Unread 05-01-2011, 06:47 PM
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Default LeMons 15 hour Enduro, ECR, April 23-24, 2011

ECR LeMons Race Write-up: Several local area BMWCCA club racers invited me to join them for an Easter Weekend 24 hours of LeMons endurance race way back in January, and I couldn't turn them down. Since it was a holiday weekend some of their regular drivers couldn't make it so they asked two "Crap Can noobs", including me. I already had most of the "safety gear" needed and had already turned down 3-4 other invites to ChumpCar or LeMons races previously.

What is LeMons racing, you ask? Basically its a series built around endurance races with $500 cars, but all of the safety gear of any other Wheel 2 Wheel race car. Full cage, fire system, etc. The two competing series are similar but different, as that article shows. This particular LeMons event was at Eagles Canyon Raceway, a really nice local (to me) 2.5 mile road course with 70 feet of elevation change, that I knew pretty well, and the team had a car I was very familiar with at this very track. The team was also a good group of racers that took it fairly seriously, and I had seen the car at the track in the past. It was safe, prepped solidly, and a good running car. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at W2W endurance racing - on the cheap.

This team I was invited to run with was called "Team Operation", and they race in both the LeMons and ChumpCar series in a 1991 BMW E30 318is. This car has the stock M42 1.8L DOHC four cylinder and runs on 205/50/15 Falken 615 tires. I had run our old Vorshlag '91 318is on 225mm Hankooks here at ECR in the past. They planned 1.5 hour stints for each of the 5 drivers, but I'd never done longer than a 45 minute stint on track before. To prepare myself, back in January I started hitting the gym and working on cardio and such. I didn't want to end up being the wuss that pitted early because I was out of shape. I made it through my stints driving fine, with only one injury.

There is a little silliness surrounding LeMons and ChumpCar, most notably in the "themes", and sometimes the punishments doled out. This stuff used to be a huge part of LeMons racing, and you could still be given penalty laps for a "lame theme" (our team got docked 3 laps up front because the theme was... stale). Some people wear costumes and the whole bit. NONE of that appealed to me, but luckily it has calmed down quite a bit. ChumpCar doesn't give you anything (bonus or penalty laps) for your theme; they have gone to secondary awards for that stuff. Fine by me. I'm here to race.

The team I ran with has been doing this a while and have a theme from the guy in the board game "Operation". Painted on the hood in huge scale, and we found matching shirts at Target, but that's about as far as they went. Some teams went a bit... further...

The pink 2nd gen RX7 above was over the top... huge bunny ears, kitty little bucket for an air scoop, eye searing pink paint, and a huge trap door that would stand up when they touched the brakes - driven by two on board air compressors. Oh, and their exhaust stack in the back was a smoker, in which they cooked ribs while racing. I can't make this up. Some of it was pretty silly, but other teams just copied popular pro race team livery, with a twist. This Redbull themed RX7 was done up nicely, and the British flag theme on the Subaru above was well done. The Redbull RX7 had bigger issues, though...

Like any W2W racing organization, even $500 crap can races require full fire suits/gloves/shoes, and Head-and-Neck restraints, and adding in-car communication is allowed and also crucial. Some drivers even use cool suits (3 of our 5 drivers did; you can see the hose hook-ups in the picture below, right). So the day of the event neared and I still didn't have my in-helmet radio gear (acquired from Sampson Racing) or HANS anchors installed into my SA2005 full face "track helmet" (I have an open faced SA2010 I use for autocrossing or when I'm instructing - so I can talk at students), and I was swamped with work before I could leave the shop. Costas came to the rescue hours before I was to leave for the track, thankfully. A veteran of 5 previous Crap Can events + and countless W2W races, he stopped by and fitted the mic + radio gear and installed the anchors. Big thanks!

Picture Gallery: http://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-E...ns-ECR-042411/

So I got out there Friday afternoon and three of the team was there already working on the car. It had already been through tech but they had a caliper off and a pool of power steering fluid under the car. Uh-oh. The hose blew that day and one brake pad showed unusual wear, pointing to a stuck caliper. I called the guys at the shop here at Vorshlag and we had an old caliper form our crapcan E30 (the old stock $2010 Challenge car's brakes), so they boxed that up + some fluid and tools and sent my wife out with that. She went to McCall's and he stole the old power steering hose off of his 91 318is, which she brought out to the track for us. Long story short - it was a late night of work but we got the caliper on, brakes flushed, hose replaced and everything buttoned up by 10:45 pm Friday night. Whew!

