Wednesday, December 31, 2008

race weekend

Race weekend dawns bright and early, and we... well, I wouldn't know. I was stuck on a plane in Canada. Laz, Andy and Weaver rolled in to Thunderhill on Friday morning, follwed by the rest of us slackers around sunset.

The good

Ling Ling passed tech & bullshit inspection on Friday without major problems. Despite high levels of e30 fatigue on the part of the judges, our stack of receipts backing up the budget was so high that it had to be weighted down with a bottle of Macallan 12yr single-malt.

Also, the whole crew made it: Laz, Andy, Rob, Weaver, JDH, and me - plus families, spouses, friends, and kids. Grassroots motorsport is good for the whole family! It's a good thing the kids were too young to figure out what the Slow Santas CRX inflatable santa hand gesture was all about.

Here's the panda car, all ready to race:
From lemons thill dec08

Saturday morning, we applied some last-minute pandas:
From lemons thill dec08

(In that shot, the panda epoxy is being dried by Mr Heater.)

The bad

Laz's sprained ankle got worse after walking on it for all of Saturday. We begged ice from Frankenmiata's beer keg on Sunday. We're pretty sure he'll walk again.

The ugly

Despite a solid shakedown on Friday, Ling Ling developed electrical problems on race day that we were never able to shake. Shortly after the start of the race, Laz radioed in to report that the car was stalling randomly. She'd die in the middle of a turn. For a while, no problem - he'd restart her and be on his way. But eventually she couldn't be started, and Laz returned under tow.

This became a theme.

In fact, if they gave a prize for "most frequently towed from the track," we probably would have won it.

We tried:
- replacing the coil with one borrowed from the always-classy Porcubimmer team.
- swapping the fuel pressure regulator
- checking for proper fuel pressure
- plugging and unplugging random things
- playing with and taping random wires under the dash

Each time, we'd have her in the pits for a little while, do a driver change, and send her back out. Meanwhile, the rest of the field was pulling their own jerk maneuvers, spinning, flipping, shoving and stalling their way through many hours of yellow-flag parade racing. At one point we watched our friends in Team Unsafe At Any Speed stall on the hill going into 5 and actually roll backwards into several cars behind them.

We got a pretty solid Day 1 of racing - a couple of hours of full Laz speed coming into our first date with the tow truck, then a couple of hours of Rob, mostly under yellow flag. During one of the brief yellow-green-yellow changes, he passed a couple of cars and got flagged for passing under a yellow. (The circumstances were doubtful enough that we were released without penalty, requiring only a driver change.) Andy finished out most of the day, but Ling Ling was getting increasingly temperamental - he came back to the pits once under his own power, and twice under tow.

By evening we'd unplugged the idle controller entirely, swapped out the fuel pressure regulator, and comfortably decided that the gremlins were beaten back. She didn't run too well in the paddock, but well, we'd pulled the idle control, so that was to be expected.

Next morning, Matt went out. Running cold, Ling Ling is a pliable and temperate lady, and for Matt she ran a little roughly, but was not unmanageable. By now the track had heated up, and Matt got a front-seat view of a series of full-contact incidents. Eventually, though, he too got hit with the electrical gremlin, and brought Ling Ling back in to the pits. The problems seemed heat-related, so we removed the hood.

From lemons thill dec08

From lemons thill dec08

But that wasn't enough, either. After the next tow we ran a full set of fuel system electronic diagnostics. Everything checked out. We hopefully disconnected the kill switch, in case that was the problem. (Shh...) We checked the fuses and swapped out some of the relays. While fiddling in an auxiliary relay panel, we discovered that replacing several relays didn't help, but the act of plugging and unplugging them did. Suspicious.

(Meanwhile, a few of us went to watch the People's Curse "winner", Blues Brothers Racing, get crushed. Jay liked them, so they got off with only a cosmetic dismemberment - but any crushing is a spectacular crushing. 4-yr-old mini-JDH was a big fan, happily yelling "More crush!" until the backhoe operator further munched a door to oblige her.)

From lemons thill dec08

From lemons thill dec08

The next trip back in to the pits was Rob, under his own power, but clearly mad as hell. The corvair team had lost it on turn 2 and spun in front of him, snapping back around from an oversteer correction to slam into the front of our panda car at about eighty miles an hour.

Happily, both cars straightened up and drove away. But the panda car was now overheating, and Rob was black-flagged. (He was subsequently released without penalty, since he'd done nothing to cause the incident.) Back in the pits, we surveyed the damage... more dents in the front corner which had already been dented, and a pinched radiator hose. Really? That's it?

Team Unsafe at Any Speed earns their name from Adam Lazur on Vimeo.

Angry Rob took a sledgehammer to the damage, straightening the front corner with so much force that it... ended up straighter than it was before. Huh.

No real radiator or wheel damage, either. Lucky us.

Next up was Andy. Andy once again ended a pretty smoking run with a ride behind a friendly tow truck as our electrical gremlins once more took hold.

This time we narrowed it down to a spark problem - as in, there frequently wasn't any. We checked cap, rotor and plugs. Cap and rotor were tarnished, but not *that* badly. ("It's supposed to be shiny," Laz instructs, from his luxury handicapped accomodations inside one of the RVs. "Define 'shiny'," JDH responds.) Cleaning them up doesn't help. Electronic diagnostics don't help. We go back to that mystery relay, trying to figure out what it does. It's not in the Bentley book pictures. Eventually, we find a description, right around the time one of the Porcubimmer guys wanders by. "Oh, the white one is the main relay," he offers, helpfully.


(Meanwhile, we send Rob out one more time: he kicks ass! Hooray! But then he stalls. And is towed. We should have tipped the tow truck operators.)

Hardwiring the relay doesn't help. Plugging and unplugging it does. JDH suspects heat saturation in the wiring harness, which travels across the exhaust manifold. Competing theories are possible grounding or shorting issues, or maybe cpu problems. But by now, we're running out of time - there's only about an hour of racing left. Ling Ling fires up, so we bind up Laz's sprained ankle with duct tape, and send him out on the track.

All of us filed out to the track to watch the last few triumphant laps. Laz put down one hell of a hot lap, with all of us cheering as he came down the front straight. Around 1 and over the back of the hill into 2, and we waited to see him come out into 3... and waited, and waited. He eventually showed up behind a tow truck. And for us, at least, that was the race.


From lemons thill dec08

So, what are we doing tomorrow night? Same thing we do every night, Pinky: TRY TO WIN LEMONS.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry things didn't work out so well for you. If your car was an eta I'd suggest checking the crank sensors. Hope things work out better for you next time, but it was great meeting you guys.