My junk finally got here! Man, I am not worthy of this goodness. I kind of went crazy with the gear purchasing, but I figured I mind as well have halfway decent new stuff, instead of some old guy’s NASCAR pit crew suit who stands 5 foot 6 inches tall with a 34 waist and a 60 inch chest, sporting such slogans like: Go Brown!, Viagra (Yes!) or Tide!
The first thing any red-blooded car guy does when looking at helmets is he goes and looks at the coolest, most badass-looking (and most expensive I might add) helmets, just to see what life could be like $1500 dollars poorer, but with the coolest helmet this side of the nut house. I picked up everything Bell, and I chose the Sport helmet, it’s the standard helmet, and for my minimal needs, is very nice indeed. Compared to my cheap Bieffe motorcycle helmet I have used for autocross for years, this thing brought comfort that I didn’t us lowly cheap racers could acquire for minimal cost. Instead of padding that smashes you from all sides, the padding halo for the top of your head is what secures the helmet, and the front is mostly empty. So things like breathing or accidentally opening your mouth don’t result in bitten cheeks. It is truly comfortable, and luckily a straight size like Medium works perfect for me. In fact, I am dead average according to Bell. The suit, gloves and helmet are all medium, and they all fit me quite well.
For the upcoming Willow Springs race I am borrowing Leo’s standard HANS anchors, the Bell Sport comes pre-drilled for HANS devices, and it’s a snap to fit the backing plates in between the helmet shell and the padding.
For shoes I took a random pic of shoes and picked the Bell Vision race shoe. Nice construction, well-built pieces, but a little cumbersome, I was expecting something like a tennis shoe, but it feels much bigger and clunkier. If there is one piece I would complain about, it would be the shoes. They havn’t been broken in just yet, so I will give these a try for a while and see if they pan out. They do have SFI tags, so for those who are wondering about things like that, they do have them.
Bell Formula FX glovs have SFI tags in the sleeve and fit me perfectly! They arent too thick so there is good feel, and the traction pads on the inside of the gloves feel good.
This fire suit is the Bell Endurance one-piece, it’s rated at SFI 3.2A/5, and is pretty thick, it’s not too bendy just yet, but if fits well for my skinny figure and is quite comfortable. There is plenty of chest, leg and waist room, so for guys who arent 150 lbs like myself but are about my height, you are in luck. I am about 5’11″ and for my height this is just about perfect. This is also clearly badged with SFI badges. It looks great, is well-built, hopefully I won’t have to test it’s fire rating.
Not shown here are Nomex socks (required by ChumpCar). Future gear purchases may include a cool shirt for the hot races. Stay tuned, I will give a review of the gear after the Willow Springs race.
Now that the car is mostly stripped down it’s time to build it back up. The majority of the work we need to do to get this car ready to race is in safety gear. Our big push right now is to get the roll cage in. In order to get that installed correctly we need to make sure it fits well around the driver. All that means that we need to get the seat, seat belts, steering wheel, and window net sorted out. Here is a list of what we have invested in now (there will be a lot more later):
The seat – It is a critical part of safety that protects the driver. It holds the driver in the car so they can spend his time controlling the car (instead of bracing them selves against something). It also has to be comfortable enough that someone can sit in it for 2 hours without discomfort. Unfortunately seats tend to be something that comes down to personal preference. We have to support a wide range of driver sizes and shapes. We decided to go with an aluminum seat. The thought was that the padding is easily removable and if we had to accommodate a smaller or larger driver we could modify the pads. I’m not sure how well that will pan out, hopefully we can find a “one size fits most”. Ultrashield seems to have a bit better value than Kirkey and the reviews we found online seem positive. We ordered an Ultrashield Road Race VS 17″ 20degree layback in black. Seat mounting is unresolved right now. We are pretty sure we will need sliders to fit all our drivers properly. We are hoping to find a way to make the stock sliders work. For safety, we also have to make sure the sliders latch on both sides (not sure yet if the stock ones do that). The back of the seat also needs a brace. We found a great quick adjust unit from IO port that is on its way to us now.
Harness - Regulations require you get a 5 point or better harness. Ultrashield had a great price so we ordered one with the seat as well. All five of the belts connect in the center unit. A quick twist of the center unit and all five pop out. Easier to use than the “latch and link” style buckle.
