Mark Bullett’s 420A
What Mitsubishi do you race? How long have you been racing it?
Mitsubishi Eclipse non turbo 420A (as well as run a 420A turbo). I started racing with this car in May of 2006.
Why did you choose this car to race?
Honestly, I chose to run the Eclipse because I got the wrong Eclipse – oops.
You’ve walked a different path than most DSMers. How so? Why have you gone this route?
When I was much younger, I raced Mustangs and GTOs. Fun stuff, but kids came along and priorities changed and I moved on to raise the family. After the kids got older, I wanted to get back into racing (during that time I did build and race air-cooled VWs. Was a VW engine “remanufacturer” for a time, so it fit with the job), so I started looking around for a car. Thought I might try my hand at a Chevy or something new to me. The only problem with that was, that everyone had done so much with those cars that there was little challenge.
I then heard about these “tuner’ cars, that you could adjust the computer and find free horsepower! Wow! Imagine adjusting to find 200whp more horsepower. Sounds interesting (ok, that’s what I was told when I was looking at them. I think we all know different). So I immediately went out and found one of those Mitsubishi Eclipses as my daily to play with.
Unfortunately, the one I chose was NOT the one you could play with the computer on. Come to find out (after I bought it), it was the turbo Eclipse (known as the turbo “4G63”) that you could do that on. I had bought the non turbo Eclipse (the Eclipse with the “420A” engine in it).
Well, being the stubborn, “one off” kinda guy (that a lot of us racers are), I just decided I would go for the fastest 420A NA record. Seeing as how I did the “old school”, non turbo, naturally aspirated cars anyway, this dove-tailed nicely with what I had experience in.
So that brought me to the track having built a little of the engine internals, and I was able to purchase a computer that was more aggressive than the stock computer (I really felt that this was a big weak link in the chain for these cars. The stock ECU was made for scooting around town and getting good gas mileage. But it was a dog at the track).
I now had a little bigger compression (10.9 instead of stock 9.6), some better cams (let’s call them a stage 2. Basically can be run on the street with good idle, but would allow you to get some more top end power – provided your set-up would allow it also), and the aforementioned “race” ECU. (Now keep in mind that those are just the primary important items. I also needed to allow the other components to “breathe” – but not too much, so that my air velocity would be hurt.)
So I put a bigger throttle body on and ported out the intake to accommodate more air flow. I also did a small port on the exhaust ports of the head to open that up to air flow. In addition, I put on a bigger exhaust, high flowing cat and better flowing header to “complete” the air flow tract.
Well the current record at the time, for these cars was 14.6 in the quarter. 14’s had only been broken into a couple of times, so that was the number that I was shooting for; to somehow get into the 14’s. First time out, I ran a 15.317 @ 93.37. The next time out, I broke into the 14’s (firstname.lastname@example.org). By the next couple of months I had surpassed the 14.6 by running a email@example.com and the rest was gravy, working up to the current time of 13.231 @ 106.09.
This was all done through just curiosity of “what would happen if.” As in, what would happen if I did changed throttle bodies? Or what would happen if I used these tires? Etc.
Got a favorite story to tell about building or racing the Eclipse?
And all through this my favorite question was, “ So, what turbo are you running?.” I had people crawling around under my car (after I had beaten their turbo car) looking for the “spray” (as in the famous Fast and Furious “NOS” that allowed these cars to go so fast at a push of a button. The only button I had was the accelerator.)
When giving the car the final once-over before a race, what sort of things are you looking at?
Before I get ready to run, I need to do some checks and procedure. Luckily for me I have less to worry about than the guy running nitrous or the guy who is turbo’ed (fewer components/systems to worry about). Prior to bringing my car to the track, I have already done all the maintenance and checks to be sure your car is up to racing (say new plugs, all fluid checks, any tuning necessary, all the safety checks), so I am very limited as to what I need to do.
I just fire her up and watch the gauges as she warms up. I only need to watch two gauges for warm up; coolant temp and oil pressure. As soon as my car gets up to coolant temp and the oil pressure falls down to it proper psi, then my engine components are ready to run. Then I will get out and check for any goofy leaks under the car. Worst thing you can do to the rest of field is oil down the track (I have been at tracks where someone has gone all the way down the track leaking COOLANT – of all things in your race car, there should never be coolant in it. It should always be water). This will shut down the track for an extended period of time (and make you no friends in the mean time).
