The Goin’ For Broken race at Reno Fernley raceway was the 5th 24 Hours of LeMons race for the Formula BMW team and the debut of our new Pink Pig race livery. Additionally the car was quite a bit lighter than the last race with the sunroof, dash, heater core and inner door skins being removed. We cracked our windshield during the dash removal which we replaced with a sheet of lexan to further drop weight. We were going with our regular driver lineup of Guy Argo, Gabriel Matus. Rob Dietsch and myself. Since the racedays were of unequal length (8.5 hours Saturday, 5 hours Sunday), our plan was to have Guy, Rob and myself run a single 3 – 3.5 hour stint with Gabe splitting his stint between the two days. The long stints would minimize our driver changes and would allow us to pass people in the pits and finish higher than the 10th place we recorded at Thunderhill 08.
I was driving the first stint for our team and got off to an inauspicious start when I had to pull in to the pits just before the green flag (Lemons has a rolling start) because of a loud noise and vibration from the right front on right hand turns. It turned out that our new wheels were rubbing against the right front strut while at speed. We had test fitted the new wheel on the left front tire where it fit with no issues but we had forgotten that we had bent our struts for extra camber at Altamont 07 which meant that while they fit fine on the left there was rubbing on the right which was aggravated on right hand turns. Luckily we were able to borrow a wheel spacer (Thanks Squirrels of Fury!) but by the time we put that on we were already 2 laps down on the leader without having driven a single lap. 🙁
When I first went out under green my immediate impression was that we were waaaay faster than most of the cars out there and was passing several cars at each turn. This was probably down to my familiarity with the track and the car because after about 5-10 laps the cars became more difficult to pass as the other drivers became more comfortable with the track. About an hour into the race I noticed that the fuel gauge on the car was still registering full despite having plenty of hard racing laps in that time. This meant that our gauge was broken and we would have to time our pitstops based on fuel starvation. At about the 2 hour mark the car started fuel-starving on the fast right of turn 14 but was still doing pretty well elsewhere on track. We decided to keep going as long as we could and/or to wait for the next yellow. I kept driving the car in higher gears to help with the fuel economy but after about 5-6 laps the fuel starvation was getting bad enough that we were sputtering on the straights after right handers and i brought the car in for a green flag fuel and driver stop. It was about the 2.5 hour mark when I came in and despite the fact that my long stint had put us back on the lead lap (9th overall), we were still well short of the 3+ hour stint we were originally planning on. The good part was that we knew that we could use the right hand turn fuel starvation as a gas gauge to decide when to time our next pit stop.
Guy drove the next stint and kept in touch with the leaders. At this point we knew that we were in the top ten and were basically trying to put in reasonable laps without doing anything crazy. Guy drove for about 3.5 hours before the fuel starvation became bad enough that we were forced to do another green flag stop. At this point we were 4th overall and just 5 laps behind the race leader despite having the slowest “fastest lap” of any car in the top 15. Gabe got into the car with about 2.5 hours left in the day and was putting in some excellent lap times when he had an unfortunate spin at turn 15 which brought us in for a black flag penalty. Since we had been good racers for most of the day (and bribed the judges with some excellent Guatemalan rum 😉 ) we were let off with a driver change penalty which put me in back in the driver seat for the final 10 laps of the day.
At this point the traffic had thinned considerably and I was able to able to drop my fastest lap down from a 2:51.844 to a 2:46.177. Right about this time the #72 E30 of the B-Team (who I knew from Lotus Talk) pulled up right behind me and tried to get past. I knew that I wasn’t racing them for position so I did not try to block, but I certainly wasn’t going to move aside and let them past either. They tried a few different attempts at getting past but I hung onto the inside line and was able to stay in front. About 5 laps into the battle they came right alongside me on the front straight which led to the action you see in the image below.
Source photos from Jeff M/The B-Team. Animation by Rahul Nair.
This moment started as we were coming onto the main straight when I got a bad run into the corner while the B-Team got a great slingshot out and pulled alongside me down the straight. This had happened a couple of times before but since I always held the inside line into the esses they had had to lift in the end and tuck in line behind me. On this particular lap the #26 Team Carpet Pissers CRX was pulling out of the pits and made it into the first bend of the esses right just before the two of us. Normally I would have tucked in line behind the CRX and passed them going into turn 2 but on this lap I spotted an opening and decided to pass them between the 2nd and 3rd esses expecting that the B-Team would get boxed in behind them which would give me some more breathing room. As luck would have it the B-Team driver decided to do the exact same thing on the outside and suddenly we were three wide through the turn at about 95mph. I was up on the rumble strip on the left while the B-Team was on 2 wheels in the gravel on the right. At this point the driver in the CRX sees the B-Team on his right (and I suppose didnt see me on his left) and jinks left to avoid them. The front bumper of his car hits my right front wheel and leaves a black line down both doors. The impacts pushes my car to the left but I am able to maintain control while the CRX unfortunately spins out. Amazingly both B-Team and I are still side by side entering turn 2 and I am able to get ahead under braking. While it looked (and was) pretty exciting it was still a dumb move on my part especially since we were not racing for position and the next day both B-Team and I went up to the driver of the CRX and apologized for putting him in a difficult spot.
At the end of day one we had completed 129 laps and we in 4th place overall, 6 laps behind the Eyesore Racing FrankenMiata. We were still the second slowest fast lap in the top 10 but we used our long stints to make up for our wheel issues at the start as well as 3 green flag pit stops. Now we just had to keep on doing more of the same for day 2 and hope that the leaders would trip-up enough for us to pass them in the pits.
Day 2 started with Gabe driving the car. It was obvious from the lap times that we had no chance on catching the FrankenMiata with speed alone. They were pulling away from us at 10 seconds a lap when they suddelny spun and stalled on course on lap 5. As they were being towed in we began to push like hell to make up laps and we got back 4 of the 6 laps before they got out on course again. Gabe kept putting in consistent laps but the FrankenMiata was back on pace and was consistant pulling out 8 seconds or so per lap. Both teams came in for a driver swap just a lap apart which kept us 3 laps behind with 3 hours to go. Rob put in some stellar laptimes including our fastest race lap of a 2:42.809 but in the end it just was not enough to catch the FrankenMiata.
We ended finishing first in class and 5th overall just 4 laps behind the FrankenMiata which hung on to win the race. We did get a nice trophy to stick on the mantel place but I personally am still annoyed at some of the mistakes we made which cost us a possible win. The good part is that we know what to fix and we know what we need to do at Buttonwillow in 3 months. We wont rest till we get some nickels (Lemons cash prizes are awarded in nickels 🙂 )