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Ghost buys a track rat?

2208 Views 42 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  ghost03
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In case you hadn't heard any of my cockerpunk rants, I bought a Spec Miata, started racing in the SCCA, and got sucked down the rabbit hole. It's fun as @#$#, but it's also serious, and more time consuming than I'd expected.

This is the car. It's awesome and I love it. But I think I need to get rid of it.
Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle

Land vehicle Vehicle Car Tire Wheel


Now, Miatas are easy to work on. Incredibly easy. They're light, efficiently laid out, have room to turn bolts, etc., which is awesome. The problem is that racing maintenance and track day maintenance are completely different animals and I wasn't prepared for that. We beat the absolute #@$# out of these cars. Faster to jump off a curb? Jump off a curb. Faster to be a 1/4" off a wall? Be a 1/4" off the wall. If someone bumps you into it, you can always get a new mirror housing from Mazda and door card from a junkyard.

Things I've replaced in 1.5 years of ownership:
  • Transmission (broken 5th gear)
  • Radiator (crash)
  • Headlight (crash)
  • Front crash foam (crash)
  • Rear wheel bearing (loose)
  • Front wheel bearing (loose)
  • Windshield (rocks)
  • Harness (expired)
  • Smarty cam (broken)
  • 8 oil changes
  • 3 transmission fluid changes
  • Countless alignments with toe plates
  • Go Pro (rocks)
  • Alternator (worn out)
  • Tires - 10 sets
  • Brakes - 2 sets
  • Ball joint (pin sheared off in a qualifying session and sent me into the gravel trap)
  • Radiator housing (broken from getting winched out of gravel pit after ball joint failed)
  • Radiator fan (also winch)
  • Fender (trading paint)
  • Front clip (wear and tear, bump drafting, etc.)
  • Second transmission (broken 5th gear)
This is--relatively speaking--normal. And while I have the tools and skills to do all this, I would pretty consistently find myself leaving work, going to wrench on the car, getting back at midnight and passing out. The last one was kind of a nail in the coffin for me, it happened in a qualifying session. I missed the first of two races and had to swap it in the paddock while raining (although that sucked it's better than going home; shoutout to Planet Miata, who delivered the replacement!) I had the car ready to go for the second race, but exhausted, I managed to spin and get stuck in the dirt for a flat tow back. The good news is I did more than half the race--enough laps to count as a finish--before the spin and beat a couple racers that didn't. 馃槀
Wheel Tire Vehicle Automotive tire Hood


So now I'm re-evaluating things and a little bit lost. This is still a very good car. But I don't have time to maintain a race car for the amount of racing I'm doing (~2 race weekends/month). Most people doing the Majors and Super Tours have something called "Team Support"--a customer relationship where the team maintains and transports the car and you just show up to race--and so I think I'm going to do that. It sounds expensive, but the thing is, so is having a 20' box trailer that you haul around with all the tools, and they get some benefits from economy of scale too. An 18-wheeler can haul 4+ race cars and get 8mpg. I can haul one race car and get 10mpg. Same with sponsorship deals and wholesale parts pricing.


So basically, I want to get rid of this. That could mean a few different things:
  • Selling it and renting race cars from teams.
  • Selling it and commissioning a new one from a race team.
  • Turning it over to a race team to manage.
I'm not sure which of those I want to do and I have to think long and hard about it. In all of those scenarios I ditch the trailer, the car, and the majority of the hassle. Ditching the trailer is huge--it's basically an extra car to maintain, it's too big to store at my house so it lives across town in an industrial sector, and it's giving me a deep-seated desire to add an F-250 to the stable--But ditching the trailer also limits my schedule to events that the team's 18-wheelers are at. If I want to do some track days or time trials? Not happening. Autocross? Forget about it.

So either way I'd have a desire for a new track rat. Here are the requirements:
  • Relatively cheap to run
  • Light
  • MT
  • RWD
  • Reliably driveable to and from events--windows, AC, state inspection, etc.

