The MR2 Spyder has been a true story of struggle, having been in a state of constant modification, repair, or otherwise up on jack stands for no real reason.  Just when I thought it was ready to go, things like coolant leaks would rear their ugly head.  I set a goal to have the car ready for a 14 December track day at MSR Cresson, which seemed to be very achievable.  But like most goals set for this car, I ended up discovering more issues along the way.  For the past two weeks my work schedule had prevented me from accomplishing much, other than an hour or two a night wrenching in the garage.  The coolant leak under the intake manifold required cutting a hole in the firewall to allow for access.  I knew the car would require some shake-down runs on track to sort out any remaining bugs, as well as bedding in the new Carbotech race pads.  The next available open track day (OTD) was at TWS on the 8th of November.  I signed up, expecting to easily make it there to use the full 1pm to 5pm session.  Unfortunately, some last minute issues meant I was working on the car the night before to patch up the hole in the firewall, as well as adding new wheels and tires.  The new wheels, which are 15×8 with a 36mm offset, meant I no longer required the 15mm spacer I was running in the rear.  This in turn meant my McGuard splined lug nuts would no longer fit over the extended studs.  Not one single local store carried a set of open ended 12×1.5 lug nuts, so I ended up visiting every Autozone in the area to acquire 16 nuts that would work.

MR2 #229 Front Left

By the time I had finished all this, I was already eating into my OTD time on Friday.  I knew I would require an alignment, as well as resetting the ride height after dropping the weight of the softop and moving the battery closer to center of the car.  Unfortunately the local alignment shop I use was booked up, so I decided to press on without one.  I trailered the MR2 to TWS, arriving at 3:30pm, barely in time to get on track.  I quickly unloaded the car, checked the lug torques and tire pressures, then preceded on track.  I immediately knew the alignment was going to be an issue.  Just eye-balling the rear camber I could tell it wasn’t negative enough.  The results were a very over-steer prone car.  I spent a couple short sessions just trying to bed the brakes and not spin off, which was damn near unavoidable.  Any flat or off camber turns resulted in the rear stepping out, near immediately on turn in.  I babied it around as much as I could.  Despite all the issues, this car is quick, running a 2:06, exactly the same as my best time in the M Coupe, a car I’m much more confident in.  With a proper alignment and tires that are worn in, I think it’ll easily do a sub 2-minute.  I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to get out there, which should be on 6 December, the next OTD.

MR2 #229 Back Left

And here are some videos of my first time out with the car.  You can easily see how much I’m having to work the wheel just to keep it somewhat pointed straight.  I still wasn’t comfortable pushing it in any of the corners.  Additionally, the brakes were still coming in, so the car was a bit shifty in the braking zones.  I also clearly need to learn how to properly shift this car.  The shift gates are much tighter on this car than the BMWs, and the pedal arrangement differs as well.  Compounding the issues is a general lack of torque compared to the S54 (which is no torque monster itself) which necessitates keeping the RPM up, which in turn means much more shifting.

This video is my second spin, similar issue.  Coming off a relatively flat turn, rear grip was minimal at best with pretty much no negative camber.

The good news is I was finally able to get the car to the alignment shop, and is now set at -3 front and -2.5 rear.  Hopefully this setup yields better handling.  I suppose I’ll find out at the next OTD, hopefully it works and I can get a lot more laps in.  I still have a few remaining items to take care of, namely installing extended studs on the front hub, adding a shift change light, and harness for the passenger seat.  I’ll probably also add some additional spacers under the front of the driver’s seat to achieve a more reclined position, and possibly adjust the belt anchors for a more comfortable fit.


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