Thursday, November 26, 2009

panda video

She even worked in a plug for the racing team.

... oh, did you want to see video from the race?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Arse Freeze Apalooza 2009: part 1

Here's half of the full story, as I remember it. The other half will follow.

Travel to the Race (Thursday)

The 3 of you who are regular readers of this blog will remember a post saying the panda only needed a few things. Well, none of those things were done on Thursday. The minivan was still living in the carport on the side of my house, recovering from the replacement of a busted ass motor. Ling Ling was sitting on the trailer, waiting to get some more attention.

It looked kind of like this, but Ling Ling sat in place of the red and yellow spec e30.

Thankfully, by 6pm on Thursday, the van was gone and I could get Ling Ling ready to go.
I was sitting on the ground, next to Ling Ling with all 4 corners on jack stands. The driver front wheel was on. I used the impact to tighten the lug bolts down, and gave it a quick spin. I am somehow preprogrammed to do this every time I put a wheel on. Well, now I know why:

It didn't spin.

I took a closer look. The wheel's spokes were firmly pressed into the brake caliper. I briefly thought about how wise it was to use the impact gun to tighten this together.

This was a ridiculous last minute surprise.

I picked up this set of wheels as spares for my spec e30 car. Since it was supposed to rain at ThunderHill, I made the call to bump to 15" wheels and tires so we could run a better dual purpose rain/dry tire. It turns out that on these new wheels, the wheel offset and centerbore were not E30 at all (note to self: examine wheels very closely when buying BMW wheels from a Honda Challenge racer).

So, I grabbed a jack and concocted a plan. I pulled wheel studs from my street car (5 lug, so we had 2 spares), and my spec car. The longer studs, coupled with some spacers pulled from the race car, built me a kit that should work. I test fit 1 wheel and it worked, modulo the hub centric bit not being right, but at least they fit. At 7:30 the panda car was finally on the trailer with 1 new wheel. The rest got punted 'til the next day.

We waited for the Mystery Machine crew to get it together. After a series of additional delays, we were on the road around 11pm (in hindsight, I should've known this would happen).

Test Day (Friday)

We woke up early. 6:30 maybe? I was cranky. Getting 4 hours of sleep, then driving on the race track at 100mph+ is not something that I like to do. In addition, I had to put the damn wheels on the car, change the oil, and check the trans fluid at a minimum.

Luckily, some of my team mates were around to help out. We put the car on jack stands, and I proceeded to put in the wheel studs and get the wheels on. That went well, and things were starting to look up.

Then it started to rain.

I slid under the car, put a wrench on the oil drain plug, and jokingly said to Doug "righty tighty, lefty loosey, right?". I proceeded to break the plug free. Boy that drain plug was really tightened down, but with some extra force I broke it free. I kept turning the nut, first with the wrench and then with my fingers, but it wasn't backing out. "Doug, this plug nut isn't backing out. Weird eh?" Doug took a look as I was spinning it, then said:

"Ummm. I think you're turning it the wrong way."


No fucking way. It can't be. I've been changing oil for a long time. This mistake is not possible.

I cocked my head to the side, and goddamn it, he was right.


I called some team mates who were on their way to the track, and told them to go to a parts place, any parts place, and get me a bigger drain plug. Astrid spent some time on the phone and assured me that nobody in a 60 mile radius of Willows stocks an M12x1.5 oversized drain plug.

I got on the horn with NAPA in Willows, and for the first time in a very very long time, I talked to a knowledgeable parts guy. I wish I could remember his name, because he was my new best friend. He hooked me up with an M12x1.75 plug that might work, and a 1/2"-20 magnetic plug that would be even bigger (in case I really screwed up and removed all the thread material). The metric plug was a no go, there wasn't enough material for it to grab onto. So laying on the wet ground, I tapped out the pan for 1/2"-20 Standard threads. A german engineer in my head was screaming obscenities at me, but I ignored him. I gooped up the new plug with some gasket sealer, and tightened it down just enough that it wouldn't back out, but not tight enough to strip out the new, likely thinner than usual, threads.

I let the goop set up and moped around in the paddock for a while.

It stopped raining.

I filled up the motor with oil and the new plug didn't leak, even after warming the car up. Success.

Then my brother arrived. He drove up from LA that morning.

Despite my better judgement, he intended to put a gigantic homemade carbon fiber splitter on the front of the car. In hindsight I should've just told him "no", but instead I told him that I was going to knock it off out on track when I took the car out for a few test laps.

So we put the splitter on the car.

