Update. I've been to 6 of 7 SCCA autocross events this season. The time, energy, and money spent getting the Maxima race worthy has more than paid off and I can definitely say it's driving better than it has for 15 years -- possibly ever!
Everything is still stock. Here's a quick update on what's been going on...
The new clutch has been great. Smooth takeoffs every time. And I've not had a single ECU code since they cleaned the transmission bell housing. Seriously get this done if you experience anomalies from perfectly good sensors.
For tires, I went with 205/50R15 BF Goodrich Rivals. Even though there are 2" shorter than stock, they fit the stock rims really nicely and make this car corner like a superstar. The stock load index is 94, and these are 87, so you really have to keep them pumped up to 45psi or more or they will roll over under heavy braking.
Since my previous post, both control arms have been refurbished, as well as the sway bar end links. My left rear window regulator has failed, so I have that shimmed closed with cardboard and tape until I can get around to repairing it. Both of my low beams also went out the other night at the same time -- had to drive home with high beams. Had my starter lockup between runs one particularly hot afternoon this summer, but it hasn't given me any trouble since. Had a battery cable come loose last Thursday, but that was also easily fixed.
Most recently, I've added a Stillen Adjustable Rear Sway Bar. It's still quite new to me, but I can recommend it without question. If you have a 4G Maxima and don't have a RSB you will love what it does to the feel. For autocross, it definitely helped rotate the rear end in a more controlled manner under acceleration, and it's fantastic on the highway. See my thread on the 4G Maxima discussion area about it.
As a novice I've managed to do just fine in the Maxima. I rank about 50% better than the other drivers, and I've been PAXing even higher. Almost everyone is driving really nice Corvettes, WRXs, BRZs, Miatas, S2000s, RX8s, and Mustangs so it feels nice to place competitively without having to spend competitively.
Here are standings in my club for the curious:
Getting new springs and struts are still high on my list, but I'm really glad that I held out and didn't get them this season. First of all they are a big purchase, and second I'm still not quite sure what I want/need. Coil-overs would be sweet but would put me out of stock class. If not, just Tokico Blues and which springs? I'm still looking for a compromise between autocross and highway driving comfort-wise, but I've pretty much given up on every-day city driving because Pittsburgh roads are so bad. I haven't addressed the rear bushings yet, but it almost seems I should just replace the entire rear assembly for $500 rather than going through the effort of refurbishing the one I have. Any thoughts on that? Refurbishing the front control arms wasn't fun, and we even got professional help popping out bushings on the second one instead of hurting ourselves all over again.
And how about some 18" rims and dropping the height and inch or two? Not to mention how much better that would look, I expect all of these things could do a lot towards getting me around autocross courses faster. I've been told a strut tower brace can also help here, but that would also put me out of stock class. Staying stock this year has allowed me to focus my energy on improving my driving skills without significant handling changes each time I race. Next year the bigger changes will mean more, and I won't be doing them to a car that requires additional work.
If I get a chance, and have the courage, I'm going to replace the valve cover gaskets which are occasionally leaking oil onto the manifold. This seems to happen under high RPMs before the engine has warmed up, so I try to let it do that before I take it to redline. New gaskets would get rid of that issue/smell.
I'm interested in other minor appearance improvements, though at some point I really need to address how rust is starting to form in the rear quarter panels. The whole car would look nice with a fresh coat of Super Black, but I don't know much about the cost/viability of doing all that.
Here is a link so some recent photos:
The other helmeted driver is Michelle who has also been driving the Maxima.
I'll update again after my next couple of events, ending my 2013 season. -pc