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.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the win!
    Can't wait to read more about the stress and expletives in your next blog.