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Thread: Running with ProAutoSports in AZ in my 03

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Spokane WA

    Running with ProAutoSports in AZ in my 03

    First off, about the car:

    Bought from the original owner at 177k in WA state, had a mix of daily driving and interstate cruising until I crashed it at 193k (fatigue on a hot summer day, make sure your AC systems are in top notch condition). In the rebuild, I budgeted about $3500 to the car, but then I realized I'd rather be going fast than looking good. I got what I needed from a junkyard and spent the rest of the budget on suspension upgrades. It has: new upper and lower control arms, front wheel bearings, inner and outer tie rod ends, swaybar endlinks (all moog), Ridetech coilovers from ADTR all the way around, all metco rear control arms and watts link, ARP watts stud, and new rear airbags. I only upgraded the rear swaybar because I was trying to tune out the chassis understeer, and I'd say it's worked quite well. Not immediately race related, but the car also has a new radiator and AC condensor, the Stewart EMP water pump, the deep transmission pan, new carbon clutches in the diff, new rear wheel bearings and seals (OEM axles though), and runs Hawk HPS pads on OEM rotors with DOT 4 fluid (figured out that upgrade after the first trackday). I also did the timing chain guides about 12k miles ago.

    Suspension.jpgOld Suspesion.jpg

    On the new suspension, the car is dropped 1.5 inches on all 4 corners

    With all these new goodies, it felt so much better on the street, but I really wanted to know how it handled on the track. I heard that ProAutoSports was beginner friendly, with lessons and point by passing in the beginner groups, so I signed up for a day at Wild Horse back in march. I felt super intimidated rolling in with all the new mustangs, corvettes, and camaros, and by the end of the safety briefing I was ready to go home. Got out for the lead-follow exercises and started feeling better, and in the two independent sessions that day I realized I could hang with the pack (read: not the slowest person out there). Between sessions I would adjust the ridetechs, and by the end of the day I had it pretty neutral on my street tires (Nitto Motivos, more on that later). The instructors helped immensely with learning how to not overbrake going into corners, since that course was more momentum focused, the marauder actually did really well. Importantly, I felt comfortable at the limits, and when I did break into a slide the car was smooth and predictable. Like everyone else in this forum mentions, it's a lot of fun coming back up on a car that's newer, lighter, and more powerful than yours who blew by you on the straightaway. I think part of that is because of the predictability, I was very quickly driving the car at 10/10ths, while the folks in the C7s and GT350s weren't willing to find or push the limits (Probably helps that I had like $8000 into the car vs. $65000). The tires actually drove very well throughout the day, 4 20 minute sessions as temps broke 100 and they didn't get gummy or overly slidey. That said, with the fairly intricate tread pattern the motivos have, by the end of the day they were shredded, and I could see that they had rolled into the full shoulder.

    For the second track day a month later at AMP, I switched to DOT4 fluid, switched from antifreeze to water wetter, and figured out the new tire situation: I wanted 19s, to eliminate the sidewall rollover, and happened to find a set of mustang 2015 anniversary editions for sale in Vegas the same weekend I was headed there for LS fest (spoiler: I'm actually a chevy guy). I know they aren't the lightest 19s that exist, but they were available, OEM quality, takeoff wheels with under 1000 miles for shockingly cheap. Wanting to really get a leg up in the fight against understeer, I spec'd Falken RT660s for the front and some sort of Yokohama summer performance tire for the rear (Message me if you want sizes or the actual specs). With the lowered ride height, I think the 19s look really good

    Driveway rear.jpgDriveway front.jpg

    (The silver marauder is Sal's in for timing chain guides. That's another whole story)

    Got to the track (AMP this time) a little late because I had to do the cooling system burp and top up in the morning, and I was trying to bring a reasonably competent kit with all the stuff I wish I had the first time. Before the end of the first lap, I'd spun out braking into a corner. Smooth, but absolutely not recoverable. Two laps of taking it easy trying to learn the course, I got comfortable, and did it again. Spiraling into the dirt a second time, I was cursing myself for my tire choice, wishing I'd kept the chassis at a comfortable understeer. Kept it calm the rest of the session, went out with the next newbie lead follow session to learn the track more, and then the magic happened: I came into the pits (ok fine it was a parking lot), set the Ridetechs to full stiff in the front and full soft in the rear, and went out once more. It was perfect. The car was balanced, it communicated from the tires extremely well as they approached their limit of grip, it absorbed the surface imperfections very nicely, and when I did overcook it, it slid sideways, not oversteer or understeer. The 19s did exactly what I hoped they would do, obviously it still used the shoulder of the tire since it's a heavy car, but between the short sidewall and the tire construction the car felt like it was on rails. Interestingly, Wildhorse is a momentum track with one real braking zone at the end of the straight, AMP is a series of straights connected by fairly sharp corners. The OEM rotors did not like this. About 15 minutes into each 20 minute session, I'd have to take a chill lap so braking feel would return, even running the higher temp DOT4 fluid. This was especially exciting when I got brake checked by a S2000 who was very conservative in the corners and a drag racer on the straights, I managed to avoid a collision, and over the next couple corners set up a pass where I boxed him out of the good line and got around him. Knowing what I know now about the Vortex of Danger that probably wasn't the right move, but I survived.

