I've participated in a couple of Spec Miata impounds over the past season. Checking restrictor plates on 1.8L cars is easy, as is verifying the diameter of the brake rotors.
This particular SM has a 47mm restrictor plate as required for 1994-1995 Spec Miatas. Other sizes that might be seen are 45mm (1996-97) and 41mm (1999-2005). The plate may be checked with dividers through the throttle body, but removing it entirely takes only a wrench and a phillips screwdriver. The plates should have a very slightly undersized opening, but there was a QC problem at MazdaSpeed and some oversized plates were delivered to unsuspecting racers. Any SM racers reading this would be well advised to double check the dimensions of their plates.
This is the left rear brake rotor from a 1.6L Miata. Typical SM wheels are very open (trying to achieve that 13lb minimum weight for a wheel), so it's easy to check the rotors. Since 1.6L rotors are about 1" smaller than 1.8L rotors, you almost don't need a tape measure; it's really obvious what you're looking at using the good old Mark I Eyeball tool. Some drivers suspect 1.6L cars of using the larger later rotors for better braking; other drivers suspect later cars of using the smaller early rotors to get less mass attached to the wheels. I have yet to actually come across one of the rumored cheater cars.
Homologation basically is type approval. A homologated car is one that is approved to race for a particular sanctioning body. So any race car that is allowed to race in the SCCA is homologated by the club, either implicitly or explicitly.
So why do some cars have homologation papers while others don't? Purpose built race cars which lack a basis in a production vehicle are the ones that need to have paperwork (this since January 1, 1983 in the SCCA.) For Spec cars like the FSCCA and the SRF, the vehicle logbook doubles as its homologation paperwork; for other cars, there is a certificate which normally gets stapled in the back of the vehicle logbook.
Homologation paperwork generally trumps GCR requirements; formula cars frequently have approved construction which doesn't precisely match the GCR roll cage rules. As long as a car matches the paperwork which is on file in Topeka, it's good to go. However, substantial changes which cause deviation from the car as homologated would require revisiting the certification process.
Now, you might ask, how would a tech inspector know that a car has been changed in a way that would trigger a revisit to this process? Well, we don't.
Moreover, there isn't really any transparency to homologation. We in the field really have no insight into what is done when a design is homologated. Does a PE who understands materials and design go through and do the math? I have no idea.
There's been some discussion of my SRF blog entries over on the wheeltowheel mailing list. Some writers there have indicated that if I have a major problem with SRFs and GCR compliance, I shouldn't be passing them through annuals. I understand the point, but I have never failed an SRF over any of these issues or even written a note in a book over them. And there's a reason for this.
First of all, while I do see problems, it's my general preference to work with drivers and educate them about their safety equipment. If they can see the reasons for the things I bring up during an annual, they are likely to be inspired to take care of problems just because it's the right thing to do. And besides this, there's the whole issue of possibly having to send large numbers of racers home which is something I really don't want to do.
Second of all, there's a separate issue of Homologation (which I'd overlooked but which someone on wheeltowheel brought up). These cars are all homologated by the SCCA, that is, they have type approval for the class in the configuration delivered by Enterprises or in configurations modified in accordance with directives or upgrades that come from Enterprises -- and Homologation frequently trumps the GCR.
There is a need, I think, for a complete posting on Homologation. One will be along later today or this evening.
From talking to various drivers this past weekend, I got the strong sense that the implications of the new "Rolling Annual Tech" rule are still not clearly understood. Hopefully a few drivers will read this and perhaps even pass the information along.
Annual Inspections are now good for a full 365/366 days from the date of inspection. Anybody who got an annual inspection at the NARRCOffs this past weekend will not need an Annual again for a full year; that is, they won't need to suffer in spring tech lines next year.
However, Harnesses still expire in December, so if you have to install a new harness, you'll need to make a quick pass through the line in the spring to get those signed off. I will post an additional note on harnesses later today.
Additionally, helmet stickers are still tied to the calendar year, so you'll continue to have to drag all your gear to tech in the spring to get the new sticker.
My pictures from the NARRCOffs this past weekend are now up on Flickr. The coverage isn't all that extensive, I was chief of tech and so my opportunities to take pictures are a bit limited; sometimes things get a bit busy, especially on race day.
Well, not much of a rant, but I do tend to get somewhat peeved at SCCA Enterprises over SRF tech issues.
Ever since the SRF came out (originally the "Sports Renault", later the "Spec Racer", now with Ford power, the "Spec Racer Ford"), Enterprises has tended to ship things that were in violation of various specifications in the GCR.
The original chassis had a main hoop that was too low by any reasonable standard. The fix was to add the "tall man" kit to raise the hoop and add bracing. This is still the configuration of new SRFs today, a kit to raise the main hoop which is not permitted under any circumstances in any other class.
Then there is the soft headrest pad. They've finally stopped doing that, but for an extended period of time they shipped it even though it violated the requirement in the GCR for a non-resilient foam.
