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: