#GRIDLIFE Midwest – CODY MILES #LIFEONAIR
We’re dropping the mic..and letting Cody Miles tell everyone about his #lifeonair as he embarks on another winning year on the track with his 2007 Subaru STi fitted with our Subaru STi air suspension kit and the latest Air Lift Performance 3H control system:
I guess that I should start with the slew of changes the car went through leading up to its 2017 debut. A common trend I’ve begun to see is one of tearing the car apart between events, especially between race seasons. It seems that, whether I plan to or not, I always end up shredding the thing in my down time. I will say, however, that most of the time it’s for the best reason – going faster than I ever have before. I have a constant, never-ending desire to push the envelope in an attempt to shed some light on what else is possible.
It’s this progressive nature that has always drawn me to racing. The fact that fast is never fast enough means that there is always more that can be done to shave time, which eliminates all possibilities of boredom. Now, with all of that in mind, let me be the first to tell all of you that I never had plans of building this car to anything near the caliber that it is now. As many of you know, this car was my daily driver… until it slowly evolved into what it is today, one step at a time. Looking at my history with this car, I’m almost afraid to acknowledge what the future holds for it (and my bank account).
Anyway, as far as the off-season leading into 2017 went, I was able to make a few key upgrades in order to make the car competitive for its new class: Track Modified / Limited. Bumping up a class just felt like the right move in order to keep things progressing. So, with that mindset, I opted to ditch the roll bar for a full roll cage from the Mobile Weld Specialist himself, Ed Haroutonian. The roll bar was great, and served its purpose, but, with speeds reaching 165mph, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with something a bit more robust between myself and the outside world. Going fast is the goal here, but remembering to keep safety in mind can make all the difference in the world when things go south. Besides, the new cage makes for a much more rigid chassis, which translates into a more direct feel between car and driver.
Next up were the wheels and tires. With the class bump, the vehicle can now be fitted with larger, stickier tires. For this, I contacted the guys over at Federal Tires to see what their new FZ-201s were all about. I’d heard great things about these new tires, so I opted to give them a try in a 285/30/18. Tires are nothing without the right lightweight wheel, so I then got in touch with Jack over at Ambit Wheels. Ambit has been around for a couple years and are just now releasing their newest line of flow-forged lightweight racing wheels. I immediately fell in love with the FF4 design and needed to get my hands on them. I landed with 18×10.5 et20 FF4s, which weigh in at about 21 lbs. As many of you know by now, I don’t like leaving things alone, so I threw my own twist in there by powder coating the new wheels fluorescent red.
Next up, in order to fit the fatter wheels and tires, I needed a set of attractive flares, and I looked no further than a complete set from Suby Flares. I knew they would give me the extra clearance I needed, while also looking mean and aggressive, which is always important to me.
Now that I had the new shoes and safety improvements, I was dying to get to something that I’ve been meaning to do for years… canards! I’ve always felt like the car could use a bit more front grip at high speed. One way of improving upon the existing splitter and increasing front downforce is to design some large canards with end plates that tie everything together. For this project, I worked closely with Brad Wintermantle at Spinnaker. Spinnaker specializes in custom carbon fiber fabrication and caters exclusively to the automotive world. All it took was an idea of what I wanted to accomplish with this aero upgrade and, from that point on, Brad was off mixing chemicals and laying carbon. He was able to bring all of our ideas to life through pure witchcraft and wizardry. Before I knew it, all of the carbon pieces were complete and ready to be bolted on!
At this point, we’d obviously done a few things to increase the lateral G’s that this car is capable of achieving. With this comes a major concern: oil starvation, every Subaru owners’ worst nightmare! In my previous seasons of racing, I could actually watch my oil pressure gauge steadily drop during any sort of prolonged cornering. This meant that the oil supply in the pan wasn’t staying put for the pump to pull from when needed. One solution to this issue is an Accusump system, which is a secondary, pressurized container of oil that feeds the engine for a brief period of time when oil pressure is low. Basically, it is a helping hand via pressurized oil that will get you through that corner or bank, so things stay lubricated. Another option, which is generally a better idea (if your wallet’s up for it), is a dry sump system. Dry sump systems are designed to maintain solid oil supply during just about any condition. They work by relocating the engines oil supply entirely into a tank, which then relies on external pumps to force it directly into the engine and back again.