Mirror – Stock rear view mirrors are great for freeway driving but they have blind spots. There are several brands of “racing” mirror that help to give you a complete view around the car. Again we went with the IO port option. It has a nice roll bar mount and is a single piece.
HANSDevice – This is an important piece of modern safety gear. It links to the side of your helmet and is strapped under your seat belts. It prevents your head from whipping forward in a crash. It moves with your body and not your seat. It still allows a good amount of movement but it does take some getting used to. The version I’m used to using has fixed tethers. It prevents you from turning your head left and right. You really have to learn to depend on your mirrors. We got the entry level unit (Sport Series) with a 20degree slope (to make the seats). The “post anchor” shown in this picture allows it to be easily attached and detached between helmets. This will allow us to share one unit between all our drivers. Each driver has to buy the “posts” to attach to their helmet ($50-60 each set). Even the entry level unit here set us back almost $700. Really though, isn’t your neck worth $700? There are theories out there that had Earnhardt Sr. been wearing one it would have saved his life. Lemons and Chumpcar both require some kind of restraint device but they will accept “donut” foam rings which offer far less protection (some even argue that they do nothing).
For our Tuesday work session we removed the exhaust, gas tank, replaced the fuel hoses (tank-side), odds and ends interior-wise, replaced the wheels with the snow tires in favor of the rubber the white parts car had equipped, removed th awkward metal shrouds surrounding the strut perches and finsihed removing the power steering. Not bad for a couple of hours. So far, we’re still tackling the easy stuff, we are all quite aware that the challenging stuff is what truly lies ahead of us. I might have to be absent those days.
We want to make it clear, right from the get-go, we are a green race team.
That’s right. We are Type-R’ing this beast out. We are too good for side moldings. Too fast is more like it. Real fast.
We are fortunate to have such a straight body. Not a scratch on it.
Champiros! This is a step up for us!
I didn’t take any clear photos of the de-flowered interior since the last stint of work. We havn’t truly cleaned it, but this is an rx-7 interior without sound deadening. Should be a hit with the girls.
A bit of funky corrosion on the exterior of the tank, but the real treat was resting INSIDE. a couple inches of green sludge welcomed us. The white car’s gas tank is in much better shape, we will be starting with that one instead.
Rob went to work on finishing off the power steering pump. We are making efforts to simplifying the setup. Though, I am not sure we can call what we have a “setup” just yet. More like the result of removing lots of junk, we have arrived at this outcome.
Nick, with his handy angle grinder decapitated the strut crowns, or whatever their official name may be. Crowns. Ya, I like that.
Ya! REAL man stuff. Rarrr.
Now isn’t that a lot better? That servo on the top of the shock piston is what controls the adjustable shocks. This, ofcourse, will be going into the sale heap.
We accomplished a lot of our tasks on the way to prepping for the cage and seat. We were able to finish up the sound deadening after mother nature did her worst to the adhesive bonding the heavy stuff to the chassis. A couple freezing nights in single digit temperatures made the job so much easier. Along with the sound deadening we removed the rear hatch and front windshield, remove the remaining pieces of the dash, heater core, steering wheel, removed the radiator, ac components, power steering, sun roof, photo’d all of the junk we want to sell and gutted the doors.
We started bright and early. 11am.
The cold temps outside did it’s job beautifully on the adhesive bonding the sound insulation to the floor pan. We beat on it with a hammer and it separated cleanly from the body. The seam sealer is always a bit of a problem though. A thin screw driver or pry bar does the trick when the blunt hammer had none.
All the sound deadening removed on the back deck. It felt very satisfying to have it be such a clean job. I have removed sound deadening on other cars before, and this was the easiest without the use of dry ice.
This is what the interior in the front section of the cabin looked like at the beginning of the day. By the end of our little work day, it was barren.
There was a mild case of rust rash in food well. Grinder, spray paint, bam!
Prepping for windshield removal.
I am inside chipping away at sound insulation. Leo is… doing something.
Nick removing the power steering lines to the PS pump.
AC condenser on the left was removed in one piece, and hopefully, will be enjoyed by another rx7 owner somewhere.
Nick doin’ work on the door skin. It wasn’t long before they were both done. It took longer to remove the windows and motors.
Inner door skin removed, it’s ready for door bars. The guys are considering whether to go the whole nine and take out the support still remaining in the door.
