Lemons BFE 2023

The Car

The team has built three cars in the last six months. The other two cars were used a few weeks ago in the One Lap of America. At that event, they met some Toyota engineers. Naturally, the Yaris build was discussed, and contact information was exchanged. We’re calling it a Lotus Yaris.

As I mentioned earlier, there was a problem with the car. We could drive it, could race it, even. But it wouldn’t go over about 5500rpm. There’s no power at all under about 3500, so we had a very narrow band to drive. I typically spend 90% of the lap above 5700.

The issue was that we couldn’t get the high cam to work. When the engine is cold, the ECU limits the rpms to the crossover point. With the stock Lotus tune, the crossover is at 6200rpm. On my car, it’s 5700. We have two ECUs for the race car, one with a Toyota tune (where the crossover is more like 6500) and one with a Lotus tune. This tune wasn’t the stock Lotus tune and was more like mine, but may have been more aggressive. So it’s not clear to me exactly where we’re getting limited. Something like 5500 or 5700.

We’d send a driver out for a session, Mike and Dan would brainstorm a solution, we’d bring the car in, make some changes, and send it back out. Nothing was working. This is probably the first time a Lotus was used as a parts car for a Lemons racer. At one point, they’d swapped the coil packs from my car into the race car. I said they could swap whatever parts they could easily swap, as long as my car was all put back together in time for me to go home. They had a few ideas. Mike even reached out to the Toyota engineers he met on One Lap.

Late in the afternoon, Mike came up with an idea that I was sure was the fix. He had put a different thermostat in the car, a 160-degree thermostat. The ECU wants more like 173 to work the cam. If the thermostat is opening early, the car might never warm up in this weather. Mike put it in the car early Sunday morning, in the pouring rain. Sadly, the thermostat wasn’t the answer. We never did get it fixed. So it goes.

The Weather

Typical weather for this area in early June would be a high of around 80 with the sun pleasantly embracing you in its warmth. It might be the kind of day where the sun is so pleasant, warm not hot, that you might forget to apply sunscreen. Not that that would be a good thing to do. In the late afternoon, perhaps a thundershower would roll through.

A week ago, Kevin was concerned about it being hot enough to warrant wearing a cool suit. For track days, I don’t wear my Nomex long johns, but I do for the races. It’s a lot of clothing. I managed just fine in August when you can expect temps in the 90s. I wasn’t concerned. With rain in the forecast, I wasn’t worried about overheating. Turns out, even wearing all that, even with the Nomex underwear, I was sometimes chilly enough to put my hoodie on.

This was not a typical June weekend on the high plains of eastern Colorado. This weekend, as far as the weather goes, we may as well be in Seattle. We’re having one of the wettest springs I can remember. In Denver, we’ve already received the amount of rain it usually takes until the middle of August to get. My lawn looks as good as it’s ever been.

There’s a lot of standing water in the fields alongside US 36 between Byers and the track. The herd of buffalo stood ankle-deep in mud.

It didn’t start raining on us right away. But it rained. Boy, did it rain. It came over the track in bands, never very heavy, but modulating between light and moderate, with occasional short stretches of no rain.

We were parked just west of the fuel pumps. There’s an access lane next to the wall, the access lane bordered by concrete barriers. A few feet farther there’s a drain surrounded by sandbags that are there to keep sediment out of the drain. This is marked with a traffic cone. Naturally, this is the low spot in the immediate vicinity. I never bothered to pay attention to any drains in the paddock before, but off the top of my head, this is the only one.

Saturday afternoon there were rivers running to the drain in this low spot. And the drain couldn’t keep up. The sandbags formed a dam that guaranteed the water would get at least six inches deep. For starters.

Our next-door neighbors were set up a few feet from the drain. They were campaigning a brown BMW 3-Series cut up and rebadged to look like an old Subaru Brat. Their livery was a knockoff of a UPS theme: “URS. What Can Brown Do For You?”

They had two canopies set up, tables and chairs huddled towards the center in an attempt to stay dry. What wasn’t on the tables was in plastic tubs. Before long, there was a small stream flowing from the blacktop to the drain. It got bigger.

Once the HPR River was flowing strongly, they had to move some of their stuff. It was bad, but not that bad when I left on Saturday evening. Overnight, though, the water got so deep a couple of their tubs floated off and capsized, spoiling some supplies.

By Sunday morning most of the water had drained. That was temporary. It rained harder on Sunday.

I arrived on Sunday at 7:30. We had three canopies deployed, plus the awning of the RV. One canopy was for the car. When I got to our camp, one of the canopies had collapsed. It was partly under the awning, and the weight of the water coming off it was too much, breaking a couple of struts. Both the others were still standing, one holding about four or five gallons of water.

The rain started almost simultaneously with the start of the race. I was lucky to get some track time during one of the dry spells, but the bands of rain that blew over were a bit more intense. HPR River flowed fiercely once again. The puddle turned into a pool.

This drain is quite far from any lower ground. I began to wonder if it was really a drain. It would have to run quite a distance to drain to the ravine that forms the lowest part of the track. In Gilbert, we had retention basins all over the property. The idea was that no rainwater would leave the development. All these basins, big or small, had something that looked like a drain. I forget the term, but this drain is only six or eight feet deep and filled with rock aggregate. These wells help the ground absorb the water. In a heavy rain, they’re designed to back up. I think that’s what this drain is.

Sunday afternoon, the flood forced the URS folks to flee to higher ground.

At about 1:30, some wag sauntered up to the pool in shorts and flip-flops and took a “swim”. A brave soul. As you can guess, most of the puddles upstream had the rainbow sheen of various and sundry automotive fluids. I couldn’t help but think of all the horror stories about floodwaters in Louisiana with all the petroleum infrastructure there. But he had a small crowd of onlookers who laughed and joked.

The Racing

This is now the third time I’ve jumped into and raced a car I’ve never driven before. There are so many cars on the track in these sorts of races that you’re in traffic pretty much all the time. To try to drive a car fast that you’ve never driven before, wheel-to-wheel through a turn, not knowing how the car behaves is a bit intimidating.

The stick shift was a bit sloppy. There’s no reverse gear lockout, and second is a bit hard to find, so you have to be careful. The suspension is quite stiff; the big bumps on the highway straight are sharper shocks to my backbone than in the Elise. It understeers a fair amount. The cure for understeer is to slow down. The weight is mostly in the front, so heavy breaking makes the tail light and prone to rotation.

With no high cam, it’s tough. Bouncing off the rev limiter slows you down. You have to shift as high as you can without hitting the limiter. It took me seven or eight laps to figure out which gear I needed to be in for each turn

Entering the track for the first time, I got passed by three cars before I got to turn three. Coming out of the pits, you join the track after turn two so that’s the first turn. I managed to collect myself by the end of the lap, and within a few laps, I was getting comfortable.

On Saturday, we had the Garmin running so we could see our lap times. The device supports multiple drivers, but we didn’t make a profile for me. Kevin drove before me, and we just kept his session running. It rained pretty much the whole time Kevin was driving, and his best lap was a 2:53 or 2:54.

For the first several laps, I’d exit turn two a second or second and a half ahead of Kevin’s best lap, but a third of the way through the lap I’d be behind his time. I couldn’t imagine I could lose that much time that quickly. He just must have been slow through the first couple of turns.

I ran for a bit over an hour. The radio was working, and the guys would periodically ask how things were going. I really wanted to use Kimi Raikonnen’s line, “Leave me alone! I know what I’m doing!” but I wasn’t sure they’d recognize it as a joke.

Finally, they told me to do a couple more laps and come in for fuel. The track was starting to dry and I was finally putting in some good times. I was improving by two or three seconds each lap. So I stayed out longer than they wanted. I got a few stutters on the sweeping right-hand turns, so I finally pitted. Kevin said, “I knew you didn’t want to come in, getting faster like you were!”

On Sunday, I got another hour of seat time. Again, I was lucky with the weather. Neither the Garmin nor the radio was working, so I had no idea what sorts of times I ran. Kevin told me later that I was turning in some consistent 2:28s. Eric had the team’s fast lap, a 2:24.127.

