Friday, May 31, 2013

What Happens at ZDayz Stays at ZDayz!

The SOHO cars with the one and only Nissan Juke-R Prototype. Google it.
   Every year there is one event when planning my racing schedule that makes me the happiest to add to the calendar; the annual ZDayz weekend in the Smoky Mountains. Although its not even a race it is still one of the best weekends of the year where thousands of Z and G enthusiasts young and old take over the Fontana Village at the base of the 11 mile 320+ turn Tail of the Dragon road. It is a full weekend of fast cars, amazing roads, awesome events, friends and family, fun, shenanigans, alcohol and everything in between. Its a weekend where everyone from the enthusiasts to the sponsors just enjoy a relaxing weekend of no cell phone service, beautiful nature and 1,000+ of our closest friends. I wont go into too much detail about the weekend as most of it is hard to piece together haha but its also one of those events you have to experience to truly understand. 

   Along with a great weekend of relaxing and partying with like minded Nissan enthusiasts there are also a few events and a sponsor midway with everyone from Nissan USA to local shops like ourselves. This year SOHO Motorsports was a sponsor/partner for the first time so we had our booth setup in the midway with the #44 G35, shop Turbo Z, Steve Ruyan's #88 350Z and a customer car with a boosted stroker VQ G35. Along with showcasing the cars we have recently built we were also debuting our new SOHO Motorsports Full Exhaust System for Nissan Z's and Infiniti G's. The new exhaust components were on display on our table at our tent, on all of the cars in our booth, and we had a free one being given away as a door prize along with Steve's naturally aspirated 350Z entered into the 2013 Best Sounding Exhaust Competition to showcase how amazing our exhaust sounds compared to all of the other Z's, G's, GTR's and everything else in the competition of over 50+ different cars and exhausts. 

   After hearing all of the competitors from the rusted exhausts of old Nissans to the brand new very expensive exhausts on the new GTR's somehow the SOHO Motorsports Single Exit exhaust system won the entire judged competition outright! It was an awesome weekend not only for the SOHO Motorsports team but was great to see a ton of old friends and make plenty of new ones! Here is the video of the winning run - This is by far one of the most fun events of the year and we look forward to 2014! Be sure to check out our fb photo album from the event and visit the ZDayz website for more info and to register for next year. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Global Time Attack 2013 Rd 1 at Road Atlanta

   Where to begin!? This race has been a long time coming for many reason's and for anyone who knows us or has been following the #44 SOHO Motorsports team journey over the past year then you can easily understand why we had our calendars marked for May 10-11th 2013 for the return of Global Time Attack to Road Atlanta! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the #44 SOHO Motorsports Time Attack Infiniti G35 team let me bring you up to speed. At last years event we were having a great race weekend and on the second day we were in 2nd place with a great time of 1:34 around the 2.54 mile word class road course in the 2nd session of the day. Me being the pain in the ass I am I thought there was more time left in the car so the next session out I drover harder then I ever had. A little bit too hard; I overdrove the car on the hot lap just enough to shoot me off the outside gator and dirt and dart me right into the tire wall at the exit of Turn 7. I was fine but the car was wadded up pretty good from the looks of it. Leaving the event with a bruised ego and broken car the journey to get back began immediately... Video from last year with fast lap and wreck: GTA 2012 #44 G35 Fast Lap and Wreck

   After tearing up the G pretty good we spent the better part of the last year not just fixing the damage (which really was just body damage and not much else) but rather completely rebuilding the #44 car from the ground up in an effort to make it one of the fastest Limited RWD Time Attack car in the country. With high ambitions and large goals we addressed everything on the car from the chassis to engine, turbo system, body, suspension, safety, ecu, livery, driveline and much more! All of these changes are documented in depth throughout the history of this blog (just scroll down). The result of our effort was a long year of blood, sweat, tears and lots of burnt money into what I believe is the greatest G35 time attack car ever built and leaps and bounds better than the previous setup. With the normality of busy life, a growing business and a few mishaps along the way such as an injury to me and a few changed build plans the G rebuild ran a bit over schedule and unfortunately May 2013 came much quicker than we expected. We had originally planned to have at least 2-3 test days under our belt before returning for redemption at Road Atlanta but with car being completed just a week before the the May 10-11th date of the 2013 Global Time Attack race we never got a chance to test the car other then the dyno and a few low speed test drives behind the shop.