Needless to say, I opted for a dry sump system with the goal of never having to worry about oil pressure again. I got with Phil at Element Tuning and picked up the kit that he put together for us EJ25 guys. All of these new parts sound great and all, but I’m my own wrench – that means that I had a ton of work ahead of me in order to get all this stuff finalized and ready for battle. It took several late nights and every possible second of my weekends to get this car to the next level in time for Gridlife Midwest… but I’ve never missed a deadline with this car and I wasn’t about to start now!
With Gridlife rapidly approaching, I was able to finally lower the car from the lift and onto its own weight for the first time in 10 weeks, with one day to spare! At this point, all I could do was air out, stand back and stare… This thing had really transformed into a completely new beast and I was in love all over again.
All joking aside, I would’ve obviously preferred to get some track testing in on the new setup before dragging it across the country for its first race of 2017, but there simply wasn’t time for that. So, what could I do? Well, it’s still a street car, so I hit the streets! After a short drive, confirming that everything at least worked, it was time to get it home and start packing for Michigan! The final day before our 2,400-mile cross-country journey was spent prepping the truck, swapping fresh rubber on the trailer, hitting the grocery store, doing laundry, and loading the car… you know, all the boring, behind the scenes work that makes this stuff possible 🙂
Fast forward through the 70mph, four-day journey across the states and into Michigan where my dad and I had finally arrived at the 2017 Gridlife Midwest Motorsport Festival. To say that I was completely ecstatic with excitement and curiosity would’ve been an understatement.
I’ve been told more than once that “If there’s any event to attend regarding motorsports and car culture, it’s Gridlife.” In fact, I’d heard so many amazing things about Gridlife events that I was almost certain that there was no way for it to live up to its hype, but boy was I wrong!
Upon arriving at Gingerman Raceway and setting up our home for the next several days, I began to feel the vibe that everyone had promised me existed only at these events. We were quickly surrounded by ridiculous cars, scooters, pit bikes, golf carts (both lifted and slammed), and just about every other toy you could imagine. I knew right then and there that this event was going to be different than anything I had ever experienced and I couldn’t wait! The only thing left to do at this point was to get some rest and be ready to hit the track the following morning.
The alarm clock goes off and the announcement for a drivers’ meeting echoes through the paddock. The first of three track days had arrived and not a moment too soon. The car was ready for war, and so were we. We got our schedule and suited up for the first of three sessions that day. My plan of attack at this point was simple: LEARN THE TRACK. I had never even seen this track before, let alone driven it, so I needed to take my time with it and absorb as much as possible – and fast.
I headed out onto the track for the first time at 10am with no idea what to expect. I drove at about 50% and just tried to focus specifically on line selection and memorization. My initial reaction to Gingerman Raceway was that it seemed pretty straight forward, with very forgiving surroundings in case of a mistake. There are some tracks that you really don’t want to go off and blow corners on and Gingerman Raceway is not one of those. This inspires some confidence, since the risk of damaging the car in the case of an off is relatively low. I made it through day one with all four tires maintaining contact with the pavement, and my splitter not seeing any lawn mowing action yet. This was to be expected, since I was intentionally holding back until I felt confident enough in my line. Once I felt ready, I was surely going to see some off-roading.
There was no real excitement during the first day, other than the fact that my oil pressure seemed to be suffering pretty bad. During my hot laps, I was glancing down to an oil pressure gauge that had NIGHTMARE written all over it. I was seeing pressure live as low as 40 psi on full throttle throughout the entire RPM range. In a perfect world, I’d prefer that number to never dip lower than 70… 40 psi ultimately means one thing: engine failure. So, if it sounds difficult to watch a gauge like a hawk, while also attempting to learn a track with nothing but dollar signs running through your mind, that’s because it is! Distracting is an understatement for that situation.
