December Again

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Life in general, Work Related

Yup it’s December again, and I am starting off this blog like I do every December.  You’re probably wondering where I got the phrase “December Again”.  Well its kind of a play on a title of a song called Winter Again by a Japanese alternative rock band called Glay (no I didn’t misspell it), not that I am too crazy over  Glay or the song for that matter.  However, people who know me know that December is my favorite month.  So many good things happen in December, that it just makes me happy every time it rolls around.  It’s only been one day, but already a lot of good things have happen this month.

We’ve finally sold our Mini Cooper race car, and are about to put in a bid for a more competitive race car for next season.  I am about to rebuild my race car.  I’ve joined an awesome new company as the Head of IT, and I am going to Singapore (first time ever) on business in couple of weeks to meet with my staff members.  Nothing but goodness, and about to get better.  Yup!  December ALWAYS rocks!   Gotta love it!

Sodegaura Forest Raceway

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Life in general, Rants and Raves

Last Saturday, I went to Sodegaura Forest Raceway, a brand new road course in Chiba prefecture to attend the Honda TwinCam sponsored track event.   Despite this even being sponsored by Honda TwinCam and also being told by the event coordinator that it’s an All Honda even and that no other model cars will be allowed, I did see a Lancer Evo VI as well as a Nissan Silvia.   All of the other cars were either a new and old Civic R, or the new and old Integra R.

Sodegaura Forest Raceway was just completed last month, so everyone who attended had never raced here before.  And since it is a brand new circuit, there were no direction signs leading up to the course, or even a sgin at the front entrance.   Additionally, the road that goes from the entrance to the paddock area was still unpaved.  Hardly a good thing for race cars running track tires.  My sense of direction is absolutely hopeless, so I wound up missing the registration and the car inspection, and barely made it on-time for the driver’s meeting (an absolute requirement for being able to run). Luckily, the race officials were pretty laid back so, me being late didn’t seem to be such a big deal.

Afterwards, I gave my paperwork to the receptionist and had my car inspected by the mechanic.  By the way, I had already been marked as a no show on the attendance list.

It was my first time at this course and as luck would have it, it rained.  I was originally going to use track tires (which have fewer grooves to put more surface are to the road), but luckily I stuck with the RE-01R radial tires.  Had I used track tires, it would have probably been impossible to run that day due to the rain.

By the afternoon, what had been light sprinkles turned to substantial rain, and it became a quite an eventful heat for the class A group, who ran first.  i was too busy preparing for my run to see what had actually transpired, but I could see that the field had slowed down to a crawl, and there was even a red flag ( a complete halt of the run).  Since the class A group was comprised of novice drivers and first timers, I suspected that there were probably some spin outs and over runs.

I was in the class B group which was up next.  It seemed that there were a lot of New Civic Type R’s in my class for some reason.  Since the earlier group didn’t run so much due to the troubles,  the track didn’t have the opportunity to dry out, making it difficult to get around the corners, and causing a lot of wheel spin in the straights.  But after a while, I was able to adjust to the conditions pretty quickly and was able to figure out a method to get around the course quickly in the wets.  Surprisingly, I was pretty good in the wet.  There was a point when I loss some traction and did sort of a 4 wheel drift, but I didn’t spin out or over run even once.  And to add to that, the people who were trying to keep up with me often wound up facing the opposite direction or in the gravel.   It just goes to show that you need to know what you’re doing to run in the wets, and it was very apparent that some people didn’t.  But luckily there were no major accidents, or red flags during either of my heats.

My impressions:  Sodegaura Raceway is a pretty good course.  Its not too difficult, and it wasn’t too ridiculously easy and boring.  It had enough challenge in it to keep my interest.  I would describe it as a cross between Tsukuba Circuit and Twin Ring Motegi.  On the not so good side, the race line was bit hard to read, and the facilities looked a bit cheap and unfinished.  I was too bad that it rained, but I will definitely be back to do it again.



This is a video of me trying to battle a white Civic Type R, while fending off a red Integra Type R behind me.  After the run, I found out from the Civic driver that he was driving at the threshold of almost losing traction and spinning out.  Like-wise I was experiencing the same thing, so I couldn’t over take him, although I came close a couple of times.



