WDMS Chapter 159

LeMONS IV @ MSR-H

February 2010

-Introduction (by Costas)

As the fourth time we've swung the bat at this event we find the driver lineup to be the same as last time and the car the same also. Will the ignition system work right this time? Will the brakes last? Will we dominate the event with rotary power? Tune in as Anna begins the tale:

For those of you with a REAL short attention span, you can hop directly to the youtube vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOBWux-vEy8 (it's only 8 minutes of your life).

HUGE Kudos to our favorite Alien, Gary, for doing an awesome job on the radios yet again. Ditto to Wade for the fueling/crew help and Jacob for lots of general assistance. <thumbs waaay up>

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

Anna:

Friday 2/19/10

0600 - Rise and shine...time to make my wayout to MSR-H.  Chris arrived late last night, limping in on bad trailer hubs...but hey, the car is there!  Everyone (drivers and crew) will be making their way in from different directions today, all meeting in the central location of the car which is now at the 24 Hours of LeMons Gator-O-Rama 2010 at Motorsports Ranch, Houston (Angleton, actually).

0800 - We should have a pretty nice setup and pit spot according to Chris and when I pulled up to the pits, yes, we did.  An enclosed trailer with electricity and a gigantic canopy large enough for 3 cars to fit under....nice.

0900 - Track is hot.  Registered for testing day and off Chris goes to try the car out.  After he gets back in I decide to take this piece out for more track time.  Not too shabby, compared to last time, we have 4th gear, the car feels good and I'm more comfortable with this track.  I recall Chris on the radio telling me 'oh, you totally had that guy!  pass him in the corner!  don't follow him in, it eats up time'....needless to say, next lap out I was attempting more passing and again, trying to hang with the Miatas.  

Anna clicking off laps during the testing on Friday

1100 - Along with driving, I also get the pleasure of working tech.  The cars slowly creep into line.  A lot of the same cars from past events with the exception of the few noobs.  I actually got bribed with a gigantic bottle of Crown Royal...not that their car was anywhere near illegal but they happened to have an entire trunk full of Crown and they were set on bribing anyone affiliated with tech and judging.  Hmmm, ok, this will make for payment to the guys who are letting us park our crapcan under their canopy.  Awesome!!  

1200 - Its time for the 7 to get teched.  Heh, it passed inspection point 1.  Now onto safety tech inspection.  Disclaimer:  it passed tech before and the rollcage is a bolt-in and all RX7's have this cage....well.....apparently, the downbars in the back, um, didn't pass tech, that and we were 'missing a crossbar'?....Chris was lit. (OMG SHOCKER! The tech guys didn't have a clue? Say it aint so!!!....~Costas) Explaining that every other RX7 has the same rollcage and it is the safest in a rollover....well, the guys inspecting didn't seem to care about his safety/fact rant (OMG, The tech guy didn't have a clue? Say it aint so!!!...~Costas).  He looks at me and says 'Anna, its your $$, we need a new cage'.  

The skillset-less tech inspector...notice he has changed pen styles so he does not leave pen caps in fuel cells. Remedial Cage Knowledge still escapes him...

1207 - Oh H3ll no!!....I am not about to get failed/screwed, again, by the same guy that lost his pencap (OMG! The tech guy screwed up twice!!! Say it aint so!!....~Costas) in our fuel cell in the Camaro.  I sneak over to where Jay is and explain that we have a car that is, um, experiencing tech issues but is legal because its running a bolt in cage (not telling him it's the car I'm running in).  He comes over and overrides the rollcage issue...just secure the battery better (OMG!!! The tech guy missed the battery!! say it....err...yeah....~Costas) and we are good to go...Thank goodness!!...OMG...

Next up is BS judging. 

Judges:  Ok, what's different?  You guys score a new motor?

Anna: Absolutely nothing.  But we have 4th gear now.  We didn't blow ours up last time, that was another team.

Judges:  Hmm.  Right.  Well, how well did you guys do in the last race.  Where did you end up on the roster?

Anna: Errr <thinking fast>....We were close to last <lying>.  We were lucky that we even finished at all.

Judges:  Really?

Anna:  Yes, this thing is slow. We just taped it back together and brought it back out.

Judges:  Ok.  Zero laps.  Get it out of here.

Time to take the car back out on track and take a 'break' from working tech.  Day is going by pretty fast, car is running well.  Now, we wait for the rest of the team to arrive.  I ended up keeping busy until the guys arrived by nabbing some supplies from the store and unloading the (5) fuel jugs into the hotel room (…what gas smell?  I don’t smell anything…)  

Saturday 2/20/10

0615 – Time to wake up and make our way to the gas station and track.  Today’s plan, Chris will take the car out first, make sure there aren’t any issues.  Doing pretty good…..until….yes, you guessed it….black flag for passing under…yellow… (which I came to find out later that there is a ‘line of sight’ rule.  This rule means if you see a yellow flag at one corner station, you are under yellow until you see the next corner station, and vice versa.  If you are not under yellow, but you can see a corner station coming up that is, you are all of a sudden under yellow).  There was also contact with another car but that was earlier and they didn’t flag that one  So, car comes in and we have the Bart Simpson penalty of writing ‘I am a recidivist, I do not learn’ 100 times on the car.  

