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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This post is a follow-up to http://www.mazda3forums.com/index.php?topic=67963.0 Just wanted to start a clean thread.

Had a good weekend at the track. Ran completely stock except for: Mobil 1 oil, Redline MT-90 in the transaxle, Valvoline Synpower brake fluid, TWM shifter bushings, and some mods to the driver’s seat to hold my skinny butt in place. Temperature was fairly cold for these parts: 40-50F for the weekend. Here are my notes:

By far the weakest link in this setup is the tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE-050As). I couldn’t run a full 20-minute session without the tires overheating and losing grip. Starting with stock tire pressures cold, the fronts gained about 8 psi (42 psi hot) and the rears 6 psi (38 psi hot). Using a probe-style tire thermometer, readings after a few laps (but before overheating) were a surprisingly even 170F across the fronts and something like 140F across the rears. It appears that these pressures and the stock camber settings are appropriate for tires with this level of grip.

The stock brakes (with synthetic fluid) held up quite well. I haven’t checked the remaining amount of pad material left yet; I’ll do that and update this post later. I find that the MS3’s brakes are overboosted for the street, and I was worried about them being too touchy on the track. While I would still prefer less boost, it wasn’t a big problem. What does bother me, though, is the second stage boost increase that kicks in under hard braking and makes it very hard to modulate braking. Initially the pedal is reasonably firm and then ‘muuuuushhhh’ the pedal sinks and it’s ABS time. Does anyone know how to disable this?

The stock suspension is too soft for my preferences, but it performed better than I expected on the track, handling transitions well. The car is a handful under braking if you give any steering input at all, as the nose dips and the back end gets very light. I found it difficult to consistently get turn-ins right, and missed several apexes because of it. Something about the feel during turn-in isn’t just right, but I haven’t nailed it down yet. It may just be due to the soft-ish suspension. Body roll felt well controlled. A stiffer rear bar would be nice in the slower corners (understeer in the carousel was torture) to help with rotation, but I’m not sure that I’d be comfortable with it in the faster sections of the track.

The LSD definitely helps put the power down evenly, but there is only so much it can do. The DSC was quite unobtrusive on the track. I forgot to turn it off for the first few sessions, and never noticed it. Reviewing my in-car video, it is evident that the light came on rarely and when it did, it didn’t appear to have any effect on my progress. When I did turn the DSC off, I didn’t notice any difference. When I had the DSC off and the tires got greasy, recovery from impending spins was safe and predictable.

I had no problems with the gearbox; I never selected the wrong gear and downshifts were smooth and easy. I didn’t get stuck in the dead-zone between gear positions either, which happens to me on the street occasionally. Note that I did install the TWM shifter bushings just before this event. The engine performed admirably. Although the power drops off in the higher RPMs as we all know, the motor is still smooth and doesn’t complain at all. It is easy to forget to shift early enough. It’s fun to shift when you feel the power start to drop and then feel the power come on strong again in the next gear. Also, I found that with the low-end power, I could stay in 4th gear for a large portion of the track. Shifting to 3rd or 5th in some areas would have been a bit faster, but it didn’t seem worth the extra effort, and instead I just focused on my line and maintaining momentum. Any improvements that tuners can make in the upper RPMs will further enhance the flexibility of the engine. Immediately after a session, I could lift the hood and the intercooler would be cool to the touch. I’ll be interested to see how it does in the summer down here.

I really didn’t have any unexpected issues with the car. All the fluids stayed in their reservoirs, the engine stayed cool, and I ran down past E on the fuel gauge and didn’t experience fuel starvation in the turns. I averaged 7.5 mpg on the track according to the trip computer, but it always reads high. I was solo most of the weekend, but the instructors that I did have were impressed with the car.

Overall, the car is fairly capable on the track. It is front wheel drive, and it constantly reminds you of that fact. It is a fact that degrades both the feel and fun of driving as well as the ultimate performance limits. There are numerous advantages to this car, to be sure, but this is a track review. As far as FWD cars go, however, this is a surprisingly good one in stock form. The “hanging with fast coupes in my wagon” factor is undeniably fun. The first thing it needs without question is some capable rubber, preferably with the additional benefit of increased width. [If the secondary brake boost stage can be defeated, that would be my #2 suggestion.] Better tires may very well highlight weaknesses in the brakes and suspension. If the brakes start to fade, a pad upgrade would certainly be sufficient. A more appropriate suspension and some alignment tweaks should really make the car come alive on the track. The engine is the last thing that needs attention.

