Monday, February 28, 2011

Belated Sunday Recap for Gator-O-Rama

By now most followers of Lemons will have already read Sajeev and Phil's semi-official Lemons coverage, so I'll just share a few tidbits from our weekend.
The Houston art car community has some overlap with the Houston 24 Hours of Lemons community, so we frequently get the pleasure of an Art Car or two stopping by. This mirrored Ramcharger dropped by on Saturday, as did the Buick Reflectra.

As mentioned in the Saturday posts, we lost a CV axle during the afternoon. Finding a part cost us 2.5 hours of track time. Too clueless to have all the spares we need? Why yes we were! Here's a close-up of the axle-- it sheared right off. Mary was driving at the time, and the shaft snapped as she downshifted for the tightest, slowest corner at MSR Houston. When she let the clutch pedal out, no forward thrust ensued as the differential sent all the power to nowhere, spinning the tiny stub left in the transmission housing.
This just isn't supposed to happen.

Under the revised 2011 Lemons rules, the People's Curse may not always lead to a car being destroyed, as it almost always did in 2008 and 2009. This time around, two teams got just enough votes each to get given the penalty treatment from the judges. Their choice? Industrial plastic wrap to attach the entire team to the car for a parade around the paddock.

Since our repair time had us well out of contention, we were able to just chill out for a bit and concentrate on using the remaining track time to become better racers. Joe is our fastest driver and is also quite a good instructor. By positioning himself at the timing & scoring tower he was able to get a good view of my approach to some key turns, and he radioed me advice each lap. The immediate feedback really improved my speed through a big portion of the track after just a short while.

We also spent time adjusting tire pressures carefully and discussing the changes amongst all the drivers, and the end result is that we've gotten the Neon to be a much better-handling car. With its weight distribution, it is naturally an understeering car, but now Joe has tuned it into something that approaches neutrality and rotates more easily without trail-braking.

Unfortunately Chuck, Juan, Hugo, and Simon weren't able to get the Jetta running despite some welcome help from several other teams. That's one thing I love about the Lemons paddock-- it's like a brain trust for fixing cheap cars. The Jetta needs more power but corners like a masterpiece, so they'll keep at the repairs and I'm sure do well at a later race with it.

Hit the 24 Hours of Lemons forums for lots of pictures and everyone's feedback and thanks. We'll be back for more at MSR Houston this year, but for now our attention turns to preparation for Eagles Canyon in April in the Decatur, TX area. In between we'll be taking on Texas World Speedway in Joe's other cheap race car, an early-90s Thunderbird, in the Chumpcar series to boot. More than we can chew?  I sure hope not!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Repair update

The neon is reassembled but needs some fluids in the morning.
The Jetta had a catastrophic engine mount failure -- sufficient to leave its starter somewhere on the track -- so reassembly is taking a little longer.

Hope lives

We extracted the stub from the transmission, and Mary located an auto part store with a replacement axle so we will get it ready for tomorrow.

For a moment of zen, here's a pic of Arc Angel dishing out some Lemons justice.


Joe & Andy's stints went well. Unfortunately about 1/3 of the way into Mary's, bad things happened and the car won't put any power to the ground.

Race time!

Shauna took the car out first and Joe took over after an hour. We must be careful drivers due to a pair of black flags (four wheels off) in the early running but the car is going well so far.

Chuck & Juan have driven the Jetta so far and it's doing fine but still needs more power to do the speed they would like.

Tech day for Gator-O-Rama 2011

Mary & I took the day off from work so we could get the Tetanus Neon down to MSR Houston for the tech inspection & BS inspection for this year's Gator-O-Rama. Even though we've been through tech inspections 9 times before (7 times with this car alone), there's still stress around a tech inspection because different inspectors always seem to find different little things to ask us to fix. One time it was the wiring-centric inspector who sent us back to our pit to fix lots of poorly-taped bundles of wiring, another it was an inspector who objected to the way our seat belts were anchored-- despite each of those conditions making it through several other inspections without comment.

Today's verdict: PASS, and without undue drama... though they did inspect our exhaust system more rigorously than in the past, so I'll call this a near miss.
Sticker from passing tech inspection

The Red Rocket Ratnest Revival team (rebranded with a M*A*S*H theme since November's Laissez Les Crapheaps Roulez race in Louisiana) also got the once-over in tech.
Red Rocket Ratnest Revival in M*A*S*H livery
Red Rocket Ratnest Revival keeping in the spirit of M*A*S*H

Mulry has turned their TARP MR2 into a Fauxrarri, and like the new Ferrari FF it's a shooting brake. Or perhaps a baking brake, I'm not sure. They did have some front-end issues to repair, unfortunately.
TARP racing MR2 as Fauxrarri
TARP racing MR2 receiving some front-end repairs

As some fog rolled in after dark, we did take time for a special moment of levity. Brian's Property Devaluation Racing team was (as is typical for them) already having to do an engine swap to their Fairmont wagon, so we presented him with some, er, very special fireproof racing pants as an early birthday gift. Happy birthday, Brian! Now get back to that engine repair.
Brian holds his gift- racing pants with the word 'Juicy' stitched over the bottom

Racing starts about 10:30 Saturday morning, so watch here for periodic updates while my phone battery lasts!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blank no more

For this iteration of the 24 Hours of Lemons (Gator-O-Rama at MSR Houston), we have again "re-branded" our little rusty Neon racecar.
For two races in 2010 it proudly displayed the bar code of generic beer.
For the next two we went even more generic (and paid homage to Repo Man) with just "FOOD."
For early 2011, Tetanus Neon proudly becomes the Authorized Vehicle. Let's go park and do U-turns where normal unauthorized cars fear to tread!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

All that and a bag of chips

And just when we think we're all good, the Lemon sheds the left wheel, tire and brake drum during the tow down to MSR. Oops. Did those lug nuts *really* need tightening? Nah! I'm just glad it happened only blocks from the TetanusRacing's home base. Can't beat that Lemony Goodness.

Sent from my computar masheen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Volvo parts

Thanks to a junkyard oil cooler, our Dodge is now part Volvo.

(almost) Blank Slate

The rusty neon race car gets a fresh coat of paint so we can refresh the graphics. The paint in question? Parking lot striping paint, applied by roller. The texture approximates that of a tennis ball now.