Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready?"

Suspension, chassis tuning, brakes, alignment
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Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready?"

Postby Sydewaysix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:44 pm

I'm new to the miata world and just picked up a 1990 A-package. The car came with quite a bit of suspension mods but I'm wondering if you suspension gurus think I need more/less/other suspension components to make this car handle well for track days. I have owned several mustangs, my last being a highly modified 98 cobra, and the suspension mods on these cars were endless since they handled like boats stock.

I understand the miata is a whole other animal when it comes to handling but I really want to dial it in well enough to handle just as well, if not better, than my last mustang with full suspension.

Current suspension mods:

Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 Wheels (15x7)
Kumho Ecsta XS 205-50-15
Koni Sport Shocks (rebound adjustable)
SSS Springs (500 lb/in front springs, 300 lb/in rear springs)
Fat Cat Motorsports coilover kit
Fat Cat Motorsports NB upper shock mounts & bump stops
Racing Beat Front Sway bar
949 Racing End Links
Racing Beat Front Frame Brace
Racing Beat Rear Frame Brace (not installed but I have it)

Thanks!
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby SRN DI G SAO » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:49 pm

I'm probably going to be in the minority here, but I'd say drive it the way is and get a feel for it now before tweaking. You bought a car with someone else's mods, so no doubt it wont be spot on the way you want it, but it will still have enough to get you around quick and have fun. I personally would do a bit of mixing it up, a track day here, then an auto-x to feel the car at its limits and how it reacts when pushed before adjusting. But to answer your question, a roll bar and good tires are really all you need. Everything else is chasing tenths.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:07 pm

SRN DI G SAO wrote:I'm probably going to be in the minority here, but I'd say drive it the way is and get a feel for it now before tweaking. You bought a car with someone else's mods, so no doubt it wont be spot on the way you want it, but it will still have enough to get you around quick and have fun. I personally would do a bit of mixing it up, a track day here, then an auto-x to feel the car at its limits and how it reacts when pushed before adjusting. But to answer your question, a roll bar and good tires are really all you need. Everything else is chasing tenths.


Thanks for the input. I have a Boss Frog "Clearview" roll bar already, but I'm shopping for a race seat, harness bar, and harness before I make any trips to the track. I've read a lot on the Kumho XS tires being fairly decent when heated up on the track, so I'll probably stick to those for now since they're already on the car.

As for suspension, for mustangs at least, they almost always need tubular control arms, panhard bar, torque arm, etc. to handle decent on a track...what would you say is a "must" for miatas to handle well?
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Nikwit » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:10 pm

Sounds pretty decent already, though I think you would be happier with a bit more spring rate in the back. I run 550/400, and will be switching to 425 likely pretty soon. The weakest link there are the shocks. You have the rest of the kit, the obvious (and highly reccomended) upgrade would be to get the Fat Cat shocks to match. Not that I'm biased, or anything.

I recently sold myself on stitch welding the chassis, makes a very big difference in NAs.

That being said, the car is more than adequate as-is to start enjoying it at the track. Try it out, then adjuat accordingly.

The only thing Miatas need to handle well are tires. They have basically the best geometry you are going to find this side of a Maclaren F1. I might be exaggerating. I might not.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby SRN DI G SAO » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:15 pm

While am I a huge advocate for any "race" seat over the stock soft bolstered seat, not having one isn't a deal breaker. I have also run the Kumho XSs and I do like them, a very good tire for the price as long as you are gradual and smooth when they are hot. There is better sure, but they do fine. Ultimately there is no must for a Miata to handle well at the track, save for a calm and collected driver. My first track day was a bone stock 97 that ran quicker most of the modded cars in the group. We were all beginners then so take that with a grain of salt, but the car is capable of holding good lines, carrying speed, and putting up respectable times in almost any form.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:35 pm

Thanks again for the input guys! You guys have confirmed the reason why I opted for a miata - because their geometry is that good even in stock fashion!

I would like to get the Fat Cat valves bilsteins, but the price tag is a bit steep for me at the moment. Do you know how much spring rate the Koni Sports can handle?


As for tires, aside from running slicks, what are some recommended tires for a car this lightweight? Also, what is an ideal "cold" and "hot" tire pressure for miatas?
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby SRN DI G SAO » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:56 pm

Bridgestone RE-11 or bust. Best tire out there period. I run 30 Ft and 27 Rr street, -3 all around on track but get a pyrometer as different setups/treadwear/alignment settings will affect your tires.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Nikwit » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:00 pm

The trick with a car with this sort of geometry is to make sure it actually travels and uses it. Overly stiff suspension will just limit travel and grip.

The konis should work as well as can be expected up to somewhere around 800lb springs, but unless it's a finely tuned track-only car, there's not much reason to go that high.

Favorite tires for a typical track/street Miata come in two flavors: 205 and 225. For a 205 on a 7 or 8 inch wheel, favorites include the Dunlop Direzza Star Spec and Star Spec Z2, Bridgestone RE-11 and RE-11a, and Falken Azeniz RT615k. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks, but are ultimately very similar to each other. For a 225 on an 8 or 9 inch wheel, the favorites are the Hankook RS3 and the BFGoodrich Rival. If you want to get a bit more serious about grip, the R888, RA1, and NT01 are all good choices for an R compound.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:15 pm

On my previous mustang I ran the re11's and loved them, but I assumed there were other "recommended" tires for the miata. I guess a good tire is a good tire regardless what car it goes onto!

My wheels are 15x7 so I guess I'm stuck with the 205's. Though, $100 or so a tire doesn't compare to $300 a tire which I used to spend.