I'll do some basic track rat mods. Half cage, buckets, 100TW, stiff suspension/bushing, etc., but since I'm ditching the trailer will need to be able to plate it.

Here are the candidates at the top of my head:

NA/NB Miata.
I know the platform and have lots of spares. But I won't be burning through them at track days the way I do races, and instead of running an intake restrictor I can run a supercharger. A friend of mine has an NA sitting in his back yard that has needed a clutch for 5 years which would be a good candidate.

Toyobaru:
I don't know the platform, but they're well regarded and meet my criteria. 200hp/2600lbs is actually kind of a sweet spot I think, more than that and you really start to go through brakes.


E36/E46:
Yes yes, I'm a fanboy, but this is VWVortex after all.
bmw e36 m3 track test


128i
Kind of a newer E36. Maybe not as raw but also we have some parts already because we have an E88 cab.
Tire, Wheel, Automotive design, Vehicle, Rim, Alloy wheel, Red, Car, Fender, Spoke,


TCL loves having a budget. I figure I'll get about $10k selling the trailer and will just "re-invest" that.

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Yeah. Or the Rousch motor from the SMX/MX-5 Challenge cars. I can order it from my Mazda team account. I need to look into that more actually.

Swap is definitely on the table with two caveats--first; I only have to do it once. None of these race car things were that big of a deal to me, even the paddock gearbox change. It's the recurring nature of it all; death by a thousand cuts.

That's the other caveat. I don't want it to be something I'm attached to and that sounds straight up endearing. Remember when Emmett put drywall screws into his truck to make a quick release front clip? That's the level of attachment I am shooting for here. 馃槀
NC with a 2.5L swap is pretty common and there are a few shops around the country that will do it, professionally. Adding a turbocharger and a good tune will make it a ton more fun. You will need to buy a built 6-speed or know that you'll be rebuilding the transmission if you run more than the stock engine- I've been reading the stock trans won't last even behind a NA 2.5 swap.

The NC was my #1 choice until I did the dumba** move to buy an M3 cabriolet instead.
SMX info btw:
Spec MX-5 v2 Racer Announced With More Power, New Suspension, More
https://specmx-5.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/2023-SMX-parts-list.pdf

Looks like I can buy the Roush head and rebuild the motor that comes with the car for a couple grand.

I realize this sounds crazy, taking on work to avoid work, but I just want to point out there's a huge huge huge difference wrenching on something in a parking like that you need to race the next morning vs. wrenching on something on a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. One is stress and the other is therapy.
[re: BMWs]

Yeah I think I'd have to up the budget for one but not quite as far as an ND2 or 2nd gen BRZ. In general they're something I'd consider but a little heavier than I'd like as well.
Well, E36 M3 is low $20ks and E46 M3 is $25-30k minimum. Both need subframe reinforcement and much bigger front brakes for longevity. The S54 is a maintenance bitch. I'd go with the NC/BRZ/ND route.
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Would love to find a BMW 1 series in 228 trim with the NA I6. That would make for a heck of a car to mod up for fun and you get that creamy nice I6.

That said, the second gen twin would really be terrific. If you are leaning that way, Jack from savagegeese on the tubes did up his GR86 with a bunch of the usual track-oriented mods (ohlins, AP brakes, etc) and they did a series of vids including a pro racer discussing the car. Might be worth watching those to see their impressions.

Have you considered a 350Z? They seem popular as well with excellent aftermarket and plenty produced.
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Well, E36 M3 is low $20ks and E46 M3 is $25-30k minimum. Both need subframe reinforcement and much bigger front brakes for longevity. The S54 is a maintenance bitch. I'd go with the NC/BRZ/ND route.
Yeah i didn鈥檛 see E36/E46 M3鈥檚 being in the cards at all. But a E36 328i or E46 330i is right up OP鈥檚 in terms of a streetable HPDE/TT weapon for $10k
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Well, E36 M3 is low $20ks and E46 M3 is $25-30k minimum. Both need subframe reinforcement and much bigger front brakes for longevity. The S54 is a maintenance bitch. I'd go with the NC/BRZ/ND route.
Oh, I'm talking 328/330i here I think. Maybe even 325i. I'm now pretty used to a tired pro-built N/A 1.8 with an intake restrictor, 185hp sounds gratuitous. 馃槀

Have you considered a 350Z? They seem popular as well with excellent aftermarket and plenty produced.
Not really. Like the Bimmers they're a little heavy. I've also heard people in the paddock complain of weird mechanical issues and stuff like fuel cut with half tank of gas. But it's definitely worth looking into more.
As you know I race SM and I actually just sold my NC street/fun car. It was a little different for me but I agree on the maintenance/fixing part. My last season was just full of issues and I didn't have a lot of fun. I won the first race I did last year and the season was downhill after that.

I bought the NC to have something to drive for fun on occasion and to do a DE every once in a while. It was good for that purpose and its still a miata with a little more power. You will need a roll bar at the very least, and a 2.5 swap with cams would really wake the car up.

To put it in perspective, I was faster in my SM around summit point than I was in the NC on street tires. But the Nc wasn't set up properly either.

In the end I had the NC for two years and did like 3 track days but only 2000 miles in total and I realized I just wasn't using it enough. I sold it and bought a mkvii R that I could use as a daily instead of the yukon xl and could still take kids around, etc but I can also take it to the track every once in a while instead of towing the SM.

I haven't taken it yet, but I wanted something fast enough to feel different than the SM. Also AWD.

Eventually I want to buy maybe a 997 as a weekend/DE car or maybe even a vette but for now this was a good medium of having a fun car that I can also track. You already have the 2 series don't you? If you will have the racecar managed by the team then that would open up a lot of time I guess.

Another option is to not race as often, maybe do 1x per month instead. But that sounds crappy. Unfortunately for me its about all my schedule allows but I really hate working on the car so its already a chore no matter what lol.
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I'm going to go a different route here and suggest a different form of racing. Ever consider endurance stuff like ChampCar? Based on your feedback, it sounds like you're stretched thin by doing all kinds of work to the car when you have issues. I'm on a Champ team with five other guys. Not only is it tons of fun hanging with good buddies and talking shop, but we split the work, labor, parts, etc. evenly. We blew up our diff the first race of the season. I volunteered to rebuild it, and no one else bothered me for other work (maintenance, cage work, etc.) while I dug into it. I've learned so much over the past two years racing with these guys, and there's no way I could have done it without them. Maybe you keep the Miata, convince a few friends to form a team, and campaign it in something like ChampCar?
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Things I've replaced in 1.5 years of ownership:
  • Transmission (broken 5th gear)
  • Radiator (crash)
  • Headlight (crash)
  • Front crash foam (crash)
  • Rear wheel bearing (loose)
  • Front wheel bearing (loose)
  • Windshield (rocks)
  • Harness (expired)
  • Smarty cam (broken)
  • 8 oil changes
  • 3 transmission fluid changes
  • Countless alignments with toe plates
  • Go Pro (rocks)
  • Alternator (worn out)
  • Tires - 10 sets
  • Brakes - 2 sets
  • Ball joint (pin sheared off in a qualifying session and sent me into the gravel trap)
  • Radiator housing (broken from getting winched out of gravel pit after ball joint failed)
  • Radiator fan (also winch)
  • Fender (trading paint)
  • Front clip (wear and tear, bump drafting, etc.)
  • Second transmission (broken 5th gear)
My God man, that makes running the sprint car sound easy and we break stuff on that all the time.

Picture for reference (not my buddy's car)

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Other than the transmission issues and a crash it doesnt really sound like the car is that much of an issue. Getting into a new chassis, especially building one is going to result in more breaks and more unknowns. Either get a car that's sorted from a well known local shop or be prepared to spend probably more time setting up a new chassis as repairing the current one.

That said. NC miata with a 2.5 the answer. Anything NA and NB is so trashed and old now you'll rebuild the entire car. I have a friend who builds almost exclusively Track/Time Attack miata's and the 2.5 Duratec is what he's seen the most success with recently.
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I don't having anything constructive to add to this conversation but have question. At the last IMSA/MX-5 cup race, while gawking over a spec Miata, the cars owner came over and had a very enthusiastic conversation with me. Very nice gentlemen went over the car in detail without me asking(like crossfit LOL). Anyway, he told me he can get a new spec Miata long block for $3500 from the supplier. He said it is basically the cheapest thing on the car. Is that true?
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As you know I race SM and I actually just sold my NC street/fun car. It was a little different for me but I agree on the maintenance/fixing part. My last season was just full of issues and I didn't have a lot of fun. I won the first race I did last year and the season was downhill after that.

I bought the NC to have something to drive for fun on occasion and to do a DE every once in a while. It was good for that purpose and its still a miata with a little more power. You will need a roll bar at the very least, and a 2.5 swap with cams would really wake the car up.

To put it in perspective, I was faster in my SM around summit point than I was in the NC on street tires. But the Nc wasn't set up properly either.

In the end I had the NC for two years and did like 3 track days but only 2000 miles in total and I realized I just wasn't using it enough. I sold it and bought a mkvii R that I could use as a daily instead of the yukon xl and could still take kids around, etc but I can also take it to the track every once in a while instead of towing the SM.

I haven't taken it yet, but I wanted something fast enough to feel different than the SM. Also AWD.

Eventually I want to buy maybe a 997 as a weekend/DE car or maybe even a vette but for now this was a good medium of having a fun car that I can also track. You already have the 2 series don't you? If you will have the racecar managed by the team then that would open up a lot of time I guess.

Another option is to not race as often, maybe do 1x per month instead. But that sounds crappy. Unfortunately for me its about all my schedule allows but I really hate working on the car so its already a chore no matter what lol.
The 2-series is fun to track on occasion, but its stock, and generally just a really nice car. I love commuting in it and don鈥檛 want to 鈥渕ess it up鈥 with track wear and mods.

I think I will be racing less as well. It just got to point where I鈥檓 like 鈥渙h, this is really messing with my life."

Good point about feeling different. That鈥檚 important, and counters the whole 'I've got a line on Mazda parts' thing.

I'm going to go a different route here and suggest a different form of racing. Ever consider endurance stuff like ChampCar? Based on your feedback, it sounds like you're stretched thin by doing all kinds of work to the car when you have issues. I'm on a Champ team with five other guys. Not only is it tons of fun hanging with good buddies and talking shop, but we split the work, labor, parts, etc. evenly. We blew up our diff the first race of the season. I volunteered to rebuild it, and no one else bothered me for other work (maintenance, cage work, etc.) while I dug into it. I've learned so much over the past two years racing with these guys, and there's no way I could have done it without them. Maybe you keep the Miata, convince a few friends to form a team, and campaign it in something like ChampCar?
Endurance racing is awesome, I'd be happy to join a team if a reasonable opportunity presented itself. That said, it couldn't replace sprint racing for me. The level of competition at the national level is just...unreal.


Other than the transmission issues and a crash it doesnt really sound like the car is that much of an issue. Getting into a new chassis, especially building one is going to result in more breaks and more unknowns. Either get a car that's sorted from a well known local shop or be prepared to spend probably more time setting up a new chassis as repairing the current one.

That said. NC miata with a 2.5 the answer. Anything NA and NB is so trashed and old now you'll rebuild the entire car. I have a friend who builds almost exclusively Track/Time Attack miata's and the 2.5 Duratec is what he's seen the most success with recently.
Relatively speaking I don't think it is that much of an issue. But for one dude who's got a lot of other crap going on it's just too much time. The main crux isn't necessarily getting rid of the car, it's getting under the umbrella of team support so I don't have to do the maintenance, and it may be more beneficial to go with a car that the team has built than to bring mine in. Like, mine is a VVT for example. I can't as easily join a team that uses Kessler motors because Kessler builds NB1 motors.