Just finished up one of our regular Tuesday after work sessions. Rob and Nick came over and we got started. This is the first real work the gray car has had. We are mainly focused now on getting ready for the cage. We got all the cloth, interior, and the doors off. Not bad for under 3 hours work.
Sure is nice to not have doors in the way.
Still lots to do here.
Freaking dash. I spent an hour working on the passenger side and then nick came over and said, ohh you just do these two bolts and it will come right out. *Face Palm* Signs point to mold danger so its good that we got started on this.
All tucked in for the night! That’s doubled over. I may have gotten a slightly too large of a tarp.
The parts are really really starting to pile up. We haven’t even really started on the engine bay. We need to start getting this stuff sold.
No real problems found. Nick found some questionably connected electronics and I found a receipt from a tire store dated 2001. The inspection marked leaking dampers on the front and rear passenger side. No repair was on the receipt, I doubt it was fixed. Looks like we will have to use our “spare” dampers right away.
A great head start for the big work session on sunday.
Several of our debates rage on. What seat are we going to get? Do we have a final decision on the cage? Heater core or no heater core?
There seems to be some conflict brewing between Chump Car and 24 Hours of Lemons. For me, racing is racing. More races at more tracks on the west coast makes me happy. I can appreciate both of their takes on the idea. Judging by the number of entries turned away at the last Lemons thunderhill, it even sounds like the market can support two series as well. Maybe people are just kicking dust. See the linked blog post and form post from John @ chumpcar with more of the history about where they started and how open they have been with the Lemons team.
This story started like many for me. I was getting bored of what passes for motorsport in my hometown. AutoX was fun but ultimately I felt unsatasfied devoting an entire weekend of work for 3-6 minutes of wheel time. After almost 7 years doing it, it was clear I wasn’t going to be a shining talent at it either. I needed a new project. I had recently finally started going to HPDE driver education days at the nearest local race track (Portland International Raceway) and this was definately something I wanted to get more involved in. There is a great conference race series that participates here in the NorthWest (ICSCC). I looked breifly at getting into that but decided I didn’t really have the funds to make that happen. I was also not all that thrilled about joining into a series that depended so much on money to get a winning car. Money that I wouldn’t reasonabily be able to devote to racing for many more years.
I looked into building a kit car (Lotus 7, I will have you some day) or doing some kind of extreme build of my weekend driver (1993 Mazda RX7) but ultimately I’m no mechanic. I can keep my cars running and bolt upgrades on but I’m not a fabricator. This also wouldn’t help me get any more seat time and for me, thats the name of the game.
A friend of mine (Matt) was participating in a new form racing that I had heard about but up until then, had not considered joining, The 24 Hours of LeMons. This seemed like the direction to go. Costs were split between the team. Heck, the car couldn’t even be worth more than $500! Wheel time? You get to run all weekend long.
The same week that I had seriously considered getting into lemons, I got an e-mail out of the blue from a buddy of mine. He had picked up a 1987 Mazda Rx7 GXL with the intentions of restoring it to sell. It turns out it wasn’t in as good as condition as he had hoped and had been taking up room in his driveway for a couple months. He wanted it gone and the price was right (free!).
I had a place to drive, and a car, now all I needed was a team. I made a short list of all my least rice most race friends and called us all together. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who though this was a good idea.
(I wrote this shortly after chump car’s first race in early Nov 2009. Seemed like it needed to be here too.)
ChumpCar (http://www.chumpcar.com/) has just finished their first event! This is a new crap can racing series similar to 24hrs of lemons. This event was held at Portland International Race way over Halloween weekend. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the action as a driver on my friend’s team, Free Range Racing (http://freerangeracing.blogspot.com/).
All the cars at the race had to be worth less than $500 (not counting safety gear).
Starting at noon on Saturday all the cars were to be driven for 24 hours straight (there was a break from 6-8pm for a Halloween party and trick or treating for the kids). Each team had to have 4 drivers. We had 6. One team had 12. 38 teams made it to the starting line with 247 drivers.
The event was held at Portland International Raceway. It has been 42 years since PIR hosted a 24 hour race. A small army of volunteers from the track, Cascade Sports Car Club, SCCA, The Friends of PIR, the fuel truck drivers (no gas station at the track), ambulance staff, and a number of other organizations made this event possible. We were especially lucky to rope people into working the corners for nearly two days straight.
It started life as a first gen MR2. It’s something more than that now but I’m not sure what. When it was being built it wasn’t function over form, I think it was just “function”.