   With zero testing and absolutely zero seat time in the #44 G35 since the wreck the year before we were as ready as we could be and it was finally time to load up the truck and trailer and make the annual Thursday evening trek from Charlotte to Atlanta. As I began driving south the dullness of the highway took over and my mind began to think about everything that had happened since that fateful evening 363 days before. The journey that led me to this introspective moment driving down I-85 South was a long one and couldn’t have happened without help from way too many people to list from my awesome team at SOHO Motorsports to my amazing friend and fabricator Jason Binger to all of my amazing sponsors old and new like Assaultech, Hankook Tire, Whiteline and Turbo By Garrett just to name a few. But more importantly my friends and family and even Stella pup haha who have been there for me through everything since the beginning of this racing journey before the wreck and after, the ups and the downs and the lefts and rights, I cant thank them enough. 

   As I sit there driving with the windows down and the warm Georgia air filling the truck I cant help but have all of these things running through my mind and smiling ear to ear looking at the pristine race car filling my rearview. Just as I am taking this all in I hear my phone beep telling me I have a new message on facebook. Of course ignoring all Georgia laws (haha who am I kidding GA doesn’t have laws) I open my Facebook app on my iPhone and see that I have a message from the crew at Moto IQ Radio asking me if I would like to be a guest on their radio show that night to talk about the #44 SOHO Motorsports G35 and the Global Time Attack series as a precursor to the much anticipated weekend alongside Formula Drift. Having been used in a few of the GTA advertisements leading up to the event and having made it very public via my own KPR and SOHO Motorsports outlets that we would be making our debut at the race I obviously jumped at the chance to talk to Moto IQ and hopefully get as much exposure as possible to my sponsors, team and the GTA series itself. The only problem was they are based in California and my guest spot would be at around 8:15 pm their time and 11:15 pm our time on the east coast, with a 7am drivers meeting I sucked it up and agreed, now even more anxious for the weekend than before.

  After a 3.5 hour drive with nearly no traffic and perfect weather I arrived at Road Atlanta and greeted the track with a sigh of relief and respect. I was glad to be back at the world class 2.54 mile roller coaster of a road course and with the same car I wrecked exactly a year prior ready to tame the beast again. The car was ready and so was I. With registration out of the way and the trailer parked I quickly said my hello's to the great crew of GTA and finished applying some of the last minute sponsor vinyl and number placards on the car. Along with that I got the car prepped and ready to go for what would be a very early 8am first session the following Friday morning. With the car ready for battle and a radio interview looming along with an almost guaranteed night of restless sleep I got dinner with a buddy and then retired to the hotel waiting for inevitable call from KerryAnn and Justin from the live feed at Moto IQ Radio. Sure enough around 11:20 I got the phone call and talked for about 15 minutes on everything from my history in racing to the car setup, the shop, sponsors, Global Time Attack and everything in between. The folks at Moto IQ were great and I had a blast doing the interview and I look forward to speaking with them again later this year before Super Lap Battle in November. Check out the online stream of the interview here (my part starts at 31:20): Moto IQ Radio 5/8/13

   Bright and early the next morning the SOHO team convened in the hotel lobby for a dark o' clock pre-race breakfast. With Nik Sohoritis my crew chief arriving late the night before from work, Steve Ruyan our fellow SOHO Street RWD driver having arrived from Florida in the middle of the night and our resident stalker / photographer Tony Parrish from V2Lab arriving in the morning; the crew was finally together and ready to take on the weekend. When we arrived at the track they needed to register and with the registration lady showing up 30 minutes late we were already behind the eight ball to start the weekend, but then again so were all of the other drivers. With a quick drivers meeting from the GTA crew we immediately hoped in our cars and were lined up ready to go. The night before Nik and I discussed our game plan for how we would approach the weekend. With complete faith in the car we designated the first few Friday sessions as a shakedown and test for the freshly built #44 G35 and then would use sessions 4-6 to try and set our fast lap for the weekend. The first session we would do just one lap and check everything over and then build our way up from their each session at a time. With the weather for Friday being perfect and Saturday calling for a high chance of rain the mood on the paddock was tense and everyones thoughts were to get in your fast laps on Friday afternoon because their might not be a tomorrow.

