Editor’s Note: Worn, battered, and bruised, the FXMD NSX roars into the paddock just completing its second run session of the day. Posting an impressive 1:41 lap time, the NSX was fast enough to beat the official rear-wheel-drive record held by them last year but was still well short of the overall track record. The deafening roar of the engine comes to an abrupt halt in the paddocks as a handful of the team quickly goes to work making the necessary adjustments/changes to the NSX’s suspension, while the remaining crew focuses on repairing the melted boost lines from excessive heat just seconds before. Tyler McQuarrie, who is in charge of piloting the FXMD time-attack machine, quickly unsheathed his helmet and yelled out the window, “Does anyone know our lap times?” Team/vehicle owner Ken Namimatsu quickly responded “1:41.8”. Tyler analyzed the track data from his run while icing his injured shoulder as the team continued to work on the vehicle in preparation for the third and final session of the day.
Team FXMD is no stranger to the time-attack scene. The NSX has undergone numerous changes since ’07 when the machine was clad in flat black with minimal aero modifications.
It’s been four years in the making since this daily driven NSX radically evolved into one of the most influential and feared machines on the time-attack circuit. The story you are about to read is seen through the eyes of Ken as we turn back the hands of time and follow this team and driver as they prepare the FXMD NSX for the inaugural Super Lap Battle. The personal diary of the crew and driver is filled with many of the highlights as well as disappointments that make the world of motorsports what it is today. Nothing is as easy as it seems.
Last year, we were disappointed with the results of our car but at the same time optimistic. The lap times we recorded were not indicative of what the car was capable of. On the last flier lap of the day, we were on pace to run well past the SLB lap record but unfortunately lost the motor halfway through the run. In the end, the Sierra Sierra EVO took home the overall win and a new SLB lap record with our team coming in a close Second Place. With that in mind, we knew our focus for the 2011 season was reliability and refinement. Building a competitive time-attack car requires plenty of time and patience, and we were willing to spend those long hours to make it a budding reality. The amount of time the team dedicated to this car during the off-season was astounding. We had an interim goal that we would test the car at least three times prior to the event. This is something we have never done before, and we benefited greatly from it.
We made numerous changes going into this year’s SLB, starting with the addition of new personnel. Grant Borman was added to the team to take on all of our fabrication duties. This has always been a weak spot on our team, and he was a godsend. Jon Kuroyama of Kuroyama Tuning was also added to the team to take over all of the tuning duties. Jon spent countless hours rewiring and tuning the car to extract maximum amounts of horsepower with an emphasis on keeping the motor running well throughout the event. Nothing needs to be said here, because if you do not know who Jon is and what his capabilities are you have been living under a rock for the past two decades.
Our primary focus was to increase the rear downforce on the car. Therefore our in-house aerodynamics engineer Andrew Brilliant designed us a new rear wing via CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software. In terms of the engine, we kept the internal package the same from the previous year using CP pistons, Carrillo rods, and a BC crankshaft. WPC treated all of the metal surface components from the engine internals to the transmission gears for added reliability.
Why Tyler McQuarrie?
At the last minute due to a scheduling conflict with Billy Johnson, our original driver, we had to make a decision on who we could get to drive the car and make sure whomever we chose was the right person for the job. With basically no time for the driver to get any seat time, we needed a driver who knew the Buttonwillow CW13 course, had driven high downforce cars, was fast, and able to take care of the car and bring it back in one piece. Tyler McQuarrie’s name quickly came up as we have raced against him in the past and has driven a previous iteration of our time-attack car. He did a great job and his lap times speak for themselves!
The Best is yet to Come!
At the end of [the 2011] SLB we ended up with a similar feeling as last year. That damn Buttonwillow course seems to punish us more than any other track. As usual we had some unforeseen issues come up that hindered our performance. Regardless, we were happy that we broke the SLB track record, but at the same time we know that we are much faster than what we ran and will prove it in 2012. Stay tuned!
I took on FXMD's tuning duties from 2011. There were numerous requests prior to 2011, but declined due to having a full-time job and not willing to be "married" to a car.
Since my days with HKS as R&D manager were over due to the U.S. branch closure, I had no excuses to give. With the Super Lap Battle final coming up, it was a good challenge for me to make the car perform as best as possible, and break that stigma of blowing up at every race. Tuning the car is not just mapping the engine on a dyno; it's being with the car at every test session and race to analyze data, make necessary fuel and timing adjustments, optimize power to suit both racetrack and driver, and most importantly, ensure that the engine continues to run flawlessly coming out of the trailer and back in at the end of the day.
Being a privateer race team, there is no such thing as a big-dollar budget, so there's no 10-man race crew, no luxurious trailer, and no spare engines. The goal was not just to take the class win at Buttonwillow, but also to capture the track record. This meant that the engine had to perform its best and hold together. Needless to say, crew chief Fes (Radomir Banda) built a motor that stood up to all that punishment.
The race didn't go without its problems though. Various suspension, fueling, and heat gremlins were biting our toes, but never got to our ass. There was very little airflow around the turbo, so after five to six consecutive laps, all the components including the wastegates were super heated. Even the boost lines leading to the wastegates were cooked. The car normally runs about 17 to 20 pounds of boost pressure, but 30-psi spikes triggered the safety fuel cuts implemented in the tune to keep the motor from scattering all over the track. Data showed boost spikes, and lean air/fuel ratios, possibly due to poor locally obtained fuel or partially clogged injector. Mapping changes were made during the event, and wastegate lines rerouted. The car would be limited to a boost pressure of 14 psi the rest of the day.
Even with boost levels lower than anticipated, the car performed extremely well, with rewards of a track record at SLB. But, data analysis reveals that there is still more in the car. With some minor changes and upgrades, we are looking to raise that bar a little higher.
It has been a couple of years since I've competed in a time-attack, so when I got the call from Ken at FXMD, I was excited for a couple of reasons. I was excited to get a shot at driving the FXMD NSX because I saw the car being developed over the last few years and it looked like it had some insane potential. I was also excited to get out to the Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow because it has become known around the world and has a record that every time-attack team wants and shoots for. I knew I had a shot at the record behind the wheel of the FXMD NSX!
Ken called me about a week and half before the event so it was pretty short notice. Our first issue would be testing and getting me some seat time. Due to SEMA and prior commitments I had for some driver coaching, we found ourselves left with testing the day before the event. This meant I would have to get up to speed quickly, and we had no time for any issues with the car.
On our first and only test day we spent most of the day chasing an issue with the left rear suspension. We threw everything at it to find the issue, but by then we only had a couple of sessions to nail the setup and get me some seat time. By the end of the day, we all knew the overall lap record was going to be tough to beat simply because of the lack of time in the car, but we were not going to give up. This car is a beast, and I knew it had the potential to do it.
We got to the track early on the event day and had planned to get a couple of sessions in before we went for the record. During the first session the car was feeling good so I turned up the wick a bit. I was coming out of the bus stop and got a little crossed up-which isn't normally a problem-but this car has so much downforce, large tires, and no power steering. This makes the return on the wheel fast and jerky and that made my shoulder pop out of the socket! It hurt like a mother, but it's not the first time it has happened . . . Long story short, I tore my labrum muscle in a NASCAR Southwest Tour race in 2005 and was told that I need surgery or it will continue to pop out, and it has three times since then. I made my way back into the pits in some serious pain but was not going to let this stop our quest to beat the record. I put my shoulder on ice, rubbed some Biofreeze on it, and wrapped it with an Ace bandage. I was back in the car an hour later, and it hurt more outside of the car than it did driving, which was a good sign. During this session I ran a 1:41.800, which was fast enough to beat the rear-wheel-drive record set by the FXMD NSX last year but still well short of the overall record. We knew the next session was our only shot at going for the record because the track conditions were quickly deteriorating. We threw on a fresh set of rubbers as I focused on a couple of areas on the track where I knew I left some time on the table, but even then I knew it was going to be a tough task. All I could do at this point is go for it! I knew that my time would come on the third lap so I really focused on getting a good exit on the last corner of the second lap. I was very happy with almost every corner on the lap and knew it was close but still didn't think it was good enough until I saw the time pop up and the team came over the radio yelling, "1:40.9"! I had to ask them a couple of times on my in lap, "Did we really do a 1:40.9? Did we beat the record?"
It was such a great feeling to get the Super Lap Battle overall lap record at Buttonwillow! This event is the Daytona of time-attack. It has become the benchmark and the record that every time-attack team wants and strives for. So for the FXMD guys and I to come together just days before the event and beat the previous record held by Sierra Sierra was awesome! It's a testament to the FXMD crew and the car they built. I've driven many time-attack cars but none comes close to the FXMD NSX beast! I'm honored to have driven it, and I hope we can go after more records in the future.