Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Does it Take?

What does it take to go LeMons racing? This is a frequent question. What it takes is a good bit of money, a lot of time and patience. Lots of patience. Working on beater cars is tough for a lot of reasons. You have rust, funky wiring, lack of parts, tight spaces, sharp edges and more rust. You pretty much bleed money for three or four months. Still, you have a ton of fun, get to solve a lot of problems and you get to drive a race car like Allan McNish. OK, maybe night quite like Allan McNish.

There are three general categories of LeMons cars. The cheater beater that is way faster than it should be and has had way more money than appropriate (or legal) spent on it, the cheap and reliable car (our Escort) or the novelty car that is raced just to see if it can make it. I freely admit that we go for reliable because we love being on the track. For me working on the car is fun, but is nothing compared to racing it.

That said, we still end up spending a ton of money on the thing. The Escort cost us $300 from Craig’s list when we bought it in 2008. We then put in $2000 to get it ready for the first race. Each race after that has seen us spend around $1400 on maintenance and tires. Tires are the kicker. Even cheap tires are going to run you $500 a set after getting them mounted and balanced.

The time commitment is also big. We are not professional mechanics. Everything takes about three times longer than you would think to do. It is just the nature of things. Fabricating roll cages, fitting seats, bleeding brakes and clutches all take time. You need to be ready to commit that time.

So, you might be asking, how is your car? Well, it is as ready to race as we can make it. We’ve fixed the blown head gasket, replaced the front struts, installed some cheap Ebay coilovers, replaced the rear brake calipers and all the rotors and pads (thanks!), and tested our spare engine. It should all be good to go. Tonight we load up the car and tomorrow we head for the track. We’re all excited and I expect we will have a great weekend.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Great Couple of Days

Some good stuff happened last week. First, we are thrilled to say that will be running with us again this race. They have supplied us with Hawk pads and Signature Series rotors. These parts have done very well for us the last few races. Second, we found an RV we can borrow. Race weekend is the same weekend as the NASCAR All-Star race up in Charlotte so RVs are hard to come by. Thanks to Brian W. for the RV.

The third thing is that we have a running car. We've dropped the backup engine in the car to be sure it ran. Well, it runs just fine with no smoke. We even took the car out for a quick test run. We did blow a strut during the test run though. Better now than at the track I guess!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rebirth of the Escort

Deep in our secret lair, in the heart of Atlanta, our Escort is being reborn. In a facility that would make the Punisher feel right at home, it’s deepest innards are being checked. Leaks are being plugged, seals are being sealed and bouncy thing are being made to bounce less. We are actually investing a few bucks in the car. We will race again over the weekend of May 21 and 22 in Kershaw, SC in the 24 Hours of LeMons' LeMons South.

The reality of the situation is that we’e run the better part of four full races on the car and motor and it is time for a refresh. We found the head gasket “lightly” blown. We are swapping it out with something more durable. We are also going through the seals and pumps. We are also putting in a high performance clutch. The car will not be much quicker, but we hope it will be reliable.

As far as a theme goes, we will be wringing energy from mother nature. We will be using physics, junk and a couple of years of engineering know how to improve the efficiency of our racing car. Think Al Gore meets John Force. What could go wrong?

LeMons South Fall 2010 - In the Clutches of Evil Again

Ok, so the race report is 6 months late. Better late than never, right?

LeMons South Fall 2010 was a pretty amazing event. Right around 105 cars took part in the event. 105 cars on a 1.1 mile track is just as crazy as you would think it would be. The car made it through tech inspection just fine only a couple of suggestions for the future from the inspectors. Race day dawn clear and warm and we knew we were in for a good one. Our running order was going to be me, Brian and Rachel with Nicky on the wall keeping us straight.

I started the race and endured the normal opening lap mayhem. After an hour and a half I gave the car over to Brian. He went out and put in a solid run. Rachel was in the car next. By this time we were running in the top 30. Not bad at all. Rachel go in the car next and was running well until she had a bit of an incident with another car. No real harm to the car, but she was called in for a penalty. After we got her calmed down and got a proper explanation to the judges we did a driver’s swap and got back out on track.

That was how the race went until late in the afternoon. Rachel was in the car when she reported an odd feeling in the clutch. It was hard to pinpoint what it was. I got in the car and ran around a might have felt something as well. With 45 minutes to go I decided to baby the car and ran around in 3rd gear until the end of the day. We were still out there turning laps, so that was something.

When we got back to the pits Nicky checked out the car and had a hunch that the clutch was going. With that Brian hopped in the ruck and hit Autozone in town and got a replacement clutch. While we were doing that, Nicky was yanking out the old clutch. A long night followed while we swapped out the clutch and the front brakes. The brakes had run the previous race and probably could have done another day, but we wanted to be careful. We got it all done around 1 AM, but we were ready for the next day.

Sunday was warm, but windy with a forecast of ran around mid day. Well, it didn’t wait. around 10 it started pouring on us. Brian and did the two hour stint in the morning and ran until break. After the break Nicky got on as a reward for all his hard work the previous night. He did great. Rachel then got in for a bit and was followed by Brian. We started feel something odd with the clutch, again. I got in the car hoping to limp along to the end, but it wasn’t meant to be. I made it out of the pits, but by the time I hit the track there was no power making it to the wheels. I pulled off at one of the corner stations and planned on sitting there to the end. Luckily another car died on tack and they sent the wreckers out for us. That was it. We were running in the low teens most of the day. We were disappointed with the finish, but thrilled with the event. Turns out that the clutch we installed the previous night decided that it wasn’t into racing and would rather be a birds nest. So it goes sometime.

As always, we have to thank our supporters at, Bones Enterprises and Discovery Parts. They were great. The team did well and we had a huge amount of fun. We are getting smart about this endurance racing thing and we will do better next time.