    Track a.jpegTrack B.jpegTrack C.jpeg

    These photos were taken during the lead follow lap, so not running flat out but still cool.

    Since then I've added the Accufab billet throttle body, Stainless Works headers (had to drop the steering shaft, the AC compressor, and the starter), and I'll have an equal sized catback made before the next track day, and hopefully get a Marty tune sorted before then as well.

    If you've read this far, you get my secret trick (that I saw in a Cleetus video): The stock marauder seats suuuuuck for holding you in place, so you get the seat set up all comfortable for you, run it alllll the way back, click in the seat belt, pull it as tight on your body as you can, and yank down hard enough to engage the lock. While holding tight, slide the seat forward back to your driving position, unless you're skinny as a rail it should stay locked and hold you in place. The one run I wasn't able to get that set up before going on track, I was shocked at how much it helped.

    Anyways, if you have any suspension or track setup questions, feel free to ask, I'd be happy to to help you get sorted with the most cost effective mods in the right order. Looking forward to more trackday fun soon!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Next door to my neighbor
    Sounds like someone has a new addiction!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

    Cobra short block / ProCharger F1-A / Cog drive upgrade / Manley valves / Brian Tooley Racing valve springs / 80# inj. / -8 fuel line / -6 return / Aeromotive 340 pumps and regulator / 2012 GT500 TR6060 six speed / twin disc clutch / Driveshaft Shop GT500 upgraded CV joint shaft / BA5000 blow thru MAF/ 4.10's / Ford Racing 31 spline set up and Girdle / Metco D.S. safety loop / Stainless Works headers, cats, and everything else out back / ClassGlass hood / Bob's hood strut mod / Hurst line lock / Metco control arms / Addco front and rear sway bars / Monroe severe duty shocks all around / Race concepts rotors / Badgeless grille / 35% tint / FBM's interior LED kit and ambient lighting kit / Pioneer FB700 deck / kenwood speaker 4 Ch. / Rockford Fosgate 10" sub and amp / Kicker 6 X 8's all around / back up cam / bluetooth / Pioneer Xm / 704 RWHP 603 RWTQ tuned by Mo's Speedshop.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Kansas City
    I love when people road race land yachts! Nice job! How close are you to Firebird Raceway? Is it still even called that? It is wherever Bonderaunt is/was. I have been in the shifter carts on that smaller track, LOTS of fun!
    2003 Mercury Marauder - DBP/DC
    #195, Eaton Swapped, Waiting for Engine
    2003 Mercury Marauder - BLK/DC
    #2821, 80K Mile Tagalong 2 - Wife's Daily Driver
    2004 Mercury Marauder - DTR/LF
    #963, 312K Miles, Aviator Engine, Slow Daily Driver
    1964 Mercury Marauder - BLK/BLK
    390FE, 4D HT, Staggered 18's, Cruiser
    1986 Buick Regal Grand National
    Stock Block/Heads 11.08 @ 122.39mph, 25psi

    Originally Posted by Zack
    The only diagnosis is changing it.
    I have one if you need it.
    The AEM pumps don't burn up FPDM's

    Diagnosis at my house is inspecting wires. Drink a beer. Talk about what to do next. Drink a beer. Call Jaydees to bring over his spare FPDM. Drink beer waiting for him. When he shows up with the part look at it and say hold my beer while I get in the trunk. Replace part. Cannot test drive because............ Diagnosis.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Spokane WA
    Well, next track day is saturday, turns out I lied about the marty tune and the new catback, oh well.

    The track bondurant runs at (currently) next to wild horse pass motorsports park, which is about a 50 minute drive. This weekend will be at wild horse. Starts at 6am and finishes by 10 to hopefully avoid some heat

    It's definitely an addiction. Honestly dont know what I'm going to next once my driving skill fully catches up with the chassis

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