 

Then we send our other driver out and he’s doing good….until….yes….black flag for solo spinning and 2 off.  In comes the car and we again get the Bart Simpson penalty of writing ‘oddly enough, writing is more fun than driving’ 100 times on the car.   

  

Above: Fruits of black flags....Below: CT in the car getting buttoned up. 

 

Chris gets back into the car after this penalty.  Car is doing decent, a little bit of breaking up and having to shut it off and on until….yes….another black flag.  But this one was for 4 off….and at this point, everyone on the team is furious because the car, um, didn’t go 4 off.  Seriously, the corner workers were sucking today.  So, Chris brings the car in and this time I have to find a 3 ft cone, bring it back to the penalty box, paint it another color, drill 4 holes and it must be ziptied to the car.  Now let me point out, there weren’t specific details given as to how this would happen so…..  

1)    Asked MSR guys where I could nab a cone

2)    Nabbed cone from track exit which was nearby

3)    Painted cone with spraypaint  available at the judges tables

4)    Chris drilled 4 holes on the bottom of the cone

5)    I ziptied it to the inside of the rollbar  

Cone of shame installed, new ignition installed, CT fixing hatch, Gary getting Costas in the car. Wade, Anna and Jacob (camo) tired of writing

I followed the directions that they gave, even double checked with them.  But they didn’t seem to like that the cone wasn’t on top of the car.  They didn’t SAY it had to be.  Ok fine, holes drilled and cone ziptied.  Time to send Costas out on track.  And we are having issues, he’s having to turn the car off and on quite often while out on track.  Just keep going, make the laps.  The car comes into the pits at 5:14pm.  Doesn’t sound good, Chris decides to add some water to the radiator and the thing ends up shooting a 4ft fountain of rust colored fluid, hitting the canopy and splashing back down onto the car (and anyone within 20'!!) .  Yeah, it’s not looking good.  Time to shut it down since there is only 30 min of drive time left for today.  Chris seems to think we have blown a rotor.  Crap.  So I spend about an hour, scouring the pits for another RX7 that may have had some sort of issue today and would be willing to let us have their engine.  Hmm, yeah, not so lucky there (curse those other teams for bringing reliable cars!!!).  I make some phone calls and we end up with a donor engine in San Antonio, free…now whether it runs or even runs well is unknown.  At this point, I’m willing to drive down and pick it up but the guys are not too giddy about wrenching the evening away on an unknown engine…*edit*…I forgot that the engine would take 6 hours to arrive so the guys weren’t too giddy about spending the early morning hours wrenching.  So, one would probably call me a little nutty for thinking that this plan would/could work. Costas and Wade left Saturday night but spent Sunday fixing the Regal (heh, wrenching on something was inevitable guys). 

I call up Jay on Saturday night to tell him what’s going on.  He gives me some phone numbers to call to possibly find another spare engine….or just a spare car.  The deal:  Just find another car, any car (CMC, another LeMons car, dirt track car, etc), with a cage and they will tech it in the morning and we can go back out on track for Sunday….with a clean slate! 

Well, unfortunately, even as sweet as that deal was….(and I could type on and on with all the ideas for spare cars, what cars and how to make them appear at the track, etc)…another car didn’t make it.  Pretty much they just wanted us to get back on track (which I later found out not getting back on track had cost us the ‘heroic fix’ award).  

So….last resort for getting back on the track….Jay let me pace the race in the morning in the Supra.  I taped some numbers onto the car (merely to ruffle the feathers of the other drivers to make them think that this car was going to be driving all day).  Pacing was fun, Jay let me mess with the speeds we were pacing at and I got to listen via handheld as to how they drop the green flag for the second day (interesting guys).  And that was the weekend. 

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Costas:

Since I've not gotten anything from the other drivers, I'll throw my few cents in here and we'll wrap this up.

Napping while the car makes laps.

I actually enjoyed NOT starting this race this time as the start is a huge PITA. Too many cars, most of them waaaaay too gungho about an endurance race to drive sane, and the rest breaking cars. So as the first stints were going I was happy to let the field thin out a bit and drive the anchor leg today. CT picked up an early black flag and was quite adamant he didn't pass under yellow but he DID have some contact (I think). Our other driver does okay for a while and then SOLO spins, then CT takes over and again comes in for passing under yellow. After they attach a big cone to the top of the car (which was easier than writing on the car, my hand was getting crampy from all the darn writing!!) we take the car back to the paddock spot and some ignition parts are changed since CT says the ignition is messing up again. Wonderful. I slide in at about 2:40pm and head out, ripping off laps for about 20 minutes and the car missing every lap or two. At 3pm (we're racing till 6pm today) almost on the nose we get a big full course caution to bring in the latest batch of cars lacking oil/gas/brakes/critical parts/etc and Gary calls me in for fuel. As I stop the car I bail out (have to be out to fuel) and they top the little red rocket (it's opposite day as I type this, so it fits...heh) and I slide back in. Back circulating under yellow I ask Gary what the plan is. He tries to find someone, but I never really hear. I'm good to go the three, just curious. I dropped in the car and we were in 48th place and I simply put my head down and started ripping off laps, cautious of the yellow flag stations, but going at a good clip. The brakes felt fine, the tires felt fine and the engine power felt....not so fine. The ignition would cut out and Gary told me that CT told him that you had to cycle the ignition 'sometimes'. I don't know exactly what that meant but in my little non-electrical-engineer mind I thought maybe the coils were getting oversaturated, or maybe the dwell wasn't dwelling right and since Aquarius was rising in Capricorn's moon there was additional gravity on the gap juice. I hear that is always bad. So, what's the worst that can happen? I fight the car on the backstretch again, ending up with about half throttle as the most she'll take and as I lift off the gas I simply flick the ignition off. I leave the car in 4th, so the motor is still spinning and I brake and then as I arrive close to my turn in point, I quickly clutch, downshift to second and as the clutch goes back out, I flip the ignition switch back on. The motor sparks to life and I floor it and off we go. It actually ran fine up to the carousel and down to T1. Then it messed up on the straight out of T2. So next lap, I shut off the ignition going into diamond head, then again into T1. Then it acts up on the back stretch, so I take to shutting it off on the little chicane before the backstretch. After about an hour of experimenting, I am now flipping the ignition off and back on three times a lap and if I'm slammed in tight traffic and don't get a chance to, it messes up on the next straight. 

Costas' one pit stop for the precious go-juice that Wade is feeding the little zinger. 

So....I'm driving this total POS car as fast as I possibly can, making some sweet passes and good progress while turning the ignition off and on three times a lap with a 3' cone on top of the car. Nearly every time when I flick it back on it sparks smoothly back to life just fine and off we got, but...well...sometimes it....doesn't. Sometimes it hesitates and then there is a big BOOM right under the car with a shudder that makes me wonder how many times this rustbucket will stay together if that keeps happening and, say, I wonder how fast I can get that fire extinguisher out of it's holder? I'm very cautious to not touch the throttle while the engine is off since it is still spinning and creating vacuum and if I open the throttle it will put fuel in the engine and exhaust and then when I flick it back on bad things (well...badder than what was already happening) could happen. So I'm clipping through the laps as the hours go by. I began in 48th place and with 2 hours left to go we are in 41st. More head down, ignition flicking and wheel turning and with 1 hour left to go we are in 31st!!! Yep, with NO fuel stops needed we can crack into the 20s by the end of the day. 

Caught Mr. AngryEyes and about to put him another lap down. 

Well. We COULD have cracked into the 20s. With 45 minutes left to go I'm headed into diamond head and as I begin to let off the gas (but not hit the ignition switch yet), the motor immediately goes silent. I could have reveled in the peaceful quietness of it all, the wind softly whistling around the 36 inches of orange right above my head and the sun falling late in the day...but nah, I knew the motor popped. I coasted around out of the way and with only a few more miles an hour rolling under my abused tires, I slipped it in first and popped the clutch just out of morbid mechanical curiosity. It sput'd to life. Had it fired with both rotors I would say it 'sputtered' (plural) to life, but it didn't sound 'all there' so it merely sput'd to life. Sadly, when it sput'd to life it somehow found something to burn and the cockpit quickly began filling with smoke. I picked up the pace a bit hoping the airflow would clear the cabin. Sadly-er the more revs meant more smoke. Finally, when the acrid crap in my lungs almost made me lift and give up, a blessed wind from that rising Aquarius cleared the cabin and I could see and breathe (two things I like to do while driving). I limped it to the pits. We found that the water passageways in this engine were now connected to the oil passageways in the engine and that no matter how full up you are on gap juice, it still won't run right. Stick a fork in this thing, we're done.

Lotsa brown-ish fluid went everywhere...not bueno. 

Had we been able to procure a known engine, I'd have been all over a repair, but tons of work for a big question mark engine didn't sound workable to us. So instead Wade and I headed back to College Station where he got to help me hang a water pump before I headed home. I've not heard from CT what was wrong with the engine, but hopefully it is fixable. When it is running right, the car is pretty fun to drive. Just gotta have drivers avoid yellow flags and not spin on their own...

The sun sets on the fourth LeMons adventure....will it shine on another one? Stay tuned...