Viewing the official results, I think I managed to figure out which laps were mine and which were Eric’s. If I did this correctly, Eric had the 3 fastest laps. Of the ten best, 6 are mine and 4 are Eric’s. Of our 50 fastest, 24 are mine, 22 are Eric’s. Conditions, though, were extremely hard to compare. Eric has said he thinks he had a drier track than I did, but I’m skeptical. In any event, over 50 laps it looks like we compare pretty well.

We ran almost the same number of laps – I had 2 more. We ran our sessions back-to-back, me first on Saturday and he on Sunday. He ended both his sessions by causing full-course cautions with spins: one stalling the car when the starter wasn’t working and the other stuck in the mud. I had to stop my first session due to fuel but ended my second by getting a black flag (more on that later).

Kevin is quick to remind me that fast laps don’t matter. What matters is running laps.

There were 73 cars entered. We managed to come in 50th. Being an endurance race, the idea is to run the car as long as possible. The event is 8½ hours on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. We completed 201 laps. Given our lap times, accounting for yellow flags and red flags, that would be about 10 hours of driving. The winner completed 297 laps. If we’d have been able to run the whole race, we’d have done nearly that many. If we can get the high cam to work, we could be a contender.

Seventy-three cars on the track is quite a lot. Almost certainly, all 73 were not all out at the same time. Even so, there are more cars on the track than at my most crowded track day. And the difference in driver skill is pretty great. About 40% of the folks at the drivers’ meeting raised their hands to the question, “Who has never raced at HPR before?” That would include first-time racers and experienced racers from out of the area.

I saw license plates from quite a few states. Because my car always attracts attention, I talk to quite a few people. One fellow told me he has an ‘05 Elise. Not thinking, I said, “You’re not in the club.” Of course he’s not in the club: Jaap lives in Boston but is originally from the Netherlands. Another guy I chatted with was from Oregon and suggested he might have seen me on my Pacific Northwest trip. That would be a long shot.

Anyway, that 40% of drivers who have never raced at HPR before include some guys (and almost all the drivers were guys) who may be quite experienced at other tracks. But there will certainly be some drivers who have never raced anywhere before, like my teammates from my earlier Lemons race.

Given that there is a wide range in the speeds of the cars and the wide range of driver skills, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll eventually come across a car that you’re evenly matched with. It’s more fun to pass than to be passed, and it’s much more fun to race somebody that’s evenly matched with you.

I was able to pass in nearly every turn on the track and in a few braking zones. I also got passed in all those areas, plus a few. On the uphill sweepers, I could pass on either the inside or outside, depending on where the slower car wanted to go. Once I was passing on somebody’s inside and was a bit hard on the brakes. The rear of the car started to swing out; I was afraid I was going to hit the guy. He was on my right, and with no mirror on that side, I don’t know if it was a close call or if he had to take evasive action.

My only driving error cost me a black flag. There was a local yellow flag. No passing is allowed under the yellow. I was behind a Datsun 260. He really slowed down and moved way over to the outside and pointed me by. I knew I couldn’t pass under yellow, point-by or no. I looked at the next bunker and didn’t see any yellow, so I passed him. The next time around I was shown the black flag. When I explained it to my teammates, they joked that it might be a good strategy: point somebody by under yellow to try to get them off the track for a couple of laps.

My penalty was to be held at the penalty box until I won a game of rock-paper-scissors. I told him I’d serve a longer penalty than that, as our starter had failed and I needed my team to push me. They weren’t there (they thought I came in for fuel and were heading to the hot pit). I won the game on the second play, and the officials kindly push started me.


I leave the event with my giant ego intact. Eric blistered my best lap by 4 seconds, but he spun twice, once getting stuck in the mud. He thinks he may have been pushing too hard. I’m guessing had more “dry” laps than he did, giving me an advantage.

I enjoyed the challenge of jumping headfirst into driving an unfamiliar car in a race. Although this is the third time I’ve done it, I’m thinking it’s unlikely I’ll get another chance.