Pictures from the event:



























12 Hours at Twin Ring Motegi

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Life in general, Travel Blog

Last weekend my cousins and I participated in our very first 12 hour endurance race at Motegi Twin Ring as Hayashi Racing. This is the same 12 hour endurance race that my cousin raced in last year. Ironically the team that my cousin was a part of last year, and actually helped get our car into proper race shape, was our rival on the track.


The day was very long. My cousins and I were up at 3AM to set up and push our car out to the pits to make final preparations for the long 12 hour and 9 minute race. I had only had two hours sleep, but strangely enough I was pretty charged and ready to go. The day started off to be cool and only slightly humid, but my mid afternoon, it had turned into a very typical Japanese summer day, hot, wet and humid. The pit area was about 40 degrees Celsius, and the tracks got upwards of 50+ degrees. The temperature inside of the car was also about 50 degrees, but with our 3-layer fireproof race suits and helmets on, it seem so much hotter.


The car performed well for the first 3 hours, but unfortunately by mid morning, we ran into some technical troubles (again). Apparently, our car was leaking oil pretty badly, and the race officials were about to disqualify our car. They had given us a chance to fix the leak. This proved to be a much more involved task than any of us imagined. If we sent the car out to the track, and it leaked again, we would surely be disqualified so we had to be absolutely certain that the car would not leak oil. The task was just short of disassembling the whole engine. Even the team who shared our paddock helped us fix our car. After literally 3 hours of blood sweat and tears, we had the leak under control. There was no more that we could do. Our car had fallen 20 places and we were in danger of being dead last if we didn’t run. Luckily for us the car didn’t leak any oil for the rest of the after noon and we were able to complete the rest of the race…well almost.


On the very last lap of the race, the car developed an electrical problem which caused it to stall right before the finish line. So we wound up getting a DNF (did not finish) instead of a completion. We wound up placing fourth in our class (out of five cars) and 103rd overall (out of 125 cars) Although disappointed by the results, it wasn’t dead last and we all enjoyed ourselves and had a good time.  We took tons of pictures during weekend. Here are some of them:

Our little red racer



Another one




Our little red racer prior to the race Our car on the starting grid



The competition



My cousin giving me final instructions before I start my leg of the race


then came the trouble….and the 3 hours to fix it.


Race official inspecting our car after 3 hours of hard intense labor in blistering heat




By sunset, we were back in action.


And finally, the checkered flag!


But our car never saw it….

Last Week

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Comic relief, Life in general, Rants and Raves

Last week was a pretty intense week for me.  A lot events took place; some expected while others took me by completely surprise.

GO!Mini 2009 Four Hour Endurance Race at Tsukuba Circuit

Our team participated in our very first race (as a team) in our team owned race car, a 1992 Rover Mini Cooper.  The race was basically an all out test of driver and machine endurance.  The  cars were divided into three classes:

  • G1 class – non tuned cars (in other word Mini’s with mostly factory parts and very little modification) or Mini’s with engines that are 1000cc or smaller. 
  • G2 class – lightly tuned cars (or cars with minor mechanical modifications such as third party exhausts, suspensions, carburators)
  • G3 class – heavily modified cars (turbos or superchargers, over-bored pistons and or stroker kits, dog box transmissions or sequential gear boxes, etc)

Our car was in the G2 class because of the third party exhaust, suspension, and carburator. We’ve also lighten the car significantly by completely gutting out the interior and leaving just the essencials, which amounts to be just the  steering wheel, gauges, driver’s seat, and of course the safety equipment.

Since this was our very first race ever in the Mini, we set the hurdle pretty low as to what our expectations were.  Basically all we really wanted to do is:

  1. Finish the race without mishaps, crashes, or major mechanical issues.
  2. Be able to drive the Mini home (as opposed to having to get it towed back home due to #1)
  3. Most importantly, to have fun which is what our team is all about.

Fortunately, not only were we able to meet these goals but we also managed to get the second fastest lap time in our class, and it was only 1 second short of the fastest lap for our class, and just 5 seconds short of the fastest lap for all classes.  Furthermore, we placed 6th out of eight cars in our class, and 19th out of 24 cars in the entire race.   Had it not been for the fact that we lost the clutch during the beginning stages of the race and had only third gear to work with for the majority of the race,  and the fact we were a bit disorganized with the pit operations (refueling and tire changes), I honestly believe we could have been in the top 10 if not the top 5.  We definately have a very competitive car that is faster than the majority of the field that raced last Sunday, so we are all pretty motivated raise the hurdle a bit, and to do better in the next race.