I decided my role was to make sure the mounting wouldn't tear the entire front of the car apart when the splitter inevitably hit something. Also, when it broke away, it couldn't have anything pointy that would puncture a tire. When we were done, I was pretty sure we had accomplished these goals.

the splitter, as raced

The splitter took a while, and daylight was running out. We still needed to sneak through BS inspection visit the very nice judges and show them our extensive documentation. Also, we had to get a tech once over to make sure our car was safe. We hopped in line, and made it through tech with a coupla minor issues ("no cotter pins in the harness", I'm dumb. "tape up the battery positive terminal, even though it has a plastic cover", whatever).

Next was the BS inspection with the very nice judges who I fear respect greatly. Every time the judges see an E30 come through, they greet us with open arms, chat about the car, and try to get one of us to slip up on some minor detail in the story. When they hear the slip up, they pounce, and assign ridiculous amounts of penalty laps. We had done this dance twice before, and made it through without any penalty laps both times. At Reno, we even passed an extra special inspection by ultra cheater Rob Krider.

I was still nervous.

To my surprise, the judges were pretty happy to see us. They knew who we were, and talked about how we gave up our old number (43) to the Uber Bird car for their theme. We had a nice discussion about our residual value assignment ($450), and what we spent it on (suspension bushings, not installed!). I handed them a bottle of rye that they were sure to appreciate, and away we went with a big zero in our form's penalty laps box.

At that point, it was about 3 o'clock. The track shut down at 4. It was barely worth our time to go out and test. I decided we'd pack it in since I was too tired to think, let alone shake down a car at 100mph.

We spent some time working on the splitter mounting a bit more, and in the back of my mind thoughts of surprises from the "new" stuff danced in my head. Would the splitter cause high speed lift, or maybe high speed oversteer? Are the tires going to rub in T14? I dulled all of these concerns with beer, gawked at the competition in the paddock, chatted it up with familiar faces, and eventually went to bed.

This is a pretty good stopping point. Tune in for the next installment, where, if you're lucky, I'll actually write about the race.

Arse Freeze Apalooza results

A more complete write up will come at some point, but I figured I should post tonight with results.

We finished day 1 in 1st place, and held onto 1st place from green to checkered on day 2, winning the race and a fat $1500 in nickels.

(click on the pic for more Ling Ling glamour shots)

Mad thanks to Mysteries Inc Racing for helping us out in the pits, running for fuel, cooking burgers, and generally being a great rolling obstacle.

Monday, November 16, 2009

arse freeze apalooza?

aaaaaand we're back.

We were accepted for the Arse Freeze Apalooza event that takes place this weekend ... but we didn't really get much done til last weekend. This was partially due to panda procrastination, and partially due to this stuff.

After the Reno race, Ling Ling went into outdoor storage and sat

and sat

and sat

'til Saturday. Pop the key in the ignition, and she fired right up.

On Sunday, we got her up on jack stands and she passed her check up with flying colors. We originally had planned to replace the bushings in the rear of the car due to a suspension clunk at Reno. The bushings looked ok, and there was no noticeable play, so we looked elsewhere.

Hey, why's that front swaybar endlink broken? Think that could make some noise? 1 pick n pull end link later, and we're mostly ready for ThunderHill.

Next up: some new fluids, a bath, 2 3 4 coats of wax, and maybe a front aero element to balance out that big ass wing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

reno results

Pandamonium finished the first day at 10th overall (of ~100 cars) and somewhere like 5th within class. As Astrid mentioned, we held down fast lap for a good portion of Saturday with a 2:37.something, but a black Saab with way more boost than sense smacked us around and put down a 2:33.

Saturday night, after looking at the results, things secretly got more serious. On Sunday our pit stops were quicker and our driver stints were longer. A judgement error on rear tires Sunday morning made for good stock footage for our upcoming documentary film: Reno Fernley Tokyo Drift.

Despite no grip, we took the checkered at 7th overall and 3rd within our class.

All unofficial of course.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


a few photos, real quick. x-posted to both blogs.

race day

(x-posting to panda and mystery machine blogs)

Hello from Reno-Fernley. We're on the second day of racing at Goin for Broken, and shockingly, both the Mystery Machine and the Panda car have been running well so far. We had some excitement getting the minivan through tech inspection on Friday - suprisingly enough, the tech inspectors were less than thrilled with the broken wheel stud on the driver's side front wheel. The lug bolt is insanely difficult to replace, so Laz and Jinnah did a hero run to pick n pull in Sparks to get a whole new steering knuckle, which we fitted in gathering dark and howling dust.

