Monday, January 1, 2018

New beginnings, thoughts for 2017 and what lies ahead in 2018

I faced significant challenges in 2017 for my setup just as I did in 2016 however on a totally different magnitude and I'm not sure I would have done what I did should I had known the ramifications. Juggling my personal life and career was already tough with the car in its previous incarnation but the plans I had to transform the car necessitated sleepless nights and constant monitoring. This was clearly required much more of my attention and time so I am relieved I am past that stage.

Probably a good idea to get a tune done after so many years!

In summary, a rebuild of the worn and torn parts of the car was done, most of the car's performance was given a new lease of life in order to give me the best possible start to the goals I had set myself for the years ahead.
And what a start it was!

I had spent what seemed like an eternity away from the track and has totally lost touch with braking / acceleration points and but the support from my partnering companies had given me the ability to be able to hustle in just one hot lap that eventually counted for the win at MegaLap Round 2 2017.

A massive delay at the checkpoints, a Malaysian police stop that almost resulted in a fine (no idea how I wriggled out of that one haha!) and slow traffice conditions meant I arrived at the track way later than I had expected. The blur of action that ensued when I eventually reached Sepang Circuit involved setting my car's pressures and suspension for the track, registering for the event, getting safety equipment on and clearing the car before my class was due to run. MegaLap is one of the supporting events in the MSF Racing program which was crafted by Adian Yein and the organisation is absolutely top notch with the best emphasis on track safety and class regulation that other organisers can only hope to replicate so I was in good hands despite my travel issues.

Queuing up is a Singaporean obsession

Sitting in the car with a flustered mind, I had hardly a moment to reflect before the marshals of MegaLap began waving participants into the lineup. More than a year's absence meant plenty of the memory that helped me around the track was lost, I had to quickly pick up the new character of the new setup which would be a challenge for a relatively slow learner like myself and above all I had to manage a winning lap while staying out of traffic or trouble.

After a warm up lap to heat the tyres, I tried to get going but much to my embarrassment ended up doing a nice 180 at the exit of T15 at the end of my first hot lap thereby wasting the entire lap. It became apparent how rusty I was as I began to relearn the track while avoiding overenthusiastic competitors sharing the track with me who had managed to spin in front of me.
Snapped by a friend who had come to spectate, nicely timed shot Ken!

The car felt good but the water and oil temperatures started to climb higher than I had expected them and with my limited experience of this new setup, I had no choice but to limit the revs I could use to err on the side of caution. The blazing hot ambient and track temperatures could be a reason this was so but there was no real way for me isolate that is the sole reason. The Qstarz LapTimer showed me I had done a 2:38 and although this was not a great time, I had hoped the second session for my class would allow me cooler temperatures so I could eke out a better timing.
Live timing site was able to give real time updates

After some food I decided to take a walk to check out the cars competing in MegaLap as one of the big attractions for me as a particpant has always been the diversity of rides competing in their individual classes. Malaysian enthusiasts are a friendly bunch and I saw more than a few familiar friendly faces while being engaged with conversation with a few curious folks checking out my car.
Chilling the pits while resting

This Ex WTAC Evo looked insane!

NA RWD Street Class competition

Other classes were very diverse and there were plenty of other gems outside the track


Soon enough it was time for round 2 my allotted runs for my class and I got taught a lesson for my utter lack of preparation by way of a stumble due to the lack of fuel! In my haste, I was not able to get a full tank of fuel before getting to the track and this meant that I was running less than half tank by the time I was heading out for my second hot lap. The first sign of this came at the upslope at Turn 9 when the engine stumbled and I slowed down to try to see if it was anything else like the engine pulling ignition from knock. I tried to string together a lap more gently but it soon became a bit more common and I decided to err on the side of caution and end my run early. The cooler weather did not significantly alter the trouble I was having in terms of managing rising engine temperature so I would have to be content with the best laptime of the first run.
In the office busy busy

Overall standings looked like this

After getting back to Singapore, there was some soul searching to be done if I wanted to break my own personal records and hit the targets I had set for myself in the coming year. Outside of the poor prep which had cost me dearly as my pressures and damping settings were NOT right, these points stood out as what I needed to address:

1. Seat time was a priority. I really needed to get the hours down to get comfortable driving at the new limits.

2. A back to basics plan to identify my new brake and acceleration points would be critical and I intend to seek some form of coaching to unlearn my poor habits.

