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Archive for November, 2007
We got to the track at 7 am on Sunday so that we could prep the car for the 9 am start. The car was in reasonable shape and the main thing we wanted to was to replace the transmission mounts and the driveshaft with parts we had managed to scrounge up from various disreputable sources . However just as we were about to jack up the car we realised that we had left them at home . Seeing that we had no way of further patching up drivetrain, we got to work fixing the front end bodywork which had taken a few hits on Saturday and was dangerously close to the radiator. Rob hooked a chain from the car to the trailer hitch and stood on it force the bodywork back into shape.
Guy once again started the day and gave a good account of himself. Midway through his stint there was some contact which ripped our front bumper out of the car and left the radiator unprotected. Though Guy was still continuing, we knew that it would be too risky to run for to long without a bumper. At this point we went around the pits to see if we could scrounge up any spare parts. In a typical display of Lemons (and racing) spirit one team gave us about 5 feet of hollow iron bar while another team lent us the use of their welder. Unfortunately I don’t remember the team names but major thanks to them for helping us out. We lost about 45 minutes as Rob welded the bar in as a replacement bumper and then Gabe went out for his first stint.
Unfortunately just a few minutes into his stint we has a run-in with some very heavy Detroit iron that felt that smaller cars should magically disappear from its path. Since we haven’t yet mastered the fine art of teleportation, there was some fairly hard contact which ended with the other car getting a flat tire and our car slicing its lower radiator hose. We pulled the radiator and got to work fixing the powersteering bracket which was bent out of shape. After another round of begging in the pits I got a spare hose from the Edge Motorworks team while Team Blue Goose donated a hose clamp. In all we lost about 20-30 minutes during the fix.
At this point we had lost some 3.5 hours due to repairs and we were way behind on laps. Gabe, Rob and Jyri did some great stints but we knew that our only chance of making up ground was to do long stints and pass people while they pitted. I got into the car with a full tank of fuel and went out to do a hour stint. The lack of a real front bumper meant that I to be extra cautious about traffic and sometimes had to step HARD on the brakes to avoid any front end contact (even got rear ended a few times as a result ). After a few warmup laps I really got into the groove and was pulling of some pretty fun passes through the traffic. My laptimes were good enough that the team asked me to stay out there as long as possible. About 90 minutes into the stint, driver fatigue started becoming an issue. Interestingly the effect first started during the yellow flag laps – I started feeling a bit hot and uncomfortable. However the second the flag dropped adrenaline would start flowing and the fatigue would disappear and I would get back to race pace. After going through another 2-3 yellow flags I decided that enough was enough and ended up pitting after an hour and 45 minutes on track.
Jyri took on the next stint and was doing quite well until he was punted off the track. As you can see in the video, he recovers well from the first hit in the esses but a few seconds later he gets hit again while going through the right handed sweeper and goes into the tirewall. This ends up bending out left control arm and completely messes up our toe settings. Rob once again came to the rescue and eyeballed a toe adjustment to get us back on track. Gabe then took over for the final stint of the race and despite a couple of ‘moments’ he brought the car safely to the end.
We finished 44th out of 85 cars which is a pretty good for a group of Lemons newbies who were lying in 62nd on Saturday night. A big thanks to our sponsors – Dietsch Werks, Griffin Motorwerke, ChaseCam, Livermore Performance and Autopower – for helping us prep the car. All of us had a great time and we are already planning what we need to improve in time for the December race at Thunderhill
Our tactics for the race were to run 45 minute stints at a healthy pace and to avoid any unnecessary contact. Guy was our first driver and got to experience the Lemons start procedure. All the teams are asked to lineup in the pits and are slowly let out onto the track for yellow flag laps. Once the whole grid is on the track, race control randomly picks a team and throws the green flag the next time that team crosses the start/finish. At this point the race is on and its every man for himself. This is a short video of the start of the race – Guy enters the frame from the left at the 40 second mark.
We were keeping up an excellent pace and were among the faster cars out there. Our pitstops, while not spectacular, were decent enough and saw Rob and Jyri taking stints 2 and 3 respectively. About 2 hours into the race, Jyri pitted and I got into the car for stint #4.
I started out pretty tentatively, this was after all my very first race in a real car. On lap 2 I started to feel really brave and tried to pass a couple of cars around the outside of the banking. While I did end up going around the cars, I was unsighted going into the esses and found that someone had dragged quite bit of gravel right at my braking/turn-in point. This being Lemons there was no debris flag and I basically had two choices: a) squeeze the car on my left and attempt to avoid the gravel with the possibility of getting broadsided if it doesn’t work out and b) hit the freestanding tire barrier and hope for the best. Having seen other cars hit similar barriers without too much drama, I decided on option b and hit the brakes which locked the second I hit the gravel.
As you can see I hit the barrier with a glancing blow and knocked them over. You probably also saw that there was a third option available – turn right, avoid the barrier and skip the esses. Unfortunately I didn’t think of it at the time so that route really didn’t come into play. After the it the car seemed to be working fine and after slowing for a few corners I continued on my merry way. The following clip should give you a good idea of the action we encountered on track. Watch the grey Subaru wagon (Team Scooby) as it tries to pass me, it was one of the fastest cars on the track but I kept getting him stuck behind slower cars until he finally passes me two laps later
About 30 minutes into the session I came around the banking and was about to pass another car when the back end of the car suddenly let go and spun me around. Luckily the car missed the tire barriers and ended up facing the wrong way on the inside of the first S. I tried putting it in neutral to start the engine but the gearshift had sunk about 6 inches lowers and I could not change gears. I tried starting it with the clutch in but only got an loud banging noise from the transmission with no forward movement. I then sat around waiting for the tow truck and watched cars coming head-on towards me at race speed – I even had one guy blow the turn and drive across the front of my car. After a few minutes the race was yellow flagged and the tow truck pushed me into the pits with the transmission making loud banging noises all the way.