I started asking around for answers as to what could possibly be causing my new dry sump to be running such low pressure. There were no great answers, and not much I could do track-side to get a handle on it. This is something that was going to need some garage time and testing, something I didn’t exactly have available to me if I wanted any chance at walking away from this place with a victory. There was however one thing that everyone agreed on: my engine had no chance of surviving through this weekend with oil pressure that low, and it’s a miracle it hadn’t blown already. I knew that was the case, but I couldn’t bear the thought of putting all of this effort into coming out to this event, all the way from California, only to raise the white flag. I had sponsors relying on me, family that dropped everything to get me here, and friends back home rooting for me, but, most importantly, I had myself to let down if that was the case. I crossed my fingers and decided that I was going to continue on through the weekend and attempt to ignore the gigantic red flag on my dashboard.
With the first day of driving behind us, I was able to watch some in-car video and quickly determine where I could make up some time. Aside from the oil pressure issue, which was out of my hands, the car was performing absolutely perfectly. I felt like I had tons of grip with the new setup while the car remained neutrally balanced and maintained the ability to rotate on command. The fact that I had the ability to grip it and rip it through each corner or to rotate the car into a power slide on command told me that I wasn’t going to need to touch suspension adjustments at all. I prefer the handling characteristics of this Subaru to keep me on my toes, while also being able to put down every bit of power without causing any sort of unbalance when I need it to, and that’s exactly what it was doing.
After studying the track a bit, fueling up, and getting squared away with a shower and change of clothes, it was now time to see what the nightlife at Gridlife had to offer. This is where things got real interesting! I found myself surrounded by nothing but great people with positive vibes in no time. This event truly had it all, after spending all day racing the clock and watching some insane drifting, we were now dancing in a sea of like-minded motorsport enthusiasts to massive bass drops, lasers, light shows, and smoke machines. The whole atmosphere of the place was absolutely overwhelming in the best way possible, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. With a practically endless source of entertainment, I literally had to FORCE myself to go to sleep.
Once again, the alarm clock went off and there was a call for all drivers to report to the meeting at 8am. Out of bed, suit on, and off I went to get this day rolling. Normally, I’d be pretty exhausted at this point, but there was something about this entire experience that took over and shoved any negative thought to the back. We were now on day two of three and it was about time to start actually pushing and driving with some purpose. I headed out for the first session of the day and put down my single lap, which I felt was half-way decent. At this point I was only running one lap per session, which only equates to three laps per day, which was definitely a bummer. My reasoning was to limit the pure torture I was putting my engine through. Oil pressure drops as temperature increases, and I didn’t even want to know how low the pressure would drop if I attempted more than a single lap.
With my single lap in the books, I was sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as lap times were concerned. That was great and all, but I wasn’t about to accept that. I spent the rest of that day doing my measly single lap runs, pushing harder and learning something new each time around. I ended up cutting about two seconds off of my previous best by the end of the day, which now landed me in 3rd place for my class. At this point, I was feeling pretty good and really couldn’t complain, but there was still that underlying hunger that would accept nothing shy of victory. There was about 1.7 seconds that separated myself and 1st place at this time. This was a pretty decent chunk of time, considering the fact that I was only dropping about .3 seconds with each run. I somehow needed to pull 2 seconds out of thin air and by the end of the following day, which was my last chance at leaving this place with a victory. I’ll admit that I was a bit stressed by the end of day two, knowing how much time I needed to drop. I didn’t exactly know how or where I could find that kind of time, so I spent some time talking with my crew and reviewing footage in hopes of finding mistakes. I’m far from perfect, so there are mistakes all over the place – it’s just a matter of effectively choosing how to go about fixing them.
After doing some self-reflection on how exactly I was going to drop those precious seconds for the final day of competition, it was about time to once again turn the stress off and switch gears into party mode. With another much-needed shower and set of fresh clothes, we were off to explore yet another night of Gridlife. In no time at all, we came across several dudes covered head to toe in baby oil… what were they doing? Wrestling of course!
Next on the list was to checking out the silent disco, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is literally a dance club filled with people having a great time, all while connected to the music via individual headsets. Watching this from the outside is pure entertainment, I’ll just leave it at that. After that, we ventured out into the endless field of tents where the majority of fans were stationed. The level of party only increased from that point on, as we found ourselves elbow to elbow with everyone from idolized drivers and renowned photographers to random Michigan locals.
