24HoL - Doin' Time In Joliet - Day 1

by Toni 7/25/2014 22:16

'Yesterday' ended at 2:30am today, when I finally made it to my overnight stop in Arcola, Illinois. At 9am this morning I was back on the road headed to Joliet, IL, and the Autobahn Country Club, for my second 24 Hours of LeMons race! Rather than fly, we figured out it was cheaper to drive the 1,150 miles to get there, and so with the space of the BotMobile to use, I've packed camping gear, so I can stay at the race track for this event. Should be interesting ... Hit Back after viewing an image.

I spent all of my time in Missouri and Illinois driving in the dark last night, so in daylight, this is what Illinois looks like - flat and green. And overcast. The weather predictions for this weekend are all pointing at a good chance of thunderstorms, so that could make me regret my decision to camp, but chin up - just the last few miles to go ...

... Which take an extra hour, because apparently the Autobahn Country Club is inside some weird GPS-defeating quirk in the time-space continuum, and my directions were a bit off, but not long after I arrived, the star car I had signed up to drive arrived: a 1987 Jaguar XJS V12. Yup. A Jag. For $500. Pretty cool eh?

The car is owned and operated by Team Double Jeopardy, captained by Chris, and this is the car's second 24 Hours of LeMons event. We'll be joined later by Dave, a colleague of Chris's, and for whom this will be his first ever car racing event. Chris has spent the last two weeks busting behind to get the car ready, and it really looks good - of course the V12 engine sounds good too :-)

During a lull in the proceedings I pitch my tent and bust out the sleeping bag - told you I'm going to be camping, an activity I haven't taken part in for at least twenty years, and I'm too much of a geek to do without all my gadgets, so that's a small generator next to the BotMobile for charging stuff, running the DVD player, etc. All mod cons :-)

With the car ready, we went over to do the Tech and BS inspections. The car had competed before, but in last year's season, and the rules had been changed a little for the 2014 season. Because of that, Chris had had to do some work to meet the new requirements, and after we passed Tech he was happy that his work had paid off. Next came the BS inspection, and Judge Phil was very happy to see the Jag! After predicting a huge engine failure, we were assigned to class C with zero penalty laps, and a recommendation to bleed the brakes. Happy we were through the pre-race stuff, we went back to the pit.

Back at the pits, Chris decided to take Judge Phil's advice and so I got to learn something: how to bleed brakes. Getting at the rear brakes was through the bulkhead in the back of the car, but to get to the front brakes we had to take the wheels off. While they were off we also removed dust covers from the wheels, and with the brake fluid topped off, there wasn't anything else left to do to the car - we were ready!

We took a wander around the paddock, checking out some of the other racecars, including this one - the MGB-GT, or as Chris referred to it "The Other British Car". There were only a handful of cars I recognized from Buttonwillow last month - the crowd at Joliet were mainly from the Midwest region, with a few East-coasters thrown in. All told, there were just over 100 cars entered, but we'd have to wait until Tech closed to see how many would actually be racing.

As we were hanging out, waiting for Dave, the sky grew ominous, but aside from maybe a dozen rain drops, we were spared inclement weather as the grey clouds just drifted past. The rule at LeMons is that if it rains, the race continues, but if there's lightning the race is halted, as this puts the corner workers in their little metal towers stuck in the middle of a flat race track at risk. Fingers crossed any remaining clouds pass us by just as uneventfully ...

Some more wandering around, and we see a couple of cars from SpeedyCop, who is the East Coast's equivalent of the West Coast's Spank - he usually brings some utterly outrageous concept, although this photo isn't one of them :-) This time he brought the Honda Accord(ion), an Accord that has been chopped in half and a bellows, like an accordion, installed. The two ends of the car can be pushed and pulled, and it makes music. Seriously.

This isn't a LeMons car :-P The Autobahn Country Club is like a playground for people with expensive, fast cars, like this Corvette. We saw Ferraris, Porsches, all kinds of classic cars, while wandering around. The Club was having a track day today for their members, and there were even 'proper' race cars and track toys like Formula Fords and Radicals zooming around.

It seemed like a good idea to do a test fit in the Jaguar, and this is what is looks like in the driver's seat. Chris said the only things that work on the dashboard are the rev counter and low fuel warning light - should be more than enough. There's not a lot of clearance between the wheel and the roll cage in the 10 o'clock position, so I'll have to do '2-and-7' instead of '2-and-10', but the harness fits, there's headroom, and the mirror affords a great view behind the car.

Tech inspection is getting ready to close down, and there are still some folks trying to get through - the pits are pretty busy, and on-track testing is open until 7:30pm, so still plenty going on. Chris and I don't have a whole lot to do except chat, and he's a very pleasant guy to hang out with.

Another wave of dark clouds float in as Dave arrives. The on-track testing is done and the track is cold, so the three of us spend a while in our camp site, with beer, pizza, and time, chatting about this and that. Dave is also fun to hang out with, and is obviously amped up for his first LeMons race.

With Tech and Testing closed, the level of activity in the pits begins to subside. There's a different vibe to this event versus Buttonwillow last month - not quite as crazy-hectic in the run-up to race day. Maybe it's just a reflection of my feelings because with a one-car team versus a four-car team there's not as much to do, or maybe Midwesterners are just more relaxed than Californians, or maybe it's the prospect of a single fourteen-hour race tomorrow, instead of the more typical two-session races, and people are focusing on a long day tomorrow.

Night falls, and all three of us are a bit sleep-deprived, so we decide to turn in for the night. I climb into the sleeping bag, grab my towel for a pillow, fire up the DVD player for an episode of Doctor Who, and cross my fingers the storms stay away, as I fall asleep.

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