24HoL - Doin' Time In Joliet - Day 2

by Toni 7/27/2014 02:39

Today's going to be a loooong day! I was woken up by car engines around 7am, abandoned the sleeping bag in favour of the fire suit, and wandered over to the track's café to get coffee for everyone. I'm definitely excited about racing today - it's going to be fun! Hit Back after viewing an image.

Over coffee, Chris (left), Dave (right), and I talk engines, and we make the decision to remove the two air baffles from the sides of the engine to increase air flow, as there aren't any filters in there. Having bled the brakes last night, there's nothing to do this morning except get hydrated, and psych up for the race. The green flag will drop at 10am, and the checker will drop at midnight - that's a straight fourteen hour race session!

Our little camp site - all that was missing was the campfire in the middle, but that probably wouldn't have gone down very well with the Autobahn folks. Still, it was a pretty comfortable night - apparently there was some rain around 3am, but I definitely didn't hear it!

As 10am rolls around, we're arguing who will go out first, but not in the way you might expect: Chris doesn't want to go first because as Arrive&Drives he wants to ensure Dave and I get seat time; Dave doesn't want to go first, because this is his first ever race, and wants the two of us to get seat time before he potentially wrecks the car; I don't want to go first because I think Chris should go first and figure out whether the car is running right. In the end, the Team Captain makes the call, and so I got into the car. Unfortunately the rented HANS neck restraint didn't fit under the seat harness, so I had to ditch it and use a foam ring. At 10:20am #200 rolled out of the pit and onto the track ...

... And off the track and right back into the pits - I have no brakes! Coming out of the first turn, I started braking early, to get an idea of how forcefully I needed to brake at speed, and thankfully I hadn't gathered much speed, because there was no response to the brake pedal! Fortunately I was able to run the lap slowly yet not see any traffic in my rearview mirror, and pulled off to let Chris take a look. I explained what happened, and told him it could very well have been me having too high of an expectation. I convinced him to take the car out and test it out, so he suited up, climbed in, and drove off to the track entrance, while Dave and I walked over to the track to watch him head out.

Er - not so much. Chris experienced the lack of brakes just heading up to the track entrance, and so elected to turn around and come back to troubleshoot. I didn't have a lot to offer, while Chris and Dave discussed what could be causing the intermittent outages, and started inspecting different parts of the car. At this point the race had been running about an hour, and there were roughly ninety cars sharing the 2-mile long South Track, while Autobahn members were running a different event on the North Track.

I'm not sure what the event was that the club had going, but they certainly had some fun toys to play with. Things like Radicals, GT cars, Formula something, and other 'proper' race cars kept running through the pits to the North Track.

According to Chris and Dave, the most logical place for there to be an issue is the brake master cylinder, so without too much ado, that gets removed and inspected. In poking it, there seems to be something not right about the direction of flow of the brake fluid, and so ...

... It is disassembled. Sure enough - one of the rubber gaskets inside the cylinder has a defect, so when the cylinder is actuated, the brake fluid is not directed to the rear brakes and simply flows back to the reservoir - not good! Also not good is the fact Chris doesn't have a spare bushing or complete master cylinder, and as you might imagine, there's a pretty low likelihood that the local auto parts stores will have anything for a 1987 Jaguar.

With low hopes, Chris and Dave drive into Joliet in search of a replacement gasket. I watch some of the racing, and go wadering around the pits. I find the pit of Team Racing 4 Nickels, and chat with Bob, who runs an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, which is essentially the same thing as the racecar I bought, so we chat a little about racing them, and he offers some tips.

After a couple of hours, Chris and Dave are back! Do they have a replacement master cylinder? Nope. Do they have a replacement gasket? Nope. They have a pair of O-rings :-) The cunning plan is to put the O-ring inside the gasket to stop it from folding back on itself. Genius! Except, not so much - the O-ring/gasket combo doesn't work when fitted into the car and tested - still no back brakes, and most likely because the O-ring is a little too big.

And so begins a couple of hours of trying different O-ring/gasket combinations to try and find one that works. There is even talk about finding a completely different master cylinder, and using any one that has the same mounting bolt spacing, which might mean cutting holes in the bonnet. After five hours and one lap, we're running out of options.

And then Chris and Dave notice something - the rear brakes weren't even connected to the master cylinder during the last few tests! Which then leads to some subversive suggestions, the most scary one being "What if we just plain disconnect the rear brakes?". I'm no mechanic, or real racecar driver, but I do know that a larger percentage of a car's braking force comes from the front breaks in a front-engine front-wheel drive car, especially one with the vast majority of the middle and the rear interior stripped out. There's a manic glint in Dave's eyes as he seconds the idea, and so it came to pass:

After six hours, #200 is heading back out onto the track. Dave has been strapped in behind the wheel, and for some reason is completely psyched to be taking his first race lap in a LeMons car sans rear brakes. We've extensively discussed things like taking it slowly, staying off the racing line, paying attention to flags, and so he's off!

Watching Dave pull out onto the track, and merge with the traffic, staying out of the way and taking it easy, both Chris and I are amazed and a little frightened that Dave volunteered so enthusiastically to take the car out, given the state it's in, but he was pretty insistent, and as we watch him for a few laps, he's staying out, and out of trouble, so maybe, just maybe, we've got ourselves a racecar and a race! Here's video of Dave's first (ever) LeMons stint:

And lo, it came to pass that Dave's first stint ended with a black flag, and trip to (almost) the penalty box. Chris and I walked over, and met with Judge Phil, who told us we were pulled in because for dumping fuel on the track - a sin so bad that if you do it twice your car is automatically ejected. Upon inspection, however, Chris disagreed with Phil that we had dumped fuel, but agreed to reinstall a baffle in the fueling filler neck that he had removed last year to allow him to refuel the can faster.