I can’t even count the amount of times the phrase “WTF is going on right now!?” passed through my mind. It was all for the sake of having a good time with great people, which is the primary objective of any Gridlife event. I can’t explain how much fun I had that night with all of the amazing people that made it possible. The best way I can put it is that when you quite literally forget that time exists and your only reminder that you still haven’t slept is the sun is beginning to rise, you probably had a pretty good time.
Day three. With two hours of sleep, zero regrets, and a race to win, I wake up to the incredible sights and sounds of that which is Gridlife. This event had officially blown my mind with everything that it had to offer, but it’s back to business as I suit up for the final battle and last chance of claiming a win here at the Midwest Motorsport Festival. The first session of the day is always the fastest due to prime weather conditions, so I’m well aware that I only have one shot at this, despite the remaining sessions throughout the day. I hop in the car, fire up the engine that should’ve blown up two days ago, and make my way to the grid.
With a few minutes to spare, I sat quietly and mentally ran through every aspect of the course that I would soon be trying to perfect. A few moments later and we were sent for our out lap. Before I knew it, I was mid-way through this hopefully flawless hot lap. I was feeling pretty confident as I pushed my braking points deeper and charged as hard as I could. Everything was going great until I attempted to transition into a long sweeping corner with a bit too much speed. The rear of the car lost traction and began stepping out further and further. In the blink of an eye I was backwards and heading for the grass at about 90mph with no chance of saving it.
The frustration that took over at that moment was crushing. This was my one chance at improving my 3rd place time and I blew it. Unfortunately, when trying to push for every millisecond, you end up riding a fine line between success and failure. At that very moment, I was living in the realm of failure. After spinning off deep into the grass, I slowly brought the car back on track, encompassed in disappointment. The reality of the situation at this point was that the tires were likely exceeding optimal temperatures, but, above all, the oil was HOT, which meant extremely low oil pressure. I proceeded through the rest of the lap knowing that if I pulled off I was done, and my goal of taking 1st place was out the window. However, if I proceeded with another hot lap in order to try again, the likelihood of annihilating the engine much greater.
So, against my wallet’s will, I decided that I didn’t work my butt off for the last several months to place 3rd. I hit the next lap as hard as I could. I felt pretty decent with everything, but chose to take things down a notch in the section that I just spun in. Overall it seemed like a decent lap, despite oil pressure reaching catastrophic levels. I glanced at the gauge immediately after crossing the finish line… It read 32 psi. I honestly couldn’t believe it. There’s no way the engine should be alive at this point, let alone boosting its brains out in full attack mode. After that lap, I gimped the car back to the paddock, praying that it wouldn’t quit on me. To my surprise, it didn’t! I have to hand it to Peter at Renner Racing Development for building this engine that literally went through hell and back, yet still remains ready for more. I wouldn’t have anyone else build my engines, and this is a prime example of why.
With the car parked, I quickly climbed out and ran for my phone so I could check lap times. Running through the menus and waiting for pages to show updated lap times was killing me! I was so anxious that waiting was too much. Then I finally got times… I had managed to drop 1.8 seconds for a final time of 1:35.94!!!
This meant that I was now in the lead by .07 seconds! I absolutely couldn’t believe it. Squeezing into the lead by that small of a gap is insane! My time stood as the fastest for the Trackmod AWD class for the rest of the day, which meant that I had officially claimed my spot at the top of the podium! The relief I felt was unexplainable. I knew I was capable of winning due to all of the incredible individuals I have behind me and my program, but it certainly didn’t come easy with all the issues we were fighting through.
For the first race in this new class and my first time in the driver’s seat in 8 months, with the car seeing zero testing, I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better outcome to this entire experience. Gridlife Midwest will forever go down in my book as the event that opened my eyes to what a good time with great people truly is. The amount of work that went into getting ready for this entire event was ridiculous, along with the 5,000-mile trek to make this possible, but I was walking away from it with a victory, a (somehow) working car, and an experience that I will never forget.
I can’t thank everyone who had anything to do with this enough. From friends and family to co-workers and sponsors who support everything I do, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope to continue doing this as long as I’m able to turn a wheel.
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