Cutting Bait

Washington DC - 27 Mar 2011

There is a LeMons race at Infineon this weekend and the Sharks are NOT there. I am on the wrong side of the country. Antonia is MIA. We've lost Mike to snowboarding. And Clay is spending too much time worrying about the unions in Wisconsin. Even worse, we were supposed to show up with a diff for the Dos Equus team who kindly loaned us their spare at Buttonwillow. Oops! Will have to grovel for forgiveness at Thunderhill this summer. In the meantime, here are some overdue pictures:

 

The Sharks Return

Los Angeles - 22 Sep 2010

24 Hours of LeMons Arse-Freeze-A-Palooza. Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Buttonwillow, California. December 4th and 5th, 2010. Enough said.

To Infineon And Beyond

Sears Point, CA - 11 Mar 2010

Our 6th race. The legendary Sears Point. We started our race week by breaking our transmission at Willow Springs during an abbreviated practice session. A crash course in transmission repair ensued. With a replacement transmission installed, 4 wary would-be racers made their way to Sonoma, CA some 7 hours later than planned arriving at the gates for a few quick winks before the gates opened at 6.30am. With the paddock set up, the Shark was on the track by 10am. All seemed well. That lasted until the all too familiar rooster tail of blue smoke appeared out of turn 9a indicating yet another blown turbo. Within two hours, we were in the local yards scouring for turbo Chrysler Dodge donor cars. A suitable candidate turbo was unceremoniously cut from a dead LeBaron and plopped onto the Shark’s hood shortly after the practice session completed for the day.

The car back on its feet, we started the race in good form holding to within 3 laps of the leaders for most of the day. The Shark was easily one of the fastest cars on the track. Both Antonia and Ian put in clean sessions leaving Mike and Clay to keep us in contention for the lead. However, the serenity of the plush green hills surrounding the track was too compelling for either to avoid going off piste on 3 different occasions setting us back another 10 laps from the race leaders. We finished the day in 18th place out of 151 cars and 13 laps from the race leaders.  

Undaunted by our 13 lap deficit, we set out Sunday to make up for it. Mike earned us our 4th black flag for grazing amongst the sheep yet again. Not the best start, but all was not lost yet. Antonia ran a clean session but once again, the demons of turbo hell descended upon our newly plucked junkyard turbo. The car came into the pits with the telltale trail of blue smoke enveloping the paddock. With no time to hunt for yet another donor car, we hastily attempted to rebuild the current turbo despite its heavily damaged turbine wheel.

Much do we have to learn about the dark science of turbos to understand that chewed up turbine wheels tend to create massive instability when spooled up to 50,000RPM in racing conditions on a demanding track.  As such, the rebuilt turbo lasted all of 3 laps before once again puking its guts out, splitting the turbine shaft and eating up its newly implanted bearings. Once again, the Shark exited the track in a fog of blue smoke. Our hopes of a top ten finish dashed again, we set the car up to run naturally aspirated for the remainder of the race.

Despite the lackluster finish, we had an amazing time at Infineon. The track and facility are truly amazing as are the majority of competitors we raced with. Before our next race, we will pay homage to the dark lord of turbos and pick up books with titles similar to: “How to Make Your Junkyard Turbo Work for Less Than One Cocktail at Soho House” and “The Art of Ghettocharging”.

Thunderhill Revisted

Thunderhill, CA - 04 Dec 2009

What a difference a year makes. Last year's Arse-Freeze-A-Palooza at Thunderhill was a plague of full track yellows, heavy traffic and nasty chicanes. This year with the full track, no chicanes and awesome flagging, the 24 Hours of LeMons has really transformed into real racing, abeit still in jalopies. For the Sharks, our fifth race was another small step forward.

We arrived at 7am to find 40 other teams more organized than us already waiting for the gates to open - yet another sign that LeMons racing is now pretty serious business for many. As soon as we found a good paddock spot, the skies opened up pouring freezing rain on us as we set up camp for the weekend. With everything soaking wet including us, we retreated into the RV hoping the weather would clear. By midday, we were out testing on the drying track.

Racing started Saturday with Josh out first and after only 20 minutes, the car had stalled on turn 3 not wanting to come back to life. Once towed in, we found a vacuum leak resulting from my poorly positioned air flow meter. Fixed and put back out, we lost about 30 minutes to the repair placing us inauspiciously in 110th place out of 160 cars in the first set of results. But things improved after that. The rest of Saturday ran smoothly. The air flow meter was acting up causing the engine to buck but it was controllable and we could still get through traffic at a good clip. 

Sunday, smooth and fast driver changes allowed us to continue gaining positions. After a complete driver rotation, each running through a full tank of fuel, I went back out to close out the race. The brakes were shot but the car was otherwise running in top form allowing me to pass most of the field. With only 20 minutes left in the race, we had climbed 89 positions to 21st place. And then smoke started to pour into the cabin. At first, I thought another car had blown up next to me, but after about 3 minutes, I realized it was our car. Shortly thereafter, we lost boost and I was being informed over the radio of the 30 foot long cloud of smoke blinding everyone behind me. I made for the track exit, light headed from all the fumes.

We finished 28th overall having lost 7 places in the last 15 minutes. And with only one black flag to our name due mostly to the lenient and overworked corner workers who handed out some 550+ flags to the field of 160 cars. All in all a good result. But, no longer satisfied with good, we have bigger goals for 2010. Stay tuned...

Sometimes Very Fast, Many Times Stationary

Buttonwillow, CA - 16 Aug 2009

The Good: The Sharks set the fastest lap at the 24 Hours of LeMons Buttonwillow Histrionics. We won an award for being the "Most Loveable Pain In The Ass" team -- admittedly, we fit this description all too well. We were in strong contention for Organizer's Choice but Blanco Basura's swimming pool could not be beat. The BMW 528e handled like a dream and passed every car on the track easily either on or off the racing line. We could out brake, out accelerate, and out maneuver almost everything. We didn't crash (a big improvement from Reno). We received only a couple of black flags and minor ones at that. 

The Bad: The junkyard pile of glued together car parts started to show their age. Two cooling hoses sprouted leaks. A fuel line split. The intake boot ripped open. The AFM died. Our brake lights were on all the time. Our mirror was pointed at everything except the track behind us. The telemetry didn't work. We panicked when we realized we weren't prepared and made mega stooooopid mistakes (e.g. letting the cooling fan ingest an expensive multimeter).

The Ugly: We came in 46th overall. Best selling novels were written in less time than it took us to refuel our car. We were disorganized. We were ready to race Friday as much as Stephen Hawking can slam dunk a basketball. 

The Amazing: At the very end of the race, the Evil Genius Volvo and the Big Sausage Acura were neck and neck fighting for first place. On the very last lap, the Acura closely followed by the Volvo were closing in on Josh in the Shark just before the infamously dangerous Lost Hill turn. This is how we last saw them before they left our line of sight. What emerged on the other side was a big surprise. The Volvo emerged first. Shortly thereafter, the shark appeared with a newly applied red stripe down its left side. Then a bunch of other cars rolled passed. The Acura was nowhere to be found. What we didn't know was the Acura had tried to pass the shark on the outside of Lost Hill and made contact with the shark just before it lost control, went off the track and then flipped onto its roof in a giant cloud of dust. Little did Josh know but his position on the track changed the outcome of the race.  

The Outlook: Most importantly, we had a lot of fun.  But, now there is work to be done. The team debrief last night highlighted all the work that lies ahead on the road to Thunderhill. We've shown everybody that we have a fast car. Now we need to show them we can win as a team.