When Eric said he’d have a motor home there, I thought it’d be nice. Given the weather, it wasn’t nice: it was indispensable. I didn’t spend all that much time inside this time, but it gave us quite a bit more room out of the rain. Thinking about the next race, a true 24-hour race, where we’ll have to nap between stints, it will be a big advantage.

Because of the weather, tire wear was minimal and we never use the tires Don and I mounted on my wheels. I guess I won’t be buying any tires for those wheels until after our September race. Not a big constraint.

Ryan raced in this event as well. He was driving a Dodge Caravan minivan. At least when they had brakes. He spent at least one night at the track camping in a tent. Not ideal. John, another LOCO, often drives one of the BMWs that’s always there. His teammates tell me he was on a trip to Watkins Glen.

I would have liked to have driven more laps. It’s my own fault. I’d have had maybe another half an hour if I didn’t get my black flag. Given the number of hours we were working on the car, though, I got my fair share.

I had a great time in spite of the weather. I’m already looking forward to the next race. If our engineers get the high cam sorted and we keep the car on the track, we could fight for the podium. The new challenge will be driving in the dark.

I only had the camera in the car on Saturday. All my best laps and best passes were Sunday. So it goes.

Prelude to Lemons BFE 2023

What’s All This, Then?

I raced Lemons back in 2018 I’m doing it again this year, twice. First is the Lemons BFE, two days of racing adding up to fourteen and a half hours. In September we’ll run a true 24-hour race.

I’m driving for a team called DadBod CarMod. The car is a Toyota Yaris. I get to drive these two races because has my old engine and transmission. It’s my kind of gig: very little is expected of me. I’ll admit to feeling a bit of pressure, though. I’ve run maybe 1300 laps at HPR. I think I’m pretty fast, but the only way to know is to see how I do against other drivers in the same car, on the same day, in the same conditions. Naturally, with my experience comes expectations.

Lotus Yaris, a work still in progress 2 days before the race

Back in 2018, the team had five or six drivers. I was the only one with any experience, so it’s no surprise I was the best. In my ChumpCar race, two of the drivers had raced before, and the third had raced motorcycles and had just gotten some instruction in cars. None of us had driven on that track. I was second best by a small margin.

How will I stack up against the others this time?

Mounting Tires

The week before the race, Kevin asked if we could mount some race tires on my rims. Sure, we can do that.

On the LOCO trip a couple of weeks ago, I visited a few times with Don. During the course of one conversation, Don told me he has a shop in Broomfield with a lift and that I was welcome to use it if I wanted. Thinking I’m going to buy a set of tires later this year, I asked if he had a tire machine. He does and said I was free to use that, too.

Kevin dropped the new tires off at the house on Monday and Tuesday I was at Don’s shop. He didn’t tell me what sort of shop he has and I had no particular preconception. Nonetheless, I was a bit surprised to learn it’s a machine shop.

He gave me a quick tour. I met the geriatric French Bulldog at the door, and was shown a number of large, impressive CNC machines, then took me into the “measuring” room. It was quieter in there. A high shelf went around the room, holding examples of the shop’s work. Some items were quite small – a tiny titanium cylinder with holes and flanges – and one nearly as large as a basketball. Some are used in satellites, some at the CERN accelerator, and others in some sort of quantum mechanics application. I found it all fascinating. There may even be another LOCO connection: it’s possible one of the parts is used by some project that Greg works on.

As for mounting the tires, the deal was that Don would show me how to use the machine and I’d do the work. I was looking forward to it. In the end, Don did all the work. He bought the tire machine to do motorcycle tires, so it’s a bit different in how it grips the wheel than the machines I watched online. Most interesting was his little balancing machine. It’s not a spin balancer: it just uses gravity. The heavy side of the wheel naturally goes to the bottom.

I still expect to buy tires later in the year. When that happens, I’m looking forward to doing the work myself and only seeking him out if I have any questions.

I took the wheels over to Mike’s on Thursday and sat in the car for the first time. I didn’t get strapped in but did get in and out a couple of times. Ingress and egress are easier than on either of the other two race cars I’ve driven.