The general theme was green racing. The windmill is actually a 3rd or 4th generation idea. This car has competed in lemons events with even more primitive windmills. This is the first fully mechanical one. It actually made 1psi of boost at 60mph. That’s a torque plate from an auto tranny hooked up to the compressor side of a turbo out of some truck. It didn’t last very long into the race. This video was taken before the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsUQ0YnrOu8&feature=player_embedded
This race was not it’s first rodeo, it had already developed a number of handsome scars. With a fresh set of tires and a fresh motor we were ready as we were ever going to be.
A couple members of our team were part of the event staff so we spent most of Friday getting the race ready. I got to help with vehicle scruteneering. Each of the cars there had already developed a rich history during their construction. I don’t think a single team was found cheating. Everyone was there to have fun.
The wrecking crew setup camp here. This is how chump car hands out penalties. You go off track? Do something unsafe? Break a rule? You have to answer to these guys. A crew of community college students run by a retired southern racer would do their worst to your car. Your team then had to repair it before you could go back out on track. A couple cars had their tires swapped. One team had their distributor and spark plugs wires handed to them in a box.
One of the more serious violations involved this Porsche. Their wheels were taken off and the lug nuts hidden all over the car.
Oregon normally treats us to a wet Halloween and this was to exception. I was given the first stint out in the car at noon on Saturday. The track was wet and I had a lot of problems on the first couple of laps keeping the back end in line. I spun twice in the first 15 minutes. After getting over the titters of my first wheel to wheel circuit race I really got into the grove. I made at least 20 passes during my nearly 2 hour session. The track started drying out and there was some great battles already under way. I got us a decent way up mid pack.
The track had a WiFi network that allowed us to stream race results live to our laptops. Seeing the live board with laptimes really added a lot to the race. Running the pit and race strategy was almost as much fun as driving.
A break was scheduled at 6pm for a Halloween party. After 4 driver changes we were up to 16th place. During the 2 hour break we were allowed to work on the cars. The impreza that was there did a tranny swap and didn’t miss a second of laptop time (they ended up getting an award for consistency).
I wasn’t scheduled for another stint till around 2am so I decided to try to get to sleep. With the cold and adrenaline running through my system I really only got about 4 hours of “rest”.
I was woken up around 1am to get ready. A shifter linkage problem that caused us to pit 5 extra times had dropped to the mid-low 20s. The alternator was cooking the battery. Our voltage regulator had gone out and we were putting out 16v+. The starter was showing some signs of impending failure. To make matters worse, it didn’t want to idle any more. The only time we could afford to shut the car off for was fueling. The rest of the time someone had to constantly try to keep the engine running. We also had an oil leak. The oil pan had been “loafed” to increase our capacity but it looks like the work had a flaw in it. The leak wasn’t bad enough to stop us. We had only lost a quart over 12 hours of racing. The car was definitely showing signs that it might not make it.
(One of my teammates pictures here) The driver change went without incident and I was out on track. Our mirrors weren’t great so it took quite a bit of energy to keep an eye out for passing cars. It took me longer than before to get into the grove.
ChumpCar has built their own lighting system to take when them to tracks. Instead of flags there was a traffic light kind of array with three orange and three red lights. There was only two instructions the flag stations could give, full course yellow or full course red. Under yellow everyone had to slow to 1/3rd race pace and passing was not allowed. Under red everyone had to just stop right on track.
This is when the fog started coming in. It started showing up in turns 3 through 7. Turn 7 was especially bad. I’m so glad they had put out cones for the braking zone before the cone it was literally the only thing I could use to know where the track was. You couldn’t see the apex of the turn until you were already committed to your line.
I managed another hour and forty minutes or so in my stint. The fog kept getting worse. Our next driver was relaying conditions to us over the radio and he was pretty much as this limit. We called him in when the next full course yellow it. Right as we had grabbed the fuel rig to do a pit stop they red flagged the whole race and stopped all work being done on the cars. Apparently we weren’t the only ones having problems.
At 4:45am drivers meeting was held and it was decided that we would delay the whole race due to fog. Another meeting would be held at 8am and we would decide what to do then. I think this brief sleep period for everyone (including the workers) ended up preventing a lot of accidents. I managed to finally get some real rest.
This is from right before the restart from the fog delay. The race was restarted at 8am and they even moved the checkered flag back to 3pm for us!
