Rain. The forecast called for lots of it. A major storm, they called it. It rained the night before and it was suppose to rain all day Saturday. Certainly not great for racing. My hopes of anything exciting happening on Saturday were slim.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
The race started under a long full-course yellow. Then, the 24 Hours of Lemons overlords let us race as if it was just a spring shower. Our fastest driver, Rafal, was in first. He did well, very well in fact. In his two-hour scheduled stint he also used half the fuel we typically use on a dry race day. Less refueling made our pit-stop shorter. I was in next.
The track was very wet with puddles in critical apex areas and what can be best described as a steady stream across the track near the chicane. Visibility sucked. The idea was to stay in the middle of the track, brake early, and just get through it.
The rain kept coming down and the puddles kept splashing up. I just drove as best as I could. It took me a few laps to learn the brake and cornering limits of adhesion. There were no surprises. The old Buick communicated very well when I was pushing it too hard, giving clear reminder of the reduced coefficient of kinetic friction between the Dunlops and the NJMP’s tarmac.
But I just kept driving. And then I noticed a funny thing – I was passing cars. I was actually passing lots of cars; fast cars, great handling cars, and of course kooky cars. I passed them in corner, on straights, and even in the tricky turns 11 and 12. And very few cars were passing me, perhaps two during my whole two-hour stint. But I didn’t think about that. I just kept driving and I did lap after lap constantly and without any penalties.
My rookie teammate took over after me. In the days prior we all have been giving him lectures on not fucking up. He said he was confident but I had no hope. Watching him pull away from the pit-stop I expected him to fuck up.
But I was wrong. George drove a clean stint. He had plenty opportunities to spin-out, go off track, or pass under yellow. But he didn’t. Not only that, he didn’t lose many spots, and most of those happened during the pit-stop. I was equally surprised and happy about George’s performance.
Our team captain, Andy, took over after George and drove equally well, but faster. Andy brought us to eleventh position overall at the end of the day on Saturday. Certainly good but just shy of greatness. Let me explain.
The problem with being eleventh is that you’re the first of the rest. On Sunday, day two, the top-ten cars are pulled ahead of the rest of the field upon starting. We were stuck in a deep starting grid with all the other losers. With the rolling start, we had to pass probably a dozen cars before even getting to the place in which we were actually in.
The track was still wet from the overnight rains and puddles would remain in place for the rest of the race. Rafal, our fastest man was in.
I honestly don’t know what happened at that point. I don’t know if this was Rafal and his mad driving skills, or were the other drivers still nervous about the wetness, or did the teams just put in their slowest drivers. At the pit-stop and driver change at around 11:00am on Sunday we were second overall.
A stock front-wheel-drive Buick with four idiot drivers was second overall.
We got lucky and managed a pit-stop under a full-course yellow. My two-hour stint was rather uneventful at first. The track was almost dry with a handful and puddles remaining. Other cars were getting more confident and faster. I was being passed more but I had no idea where in the standings the cars passing me were. I was driving my own race, aiming to complete as many laps as I could without doing something dumb.
And dumb things I did do, such as being forced to drive through the puddle before the chicane and then almost losing it in the chicane due to the wet hot tires and sudden front-to-back and side-to-side sway of the car. But in panic, I kept it together. Then there was the 199 Datsun (finished second overall) that suddenly appeared on the inside of turn two resulting in a near paint-swap. They’re nice guys, these 199 Datsun drivers. We both waived and went on in our own race.
I killed a tankful of gas in my stint, which resulted in a longer pit-stop. George took over after me in eight place overall, I think. That didn’t really matter as the track was now dry and the fast cars, possibly with their best drivers, were really fast. We kept dropping in standings. George, a Jeep owner, decided that he should try off-roading in the Buick which resulted in verbal lashing by the judges. Damn rookie.
Andy took over after George and took the checkered flag. We finished 14th overall and fourth or fifth in class, I’m not sure.
EDIT: I made a mistake. We were second on Saturday. By the end of Saturday, when things started drying out, we fell to 11th. On Sunday morning we got up to 6th where we remained until the afternoon. Then everyone got fast again and we ended up 14th overall.
Knowing that we could have finished better, we were all kind of frustrated and disappointed. Once back in the paddock, Andy and George started putting everything away and drove the Buick into the trailer. Rafal and I went to the awards presentation to once again watch others get cool trophies.
Except that we also got a trophy.
It turns out that the judges like when underdogs over-perform. They were shocked to see us in second overall on Sunday but also knew that we couldn’t remain there. Nonetheless, they awarded us the Judge’s Choice trophy for our heroic driving on Saturday!
We were all equally shocked at the Buick’s ability to maintain traction in corners, put the power down, and brake with no issues in so much water. The stupid trophy immediately ended our disappointments and frustrations.
See ya in August at Thompson!
George, me, Rafal, Andy.
24 Hours of Lemons: Buick is the Rainmaster, Wins Judge's Choice!
8 responses to “24 Hours of Lemons: Buick is the Rainmaster, Wins Judge's Choice!”
See I was right when I said you would dominate.Loading…
But you say that before every race…Loading…
That’s because you do.Loading…
Great story, but when commuting back home just now I couldn’t get this out of my mind:
“In his two-hour scheduled stint he also used half the fuel we typically use on a dry race day.”
I understand fuel consumption rises exponentially in racing, but that’s one wild statement. Any idea how much more time you guys used on an average lap?Loading…
2.5 mile track and I think we 20-30 second per lap slower in the rain.
Here is what you don’t see – in the wet we used a lot more partial throttle – less air being forced in. On a dry track you’re either WOT or on the brakes with hardly anything in between.Loading…
Um…I hate to be the one to say this, but do you think being a mediocre FWD GM helped with the conditions on Saturday?Loading…
Yes. ABS helped, too. And the bench!
Other than that I don’t know why we were as fast as we were. We raced in the rain at NHMS once and we didn’t dominate.Loading…
And don’t forget the grass! I’ll bet the grass helped absorb a lot of the
run-offrain, and turned nice and green at the same time!Loading…