Of course, one year they started shipping new cars with FM100 fire bottles. For the record, FM100 was never an approved substance in fire systems for the SCCA. That year, as Halon started getting pricey, FM100 started showing up. We gave everyone a year to get it out of their cars, but since Enterprises had sold cars with FM100 despite the GCR violation, we ended up giving SRFs an additional year of FM100 use.
Then there was the year that we started requiring dated SFI rated harnesses. Enterprises shipped undated belts for new cars well into that year.
So I hear good things about Erik Skirmants, who just took over. I'm sure he's a good guy and means well. But still, Enterprises has been pulling stuff as long as they've been around, and I have to be considered a skeptic until I see some improvement. Keep this in mind over the next day or two as I am preparing some tech blogging based on the NARRCOffs at Lime Rock this past weekend; at least one of the entries will be about SRFs/seats/harnesses/HANs devices, and my technical opinion on these matters isn't one of joy, love and happiness.
The answer is up at http://www.na-motorsports.com/Gallery/Mystery/. I have some more stuff in the pipeline for the Mystery Gallery, but am on the road right now and not well position to post any of it. I'll probably get a new Mystery track up on Monday.
I have new information relating to the photo that currently serves as the Motorsports Mystery, and have added it in bold to the page. I plan to post the correct answer on Saturday. Note that there is enough information available online to find out at a minimum the first initials and last names of the drivers if you can figure out where to look.
Way back when I was first learning the tech inspection business in the SCCA, I had a chat one morning with a driver who had recently been inducted into the SIT ("Stewards In Training") program. We were sitting in the classroom in the old tower at Lime Rock Park babysitting a batch of highly questionable computers that tech had pulled out of a bunch of Showroom Stock cars at a National Race ("highly questionable" in this case meaning obvious signs of hand soldering, etc., on what were supposed to be unmodified circuit boards).He commented about the fact that when he'd been driving, he'd never really known everything that went on at a race track, but when he became a SIT, he was required to go work with all of the worker specialties and that experience had really opened his eyes about the nature of the club.
Every so often I sit back myself and consider, with some amazement, the fact that we as an organization can pull this off, not just once, but hundreds of times a year. And we do it for the most part with volunteer workers who simply show up already knowing their jobs, who report to their stations and get to work with remarkably little supervision.
Updated at end
2007 marks the first year of the rolling Annual Inspection in the SCCA. From this point forward, Annuals are good for one year from the date of the inspection. This has strong points and weak points; one strong point is that over time the spring inspection crunches will disappear. More on that later in this posting, first I'll mention the weak points.
First, harnesses still expire at the end of the year. This means that every spring, between 1/3 and 1/2 of the cars still need to pass through tech so their harnesses can be checked. It'd be nice of the harness expiration rule got rewritten so that harness expiration came in conjunction with the Annual, but it's a complicated rule to write.
Second, gear checks are still tied to the calendar year, so everyone will have to bring their gear through in the spring. Now, about easing spring workloads: if we do nothing other than what we've always done, it will take years to spread out the Annual load. But a few weeks ago at Lime Rock, Kathy Barnes pointed something out to me that seemed really obvious in retrospect -- the authority exists at the race to waive annual techs and make select groups of cars come in for new annuals. In the past, in the Northeast, we did this in an organized program administered by the Divisional Administrator of Scrutineering, but we don't need a dictate from the DA to do this. Given this authority, during the second half of the year, it makes sense to selectively waive annuals for various groups of cars; yes, it'll be a short term annoyance for the drivers, but their attitudes may soften when they realize that they won't have to sit in the long, painful spring tech lines the following year.
I hope to implement this for a class or two at the NARRC Runoffs in September; we'll see how it goes. Update
I've looked over the preliminary schedule for the race, and am leaning towards waiving annuals for some group of cars from Race Group 6 (wings n' things), probably aiming to do annuals on 10-15 cars. I'm thinking maybe FA/FB/FC/FE/FM.
With everyone else in the household (except for the cats) being away for the next week, I was seriously considering heading to Nelson Ledges to work the 24 hour race. As it happens, I find that I'm no longer hard core enough to drive 8 hours one way for the privilege of staying up all night. Oh well.
When my daughter Madeleine was born 10 years ago, my time at the race track slackened off quite a bit. Having a kid changes the time & money equation. With my ITB Alfetta in a pretty sad state, I maintained my competition license for a couple of years by renting FVs, but racing twice a year to retain the right to be slow didn't seem like all that great a plan, so I let my competition license go and focused on tech inspection.
I pulled back on tech a bit too; for some years I've been working just enough to maintain my National license, and not much more. This generally involved being chief of tech for MoHud and NYR dates at Lime Rock, and working a couple of other days if I needed to in order to make my 8 days of participation.
The situation has, rather unexpectedly, changed a bit starting in late July of this year.