At several points in the race we were putting in the 5th or 6th best lap times. We made it up to 19th after 30 minutes back on track. The fog was still there but the visibility was decent. Another fast driver in the car got us another couple of positions. Mechanical failures started showing up in all the teams. That brought us some positions too. Our car pitted with throttle failure (a homemade line bracket had slipped out and needed to be reattached). That cost us a long pit but it could have been a lot worse. The fiat next to us (La Famila) broke their cable and didn’t have a spare. It took them over an hour to get it working again.
At around 11 in the morning, we realized we were in with a real shot at the top 10. We were lapping 10 seconds faster a lap than most of the cars ahead of us and catching them.
This team had never placed that high before and we were going to do it. Our race plan was hatched to do as fuel driver changes as possible. Sitting in 12th, we had two teams to beat. Team Partridge in a protégé (I think?) was only a couple laps ahead of us and we were pretty sure to catch them in the next hour. The real challenge was “Beach Dudes” in a datson 510 wagon. They had been in the top 10 nearly the entire race and had build up a big lead on us. We were catching them but was it fast enough?
The radios had been spotty all weekend but this is when they failed for the final time. The pit could give instructions to the driver, but the driver couldn’t communicate back.
We had 3 hours left in the race and one hour left on the driver who was on track. That meant one last driver change for us. The car was smoking a little at the end of the front straight. The oil pressure gauge looked ok but how bad was that leak getting?
One of my buddies was working as a pit marshal and we got him to go down to beach dudes and collect some intel. He delivered. The good news was that they had destroyed their race tires over the night and had been forced to switch to their backup street tires over the night. The bad news was that they only had one driver change left like us (we were hoping that they had more so we could lap them while they were in the pits) and they were about to put in their fastest driver.
We continued to make progress on both the teams with 1 hour and 30 minutes left in the race on our last driver. Beach dudes had 10 laps on us and while we were much faster than them on track right now, we wouldn’t have the time to make it up. At this point, we were hoping for last minute mechanical failure to take one of the leaders out completely.
I gave our driver encouragements and updates but he couldn’t respond. We could hear his radio key up and that he was trying to say something but we had no idea. Fearing he was reporting impending failure we were on the edge of our seats each lap. The car was smoking more but he was sitting pulling in the completion.
We made a dramatic pass of Team Partridge on the front straight and claimed 11th. That needed to happen on our way to 10th but the numbers for beating beach dudes kept looking worse and worse.
We got our miracle. The Volvo wagon which had been tearing up the track all weekend was towed into the pits. The rumor was that the diff was gone and they had no spares. We were also told later it was the axle. Either way they were out of it. They sat 20 laps ahead of us when they failed with 40 minutes left in the race. All we had to do was put in 2 minute laps (we were sitting in the mid 1:40s) for the rest of the race and we could claim 10th. Nearly assured of our victory our pit was out of their seats with excitement.
That’s when I saw our car in the distance coming down the pit lane unaccounted. I was the stand by driver in case we needed to change at the last minute but I didn’t have all my gear on. I desperately started changing in case we needed to change drivers when I heard “NO BREAKS!”
The front wheels were wet with brake fluid. Then flame. Then smoke. Our car was on fire. Luckily we had several people with fire bottles already in had when he had come in and we got it out quickly. The driver didn’t seem to connect someone yelling “fire” with needed to get out of the car. All he could think about was getting back on track. We had completely destroyed the pads. The brake pistons had pushed out and the hydraulic fluid had caught on fire. There was no way we could fix that fast enough.
The oil leak was also much worse now. There was a constantly set of drips coming from the oil pan.
We push the car out of pit lane into our camp defeated but happy that we could go down with so much excitement. Unwilling to accept defeat we came up with a new plan. We would push the car back into the pit lane on the last lap and he would nurse the car around the last lap at 25mph.
Just as we finally push the car down into the pit lane, the last lap sign was show. He got out there. We finished under our own power! We even got to claim 13th in the end!
Yes, that’s all caked oil. It was clean when we started
We even got an award for ugliest car. No one else was close. What a race. Time to get our own team going!
It’s true, someone had this brilliant idea and is trying to sell it to the networks. At the Portland ’09 event there was a camera crew filming for a pilot. Doug here is getting interviewed. More information can be found over on the ChumpCar forums. They have finished a trailer, check it out!