It looked like there was still a fair amount of work to be done, and the car has to pass inspection in less than 20 hours.


Before any car can compete, it has to pass a technical inspection. Before any driver can compete, they have to go through an inspection, too. At least, their helmet and clothing do.

Our time to take the car through tech was 1 pm. I got there just a few minutes before 1.

We got in line a bit after 1. While we were in line, the Lemons photographer/reporter quizzed us about the car. We told him it’s the first race for the car. It has big unicorn stickers on it. We gave him the story of the drivetrain. We’re calling it a Lotus Yaris. Kevin’s Elise wheels are on it, with the Lotus center caps. We had a baby seat strapped to the roof. Every Lemons car has a theme.

We had an issue with the roll cage. We failed, but they’ll let us participate if we address three welds, with reinspection at 7 tomorrow. They put us in the A group. We were expecting to be in B. When we were done with tech, we took the baby seat off the top. Being in the fastest group, we couldn’t afford the aerodynamic drag.

As to clothing, they are doing things a bit differently than the other races I’ve been in. Before now, you took your suit, shoes, gloves, and helmet and they looked at the labels to make sure all is up to spec. This time, drivers were to arrive fully dressed, helmet in hand. After checking the labels, we raised our arms and turned 360 so they could see everything.

I was failed for my helmet and gloves. The helmet was okay, but the HANS device connectors were installed incorrectly. I did this installation before my first race, a bit more than eight years ago. He asked me how long it had been that way. I told him, “One Chumpcar and one Lemons”. He showed it to the other inspectors. It was easily remedied. The gloves failed because the certification labels are gone. I probably should have replaced them a couple of years ago.

With the helmet fixed and a borrowed pair of gloves, I went back to complete the inspection. When I did my little rotation, he spotted that I have a tear on my suit, on my left shoulder. It’s been there for years, passing the previous Lemons inspection. Because I’m also wearing a layer of Nomex long johns, they passed me if I put tape on both the inside and outside of the suit over the tear. They said I could have a seamstress fix it for about fifty bucks, or do it myself with some Nomex thread.

The day was an open-lapping day, but I didn’t pay to drive. Eric took the car out for a few laps. He reported that the car understeers a fair amount, and he was having a misfire above about 6000rpm. I think Mike and Dan got it squared away before I left. We need to spend about 90% of the race above 6000rpm.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

LOCO Spring Driver 2023, Part II

Saturday, May 20

The “free” breakfast at this hotel was out of the ordinary: build your own breakfast burritos. Soft corn tortillas, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, and green chili. Unfortunately, the corn tortilla wasn’t up to the job: any attempt to pick it up to eat it resulted in catastrophic containment failure. It was far from the best breakfast burrito I’ve had, but compared to the “free” hotel breakfasts I’ve had on my last couple of trips, it was a step up.

Today’s plan for the group was to spend the morning at the Colorado National Monument. We’d have our picnic lunch at the visitor center, departing at 12:30.

I had to get my brake caliper bolt taken care of. I went to the place around the corner but it was deserted. I got the phone out and searched for another place. I went there, it was also closed. The next one was an address that turned out to be smack in the middle of a mobile home park. Fourth, fifth, and sixth places all closed. All of these shops were within a couple of miles of each other. Searching for another shop was a bit like doom scrolling: closed, closed, closed.

That left me with few choices. I could go to the local Walmart or a new car dealer. I elected to try the local Buick dealer. Yes, in retrospect, I would have saved myself some time by trying to call all those places, but I thought it would be easier just to show up rather than trying to describe my issue.

I did have to describe the issue to the Buick dealer and that resulted in being put on hold while the person who answered my call talked to a service writer. I didn’t bother telling them what kind of car I was driving, just that I need this thing done pronto and that I could do it myself in ten minutes if I had the tools. They said they could help me out, so off I went.

