Queensland Matsuri 2015 – Day 1

Sorry it took a while to get this recap up, but here it is finally. The one event I’d been building this car for!

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So, after I did the hour long feelings trip looking at the finished product, I started to load up everything to head to Queensland.

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I spent so much time reminiscing of all those months building the car that daylight seemed to disappear in no time.

I needed to completely strip off the aero which may seem like a pain, but it’s surprisingly easy. I can take off every single piece in 2 minutes to get it ready for loading.

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The hard part is loading it onto the trailer and refitting everything for transport. That part usually takes a good 40 minutes before it’s 100% ready to go.

Being the first time that I had actually towed the car as a finished piece, there was a bit of trial and error with loading things and what did/didn’t fit on the trailer. The side skirts weren’t something I could refit to the car unfortunately so they went in the Stagea. Along with skirts I had all my tools, some spares, fluids, fuel, jack, stands, spare wheels and a whole bunch of fittings just in case I needed something. After all I didn’t want to drive across the country and not be able to fix anything!

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I think this was 11pm on the 7th. Everything was loaded and good to go. I had already been awake for a stupid amount of hours so the first stint of driving only lasted a few hours. I stopped somewhere north of Melbourne at a truck stop and slept for a couple hours.

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Quick stop for fuel and late breakfast somewhere along the way (don’t remember where this was).

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Back on the road enjoying the scenery.

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A lot of people hate doing this sort of thing over such a long distance but I personally enjoy it. Every time I plan to go to an event, the road trip part doesn’t bother me. There is something about taking my car on a long trip to an interstate event that makes me love doing it every time. I imagine it would be a lot more fun doing it with friends, but I still love it either way.

Maybe next year I can gather a few friends and convoy up with everyone.

I passed Albury around lunch time, had to make a stop for a bathroom break.

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Took some more road trip photos.

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I passed through sydney late thursday afternoon and kept driving through most of the night. I wanted to get up to the track as early as possible on the friday so I could get some photos with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.

For the loyal blog fans and the guys who have a really good memory, you may recognise this next part.

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Exact same location, but 2 years apart.

Same tow car but with GTR wheels and a completely new drift car!

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I was trying my best to stay awake through the night and keep going friday morning.

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Just after breakfast I got back on the highway with only 110km to go!

Final stop for fuel, less than an hour out from the track.

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1861km, 350L of fuel and one very tired Oliver later, I was finally at Queensland Raceway.

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And believe it or not, even though I had left a day late, I was the first one there!

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I had organised with Neil (the cool guy who runs the event) and a Josh (the dude who took these photos of my S15) to do a little photoshoot on short track. I drove in and saw Neil, got a celebratory hi 5 and started cheering because I had made it!

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I parked up and started unloading.

This is what I have to do to get the car off the trailer..

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..luckily all the aero panels come off in 2 minutes.

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I love how it looks when it’s naked.

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Looks just as good when it’s all together!

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Once everything was back together, I checked over a couple things and hopped in. Ready for the first time driving the car. Sure I had driven it onto the trailer back in Melbourne, but I hadn’t driven the car as a complete piece!

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First impressions?

Well, there was a lot of kit scraping. Front bar and rear bar were ok, but the side skirts weren’t very happy. Apart from that it felt good to be able to drive it after waiting so long.

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I spent a couple hours with Josh taking some really good photos (I’ll be posting these in another post soon), then we headed over to the circuit pavilion to get some food. Each year I’ve been to QLD matsuri, I’ve craved the hot dogs at the track. I don’t know what it is about them, but they are amazing! I think I had about 5 over the weekend, if you have had one you will know why.

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Usually race track food is trash, but these are rad! they might not look amazing, don’t judge it by how it looks though.

After some food and seeing some friends I headed over to the same spot I was in last year and started checking things on the car. I still had to fit a couple things and align the car again.

Most of the other guys had unloaded and were partying around the pits, while I was finishing things. At some point during the night, I got to play with my NOS purge which was AWESOME.

I think it was about 4pm when I started, didn’t finish doing things until about 3am saturday morning. I remember at one point waking up under the car with the bash plate sitting on my chest. No idea what I had done. Everyone had gone to sleep and I think I was the only one working on a car. I grabbed a drink quickly, fitted the bash plate and put the car back on the ground, then jumped in the Stagea to get a few hours of sleep.

