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!

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