Meanwhile, Laz successfully bribed his way through a very special bullshit inspection - he unwisely laid down some very fast laps in the practice session before going through inspection, so they pulled Ling Ling aside for special inspection as a "real race car". (The special judge they called in is a cheating expert; he took a quick look underneath and proclaimed her an *actual* piece of shit.) Laz smoothed things over with a super smooth bribe:

Judges: What, you aren't even going to try to bribe us?
Laz: We hadn't gotten to the hard sell yet. (Whips out the whiskey from the trunk) 
Judges: Oh, well then. This is good stuff. You guys are good to go, no penalties.

The Mystery Machine is a HUGE hit, which is a relief, because we're also the slowest thing on the track (surprisingly, there are actually a couple of cars slower, but we still hold the record for the slowest fastest lap of any team). For a while, Ling Ling and the Mystery Machine held the single fastest best lap and slowest best lap in the race.

They started timing the race when the Mystery Machine crossed the starting line, so for a full two seconds, Jinnah was leading the race. (Subsequent, we fell into our role as mobile chicane and had the whole race lap us repeatedly. Driving the minivan is like driving through a swarm of bees, with other cars whipping past constantly. We've taken the tack of being very polite about it, holding a steady outside line, which has garnered us a lot of good will. (Another team came up to thank us for being predictable while being passed, and gave us a hat as a token of gratitude. :-) )

Pandamonium has not yet seen a revisit of the electrical issues from last time, and is currently running around tenth overall. 

The Mystery Machine has done pretty well through simple consistency, and is currently around 46th place, much to our surprise. After the last-minute scramble to get her race prepped, just seeing her running around the track feels a lot like winning.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rod Knock & New Rod Bearings

In our previous post, we determined that the troll hitting the inside of the motor with a hammer lived in cylinder #6. So we pulled the oil pan, got to the bearings, and boy did that troll do a number on the bearings:

For those of you who are not wise to the ways of rod bearings, the grey bearing on the left is an OK take off bearing. The 2 bearings to the right (cylinder #6) have worn through the grey metal to the tasty copper center. This is bad. Real bad. All the bits of metal that were worn away were found scattered in the oil pan or smeared across the other bearings.

New bearings are in. We threw some zinc rich oil into the motor, fired it up, and the troll from cylinder #6 is no longer angry. The BMW recommendations for rod bearing break in are something to the tune of "for 1000 miles do not go over 5500 rpm, do not exceed 100mph". Either we're going to put down lap times comparable to a Corvair, or we'll give the rod bearings a proper "racing break in".

Friday, May 15, 2009

Motor Clunk

If you look closely at the last post, where we listed what was left to do on the car, you'll see at the top of the list it says "motor clunk".

Well, that piece of tape is there to address the minor issue that Astrid broke the car at the last track day. Her aggressive driving and constant accelerator abuse was just too much for poor Ling Ling. She's taken all the abuse a panda can, and is now making decidedly not good sounds from the engine compartment.

(ok ok. it's probably not Astrid's fault, but don't tell her that)

What's it sound like? I'm glad you asked. Here's a video:

E30 Rod Knock? from Adam Lazur on Vimeo.

With the race rapidly approaching, we checked the valves. They looked fine. Hell, after an adjustment, they're the quietest E30 valves on the planet. Unfortunately, quieter valves just made the bad noise sound louder.

So we recorded the noise and appealed to the internets. On the internet everyone has an opinion. 3 main causes were proposed:
  • broken rocker arm / valve train problems
  • rod knock
  • piston slap
To address the first, off the valve cover came (again). Maybe there was a tiny tiny crack that was missed before? Many minutes of scrutiny on the valve train yielded nothing.

The cylinder compression was tested, and it was fine. Further lending credibility to the theory that it was not a valve issue.

To differentiate piston slap vs rod knock, we were informed of the "pull a plug" method. The procedure is to pull the wire from a spark plug, and if the tone of the sound changes, that's your bad rod bearing. The theory goes that by removing combustion from the cylinder, the piston will still slap since it's moving, but the rod will knock less since it's under much less pressure.

Before trying the plug trick, the car was taken by the shop of an experienced mechanic. After 30 seconds of revving and listening in the lot, said mechanic diagnosed the noise as rod knock and promptly prescribed a new motor. Sad panda.

