Barber race recap

posted Feb 15, 2015, 6:41 AM by Scoob Edoo   [ updated Feb 15, 2015, 7:40 AM ]
Amazingly the weather this year was even better for this weekend than last year.  A perfect day to drive to Alabama, nothing special to do on the car, a great paddock spot, and two other cars from the wizards at KnoxVegas Lowballers made for a great evening of tech and BS. They redid the Geo to remove the box and lighten it.  But the big story was the new vehicle: a Mazda MPV minivan with two - yes two - Ford 3.0L V6s for all wheel drive.  That vehicle took a bit of work before they could run it through tech and BS, but it was a show stopper.  They were up there for an hour or so, with many pics and stories being taken and told.

Anyway, the morning was forecast to be a bit on the chilly side, with temps just above freezing, but clear and sunny skies.  I was scheduled to drive first and shortly after the drivers' meeting.  The first stint was great, with only the typical traffic issues early in the race.  David and Keith had swapped brakes to the same as the Geo so we had pads that promised to last with none of the problems we've experienced in the past.  The tradeoff was that they took a while to get up to temp.  I spent some time during the warm-up laps to heat them up, but they didn't get up to temp until after a lap or two of racing speeds.  Even so they didn't waiver throughout the race until some unrelated issues late in the race.

Anyway, the first stint had us somewhere around 6th in class B when I brought it in and handed over to Brian.  As is usual, we sent him on his way and completely ignored the radio so we missed when he called in saying he was coming in for a black flag for going all-4 off on his first lap.  We saw him come in, but it was essentially a drive though penalty and he went right back out.  Then we ignored him again as he started calling in to say that he was feeling sick.  A few laps later he came in and parked the car on pit road close to our paddock spot and got out.  He's gotten sick in the car and was done.  I saw the car sitting in the pit about the same him he walked up to me with puke all over himself.  A few minutes of yelling for someone to get ready and Bruce was ready to get in - only to find the seat and belts pretty well puked on.  David and Keith cleaned what they could and Bruce got in and got us back in the race.  By the end of his stint, we were still down several laps, but we'd gotten back to 5th or so.  David got in and did his best to get us back toward the front.

Keith was not well-rested from the night before - and he was leery of becoming sick himself, so I was handed the last stint of the day.  With the setting sun and perfect temps, it was a a wonderful but challenging session.  We'd regained all of our sacrificed laps and by the end of my stint we were in the lead by 1 lap.  The team cars hadn't fared as well - both had experienced big problems throughout the day with the Geo actually blowing their motor.  They found another in Birmingham and they set about swapping everything.  The van had cooling problems, in addition to a problematic clutch on the rear motor.  There wasn't much to do on the Contour overnight, and my back was VERY tight from that second stint; apparently I'd been strapped in a little too tightly that time and I was hunched over and caused my muscles to cramp.  I went back to the hotel and took a muscle-relaxer and went to bed very early.

In the morning I felt MUCH better and had little expectation to drive again so I was there mainly to support the team.  Brian still wasn't feeling well, so David drove the 2 hour morning session.  Our plan was to drive for 90 min, then do a splash and go with 5 gallons and keep David in the car.  That thinking was based on some recon Brian had done on the 2nd place car, the Generar Ree RX7 that seems to be pitting every 90 min.  And since we could drive hard for only about 85 min before fuel-starving, we thought we were OK to pit because they would have to, too.  We performed one of the world's fastest LeMons pit-stops and got David back out before losing the lap lead we had.  Unfortunately, there was a full-course caution right after that stop and Generar Ree was right behind us.  To make it worse, they did not need to stop for fuel during the stint, so by the end of the morning session, they were on the same lap.  Fortunately for us we finished the morning in the top 10 overall, so we got to hit the track with the top ten cars before the Generar could get out.  We had about a 1/2 lap lead when the green flag waved for the 5-hour afternoon session so we felt pretty good about our chances.  Bruce was out first and felt good in the car.

And then the throttle cable snapped.  Thus began a long journey of ill-considered fixes that saw the car stop thrice for fixes before we finally got it right.  By that time, we were well out of the lead or contention.  But the car was still doing well and we kept driving it hard.  When Keith came in for one of the throttle cable fixes, we also diagnosed a problem with the front suspension.  But what we'd initially thought was a failed wheel bearing turned out to be a loose axle nut on the driver's side - and a completely missing nut on the passenger side!  Talk about dynamic camber!  We fixed all of that and because Brian still wasn't feeling well enough to drive, I hopped back in for the final 80 minutes of the race.  Again into the setting sun but I was well-rested and felt much better than Saturday evening.  I didn't push very hard, but I was turning good laps and making good passes so it was a good session.  But toward the end I noticed that the handling was getting iffy through turn 12 and there were some interesting noises under braking that hadn't been there earlier in the race.  And by the last few laps the brakes were getting dangerously bad.  I figured that somewhere we had a leak in a brake line so I took it easier up to taking the checkered flag.  When cruising through the pit there were some terrible noises in the front suspension to go with the terrible brakes, so I figured we'd broken a wheel or a hub.  Upon inspection, we found that the driver's axle nut and tip of the axle were missing - as in broken off completely!  So either it was torqued too high when we fixed it or there's something amiss at that corner.  Warrants some attention before the next race.

The Geo's new motor was strong, turning laps about 4 sec faster than the Contour!  And the van was very fast in a straight line when using both motors, but there's still some work to do to allow that to happen more frequently for the next race.

So we were close, but no cigar this time.  There's a good chance that Phil will graduate the car to Class A next time, so David has some ideas about upgrades to get the speed up and the reliability higher if that happens.  I don't know when I'll race with them next, but I'm sure it will be fun!