of your front tires take a beating.
Posted By: 88ssBrent

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/12/20 01:43 AM

Lance thanks for the offer of hooking me up with some people to help me along i will definitely be getting that info from you. It looks like the either the east tennessee region or chattanooga region or both could work. like i said I ran go karts at national level for quite awhile but once I turned 15 racing was the last thing on my mind after doing it since I was 5. Now I'm almost 40 and I think this would be something fun to do with a car I already have and fuel a little bit of my competitive edge.

Even if I only do one or 2 events or more or don't ever do it again i would still like to do some upgrades to the handling of the car. I will have to start reading and looking at the different options to upgrade the front suspension. Looking at how the upper control arms angle down it didnt seem like a great front design in my mind. I need to figure out the correct geometry for the front.

Travis, I really enjoy your articles about your car. Actually tonight I was looking at Facebook and I scrolled past a guy complaining about the cost of montes clicked to read the comments and there was a Travis Jones clicked on it and it was you. Just thought that was funny. Thank you for your advice on upgrades.

Thanks for your input also Bob. I know from my past that you have to do it all the time to stay sharp so I could see how it would be easy to forget. Also hadn't thought about removing floor mats.

I will have plenty of questions. Definitly will have some more about geometry of front suspension. Im sure i will be just driving angrily at cones. I got a good chuckle out of that.

Posted By: mmc427ss

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/12/20 05:03 AM

As I mentioned helping you spend money on handling and braking, not a problem.
What you find is to get the most bang for the buck from one mod it leads to another and so on. So there needs to be some kind of budget goal when you start and what the expectations and intended use for the car is. To many times cars that are torn apart with good intentions find themselves by the way side until time or funds are available again. So plan the first upgrade, have all the pieces to get the car back on the road again in short order, and be prepared to need a few more things you didn't think of. Hoping you can do the work, besides rewarding it saves a lot of cash.

Pretty easy to do some "less" expensive brake and handling upgrades but the drop spindles should be replaced with one using large brakes. The 10 1/2" rotor was the first thing to go on my car 20 years ago. Was one of the best mods I ever did, lots more Whoa.

Looked at the Aldan coilovers, which spring rate do you have and they are a double adjustable shock? Have no knowledge of them, don't know anyone that has them on their car so would be guessing at what knobs to turn that may help you at the autox. With the drop spindles I'd be worried about the front tires rubbing the inner wells, the car will roll a lot up front , keep an eye on that. Adding more compression to the front shocks may help slow the roll down.

Aldan front coilover is kinda a coilover, uses the stock upper spring pocket for the top of the spring and the shock for the lower spring mount. Keep and eye on the LCA where the shock bolt in. The stock LCAs are pretty substantial there but weren't really designed to carry all the load of the spring on those to bolts. Just something to keep and eye on.

Get out there and run that first autox and enjoy it. Pull the floormats. Just kidding, when they tech your car they should remind you a driver's mat is not allowed.
Posted By: 88ssBrent

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/12/20 03:26 PM

So I bought the aldan coilovers originally just for stance and a little tuning on the ride. So unfortunately I just got the single adjustable(1-6 front, 1-11 rear) springs are 450lbs front and 160lbs rear. I have the settings that I set for a good around town ride wrote down, I'm at work and I can't remember off hand what I have them set at im thinking around midway. Of course when I bought them I was just thinking about stance and weekend cruise in driving and that spring rate is what they recommended. They have other spring rates at about $300 for 4 (front and rear) but at that point I would probably sale what I have and get coilovers and springs more for the purpose at hand if I really decide to get into it. Also I didnt really think about the lower plate on lower a arm. Definitely will keep a eye on it.

I went with the drop spindle at the time because I had the front low enough with coilovers that there was not much room between the bump stop and the frame. I raised the coilovers back up some then threw on the spindles to get more room and get the stance. The front would rub inner fender so I raised it a little more and stiffened the ride more in the front. Once again at the time I was just going for stance.

They have 2 events left in the chattanooga region but i already have other commitments those weekends so it will be spring before I get a chance. Its going to still be in the 70's this weekend so my plann is to take the car to a nearby abandoned factory parking lot and give it a couple of hard cuts at decent speed just to see how the car acts and if the inner fenders hit. Probably mess with adjustments also on the coilovers.

So, i guess after reading your very much appreciated opinions and putting some thought into it I should rephrase my question. On the coilovers with the adjustments I have made the handing is better but not where I would like for spirited corner carving on my back roads. So I guess my real question would be is what could I do that would get the handling better at this point for backroad driving that would also help when i give autox a try? With the components I have what could I change to help the handling? What could I add (front brace, sway bar, upper control arms, raised ball joints, rear arms) to help the handling? Right now I don't want to sale the coilovers but what are components that would help but still be beneficial if and when i decide to get other coilovers? The thing I like about the suspension is you can buy a piece at a time and improve it over time but with adding components going forward I would like to buy once even though as a car person that rarely works because we always want more and things tend to spiral.


Posted By: SSLance

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/12/20 03:58 PM

What specifically do you not like about the way the car handles now?

My guess is the front tires want to understeer or the steering input feels lazy, then when the front tires finally do bite in, the rear steps out.

Am I close?
Posted By: 88ssBrent

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/12/20 05:28 PM

What I would have said in my my go kart days is tight or pushing getting into corner and loose coming off so yes pretty much what you said. Ive not pushed it that hard to get the rear to step out muchbecause I've only been on back country roads. You definitely have to put what I feel is way more input into the steering than you should have to to get it to turn. Also it does have tons of body roll but it was ever so slighlty improved with the coilovers.
Posted By: Travis Jones

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 11/13/20 03:08 PM

Originally Posted by 88ssBrent
What I would have said in my my go kart days is tight or pushing getting into corner and loose coming off so yes pretty much what you said. Ive not pushed it that hard to get the rear to step out muchbecause I've only been on back country roads. You definitely have to put what I feel is way more input into the steering than you should have to to get it to turn. Also it does have tons of body roll but it was ever so slighlty improved with the coilovers.

So my thoughts are this, bigger front bar, (seriously the biggest you can find) keep the coilovers you have for now, but maybe more spring (I'm running 550#FR and 220#R and soon ill be going to 750# front). (sometimes falling into an "adjustability" wormhole can be a bad thing, even some of the pros have trouble dialing triple adjustable shocks for autocross) a more aggressive alignment and better tires will help with the push, and potentially taller upper and lower ball joints, and/or adjustable upper control arms. MC96 (Mason) sells some pretty trick adjustable uppers with a tall ball joint at a very reasonable price.

To help the loose the feeling on corner exit there are two schools of thought: keep the C4L (Converging 4 link), optimize it and learn to drive and tune around it's deficiencies, or go for a 3 link conversion. It depends mostly on how far you want to go, Bolt ons vs cutting up the car. I love the way the 3 links works in my car, but it wasn't cheap or easy. I did the full roto-joint 4 link experience and I just wasn't happy with it.
Posted By: SickSpeedMonte

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 09/17/21 03:43 PM

Or maybe bolt in a 3-link! Coming this off-season... (or on-season for Lance)
Posted By: SSLance

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 09/18/21 05:55 PM

Originally Posted by SickSpeedMonte
Or maybe bolt in a 3-link! Coming this off-season... (or on-season for Lance)

Adaptable to 12 bolts, 10 bolts, 9", Strange, Currie etc? laugh

Detail man, I need details...
Posted By: mmc427ss

Re: Giving autocross a try. - 09/19/21 04:35 AM

Bernie I missed you at Cecil last weekend.

I was hoping when you reappeared here after dealing with life you would have a surprise up your sleeve.
The three link in a G has been kicked around, and around, and around. Would be nice to see one easily doable, and perform without destroying the car.

Brent back on subject, kinda. Front brakes. The very first mod i did was front brakes, well after upgrading the audio. Two feet on the pedal when the brakes were used up at 70 mph on a long steep downgrade with many 35 mph corner signage back in 99, wife didn't enjoy that. It was very shortly there after 12" rotors and bigger calipers went on the car. I always say that was the best mod I did to the car.

But brake upgrade leads to improving the front geometry, a can of worms.

Back in his youth Lance did a 10 1/2" brake upgrade that worked pretty good and wasn't expensive, better calipers and pads. Stoptech rotors are a good choice if you go the upgrade the 10 1/2" route, lighter, slotted and better venting. OUCH! They want 130 bucks a piece for them, a pair of 1LE rotors was 147 from Tirerack when i bought them.

You really don't need much brake for an autox, especially now you got that manual trans.
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