3. Resolving the issue of heat so I could consistently lean on the engine without being forced to limit revs which is less than ideal. This is on the way to be worked on and should be done before my next event.

4. Some areas in the handling departments were a step in the wrong direction owing to my over reliance on the conventional wisdom but its clear now how flawed that has been. If I had trusted my own feel for how far the balance was changed, I might have done way better.
OEM paint looking nice and shiny in the sun, great pic by

I am absolutely astounded by the support I have received in my journey in 2017 from my main supporting partners who have believed in me and kept their trust in me through this long arduous evolution that I have undergone. During conversations at the year end, we realigned our goals and I'm thrilled to say we have a superb 2018 to look forward to. This win is for all of you!

Some might question what exactly the vision for 2018 holds and here's a little sneak peek into what lies ahead for my dear readers. New partnerships to raise my setup to a vastly improved envelope of performance in my quest to reset the limits of what we think is possible for the S chassis, a thorough look at what I as a driver require to operate or maintain the car and plenty more racing in store so keep me on your favorites tab!

Thanks to the following who made this possible:
Achilles Radial for the strong support
LTM Performance for all work done on the car to prep it for the track
Thian Seng Motors for all OEM Honda parts keeping my ride going
Ardeca Lubricants Singapore for the Pure Sports engine oil keeping the engine well protected
MegaLap for the fantastic event, fantastic work by Adian and his team plus use of the pics
BecauseRC for the use of the pic

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

If it's broke, fix it! Repairs and maintenance for my S2000

As they say time flies when you are having fun so it has been with more than 9 years of ownership of my 2007 Laguna Blue Pearl Honda S2000 AP2. It has been my trusty steed for numerous drives and track days which have been years of what might be as close to motoring nirvana that I can practically experience. Obviously with all the hard driving the car has gone through, the inevitable wear and tear has eventually necessitated a refresh of some parts to keep the car running the way it should.

Based on a recommended service schedule available at Honda Owners Maintenance Minder , the items I would need to look at for the mileage I cover and age would probably be like:

Replace engine oil and filter.
Inspect front and rear brakes.
Check tire inflation and condition.
Inspect tie rod ends, steering gear box and boots.
Inspect suspension components.
Inspect driveshaft boots.
Replace air cleaner element.
Check parking brake adjustment.
Replace rear differential fluid.
Lubricate all hinges, locks, and latches with multi-purpose grease.
Inspect brake hoses and lines (including ABS).
Check all fluid levels, condition of fluids, and check for leaks.
Inspect exhaust system.
Inspect fuel lines and connections.
Check all lights.
Inspect the underbody

Admittedly this list falls way short of items that would need replacement based on the track usage of the car. The most startling change I noticed would be in the handling where a noticeable amount of sluggishness seemed to be felt getting the car round corners. Narrowing this down to the compliance bushes, I had them looked at and here is what two of them looked like.


In the end, I opted to have the full set of bushes replaced so that I could refresh the handling and hopefully back the lively and communicative handling feel that was the true draw of a driver's car like the S2000. The condition of the rubber bushes were pretty much an affirmation of the sloppy handling being due to the sagging and cracked bushings over a long time of abuse.
Here is what got swopped out, although some of the OEM bushes might have been lost along the way

During the end 2015 time attack event, the vibrations on full acceleration continued to persist after and after checking out a couple of references, I narrowed the issue down to possible CV cup pitting. This stems from a different wear spot formed from the motion of the axle joint on a lowered car and the CV joint begins to pop in and out of the wear spot causing a vibration. Although I don't typically like band aid solutions, I felt one that seemed to fix the issue for the meantime at an inexpensive was to get a Exedium Racing Axle Half Shaft Spacer in order to space out the wear spot and I was happy to be rid of the vibrations this simple fix.
Love getting parts by courier!
Here is the Blox Spacer fitted nice and snug
Unfortunately my power steering also started to throw an error code which caused my power steering to intermittently cut off and on. Sorting this with the help of Thian Seng Motors, my trusted OEM parts supplier, the problem was traced to a faulty power steering module which I replaced and is pictured below.
Check out the module circled in red