The next morning was the first real test.

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I fitted some new tie rod ends and went over the car for a final check. Kit was ready to go, wheels were tight, fluids were sweet and the car was running perfect. Time for the first shakedown.

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The first run was a little scary. Brand new car with much bigger tyres than the 180sx as well as more power and completely new suspension setup. It felt like a completely different car to drive. It picked up speed REALLY fast and was so much more unpredictable.

But when it worked, it was heaps of fun!

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Unfortunately I had a power steering problem which caused my reservoir to leak uncontrollably. I took the belt off to save the pump, but that meant the car became super heavy to steer. It was a little difficult to transition properly, but I tried to deal with it. I’d driven without power steering a couple times in the past but only when doing circuit racing. Now that I’ve been drifting without power steering I will know what to expect if it ever happens again.

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The handbrake setup was amazing too. I love being able to use the foot brake and handbrake simultaneously in case I need to hold a longer entry. In the 180sx I’ve got an inline setup which means only one can be used. Having individual brakes is a major positive if you are looking for a better feel on entries.

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Another thing that came up which I really didn’t expect. My rear tubs weren’t allowing the wheels to move enough under load, which meant whenever I got on the power, the car would squat and the rear tyres would catch on the tubs. This is something I’ll have to look into fixing soon.

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After lunch I played around on skid pan for a little while, side skirts were having a really bad time.

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Josh looked like he was having a good time though.

I walked around a bit and said hi to a few friends, some were having good days, others not so much. This is another thing I love about QLD matsuri, the vibe at the track. Everybody has a good time all weekend and there are plenty of guys that are always happy to help others. Something other events don’t have yet.

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Sometime just before dark, I was doing the back section of the track and had a little off. I straightened up coming out of turn 4 and couldn’t swing it back. I ended up going straight off the track at the top of 3rd gear with the whole kit on. Somehow everything survived apart from the passenger side skirt which cracked and slipped off.

Late in the afternoon I decided to take off a couple pieces of the kit, the skirts scraping were starting to bug me (and everybody else from what I heard, my bad) and I wanted to take care of it as I needed it in one piece for WTAC the weekend after.

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Everything still worked great though!

I went over to watch the short track runs when it started to get dark, everything looked awesome! Plenty of good drivers with cool cars all driving together. I had packed my stuff up for the night because I was a bit bummed about the power steering and not being able to turn easily. I spent a good 20 mins of the night trying to think of a quick fix that would let me drive confidently.

My reservoir was leaking because of how much pressure was coming from the feed line. I have my setup going from pump to rack, to cooler, to reservoir, back to pump. The line from my cooler that feeds into the reservoir was firing fluid into the opposite side of the reservoir causing it to become a fountain and squirt out the cap.

So how could I slow down this process and temporarily fix my power steering?

Grab a plastic water bottle, cut a big rectangle out of it then wrap it up so it would fit into the cap hole in the reservoir. I rotated it around so the fluid will hit the plastic bottle when the fluid started to feed from the cooler. Sort of acts like a baffle plate I guess.

And you know what? It actually worked for a bit!

I quickly filled up the reservoir with new fluid and took the car over to short track for a few runs.

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Again, damn the car felt so different compared to the 180sx! Out of the 30-35 passes I made, I held onto no more than 5. It felt like all the weight in the car was in front of me, the rear end would loop almost every run on the entry. I tried a few different things to see what would/wouldn’t work but didn’t have much luck. I’ll have to work on my entries in the car next year.

After a few final runs with the JDM Garage guys I ended up bending my driver side tie rod so thought it was time to park up for the night.

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Despite the problems I had with power steering, the first shakedown was a success!

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I’m proud I made it to the one event I had been stressing over all year and the fact I got to get on track and drive all day is just a bonus. Sure I had a few little problems, but I know that’s expected with a brand new untested car. Saturday night was the first night in months where I got a full nights sleep. Nothing to worry about with the car, no stress, no bullshit, just a good night’s sleep. After the months of work I finally had some time to eat good food and relax!

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