"Oh no, we threw a rod."
"Is that serious?"
Its sometime on Saturday morning, a few weeks after the race. I'm siting here, with my coffee, after having consumed a wonderful breakfast strata at Williams Hardware Cafe in downtown Travelers Rest, SC. I like it here- the breakfast is good, the WiFi is fast, and they don't mind me sitting here for hours drinking coffee and typing away. Anyway, I'm getting extremely aggravated at the HORRIBLE client-thingie that 1 and 1 uses for Website creation. It maddeningly keeps centering ALL of my test, no matter how hard I try to right-justify it. So in order to maintain what's left of my sanity, I'm just going to post a list of links to race day pictures, taken by various nefarious folks somehow related to the Tunachucker team. Enjoy! (You an click on the links, or cut and paste- I left the URLs visible for transparency!)
My brother's pictures- lots of hi-res stuff, very good, also pictures of the rest of the racers and events of Sprink LeMons South 2009: http://www.kevinpittinaro.com/dds/photos/sports.html
Gary, one of our crew members, also took some good shots. See them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26501101@N00/sets/72157616513984897/
An interesting video taken by the POS Global team. Around 5 seconds in, there's a shot of one of the judges (Johnny) standing in front of my tow rig, my fireproof underwear draped over the hood. And from about 3:30 to 5:30, there's some good racing action involving our Amazon! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob2gha1GUc8&feature=related
Despite being team captain, driver, and having to deal with a very breaky race car, I still managed to take some mediocre photos. Check them out here: http://www.roadflares.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=395
--Volvo Clearing House
OK...Its now been a month since the race. So what happened?
With the vast amount of knowledge acquired from participating in exactly ONE prior LeMons race, we decided to do a couple of things. The first was to get to the track early. The green flag was scheduled to fall Saturday morning about an hour before noon, but since there was a test 'n tune session that we'd eagerly signed up for on Friday, we decided to roll in Thursday after work, Happily, this went more or less according to plan. The three-hour caravan with our motley assortment of personal vehicles (consisting of a Chevrolet conversion van, my Dodge tow vehicle, "Charlie the Tuna" loaded on behind, and a Ford Ranger lugging a small trailer) found us descending upon the small town of Kershaw, SC around dark. Rob and Gary arrived first, and "plunked down" as Jay likes to say. They nabbed up primo real estate- right across from the tower. We had, in essence, front row seats to the event, easy access to the track from our pits, and a power outlet. Wooo!
After squatting as much of the sandy land as we could, the next task was to set up camp. Having set up my erector-set of a carport last year, we had _almost_ no trouble putting it up again. The rain even held off until we were finished and could cower underneath it, beers clutched in cold, raw hands, hoping the hard-driving wind wouldn't lift our shelter up and crash it down on a fellow racer's Jag. One RV had its awning blown back over its roof. Sounded like a shotgun blast. Sleep came to all of us, eventually.
Friday morning greeted us with less rain and wind, and more ruddy glowing skies. The LeMon, which had been haphazardly tarped in anticipation of the rain, was revealed and preparations for the track day began. First, there was bacon. (Though that should go without saying. Bacon is essential, like air, or beer) Next, we popped the wheels, jacked her up (not in that order) and began bleeding the brakes, again. We'd been fighting a battle with these damn brakes- we'd bleed them, bleed them, and, um, yeah, bleed them some more. And then, the next day, the pedal would be soft and cracking a bleeder screw into a clear tube showed bubbles and milkiness. It was frustrating. Nonetheless, bubbly, milky, soft brakes are still brakes, and after checking every fitting in the brake system 3 times, bleeding approximately a 55 gallon drum of DOT 4 through the lines, and cursing the God of Speed, we snugged everything up, slapped the Falken Azenis on the axles, and belted Gary in for the first rack day session.