   The Drift Atlanta event at Road Atlanta has become a staple for the east coast as one of the biggest and best motor sports events of the year. With Formula Drift, Global Time Attack and the Formula 2000 Cart series all running alternately for three days around one of the best tracks in America it always makes for an epic weekend for the drivers, teams, sponsors and most importantly the 30,000+ fans that show up screaming and partying every year! Nothing beats the feeling of flying down the back straight at high speed and coming over the crest to see 30k fans standing along the sides of what looks like a roman coliseum where the drivers / gladiators fly over the hill and slam on the brakes sideways into 10a and 10b and then under the crossover into the most insane turn in America; Turn 12. Nothing beats this race track on this given weekend as far as I am concerned, at least not at this point in my racing career in time attack. Nevertheless that first lap was amazing for so many reasons for me. Lined up on the gird I was the 2nd car on track with team mate Steve behind me in his slower but equally impressive Street RWD 350Z. The pre race plan was to take it easy on the first lap; shake down the car, make sure it tracks right and handles correct, make sure power is linear and consistent throughout the gears, break in the new equipment and also show Steve (who had never been to the track) the proper line (haha riiight) for the first lap and then pit in to look things over before taking a second lap. 

   Well... lets just say that when the grid master pointed to me to go on track and I flipped my visor down on my helmet that plan went out the window quicker than a blink of an eye. I cant help but laugh about it now but apparently my mind told me I had to hit it hard and hop back on the horse immediately, none of this shakedown bs. I launched the car, slid out of pit exit and gave her hell through the famous esses, warmed up the tires between 5 and 6, gave turn 7 the finger as I drove onto the straight and then wound out the gears looking in my rearview as the game plan came back to my mind when I saw Steve way behind hahahaha. I couldn’t help it, and it felt amazing! 

   The new setup on the car was just insane and noticeable from the first turn and only impressed me the more I drove. Coming down the back straight going conservatively at around 130mph+ I crested the hill and immediately saw the aforementioned gladiator coliseum along with some of the hardcore early morning fans waving to the cars that most likely woke them up from their camping slumber. I took in the moment with a deep breath and went back to the task at hand: ignoring the game plan and givin' her hell and enjoying every second! I then did one more lap and focused on trying to finish some of the checklist we had made for the shakedown and then pulled the car in before Nik ran out on track to flag me down angrily haha, I can see him now. Luckily that didn’t happen and when I pulled in even he had a mile on his face. It had been a long road for all of us and we were both ecstatic to see and hear the car doing what it does best again. I parked the car, looked everything over and waited for the next session with a shit eating grin on my face that I think might still be there to this day. It was a great feeling and it was as if the last 365 days never happened and we never skipped a beat. Thats how racing is sometimes I suppose, its those brief beautiful moments of sheer joy, terror and clarity that we live for and makes the long journey worth it all.

   This year for Global Time Attack the schedule was more compressed than previous years but that equated to more track time. Each day consisted of 6 twenty minute sessions starting with the first session at 8am and the last session around 2pm. With that much track time in such a small time frame the sessions were very close with about a 30-45 minute turn around time on average. As a driver it was nice because it allowed you to stay focused on the track easier but for any team having issues it meant for some seriously quick thrashing to get things fixed in order to get a fast lap before the imminent rain on Saturday. Before the second session we loosened up our new Whiteline rear sway bar to help the new and much more rigid chassis roll over a bit more in the rear per request by me. After a few laps in the second session the adjustment felt amazing and the response I felt told me the car would be capable of some incredible things once we dialed it in more and I get more seat time on the new setup. Unfortunately on the 2nd lap I noticed a bit of oil coming from the hood so I pulled into the pit cutting the session early. It would simply be an issue of the breather on the oil catch can not being big enough so we emptied it and drill some holes in the top to relieve the pressure and the problem was solved. 

