Someone once said, I have no idea who, it may have even been me, which makes this kind of dumb, that in order to go faster, one needs to go slower. I guess it is supposed to be some kind of rabbit-versus-hare analogy which may or may not work in racing. Whatever the case with it, it is the ideology that we have applied in our last few races, each time changing nothing, expecting better results, but always finishing short of podium.
That doesn’t really matter because we’re not doing this to win a shity trophy or for bragging rights. Worst case scenario for us would be to win Class B and get automatically bumped into Class A. Fortunately or not, that didn’t happen at the 2016 24 Hours of Lemons, Real Hoopties of New Jersey. We are racing for the fun of it and that’s how we like it, but damn it, a shity trophy would be a fun thing to get.
For this race we made four important modifications to the almighty Buick and they all came in the form of four Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Specs. While pricey, we didn’t have our hopes too high as had no experience with these tires and just went by online reviews and recommendations, which is always a safe bet.
Because we’re smart-ish, cheap, and still clueless, we put two of the new Direzzas in the front, after all it is a front-wheel-drive car, and front tires do wear much faster than rears on it. In the rear we had two older high-performance all-seasons, our rain tires. Despite the added benefits of the heavy park bench mounted high on the truck lid, providing ballast, down-force, and drag, the car developed over-steer tendencies. This was not unexpected by all of us except one, who thought this was a drifting event.
We over-utilized our go-slow-to-go-fast philosophy by having a shity start, somewhere around fortieth place. Our pace on Saturday was overall slower than it has been in the past races for reasons I still don’t understand. We had three pit-stops and driver changes, and each one took more time than ever before, and one tire pressure adjustment stop. We also had two extremely minor drive-through penalties. None of us except for one, the over-steer-loving idiot, was in love with the handling. Lap times remained consistent, varying only by the driver’s ability, traffic, and cautions.
I was the last driver on Saturday. About an hour into my stint, when I was feeling cool, comfortable, and confident, I was following an old bimmer a little too closely through the turn 3 chicane. He overcooked it and went off in the second corner, sending a ton of dirt at my windshield. Somewhat blinded and off the racing line, I managed to keep two wheels on track. I did hit the rumble strip from the outside going in, with the left front wheel, while trying to get the two wheels back on track. It felt like a surprisingly loud impact. And of course there is a picture, probably right at the point of impact, too.
I took the next turn, a left, very slowly due to traffic. The next few turns were right-handers and I had no issues other than the not expected slight over-steer. Then I got into a left turn and almost lost the ass-end. Next few turns were right turns and everything was peachy. At the next left turn the ass-end come around again. Whiskey, tango foxtrot?
Something was way off and it was not the tires. I took it easy and started chatting with my teammates on the radio. Right then the race was abruptly ended early due to an upcoming storm. While I would have loved another half an hour of racing, this was sort of blessing in disguise as my lap times would have surely dropped.
We got the car on jack stands and found… a broken front sway bar on the driver’s side. This allegedly happened in my event with the bimmer. ALLEGEDLY. One of my teammates, the idiot who loves over-steer, said to take the front sway bar completely out and leave it out. The rest of us who have brains quickly nixed that. We went to AutoZone with high hopes and low expectations. What happened next will blow your mind! Or at least it blew our minds at the time.
Shockingly, AutoZone had not one but two front sway bars for an ’02 Buick Regal GS in stock. And the part cross-referenced to a Grand Prix GTP, and was substantially heavier than the bar that was on our car. The OEM bar was hollow inside whereas this one was solid, which doesn’t affect its performance but it might be stronger. And they gave us 20% off, too!
The next day, with a new front sway bar, the day-old Direzzas in the rear and a brand new set in the front, the car drove like a dream, or at least as dreamy a Regal on old stock-ish suspension can drive. I was the first driver out on Sunday and my lap times dropped by as much as five seconds, which is a lot. My teammates’ lap times also dropped but the over-steer loving idiot didn’t love the new setup.
For me, the new setup not only reduced my times but also gave me confidence. The grip from out of the new tires was fantastic, more than ever before. I was able to takeover much lighter, smaller, cars in the tightest of turns. Like never before, I was actually able to drive through traffic as opposed to waiting for a gap or another driver’s mistake. That morning I truly enjoyed racing, it was pure fun: unstressed, smooth, fast, and neutral. I was in the zone and after my two-hour stint I felt like I could have gone another hour.
We finished in eighth in our class and twenty-third overall. This was not as good of a finish as in our last two races but close to it. The interesting thing is that our fastest lap, 1:52.505, was faster than the Class B-winning 3 Pedal Mafia Honda Civic’s 1:52.765. They did turn out more laps than we have, probably due to their huge fuel cell and fewer pit stops: 378 laps versus our 356 laps. I think the Buick will be set-up very well for the August GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, in Thompson, Connectthedots.
Make sure to check out our own Eric Rood’s, who is now a legit-ish auto-journo, who was also a judge at this race, who refused to be bribed with food, excellent recap of the race at Roadkill.com.
Images: ©2016 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski, All Rights Reserved.
Hooniverse 24 Hours of Lemons: Buick takes eighth in class at NJMP
10 responses to “Hooniverse 24 Hours of Lemons: Buick takes eighth in class at NJMP”
So did you learn your lesson and you’ll use four of the same tires next time?Loading…
(One of the other non-oversteer-loving idiot teammates).Loading…
They used 16 of the same tires already.
“For this race we made four important modifications to the almighty Buick and they all came in the form of four Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Specs.”Loading…
Good stuff! I’ll hopefully be able to make it to the race in CT to watch one of the days of racing. Maybe bring my buddy Dan with me (co-owner of our someday LeMons MR2), see what we’re up against.Loading…
That looks like a real fun time, on the track letting it loose.Loading…
“…the August GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg….”
I’m greatly tempted to work out an arrive-and-drive arrangement with someone just so I can get one of the race patches.Loading…
You can’t fly in, using one of your vehicles as a carry-on?Loading…
This was the best AutoZone ad I’ve ever seen. Spirited writing here, there’s true excitement hiding between the lines – good luck for the next stint!Loading…
Way to uphold the grand Buick competition pedigree! Better story if you’d scored the sway bar off a junkyard oddball. Next time…Loading…