I had already noticed from the previous dyno day for fellow S2000s that my power seemed to be even lower than fairly stock condition S2000s even with a less restrictive exhaust system. This started to concern me as the top speeds I managed on the straight, which used to be fairly consistent among stock condition S2000s, were steadily dropping. The top speed records attached below show how the speeds no longer were able to be sustained above 190 kmh Vmax. On the long straight like Sepang Circuit, the main reason for a certain top speed would probably centre around using available horsepower to overcome the aerodynamic drag so if my speed kept dropping , it might signal some loss of power somewhere.
The clearly lower top speeds definitely pointed to a lack of grunt in the motor and this concerned me greatly since the top speed on the straight only tells part of the story. The F22C is a peaky motor and it develops most of its torque and horsepower high up in the upper ranges of the powerband. By clearly losing so much top speed, it basically means any of my full acceleration moments are probably way slower throughout the entire track. Being around 5 kmh slower than my fastest maximum front straight top speed leads me to the disappointing conclusion that my motor is getting visibly tired after these many years of hard track work. I guess this isn't surprising since back in 2013 I had already had some indication that compression numbers tended to hint to one of the cylinders generating less compression than the others by a significant margin. I guess time will tell what lies in store for the engine part of the equation.
One fault code that seems to pop up more than most, not that it is common to have a fault code pop up of course, would be the P2138 reading which has the note "TPS/PPS/D,E Volt Correlation". It's a problem with DBW models and you get the first warning signs when the throttle starts to give a non linear response then eventually the check engine light will flash leading to the car running in "limp" mode. With the help of folks on the S2KI forum, the problem was traced to a faulty Accelerator Pedal Position Sensor ( Honda Part Number 37971-PZX-003 ) which needed to be replaced.
Here is how the sensor looks like
There aren't all that many problems with the S2000 over the years based on what I can tell and different model years tended to have slightly different issues but nothing really major which says alot about the level of quality this car was built with. The AP1 has a plastic rear window which would blur out over time, a buzzy clutch, maybe a weak pressure plate that might not take heavy launching , a clutch slave that dies a premature death with track work, some higher oil consumption and a rattling timing chain tensioner. The AP2 has a rattly timing chain tensioner for higher mileage vehicles, once in a while you might get the sensor mentioned above acting up and the same clutch slave issue. Overall, it can be considered fuss free perhaps because it does away with many frivolous additions thus keeping maintenance issues to a minimum thus keeping the driver out of the workshop and on the road to enjoy the car the way it was made to be enjoyed, through the driving! 
It's coming to 10 years of ownership from the very first day I drove it out from the dealer's shop and I'm eagerly looking forward for many more years of enjoyment from this car! I hope this writeup proves useful for owners to address issues they face and maybe help those potential buyers to make that decision to buy one to keep just as I am doing.
Here's my sincere thanks to those who helped me maintain my ride over the years:
LTM Performance for the maintenance work on the car
Thian Seng Motors for the genuine OEM parts that I needed to keep the car running great
Stay tuned for more exciting updates coming really soon!
Since we are talking about the journey of a car that's coming to a fair bit of time with me, I thought it would be a good reference to have my readers get a sense of how my car has evolved over time and the various iterations of how the car looked through the years. I've compiled some pics of the cars and put them in a thread in the Singapore Honda Club so please go there and have a look at the string of photos that I have put in chronological order :)

Monday, June 20, 2016

What happens off the track? Check out the Singapore (and Malaysian!) car culture and scene through the eyes of an S2000 owner...

So its been sort of an "off season" period for me while my car gets a bit of odds and ends sorted after the last De Garage track day held at Sepang. I've never been to a wholly Malaysian run track event and this event turned out to be pretty crazy with literal door to door type racing even when I was simply trying to get a bit of seat time. Needless to say I definitely erred on the safe side and opted to let the more aggressive drivers by especially since the track was rather damp.

Check out some pics of the turnout below with rare cars like a Nissan Pulsar Gti-R showing up :)
Conditions weren't great as evidenced from the spray off the track...



My friend Neo turned up in his spanking new Toyota 86 stripped out track toy which was prepped by Kenny Lee

We can really see from the crazy variety and number of JDM rides, how the folks in Malaysia really love their Japanese rides despite the ever dwindling availability of new sport models from the manufacturers.

This brought a bit of flashback to the JDM Teh Tarik 3.0 session held in KL that 2 other drivers and I braved torrential rain to attend which gave me a hint as to the amazing fellowship and bonds that JDM rides were able to create among the Malaysian enthusiasts.

Sorry for the dark pictures but the lights had somehow gone out and it was raining throughout the time I was there so do forgive the poorer quality of pics. I hope this gives a feel of what a fun night it turned out to be thanks to the warm welcome by the Malaysian car owners!

The three merry Honda adventurers!

Here are the Malaysian rides, no idea what was the actual turnout but it seemed to us that it could well be roughly 300-400 cars :)
More Supra love! Bryan Chin has a widebody beast of a Supra :O
Spotting the older GTRs is always special
This FD RX7 got plenty of love from the crowd...

 Thanks Bee of for inviting me!
Getting back from that trip led me to wonder if our local scene could ever muster that kind of strength of turnout and as it turned out, the opportunity for the Singapore scene to step up and represent came just barely 6 months later in terms of the SIN Underground meet, an "underground" style meet that welcomed cars of every style and make to come forth and be showcased. The organiser was Three Angles Production helmed by Simon and Chris and when they came to me asking if I could invite a few friends, I knew it was time to make some calls and I set to work!
Here is the all important sticker that determined if each car could gain parking entry to the specified area of where the participant cars would be allowed in.
I lost count of the number of people I sent messages individually to invite to this event and I faced questions of every kind imaginable They included how this event was probably going to be killed by the authorities, how it would ever be able to attract all but a small crowd due to the dying scene and tons of others doubts that I just frankly tossed aside and soldiered on with sheer grit.
So what was the result you might ask? Get a load of these videos I took personally you needed any further convincing how insane the turnout was!
The estimates of turnout just blew my mind! I personally handed out 760 stickers and I couldn't get my hands on enough because the demand was constantly increasing with respective groups continually asking for 50 to 100 more stickers every other day. The support was mind blowing and it never even abated through the night with cars queuing up for more than 2 hours to get into the venue as seen in this video here...
Check out the slick shots done by the photographers showcasing their talent... (I'm unabashedly biased so I'll showcase the S2000s first haha!)
Need more JDM love in your life? Check out this wicked video on the JDM rides present here!
Here is my video on a walkaround of that absolutely massive crowd of people and rides...
There are way too many pics and videos to cover this entire event because the overall attendance was a mind blowing >1000 cars! Bikes and vans were in attendance but even excluding them the estimate was of about 1500 cars showing up. Here is a quick sample from my friend Dion and my newly found JDM pal all the way from Germany Ron Ronsen with the handle Fast Emotion Pictures both snapping the best of the crowd...
Click on their links to see more pics!


Here's a special shout out to my fellow S2000 brother Alib who came all the way past the checkpoint from Johor Bahru to bring his fellow R34 Skyline & Supra friends to attend... Loved having you guys join us!


There is no way this kind of massive turnout combined with the relative lack of disruption by rowdy individuals or authorities could be viewed as anything but a huge success. I'm utterly humbled by the trust shared by the enthusiast community that heeded my call when approached by the men from Three Angles (I knew it would be awesome from the start like I said it would!) and this will definitely build on better and bigger over the coming years. This heralds a new era and a breath of revival in the automotive enthusiast community that has be sorely lacking and I'm so amazed to be part of it...
I'll leave you with what I consider my favourite picture which to me totally captures the feels...
Here's my sincere thank you to the following for their trust and credits for their media work:
Three Angles Productions - for hosting such an epic event
JDM Life Singapore - superb effort to keep the JDM love alive
Dionysus Yeo - raw talent with the camera bro
Ron Ronsen - totally love your pics!
Perotography - official media for the De Garage trackday - for the invite to the JDM TT 3.0 meet, when is the next one???
Dice Photography - for braving the rain to take a shot in the dark of my ride
Zen & Alib - for the S2000 pics of our group