When I came into the pits, we got down to diagnosing what was wrong with the car – the transmission was obviously busted but we didn’t know how or why. When we opened the hood we saw a most interesting sight, the radiator was bent outwards rather than inwards. It appeared that when our car had any forward contact (such as the tire barrier I hit), the engine was actually flexing the engine mounts and moving far enough forward in the engine bay for the distributor to hit the back of the radiator. This motion kept pulling the transmission forward until the transmission mounts finally snapped. At this point the transmission stressed the driveshaft enough that the two piece driveshaft just separated at the joint. /the driveshaft snapping was most likely the cause of the spin – it was equivalent to lifting mid corner which produced lift-off oversteer with no drive to allow recovery. Our car was now officially dead and we did not have any spare parts to fix it.
Enter our in-team mechanic: Rob Dietsch of Dietsch Werks. Now Rob usually spends his days doing high quality repair work on his customers cars, this obviously was NOT the time for quality work so he settled for quick and dirty fixes (emphasis on quick ). He started out by removing the two pieces of the driveshaft and used a hacksaw to clean out the joint between the two pieces before mating them together once again. We did not have any spare transmission mounts so he fixed the transmission in place using straps and bolts passing through holes drilled in the car floor. The final piece was to anchor the engine in place using chains so that it would no longer move forward if there was any impact.
The repairs took about 2.5 hours and dropped us to 62 place in the standings. Rob took the car out first to see how it would hold up. He put in some good times before handing it over to Jyri for the final stint. By the end of the day the car had suffered only minor body damage and was still putting in some excellent times. We were just glad to be running at the end of the day despite having such potentially race ending damage to our drivetrain.
I am finally getting down to writing my review of our Lemons experience – this first post will be about Saturday setup while following posts will be about things like on-track action, mechanical breakdowns, jury rigged repairs and other bits of lemons fun.
As I had mentioned before, we had some tire wear issues on during our Friday test session. The banked turns were enough lateral load (sustained 1.3 G) on the car that we were blistering the outer edge of our right front tire. While raising the tire pressures did help, there was no way that our tires would last an entire race with such uneven wear. The first thing we did was call pretty much every the tire shop in the Bay Area to find one that stocked Falken Azenis and was open early on Saturday. Eventually we found a place in Milpitas that opened at 8am and Gabe did an emergency tire run to pick up four tires.
The new tires would however only be a bandaid to the tire wear issues – we really needed a way add negative camber at the front in order to get even tire wear. In keeping with the Lemons philosophy of cheap and easy fixes, Rob brought out his trusty strut bender. The strut bender is a hydraulic tool that is bolted to the wheel hub and uses a combination of a positioning chain and a hydraulic ram to bend the strut and thereby adjust the camber on the wheel. Its quite an interesting device to look at and as you can see below, Rob had a large crowd of interested onlookers asking him what he was doing.
Once we had sorted out our suspension, we went to the tech inspection area. The inspection had two parts – first they inspected at the car and the drivers equipment to ensure that we passed the minimum safety requirements. Once that was done we went over to the judge to get our car costs accessed. The “Judge” (who wears judicial robes and a wig) inspects the car to see if it is worth $500 or less. Cars that are judged to be too expensive are accessed a BSF which calculated as follows:
To prevent cheating, all cars will be inspected by a panel appointed by the organizers. At that time, all teams will be given an opportunity to describe the car’s purchase and prep. If the panel believes the $500 limit has been exceeded, it will assign a Bullshit Factor (BSF) equal to one BSF per ten dollars above the limit. The entry will be docked one lap for each BSF assigned. (Ten dollars = one BSF = one lap.) Entrants are encouraged to bring all supporting evidence and make up plausible-sounding stories in advance. Appeal of BSF Panel Decisions: Get real. There’s no appealing this decision. You’re boned.
We did get a couple of questions regarding the cost of the car, especially since we had a new radiator and muffler (the lack of receipts and a bill of sale didn’t help either), but in the end they had to accept that an E30 BMW isn’t worth more than $500 no matter how many new parts you throw on it.
Once we were through tech we went through our final prep and double checked things like the lap transponder, fuel, chasecam setup, DL1, etc… At about 2pm, Jay Lamm (the organizer) called everyone over to the budget truck that served as his office and conducted a drivers meeting over a megaphone. After telling us several times to not to hit each other, he turned it over to the track marshal to explain the flagging situation. Unlike SCCA racing which have some 10 different kinds of flags, Lemons has just 3 flags:
Green: Race is on
Yellow: Full course yellow – slow down, no passing allowed.
Black: You’ve been a bad boy – come into the pits and roll the wheel of misfortune.
There are no debris flags or stationary yellows to warn of obstructions – racers will have figure out the best way around anything on the track. Additionally cars stalled on track will not be towed immediately, instead the marshals will wait until there is a car in an unsafe position on track before throwing a yellow flag and towing out a bunch of cars at the same time.
Once all the drivers meeting was done all the teams were sent back to the pits and told to line up to enter the track – the 24 Hours of Lemons “ARSE-FREEZE-APALOOZA” was about to begin.