So we arrived at the event on Saturday morning full of hope and
ambition for the Rolla, and a little dread for the Audi. After getting
everything unpacked, we took the Rolla through tech, and it kind of set
the tone for the weekend. Our seat is on sliders so we can adjust it
for different height drivers, although as far as I know, no one has
ever touched the adjustment in either race. Well, the tech guys were
not happy with the amount of play in the slider mechanism, so they sent
us back to the pits to fix it. After unbolting the seat and crimping
the sliders with some vice grips we went back through tech and made it.
It's faster if
you let us drive.
Our Second LeMons Race
By Dave Heinig
up the BS station. This was the only flawless part of the weekend for
us. The judges didn't even open the hood. They asked, "Have you done
anything to it since SC?" "No." "Ok, you guys are good."
Rob into the car and off they go for the pace laps. As he's driving
around out there, I notice that the exhaust keeps hanging lower and
lower... uh oh. Finally one lap he goes by the grandstands with our
jury-rigged cherry bomb audibly dragging on the ground. We call him
back in and after a couple of seconds under the car it's clear our
clamp-on connection at the downpipe is not going to work at all. The
only thing still holding the exhaust under the car was the wires we
used to tie it up. We yank it out and send Rob back out, missing the
green flag in the process. Total downtime: 5 minutes. Case of beer #1:
first taxi to break down, is now lost.
Rob's first stint was
pretty good, and he set our fastest lap time for the whole race (mostly
due to a change to the chicane near the end of his stint, but I will
chalk up some of it to good driving). Case of beer #2, fastest taxi
lap, is now won, although we don't know it yet. We actually motored on
up to 3rd place at one point. He managed to pull a massive off at the
chicane exit, getting all four wheels in the dirt (sideways) and
somehow recovering and getting back on track without losing any
positions. Strangely enough, no black flags were forthcoming.
came out after the first hour and Jerry went in for the second stint.
After a few laps to settle in, he got comfortable in the car and
started motoring past people. Then he met Vlad the Impala. Those guys
were impossible to pass. The only good passing spot on the track was
the banked turn, and they had enough power in their motor to fend us
off around there. Finally after seven or eight laps, Jer got a great
run on them at the entrance to the banking, took the inside line, and
was promptly sideswiped as they tried to close the door. Jer kept
going, the Impala almost hit the wall. Taxi 1, Vlad 0. Amazingly
enough, no black flags this time either, even though that was our
hardest impact of the weekend.
The donuts are from our car.
A few minutes later, I'm back in
the trailer getting dressed for my stint and look over to see the Taxi
rolling into the pits under tow truck power. Uh oh. Jerry says it just
died on him on track and he's got nothing. After realizing that "I've
got nothing" doesn't mean it won't run, it means the starter won't
turn, the fans don't work... nothing
works, I realize the fuse in our control power line is blown. Pull it
out and sure enough it's popped. We vainly hunt for a large type
automotive fuse for a couple of minutes (they don't use those in
anything any more) until I say, "Screw it, just cut it out and solder
the wires together." I figure a small electrical fire can't be that
bad. Jerry goes out and finishes his session with no issues.
up me. I hop in, and head out on track. I had forgotten how loud a
4-cylinder downpipe under the floorboard is. I spend a lap or two
getting comfortable, then when I start to push it, get into the chicane
a little too hot and a little too loose. I managed to pull off a nice
drift around the cone, but apparently brushed the dirt with my back
tire as I was going by. I get a warning flag pointed at me and keep
going. Next time around, I'm nice and clean through there, but they
apparently decided a warning wasn't enough and black flag me. I roll
into the pits thoroughly confused, where they tell me I put a wheel
off, but since we let them borrow our welder, get the hell out of here
and back on the track.
So I get back out on track and start doing laps. After about 8-10 laps,
disaster strikes. Coming off the banking I feel a little wobble in the
steering which quickly turns into a quiet thumping. As I'm thinking,
"Do we have a loose wheel?" it turns into a horrendous racket that I
can feel pounding through the floorboards. In very quick sequence, tire
separation, broken tie rod, and busted transmission go through my head
until I rev the motor and get nothing... shift to second... nothing...
shift to third... nothing... oh crap, it's the CV axle. I manage to
coast to the pit exit and get a push back to paddock from a tow truck
We look under the car, and sure enough, the inner CV
joint came apart from the transmission. It sheared four of the studs
right out of the transmission yoke, broke one off in the yoke, and bent
the sixth one. Rob and Mike quickly disassemble the right front
suspension and pull the halfshaft out of the car while sending other
team members scrambling around paddock for spare bolts the right size.
As Matt and Jerry are begging for loose hardware from other teams, I
start poking around looking at the damage under the car. It looks
With the halfshaft out, we realize it lost the steel
backing plate at the end that keeps all the grease in. Rob fixes that
with about 20 feet of duct tape and we're ready to start the reinstall.