As far as the clutch go, it mysterously started working again AFTER the race.   With my little knowledge of the Rover A series engine, I suspect that there may be some air in the clutch lines, and the master or slave cylinders got hotter, it caused the air to expand causing the clutch to fail.  As the components cooled, the air bubble went away hence the clutch started working again (sigh)…type to bleed the system I guess.

Hit and Run!

On Tuesday evening, on my way home from work, I took the usual course that I always take to go home.  The course takes me down a dark and narrow road with only one very darkly lit  street lamp, that allowed very limited vision.  On top of that, since it was raining a bit the field of view was even more darker than usual.

The dark and narrow road is usually only used by nearby residents, and serves as somewhat of a short cut for local commuters who live in the area.  Other than that, the road is rarely used by non-locals because of its narrowness.  As I was walking home, I walked towards the left side of the road.  In the distance, I heard a motor bike approaching quickly from behind me.  I didn’t bother to look back because local people on motorbikes and scooters use this road quite often, and often drive faster that should be legally allowed.  As the noise from the 2 stroke engine grew closer, I started to move more to my left expecting the bike to pass me on my right.  Just at that moment, BOOM! the bike hits me dead on from behind at about 40km/hr, sending me down to the ground shoulder first to the wet pavement below.

The next thing I knew I was on the ground face down.  I didn’t feel too much pain, but I was in disbelief that this guy could not avoid hitting me.  I heard some scaping sounds as if someone was scaping a metal stick onto asphalt about a meter ahead of me.  I laid there for about 10 seconds or so, expecting the  rider to ask me if I was okay, but all I heard were more scraping sounds.  I finally looked up to notice that the rider had his  scooter on its wheels again, as he was inspecting for damages from the hit to the asphalt.   I felt a surge of anger and rage go through my body at the fact that he was more concerned over the damages to his scooter than about the person he just struck.

Suddenly a mad surge of adrenaline kicked in, propelling me to my feet as if Ihad loaded springs underneath me.  With very little disregard to who this punk was that ran into me, I grabbed him by his coat and lunged a pretty good punch to his face (just as a greeting to let him know of my existence, which he seemed to have forgotten.)  As he turned towards me holding his cheek from from the pain of the punch, I was able to get my very first look at the perpetrator’s face.  And to my surprise, it was a young boy, maybe in his late teens or early 20’s at the most.  But at this point, his age really didn’t concern me.  This guy hit the wrong person, and I was going to let him know of that fact.  My first initial reaction was to beat this guy to a pulp, not for just hitting me, but for showing absolutely no concern that he just hit a human being with a motor vehicle and could have seriously injured me.  In my neighborhood, I am a relatively young guy as most of the neighbors are either at or beyond retirement age.  Had it been them and not me, they could have sustain even more serious injuries or even worse.  

I seriously wanted to hurt this guy, but I had to stand back and think for a moment, especially about my family and my career. The wrong move could end it all for me, and it just wasn’t worth throwing it all away for this snot-nosed brat.  I regained my composure and said, “You had better have a driver’s license”, to which he had no response.   I walked up to him and I repeated, “take out your driver’s license NOW!”.  Still silence.   By this point he was very squeemish and looked as if he wanted to cry.  He adjusted himself on his scooter.  I then realized that he probably didn’t have a license and he was pretty close to being a flight case.  I quickly scanned his attributes and his bike, in case he decided to take off.

I then said “I get it, you don’t have one do you?”, he flinched big time as if I had read his deepest darkest secret from his the darkest corner of his mind. His hand extended towards the keys in the ignition. “You better not run!  You run, and what is now just a traffic accident, will become a felony.”   He finally spoke, “I’m not going to run.” 

By now, I just wanted to get his details so that I knew where to send the cleaning bill for my suit. So I demanded that he give me his phone number and address.  He continued to stare at me like a deer in headlights, obviously very frightened, and made no effort to exchange details. “Look, if you don’t give me your details, I will call the police.  What do you want to do?” I demanded.  He looked troubled, as if he were caught in the middle of an argument over morality between the symbolic devil and angel that sat on his shoulders.   He may have not come to a decision, but I already knew that he was a flight case at this point, and continued to make mental notes about everything I could about him, with the very little time I had left. 

He was about my height, maybe slightly taller and was somewhat heavy set.  He was young, perhaps a student, and had a very weak demeanor and personality.  His face was relatively roundish and had narrow eyes.  He was wearing a black bikers helmet that resembled a batter’s helmet without the ear protection which are commonly used by scooter riders in Japan.

His bike was a white 50cc motor scooter with black trim and a silverish emblem on the front.  On the step (where his feet were) was a clear plastic shopping back.  I couldn’t fully identify the contents other than what looked to be a small tangerine inside, which told me that he went to the local supermaket (as opposed to a convenience store such as 7-11 where they don’t sell tangerines) which should be a good clue as to where he goes shopping.  There are only three supermakets in the immediate area and not all three use clear shopping bags.  I also got his license plate number which I won’t publish here, but the bike is registered in our district so, he probably lives nearby.  All of this info was reported to the Kanagawa police department.  It seems that the police love hit and run accidents because as I was giving my account of the event, three different offiicers vigorously and eagerly took notes using three different laptops, making sure that not a single drop of detail was missed.  The police report wound  up being about 3 pages long and written in the most eloquent Japanese I have ever read. 

After the adrenaline wore off the pain did start to set in abit.  As a requirement for the police report, I had to go to the hospital and get examined.  The bill came to about $400 because it was so late at night and I had to be admitted to the emergency room.  Another hefty bill that will be handed to the perpetrator when they find him.  I also found that he tore my suit pants, so I will need to get a new suit as well.  This suit was relatively cheap, but still cost about $500.

I checked online on what the penalty for hit and run in Japan is.  Normally first time offenders will get released on probation unless they have a history of other similar crimes.   However, hit and run coupled with driving  without a license, carries a 2 year jail sentence plus a fine, and of course any damages.  I feel bad for the kid now, he might have just ruined his life over a really bad decision.

Full Circle In My Career

My very first IT job was with Citibank Tokyo now known as Citigroup.  That was nearly 12 years ago.  I was with Citi for nearly four years before I left for greener pastures.  The job wasn’t too bad and the people were really cool.   I had a few reasons for leaving but I think the primary reason was that their sandbox-like infrastructure made it very difficult for junior level IT engineers like I was at the time ,to expand their knowledge and further their careers.  Hence, I moved on.

Unless you’ve been livng on Mars for the last 5 months or so, you’d know that the world economy is not exactly peachy keen at the moment, and one of the hardest struck companies is Citi.  They have laid off tens of thousands of employees globally in the last few months.  It’s one thing to see the numbers on the news, but to actually go onsight and see with my own eyes, was a sobering experience, as the floor that I am on normally can seat about 200 to 300 people, only has about 20-30 people left.

As an IT consultant, we often get called in during times like this.  When large corporations like Citi lay off their employees, the work doesn’t magically disappear along with them.  It usually gets outsourced or they call in guys like me to do the work until my contract runs out or until they can afford to hire full time people again.  So starting this week, I am back at the roots of my IT career.  Ironically, I am working for the people who once use to work for  me way back when.  It’s all good though, because these people I regard as my friends.  They are going to even throw a welcome back party in my honor next week. (laughs)

Hayashi Racing at Fuji Speedway

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Family and Friends, Life in general, Techie Stuff, Travel Blog

We spent a day at Fuji Speedway yesterday. My cousin and took their course license seminar to get our course license so that we could participate in track events.

We ran 3 cars:

My Integra Type R turbo
My cousin’s Alfa Romeo 155
and the team car, a Rover Mini Cooper

All three cars performed really well.  Since it was my first time running a Fuji, I didn’t get any good lap times, but I was able to muscle my way past some Ferrari’s on the front straight.   I was able to get up to about 230km/h on the straight, but lifted (mainly out of fear of not being able to stop at turn 1, which is tight hairpin-like turn.)  You get it wrong and you end up in the dirt or the tire barriers.

The Integra performed well because the weather was very cold, but unfortunately I came away with no reverse gear. I suspect that one of the motor mounts took a dump, because the shifter didn’t feel right.  Also, the rubber bushing on the transmission mount looked really suspect.  I initially lost fifth gear too, but was able to get it back by fiddling with it during the drive home.

The Alfa also came away with no brakes.  I noticed that he had some really bad grooves on both of his front rotors.  Fuji is definitely not a forgiving track for a car with bad brakes or a missing fifth gear so we both wound up retiring early.  My cousin was battling with it all the way home, using the clutch and side brake to slow the car down in traffic, while I had to get pushed into parking spaces due to a still missing reverse gear.

The Mini came away flawlessly.   We all agreed that the 17 year old British gal would come away from it limping and we might have to have it towed home, but she out did  both the Integra and Alfa.  And surprisingly,  although slow on the straights, the Mini was really nimble and quick on the corners.   The braking was also really good, and was able to slow down from 160km/h to 60km/h in less than 100 meters, where most cars needed 200 meters or more.

So for now the Integra will rest quietly in the garage until I can muster up enough cash for some new motor mounts, and some energy to install them without the help of a professional.  And perhaps a new engine damper in order too, so that I don’t keep breaking mounts.  Overall, I came away from the event quite happy, but very sore and tired.  My cousin has a race event at Tsukuba circuit next weekend, so I might go up to watch.

Mini and 155 in front of Mt. Fuji

Mini and 155 in front of Mt. Fuji

The team stopping for a bite

a conbini run

Front entrance

Ferrari

old school GTR

Elige

Porsche GT3

a Civic Type R

red Elige

Impreza STI

a GTR R35 Pace car

a GTR R35 pace car

the Teg and the 155

The Teg and the 155

Mini

The three racers

The Teg and the H3

155 on the front straight

Mini on the front straight

911 on a trailer

Roadster carnage

Twin Elige’s

A silver Teg

The Teg, Mini and the 155

The Teg and the Mini

The Teg and the Mini

The mini

The team

My Integra

Mini on the front

Alfa vs. Mini

The paddock

The video of my first run:

New Updates

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Comic relief, Family and Friends, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

WordPress came out with their second update in the last two weeks.  The latest one is point upgrade to 2.7, so it has some new features as well as a new interface.  At first glance, I wasn’t too pleased that WordPress changed everything around again, but when I got a good look at what they’ve done, I was pretty please.  Now I can get around to where I want to be a lot more quickly and with fewer click.

As for me, I took the Mini out for a ride yesterday afternoon.  It was the first time I drove it out of Yokohama since we got it last spring.  This is due to street legality issues we had before, since it is mostly a race car.  But we managed to get it to pass regulation and get it registered, so it’s street legal (barely) now.  I liked the way it perfomed.  For what it is, it drove quite nicely.  I think the decibal level did attract some attention, but it’s definitely not as bad as my cousin’s Alfa, which I can hear coming fro blocks away.

Next is the Integra.  It needs a bigger fuel pump which my mom will be bringing from the States this week.  I also need to swap out the exhaust and the brakes, but that will come later.  Everything else has been quite.  I’m looking forward to next weekend.  Seeing the relatives is always a pleasure.

December again

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Family and Friends, Life in general

Yes it’s December again. I think I’ve been starting my entries the same way every year. It may partially due to the fact that December is my favorite month, but probably more due to the lack of having anything else to write.

It’s been getting a bit colder in Japan lately, but not cold enough to snow. I’m hoping that it does snow this year. We got some snow earlier this year but it wasn’t too substantial.

Tomorrow I planto go to Tokyo to visit my grandmother. Apperantly, she hasn’t been feeling too well, so I just want to make sure that she’s okay.

On a sad note, seems like Honda is leaving Formula 1…again. Not too sure if is a financial decision, with F1 becoming increasingly expensive to finance even for the companies with big budgets, or if it’s because their poor performance. But either way, it’s quite disappointing news. But on the other hand, I was really happy that Lewis Hamilton this past season so it’ll be easier to give my full support next season. But I do hope that Honda returns to F1 in the not so distant future.

Finally, with gas prices returning back to the already expensive norm, Hayashi Racing can probably resume plans to get the Mini Cooper up to spec for some up coming races. I’m also preparing the Integra as well by installing a better fuel pump this winter. Hopefully I can finally get around to upgrading the brakes and cooling system as well.

Endurance Race at Motegi

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Family and Friends, Life in general

Last Sunday, I went to Motegi to watch my cousin compete in a 12 hour endurance race.  It was quite interesting to see the different cars compete.  There were cars that were quite obviously highly modified, and others that seemed close to stock.

My personal favorites were an orange Mini Cooper, a Honda Beat with a nostalic 1970’s John Player’s Special Formula1 livery, and Le Man’sinsh modified S2000 with no windshield.  My cousin raced  what looked to be a moderately modified Alfa Romeo 155 V6 from the garage he uses.  He ran two one hour legs.  We are looking to compete sometime next year using Bloody Mari.  I’m not sure if we have the car or the manpower to do a full 12 hour run, so we might start off with something shorter, like a 3 hour run.  If the car survives, and we survive, we might go for a longer race, providing that we can find some more drivers.