Now that your engine components are warmed up, you need to warm up your drive-train components. I always use my first run as a warm up for the drive-train. I will launch easier and hit my shift points a little lower on that first run, just to warm them up. Because I am non-turbo, I can hot-lap (do one run right after another) much easier because I don’t have to worry about the turbo components needing to cool down.
Now while the engine components are one thing, the tires and tire pressures are a whole different ball game. There is a lot going into choosing the right size tires, the right air pressures (for each tire) at the right times of the day etc. Suffice it to say, the tires are a constantly changing situation throughout the day.
What have you already accomplished with the Eclipse?
Along with racing, I need to hit the dyno for tuning my car (no way to street tune my car so I have to hit the dyno). Like many I’ve got a specific tuner that I use all the time (Matt at Dentsport in Norwood, Mass. I’ve done well over 100 “pulls” with him.) I use the same tuner, basically, because of his expertise in my ECU choice (it’s called Megasquirt) and his years of experience at tuning period. (Keep in mind I also have the current highest, naturally aspirated. horsepower “record” for our cars. Matt has it up to 219.4whp. To put that in perspective, the next closest known whp is in the 170’s!)
For some reason, the dyno can bring out the gremlins in your car. I have had quite a few goofy little things happen while on the dyno (almost like the gremlins enjoy the stress of you putting your car on the dyno). They usually tend to be electrical issues that you need to find quick, so you are stuck searching on the dyno, but there is one goofy thing that happened that I have not heard of with these cars.
Tell us about a time something stupid broke?
As my car is doing a pull, I will look at the front of it to see if any smoke or leaks develop during the pull. If they do, I will signal Matt and he will shut it down immediately. Well, during one pull (now this was on a 420a non turbo car, that I had turbo’ed), I was watching a pull and as the car reached right around 5000rpm, I saw an item roll out at me as the car was still pulling. It curved right toward me (I stand off to the side while the pull is going on) and rolled right to my feet. As I saw it, I tried to figure out what it was (keep in mind that my car is still pulling. It pulls to 8200rpm). I knew I could recognize it as something, but I just couldn’t put it into a category of recognition in my mind (now this is all happening real fast in my head). I’m thinking. “Is this a part off the dyno? Is this a part off my car?” I know I recognize it, but it seems like something is missing. Then it dawns on me what it is. It’s my water pump pulley! Huh, how could that be?!
Why so surprised? Because the water pump pulley is pressed onto the shaft of the water pump. It is not made to come off. But, more importantly, the timing belt is wrapped around the water pump pulley. There is no way for the car to run, if you don’t have a water pump pulley on! Talk about your gremlins!
So, (again, Matt is still pulling power out of the set-up during his pull without a water pump pulley on it) I motion for Matt to shut it down, but it is too late, he has finished the pull! Now we are all like what the F…?
Well, as we look at her after shut down, we see what has happened. Yes for some odd reason the water pump pulley fell off, but somehow the pulley popped out and the belt fell on the remaining stub shaft that the pulley fell off of and continued to ride on that shaft.
When giving the car the final once-over before a race, what sort of things are you looking at?
What are your concerns at this point?
Make no mistake, for racers in the pits, it is MASH unit time. Unless you got loads of dough (for the crew and parts that you need), you are doing what ever you can do, as quickly as you can do it, to make it back out to the track in time to get your run in. You are not thinking about the beautiful weld or the perfectly sealed wire, you are thinking about getting the hell back to the track.
Walk our readers through what happens between when you get into and out of the Eclipse for a run and your concerns each step of the way.
Having raced for many years, a lot of what I do is like muscle memory. You’ll come up to the water pit, wet the tires, pull the e-brake, and let her spin a bit. I don’t go into big smoke shows like many like to do. My slicks do not need to be super-heated to be sticky so I just spin for some smoke and then ride it up to the line.
Once at the line, I pull up until I get one yellow light on the “tree” to show (let’s say we have a sportsman’s tree, not a pro tree). I’ll then wait for the other car to pull one light (it’s a courtesy thing) and then I creep up until I get 2 yellow lights. At that point, I creep up just a tiny bit more and pull the e-brake. Then when the other car gets their two lights, I’ll pull her up to launch rpm (with he NA its right around 5200 now. This number is very flexible and will change from set-up to set-up. It can even change from run to run).
What are you thinking during the race?
From here on, my focus is on the tach and the lights. In a Pro tree, you will get a flash of all the orange lights and then a green to go. With a Sportsman tree you will watch the orange “work its way down” the tree to the green light. You try to time it so that you start moving as the light turns green. That’s your launch point.
Are there any DSM-specific concerns during the race?
My FWD launch is different than my AWD launch and my NA launch is different than my turbo launch. Its all about getting her to hook-up properly. On my NA launch I ride the clutch very slightly and as soon as she starts to move, I dump the clutch. The first shift comes very quick and I try to shift by 8200rpm (shift points are specific to each set-up. It depends on your power curve and where its peaking and your gearing and also, which gear you are in. I like to go past my power peak enough, so that when I shift, I will fall back down to where my torque is still pulling hard). I do not lift the accelerator when I shift. I keep her pegged down until the run is over. I actually start to move the shifter before I have even pushed down on the clutch. This requires a little re-learning, but it is very effective with a manual transmission.
From there, its just watch your tach, shift, and keep your line.
After the clock stops, any cool down procedures or self-evaluation en route back to the pits?
After I cross the line, I do a quick check of the brakes to be sure that they are working and nothing screwed up, and quick look at the gauges, and I also like to push the clutch in to be sure there is no lock-up. Then I coast down to the shack (while watching the opposite track driver. The driver on the inside track always has the courtesy of turning first. Depending on how far you are from each other the outside driver may go first, but generally the inside driver has the option.)
As far as mental preparation, well, I really don’t have any except to focus up as I get to the line. I’ve been racing so long that, as I stated before, a lot of it is just muscle memory. Once I get used to a new set-up (couple o’ few runs to find shift points and power range), I’m simply having a whole lotta testosterone-induced fun. In some sense it is simply go out there and give her hell. But because you do it for so long, it’s a controlled hell.
What does it take to go the distance? Mechanically? Mentally?
How is that mechanical/mental prep different from other forms of racing?
One of the problems that the new driver has is he has to think about everything. That’s where you run into problems. If you have to think about it, then you are not doing it as a natural motion. That scrubs time.
How have you tuned the car for what kind of powerband? Flat torque curve? Peaky?
As for tuning the car, of course, Matt at Dentsport has always tuned the car. I can build whatever needs to be built and I can design what I want, but I only tune to get her started, running, and smooth enough to work on the dyno. The rest I leave to the experts (I’m working on a tight margin with high comp and knock and all, so I feel its best to have someone with years of experience at tuning take care of the rest. Its called know your strengths).
But I do have input in how close to the edge we will tune. I always fall back on the old adage, “I don’t race anybody at idle.” Meaning I really don’t care about spending time down low. As long as she starts and runs, that’s all I need down low. I’m not below 5000rpm at the track, so that’s where I put my work. I always try to put on the proper parts that will allow me to have a nice high peak, but also keep the curve up after the peak. Because you are still running in the range. You don’t just go to your peak power point then shift. You need to pass your peak so you still fall back in power on your shift.
What has been your favorite event? Why?
The best event to run at is what’s called the DSM/Evo Shootout that’s held at Summit Raceway in Ohio every year. It is like the yearly nationwide event for our cars. But its not just the racing that catches you, it’s a 3 day social event where you can shoot the sh*t with a bunch of different people that have the same interest as you do. People that you may have never met, people that you may see but once a year (at this event), or people that you talk to over the internet (through sites like 2gnt.com, the nationwide forum for our cars). It is a pretty big event that brings together a very interesting (maybe even eclectic) group of people for fun and shenanigans.
What’s next for the Eclipse? Why?
I had hoped to have my “new” project done by the Shootout, but it just didn’t work out to be ready yet. I was hoping to debut a 16 to 1, stock sized, 2.0 set-up that would be run on gas. Again, I do this because I’m curious. Just want to see “what will happen if…” Unfortunately, there was a mix up on rod sizing, so I haven’t gotten them in yet (there’s always something).
Is it easy to get into this type of racing?
Funny thing, this started out as “let’s drive the car down to the track and see how fast I can make my slow daily driver” (and for a couple of grand and my labor I got her down to 13.9 as a daily), into “hey let’s put a 16 to 1 piston set-up in there.” (Where even with my labor and help from a great friends’ shop – Mike at Northeast Auto in East Hartford who also has the “let’s try this” attitude, this is working on maybe 8k in funds and development. For a guy who does all his own labor and designs a lot of his own product, that’s a pretty high number.)