   With the third session quickly following I started my warm up lap finally being able to focus just on the track, what if any changes needed to be made to the car and a little bit of my line. Going into the race Nik and I had many discussions about our expectations for the weekend. We knew this was the first time out with the car since the accident and fix and rebuild so we really didn’t expect to be at the top of the charts by any stretch of the imagination, maybe if we had two full days but not on just Friday alone. Having said this, inside the car I knew that by end of day Friday we could easily have beaten our time of last year at 1:34. Unfortunately in the third session on what would have been one of my fastest (still no where near full) lap for the weekend, the car began to lose power going into turn 6 and the Computech DataMaxx dash gave me the death light telling me the car was overheating and just as I comprehended it the car shut down completely so I pulled off on the grass in between turn 6 and 7. Stranded staring my arch nemesis turn 7 down for the remainder of the session 20 minute session, it was almost comical, but I wasn’t laughing by any means.

   When the tow truck driver towed the car in across the track we went the whole way without issue until he tore up the front grille of the car pretty bad when he slammed on the brakes and then gunned it again yanking me hard as we pulled into the GTA pits, but that ended up being the least of our problems and nothing a BFH couldn’t fix. After the obvious Turn 7 jokes among the team we quickly opened the hood and coolant was absolutely everywhere. All over the window, the engine bay, tires, suspension... everything! The problem was simple, and of course my fault (no really it was). There is a reason I have an awesome team at SOHO Motorsports and there is a reason 98% of the time they don’t ever let me work on the car other than how it looks. With the lead up to get the car ready I was the one who setup our coolant system setup which consisted of few sections of rubber hose, our temp sensor, Moroso filler cap and connected to the engine feed on one side and the Mishimoto radiator on the other. When I installed these pieces I accidentally made the hose a bit too short in one of the sections and with the flexing engine on track it had pulled the main coolant line right off the radiator, leaving the engine with absolutely no coolant supply for a very, very brief second until our Haltech Platinum Pro plug-in ecu shut the car down immediately when sensing the issue, thus saving the engine and my wallet from a destroyed engine thanks to a stupid 30 cent piece I cut too short. Lesson learned, and yes I fixed it again... hopefully correct this time.    

   Finally going into the 4th session I knew the car was ready to lay down a quick one! We hadn’t even remotely touched the setup yet having only made tire pressure adjustments to our new and amazingly sticky Hankook Ventus TD tires and the aforementioned sway bar adjustment but we needed to at least get something into the books as we hadn’t even had a timed lap yet at all; clean or dirty. Starting the warm up lap the car felt amazing and I drove the car hard from the get go after talking to our tire rep about getting them up in temp quicker for them to be prime for our 3 lap strategy. Feeling strong through the first lap I finished the esses then 6 and into 7 I noticed a slight change of tone and loss of power down the long back straight away even though I had the pedal to the floor. I came over and down the hill into what was a much, much larger crowd and tapped the gator on 10b as I always do and immediately heard a change in tone of the car and loss of response even larger than before. Coming down the front straight and into one the car felt low on power and was very sluggish throughout the rest of the lap, all while everything on my dash looked fine except boost was very low and afr was a bit off. I finished the lap and pulled it into the pits were we looked over the engine and saw nothing. 

   Then we jacked it up and immediately saw a failure on the turbo system crossover pipe. Unfortunately a decision made months before in an effort to get the car ready for Z Nationals (before the engine rebuild this winter) we had a different fabricator make the turbo kit for my car because our regular guy who makes all of the SOHO production turbo kits was out of town for a few weeks at that time. Anyway to make a long story short, this guy wasn’t as good as our regular guy and didn’t listen to us when we said no flex pipes on the crossover and of course he put one there even though we told him not to. Out of time for the event, we overlooked it and then assumed it would be fine. Well just as we predicted when explaining to him why we didn’t want it on the pipe to begin with; it failed miserably and left us with a massive leak leaving the tune completely off and the boost cut in half. Not only leaving me with half the power but also possibly with a dangerous tune, but once again the Haltech tuned by Nik kicked in and made up for it and kept the engine safe according to the data logger. Along with this more coolant came out of the catch can because the pressure range of the cap was a bit too low and wasn’t flowing correctly (later fixed with a different cap). With our coolant issues, massive exhaust leak, rain looming and sadly no one else in our Limited RWD class for the weekend with the other registered drivers not showing up we decided to call it a weekend for the #44 G35. We would fix the issues later and smile for having relatively small new car blues and a successful shakedown at one of the hardest tracks in America. We drove the car on the trailer, so that was a success compared to last year. Unfortunately we never got a fast lap and that is why the record will show us at a 1:48 as our fastest but overall we were happy with how the car ran until it didn’t. With my car done for the weekend now all of our attention was placed on our other driver Steve in his Street RWD class Nissan 350Z to finish out the event as best we could.