Luckily, they weren’t busy. Naturally, they were surprised to see a Lotus. Every new car dealer service department I’ve been to has a protocol they follow: log the VIN in their system, get my name and address and mileage of the car. A guy even wanted to plug a tool into the OBDII port, but the service writer told him not to bother. When they went to take it to the shop, I was asked if it was a manual transmission. These days, nobody knows how to drive stick, so it took them another minute to get someone who could work a manual transmission to move it.

I took a seat in their lounge and waited, wondering both how long it would take and how much they’d charge me. I was a bit surprised when, half an hour later, the service writer came to the lounge to give me my keys.

I asked him, “What’s the damage?”

“No charge.”

Wow. That was better than I could have expected.

Lacking the notes for the trip, I relied on my phone to navigate me to the Colorado National Monument. There are two entrances. The group’s plan was to enter through the southern one and exit through the northern one. Naturally, my phone directed me to the northern one. I didn’t realize this until I started seeing familiar cars going the other way.

I wanted to take a couple of very short hikes. One was right after the entrance I was supposed to use and the other about midway through the drive. Due to all my running around, I didn’t have time to go all the way to the other end, do the hikes, and make it to our picnic spot in the allotted time. So I just did the second, shorter hike. It’s all good: at least I got out of the car and walked about a mile.

This short hike starts near the Coke Ovens overlook. There’s a much longer trail here as well, but I just headed to a spot right next to the Coke Ovens rock formation. It’s about half a mile from the road to the end, and descends a bit less than two hundred feet. The other trail here is the Independence Monument trail. I encountered a German couple who were on their way up. “It is much farther than you’re going, and it’s quite hot!” There is an entire network of trails around here which might be more fun in April when it’s not so hot. (Not that today was hot, but the sun was shining brightly, and it looks like there is very little shade to be found.)

After my little hike, I went back to the visitor center to find the rest of the group for our picnic. I left the picnic a few minutes early. Everybody else had been able to gas up in the morning. I needed a pit stop. Rather than leave with the group only to be abandoned at a gas station, I left early. I record my fuel consumption every time I fill up. I made my notes and was a bit surprised that this last tank yielded me 36.6 miles per gallon. When I looked up from my phone, I saw a green Europa pass by and get on the highway. But I only saw the one car, and I think he joined us midway through the day yesterday, so I thought maybe he was heading off on his own.

I fired up the car and hit the highway. We had a few miles of interstate to deal with, so I got on the highway and established a leisurely pace, five or ten miles an hour under the limit. This was a calculated risk. If I had missed seeing 20 brightly colored cars passing the gas station, I’d be getting farther and farther behind. Without directions. If the Europa was on his own, the group would catch me and all would be good.

Before long, I saw a long line of brightly colored cars in my mirror. I was back in the pack!

After our stint on the interstate, we finally would be driving on roads I’d never traveled. I love new roads. This one goes over Grand Mesa and is called the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. Wikipedia tells me that Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.

Sometime after we left the interstate and started climbing the Mesa, I spotted Ross driving the other way. What the? How did he get ahead of us, and why was he going the other way? A few turns later, I found out why. It turns out the green Europa wasn’t off on his own, he was at the tail of a group of cars who left before Mike. They were all, except Ross, parked on the side of the road. Well, not exactly the side of the road. They were as far off the road as they could get, which wasn’t far. Everybody’s left tires were still on the road.

Chris W. had his 4-way flashers on and everybody was out of their cars. We learned that they came around a bend to find some large rocks on the road. One rock was described as the size of your head. Ross hit it, the next car managed to miss it, and Chris W. hit it. Ross couldn’t continue and took his car back to the last town while the gang set to work attempting to patch Chris’s tire. They tried a couple of plugs, but there was no way they could fix it.

Cindy lives not terribly far from here, and she has a full set of tires mounted and balanced, so she went home to get a tire so Chris could continue. The rest of us continued on our way.

Next to hitting a giant rock on the road, my brake caliper bolt and Jeff’s windshield wiper were minor inconveniences.