Which I guess is the beauty of this sport; anybody can run their car. They get to decide at which level they want to run it (meaning how much to you want to spend, ha ha). Hell recently I ran a bone stock automatic Eclipse 420A down the track. A big 17.7 but it was still a lot of fun.
Who has helped you the most along the way?
As far as people helping me, funny thing is, in the old days you had your small group of racing buddies to bounce ideas off and help you out, and that was it. You were limited by location (yes, that was back in the caveman days of no internet). Now, with the internet, there are just so many contacts who have helped me its incredible.
To name some would be to leave some out. But I’ll try anyway, I already mentioned my buddy Mike at Northeast and Matt from Dentsport, I also have another friend who has helped me design and machine, Steve Mastrianni. I met him on our local site (ccdsm.net) and he has helped me out enormously working hand in hand on various things. Mark Peachy, who has also helped me out in designing and making airflow items. Mike Frye (All Motor Mike out of Surprise, AZ) and I have discussed various head and intake designs which he, in turn, made up for me. My buddy Mario (whose last name I won’t even attempt to spell), in working with design ideas that come up while we are hanging out “old school” style and bullshitting about concepts.
But here’s the funny thing, a lot of my work was done from searching the internet. With our cars there is the site that I mentioned (2gnt.com) that has been an enormous wealth of information for me to think about. Not to mention that inspiration you get when reading through the site and seeing the excitement generated.
Who do you look up to in the Mitsubishi community?
First one who got me going was Brian. [Aw, I’m touched, Mark! – B] It was his information digging and enthusiasm for his own quest that helped me out while searching through (and then helped me out while I did my own little journey). Dino Yancey and Terry Godfrey who gave me info that I wouldn’t get on my own until I had years of experience looking, checking, trying and failing. Not only did they save me a whole lotta of time, they also gave me support and inspired me to continue on the “NA way.” It’s kind of like having your small group of racing buddies, but then having an open phone to thousands of others (you younguns’ don’t know how good you have it).
How do you pay it forward and help others?
How do you encourage other enthusiasts to get involved in legitimate racing?
And then I can help out like they did by answering the new guys questions or writing up “how to” articles in the site’s wiki. I always like to give back to people anyway and this way I give my little bit, but it can touch a lot of people. It also allows me just a little bit of leverage in helping those guys who just want to say how cool they are and race on the streets. That’s a very dangerous game. Its not about the danger to the racer though, its about the danger to the people around them. The sites give me a (for lack of a better term) forum for getting the idea across that street racing can take out someone’s mother, sister, daughter, brother etc. – and once that is done, there is no undoing. Not to mention that it has been my experience at the track that those “I’m so cool street racers” tend to get eaten up and spit out at the track; whole lot of talk until they run, then a whole lot of humble pie to feast on. The track is a great humbler.
Do you spend time on any Mitsubishi sites? Which ones?
So speaking of those sites there are a few that I frequent pretty much every day. 2GNT (where I am a moderator), DSMtuners (the national DSM site, where I am a 420A Wiseman), of course, my local site ccdsm.net, also neons.org (our sister car, has a lot of the same motor and transmission parts). Those are the sites I check on daily. Of course there are a host of other sites that I frequent but those are the main ones.
Current mod list for the car:
NON modular clutch set-up; Audi PP, T4 Dodge disc, Neon Flywheel
Polyuerathane motor mounts (sides)
solid roll stop (front) Energy suspension filled with pl-400 (rear)
JE 12.1CR pistons
Crower 3 cams
.020 off head
5 angle valve job
AMM port and polish (intake and exhaust)
MLS Head gasket
Of course, full rebuild on bearing etc. (stock)
PT Cruiser lifters and rockers
Mustang 450cc injectors
Mustang 65 mm TB
AEM adj. cam gears
Mark Peachy air horn intake
Mark Peachy LTH
2.5 modified downpipe back exhaust
No power steering /AC
Honda “race” radiator
Summit heat wrap
Teins and ad.j KYB’s (1.8 drop) in front
Stock springs adj. KYB in back
Upper strut bar
Remove passenger air bag; replace with modified sheetmetal gauge panel
Remove rear seat
Remove passenger seat
Lexan rear window
Carbon fiber hood
Mark demonstrates how fulfilling it can be to take the path less traveled. His Eclipse is one of the most sinister-sounding machines you will ever know. If you care to follow along to see what else may happen, you can follow Mark at 2gnt.com. His screen name is bullettdsm.