Now, prior to the track day, Gary had driven the Amazon a total of approximately 528 feet. His initial reaction was "Well, its a lot different than my M3". And while he wasn't one of our drivers, we felt he should at least take a few laps around the Nurburgring...I mean, CMP, to appreciate the fruits of his labors. So he took the car out on the track and, after a few laps, managed to spin it into the dirt. We winced. But the car shook it off, and 15 minutes later Gary idled on back to the pits and informed us the car seemed a bit rear-end happy. This was a bit of a surprise- after all, the handling last year was more-or-less neutral, and we'd added a big dollop of front sway stiffness, which if anything should make the car understeer like a pickup. But, we took his words and actions for it, and adjusted the tire pressures accordingly. Which was about all we were motivated to do before the next track outing.
I should mention something here about the nature of this "test n' tune". Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP) runs these things fairly regularly on Fridays, and since this one just happened to coincide with the weekend of a LeMons race, they graciously allowed our $500 beaters to share the track with $100,000 Porches and whatnot. To be fair, they did segregate the borgeoiuse (I know I totally butchered that) from the mere proles, but they did say that the supercars were more than welcome to share the track with us while we were out there, "doing whatever it is that you do". To my knowledge, none of them dared. Thus, the track sessions were split up, 20 minutes of banger racing followed by millions of dollars worth of the world's finest metal screaming around the full circuit. It was an interesting juxtaposition. Luckily, most of the heavy metal drivers were at least sympathetic to us mere beater drivers, and we received many a compliment from them on our "creative" car choice.
The next Tunachucker to take the course was Anthony. He had the combined misfortune of having all of the racing experience of Gary with all of the responsibility of the rest of us who were actually driving in the main event. He wrung out his 20 minutes of fame on the short course, spun once or twice (As I recall) and came back in bearing tidings of an on-its-last-legs gearbox. The synchros were nearly dissolved into the same ether that most of our 401ks had vanished into lately. In the case of our transmission, this was likely caused by the damn box being nearly full of water, for what we supposed was most of the first race. We're still uncertain where the 401k money went to. We'd have been better off investing in gearbox oil last year. So we made a decision: forego the last few track sessions and swap out the gearbox.
Here we began down the road that would lead us to one of the more memorable weekends in our lives.
Being designed in the late 1950's, the Volvo Amazon was a paragon of simplicity. I'm fairly certain that, if you had to and given enough raw material, you could fashion an entire car using a drill press and a bandsaw. And bolt it all together with a 1/2" wrench and a flat-bladed screwdriver. Being the Boy Scouts* that we were, we were prepared with at least once spare of everything. Brian dropped the grindy bindy gearbox, we slid the spare up under the car, and approximately 45 minutes later we were roadworthy-ish again. In comparison to the old bucket of bolts, the spare box of gears seemed to shift like a Ferrari's. There was even enough time to sneak in one more track session, though I forget who drove. I think it may have been me. If it was, then clearly I was awesome.
(*disclaimer: none of us are actually Boy Scouts. I built a pinewood derby car once, if that counts. And I think Anthony helped an old lady across the street a few months back)
After our track day, we really felt pretty good. We'd uncovered a weak point (the tranny) and fixed it. The brakes held up, the wheel and tires did their thing pretty well, once we sorted out the right pressures to use, and the rest of the car held together. The engine was a bit sputtery at higher revs, but we were happy with it. Happy enough, anyway. Our whole team had arrived by noon, including my brother Kevin who unexpectedly drove down from Troy, NY to act as our team photographer (his superior work can bee seen in one of the links above). Jamie even brought an air-conditioned pop-up trailer, which was a boon for those who desired something a little better than a tent to sleep in. We put on some music, cracked a fresh case of PBR, grilled up some cube steaks, and sat back and contemplated how awesome this all was. I had brought a video projector, and Matt had packed his video game console (I forget which type, I think it was some sort of new-ish Nintendo. I'm not really up on these things) so we whiled away a few hours playing (of course) a driving simulator. At one point I challenged my brother with a Jensen Interceptor to his Plymouth Barracuda. Other matchups included a Volvo 240 wagon vs. a Citroen rally car, and various uneven (to be charitable) races involving RX-8s, Corvettes, Italian exotics and American muscle cars. When the rest of the team turned in, Matt and I got good and toasted and went for a bike ride around the paddocks in search of life. We found some folks cooking some most excellent-smelling bar-b-que, and another group of guys sitting around a keg of skanky beer with a Cougar magazine procured from that bastion of culture, South of the Border.