The Saga of Team Uberbird, Part II: Sunday

Early Uberbird Catches the Worm
Early Uberbird Catches the Worm

Sunday we were off to a great start. We had our fastest driver (Jeff), at the wheel and the car was running like a top. We were in the low 60s, place-wise, and climbing. Alas, he picked up a black flag after being waved by to pass…under yellow. Luckily, it’s just a driver swap and we’re on our way.
I hit the track again, determined to drive like less of a wuss. As far as I can tell I succeeded, because The Missus wasn’t mocking me when I came in this time. Alas, my exhaust welding job from the night before failed and we had to yank the exhaust again. My shift ended with a passing under yellow penalty, which left us writing “I will not pass under yellow” 100 times on the hood.

While the rest of us retired to rest our cramped hands, Aaron hit the track and managed to blow turn 10, going 4-off on his first lap. Coming in 10 minutes after your last penalty rapidly erodes the Judges’ sympathy towards your team. This one earned us a 15 minute parking session.[vimeo][/vimeo]

This threw Ted back on the track, for 1 hour, 15 minutes of trouble-free motoring. Alas, he was supposed to come after only an hour. Apparently the radio earbud wasn’t loud enough whenever we tried to call him in. The long shift wasn’t much of a problem, but the wreck and spin in turn 8 sure was. Per his account, he was in traffic coming into turn 8 and as he turned in someone came up the inside and caught him in the door, spinning him into the mud on the inside of the turn.

Tow hooks? Yeah, theyre right down...crap. Credit: Judy Kiel
"Tow hooks? Yeah, they're right down…crap." Credit: Judy Kiel

After a few minutes to get the truck out there, the UberBird comes in, looped around the front wheels. Minor issue: when you put a 2-foot nosecone on your car, it makes it tough for the tow truck to pick up your front end. As our muddy steed was dropped off, Judge Jonny and a whole crew from the “Other Party” were waiting at our pit. Looking at how worked up the other team was and hearing their driver explain how he totally had the line (a phrase that’ll get you nowhere with LeMons officials), it looked like we were about to have a brawl in the pits. Ted’srebuttal: “Wow, I guess I didn’t see you there”. Jonny sends Team Hothead back to their car and leaves us to de-mud the ‘Bird. We’re still not sure what team it was.
With the fenders pulled out and 20 lbs of mud knocked off the flatspotted tires, Aaron’s back in the saddle. Determined to get his money’s worth on this shift, he more-or-less takes it easy. Somewhere in the middle of his shift, he comes in with major brake issues. “It feels like a clutch pedal” he says. WTF?. We throw all four corners up and start checking the brake lines, then pull the wheels to check the individual calipers. Meanwhile, Jeremy finds the problem at the brake pedal itself: the pin that connects the pedal arm to the rod that pushes on the master cylinder has fallen out. Luckily, it’s rolling around on the floor under the driver. It’s supposed to be held in with a C-clip, but for now bailing wire will do.
We’d been losing time all afternoon, but finally we put Jeff in for what should’ve been either the last or second-to-last shift of the day. We were in the low-70s, but if we could just run laps for the remaining 2.5 hours, we’d climb way up. Alas, not far into his shift, Jeff comes back in on the hook. Backwards, this time. Apparently the car dropped out of gear, but now’s stuck in gear…or something. I fear this could be the end of our awesome three-speed auto.
I climbed underneath to see the normally straight shifter linkage bent into a “U” and a big chunk missing out of the guibo. Crap. Ok, let’s get to work: pulled the linkage to get someone started on pounding it straight, then pulled the guibo to swap for the one from Saturday. As I tried to line up the bolts for the new guibo, I noticed the tranny seemed way out of position. Turns out the tranny crossmember was hanging by only one bolt. As we reinstalled bolt #2, we realized the mount holding the tranny to the crossmember is in two pieces. That, we just let be. I threw on the straightened linkage, but again found myself with a pin that required a c-clip to stay in place. I put the whole setup in Drive, wrapped some bailing wire around the loose end and told Jeff to hit the track, but under no circumstances should he touch the shifter.
I wish we had some pictures of this nonsense, but we were all too busy to even think about taking pictures.
Anyways, Jeff took my advice and ran something like an hour before finishing with the checker. On his way into the pits, we noticed something was dragging…apparently my bailing wire fix on the shifter hadn’t held up: the shifter end of the linkage was dragging on the ground. According to Jeff, he was stuck in 2nd for a good portion of his stint, which was really only a problem at the end of the big straight.
But hey: we finished! After concluding the last race in the pits, it was great to see our car end the race under its own power. We came in 86th out of 152, which ain’t great, but it’s better than we did at Buttonwillow.
So what’s next? Despite being a little banged-up, the car only needs a few things: tranny mount, guibo, new tires and a re-welded exhaust.
Could it use some upgrades? Sure, but speed isn’t what’s holding us back. After all, we finished behind the #430 CherokeeBird, #143 Mystery Machine Minivan, and the IOE winning #62 VW Bug. How? Why? Gotta stay on the track, baby. The slowest cars were running like 2:46 laps, with the fastest down around 2:20. The shortest pull-ins take 5-10 minutes, to say nothing of 45 minute wrenching sessions. It’s gonna take a lot of 20-second-faster laps to make up 45 minutes off-track.
Anyway, I gotta say thanks to a great team. A recommendation for LeMons racers to-be: having a team you can work with is a million times more important than good drivers or guys who one time built a fast car. Whenever something went wrong on the car, these guys kept cool heads and were quick to jump into action. We all would’ve been less quick on our feet had it not been for the great crew of ladies helping us out in the pits. Daisy, my mom and family friend Sabrah kept us fed (pulled pork…mmmmmm) and hung on to the dogs all weekend. Next shout-out goes to Jeremy (aka DamnElantra), Nick and Eric for helping out in the pits and shooting great batches of pictures, from which I’ve pilfered for this writeup. Thanks to Mark for the use of his truck and generator. Thanks to whatever team was running the Ranger pickup for giving us someone to run with on-track. Last but not least, thanks to all the staff that make this happen: Jay, Nick, John, Jeff, Judges, and all the little people handing out forms or working corners without you, we wouldn’t be here (…we’d be on vacation or enjoying the thousands of dollars we would’ve otherwise saved!)
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  1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    Our fastest lap was a 2:26 I believe… happened on the morning of day 2. The far felt GRRRRRRRREAT that morning… until the tires got a little beat to shit and the Uberbird was turning into the UndersteerBird – no worries though, just mash the throttle and try to point it in the right direction, the tires will eventually catch up…
    Damn that was a fun weekend…

