Race 2: 18 Hours of Fear

An 18-Hour Enduro, Overnight, In the Summer.  No, that doesn't sound like a good idea at all...

The broken motor was being rebuilt, so we went with the junkyard motor for the 18-hour race.  In preparation for the race, we cut all the springs to lower the car and get us to a better part of the camber curve.  Plus, the car just looks better.  We installed a new exhaust from the cat back (no value penalties for that), and dropped about 15 lbs from the car.  We also installed a cool shirt setup, as College Station in late July would be brutally hot.

In recognition of the heat, the race started at 4:00 pm, and ran until 10:00 am the next morning. But it was still 101* when the race started.  We also mounted some extra lights to the car for the night time driving.  With a fresh set of brake pads, a new set of tires, 5 drivers, and a couple of helpers to keep us going all night, we raced.  Our only goal was to finish.  Our instructions to the drivers: "Your only goal is to turn over a working car to the next driver."

The car ran like a champ.  Our pit stops were good, but not great.  The only wrench we put to the car was to adjust the headlights.  We had to add 1/2 quart of oil most of the way through.  We had to change the right front tire with about 4 hours left in the race.  We had to change the other front tire on the last stop, with about 2 hours left.  The rears survived, and still had some life left in them, believe it or not.

We completed 399 laps of the 2.9 mile course, for a total of 1157 miles.  We finished in 8th place out of 40 cars.  About 20 cars were still running at the end.  All the drivers kept the car mostly on track and out of trouble.  It turns out that when everything goes right, endurance racing can be kind of boring.  If you are sitting in the pits...


In the car, it was anything but boring.  Mostly because racing at night on an unlit track SUCKS.  We were woefully underlit as far as the lights go.  We thought we were playing by the rules, as there are limits on the lights.  But apparently, we didn't maximize it, or others were cheating; I don't know which.  Some of the cars coming up behind us had such bright lights, it felt like the inside of our car was getting hot from the radiation.  All of us at one time or another just flipped the rear view mirror up to avoid the blinding lights.

You also have to navigate around the track.  Sure, we know our way around TWS.  But when the sun goes down, all the visual clues you use during the day are gone.  You can't see into the turns, and so you don't know exactly when to turn.  ChumpCar had a few light sets out, but they were for the corner workers, not the drivers.  However, at least one lightset, the one in Turn 4, was usefuel.  For you see, coming through Turn 1 and lookng for Turn 2 was a exercise in frustration; you just couldn't see where to turn for the entry to 2.  Clark, though, figured out that if you kept the pit exit blend line just on your left, and watched the lights in turn 4, once the lights moved to the right of the rear view mirror, you just said a little prayer, turned in hard, and like a miracle, you were going in the right direction.
 
According to Tobey, "It took me 30 minutes to calm down, 30 more minutes to re-establish "landmarks" using repair patches and skid marks on the pavement, another 30 minutes to build trust in those landmarks and build speed, and it was only the final 30 minutes of my 2-hour stint that I was turning acceptable lap times.  And this whole time, you're being blinded by cars behind you, getting passed by the fast cars everywhere, etc.  It was absolutely nerve wracking."  And everyone on the team agreed. But, we entered the night-time in 10th place, and when the sun came up, we were in 9th, so most of the other teams had the same issues.

Our last driver, Thomas, had one little problem. He ran the last 45 minutes or so in 4th gear, as he was afraid to shift.  The transmission (a CraigsList find of unknown origin), was making funny noises.  We later pulled it out of the car and I took it to a shop.  It was trashed inside.  3rd and 4th gears needed replaced.  The engagement sliders on 2-4 were all shot.  The square teeth that engage the gear were all worn down and rounded off.  Plus some other stuff.  The shift forks were salveageable, though.  We got another CraigsList transmission, and took it to the shop to be gone through for next year.

And to top it off, we all came out of the race with blisters on our right heel. The exhaust runs right there, and the floor board was cooking our feet.

It was fun, though. I certainly have a new respect for the teams that do the 24-hours of Daytona and LeMans and such.  Racing for that long really takes a toll, on the drivers as well as the cars.  Luckily, one of our team members has a travel trailer he brought, so we had a place to sleep and rest.  We had a friend hang out and cook us a hot meal overnight.  Keeping hydrated and fueled was crucial.

Speaking of fuel, we used about 120 gallons in this race.