Before we stopped, the day had been downright toasty. This incident with the rock was at high elevation, though, and I was happy to put on my hoodie. I’d taken the top off the car before our picnic. Now we were at elevation and the clear skies were getting less clear. At 50mph with the top off, it was starting to get chilly. Then, of course, it started to rain. It wasn’t a hard rain, seldom enough to require more than the intermittent wiper setting. But I was getting wet, and that rain was cold!

At our next stop, in Hotchkiss, the three of us who had been running topless all decided it might be better to put the tops back on. It was a sound decision. Before long the rain was coming down hard. In places, it seemed like small rivers were crossing the road. I never hydroplaned, but it was wet and I was happy to be dry. Well, as dry as one can be in an Elise in the rain.

Checking into the hotel, I was standing next to Mike. He asked a question I never thought I’d hear from a Lotus driver: “Did you get enough curves?” Well, it wasn’t so much the question that was unexpected, as that after asking it, he said he did.

With our extended stop on the side of the road, we arrived at our hotel in Gunnison a bit later than expected. We got checked in and a few minutes later made our separate ways to the restaurant. Before our orders had arrived, Cindy, Chris, and their companions showed up at the restaurant, to much applause. We were all happy to see them.

Sunday, May 21

My hotel room was not the best one. I am right across the hall from the elevator. I thought that would be the worst part about it, but I am also directly above the lobby. The problem with that is, I could hear the front doors open and close whenever anybody came or went. I tried to use the fan on air conditioning unit to mask the noise, but the controls were slightly broken. Slightly, in that the temperature control knob just turned and turned but didn’t affect the output. And of the six or seven positions on the fan control knob, only “Cool High” and “Stop” were working. The fan did cover the noise of the doors downstairs, but after about twenty minutes, icicles were starting to form so I had to shut it off.

I woke up for a short while a bit after 2 am. You might think nobody would be going in and out through the lobby at that time of night, but you’d be wrong. I did manage to fall back asleep and just before I woke up, I had an odd little dream. In the dream, I was in my living room at home when a small bus crashed into the house. I asked the driver what happened and she pointed to a woman in the seat behind her. “She had a heart attack!” This is dream logic in effect. A passenger on the bus has a heart attack and causes an accident.

Over breakfast, I asked Ross how badly damaged his car is. He said the oil pan was okay and that he wasn’t losing any fluids. He thinks the exhaust was crushed, causing too much back pressure. The car ran, but only at an idle. He could drive downhill, but it was no good uphill or on the level. He managed to get it down to the safety of a parking lot at the Powderhorn ski area.

Today we were back on familiar roads. We’d head east from Gunnison and take CO 114 to Saguache. The plan for the group was to take US 285 to US 50 and ultimately picnic at the Royal Gorge. Before we left the hotel, I was undecided whether I’d stay with everybody else or head home from Salida. As the morning went on, I developed a slight headache. That was the deciding factor.

Here’s a short video made up of footage I shot over the three days. Oh, and cleaning out the car after I got home, I found my route notes. They managed to hide themselves under the passenger seat.

Here’s another video. I left this one in 360 mode, so you can pan and scroll and zoom. It’s a part of Glenwood Canyon between two of the tunnels. I’m old enough to have some memory of this canyon before it was interstate, when it was a two-lane road. The canyon is quite scenic and unlike any other canyon in the state.

Way back when, there was a movement to get the 1976 Winter Olympics to Colorado. As part of this, there was a ballot initiative asking voters if they wanted to put the interstate through the canyon. I may be misremembering, but it was defeated, and we couldn’t get the Olympic Games without the highway. Nonetheless, they started working on putting I-70 through the canyon in 1980. It was completed in 1992, and it’s a marvel of highway engineering and has been featured in at least one book published by National Geographic extolling the work. The project required 30 million pounds of structural steel, 30 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and 400,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 1.62 billion pounds.

It’s a fantastic stretch of road, but it’s not without problems. Quite often, there are rockslides that damage the road and cause closures. These have been more common recently, due to wildfires in the area. The living trees hold the soil together, and with the trees dead or gone, any severe rains tend to cause rockslides.