Here are some picures from the weekend:

Bloody Mari: The Mini Cooper from bloody hell!

Author: mirai  //  Category: Cars and Racing, Life in general

A few weeks ago, my cousin and I took another trip to Kyoto to take a look at a 1992 Rover Mini Cooper (not the wannabe BMW MINI – but the real deal) that we found on sale on the internet.  The car looked absolutely  beautiful and was already raced prepped by the owner.  It included (among several other modifications)  S rated race tires, a stiff race suspension that allows you adjust the ride height, a centrally positioned sports exhaust, a padded roll cage, weber carb, and the interior had been completed gutted to save weight.  It couldn’t be any closer to what we were looking for, and the price was only slightly more than our original budget.  The only thing that it didn’t have that we were looking for was 10″ wheels.  It had 12″ wheels instead.  But after careful thought, although 10″ wheels looked cool on the Mini, having 12″ers may be more practical for racing purposes.  Bigger wheels means we can use bigger brake disks for better stopping power.

After 2 and half hours on the Shinkansen, we arrived at Kyoto station, where we were picked up by the owner in a car that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before.  The owner said that it was a Subaru Impreza, but the body had been highly modified to make it look like something else (don’t know what though).  I was impressed by the body work but I can’t say that I liked the new look.  For each is own, I suppose.

The owner drove us to his garage where our soon to be Mini was beautifully perched in front of a large glass display with its hood open.  It was so immaculate that it looked like a show car.  Mini’s are nortorious for rust, especially in the trunk area.  The one we saw previously was so badly rusted that we passed on it.  Weaknesses in the body could ultimately lead to handling problems on the track.  My cousin has a good eye for spotting flaws and he couldn’t find any significant rust on the car. 

Rustless trunk of the Cooper.

The owner started the car for us, and it started on the first try.  For a 1275cc engine, the car was LOUD.  It’s much louder than my Integra, and the revs sounded really mean. 

We all took the classic Mini out for a test drive.  I went first, and I must say driving that Mini for the first time was an experience like no other.  I thought that the Integra was unrefined, but compared to the Mini, the Integra was like a limousine ride.  Even the slightest bumps and inperfections in the road felt like we were driving over boulders.  The steering wheel position was very odd in that it was a lot more higher than other cars.  It felt as I were driving a bus.  The gear shift position was even more odd in that it’s only a few inches away from the steering wheel, like somewhat that of a rally car.  Of course, the Mini does not come like this from the Rover factory; it was all modified like that for one purpose only: racing!

The unrefined bumpy ride, the vibration of the 1275cc A-Series engine, the odd positioning of the steering wheel and gear shifter, the obnoxiously loud engine exhaust, the smell of gasoline fumes filling up the cockpit, and the go-kart like seat position all took a grand total of 10 seconds to get use to, because once the Mini got going, it was sheer FUN!

After my test drive was over, it was my cousins turn to test it.  Being a relatively new driver, having only had his drivers license for a little over a year, he was a little reluctant at first.  But like me, once he got the hang of it, he agreed that we had to have this car in our fleet.

So after plopping down a combined total of 353,000 yen (about $3500USD), we became the new proud owners of a shiney red, but not so new, Mini Cooper. 

For some reason, my cousin was still somewhat reluctanct to drive the Mini, so I drove the first leg of the would be 4 and half hour trip home.  The Mini was a trooper.  Despite having only 1275cc’s, the lighten chassis accelerated quite quickly.  But we both soon learned that taking the Mini anything past 100km/h meant unbearibly loud cabin noise.  It was so loud that everything else took a back seat to it.  So for most of the trip, we kept the car at a modest 90km/h which produced only a loud roar.

About 40 minutes into the trip, we encounter our first problem.  The rubber seal on the front windshield started failing which caused a leak on the passenger side.  Since it was raining quite heavily that day, water was seeping in at a fairly good rate.

At first, I though it was pretty minor so I told my cousin to just grin and bear it, until we get to Nagoya (our scheduled first stop).  But about 10 minutes later, it became apparent that an unscheduled pit stop is inevitable.  So we pulled into a service area so we could assess how bad the problem really was.

