We were gonna win, again.
This got really long, so I won't make you skip all the way to the bottom just to find out that we finished somewhere around 27th.
Why? It all started on Thursday night when we got to the race track...
Arrival and Test Day
We rolled up to the ThunderHill paddock gates around 11pm in 2 RVs and 2 ambulances. The Mystery Machine team and Ling Ling have a siamese twin driver roster, so we caravan to the track and pit together.
Instead of going to sleep immediately so we could get up early and have a great practice day, we decided it would be much more fun to drink some beer in the paddock. One thing led to another. Shortly before we should have gone to sleep, it was discovered that some of our less wise teammates brought the equivalent of an atomic bomb with them. Four Loko. It was only a matter of time until someone consumed it and did something insane. At that point, Weaver made a strategic call that consuming the beverages immediately was the best call. What the hell, Friday was only a test day, right? We agreed.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
At 3am, some of our party retired due to inability to speak coherently. This is the point where the alcohol in your system overwhelms the high levels of caffeine, taurine, and guarana. It makes for a very sound sleep that is not restful in the slightest.
Doug and I stayed upright and stumbled through tall grass and into the paddock with cones and orange string. We partitioned off a very nice paddock space between pit exit and entry. It had shore power for the RVs, was next to trees for shade, and was easily the best paddock space my drunk eyes have ever seen.
We woke up 3 hours later and groggily laid claim to our chosen paddock space. In one vehicle, the intensity of the move was so high that the Four Loko from mere hours earlier made an encore appearance.
I'm getting a mild headache just remembering this part of the story.
The test day was generally uneventful.
We got a slow start, and things didn't really pick up. Everyone was hung over, some more than others. Ling Ling proved to be mechanically ok. Moving from a 195 width tire to a 205 width tire provided a small but noticeable increase in grip. Oh, and one driver, still feeling the effects of the night before, vomited in his helmet before coming in.
We went through the dreaded BS inspection, and were assigned 3 penalty laps. Fair. The logic is that we would get penalized by how many laps we won the previous race by.
Driver order was determined in a hungover team meeting. Weaver, Doug, and me on Saturday. Rob, Andy, and a 2nd bonus stint for someone on Sunday. 3 drivers per day. Full tanks of gas. Fast pits. We're gonna win. No sleep 'til Brooklyn.
Race Day 1: Saturday
Weaver started the race. This was a strategic move. He's not the fastest or most experienced driver on the team, but he's courteous and he'd stay out of trouble. The perfect lead off driver.
Weaver was black flagged an hour and 45 minutes into his stint for contact. After reviewing the footage, a distraction of a car cutting to the inside of T7 dropping 2 wheels off caused a distraction that led to a mental error. A car turned into the apex of T7 and Ling Ling's right front bumper hit their left rear quarter panel.
Black flag #1 = driver change only.
We fueled Ling Ling up and threw Doug in the driver's seat. No big deal, we won the last race and had 1 black flag *cough*Andy*cough*. Just need to send Doug out and get back on track.
Ok Doug, you're good to go.
Just start the car and go.
What? The car won't start. Fuck.
We spent 10 or 15 minutes playing with stuff. Relays? Yep, still zip tied. Kill switch? We had to have toggled that 15 times to see if it would fix it. We finally went to "jump" the car in the trunk. Someone spotted that the battery ground cable moved freely. Hmm, that's not right. We tightened it down and the car started right up. And away Doug went.
Doug immediately complained about the instrument cluster. Everything but the speedometer was now dead. Fuel gauge, tach, lights, everything. Drive through it Doug! We can tell how much fuel is in the car because it fuel starves when it is empty.
An hour later, we met Doug in the penalty box. Black flag #2: 4 wheels off. Doug took the fast line over T5 and went through the dirt at the exit. It was really only 2 wheels off, confirmed on video and everything.
The new, less arbitrary LeMons flagging scheme calls for a mandatory penalty at the second flag. We got the Bob Ross penalty. They gave us a wig, paint, and a book of Bob Ross paintings. Doug and Weaver masterfully recreated one of Bob Ross' best masterpieces on Ling Ling's hood. It maybe half an hour. I wish I had taken a photo of the hood, but can't find one that's just the painting. Envision a blue sky, sno capped mountains in the background, and a snow covered lake in the foreground. Liberally apply snow capped trees to this vision, and your mind's eye is going to be close to what we had.
After the painting fun was over, I strapped in and went out for some fun. I came back in after a tank of gas. We sent out Rob out. Uneventful.
Doug went out for the final stint of the day, since his was cut short earlier. He ended up in a tussle with a car at the entry to turn 5. Ok, not really a tussle. There was a traffic jam going up the hill. Doug didn't see it early enough, and he ended up running into the back of a stopped orange Fiat.
The damage to Ling Ling was all on the driver front corner. The hood was tweaked, the fender had seen better days, and the top radiator hose was pinched. The hood came off, and we spent some time beating the frame out so the radiator hose was no longer pinched. Since the motor was no longer going to overheat, we drove it down for our final penalty of the day.
Black flag #3: the cone of shame. Our penalty was to find a cone in the paddock, affix it to the roof of the vehicle, and paint it white (so it would match our theme?). We bought a cone for $1 from some guys lurking around the penalty area, and stuck it to the roof with bailing wire. Doug got the honor of spraying it white.
Oh, and we had to sit out for an hour. Since there was only 45 minutes left in the race, we were done for the day.
Saturday night, we ate some tasty steak in the paddock courtesy of paddock gourmet Jinnah.
Doug and Andy went all "paddock body shop" on the car, banged out the fender and hood damage, and painted them so nobody would know of our propensity for body contact ... unless they saw the cone of shame.
Race Day 2: Sunday
We sent Andy out Sunday morning. He drove fine for an hour or so, but returned early ... for contact? Honestly, I can't remember the specifics...
Black flag #4: write "I have learned absolutely nothing from the cone of shame" 100 times on the vehicle.
minor modification of the punishment phrase was not questioned
So everyone on the roster had a chance to drive Ling Ling. Weaver and Doug both weren't up to driving, so it was between Rob and I to hop in the car. I let Rob go, hoping that it would rain later in the day so I could hop in the car for a rain stint. It never rained.
Rob drove without incident, but did complain about a lack of power at the top end of each gear. With just about no instruments, it was a "well, short shift and keep driving" kind of situation.
When Rob came in, we convinced Weaver to get back out there. He put in a stint of an hour and a half, and we put Doug in the car to finish the race.
Doug came back in with 20 minutes left in the race, for Black Flag #5: 4 wheels off over turn 5 (again!). Somehow Doug sweet talked the judges, because they just sent him back out to finish the race. He stayed on the pavement for the remainder of the race, and Ling Ling took the checkered flag.
So that's how the race went. In hindsight, I think we all had a great time, but it was different than our expectations going in :)
Since her first black flag, Ling Ling has sported a "fighers killed" style scoreboard on the driver door. Here's the current leaderboard: