Track Day Recollection: A Year Away/Here To Stay

Hey there Guys and Gals and welcome to todays edition of TDR!

This year has been one for the books for many reasons whether it be personal, direct, indirect, local, state wide, country wide, world wide and even universe wide if you want to get on the Astrology topic, but we’re not here for a lesson about stars and planets!

This is TDR gosh darn it!


In time, in time… First lets just talk about the year for us here at FJD Performance. The first few months of this year found us putting the Mare back together after dropping the original 293k mile T45 and replacing it with a T45 out of a 99 Cobra. Little did we know that we would run into the mechanical v electrical issue between the 2. On top of that we developed a big, extremely harsh drivetrain vibration that took multiple months and heads to diagnose.

Shortly after getting the car put back together we took her to Sal over at Specfab Racing to help put in our highly sought after custom Roll Bar. You can read more about that here. After getting the bar installed we had to replace the Optima Red Top battery due to… well… reasons that may or may not relate to welding and such…. Oops… Hey! At least the cage build has begun and looks damn sexy to boot!

It’s now mid April when the roll bar got finished. We’ve already ordered a new, light weight battery for the Mare and we’re in the middle of Covid lockdown in the Bay Area. At least we have a lot of time left to work on the car, right? We still can’t completely diagnose the root cause of the drivetrain vibration, but we have high hopes that we can take the car to our friends over at AAE in San Ramon and they should be able to fix it! Right? Well after what seemed like 2 years of playing schedule tag with the lads at AAE we decided to just take matters into our own hands and go about dropping the T45 again this year. Here’s to a repeat!

I think we’re in early July now and we’ve finally decided to tear the Mare apart again. Hopefully we can run Sonoma this August. #TransmissionDrop2pointOh2020 It’s a movement. We spend a weekend dropping the Cobra T45 and are replacing it with another 96/98 T45 since we like to keep things archaic and analog. Less to go wrong with an analog setup, right? Right. This time around we took to dropping the K member in order to take out the transmission since long tubes don’t exactly make getting that bit-….. no yeah, that’s right, that bitch is a pain to get out even without long tubes! Thanks for making the T45 bellhousing impossible to remove from the main case while in the car, TREMEC. Anywho, after dropping the trans we got to look at the pressure plate, flywheel, clutch, etc. It all looked fine, but we knew something was off. Maybe it just wasn’t torqued right? Who knows. All we know is there’s a vibration and it makes us extremely uncomfortable. All bits torqued back up and time to mount the “new” replacement, 20 odd, year old T45 we picked up from Foxbody Steve in the car. After what seemed like months of fighting the the trans we FINALLY got it mounted up, but not at the expense of some casualties. Casualties that will be undisclosed except for those who know the story…

Replacement Trans for the replacement trans in. Car back on the ground. First drive. NO MORE VIBRA-…. no its still there. Just not as harsh. Hmm. It’s at this point where we’re asking everyone what could be wrong. We did compression tests, tried new spark plugs, new spark plug wires, tried regrounding the coil packs, nearly everything we could think of without dropping the trans for a 3rd time. It’s at this point where we start thinking back to an earlier conversation we had this year with Sal about this issue potentially being clutch related. The clutch is basically brand new though! That clutch has got maybe 10k miles on it max! The collective minds of Will, our engine builder; Sal, a great friend and mentor; and Nick, a good friend who knows a thing or 20 about cars are now all pointing at the clutch probably being the cause. Did… did we hear someone say… time to drop the trans for a THIRD time this year?… Nooooo that couldn’t… well fvck us.

Nick mentioned getting a dowel kit for the flywheel, so we started off buying that instead of dropping $400+ on a new clutch setup as we got ready to drop the trans for the 3rd time in 2020. We are now in early September. Since we already tried the trans drop a couple different times this year we decided for a third, different way of taking out the T45. Removing one of the Headers. Should make things easier, right? Sure! Well it didn’t exactly make the removal easier… It did however make install a bit easier though… after we cut off a couple tabs from the bellhousing, but we’re getting a couple hours ahead of ourselves though. Dowels banged into the flywheel, everything mounted back up, NOW the pesky transmission is back in and bolted up. Finding ourselves filling the T45 for a 3rd time this year now with fresh fluid we decided to do a quick start up before dropping the car down. Start up is about to happen. Fire in the hole! Miraculously… we don’t feel any vibrations! Like… at all! Could the dowels really have been the issue?! Even though we installed that same exact setup on 2 different occasions without having this weird vibration issue? Huh… oh well, at least money wise it was a somewhat cheap fix. Saved us potentially a couple hundred bucks at the shop too! The first full drive later that night was probably one of the most rewarding drives ever. Regardless if the car was missing a bumper and hood at the time…

Now the car is fixed, drivability wise, but we’re waiting on a couple other little parts and things to come in. Things like our new Sparco tow hook, paint for said hook and seat parts to put the red Cobra seat in the car so we can give ride alongs for the Sonoma event in mid October. We’re definitely excited for this being it’s the last event of the awkward half season of 2020, but what’s really been normal this year? All parts in and installed, a new alignment done and we are ready for our return to Sonoma Raceway after a year being away from the asphalt.

This is it. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for! Three hundred and fifty days have passed since we have done anything racing related, but whos counting? Not like an entire decade has passed or anything… Ahem.

Saturday comes and we are in full on track mode! Cars are packed with all our crap. The time has come to get a taste of the car is capable of. Time to see what differences there are between October 2019 Frank and Mare and October 2020 Frank and Mare.

The day went rather well minus some hiccups, odds and ends, but that’s what a track day is all about. I would say the day was an overall success even if we only ran 3 of the 4 sessions. Turns out sending it for 3 sessions after being away for a year is more tiring than we thought! Thinking back to making this a full weekend seems laughable at this point. Our mental health was where it needed to be, but our physical health is in need of a little revamp. That goes for both Frank, and the Mare. Our fastest time of the day was off by 3 seconds at a 1:57.728, and theoretically by 2 with 1:56.101. We knew coming in that we wouldn’t be able to beat that 1:54 time we set last year, but hey, maybe? There’s always a maybe.

Overall the day was amazing finally being able to be back home with friends, familiar faces and even new acquaintances. This year didn’t go, and has yet to go, as planned in any form or fashion, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world and look forward to next year and potentially a track day at the end of November at Laguna Seca.

Thanks for sitting with us this long. Good thing the year still isn’t over after this read… or is that a bad thing?

Who knows.

Special thanks to everyone who helped out this year when it came to time, brainstorming and even physical labor when we worked on the Mare, and a very big, special thank you to my girlfriend, Amber, for all your support and help with my expensive hobby.

We will see you next season!

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