Well, I got a little distracted from making this post with the CRAZIEST BLACK FRIDAY SALE EVER. Man that was insane! I've never seen anything like that before! Anyway, in the last blog post I left off saying I had some final prep to go before I'm ready for the event. This consisted of installing my VELO harness, mounting a fire extinguisher, a bolt check throughout the car, check the battery mount, check fluids and some quick street testing. I wish I documented more but I didn't pick up my camera or take any photos with the events that unfolded. I do apologise in advance as this is a text heavy blog, put ya reading glasses on and get comfy.
The ONE thing I was most excited about with this event was that it was on a Monday, A MONDAY! Do you know what that means? It means I can finish work on a Friday and not have to load up or head off on a weekend adventure. In 2019 I drove all of the SA state series, double headers on a Saturday/Sunday at a track 7 hours away. The problem with that was I don't like missing work, I'd finish work at 4pm on a Friday, load up the drift car and drive into the night. Sunday afternoon track closes at 5pm and I'd drive home and have to unload my trailer at 1am before returning to work at 7am that same day! Anyway, I'm rambling.
The excitement of a Monday event meant that I had ALL Saturday to prep the car, load up Saturday afternoon and drive up (3 hours) to the track on Sunday and have a relaxed evening before drifting. Well, I WAS WRONG. With all the prep going smoothly and some overly enjoyed 'private road' street testing. I went to put the car on the trailer, as I'm slipping the clutch a little to get it on top (it's a tilt tray) it starts to smell awful. Yep, burnt clutch. With strong concerns I pull it back off the trailer and decide to do one more private road test. Yep, it slipped.
I was left with 3 options. Use a second hand clutch from our spare 370Z parts car, pull grip out of the car and hope it holds or don't drive the event at all. I was honestly leaning towards not driving at all, I absolutely despise half assing things and to be honest using a second-hand clutch and USED flywheel goes against absolutely everything I believe in. But, a lot of people helped me get the car ready on short notice and I felt like I owed it to them to give the car a test run at least.
It's about 5pm Saturday arvo so I call my favourite person and head mechanic Johnny Caps, the Z33 box is far too heavy to remove on my own without a trans jack and so I needed the extra hands. Only problem is he had dinner plans, we had one hour to remove the box and inspect before he had to leave. With the plan being to come back early Sunday and re install the box in the morning and head up to Winton Raceway at lunch time.
This is where it gets even better, I get to the shop super early at 7am and get to work. Swapping the clutch and flywheel over without a hitch (so I thought) calling John by 9am to let him know the box is ready to go back in, unfortunately though John doesn't answer. In a flurry I call my dad, letting him know I need an extra pair of hands to lift the CD009 back into the car. No problem he gets right here and the box is in. PERFECT! Feeling confident at a 11:30/12pm departure at this point, I can live with that.
Buttoning up the box install all that's left is to bleed the clutch, John's just arrived to help me do so and I'm stoked. Fluid in, I'm in the cabin and John's bleeding the slave. Done, clutch feels great. At this point I'm dying in anticipation to get the car on the trailer, let's get this car started and out of here! Go to turn the car on, won't fire. Sounds like the timing is out and it's just cranking pointlessly?
R O O K I E M I S T A K E
Yep, I didn't line up the teeth on the flywheel and the timing key. IDIOT. Basically the crank angle sensor didn't have an accurate reading so the car won't run. Damn, the worst part is this meant EVERYTHING had to be removed and re installed. Fortunately we have done this process already and had figured out the fastest method to doing it, need a 350Z box removed? I'm your guy. With that finished and the clutch re bled. The car fired instantly. Quick private road test proves succesfull and LETS GO!
Loading up my tyres/wheels/tools. On the trailer and out of the shop by 4pm. This wasn't the worst case scenario as it meant I could still make it to the pub for a beer when I get to Winton! With record timing we made it into town. Stoked, time to wind down and have some beers! Oh, and I forgot my camera as I left in a rush. DAMNIT!
This event was run a little differently to most, being a very quiet - application only event. Meant the drivers list all had plenty of experience and the cars were er politely 'built to work' meant we could self scrutineer and sign in was quicker than ever. The morning was a little gloomy and not to bad, checking in and doing a final car check. Then in ol fashioned Zac luck, the clouds open up and rain hits. TORRENTIAL RAIN. With 50mm dropping in less than an hour right as the first session starts. That was fine with me, I was pretty nervous to get out there.
With the rain eased off and the track soaked, I went out for my first session of the day. I must say my initial impression in the wet was great. The Z in the wet definitely exceeded my expectations. Hot lapping over and over I was stoked to drive this car in the rain, aircon on, stereo blasting and all the comfort in the world. Coming back in from the session feeling pretty good!
