Day 1, Friday July 15th:
Casey, Jannelle, Greg, Neil (thanks for all the pictures, Neil!!) and I met Randy up in South Haven, Michigan at the GingerMan Raceway. This is the same event we went to in April...where 9 laps were completed and we blew a head gasket and the weather was 30 degrees with 50 mph winds and sleet. Despite heroic efforts, the engine swap didn't happen that weekend and we got the heck out of there. This time, things couldn't have been more opposite: a beautiful weekend, and Randy came with a spare engine already pulled and extra head gaskets among other things. The only thing missing was one of our drivers and co-conspirator to the idea of racing a diesel Chevette: Brian. We missed him terribly. I filled in for him so there was still 4 drivers.
We took the car through tech in the afternoon after arriving. It passed no problem. Then we each took our firesuits, helmets and other equipment though tech. After all approved, we were ready to race.
Casey, Randy, Greg and Me with our steed - Carbon Footprint.
Randy borrowed a trailer for the Chevette and we set up camp there at our paddock spot. We had a nice position, close to the LeMons HQ and track.
After tech and a trip to the grocery store, we were ready. The Chevette relaxed under the tarp. We grilled out, relaxed and did a few last minute prep things the rest of the evening.
Day 2: Saturday, July 16th. First Day of Racing: 10 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Some of us needed coffee for the morning, so a coffee maker and fresh ground coffee were brought along. We had to run the generator to brew it...good morning everyone!!!! Neil made us all some bacon and eggs on the grill - delicious!
Our paddock neighbors had an Amish theme for their car at a previous race. They decided our slow Chevette was more in need of the slow moving vehicle triangle. So they gave it to us and we drilled it on.
Another great idea from our neighbors: dryer vent duct to pull in air. It was taped up and aimed at the driver. This worked beautifully and made a big difference for cooling while we were out there.
Hanging out in the morning shade of the back of the trailer before the Driver's Meeting.
Greg, Casey, me.
The driver order was Randy, Greg, Casey, Me. We first did 5 laps each to just all be able to get in the car and get a feel for it and make sure the car was good. After that we'd start our longer runs. Here Randy is mostly suited up and ready to start the race!
And Randy's off! The Chevette was running waaaay better than last time. The smoke was the right color, and while slow, it was a hell of a lot faster. Wooohooo!
Adding some oil between drivers. An oil line broke while Randy was out within a few laps. Oil was all over the front left tire. Luckily, he came in before we got a black flag. The trail of oil in the paddock was obvious though.
After Randy was Casey. After Greg was done with his laps, Casey was getting in the zone... While Casey was out, one of the left rear wheel's bolts broke and the wheel came loose. Luckily he felt it right away and came in. A fix was fashioned and he went back out.
After Casey, I was next! I suited up in Greg's way to big suit and climbed in. We had push-to-talk radio communication strapped in the car and a headset to wear in the helmet. It worked out pretty well. It was hard to hear when loud cars were around, but other than that, it was great. While I was out, Greg was timing me and let me know my lap times over the head set. That made it extra fun because I had immediate feedback for how I did on laps. Usually, we were the fastest under caution. The car was so slow we didn't need to slow down for caution...but with no one able to pass, that meant you could take your line without being in anyone's way! Cautions were great!
On the track... It took a bit to get comfortable with the car. When I went out for the second time, we adjusted the race mirror and that made all the difference for being able to see and not feel like I was driving in a tunnel.
If you got a black flag while racing, you had to do a ridiculous penalty conceived by the Supreme Judges. This guy passed under caution, twice I believe. So he had to walk the paddock wearing the sandwich board and Teletubbies helmet. The sandwich board said "How's My Driving?" on the front and "I Just Don't Get It" on the back. Attached to the helmet was an annoying car alarm...the kind that cycles through all of the different sounds. It was hilarious.
This is how you refuel, even if you're diesel. One person (Randy shown here) adds the fuel and another person (me, photo-bombing) stands ready with a fire extinguisher and keeps everyone 10 feet back. You have to be fully suited up.
At the end of the first day, we had climbed from 50-something place to 34th! And we made it to the first page with 144 laps! People got a kick out of our excitement. Everyone comes with different goals...ours was definitely to win the Index of Effluency, which is the real winner of the LeMons races. The first day put us in good position for that. We just had to run a bunch of laps the next day too.
Day 3: Sunday, July 17th. Second and Final Day of Racing: 12 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
The final day of racing started with the top 10 cars lining up in order. Then the rest could follow in whatever order. We weren't in a rush. That morning we had replaced the fuel filter. Randy came in early on his last stint the day before because of the car's hesitation. We also replaced a lug nut on the wheel that broke while Casey was out. Sunday, it was Greg's turn to start. The plan was to each do an hour. With all of the changing time and possible issues, we figured that would work well in 5 and a half hours. Greg's run was problem free, except the car needed some adjustment after he came back in. Randy made that adjustment before Casey went out. But disaster struck and Casey broke the car again ;) This time the transmission blew up. He came flying into the 10 mph pits in 4th gear. Randy calmly said "let's get it jacked up as high as it will go" and got to work. There was a spare transmission from the back up engine to exchange it with.
Around 2 hours later, the transmission was fully in and the car was going to go back out. I didn't expect I would get to race again because of the repair. But someone had to go out while the blackened-with-grease Randy showered before he put on his suit...so since I would have been next, I got to do a few more laps!! The transmission was a bit clunky and the clutch felt different. I had a hard time getting it into first and to catch. When I'm strapped down in the 5-point harness, I can't really reach first all the way...which is kind of funny. The car was way slower the second day, and definitely not as fun to drive as the first day. There was still a lot of hesitation and popping. Third gear felt really bogged down. But we were still getting laps, which was all we had to do! They radioed me in when Randy was ready and he ran the car to the checkers! He got to slap fives with the Judges while we all cheered.
Everyone met at the LeMons HQ and awards were announced. Here are some of the trophies, all hand made and awesome. And the top finisher of laps receives $1500 in nickels.
And then the real winner was announced... Zero Budget Racing with the Diesel Chevette!!! I can't believe how exciting it was! A check for $1501, which we told Randy to keep, and a very kick-ass trophy.
This was such a fantastic time. I can't wait to do it again!
There's been talk about another small unexpected car... Hmmmmm.....