Track Day Recollection: 105dB in Monterrey

Hey there Guys and Gals and welcome to the last edition of TDR for 2021! This year brought a lot of changes for us here at FJD Performance: We started competing in NASA Time Trials; We started the year off with a clean slate, running The Mare bare in March; We unveiled our new 2021/2022 livery inspired by the 1966 No. 1 GT40 MKII and; We found ourselves finishing the year off seeing a return to Laguna Seca for a 105dB track almost 4 years exactly to the date! Oh! We also had a hell of a lot of new things happen on the home front (moved to a new home twice, got a puppy, got engaged), but you’re here for racecar stuff, so lets go!

To start off, we can’t continue without saying a huge Thank You to my Fiancé – Amber- for the best, early Christmas gift known to man! That gift being the track day we just completed with Trackmasters and the Nor Cal Shelby Club. We love you, Amber! XOXO

Anywho, we start off this event with many, many conversations back and forth between Amber and I about finances since we just moved, but eventually because of my good looks, charm and perfect linguistical skills… we were able to come to the agreement that we could run the event if it were a special present for xmas, so no boxes under the tree for Frank!

Before we moved to our new home I had ordered a set of AJ Hartman canards for The Mare since we are starting to dive more into aero for the upcoming season. The canards followed by a Boss Shinoda chin splitter helped to stiffen up the front bumper, since it is a bit flimsy, and there was most definitely a hand full of air getting under the car that, quite me-ly… we could do without! A legitimate splitter and some fender vents will also be finding their way on the car, but those have yet to be ordered (or made, wink wink) so no rush there just yet. With the addition of the splitter and canards the WOW! factor and the overall aggressiveness of the car really spiked for us. It’s a look we’ve never seen before, but always dreamed of for the car and the road down complete badass racecar-ness.

With the car all set, and ready for the track, we had to dial in the logistics of getting the car and all our gear there, so that was the most stressful and draining part of the week leading up to the track day. Luckily my brother Gavin was able to step up to the plate and he really help us out with team and crew support. So thank you, Gavin.

We wake up at 0500. As my alarm goes off Amber rolls over in bed asking for another 5 minutes of sleep. I politely tell her, hell no, its go time, get your ass up babe, we got shit to do! Strategically not drinking any alcohol the day before, and taking careful measures to not be overencumbered from eating Thanksgiving feasts at both Amber and my families houses, we get dressed and set out to meet up with my brother. By the time 0530 comes around we are off to the track, and after a long hour and a half drive we find ourselves rounding the corner being greeted by a sign that says Welcome to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Hello Old Friend, we meet again.

As we wait to sign in I take in the sights and smells of the racetrack as I reminisce of all the times I’ve been here in the past and have not been able to drive due to the strict sound limits that are imposed here. 90dB? Really? That’s like the sound of a Prius farting! But hey, whatever. Do you rich people. Not like it’s the racetracks fault for being loud. Maybe you shouldn’t have decided to build your house next to a racetrack, hmm? Maybe you’re not as smart as you think!? But… whatever… Rant over for this post.

As I pull up to sign in, my brakes squeal. Obviously, because racecar. The older gentleman handing me the clipboard smiles and says, Ahh, nothing like the sound of race brakes in the morning. This guy. He gets it. We sign in, pull up to find a spot to park, and funnily enough I see 2 cars that are familiar to me. They’re a GT350R and a Focus RS, but not any R and RS. These cars belong to my old Boss. I don’t hold any grudges, so I quickly reroute and park near them as I am legitimately happy to see them and to share the track with them again.

After attending the drivers meeting we set up, set out and suit up for our first out on track. The original schedule that we had for the run groups ended up being ass backwards, so instead of being the first to hit the track at 0900, we were pushed back to 1020. And to add insult to injury, we sat for 30 minutes before we even got on track because some Camaro owner decided to put their car in the wall in 4… After pulling out the remaining hairs on top of my head we finally set out for the first session of the day.

The session went smooth as could be until the last 5 or so minutes when I had mostly a full track to myself without worrying about passing or being passed. Shooting up and over the start/finish line and down into turns 1 through 3 we had a nice groove and a ZL1 ahead of us to keep an eye on. As I came up to turn 5 and got ready to ascend to 6, and the corkscrew, I felt the cars power cut off. Odd… an experience I have had before… Was the fuel sloshing around too much? No, I have nearly a full tank. Are my coils and coil packs acting up? They’re basically brand new, so that shouldn’t be the issue. Maybe something electrical? But why now? After I make it to the corkscrew it’s time to shoot down and head into turn 10, but before I can get there the car starts to cut out again before the power comes back. Thankfully this is the last full lap that I’m going all out for, so I can use this last lap as a cool down, especially since these intermittent issues are still present.

Once I park the car it’s time to take off the hood and see what I’m working with. After a couple minutes of looking around my eyes fixate on the positive battery terminal. It’s loose. Call off the dogs! Waldo has been located! This ended up being the issue and the remaining 3 sessions ended up being a blast. Gavin rode shotgun in the next session followed by his girlfriend Natalie, who by the way, looked terrified and whose soul left her body when I offered to give her a ride around the track. They both passed with flying colors.

The final session of the day I was joined by my fiancé, Amber. While the session was cut a bit short due to sunlight and needing to travel back home, this last session mimicked the first. When I say the session mimicked the first I mean I felt my most comfortable; I felt at home: I felt like there were no issues at all because my other half was there with me, going through exactly what I was. That’s a bond that very few can identify with, but those who know what I’m talking about, well… you know, you know?

My goal when setting out was to set a lap time around 1:46/47, and that open, problem lap in the first session ended up being the fastest lap not only in that session, but for the day overall. We set a official 1:47.934 lap time and put down a theoretical 1:46.304.

FJD Performance’s New MK II Race Livery

At the end of the 2019 season, we brain stormed up a new design for flagship car, The Mare, and over the course of 2020 and the begining of 2021 we set out to make the new vision a reality. Like our previous design, we utilized Forza Motorsport 7’s excellent game design features.

We had to start with a clean slate, so we ripped off the old vinyl livery design and over the course of a month started wrapping the entire car one body part at a time, starting with the fenders and the bumpers.

From here we started to wrap little pieces here and there like the liscense plate framing, A and C pillars and the tail lights until we got around to the doors and quarter panels. Following that up we started to apply the accents that help pull the design together.

After finishing off the majority of the body we started to apply the finer details with flags, sponsors, performance parts that we’re running and the rest of the works.

It took us some time to find a color that we liked, and luckily this vinyl was up to the task at hand. The color changes depending on the lighting and it serves as a good base for the car. Thank You to those that helped out, kept this a secret and helped with the inspiration.

If you guys are still wondering, this new design was modeled, inspired and is a tribute to the 1966 GT40 MkII piloted by Ken Miles and Denny Hulme at Le Mans.

#GoLikeHell

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!

SHOW US RACECAR STUFF!!

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!