   With Friday sessions over and the #44 SOHO Motorsports Time Attack G35 on the trailer the SOHO crew and a few other fellow teams went out to dinner with the great crew of Global Time Attack. It was a great night with the GTA family and just showed once again how tight knight our community is. The following morning we woke early to a beautiful Saturday morning with no rain at all in sight and just as the morning before the sessions quickly began. With all of our attention on Steve I helped with some tire pressure adjustments and some braking points into turn 1 and through out the day he drove the shit out of his naturally aspirated 350Z in his first time at Road Atlanta on street tires to a very quick and even faster than my fastest time of the weekend (which I will apparently never live down) at a 1:45. 

   I was unbelievably impressed with Steve driving the piss out of that thing and it was an awesome day for him and fun to watch him have a blast. Sadly the mood changed quickly when in the second to last session we watched our buddies over at Professional Awesomewreck their Limited AWD Evo in a very similar fashion to our wreck from the year before except on turn 1. Thankfully Daniel the driver was okay but the car was not after hitting the concrete barrier hard after spinning off the gator. My car hit a tire wall the year before and was salvageable, they unfortunately hit a concrete wall and the chassis was severely damaged with a wrinkle from corner to corner and even a broken roll cage and severely displaced driver seat. Despite the sad ending we all proceeded to the award ceremony just as the rain began to peek over the tree line, perfect timing considering we were done for the day. At the ceremony we all witnessed something absolutely awesome. In response to the sad way the event ended with the Professional Awesome Evo destroyed fellow GTA family members and drivers Douglas Wind and Anthony Szirka donated their race winnings from their respective class to Daniel O Donnel and team on stage in an effort to get the Professional Awesome race team back on track asap. In that moment I don’t think a dry eye was in the crowd and I know that hit close to home with us at SOHO Motorsports after our journey and it was a really, really awesome moment that we wont soon forget. Here is the video from our shakedown run in the #44 G35:

   Global Time Attack Road Atlanta 2013 was in the books and even though we didn’t get a full clean run in the #44 SOHO Motorsports Time Attack G35 and ran into some minor issues it was still a successful weekend for us and we were leaving with smiles on our face and our heads held high. The car ran absolutely awesome until it didn’t and the issues were small ones that are already fixed and ready for the next event. More importantly we had a good time and truly enjoyed ourselves at the track. Global Time Attack is one big family and it was great seeing everyone from all over the country. We will be at the next GTA race in November at Buttonwillow, California for Super Lap Battle 2013 and the next race on our schedule is June 8-9th at New Jersey Motorsports Park. See you all then!

For more insight, photos and articles from the event check out the links below from some of our media partners. Also before I finish I would like to thank all of our sponsors who helped us get back on track and better than ever! They are the reason the #44 SOHO Motorsports Infiniti G35 is one of the fastest Limited RWD / TT1 cars in the country and I can thank them enough from the biggest to the smallest including SOHO Motorsports, Turbo by Garrett, Hankook Tire, Assaultech, BC Brian Crower, BG Oil, Bingz Customz, Competition Clutch, Computech, Jim Wolf Technology, Mishimoto, Motivated Eyewear, Phantasm, SPL Suspension, Turbosmart, Whiteline and everyone who had a hand in getting the card back on track, thank you all!

Global Time Attack Road ATL 2013 Official Recap Video -

Thursday, May 2, 2013