I'll also note that the motor, while strong, isn't at the same level as national front runners. A team can help me get a new pro motor which are relatively difficult to come by.

I don't having anything constructive to add to this conversation but have question. At the last IMSA/MX-5 cup race, while gawking over a spec Miata, the cars owner came over and had a very enthusiastic conversation with me. Very nice gentlemen went over the car in detail without me asking(like crossfit LOL). Anyway, he told me he can get a new spec Miata long block for $3500 from the supplier. He said it is basically the cheapest thing on the car. Is that true?
Not a clear cut answer. You can get an MX-5 challenge build kit (NC) for about that--includes the Roush head and everything you need. Crate motors for MX-5 challenge are about $8k iirc.

For Spec Miata, motors are a crapshoot. Some people just pop in junkyard motors and send it. They aren't going to win a super tour race. $3500 would be mid range--a built head with a stock short block. For a top caliber national front runner the going rate is >$7k, if the builder will even sell you one.

Which sounds insane to have 127hp instead of 124 or whatever. But when the entire field is also so skilled and so tuned they're lapping within a couple seconds of each other, it makes a difference.
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I'd go E36/E46 because I'm a BMW fanboy, but also because I don't trust the motor in any Subaru, and I tend to agree about cage-less safety in the Miata. With that said, I wouldn't rule out the E9x's either if you're considering a 1-series. Its not much heavier (~3200 for the 128i and ~3350 for the E92 328i) and there's way more of them around to grab parts off of. It does feel bigger, which may or may not matter, but I think it'd still be fun to whip around on a track and learn some stuff. The tire fitment is also less weird, which you probably know about in the E88.

EDIT: What about your factory five coupe? Is that going to go on the track?
Ironically, just came across this article

2022 Toyota GR86 Blows Engine On Track, Company Refuses Warranty Coverage

Tl;dr 19k-mile GR86 blew its engine at Palmer after a couple laps.

Again this is prob one of those times where I should STFU about 86 reliability but the engine is one of the biggest letdowns of the car for me. I feel like you could swap a 2.0T into one of these (NOT the best motor for tracking either) and you鈥檇 come out ahead. Yuge disappointment that they didn鈥檛 sort out oiling issues with the 2nd gen especially since they plagued the first gen
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There's also these which could be fun. Not sure about the safety issues.



Or I could break my RWD rule and go for one of these. I'm mostly going to be screwing around and hanging out at these events anyway and don't intend to take them super seriously. This would have room to bring a portable grill.


I'd go E36/E46 because I'm a BMW fanboy, but also because I don't trust the motor in any Subaru, and I tend to agree about cage-less safety in the Miata. With that said, I wouldn't rule out the E9x's either if you're considering a 1-series. Its not much heavier (~3200 for the 128i and ~3350 for the E92 328i) and there's way more of them around to grab parts off of. It does feel bigger, which may or may not matter, but I think it'd still be fun to whip around on a track and learn some stuff. The tire fitment is also less weird, which you probably know about in the E88.
Ah yeah, I actually had a CPO E92 328i at one point. Was a great car. I could see that, but 128i I think is already pushing the limit weight wise. I'll say I'd like it to be <3000 with me in it, which will be a stretch even taking out all fluff. Not sure how accurate this is but I did find somebody that typed it up for their 135i:
Weight Reduction - E82 Modding

Ironically, just came across this article

2022 Toyota GR86 Blows Engine On Track, Company Refuses Warranty Coverage

Tl;dr 19k-mile GR86 blew its engine at Palmer after a couple laps.

Again this is prob one of those times where I should STFU about 86 reliability but the engine is one of the biggest letdowns of the car for me. I feel like you could swap a 2.0T into one of these (NOT the best motor for tracking either) and you鈥檇 come out ahead. Yuge disappointment that they didn鈥檛 sort out oiling issues with the 2nd gen especially since they plagued the first gen
I know there was a big deal about somebody doing that on the SCCA forums too, is this the 2nd warranty denial now?

I don't think I want to pay big money for an 86, but OTOH, maybe I can find a deal on one and swap in something interesting.
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Or I could break my RWD rule and go for one of these. I'm mostly going to be screwing around and hanging out at these events anyway and don't intend to take them super seriously. This would have room to bring a portable grill.
I would wholeheartedly support that idea. IMO the Minis are more robust than people give them credit for.

I will say however, that someone at FCP runs an N14-powered MCS in GLTC and he's been through a few engines in the past few years :D But to his credit, he's still out there...

One of my TT friends has a yellow R53 MCS that was his daily driver and when he replaced it he started doing TT's with the Mini as a last hurrah. Now it's got a 4-pt bar, and some race seats in it so it'll be around for a while, I guess.

When we were fostering my cousin's R55 Justa Clubman, I loved how it felt more like a FWD Miata than our Mazda3 did. When my cousin offered it to us for sale, I debated getting it to turn it into a unique track build. Since we sold it to our neighbor instead for their daughter, when she's done with it, it's not out of the question that that's still a viable option hehe...
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I would wholeheartedly support that idea. IMO the Minis are more robust than people give them credit for.

I will say however, that someone at FCP runs an N14-powered MCS in GLTC and he's been through a few engines in the past few years :D But to his credit, he's still out there...

One of my TT friends has a yellow R53 MCS that was his daily driver and when he replaced it he started doing TT's with the Mini as a last hurrah. Now it's got a 4-pt bar, and some race seats in it so it'll be around for a while, I guess.

When we were fostering my cousin's R55 Justa Clubman, I loved how it felt more like a FWD Miata than our Mazda3 did. When my cousin offered it to us for sale, I debated getting it to turn it into a unique track build. Since we sold it to our neighbor instead for their daughter, when she's done with it, it's not out of the question that that's still a viable option hehe...
Looks like B48 would be in range. Although the B38 is pretty intriguing too.

It's been a long time since I've had something FWD though. I love the idea on paper, but I'm concerned I'd track it once and sell it. I'll get inside tire fire even in rental cars driving around relatively normal. 馃槀

I need to hit up a friend with one and swapsies for a session or something.
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I'm going to go a different route here and suggest a different form of racing. Ever consider endurance stuff like ChampCar? Based on your feedback, it sounds like you're stretched thin by doing all kinds of work to the car when you have issues. I'm on a Champ team with five other guys. Not only is it tons of fun hanging with good buddies and talking shop, but we split the work, labor, parts, etc. evenly. We blew up our diff the first race of the season. I volunteered to rebuild it, and no one else bothered me for other work (maintenance, cage work, etc.) while I dug into it. I've learned so much over the past two years racing with these guys, and there's no way I could have done it without them. Maybe you keep the Miata, convince a few friends to form a team, and campaign it in something like ChampCar?
I would say a solid nb spec Miata is worth about $10k+ more than a typical nb champ Miata though.

Edit to add: also, the intensity is leagues apart between endurance and sprint. Endurance is a lot of fun but very different
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Just to throw it out there because I don't know -- what about the GM Kappa cars?



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I would say a solid nb spec Miata is worth about $10k+ more than a typical nb champ Miata though.

Edit to add: also, the intensity is leagues apart between endurance and sprint. Endurance is a lot of fun but very different
Yes to both. It鈥檚 hard to explain how seriously people can take these cars and these races. Commissioning a top of the line build with a clean donor is $70k+ these days and some people will buy two so they have a backup.

I think my car, with some cleaning up, is worth about $30k. A lot considering, but in the context we鈥檙e talking about and what the competition will do, it鈥檚 not really a big deal to sell it and buy something that aligns with whatever team I join. And not much in the way of sentimental value; like a hammer its a tool for a job.

Just to throw it out there because I don't know -- what about the GM Kappa cars?

View attachment 290376

View attachment 290377
No idea. But its not something I thought about so if nothing else I can enjoy looking into it.
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