1st Place Finish at Summit Point 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yet another CRAZY weekend at 24 Hours of LeMons.

Friday we got set up next to some friends of mine from my MR2 days. They had a NA 2nd gen MR2. We ended up making a big DTM/MR2 compound with our tents and equipment. It was very nice.

For test and tune, we were allowed to have a passenger in the car, so we made sure that everyone got a chance to see the track from the drivers seat and passenger seat. This worked well as not only did it get our drivers (none had ever been to Shennedoah) more seat time, but it allowed the passenger to give feedback to the driver. I also made sure that the same 2 people never went out together so that they could see different lines and get different feedback. In the afternoon I had each team member do some exercises. Drive the line for 5 laps, then stay on the left side of the track for 4 laps, then stay on the right side of the track for 4 laps. In LeMons, you will almost never be able to drive the perfect line as you will usually be side by side with someone, so knowing the limits of the inside and outside lines of the track would give us an advantage in passing.

During lunch we went to Tech/BS Inspection. BS Inpsection went relatively smoothly. We just showed them the email with Jay's assigned residual value and Johnny gave us 0 laps, took a cursury look at the car and told us how lame we were for bringing an E30 with a lame theme. He thought it was a 6cyl 325 and not a 4cyl 318 so he put us in Class 1 (The Good) instead of Class 2 (The Bad) which we were in for Nelson Ledges. I mentioned this to him and he just shrugged his shoulders and told us to be on our way. :)

Friday night, we went drunken go karting with the MR2 team. It was a lot of fun. The karts were real fast and it was a 1.2 mile track. They had a 180* section that had sealant on it to make it slippery.

It was 10 hours of racing on Sat and 4.5 hours on Sun. We broke the driving times into one ~2.5 hour stint for each of our 6 drivers. Jack Piho was our lead off driver since I knew he would be safe and conservative, and he also had to leave early. About a half hour into his stint he came in for a black flag but had no idea why since he hadn't done anything close to being bad. We pointed him to where the Judges where and he zooms off. Judge Johnny is walking this way and Jack speeds up to meet him. Johnny says he has no idea why Jack came in as the black flag was not for him, but that he now has a penalty for speeding in the pits (he was doing easily 20mph in a 10mph zone). So we parked the car and started getting Jack out (not an easy task). As we got the belts off and Jack's helmet and HANS off, Johhny says we can go back out.

Here is where the fun begins. Jack's new helmet is a little too tight and the pad near his ear rips off. We spend several minutes trying to figure out the correct orientation and getting the pad back in correctly. Next Jack is so tall that it is almost impossbile to get his HANS on inside the car. We spend some more time trying to get that on. All in all it cost us about 15-20 minutes and lost us 7 laps for a black flag that wasn't even ours. But that is part of the challenge of Racing LeMons.

Jack goes back out and starts doing some real fast laps to try and make up some time. At just over 2 minute lap times, we were 7 laps down from the leader and in 68 place. Jack claws back up to 44th place.

As a result of the penalty we had to change our stategy. During the test day and Jack's stint, the car seemed to be sipping gas at the Shennendoah circuit. Our plan was to see if we could do 3 drivers on Sat instead of 4 and make up some time by not doing a driver change/refuel. We opted to have Rob go out next. We wanted him to go out until there was fuel starvation. We hoped that it would be about 3 - 3.5 hours. We also wanted to make sure Rob would get the longest stint since he was our ringer driver. Also being from Atlanta, he is used to doing endurance racing in really hot temps, so having him go out mid day in 95* weather made the most sense.

Rob was flying out there, he was turning decent lap times, but most impressive was his ability to navigate/weave through traffic as if it didn't exhist. He just passed anybody any where all the time. He was out for just under 3 hours before he ran out of gas. He went from 44th to 4th place. Still 7 laps from the leader, but 1 lap from 3rd, 2 laps from 2nd. When Rob got out, he also had set FTD at the time with a 1:58.x, beating the next fastest time by 1.5 seconds. Since the car would not do the 3-3.5 hours on one tank we would have to do 4 drivers instead of 3.

Mark W went out next. We had an abismal pit stop that lost us about 2 more laps. He went out and did nice consistant clean laps. They weren't the fastest, but at no time was I ever afraid we would get a penalty. He did a great job. He maintained our position. 7 laps from the leader, 1 lap from 3rd, 2 laps from 2nd.

Evan Keller was the last driver on Sat. We had an awesome pit stop and did a driver change and full refuel in 4.5 minutes. Evan was very quick and got us into 3rd place pretty quick and was hunting down 2nd place. With about 5 laps to go he passed the 2nd place car, but we had to lap him in order to pick up 2nd place. During Evan's stint, he had an awesome battle with the MR2 team that we were paddocked with. It was really fun and exciting to watch.

That ended the first day of racing. With that done we starting talking stategy and concerns. Rob mentioned that 3rd gear kept popping out whenever you gave it throttle so you had to be very gentle on the throttle application and had to drive with one hand on the shifter in order to hold it in 3rd gear. Somehow he was able to actually set his FTD this way. Mark and Evan concurred that the tranny got worse and worse as they drove it. After discussing it for a while, Mark mentions that he brought a spare tranny with him and that I could have it for $250 if we wanted to try to swap it in. Nate Thulin, our Crew Cheif had done a tranny swap at the BMWCCA club race 2 weeks ago in 45 minutes during the lunch break. So I asked if he was up for it. He knew it was going to be a LOT harder since the club race car had all new parts and our stuff was all rusted on. You have to remove the exhaust in order to easily drop the drive shaft and get access to the tranny. This was not an option for us since it was so rusted on that if we removed it, we would not be able to get it back on and we would not be allowed to run w/o an exhaust.