I was able to get a better look at the situation after we were parked, and I must say that I was pretty surprised.  Rivers of rain water was streaming down to the floor, creating a quite an impressive sized flood on the floor.  Since the car was gutted and had no dashboard, some of the electrical wiring and the fuse box was exposed.  I was quite concerned that the water would short out the electrical systems, so we started bailing out the water as if we were on a sinking row boat taking on water.

We went into the service area gift shop in search of some towels, or at least something to plug up the leak, but all that they had were gift towels which we thought was a bit wasteful.  So we wound up steeling rolls of toilet paper from the restrooms to tie us over until our next scheduled stop.

 

The Mini parked at the first rest stop

After drying off the interior and plugging up the leaky front windshield with some toilet paper, we were on our way again.  We drove though tough weather which caused the windshield to fog up quite furiously, almost to the point of zero visibility at times.  The car did have a defogger/defroster, but since the dashboard was removed with the ventilation system along with it, it was absolutely useless.  The only way around it was to keep the windows open, which is not ideal when its raining outside.

So after fighting with a foggy windshield, and rain and wind splashing in my face while driving, we finally made it to Nagoya about an hour and half later.  It was just in time too, because my cousin had went through two large rolls of toilet paper and the car was starting to flood up again.

We disposed of the huge wads of wet toilet paper that my cousin had been throwing in the back seat and grabbed some food to eat at the service area restaurant.  The restaurant was completely self service, so we had to wipe the tables ourselves with these little towels that the restauranted provided.  I grabbed tree of these towels so that we didn’t have to waste toilet paper.  It would be good enough for the rest of the trip.

After hanging out for about 30 minutes or so, it was time to go.  We got back to our Mini.  This time it was my cousin’s turn to drive, and my turn to handle the leaks.  But we soon found that we had another problem on our hands.

When my cousin went to start the 1275cc A-series engine, it was a no go.  The care just didn’t want to continue.  Since this was my cousin’s first time driving a car with a carburated engine, I figured that he may have flooded the engine by giving it too much fuel.  i popped the hood and opened the cap on the Weber carb to let some air into it, in the hopes of evaporating some of the excess fuel out.  From my experience with driving a Toyota with a carb engine back when I was in college, I knew that pumping the gas too much could cause the car to not want to start unless the fuel/air ratio is back to normal.  Nowadays, almost all cars are fuel injected, and regulated by onboard ECU’s, so this rarely happens on modern cars.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, we gave it another go, and presto! the mini came back to life.  And once again were on our way.

The rain leak being plugged up by a stolen table rag. 

 We drove for another few hours and decided to get off at another service area at parts-unknown for a break.  We figured we were somewhere in Shizuoka, but not sure exactly where.  We didn’t plan to stay too long; just long enough to dry off a bit, defog the windshield, and change drivers.  I left the engine running, and in the hopes of drying off the interior a bit more quicker, turned on the heater full blast.  About 3 seconds after I turned on the heater, a huge plume of white smoke poored out from where it seemed like to be from under the hood, but the smoke also filled up the cabin.  A half a second later, the car engine stalled.  My cousin and I had the exact same thought, this is NOT good.

I immediately tried to restart the car, but after several failed attempts, it became apparent that this car wasn’t going anywhere soon.  We both went into the service area restaurant to discuss what to do over a light snack.  We were still a quite a distance away from home, so towing would be VERY expensive. 

After talking it over we decided that although neither of us knew anything about the mechanics of this car, that we’d pop the hood and see if we could spot the problem.

We got back to the Mini and popped the hood. I opened up the carb again to let some air into the intake tract.  My cousin wipe down the interior to make absolutely sure that water wasn’t shorting any on the electical conponents.  I don’t know which did the trick but the Mini started right back up as if nothing had happened.

The 1275cc A series engine

I drove the last leg of the trip which was a good 150km.  Thoroughly exhausted and cold, we were both anxious to get home, so I decided to bare the blaring exhaust noise, and crank up the speed a bit.  By this point, we were so exhausted that then noise no longer bothered us.  As a matter of fact, I saw as a means of keeping me awake.

After nearly 6 hours of driving, we finally entered Kanagawa prefecture,  and were in the home stretch.   Another 30km, and we will be home.  The temperamental Mini was humming along at a good pace.  We decided that before we go home, we’d stop one last time to clean and dry off the interior a bit, so we pulled into a service area in Ebina.

