Finally: A Race Report

Just what nobody was looking for, a race report. While the COVID pandemic pretty much closed all the race tracks in 2020, the flags are up, and the pits are open around the globe. That includes the bottom feeders that I run with, like the 24 Hours of LeMons.

The Champ Car series is also back in business, and son, Rob, and I ran Watkins Glen back in May, but the Oct LeMons race in NH is always a favorite. The Fall colors of the season, cooler temperatures that the cars love, and the array of junk on the track make for a great weekend. After some testing at Palmer and Thompson, the missing horsepower was found in the turbo diesel Audi TT, and we were ready to race again. It was not by accident that we parked by the outhouses when testing that can be seen in the photo below.                 

The weather in NH was looking as good as it gets with no rain in sight, and after some practice, on Friday,  I was picked to start the race the next day. There were 108 cars circling, bumper to bumper when the track went green at every corner at the same time. We used a great radio setup with small speakers in the helmet (green, green, green ) and a push to talk button on the steering wheel, so I had the go pedal down flat before many other drivers saw the green flag waving at the next corner. Most drivers that started the race were experienced drivers, many instructors, so there was not a lot of drama as the field began to sort itself out. Over the years, as race organizers have clamped down on wild drivers, the car-to-car contact has been reduced. Not eliminated but reduced.

The TT was doing a great job of passing cars on the uphill sections of the track as the torque of the diesel engine was best at low rpm. One of the drivers I talked to later said that I went up the hill after turn three and “left him for dead” as his gas engine just didn’t have the muscle to keep up. I was about an hour into my stint when a big blue Mustang, running his first race (all bright and shiny). He chose to dive bomb me going into turn one. He wasn’t close enough to make it stick and introduced his right front corner to my driver’s door. That caused the Audi to spin with just a scuff mark on the number, but it snapped the tie rod off the right front wheel of the Mustang. With the tire pointed right and the other three pointed straight, he was able to drive it back to the pits, but that corner put out more smoke than a Southern BBQ. I was told to be wary of new drivers in new cars and went right back out, and the Mustang was back in action after about an hour and some new parts upfront.

Our second driver, AJ,  took over and did a great job staying out of trouble.  We were making good progress through the field and were up to 30th overall and 7th in class. Because of the fact that we were the last car to pass start/finish after the track went green (just a random bit of bad luck), we were excited to be making such progress. We did have a couple of visits to the Black Flag Lane that slowed our accent in the order.  One was another contact  (that was me), and another, passing under yellow was a mistake, wasn’t us.

Bob, the owner, started the next day, but a flat tire was going to start a series of setbacks.  Apparently, there was a repaired crack in one of the rims that let go, and that caused a tire to go down. Not a big deal; we had more tires. However, when the tire was put on, the crew member used an impact gun and thought that the heavy click, click, click it made was torque enough to keep it on. It wasn’t.

Three laps later, the rim was loose, and it sheared off all five studs. The wheel went on down the track, passing the TT in the process. The car was towed in, and repair began. The remaining portion of the studs were drilled out and new ones were put in with blue lock tight.                                                                     

I took the next tour and was going to do three laps to see if the fix would hold. I didn’t make it.  At the end of the front straight on lap two, the right front wheel again went its own way leaving me to take a drive through the grass, which the front spoiler collected like a NASCAR ride. This time the studs had pulled out of the hub, and I thought our day was over, but there was a used hub in the trailer, and it only took an hour to install. I think there were enough spare parts to build another race car. It really pays to be prepared.

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