June 23, 2000
To All Star FM Racers:
If this bulletin turns out to be a little long, I apologize. Please take the time to digest the contents however, because how you choose to react (or not) may have a great influence on your satisfaction with your race car, and also upon its value.
Attached is a copy of my letter to SCCA regarding some product improvements we believe are for the benefit of the vast majority of Star Formula Mazda owners. Each item stands on its own and, of course, there are pros and cons for each. The letter also refers to some proposals the Competition Board has published as “recommended for approval for 1/1/2001.”
We have received an answer, verbally, that the Competition Board will publish in the August 2000 edition of Fastrack, one or more tech bulletins (a) reinstating the new mirror part number, (b) clarifying that the number of shock absorber packers permitted is free, and (c) that cutting the slit on the packer(s) to wedge shape for ease of installation/removal is okay. The rest are going to be “published for member input.”
The possibilities are endless, as well as the potential time frame to reach any decision (or none). We hope the following information will be helpful as you decide your own position on these matters. We will try to deal with each, starting with the simplest ones first.
THE THREE PROPOSALS BY WINKLEMAN
(A) Limiting jet choices. The proposal is far too narrow in our opinion. See our 3 May 00 letter, point (a).
(B) Delete 46mm chokes. Okay by us.
(C) Header wraps. A very bad idea. If paint blisters on the RH side pod are the concern, there are insulating materials that can be attached in the critical area. Some would argue that even that is a rules change, but it would be a better choice, in our opinion.
THE BRAKE SYSTEM UPDATES (Item 4)
These are in response to various car owners’ input. Some drivers have no complaints about the present system. This is why we would like to see these items be optional for those who want them. NOTE: There will be zero change in available stopping power
either way. However, we have seen that the brake pad material choice and individual driver technique can affect the system adversely. Some brands of brake pads conduct way more heat through the pad backing plate than others. Also, aggressive left foot braking further aggravates the situation. The new caliper piston is simply a better heat sink. Likewise for the steel shims. Cost is not as significant as the price difference of various brands of brake pads.
MARK V GEARS (Item 2)
First, look at the chart in the May 3 letter. The spec gear ratios are maintained within 50 RPM or less in the useable range of the motor. There is no cost issue regarding new cars. The rub comes when you realize you cannot mix Mark V and Mark VIII gears in the box. So you have to weigh the benefit of more durable and reliable Mark V gears against the cost of conversion (about $800). We think you should have the choice. Of course, a significant product reliability improvement at no additional cost for production makes it a “no brainer” for new cars.
From the manufacturer’s point of view, it seems silly not to treat the gear and the brake improvements as simply “running changes,” since neither cost nor performance, other than improved reliability, are at issue. To deny buyers of new cars these quality improvements and existing car owners of the opportunity to convert, in the name of the “spec” concept, just seems vindictive. No one is compelled to convert. It would be an option for those who consider the reliability improvement to be a good value. That’s all.
SHOCK ABSORBER UPDATE (Item 3)
This one is the most complicated to explain because there are many facets to consider. There are two primary motivating factors: (1) the enforceability problems with the spec/performance of the current Koni shocks (again, please see May 3 letter), and (2) the fact that availability of the current shocks is problematic and Koni is impatient for us to decide on a replacement spec they can supply. Koni has cooperated with us for over one year making small quantities of the current shocks, even though knowing we were shopping several other shock absorber companies for comparisons. Make no mistake. The new shocks are better in every way and there will probably be some improvement in lap times as a result. (Cost -- $1,800 per car, or about $100 per shock increase.)
The difficulty is that, if we delay the decision on the new shocks, we may face severe availability problems because Konis are made in Belgium and we must order a fairly large quantity to get them built at a sensible price. This takes about six months from order to availability. Star Race Cars’ dilemma is, either we order $40,000 to $60,000 worth of shocks SCCA may not approve, or we jeopardize spare parts availability early next season, not to mention three to six months of new car production/sales. We could very well find ourselves unable to obtain the current shocks even at a price comparable to the proposed new shock and no SCCA approval on any new replacement shock. If not the shock we developed, then which?
We think this problem should be ours, not yours, but the reality of procedure in SCCA is, active member input moves things along. There has never been much inclination in Denver to do Formula Mazda any favors. (Remember what we went through to get a national class?) By the way, we are told Spec Racer Ford has recently gone through two shock absorber changes, without even being submitted for member input. How equitable is that?
Please contact us with any comments or questions you may have. The critical thing is, the Board is very much inclined to take its time gathering facts. We need Star FM owners to get involved with letters and e-mails to weigh in on these subjects ASAP, so the 2001 season does not become a confused combination of poorly planned choices. We have worked diligently to respond in the most carefully considered ways possible to FM owner input about our product and racers’ needs. We want to continue to give you what we think is one of the best value packages in racing. Please help us help you.
Safety, equality, and value remain our primary objectives. There are always questions about the cost and frequency of updates on Formula Mazdas. We think the following argument should be convincing: Some years there are no significant updates. But, if you bought a new Star Formula Mazda in 1993 and have done all of the updates since, the value of a well-maintained used FM has increased more than the total cost of all of the updates. Most years the updates have cost less than one set of tires.
The bottom line is a decision must be made soon. The only way to get what you want is to make it clear to the Competition Board and the SCCA directors. Star Race Cars will be bound by their decision. Act now!
Gary E. Rodrigues