After the car was back home with a diagnosis, we tried the plug pulling for a 2nd opinion. While the motor was running we pulled the wires from the cylinders, one by one. Cylinder 1 is fine. So is 2. Boy this is boring. 3, 4, 5: all fine. Maybe it's actually piston slap after all? Oh oh ... cylinder 6 it is!

Woohoo, just like we thought, bad rod bearing in cylinder 6!

Oh crap.


This is the last weekend of work. We were planning to do some minor tweaks on the car, throw it on the trailer, and knock back a coupla cases of celebratory beer. Instead we're going to pull the oil pan off the motor and hope that it isn't too screwed up.

If all goes well, celebratory beer will be shared with grease under our finger nails and the ever so faint tapping of an E30 valve train in the background. If not, we'll hit something with a hammer and start scheming for a whole new motor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

keeping organized

Just 10 days to go. Wow.

Procrastination set in right after the race at ThunderHill in December, and we're just now digging out. There's lots to do, twice as many cars, and not much time.

To keep organized, I picked up a tip from TC Design to put blue tape on the windshield when something needs to be done. We got the car back from caging with "fix fuel leak" on the windshield. There was no way to forget about it.

We've adapted that technique, and the todo list is stored on the windshield of our car in blue tape. When you think of something to do, you add some tape. When you get something done, you pull it off. When all the tape is gone, the car is ready to go out on track. If it's not all gone, you're sure going to feel like a jackass, suited up, ready to go, pulling into the hot pits, with tape on your windshield that says "torque lugs" or "fix fuel leak".

This system is so stupid simple that it actually works pretty well.

Here's a pic of where we were last night:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The sky is, clearly, the limit

Now that we're gearing up for Reno, it seems like a good time to recap T-Hill. Vital stats:

Finished: 78th place (of 114 teams)
Total laps: 168 (winner total: 335)
Best lap: 1:37.456 (best in race: 1:31.474, by Blues Bros Racing after their backhoe-provided on-site weight reduction.)
Total tows: 7
Miscellaneous casualties: Laz's ankle, which has not been quite the same since.

So, we were fast, and finished more than half the race! (Win!) However, it was only .5 laps more than half. (Lose!)

We figure this leaves plenty of room for improvement at Reno. A wide-open field, as it were.

We regret to inform that our arch-nemesises, Team Unsafe At Any Speed, finished 54th with 249 laps. Clearly, this is because they cheated.

They did, however, swing by to collect their specified stakes, an 18-yr Macallen. And we are happy to report that it was only moderately delicious.

When we kick your asses at Reno, we'd like to request a Glenfarclas 15 or better.

Reno here we come

We've been officially accepted to the Reno event. I'm happy to report that the application process is less stressful the 2nd time around.

In between now and then, Ling Ling should get some electrical TLC. She will make a shake down appearance at the April 3rd TEAM Racing track day at ThunderHill. In addition to the usual "beat on the car to break everything we can before the actual race" strategy, the plan is to find some poor intermediate group driver, stick to their bumper, and do some "simulated yellow" laps to see if we've cured our electrical ailments.

In the team gossip category, some of the Pandamonium Racing crew have spun up their own turbo minivan team to go for the glory. See Mysteries Inc Racing for some details.

Friday, March 13, 2009


In what can only be described as a lapse of judgement, we have applied to race in another 24Hrs of LeMons event: GOIN' FOR BROKEN 2009

We've done nothing to the car since the last race, except strip borrowed safety equipment out of it. The car looks much like it did at ThunderHill:

Rob vows to continue frowning until all electrical gremlins are found.

Also, to our friends at Team Unsafe: are you prepared for round 2?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

the media of arse freeze apalooza

There's quite a bit of internet coverage on the race, some of which actually mentions Pandamonium Racing. For example, we're one of the "top 20 coolest cars" on Autofiends.

I've also put together a highlight reel from our in car footage:

Arse Freeze Apalooza Jackass Highlight Reel from Adam Lazur on Vimeo.

A friend of our friends Team Unsafe posted a video of us being towed:

Which prompted me to upload a video to YouTube, only to mark it as a "video response". I hope this transgression does not harm our Vimeo sponsorship deal. The video got some people upset, and I can't help myself when they bait me in the comments.

In another movie, you can see Ling Ling zip by at the end of this video:

I was driving since this was 10 or so laps after the start of the race. I had both E30's in my sights when Porcubimmer snuck by the bronzit bmw e30 and promptly spun 1 turn later. I think the spin freaked out the bronzit car driver, because he pointed me by a turn later.

Finally, here are a coupla photo galleries with Pandamonium pics from the race: