Monday, October 17, 2011

So long, and thanks for all the black flags

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Ling Ling is sold.

On Saturday, I did one last minute fix to remove the thread chaser that was stuck in the rear hub (leftover from the ridiculous rear wheel bearing job in the Reno paddock):
From Pandamonium Racing

then I put Ling Ling on the new owners' trailer:
(I kept the license plate)

And they took her away. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad to see her go.

But on the bright side, she's destined for more LeMons glory with a different team and theme. You can follow her new escapades at, I know I will :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Work continues into the night

Two separate parts runs later, new halfshafts and wheel bearings. The passenger side one proves recalcitrant.

The sun's going down. While we've been beating on the halfshafts, a second alternator replacement appears to have fixed the charge issues - once again 14v to the battery, rather than the 7-11v we were seeing earlier. If we're lucky, and if we ever get the bearing out, the lights might work.

With a hell of a lot of help - including borrowed tools, slide hammer, bearing press, and the manager of the local autozone - they got the old bearing out and a new one in. Now we're left extracting the random taps, etc stuck in the hub. (There's a thread tap stuck in one of the lug stud holes.) And wrestling the second halfshaft in. Etc. One thing after another at this point. We'll see.

Update #2 - 3:23am:
Car back on track as of 1:30am. Ryan driving. It's down to Doug and me awake on the crew as of now, though I did just wake up Andy (next driver) to get him used to hardship.

Ryan got black flagged for passing under a yellow flag (huge tow truck parade just now) and got off with us bringing coffee to the judges, but just got flagged again. Damn.

Losses to date

- charging system, despite a rockstar quick alternator replacement
- possibly the clutch
- super busted rear halfshaft (now replaced)
- two batteries (courtesy of the busted charging system)

Also the CO alarm in the RV came on? Just one of those races.

It's hazy and windy out here and the action is set to go all night. We need to sort out the charging issues, though.


Hour and a half, and half a tank of gas into the race. We only nearly lost one wheel. Car is running well.

The Porsche crew beside us have been in three times so far with a fuel leak, out of a damaged filler vent line.

24 hours of reno fernley

At the end of the test night we got in some track time with the lights, and immediately discovered that something about the bright hella lights made ling ling's electrical system sad. The lights went dim and she eventually stalled.

The radiator fan motor cooked nice and toasty, and the battery had drained stone dead. We poked around and picked up parts, but didn't find a root cause.

The race is on now. We're totally fine until it gets dark....

Friday, May 13, 2011


This weekend's racing takes place in scenic reno-fernley, which is a track east of Reno in the high Nevada desert. We've brought just the one car, Ling Ling, and six drivers, plus crew, pandas, and kids.

This race is a true 24 hr, starting 10am Saturday and ending 10am Sunday. We're totally excited for the opportunity to play "truth in 24", and will take turns impersonating Steve McQueen.

(We watched McQueen's LeMans movie at the infineon race. It is perhaps the most laconic movie ever made, but provides important spiritual guidance: "Protect the machine. Drive fast. Try to win." This is almost all the dialog in the movie.)

Jinnah rented a big-ass RV, familiar to us from such previous movies as "GWS goes to Pittsburgh" gws-team RV trip. So we are travelling in extra style, ambulance+trailer+giant RV. This is nice, because the environment is a lot like burning man - desert, dust, no power, no running water. Upgrade, though - there's cellphone signal nowdays.

This race is going to be Ling Ling's last outing - she's running with a For Sale sign, since we're moving on after this to another car.

Today is a late start day - soon we go through tech inspection, then the test session starts at 2 and goes til 9, so we get a chance to play with our giant light rig.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sears Pointlessness

Infineon is an awesome track.

So we totally didn't win. We came in around 40th, after some massive shenanigans with overheating at the end of the day on Saturday (threw the accessory belt, suspected that the water pump had jammed or failed; discovered, eventually, that the thermostat had disintegrated and jammed shut), and a collision on track on sunday resulting in some downstream panel beating, prying, wiring stuff shut, etc.

This is not the thermostat you want in your car:
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

The damage happened while Jinnah was driving, and he noticed the overheating problem very quickly, so the brief period of running extremely hot didn't do any noticeable damage. Happily, we did not replicate the Kill Bill team's experience of blowing a thermostat, swiftly followed by toasting the head gasket due to overheating. Sadly, we did lose the last half hour of Saturday. (Plus, Jinnah had to give up the dream of staying ahead of the other cars he was dicing with when he started to overheat. A tragedy.)

Working to fix:
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

Laz glamour shot:
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

Adding the Mystery Machine drivers to Ling Ling's lineup resulted in some hilarious confusion on the part of the other drivers, since with Jinnah at the wheel she is rendered merely mortal, and with me at the wheel, slightly less than that. For a while there the other cars were so excited about passing Ling Ling that they'd spin with happiness before or after the attempt -- "Whoa, I'm badass, I passed Ling Ling! *spiiiiiin*" At the end of the day Sunday, though, Laz put in 2 hours followed by Rob, and tore like hell through the pack to end us somewhere around 40th place (up from a low of ~79th following a few repair pitstops).

Ling Ling on track with Jinnah at the wheel:
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

We made it as high as 5th place early on Saturday, while Rob was driving, which meant that we got to see our number up on the Infineon leaderboard. Since Infineon is a real track which hosts real races, they have a lot of exciting signage, and seeing our number up there, however briefly, was incredibly satisfying.

Really hard-to-read proof:
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

Sunday morning with me (Astrid) driving, I took a huge hit in the rear. I was tearing around turn 7 in a pack 3 wide, when the inside car ahead of me got crossed up. The car directly on my inside (the Mazdarachis rx-7) checked up trying to avoid him, and while I was trying to get wide and get around, the ripple effect caught up the cars behind me, and the next car back clocked my inside rear quarter panel hard enough to spin me all the way around (I never saw who it was, but I heard it was car 500). I ended up stalled facing backward on the track for the couple of seconds it took to get my shit together, and then limped her back to the pit with the fender dug into the rear tire.

My experience goes something like this:
Hey, Mazdarachi is all checked up, go wide! (Screeeeeeech) I hope whatever's behind me doesn't--WHAM! (I get a nice 180 view of the track, watch the other cars scatter like cockroaches to avoid hitting me - Thanks, other drivers! That was awesome!) Hmm, I'm just sitting here. Damn, I should probably... get out of the way. Right.

I fire the car back up and drive her over to the side, which is hard because the seat got knocked loose on the slider in the impact, and has slid back into 6'5" Laz position (I am 5'5").
I sit on the shoulder for a second and think about life. Then I remember, hey, I can still drive! I should probably drive back to the pit! So I do that, with the fender digging so hard into the tire that it's blowing black smoke the whole way. The track worker at pit exit flagged me down to be like, "Hey, do you know you're blowing smoke?" Me: "I'm telling myself it's from the tire." (It was.)

Then the guys pounded the shit out of the fender, made sure the battery and fuel tank were still ok, and I went back out. I got black-flagged for the incident, which seemed entirely reasonable, but the judges were kind enough to let me go back out, so I got a couple more hours of driving in. This was my first time at Infineon, and I had a total blast.

Some gratuitous pandas (taken during tech inspection):
From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

We discovered a bit later that the impact had kinked the fuel filler hose, leading to a leak when the tank was full, and after fixing that, forgot to put the rear spring back in place, which ate the rear cv boot before we got it fixed. (The rear springs are from a different car, and they're too short for the e30 - when the spring is unloaded, it falls out.)

But we went back out and Rob and Laz had a good time pwning the rest of the track (like they do) and we survived to come through the checkered flag, and it's all good. In fact, it's really kind of awesome.

And Ling Ling's rear end is a little... sideways. Yeah, I did that.

From 24Hrs of Lemons - Sears Pointless 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Infineon friday!

It is bright and wet and early at Infineon raceway. Pandamonium is here with a minimal Panda/Mysteries Inc combined team - Laz, Rob, Jinnah, and me (Astrid).

note: Laz and Rob want you to know that if Ling Ling is being passed, it's me or Jinnah driving. Not them.

Today is also a Ferrari challenge test day, so the paddock this morning is half full of ratty lemons cars, and half full of Ferrari 18-wheeler car carriers. The Ferrari challenge experience comes with hordes of attendants in matching black jackets to push and wax and prep, and a support 18-wheeler full of tires. The Lemons experience comes with a spare radiator and a slide hammer to pull out last race's body damage, and cold pizza.

Though I was looking forward to barreling into a challenge Ferrari on my first ever lap at Infineon, it turns out we're in different run groups. Sad!