Witchdoctor Motorsports / BikiniRacer.com

Chapter 132 

28 Feb - 01 Mar 2009 - Motorsports Ranch Houston (Angleton)

The 24 Hours of LeMons GATO-RAMA 

or...

WDMS : 0   Pen Cap : 1

or...

TWO LeMONS AND TWO TROPHIES!!

Hello there race-fans! I'd love to sit back and tell you how we parlayed our vast racing experience and recent 2nd place LeMons finish into a dance at the top of the podium this time, but...well....we got screwed. Really. It's an interesting story and I'll let Wade start it out for us and then make sure we get the whole story out!! Get comfy and enjoy the read folks...

Anna, Todd (in back), Costas, Hunter, Wade, Gary, Nick on our POS Camaro, now aptly named "Bic"

In the long ago, the before time. Before the race and the shenanigans...

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Tech Inspection Follies

2009 24 Hours of LeMons Witchdoctor Motorsports/BikiniRacer.com
Recounted By: Crewman Wade Zimmer

Friday afternoon: Anna, Todd, Wade and the fourth driver leave Todd’s shop around 12:15pm. A quick stop at Chick-Fil-A for lunch and a vehicle swap and we are on our way. Todd takes our 4th drivers' MegaCab to back to work and Driver4 pilots Todd’s truck with SuperTrailer™ in tow. Todd gets a laugh as Driver4 crawls through the Wal-Mart parking lot with agonizing slowness. Driver4 deftly dodges one curb, then another, and safely navigates around a de-de-dee female driver trying to make it to the gas pumps. Almost like she didn’t see us coming in our 24’+ truck and 32’+ trailer. I guess that would have required looking, and paying attention…neither of which she did. Todd was rolling with laughter! 

Out of the parking lot and on the road. Stopped and got fuel on 290. We pumped 87 or so gallons to fill up the fuel cell in the car to the rim (foreshadowing!), 55 gallon drum, generator, and a pair of back up 5 gallon fuel jugs. We take the tollway and make good time on to the track. We arrived around 3:15 and the place was packed. It took us 15 minutes to find a pit space large enough to accommodate the rig. Of course it was at least three times as far from tech and pit road as we had been last October. Who could have know that this would be one of the most fortunate places for us to be! By the time we unload and Anna changes, we head to tech and judging. It is now 4:45pm.

It was cold. And windy. I hate cold. Especially when it is brought about by wind. 

Driver4 drives, I ride shotgun, and Hunter is in the hatch. Anna scooted up on her Razor Scooter just a minute ago. She quickly changes into her “Distract and Persuade” attire and joins in the tech line. We are about 4 cars back and there is only one line open. This is good because no one is really getting scrutinized. Just a quick kick-the-tires, check the kill switch, and a “have a nice day” for everyone. Two more cars pull in line behind us. I guess the head tech inspector now sees that we are building up a long line and orders us to pull aside to form a second line. We pull around and immediately get underway. A tech inspector (Ronnie? Robby?) does a quick once over. He likes our cage, checks the kill switch as Rami starts the car, and is 90% done. Of course he moves to the back of the car and see the fuel cell. I think it looked like kryptonite because he wouldn’t get near it. It was almost like someone told him we were coming? He calls for another tech inspector and walks off. We never see him again.

Tech inspector 2 walks up. His name is Don and he proclaims to have worked at a company that builds fuel cells for over ten years. He scrutinizes the cell briefly and asks where our firewall is. I reply that the cell is metal, therefore acts as its own firewall since it is a 100% sealed system. I point out that we have rollover protection on the vent and supply lines, and that the filler neck has a flapper. Anna realizes that Don is constipated and she tries her hand. She says that we ran this setup "as-is" last year, except that this year we are much improved with a new crumple zone at the rear of the car. She adds that she has e-mailed the LeMons guys and that we should be good to go. Ron calls David over to the car. I don’t think David is a happy person. Let’s just leave it at that. Ron and David look, talk, look, talk. David leaves. (I'm really glad I was stuck in San Antonio at this point...heh heh...Costas)

(Okay folks, here is the important part :-)  ...Costas)

Ron comes back to the car and starts to ask me questions. What type of bladder is in the car? Who manufactured it? Is it baffled? What color is it? Does it have gussets on the corners? What material is it made out of? I proceed to systematically answer each of Ron’s questions as he pokes around the fuel cell. Ron looks at the vent and tube, the supply line, AN fittings, and then he goes for the fuel cap. Ron unscrews the cap and looks inside. He wants to see the bladder and make sure it is safe. Of course, the fuel cell is very full of fuel. We just topped off the car on our way to the track. Ron is not satisfied with only being able to see gasoline and a small portion of the rollover flapper valve. He has been fondling his pen for the last few minutes and decides to stick it down in the filler neck. Perhaps he can see more if he pushes down the flapper? No more than 5 seconds pass, and he realizes that his attempt is futile. He withdraws his pen to find, much to his dismay, that the 87 octane in our tank has disintegrated the barrel of the pen. Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot!? “Where is the end of your pen?” Anna asks? “Oh, it must have disintegrated.” Ron says. “What kind of fuel are you running in this thing?” I tell him that I will go get out receipt for the 87 gallons of 87 octane from Shell. He is undeterred and says that the pen cap disintegrated and will not be an issue. “That is a lot of gas, and only a small amount of plastic.”

The pen cap that screwed us (the red thing on the top of the screw-on cap)

I think he is embarrassed and realized that this is going nowhere. We are told to replace the thirty or so 1/8”machine screws that hold the two pieces of the cell together with ¼” hardware. We knew that this could potentially be an issue, and have already brought the proper hardware with us to tech. Driver4 shows the inspector and he agrees that we are good-to-go after a hardware swap. Ron adds that he wants to see the bladder when we disassemble the fuel cell. He wants to know when we will do the swap? I tell Ron that we simply cannot remove all of the hardware at one time, we must pull one bolt and replace with another in order to maintain the hole alignment. Ron asks if we have drifts to keep the holes lined up. Of course I tell him that we do, IN OUR SHOP THREE HOURS AWAY! I tell him that we will do that swap as soon as we get through judging and that he is welcome to swing by. We are in the last pit stall, the farthest away from tech, at the other end of the track. (Thank Gawd!)

So, to wrap this up, it is now 4:45pm. We’ve been in tech for an hour. Most other teams report tech times of 5-8 minutes. Between the interrogation and the drooling hounds snapping photos of Anna doing her best to distract and persuade we move it back to our pits and get to work. Driver4 and Anna have the hardware changed in less than twenty minutes and the tech inspector never comes by for a look see. Gary and Laura are now at the track and they tackle a left front strut bushing replacement as Hunter and I tend to other miscellaneous issues with the car. It’s going to be a short night which is a refreshing change from last year. It is too bad the race didn’t turn out like it did in October. The rest is history. WE GOT SCREWED!


+++++++++++++++++++++

Todd getting ready on Sunday to take over from Driver4's first stint. Wade is putting on my helmet and Anna will (wo)man the fire extinguisher. 

Anna putting down laps during the second stint on Saturday. 

Costas: Thanks for the write-up! I really didn't feel like telling that story because I wasn't there and I was hearing about it from various folks (our team and otherwise) and I wanted it to be from a first-hand witness. I *was* getting text messages during all this and I was just shaking my head the whole time....sheeshh...

Some folks we know built a near clone of our car. Ours is the one WITHOUT the barnyard animal welded on...heh heh

Todd heading out for stint 2 on Sunday. Wade wearing my helmet.

Anna after her 2 hour stint on Saturday

Driver4 trying to catch the TiredBird

 

Hunter 'fuel-head' and Wade and then Nick and Hunter and the Cart

Costas in the car for stint #3 on Sunday




COSTAS: So, long story short, we chased intermittent fuel cutout the first day. Changed fuel pumps, filters, etc, but only near the end of the day when we pulled the gas cap off at the right moment did we see the little pen cap there. It was lodging itself into the vent and shazam, no fuel. By now the motor is lightly hurt from the extra pump and insane pressure it was sending, as well as leaning the motor our too many times. But we soldiered on the next day and finished 51st. We got the 'WE GOT SCREWED' trophy, so at least we have two trophies in two attempts (if that can be called anything positive...hahaha). Time to pull the motor and fix it, re-do the carb again and get this thing running right. We had brakes for days and the car handled well. 

THANKS TO GARY, THE VOICE OF THE TEAM!! His radio calls are awesome. THANKS TO TODD AND WADE for handling the majority of the prep work this time, sadly it was mostly for naught. THANKS ALSO TO NICK, HUNTER and LAURA for all the help too, we could not have done this without yall!!

MY RANDOM REMEMBRANCES

Well, on the plus side, when we finally got actually going in the race we were 91st and we finished 51st. Without a few of the random black flags we could have easily cracked into the 40s but a win was swiped before we even got to the track by a pathetic tech inspector who obviously had more curiosity than talent or experience. Sad really...

Random things I remember: 

The best car was my buddy Pribble's Audi. They had made the back of the car look like another front complete with a stuffed-suited-helmeted driver holding a wheel! The wheel had a pendulum and so it moved in the turns like the back driver was actually doing something. I laughed every time I came up on them, and every time in the paddock, and every time...well, you get the idea. HILARITY!!  Their team: http://audi400.blogspot.com/

The TiredBird car with our cell from last year inside the big metal box. 

One team brought an Alfa Romeo Milano. Another brought a fuel-injected Jaguar. Whiskey-Tango-Fox?

That is a little too close!!

Starting a race with 95 cars on a relatively short track. Whoah. 

Coolest sticker. Ever. 

Two words: Pinto Wagon. Nuff said...

One word: MG

Other cop-themed cars top and bottom

The wing on the back of Rene's team's car was once a running board from a chevy truck. I kid you not. 

 

These guys had ninja tape holding the car together and pirate tape holding the ECU in. I cannot understand why they didn't win easily....

Busy pit road action

The motor/trans has been pulled out and the car is falling back to earth. Heh. 

Crushed another Miata from the same guys who brought one last year. Two words: Learning Impaired?

If you hit the tire barrier that formed a chicane to keep back-stretch speeds down, then they bolted that tire to your roof. Whoah. 

Arguing with Anna over who was going to get to NOT drive on Sunday. I lost. Had we played rock-paper-scissors, she would have been driving!!!

Taped up and kept in the penalty box overnite

The frustration of fuel issues and getting too much rope-tow practice. The rescue guys DID know where our pits were tho...  ;-)

Some people had considerable issues

The usual penalty camp stuff: Welding metal shapes on cars, running crappy drivers thru the pits wearing diapers, making crappy drivers preach to the masses, 

The electric pump we used for the back half of the first day was just too much pump (unregulated) for the carb and on yellows instead of coasting around in 3rd, we had to downshift to 2nd or 1st to keep the revs up otherwise it would take half a lap to clear out the plugs to get the thing to rev when the track went green. Thankfully for the 2nd day we had the mech pump again and while it ran better, we had washed a cyl or two and the carb had been damaged. Ug. Sadly, at the beginning we had the pace of last year easily. Frustrating. 

Todd found another car out there. 

Our crack crew!! :-) (Wade, Laura, Gary, Nick)

My first black flag (Sunday afternoon) was obvious. I was smoking big time. We cleaned and went back out and got black flagged again for much smaller smoke. Cleaned more thoroughly and went back out. Black flagged for fuel being dumped. Re-routed the vent, pulled a bit of fuel back out and went back out. With 45 minutes to go in the race, black flagged again. Into the penalty box again and nobody knows why. Not smoking (much...heh) and not leaking. On the radio they call several times and finally it comes out that I've cut across pit entrance. The judge looks confused. Pit entrance is on the LEFT side of the carousel and as you take the pit road you have grass on your left and cones on your right. If you are racing, for you to cut the pit lane you'd have to hit cones. All the cones were up. Further, cutting pit lane would increase lap times because you want to be more to the right side of the track there to line up for the turn to the front straight. I was never near that grass. Two more cars came to the penalty box and the judge was thoroughly confused as nobody on the radio could tell him what actually happened. He made a snap decision and said 'no penalty, just swap drivers and go'. I didn't argue as they had had a LONG two days and he was busy, but inside I'm thinking if nobody can substantiate the black, then why force the driver change? No biggie, it isn't like we are contesting anything out there so I ask the guys if they want to keep going or have me bring it to the pits and they sent Todd suited up and he finished the race. 

Hunter: Damn I like it when Costas brings glass-bottle Cokes!!!

I was talking to a reporter who was covering the race and also driving in the event (first time driver!) and he said they had a blast, but while they were leading in the middle of the first day they got two mysterious black flags and they were re-sent back out each time, simply losing laps for no reason. After the race we commiserated and vocalized our similar frustrations of the event. On the second day they had some mechanical issues which dropped them way back, but had they not and lost the race by a few laps the sting would have been a lot more painful. 

Lastly, I've emailed the organizers and filled out their after-race survey and asked for a partial discount for the fall race. We are held strictly accountable for our actions on track and it seems to me that their officials should be held accountable for their actions in their duties. We'll see what happens. I'm not holding my breath, but we'll see if they are honorable people or not. Taking someone's money (and quite a bit of it, btw) and not giving them a fair shake is pretty shady in my opinion. Stay tuned for updates!

Tech: Passed. <gulp>

Our Trophy. The metal tag says 'We Got Screwed'. And we did.

 

** FOOTNOTE as of 6 months later **

After emailing the organizers twice, we never heard back from them. Didn't get any apology nor any type of refund. I wasn't shocked...