I have some in-car video, give me a chance to get it down to a reasonable size and I’ll post a link.

If you have the opportunity to attend a DE, do it. If you are a beginner and you have an MS3, don’t worry about anything I’ve said, just go. You’ll be running considerably slower and the stock tires will be just fine. What you learn will be priceless.

UPDATE:
Peeking at the brake pads through the wheel, it looks like there is 1/2 to 3/4 of full pad thickness left, which I find impressive for stock brakes.
Forgot to mention that Red Line Water Wetter was added to the cooling system before the event.
Videos now available! The sound is bad because of the wind overwhelming the microphone in the P&S camera, but keep the volume up so you can hear the tires singing in the slower sections. There are several videos: Part 1 and Part 2 are a full session cut into halves, "Clean lap" is just a single lap outtake from that session, and then there are a couple of short clips from another session.
http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=sdparksMS3
 

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Great review! Very detailed, and good to know the first-hand experience of what the MS3 is capable of. I'm looking forward to taking mine to a track day soon. It's been a few years since I've done it regularly.
 

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wow 50 degrees and the tires were greasy? i couldnt even get my kdw's warm in that temp.

i cant wait to get the MS3 on the track to compare it to my last 3 with pro-kit and i/e.
 

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thanks for the review, was a good read. I cant wait till I can form an opinion of how this car handles on an autocross course. I agree the shocks need a bit of love. Im currently looking into a few options and hopefully figure something out soon. the stock tires simply arent track tires, get some dedicated rubber and try again, I bet the results will be noticable. as far as wider rubber, 235's seem possible, 245's still seem dreamish.
 

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[quote author=MazdaSteve3 link=topic=69707.msg1212808#msg1212808 date=1171665558]
If you have the opportunity to attend a DE, do it. If you are a beginner and you have an MS3, don’t worry about anything I’ve said, just go. You’ll be running considerably slower and the stock tires will be just fine. What you learn will be priceless.
[/quote]

I couldn't agree more. These events are SO beneficial, and improve your driving abilities drastically. If you think you're a good driver now, just wait until you've got a few weekends at a good road course under your belt. Roads that used to seem fun to you will be just plain boring they are so easy to drive. Probably the best thing about them is the safety aspect. You will be much better equipped to handle emergency situations if you are comfortable with the limits of your car and your ability to push it to them safely.

This was a great writeup, and it answered the question of whether or not I should get a good set of track tires before going to VIR this year. I LOVE that track, and I just can't wait.
 

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Excellent writeup!

Finally a writeup where a "track" IS a "real track", not the straight line crap. :) lol

You just confirmed my thoughts exactly as to why I MISS my RWD car. I used to track my RX8 and Miata at Thunderhill, Infineon and Laguna Seca and I can't wait to "learn" the "benefits" of a FWD beast :)

Needless to say, this car definitely needs track tires, 235x40x18 DO FIT (I have a set waiting for a track event), better track pads and perhaps better sway bars. The suspension "could be a bit soft" but I am done with track dedicated suspensions!

This is my first FWD and more than likely my last FWD. Even though there is lots of power, this car is a handful to drive at the limits due to the issues you encountered and it's NOT as fun as driving the previous RWD I had.

I am sure this car won't do as good as expected in an AX due to power torque limiting and understeering.

You say you are in Houston. Please let me know when the next even is so I could plan to attend.

Oh well, guess we need to enjoy what we have :)

Keep it up,
Carlos
 

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Great write up! Was this the SCCA event at the dog track? I was close to going but something else came up. I definately wanna go to a track sometime. Let me know when the next event is and i'll join you.
 

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Great review. I have been considering using this car for instructing so I can take three students along at once. My biggest concern is the brakes. It looks like I'll be fine as long as I stick with the stock rubber, as you have said, wider R-compounds will probably fade the brakes.
 

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as stated, great review and gives some instite to those thinking about getting the car out onto the track. before i really had any real engine mods going on my 6, i had suspension and rubber, made a huge difference on the track. Though, a precaution, sometimes staying away from the r-comps is best in the beginning as you can tend to not realize how much they are doing, which can lead to some not so fun times when not on the track where you thought it would be fine. being on half-ass tires for your first couple times sometimes "helps" learn your car better than starting with a super sticky set off the bat.

might all also suggest, on a side note, that if there is a NASA program in your area, GREAT time for beginners. the "download" session they have after every session really helps with questions you might have as well as see what other drivers saw on the track. though a bit boring for those more seasoned, still great feetback that only makes you better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Original post updated with link to videos.
 

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love how you were keeping up with those 2 porsches at the end. seems you were able to brake later than both of them, or perhaps you just had bigger huevos that day. Also was fun to see you almost able to keep up with the 911 in the straight, he had ya, but not by much. :D If you had some meatier tires and a few simple bolt on mods I dont think they would have walked ya like they did. Certainly doesnt hurt that you know how to drive an above average line. thanks for the vids, they were very fun to watch.
 

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[quote author=MazdaSteve3 link=topic=69707.msg1212808#msg1212808 date=1171665558]
This post is a follow-up to http://www.mazda3forums.com/index.php?topic=67963.0 Just wanted to start a clean thread.

Had a good weekend at the track. Ran completely stock except for: Mobil 1 oil, Redline MT-90 in the transaxle, Valvoline Synpower brake fluid, TWM shifter bushings, and some mods to the driver’s seat to hold my skinny butt in place. Temperature was fairly cold for these parts: 40-50F for the weekend. Here are my notes:

By far the weakest link in this setup is the tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE-050As). I couldn’t run a full 20-minute session without the tires overheating and losing grip. Starting with stock tire pressures cold, the fronts gained about 8 psi (42 psi hot) and the rears 6 psi (38 psi hot). Using a probe-style tire thermometer, readings after a few laps (but before overheating) were a surprisingly even 170F across the fronts and something like 140F across the rears. It appears that these pressures and the stock camber settings are appropriate for tires with this level of grip.
The stock brakes (with synthetic fluid) held up quite well. I haven’t checked the remaining amount of pad material left yet; I’ll do that and update this post later. I find that the MS3’s brakes are overboosted for the street, and I was worried about them being too touchy on the track. While I would still prefer less boost, it wasn’t a big problem. What does bother me, though, is the second stage boost increase that kicks in under hard braking and makes it very hard to modulate braking. Initially the pedal is reasonably firm and then ‘muuuuushhhh’ the pedal sinks and it’s ABS time. Does anyone know how to disable this?

The stock suspension is too soft for my preferences, but it performed better than I expected on the track, handling transitions well. The car is a handful under braking if you give any steering input at all, as the nose dips and the back end gets very light. I found it difficult to consistently get turn-ins right, and missed several apexes because of it. Something about the feel during turn-in isn’t just right, but I haven’t nailed it down yet. It may just be due to the soft-ish suspension. Body roll felt well controlled. A stiffer rear bar would be nice in the slower corners (understeer in the carousel was torture) to help with rotation, but I’m not sure that I’d be comfortable with it in the faster sections of the track.


Great info and excellent write up! Thanks so much. It s really a time saver and time IS money.
 

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There is a fuse for the ABS - but I don't know if this fuse works for anything else so I'd check the manual. You could also disconnect the electrical connector at the ABS controller itself.

Also, I don't know if disconnecting the ABS sensor connectors at each suspension arm will disable the ABS and cause any adverse affects.
 

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[quote author=kyasa link=topic=69707.msg1224557#msg1224557 date=1172173599]
Haha... I like how he waved when he passed the guy up
[/quote]

That is just courtesy on the track.
 

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I started thinking that when I watched further and noticed he did it again and it looked like a courtesy wave if that makes sense.
This is coming from someone with zero track experience so I will just sit, watch, and learn from now on
 

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[quote author=kyasa link=topic=69707.msg1225063#msg1225063 date=1172182446]
I started thinking that when I watched further and noticed he did it again and it looked like a courtesy wave if that makes sense.
This is coming from someone with zero track experience so I will just sit, watch, and learn from now on
[/quote]
Well what are you waiting for? You are in central cali, head on out to Buttonwillow and tear it up. There are various track days out there. Make sure you work with the organizer to get instruction and you will have a great time.
 

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what did you use to hold your camera?
 
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