Saturday morning the team but Brian B in the car to start us off, but we immediately lost the radio communication to the driver. He couldn't talk to us but maybe he heard us? We timed his laps and talked him through his 1.5 hour stint, but he never heard a word. No matter; he charged up from 13th at the green flag to 3rd place! The car was fast and he was making tons of passes. Bob M took the 2nd driving stint but got tagged about an hour into his drive by another driver. It was under braking into turn 7, the fastest spot on the track, where another driver lost their brakes and plowed into the back of the car. Bob sat in the middle of the track for 3 laps, was finally towed in, and we immediately got to work repairing the massive rear damage from the crash.

The left rear quarter panel was caved in about a foot and touching the rear tire. I borrowed a port-a-power from a fellow competitor, who helped us push the fender back out enough to clear the tire. Totla time in the pits seemed like only 20 minutes, and we were down a bunch of laps, but the car seemed in good enough shape - none of the suspension pick-up points were affected. Greg took stint #3 and drove a clean session. I took over at stint # 4 in 13th place and worked my way up into 8th. During that 1.5 hours I felt like I passed 100 cars and had a TOTAL BLAST! I really can't describe it. We took in-car video but it was all borked, but I won't soon forget that seat time. I've never had so much time running a "slow car" at ECR, nor have I passed so many cars per lap in all my years of HPDE and TT racing.

Towards the end of my stint (they were pulling me in the next lap for fuel) there was a truck towing a car around the track, with local yellow flags following it around the track. We were allowed to pass the wrecker if waved by, but you can't pass in a corner waving a yellow, until you can see the next turn not waving (line of sight). I watched for the flags religiously, and caught up to one of the leaders (a VW) during all of this. I followed him under a local yellow, then came up to corner 6, who had pulled their flag, so I set him up under braking. At the exit of 6 this driver pointed me by and I took the pass. Up over the hill I noticed Corner 7 had a yellow out, so I slowed down, but 8 wasn't flagging... so it was confusing as hell when I got a black flag at the start/finish. I suspect that corners 6 and 8 just forgot to flag yet one of them called me in. Damn...

So I got into the tech shed and they asked me why I was there. I said "I suspect that corner 6 or 8 thought I passed under yellow, but I really didn't". That was the wrong thing to say. After the stream of patronizing banter began I quickly said "you're right, I screwed up, I'm sorry, won't happen again". They liked that, sent me over for the driver change, and Tony took stint #5. He and was flying, knocking off some fast laps for about an hour twenty. While he was dicing it up with the leader (but was 30+ laps down) he pushed the brakes a bit hard and had a 4 wheel off, which got another black flag. Back into the tech shed, and he also "said the wrong things" and the judge let him have it. We finally got the judge to give us a judgement, and it was humiliating...

So we towed the car around the tech shed for a bit, "like a dog sled team". They have pictures and video of our punishment, of course. Anyway, Brian took over again for stint # 6, the final of the day, and he made up some laps and spots. By day's end we were 35 laps down to the leaders and in 11th place. Bummer, but what do you do? Between the 3 lap penalty at the start (no explanation other than "you need to re-theme your car"), the crash that wasn't our fault (~20 minutes in the pits + time stuck on track waiting for the wrecker), + the 2 black flags, we had dug a mighty big hole. He had one of the fastest cars on track but this isn't about single lap times, its about the entire 15 hours on track.

They called the race in about an hour early due to a massive storm that rolled in and lightning was hitting nearby. So near in fact that it struck the timing tower and blew a hole in the roof, and fried part of the timing computer. We had tornado nearby and lots of hail, but nothing too damaging.

Sunday morning we were ready and we all got another driving stint in. There was very little drama on Sunday, just clean driving and lots of passes. We at least had 1 way comms (the driver could now hear the spotter calling out laps and fuel stops), and we went from 35 laps down to only 27 laps, and all of our lap times in the little E30 dropped even more (.2 sec off the best lap of the event). We finished in 7th place overall and had a hell of a good time. I can't wait to do it again!

Click results above for larger image

Big thanks to the guys on Team Operation for letting me join them for the weekend.

Last edited by Fair!; 05-02-2011 at 12:18 PM.
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Unread 05-02-2011, 05:30 PM
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Default Re: LeMons 15 hour Enduro, ECR, April 23-24, 2011

Just a quick follow up on the post above. After reading it I forgot to touch on a few things.

One point I brought up was an "injury" I had from the weekend: I cracked one of my ribs. I really don't know how I did that. It was either reaching in the passenger window to help strap in the driver during a fuel stop or (more likely) slamming around in the racing seat for 3 hours. It seems bizarre even to me, since I've only ever had two bone fractures/breaks in my lifetime, but its the only thing it could be. Breathing, laughing, coughing, bending, stretching, sit-ups and laying on my right side HURT.

I didn't feel a thing until after I was leaving the track; the night after the event was finished Sunday I was in some mild pain. Then I tried to go to bed and sleep on my side - no way. Didn't sleep that night, or the next, and the pain is still here a week later. Everything that aggravates it points to a hairline fracture in one of my ribs on the right side. Damn... I'm getting OLD. I tried to autocross last Friday (Test-N-Tune event) and I didn't make half a lap before I had to get out of the car. The racing seat in the Mustang hits me right in the ribs on left turns, right where the pain is. Oh well, I'll tape it up before the next event if it hasn't healed by then, and drink more milk.

My other forgotten point was - do I want to build a LeMons or ChumpCar of my own? The answer to that is complicated... but in short: "No". I do want to drive in another event, and possibly be a part of someone else's build/team, but having Vorshlag build another CrapCan race car is out of the question.

You have to realize, these cars pretty much all look like crap, as did many of the GRM $2010 Challenge cars - even our own entry. And they all would have to have FAR too many suspension compromises to be legal for either $200X Challenge or $500 CrapCan racing events. This team's E30 had 3 or 4 shocks totally blown - which is pretty common - and that's not something I can live with on my own cars. It made driving the car "a challenge" in most corners, but since all of the cars have the same uber-low buck budget, its OK. A Vorshlag livery car seen hop-hop-hopping around the track, however, just won't help our business image.

Also, having people from Vorshlag build a strictly held budget car is going to incur the wrath of other racers in whatever series. We have already been accused of all sorts of treasonous and unfair tactics, since we have access to more knowledge and tools than the typical "budget" team. That's not really the case, but that's always going to be the claim. And I get that.

So I've been asking friends if they want to put together a LeMons/ChumpCar build, and if one of them takes up the torch I'll jump in and help... like I've helped with friend's other car builds like McCall's Z3 or Paul M's Subaru swap. Won't be my car, just lending a hand, and possibly driving it. Won't be built in my shop, either. We already have too many cars up in here!

Lastly - do I think these CrapCan events are worthwhile for serious racers? Sure, some of the teams don't take it 100% seriously, and the $500 budget cap is somewhat loosely policed, but for the more part I think the organizers do a good job and the top ~1/3rd of the teams give it their all and try to win. I could do without the funny hats, weird penalties, and "theme" silliness, but that's their deal, so be it.

I honestly can't see another form of road course racing that gets you this much quality racing and seat time for anywhere near the money. One of the Team Operation members runs BMWCCA and said "I passed more cars in my hour and a half stint than I did in the last 6 years of club racing", and that says a lot. Club Racing fields are strewn across BMWCCA, PCA, NASA, SCCA and other groups, and few of these organizations have good "cross-pollination" (where one car can race competitively in any other series). Sure, I wish it was a $1000 budget, or even $2500, and more power-to-weight based, but it is what it is and that's cool.

So yes, I want to do this again and hopefully one of my local friends will jump in and build a car, and will let me help wrench and drive. We'll see.

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Unread 05-02-2011, 08:06 PM
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Default Re: LeMons 15 hour Enduro, ECR, April 23-24, 2011

Or maybe drive a car that someone you know has already built...



cars and such...
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