Our team members are starting to come back with a pretty motley
collection of loose bolts, none of them with matching nuts. As I'm
sifting through the pile of hardware, I ask Rob what happened to that
bag of loose bolts from when we ripped out the interior. I remember it
being in the toolbox before we left. Turns out Rob actually had a
little box of various sized nuts and bolts in there too and forgot
about it until that moment. If people actually had light bulbs go off
over their heads, this one would have blinded half the paddock.
found our likely candidates, popped the shaft back in, and started
trying to get all our hardware threaded. The duct tape made that an
absolutely miserable job, but we managed to get everything on and
snugged down. Of our four bolts, one had a lock nut on the end, one I
actually remembered to locktite, and the other two were on there by the
grace of God. As we were reassembling the suspension, Mike decided to
seat the hub on the axle by pushing on the brake rotor with the heel of
his hand. (Ouch) Total downtime: 1 hour.
Since my stint was
over, Mike got in the car and took off. There's really not a whole lot
to say about his stint, it was well driven and pretty uneventful I
think. I spent much of it in the trailer trying to cool off.
Mike came back in, I decided to check our axle bolts to see how well
they were holding up and the answer wasn't very reassuring. Three of
the four were loose. The only one that held was the locknut. Rob and I
got under the car and tightened them back down as best we could during
the driver change, then sent Matt out.
As I walked up into the stands to watch Matt's first stint, I was
totally unprepared for the half hour of anxiety and nervousness that
were about to hit me. I walked up the stands to the sound of Jerry on
the radio saying, "Matt, don't wad the car up!" He was driving the car
like it was an autocross, tossing the tail around in the turns, braking
at the last possible second, and generally running up the ass of
everyone in front of him. It was fast, but it was dangerous, and fast
and dangerous is not the way to finish an endurance race. After Jerry
and I traded off yelling at him over the radio for about 15 minutes, he
started to settle down and found a rhythm.
The rest of day 1
went pretty flawlessly, and we held on at around 100 laps behind the
leaders while other cars were dropping like flies. Rob managed to pull
a number on the Mostly Motorsports Toyota Paseo just by passing them.
You could see the red mist descend as the Paseo pilot turned on the
afterburners. He may be beating the crap out of the car, but dammit he
was going to get that spot back. Rob let him by just in time to watch
their motor nuke itself in the next turn. [Nelson](HA HA!)[/Nelson] As
they were being towed off the track, Rob gave him a nice little rev on
his way by under yellow.
My second stint finally rolled around
as the sun was going down. It was in my eyes for the first 10 minutes,
but after that we were running under the lights. There were only about
14 or so cars on the track, and by this time, the really aggressive
teams had either blown up their cars (Vlad the Impala puked most of the
tranny onto the track sometime during Jerry's stint right before me) or
been benched for the night by the organizers (the Elemonators and Chard
Beef Racing were two of those). The course was pretty crappy, but being
a circle track they don't really pay much attention to their infield.
Some of the pavement was horrendous, and by this time there was a
pothole about a foot across developing in the far infield section. I
had a blast, although I spent about 30 laps looking at "Got Polish
Sausage?" on the tailgate of the Kielbasa Kids Honda Accord before I
finally got by. After my stint I found someone from their team and
asked for the guy driving at sunset, I wanted to shake his hand for
some good racing. The guy I asked said, "Yeah, that's Mark. He's our
ringer. He's got tons of track experience." My reply? "Yeah, it was
really tough to get around that guy."
As Matt was running his
stint to finish the night, the event organizers came over to tell us
that we were over the sound limit and would have to fix the exhaust
before we could run on Sunday. We still had the cherry bomb laying
around, so we added it to the list of repairs.
At 9:30 PM on Saturday, they finally brought everyone off the track,
and we parked it in the paddock. After letting the car cool down for 3
to 6 beers, we climbed under it and locktited the crap out of the bolts
holding our axle on. No more re-tightening every driver change. We
grabbed our cherry bomb, and instead of using a u-bolt clamp to attach
it at the front we just welded the sucker in place. Satisfied with our
repair jobs, we called it quits for the night.
after day 1: Taxi II in 3rd place, 12 or so laps behind the leader.
Taxi I in the pack somewhere about 110 laps down. That third case of
beer was starting to look like a done deal.
Sunday started with
an amusing twist on the People's Curse: crowd participation. They
allowed every team to go get one object to dump into the victim's oil
filler while the motor was running at full throttle. Some of the
various items that went in: assorted nuts and bolts, sand, soft scrub,
clam chowder, turpentine, beer (big cheer from the crowd), etc. You get
the idea. With an inconsequential sputter, the motor finally shut down.