After that, Stephen from 21Fab threw me the keys to his S14 so that I could take Rachel for a passenger ride. This event was only letting full cage vehicles take passengers outside of dedicated sessions, with fear of either car breaking we decided to get it out of the way early. Wet track, 450hp 1JZ S14, pillow and a jumper behind my back so I can reach the pedals, no defog, what can go wrong? Nothing actually, this car was a blast to drive although I do recommend some steering tweaks. Nothing like 4th gear in the rain, screamer pipe blasting flames out the bonnet and some 1jz limiter to get the day started right!
Session two - Let's go! Feeling confident I rip back out in the black Z. Honestly, aircon to defog the windows and a full functioning stereo is THE BEST THING IN A DRIFT CAR! What a time to be alive haha! The sun was out and the track still wet, it was time to get into some tandems. Fortunately some of the bigger power cars couldn't run away from me in the wet so I dived straight in - only the second time driving this car. Towards the end of the session with the coolant temp rising, I decided to call it early. Further thoughts to be addressed later in the blog, with my opinion of the car in the wet.
With the sun out the weather became perfect and so did the track conditions, rapildly drying and making for a super nice day! With the low driver cap the seat time was endless, honestly a big props goes to Peter from Drift Cadet. This was the most relaxed drift event I've attended in a long time.
First dry session - First off I'll start by saying that Winton is a unique track, it's long sweeping corners with long straights. Not the most technical track in the slightest and something I usually drive. Not to mention, it recevied some stupid million dollar resurfacing for our V8 super car series which meant the track is SUPER grippy. Destroying cars and tyres quicker than usual, there's always a handful of broken gearboxes after a Winton event.
Instantly I found pros and cons with the 350Z. Steering feel was amazing, gearing was crap. Doing some hot laps I found the car getting warm and a slight smell of coolant and the temp gauge being a little unpredictable. Pulling into the pits I can see some coolant sitting on the bash plate, seems as if the overflow spat some coolant. Annoying!
Heading back out I found the car continuously getting hotter, by the end of the session I had to do 2 cool down laps to each 1 lap of drifting. This was proving frustrating and the temp gauge had a mind of it's own, acting as if their was air in the system. After finally having enough I loaded the car up and called it a day. There's no point cooking the motor and I had a successful enough shakedown to be content with going home early. One of my favourite photographers was even able to get some photos for me! Jake from Fine Art Drift, rad!
There were other negatives to the day unfortunately, with Stephen writing off the rear of his car and me losing a tyre damaging one of my 10.5 Kiwamis, I have a knack for ruining these honestly it's a problem.
So now the part you've all waited for! My thoughts on drifting a RHD 350Z for the first time. I'll put it in dot points so it's easier to read:
- Gearing is awful, honestly. I can see why 4.08 ratio is needed, 3rd gear is bog city and 2nd gear you basically just lose wheel speed by revving the hell out of it. Not to mention, changing from 3rd to 4th at the end of the straights I lost momentum as it just did not want to get up and go!
- Steering feels awesome. I didn't find the limiting factor of this set up once, I found the turn in the right amount of responsive, if anything a little more toe out for just a tiny bit sharper turn in. My favourite part of the steering was the ability to throw the wheel however I wanted and the car to stick and rip. Big flicks, big transitions it really did what I wanted it to!
- The car felt large compared to an S chassis. It was noticeable for me, I wouldn't say it's a positive or a negative but I definitely felt like I was in a bigger vehicle. More stable, but less agile. It's a nice balance!
- It could use some better suspension, the old worn our Tein coilovers weren't doing the car any justice. Not to mention, on hard breaking and initiation i can feel the rear end lift.
- It's grippy! I was impressed with the grip this car had, although it played a negative part in this event. The car felt best with loads of grip, on transition and entry. But was much harder to drive and really struggled on sections of the track. It was really a balancing act. I'd love to get on a technical track and dial some grip in, do some chase driving.
- Cooling system needs work. Self bleeding swirl pot is where I will start. Once getting the car back to the shop I noticed that it was still leaking coolant. So it's not the overflow boiling over and I do infact have a coolant leak. The problem is at first glance I can't see it, hope it's not a radiator out job!
- It could use just a smidge more power on these long circuits, alternatively the gearing will play the biggest part.
I haven't sorted the footage in it's entirety, but here's something worth having a laugh about using footage off my go pro:
Man it's much harder to put this sort of thing into words than I anticipated. TL;DR this track wasn't the most ideal for the Z but I'm happy to get some laps in. I'm looking forward to drive it at my local track. Big thank you to 21Fab, Autostatt automotive and Gktech for getting me to the event on short notice, not to mention Johnny Caps for saving my ass.
What's next? Self bleeding swirl pot, diff gears, intake pipes + exhaust and then more seat time! Also maybe a front lip, I'm still not happy with how this car presents. I'm also going to spend some more time on my 180SX, wonder if I'll post it up on here?
I also can't thank everyone enough for the feedback so far! Hopefully, I can spend some more time writing some more technical articles and even exploring some FAQ we receive and breaking it down for others.