Back at the pits, we found out what had actually been dumped on the track - coolant. That's a two-inch tear in one of the cooling hoses, and there was no water left in the cooling system. Now, it should be noted we didn't have a spare hose, so it was time for trip number two into town, to purchase a replacement hose, and some dinner.

Another concern was that the host ruptured right in front of where we had removed the air vent covers this morning, so how much of the spilled coolant went into the engine? The answer was we didn't know, and decided not to worry about it, because out here in the pits there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it. After an hour Dave was back, and it took Chris about a minute to install the replacement hose. We also refueled the car, and it was ready to go back out. Right after we ate dinner, and had another argument about who's turn it was to go out.

At this point, the track had been reconfigured so the race was being run on the full 3.5 mile track, instead of just the South Track, as the Autobahn event had finished on the North Track. We finally managed to get Chris to agree to do a stint, and he suited up and headed out.

Chris was back in about ten minutes. He'd done two laps, and then came in and went to the penalty box because he thought he'd picked up a black flag, but the Judges had nothing, and he was dismissed. Back at the pit, Chris said Dave and I ought to get a couple of laps of the full track while there was still some light to see by. Fair point, and so I suited up to go do a couple of laps, even without rear brakes.

Unfortunately we hadn't noticed that the video camera's battery was dead, but what followed next was the two most nerve-wracking laps I think I've ever done - including the one this morning with zero brakes, and my first lap ever last month in the K Car. Not daring to go fast, the first lap was all about staying out of everyone's way, which I managed successfully. Consequently, when I was halfway around the second lap I had no traffic in the rearview mirror, and swung onto the long straight, easily getting up to max revs in second, so I decided to put the Jag into third. Bad move. Earlier in the day we had discussed running in second, versus third, or drive, because the course had so many corners keeping the Jag in second would mean it would pick up better out of the corners versus jumping into third and losing torque in the low end. What I managed to do, though, was go from second, past third/drive, and right into reverse! There was an almighty squeal from the tires and the engine cut out abruptly. I was able to keep the car in a straight line, and coming up to the end of the straight tried to restart the car, but it wouldn't fire up. Mashing the brakes as hard as I could, I ran out of the corner and onto the grass, finally, mercifully, coming to a stop before re-entering the track.

While sitting in the car, waiting for the tow truck, I was worried I'd done something terminal to either the engine or gearbox, and the Jag was out of the race due to my stupid move. The tow truck picked me up and dragged me back to the pits. At the entrance to the pits, it dropped me off, and a second, smaller, truck was preparing to hook me up and take the car back to our pit when Chris and Dave walked up. I told them what I'd done, and Chris told me to put the gearstick in park, then start the car - and of course it did! The Jag may be stripped down to a bare minimum of components, but there are still safety systems that prevent the car from being started in anything other than Park or Neutral - DOH!

When I'd driven the car back to the pit there looked to be only about fifteen minutes of daylight left, so we switched in Dave for a quick couple of laps of the full track, along with a fresh camera battery and sent him on his way. The plan was for him to do a couple of laps, then Chris would go back out for a stint ... Dave had other ideas though, and turned in quite a few laps!

Dave came back in, got out, and was literally grinning from ear to ear - apparently he'd had fun! :-) I, on the other hand, had decided I didn't want to take another turn - being a couple of inches shorter than Dave and about five inches shorter than Chris, with the fixed seat position in the Jag, I couldn't press the brake pedal all the way down, and so not only are there no rear brakes, but I can't get full front brakes either, and that just didn't seem safe - a pass from me. Likewise, Chris was beat, and didn't want another go either - he'd spent the last two weeks working on the car and was just glad to see it out on the track. Dave grabbed some hydration, and we sat and chatted.

Opposite our pit space were the team of Pabst Blue Racing, who had a Nissan Maxima, which they'd converted to rear wheel drive and stuffed a huge great big V8 Cadillac engine into ... which blew up on their second lap this morning. Since then they'd gone to a junkyard and found a replacement engine, and literally spent all day installing it, but with an hour and a half to go in the race they've just finished installation and fired up the car - and there was much rejoicing!

With half an hour to go, Dave decided he wanted to take the checkered flag, and loaded up for one final stint.

Dave was still out running laps when it was announced that the checkered flag had been dropped, and Chris and I wandered over to the track exit to watch the parade of cars coming back in. In a suspiciously short amount of time, the first car back in was Dave! But he made an immediate right and headed over to the penalty box, despite the fact that all the Judges had gone to the track exit to welcome the weary racers back in. On finding no-one at the penalty box, he came back to the pits, and we figured out he had missed the checkered flag by under a minute :-( He had gone off the track on a corner, and without knowing how close he was to the end of the race, turned himself in, to an unpopulated and uncaring penalty box.

After the awards ceremony, during which the Nissan Maxima team won the "Most Heroic Fix" award, we decided we'd pack up tomorrow morning, and in the meanwhile just bask in the fact that having scored thirty laps (5/6th of which were Dave's) we were actually seventh from bottom - we hadn't come last! :-) Definitely time for a beer ...

All in all, this weekend was a 2,300 mile road trip to race a total of six miles ... some may consider that a waste of time, but having met Chris and Dave, and driven the Jaguar, and met a bunch of new racers, and also experienced a completely different race format, I had a hugely fun time, and would definitely do it again - preferably with a full set of working brakes ;-) - but I'll be back!

Thanks to Chris, Dave, the LeMons staff, and everyone else who competed!

About Team Radicus

This site contains records of our trials and tribulations in building combat robots. So much to learn, and so little time!