Team Stutgots LeMons pushed their Benz back to the paddock.
driver order rotated a little on Sunday, and Mike took the first stint.
As he was circulating for the pace laps, he was complaining about the
exhaust banging the floorboard of the car. We could also hear it
dragging a little in left-handers, and since they were all
left-handers, that ended up being quite a lot.
Matt took over
from Mike, and about halfway through his stint, the exhaust came loose
again. Right in front of the grandstands. On its way off, he ran over
it with the back tire and almost spun the car. He was black flagged for
losing parts on course and came in. We sent him right back out and he
was promptly black flagged for being over the sound limit. We pulled
him back to paddock, and Rob went and got the exhaust off the track. It
had conveniently slid to a stop in the grass at pit in.
few modifications and some debates about exhaust hangers, we got the
cherry bomb welded back up and sent Matt back out to finish his stint.
Sometime around then, Taxi II rolled into paddock. They opened their
hood and water was spraying from a pinhole in the radiator. Even worse,
steam was coming out by the cylinder head. We pulled a spark plug and
cranked the motor over... about half a cup of coolant shot out the plug
hole. With the blown head gasket, Taxi II was dead.
Rob was up. I was spotting for him, and everything was going well until
I got a radio message: "Something's wrong, I'm coming in." Uh oh. As he
drove out into the pits I could hear the exhaust dragging on the
ground. After some inspection, we determined that the welds were fine,
but the downpipe was breaking just in front of the weld. We considered
welding some angle iron from the O2 sensor all the way back to the
muffler to stiffen everything up, but then I remembered that Rob was
carrying his Supertrapp with us. We jammed that on the end of the
downpipe, welded it in place, and Rob was off again.
occurances happened during Rob's stint. First was the #70 Mercedes of
Team Stugots LeMons reappeared on the track to a standing ovation from
the crowd. Did I mention it was a diesel? They made one lap and the car
finally quit. The second was that Vlad the Impala was back. They had
somehow managed to put their blown automatic transmission back together
and made it back out. They circulated for a while before a familiar
knocking sound started. With a spun rod bearing, their motor proceeded
to puke its guts out all over the track.
Looking at the
standings, at 3:45 Taxi I was 175 laps behind Taxi II. Laps were about
37 seconds each. We raced until 5 PM. (That's 218 laps for those
without calculators and/or math skills.) We could pass them, as long as
we kept going, didn't break, and didn't get penalized. Jerry's run went
well, even though at some point the Supertrapp parted ways with the
downpipe. He didn't get black flagged, so he kept going. After his
stint was over, it was my turn to hop in and take the checkers. I
believe my last words were, "I don't care what happens, I'm driving
this thing until the race is over or it won't go anymore." Turns out
I'm a prophet.
run started well, the car drove great, and I was passing everything
still out there on the track. I managed to get a strange flagging
signal when I tried to pass on the outside on the way into the chicane,
then barely missed wrecking two other cars as I buzzed through on my
early-apex line. The flagger gave me a signal with a furled blue flag
in one hand, a furled yellow flag in the other, and his arms up at
about a 45 degree angle. I can't seem to figure out if he meant "WTF?"
or "Field Goal!" Perhaps some of our road racers can enlighten me.
15 minutes in, I stepped on the brake pedal on the way into the chicane
and got nothing. It went straight to the floor. After a tense moment
filled with lots of intense brake pumping, I got enough pressure in the
system to slow the car down. I didn't realize it at the time, but the
brake failure was from boiled fluid, which was odd since you didn't
really need the brakes hardly anywhere. It was a harbinger of things to
Without the brakes, I went into limp mode. For the
next 30 minutes, I kept my eyes on the mirrors and gave point-bys in
the banking to anyone coming up behind me. Surprisingly enough,
everywhere else I could still keep up with traffic. As the time dragged
on, I finally radioed in to find out how much time was left in the
race. Matt came back with 3 minutes. We were almost there, and I could
taste the checkers.
Then next time around on the banking, the
outer CV joint gave out. It had been seizing for the last few hours,
which is what boiled the brake fluid. It finally locked and the axle
ripped out of the passenger front wheel, taking most of the bearing and
some of the hub with it. I figured all this out later. At the time, all
I knew was I heard a loud bang, and now the car wouldn't go. I rolled
to a stop on the banking and a tow truck pushed me over the line for
the last time on our way to the pits. Our race was over.
results were posted, we found out that case #3: best finishing taxi,
was ours! We had made enough laps to squeak by Taxi II in the
standings. I feel bad that Lou's car nuked itself, but that certainly
won't stop me from taking free beer. All in all it was a fun weekend,
and I'm amazed we managed to get the car to hold together as long as we
did. I want to thank all the guys on the team (both teams) for an
awesome season. We'll be back next year!