  2. LTDScott Avatar

    Well done!!

  3. engineerd Avatar

    Excellent! I've been too busy with work and Project House Hell to conspire with potential LeMons teammates. Hopefully this spring we can get something going?
    Your advice is more important than it would seem. Mechanical skill is necessary, but a team that works together is critical. I've learned that being on a circle track team that worked well one season, then the next we had a few personnel changes and kind of fell apart.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      The thing to keep in mind is that LeMons is for fun, not Ultimate Eternal Victorious Glory*.
      You need to have consensus on what "fun" is. For us it's 2 things: 1) doing a decent number of laps and 2) being remotely competitive while on-track. Like I said, we finished behind the turbo-minivan…but I'd rather run our car than the van. We're in LeMons to be wannabe racecar drivers more than a wannabe art-car parade. That's not to say we take it super seriously, but for us, being a joke on track wouldn't be enjoyable. Some teams are cool with it though, and I'm happy to have them there.
      Another thing that I think keeps us fairly well balanced is that (for better or worse) the team defaults to me for mechanical knowledge. It's rough because it means there's some babysitting on my behalf, but at least we don't get into huge arguments about what brake pads we should be running or which shocks to buy…they just install what I tell them to.
      *Sounds like a great name for a Fantasy/Highlander or Communist State themed team.

      1. Armand4 Avatar

        "Being a joke on track wouldn't be enjoyable."
        Dude, EVERYBODY is a joke at LeMons. The winning car was painted like a goddamn panda, and second place went to a Batmobile. I drove around in a Mardi Gras-themed Porsche with an anatomically correct blow-up doll riding shotgun. Her name is Rosie, and we found a piece of tire rubber in her mouth after the race.
        Seriously, though, you guys did a hell of a job with Der Uberbird. Besides the cool theme and heroic wrenching, the car looked good when it was on track. Start scouring the junkyards for 3.5-liter/5-speed drivetrains from later 6ers and 535s, and you should really be in business. I look forward to seeing you at Sears Pointless.

      2. ScoobyFred Avatar

        What's with all the van hate?
        The van was only running at about 2/3rds power after our pnp engine swap to replace the one we blew at reno.
        I'm a firm believer in the joys of driving a slow car fast. I'll take that challenge any day over driving a fast car slow (or in this case, driving a fast car off track)

        1. Tim Odell Avatar
          Tim Odell

          Allow me to clarify…
          First off, I love the van. It's awesomely done and your costumes are killer.
          I kinda use that as an example of one of the potentially worst vehicles one could be piloting around a race track: FWD, underpowered, Top-heavy, no visibility, etc… You guys are slow…but actually not that slow given the vehicle.
          What I'm trying to get at is that for all the cost and effort that I put into this race, I want to get some feel of "real" racing out of it, as opposed to spending most laps just trying to stay out of people's way.
          I'm a competitive person and I don't like being bad at things, and being one of the slowest cars on the track just wouldn't be as fun for me.
          We're trying to be better, but we're never going to get so serious about it that it's not fun. I've seen a lot of the e30 or other "good car" teams going about it with a very serious business racing attitude (fast pits, angry a penalties, etc) and that's not fun either.
          I like the sweet spot we're in: a car that's fun to drive, that's faster than some of the traffic, but not really amongst the very fast cars.
          …but again, all of this is my preference. There are a lot of different ways to do LeMons.

  4. CptSevere Avatar

    Like 'neerd said, good advice for hopeful LeMons racers. I can believe the point you made about having a team that can work together is the key. That makes tons of sense. And, concentrating on cranking out laps.
    I've been trying to get a buddy of mine interested in LeMons. He has a pretty good (junk) collection of potential LeMons cars, and hell, there are LeMons worthy cars in just about every backyard in Tombstone. I think we're going to the race in Phoenix just to check it out. I might be able to persuade him to do this, and can think of some other suckers, uh, like minded individuals in town as well. If we do get something together, these posts will be required reading.

  5. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Yeah, we'll readily admit we didn't get 100% of the tthemeyness we were going for. Future iterations (in warmer climes) will rectify this.

  6. Edmond Barninger Avatar

    Hi there, I spotted your blog via Yahoo and google while searching for Harley davidson shift linkages and your web site caught my eye.

  7. Airline Simulation Game Avatar

    I have led my team to victory in the NBA Finals as many times as Lebron James.,lifeinrewind,

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