The entire team (including Anthony) was working on the car at one point or another. What was estimated to take about 2-4 hours kept us up until 4:00am until we decided we were so tired we had to stop b/c we were making stupid mistakes. We decided to try to get to stopping point and get to bed and start up again at 7:30am.

I could not sleep as my mind was racing about all the possible problems and what we could do to fix them if it came up. I just laid in bed and rested as much as I could. The team and crew members headed back to the track at 7:30am while John (the other driver for Sun) and I stayed at the hotel until 9:30 to try to get as much rest as possible since we did not want over tired drivers on the track. Even though I hadn't slept I felt fairly rested and wasn't really tired, but my stomach was slightly nautious from lack of sleep, not enough food, and too much caffine, but I figured it would calm down as soon as I got in the race car.

When we got there at 10:00am, they were just putting the finishing touches on the tranny swap. Anthony offered to let us use a set of the Toyota team's rims/tires that were slightly wider but a better compound on a lighter 15" wheel. The bolt pattern was the same, but the hubsize and offset where different. Rob knew that the Spec Miata guys use the same spacers as the E30 guys for these rims, so he went over to the NASA Hyperfest event to find a set of spacers. Our concern with the spacers though was that 2 of the lug nuts on the front right tire had frozen on the stud, so they essenitially became lug bolts. With the spacers, those lug bolts would not be long enough to fully engage safely into the hub. I went back over to the NASA event to see if any of the E30 racers had any spare studs. None did, but I did find someone with longer stud bolts for use with spacers. While I was over at NASA, Rob tried using the impact gun to get the stud to seat properly and not come out so that he could remove the frozen nut. This did not work and he managed to strip the hub threads pretty badly. Enough so that the new stud bolts I found would not thread in. As we were talking about waht to do, a guy in a Ferrari F360 came over to ask us about the People Curse. We got to talking and we mentioned our problem and he told us he had a tap and die set over at his personal garage, so I followed him over there to go get it. It cleaned up the threads enough so that we could engage the lug bolts. I was still a little concerned with the spacers and the lug bolts/etc so I made them Red Loctite all of the studs/bolts on all 4 corners just to be extra safe.

At 11:55am, we dropped the car for the final time, and with 5 minutes until we had to be on track we got John Z in the car and up to grid. Our plan was that he had to stay out for atleast 1 hour 45 minutes and then come in at the first full course yellow. This would ensure that I would would only have to drive for less than 3 hours and would not run out of fuel. Coming under FCY would also ensure that we only lost minimal laps during the pit stop. John got us into 2nd place with 3rd place less than a lap behind. At about a little over the 2 hour mark there was a FCY. Unfortunately the MR2 team had just came in and was using our fire extinguisher, so we had to have John stay out for 2-3 laps so that the MR2 team could finish up and we could get ready. Just as John was about to come in, the track went green and he stayed out. A few minutes later it went FCY again and he came in. It went green real quick but the cars were still bunched up so the lap times weren't all that fast.

(The Red Baron looking to add another Snoopy kill to the side of the car)

We had a pretty decent pit stop to get me out there. After navigating some heavy traffic for the first 3 laps, I had 2-3 clean laps with minimal traffic. I knew I was flying so I radioed Nate to have him get some lap times on me. As soon as I said that, I hit traffic and was in traffic for the rest of my stint. It was a lot of fun. The new tires really made a difference. During the Test and Tune, I felt the 195 RS-2's were a little slippery and unpredictable with a heavy tendancy for oversteer for the tight technical track at Shennendoah (the tires feel great at faster tracks). The 205 Dunlop Direzza's from Anthony's Toyota team made the car push a little bit in the slower stuff, but really made the car a lot more predictable and was VERY easy to catch when it did step out.

I could pretty much pass the slower cars anywhere I wanted to as the speed differential allowed me to be able to pass with a lot in reserve in case something happened. I did a lot of passing up on the far edge of the inside curbing in order to give me that extra half width of car to be able to squeeze through. Many times I had about 1/3 tire on the curbing and 2/3 hanging over the grass/dirt. Thankfully the curbs were raised so that I did not kick up any dirt clouds when I did this.

I lapped the 3rd place guy to give us a little breathing room, and almost lapped him again by the end of my stint. He seemd to not be pushing very hard as it was always easy for me to catch up to him and pass him, but as soon as I would pass him, he would turn it up and would be all over me in the corners. The Mercedes that was winning seemed to be taking it easy because with their 5 lap lead in the morning, all they had to do was stay out there and turn laps to win. I got down to 3 laps behind them and almost got them again, but I knew there was no way we could win unless something happened to them.

When the checkered flag fell, we were 1st in Class, 2nd place overall, and I got FTD with a 1:57.3! Had we not had the 15 minute penalty we would have won by 4 laps. This seems to be a reacurring theme. We had 60 BS laps and 1 hour 20 minutes in penalties at our first event at Stafford. W/O those penalties we would have easily come in 2nd place and 1st in class at Stafford. At Nelson, we had around an hour of penalties. Without those, we would have won by about 15 laps. But that is the challenge in racing LeMons. :) Maybe next time... ;)

Thank you SO MUCH to Nate Thulin, Colin Vozeh, and Anthony Magagnoli for helping us out this weekend. Nate did an awesome job as Crew Cheif. Also thanks to Chrissy Barnes for keeping our spirits up during the arduous late night tranny swap. Thanks to the MR2 Mod Squad team for sharing our paddock compound and making our weekend a lot more fun and enjoyable. Big thanks to the Cincinatti Toyota team for loaning us the wheels/tires on Sun.
See you guys at the next one. :)

(Mark, John, Nate, Scott, Evan, Anthony)

More pics here and here.

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