We took a restroom break, threw out the trash and wiped up the excess water from the widshield.  And just when it was time to go home, it happened….AGAIN!  A huge plume of smoke out of the engine bay.  This time we thought we knew what the fix was.  Dry off, opened the carb and wait a few minutes.  But this time it didn’t work.

We waited in the restaurant for an hour and tried again.  No luck.  Same deal as before.  We waited another hour and tried again…same deal.  My cousin and I feared the worst, and though that the Mini has had it.  Nothing we did helped, and unlike before, the car showed no signs of wanting to start.

It was already 10pm.  And although the service are was open 24 hours, the trains weren’t.  We had to make the decision of whether to keep trying in the hopes that she’d come back to life, or to count our losses and call it a night.  We eventually decided to abandon the Mini and take the train home.

The Next Morning, 8AM (more rain)

My cousin had to work the next moring, so I decided to head out to the service area where we ditched our crippled Mini the night before.  And like the night before, the Mini showed no signs of wanting to start.  I fiddled with everything that I could see, but to no avail.

After about an hour or so, I figured it was time to excersize the emergency plan. I emailed my cousin and explained to him that the situation hadn’t changed and that we should consider having the car towed.  From work, my cousin called around to find the least expensive towing company who could come out on a Sunday afternoon.   Unfortunately most of them were either unavailable or charged upwards of 35,000 or about $350USD.  There were a couple of places that rented out flatbeds, neither my cousin nor I had experience operating the towing mechanism on a flat bed.  One wrong move could cause serious damage to the car, the truck, or someone else’s car should the car slide off on the expressway.

We ultimately decided to go out to the service area once again, this time armed with some tools and a can of WD40, to try starting the car once again.  And if all else fails, we’d call an emergency towing service the next day.

I met my cousin at the train station after he finished work, and drove out to the service area in my Forester.  The Mini was still in the same spot as we left it the night before.  I figured that before we shell out 35,000 yen for a towing company, I want to exhaust all possibilites of getting this car moving again.  An luckly for us, my tenaciousness paid off.

The rain had stopped, and the conditions were quite dry.  We popped the hood, and there were droplets of water everywhere from the many times we opened and closed the hood in efforts to revive the dead Mini.  Our first task was to COMPLETELY dry out the car.  My cousin did the interior, I did the engine. 

After several minutes of wiping and drying, next was to dry out the carburater of excess fuel.  WD40 is excellent for this.  I sprayed a bit all over the opening of he carb, and waited a few minutes.  After we were satisfied that the engine was free of excess fuel and water, we gave it another turn of the key.  This time the engine rumbled as if it wanted to start.  We tried several more times and with each try the engine was getting closer to starting until it finally turned over.  YES!  It wasn’t dead afterall.

But, we celebrated a bit to early because it stalled it again. But unlike before, it would start up again right away, but then stall again.

I checked under the hood again to see if there were anymore droplets that may be hindering the electrical signal from the distributor to the engine.  I unplugged each spark plug cable and cleaned them throroughly and even cleand the connections on the ignition coil.  We gave it another start, and it started up right away and kept it idle.  But about 30 seconds later, it stalled again.  Things were getting better but we weren’t quick there yet.

My cousin grabbed one of the stolen table rags and a screwdriver, and practically polished the connections on the ignition coil, freeing it from any sign of water, grease, and dirt.

After about 5 minutes of practically overhauling the engine, we gave it a final go.  It fired up right away, and we let it idle for a good 15 minutes.  Looks like we got it this time!

After 2 days, we finally got the Mini home.  It was hell! Or as the British would say, Bloody hell! So I decieded to call our Mini, Bloody Mari. Mari being a Japanese Girl’s name. 

Suffisive to say, our girl doesn’t like water which is kind of odd coming from a country where they get a lot of rainfall.  At any rate, Bloody Mari is here, and she’ll be ready for the course soon.

Tomorrow is Mini Day!

Author: mirai  //  Category: Cars and Racing, Life in general

Tomorrow, my cousin and I will be heading to Kyoto to pick up out shiny red Mini Cooper.  I just hope it looks as beautiful as it does in the pictures.  The trip to Kyoto will be via Shinkansen, but we will be driving back.  The last time we were there, it took us 4 hours one way in my Forester, and admittedly, I was making pretty good pace.  The Mini, being far less refined and confortable will be a rough trip back, but I will have all day Sunday to recover….hopefully.