“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”
One will take a much different view of this famous Ernest Hemmingway quote once he or she participates in any of those three sports. This past weekend, at the 24 Hours of Lemons Halloween Hooptiefest, I lost my racing virginity. I’ll have you know, dear readers, that it was not awkward at all and I lasted a long time, unlike that other first time.
In fact, our Hooniverse Park Bench Racing team did surprisingly well. At the end of the first day we were leading the race-specific, but otherwise meaningless, class of Volvo 850 Versus 21st Century GM Rental Car Challenge. This was a class specifically created for the large amount of front-wheel-drive Volvos and early-2000s GM sedans.
Realizing that we may actually do damn well in this little endurance race, we got serious! And that’s things started going not-so-well.
photo: reader SmokeyBurnout
Friday: Inspections and Practice
We passed tech and BS inspections with flying colors. Given that our car was mechanically factory stock, we still chose to bribe the judges knowing that there may be a time when we would need their leniency. The fact that people loved our theme helped things out further. We ended up in Class B, “cars with a prayer of finishing”, which was very fair.
Things were going equally well in practice. We did our best to learn the track and the car. We monitored the engine and transmission temperatures and checked all vitals in between driver changes. We noticed that our new BFGoodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2 tires were rubbing on the fenders, so we rolled the fenders. I managed to get our first dent of the weekend when a rather fast Porsche got squirrely while passing me, despite me giving him all the space he could want.
Saturday: First Race Day
We had no real race strategy going into this, mostly because we did not have the time to come up with one. We also did not know how many laps we could get on a tank of gas or how long each one of us could physically drive well in a race. We ended up with one-hour driving stints, with 10-gallon fill-ups during every other driver change. Our no-plan plan was to go quick but not fast, don’t break down, don’t wreck, and avoid penalties.
This no-plan plan worked out so well that by midday were in the mid-50th position, out of 140+ cars. Not bad for a couple of rookies with a car they never drove before, racing on a track they never been on before. Excited, we stock to it and by the end of the day we were in P45 overall, and according to the Saucy Minx, a Car and Driver/Autoweek/TTAC writer and Lemons judge, we dominated the Volvo 850 Versus 21st Century GM Rental Car Challenge.
Post-day-one-race car inspection revealed a bad front wheel bearing, which we replaced (it came out in three pieces). Another issue was a custom radiator hose which was going to our custom-ish junk yard radiator and a leak from the water pump. We band-aided those, rotated tires, checked the brakes, and decided to take it easy on Sunday.
Sunday: Second Race Day
Waiting to get out of the penalty box
Feeling more confident but cautious, we extended our driving stints to 90-minutes and fill-ups on as-needed basis. We were doing great and somehow got to P34 overall by mid-morning. Domination indeed, even if the faster teams simply put in their slowest drivers on Sunday morning. Unfortunately that’s where things started going wrong:
- Justin got some kind of a minor drive-through penalty, not sure for what but that was time lost, even if few minutes.
- Then I got into it with an E30. He was on the outside on the hairpin, following the faster racing line, one car slower car between us, and I went for the gap on the inside. In the end, my left front corner clipped his right rear corner, spinning him out. To quote Ayrton “…if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver…”. That got us a 30-minute penalty and put us in P57.
- Andy took over after my penalty and ran very well, making up some spots, until he got a penalty of his own. As penalty, Andy’s and the other team’s driver’s legs were tied together and they were told get lunch for the judges. Three-legged lunch, they called it.
- By 3:00pm we were in P51 and I started the final stint of the race. Slow and careful, I wanted us to finish in the top fifty which wasn’t unreasonable. That was until I was hit by a boat, while overtaking a Saab 96. Think about that scenario for a second; a boat and an old Saab racing against a Buick. The boat went for the gap, “…if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a…” shrimpin’ boat captin’?
This was our fourth penalty, which despite my best bribing efforts and the fact that I couldn’t avoid this contact, resulted in a mandatory four hour stop. Our race was over but we were allowed to go back out for the last fifteen minutes to get the checkered flag.
We finished in P77 overall. For three idiots who didn’t know the car, the track, and had minimal previous racing experience, we did pretty damn well.
Next we will discuss details on our racecar; what went wrong and what went right, other things about the race; other race cars, penalties, costs, etc.
All images: ©2013 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski, unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved