(Now with extra S/U Power!!!
Saturday. Race Day.
In some far away place, guys with large corporate sponsorships, who drive cars worth many times what my house is worth, awake from their slumber. They find themselves awash in 1000 thread count Egyptian cloth sheets, bathed in the sweet, low humidity coolness of central air conditioning, and ring one of several paid hands to provide them with their morning sustenance. Meanwhile, their mechanics, in white suits, with freshly polished Snap On tools, tweak their mighty steeds to within a few hundredths of a percent of perfection.
Around this time, I was jolted awake by the box fan that I'd placed into the rolled-down window of my '92 Dodge pickup clanging back to life as the folks at CMP re-energized the paddock power outlets. Tilting the split bench forward, I careened out of the cab to find the rest of the Tunachuckers awaking in their own unique and unsteady fashions. I screwed a fresh canister of propane into the Coleman stove and began frying bacon. Bacon is as important to a productive day on the track as 93 octane.
At 8AM, the tech inspections re-opened, and we had to make sure we'd corrected the deficiencies noted by the CMP track officials so we could focus our minds on the real task- making as many laps as possible.
One issue that I neglected to mention from yesterday was the exhaust system that Brian brutalized in the process of loading the 122 onto the trailer at my house. This was, in the spirit of truithiness, partly my fault. You see, my car hauler only has one ramp; for the other, I typically utilize one of those NAPA metal drive-up car ramps one uses to change the oil under an apple tree. Unfortunately, the hastily cludged together exhaust system on the Amazon hung a might low, and when confronted by the trailer's steel deck, the steel deck won. As such, before even rolling our heap off the trailer at CMP, I had to break out the welding gun and mate the cracked bit of exhaust manifold back up to the remainder. And fix several brackets. And endure the chiding of my compatriots.
An edit, by Brian: I hate Mike's car trailer ramp setup. I often make fun of him (which probably results in him stubbornly holding onto the last shread of evidence that he can find that really, he doesn't need two trailer ramps, only wusses need multiple trailer ramps. Heck, just the other day he unloaded a really expensive car with just two bits of rope and some scotch tape, really!) for using that NAPA job. He has, so far, not done anything catastrophic when loading or unloading a car, although the accasional scrape and shudder can be heard. This time, I said, I will try it. If he can do it, it must really be OK and I must be over thinking the situation. I satrted up the lemon and proudly drove towards the trailer. He lined me up, I hit the gas, KA-THUNK! the exhaust fell off. I felt ashamed.
Return to Saturday morning. After some debates that would make presidential campaigners uneasy, we managed to get the car through tech, and then proceeded on to the BS Judging by the esteemed Jalopnik editors, Murilee and Lieberman. They took one look at our car, its blatantly unsafe single pot master cylinder, its British-sourced carburetors seemingly ready to fail catastrophically at any instant, and the rudimentary gauges consisting of
- A generic parts-store tachometer
- An unlabeled and, as it turns out, non-functional gauge mounted to the left of the tach
And told us to get the hell out of there. No BS here. This sucker was 500 clams. Other racers were not so fortunate. The worst offender, a Miata, was docked 200 laps. And for good reason- by the end of the race, they'd completed nearly 100 more laps than the actual winner!
Around 11, we had the drivers' meeting, where we learned about how to drive, how NOT to drive, how badly we would be punished if we did not comply to the track rules, and other important stuff. The dartboard below is the Wheel of Misfortune. (Bad stuff that will happen to you if you drive like a moron, in essence). Click on it to view an image large enough to actually read. You'll be glad you did.
Now the adrenaline was beginning to flow. Since I was team Captain, and since no one else wanted to, I was the first to drive.
11:45: all the cars pile onto the track and begin circulating.
Noon: The green flag drops. The race is on!
...except it wasn't. For us, anyway. At about the furthest point on the track from the pits and paddocks, the Volvo died, and would not restart. Luckily, an extremely kind and benevolent racer eased up behind me and pushed the internal combustion-challenged beast back to our pits.
A flurry of sockets and several choice words later, and I went out to give it try number two. Again, the stubborn Amazon made it about half-way round the circuit before stalling. Only this time, the other cars were going VERY fast. Somehow, in a way which I believe involved using the starter in first gear to motivate the drive wheels, I shamefully eased the car onto the grass. A wrecker appeared after a few minutes and flat-towed the re-dead car back to our pits.
The frustration meter was pegged. This thing had to work. Money, time, and effort had been expended, all three in fairly significant amounts. We threw the kitchen sink at the car. I pounded my fist on the fender and left a sizable dent. Jamie, ever the cool one, said a prayer. Brian, Rob, and Anthony worked furiously. We troubleshot every system. Spark? Yes. Compression? Oh yeah. Fuel? Fuel? Oh Fuel???
The Otto cycle dictates that four processes must occur in order for the internal combustion engine to function properly. In layman's parlance, these are:
We narrowed it down to a lack of fuel. The carburettor float bowls were bereft of the juice. But the fuel pump worked perfectly. The tank. Oh yeah, that 42-year old metal canister out back that held 12 gallons of the go-fluid. We swapped outlets. The engine fired. It revved. We held it at 5000 RPM for a count of 20. We looked at each other. I grabbed my helmet and slid back inside. Idling back through the paddock area, I held my breath. The whole way. Slowly I crept around to the on ramp to the track. The flagman waved the "GO" sign. I punched it.
She felt great. Alive. Awakened. She whispered "rev me" and I pressed the "go" pedal to the floor. 4000 RPM. 5000 RPM. 5500 RPM...oh crap, there's a turn! The car wheeled around, the Hankook tires gripping masterfully, the body listing Titanically, and the inside wheel lifted off the tarmac. BUZZZZ! went the motor as it spun, unbridled. The wheel touched down. A screech of rubber, a pall of smoke. I was passing people. For a car older than most of our drivers, it ran like a college track star.
Well, not them. Those cop Caprices...they were FAST. Something about LT1 V8 engines and all. Still and all, we were running, we were driving, and most surprisingly, we were competitive. I did 30 minutes out there and, fearful I'd break the car before anyone else got a chance to enjoy her, came in for a driver swap. Matt was next, and boy did he drive! Matt and I, it turns out, ran nearly identical fastest lap times of 1 minute, 15.42 and 15.45, respectively. And Matt was passing cars! A half-hour later, he pulled in, got out, and let Brian have a turn. Brian was even faster, turning in the best lap of all, a 1 minute 14.51 second whiplash special.
Edit by Brian: Rob actually drove before me. Mike consistently confuses Rob and I. We are very similair and only seperated by approximately 75 years of age.
Out fearless leader also made the best of my misfortune. This day, my stint was filled with frusterating cauthion after frusterating caution. I apaprently only watch the lazy corner workers who waved the green flag hours after I began to get passed by drivers behind me armed to the gills with sophisticated radio equipment so their codrivers could shout at them, so that they would, you know, know there was a race going on. I also got passed a bunch of times under caution by people who didn't hear the part about 'all cautions are full course cautions'. I didn't set any fast laps today, and I barely wanted to get back in the car the next day. More on that on the next page.
After Brians' stint, and the Amazon running just as well as ever, Rob climbed inside for his ride. While not quite as quick as the first three drivers, he was astoundingly consistent, made laps, and kept the car operable for Jamie's turn. At about this point in the day, rain began to fall, and as it did, lap times went up. Caution flags started to pop up as well, due to various minor scuffles and fender benders and spin outs. And after just a handful of flaps, Jamie brought her in for a sputtering problem. After a few more pit stops, playing with the timing and mixture, I suspected the tank line was clogging again and shot a burst of 150 psi air through the hose. A geyser of dinosaur juice spat out of the tank, and for the remainder of the race, we had no other engine issues.
The blue 54 was a tough runner. Some sort of 1970's Opel Kadet, the car looked suspiciously professional and sported a VERY nice-sounding engine. I won't lie to you. It passed us. A lot. But luckily, the judges had sniffed a whiff of BS and penalized them quite a few laps already. And towards the end of the day, they were conspicuously absent from the track...
Edit by Brian: Holy cow that Opel was fast. I would not have guessed. He was also quite a good driver. Also, as shown in the above figure, his car is approximately seven feet lower than ours.
These cop cars were "a whole 'nother" story. Number 18 and 81, they pounded the track with a ferocity that my mere syllables cannot capture. Part of the problem (and this was true of the Ford LTD and the Grand Marquis that also were running) was that, when you see that car coming up behind you, your first instinct (if you're me, anyway) is to slow down. Because, you know, holy crap, there's a cop after you! This was more of an issue with these Caprices, as they actually caught our Volvo on many occasions, whereas the LTD and the Grand Marquis de Sade were markedly slower.
We had two other Swedish-based racers out there running with us. 67, the black Saab 9000, shared our 122's affinity for lifting a rear wheel in cornering, though being front wheel drive, that was less of a problem for them. Racing these guys was tough. We'd catch them in the turns, then once their turbo spooled up, they walk away from us in the straights. And that 9000 is a BIG car to try to get around!
Car 91, an earlier Saab, was fast. Really fast. They passed us, easily. And they won the Swervin' Swede Award, which we accepted by default as they had some mechanical "brake" problems that ended their racing on Sunday, so they packed up and left. Hey, we had a Swedish car, too!
After surmounting the fuel problems, we had a splendid day of racing. Every driver to a one felt we had a great car which, had we not been sidelined for nearly 3 hours repairing what was, after all, a simple problem, would be running in the top ranks. Nonetheless, we shelved this bitterness and steadily increased our stock, moving up from last place (78 cars started, and 3 hours in, we'd yet to complete a lap!) to 59th by the time the checkered flag flew at the end of Day One. Everyone had driven the car at least once, and we were really looking forward to Sunday.
And to quote Jay:
7:30PM: Race ends for the day Saturday
7:31PM: Beer Beer Beer Beer Beer