What about brakes and pads...will my stock caliper suffice or is it recommended to upgrade to the 1.8 calipers? What's a recommended race pad for these cars? I've ran carbotech xp12, hawk blues, and hawk dtc-60's on my mustang and like the carbotech so best because they didn't seem to eat up rotors as quickly as the hawks did on track.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby SRN DI G SAO » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:18 pm

1.8 brakes are better, but 1.6s are competent if you can conquer brake fade. A good set of pads and braided brake lines were all I needed, though that depends on how much you weigh. Still the parts are readily available and 1.8 brake swap isn't too hard. Not much else is needed until you get a lot more power behind you.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:39 pm

Are the 1.8 brakes a direct bolt-on or do they require new hubs, spindles, etc?
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Nikwit » Thu Nov 07, 2013 11:43 pm

1.6 brakes work fine with good DOT4 fluid and dedicated race pads. I opted for larger brakes so that I could run a milder pad and still not see any fade on-track. Track pads aren't an option for me.

1.8 brakes are a bolt on upgrade, but still require dedicated race pads to not fade. IMO, not worth the extra weight if you will be using those materials.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:08 am

Thanks for the insight. This will be a dedicated track car so race compounds are definitely a go for me! If the 1.6 brakes work well with race brakes then I'll stick to that recipe.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Nikwit » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:15 am

There are lots of Spec Miatas still running 1.6 brake hardware. The competitive cars make roughly 120 at the wheela. You and I would be lucky to make that at the crank.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby TheOtherRedMiata » Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:58 am

All you need is a roll bar and a foamectomy.

I really don't want to get onto the great 1.6 vs. 1.8 brake debate but, my 92 did well at thunderhill with Brembo rotors,Hawk Hps pads, dot 4 and stainless lines. This was in the 1.6 size.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby brkinshiz » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:34 pm

Another vote here for "drive it as is". Your set-up stands like a great start, so I'd say drive it until you feel the absolute need to modify it to your taste.

Not sure if I'm blind, but one thing I noticed was no mention of a rear sway. If you have the stock one, great. If none, put one on. It works for autocross, but front bar only makes these cars plow miserably on track.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Fri Nov 08, 2013 1:06 pm

Sorry, I forgot to mention the great sway bar is the stock unit.

As for brakes, I'll stick to the 1.6 setup and get some race pads, ss lines, and good fluid.

Does anyone have any insight on which race pads work best for these cars?
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby minime » Fri Nov 08, 2013 2:50 pm

Most important question: do you have track experience already?

Basics are tires, alignment, suspension, brakes. Your suspension looks decent, but Koni sport shocks are not the greatest with stiffer than stock springs and those springs are WAAAAAY stiffer than stock. I would upgrade to Tokico Illuminas.

Tires are OK for a newbie, but you should go with something more aggressive otherwise.

Stock 1.6 brakes are decent if you use hot pads, but will require more modulation than 1.8 sized rotors or a BBK like the one's that use the 4 piston dynalite Wilwood calipers. I really like the Carbotech pads as they have a fairly stable coefficient of friction which means they are easy to modulate when they get hot. If you really push the brakes, flush with good synthetic fluid like ATE blue/gold and upgrading the lines to SS will make modulation a bit easier too.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:01 pm

Yes, I have track experience. I was in HPDE4 when I was tracking my mustang.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Massiah » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:58 pm

Having originally come from tracking Mustangs ('65, '88) I can tell you that your Miata will be leaps and bounds better by a large margin. Adjust your driving to fit the car and learn to carry speed, power wont save you. You've likely got the smooth inputs down already. Other than that I would consider a tire change but that's it. Have your first track day in it and afterwards adjust the car accordingly.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Paradox » Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:15 pm

You could probably get away with switching out your front shocks to Koni Race shocks if you want to go with stiffer springs on the cheap.

Personally I agree with the others run it as is and see how it feels.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Sydewaysix » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:47 am

What do you guys think about my open diff for the track? I've never driven a car on a track with this type of rear diff. Do you think it's necessary to upgrade to a torsen or at least a vlsd?

I'm still reading up on the differences and what needs to be done to do this swap on my car. If you guys can chime in on what I'd need and what setup would be ideal for my plans I'd really appreciate it!
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby Nikwit » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:03 am

Torsen is the most common and most cost effective upgrade. You would need the driveshaft and axles from a 1.8 car to fit it. With stock power though, only the tightest corners will see any benefit from it. 11 at Laguna, 11 at T Hill, and 11 at Sonoma. I only just now realized that coincidence...huh...anyway, again, don't worry about it until you try the car a few times. Definitely an upgrade, but definitely not necessary.
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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby TheOtherRedMiata » Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:58 am

Nikwit wrote:Torsen is the most common and most cost effective upgrade. You would need the driveshaft and axles from a 1.8 car to fit it. With stock power though, only the tightest corners will see any benefit from it. 11 at Laguna, 11 at T Hill, and 11 at Sonoma. I only just now realized that coincidence...Image, again, don't worry about it until you try the car a few times. Definitely an upgrade, but definitely not necessary.

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Re: Newbie here - what do I need to make my car "track ready

Postby billybobster » Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:25 am

I'll also vote for "drive it as it is" too. My first track day ever was in a 100% stock Audi A4 Avant. I did chew up the OEM Pirelli P6's (widely acknowledged as 100% awful track tires) but your Kumho's are a much better start. But I had a blast and I got a great sense of priorities on what to do to the car first. Your Miata has a good set of tasty mods already.

Since you have a roll bar, the only other mod I'd recommend is one of these - a CG Lock - http://www.cg-lock.com/. OEM seat belts don't do anything to hold you in/down - except when you are crashing. CG Lock works like the buckle on an airplane seat to hold you down and mounts/unmounts from the OEM buckle in a few minutes. Not as good as a race seat, but much much better than nothing.

Go do a track day in your car as is, you'll have a great time and you'll definitely know what you want to go after first in terms of mods.
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