LOCO Spring Drive 2023, Part 1

Every year, the club does a couple of long weekend drives, typically one in the spring and one in the fall. Years ago, we used to call them the “Colorado Good”, a play on the name of the Colorado Grand, an annual classic car charity tour.

Friday, May 19

Our rally point this morning is the Love’s gas station on the north side of Buena Vista. I figured it would take two and a half hours to get there, and I added a few minutes in case I hit the tail end of morning rush hour traffic.

Colorado weather is notoriously changeable. A common remark is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Yes, I’ve heard people in other places say similar things, but Colorado is truly a “four seasons in one day” kind of place.

Today it is rainy. It’s an “upslope”, meaning it’s coming more from the east or northeast, and by going west, I would be able to get out of the rain and into the sunshine. I was thinking things would clear up at Kenosha pass, but that was optimistic. On the west side of Trout Creek pass, one usually sees a gorgeous view of Mt. Princeton and the other peaks in the Collegiate range. Today, though, the clouds hung low over the Arkansas valley and if you didn’t know there were mountains right in front of you, well, you wouldn’t know.

We met at our assembly point. On the way there from Colorado Springs, Jeff had his windshield wiper fly off his car. Will and Kat were behind him when it happened. When Will and Kat pulled into the gas station and got out of the car, they saw that Jeff’s wiper was sticking out of their front grille. What are the chances?

Our first stop was a photo opportunity at Twin Lakes. Again, normally you’d see some majestic peaks from here. The ceiling was lifting somewhat, but the tops of the mountains are still shrouded.

At Twin Lakes

From there, we went back to US 24 and headed north, over Tennessee pass.

Tennessee pass crosses the Continental Divide at an elevation of 10,424’. It climbs only 272 feet from Leadville and descends 1.826 vertical feet to Redstone. It was the first Continental Divide highway pass that was kept open all winter, starting in 1928.

Zebulon Pike came this way in 1806.

On November 24, he and three others set off from their camp near Pueblo to climb to the summit of Pike’s Peak. On the fourth day of their climb, they were in waist-deep snow but they reckoned they were still 15 or 16 miles away from the summit, still a mile above them. They turned back. They concluded the peak was the highest on the continent with an elevation of 18,541’ and that “no human being could have ascended to its pinnacle”.

After he failed to summit his peak, the expedition continued and he found himself in South Park. He crossed Trout Creek Pass and worked upstream along the Arkansas, which he had incorrectly identified as the Red. By his reckoning, the Arkansas stopped more than eighty miles to the south. To the north, he expected to find the Platte, and just past the Platte, the Yellowstone. Pike stopped near Mount Elbert, a bit short of Tennessee Pass. His men were tired and didn’t want to go any further. It was December, after all. No doubt, conditions were rough. He wasn’t lost but didn’t really know where he was.

Thirty-nine years later, John Frémont (who would later become the first Republican candidate for president) was the first to cross Tennessee pass. Ostensibly, his mission was to map the area around Bent’s Fort on the high plains of what is now southeastern Colorado. The credulous might believe he was lost, too. But his real goal was Monterey, California on behalf of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, with a view to national expansion. California was still Mexico until it was the spoils of war the following year.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at an I-70 rest stop. I had printed our six pages of directions for the trip, including our hotel and restaurant information and Mike’s nice route description. I had the cameras in the passenger seat of the car, so I tossed the notes on top of them to sort of hide things from casual snooping.

After lunch, we headed west on I-70. Most of the gang got off the super slab to follow Cindy on a tour of some back roads. Normally, I’d be down for that but I kept on the interstate. Once I was on my own, I thought it would be a good idea to find out just where I’m headed. Somehow, I was now missing the notes. How the heck did that happen? (Odder, the notes are clearly visible in a video taken while driving on I-70. So I didn’t leave them at the rest stop.)

I wasn’t the only one who didn’t follow Cindy. Will and Kat passed me before long. They’d have stayed behind me, but I waved them by. It would have been embarrassing to miss the exit for the hotel. Just after they passed, the car acted funny for a few seconds. At first, I had a moment of panic: did I just blow a fuse? But that wasn’t the case, and all was well again very quickly. I later figured out what happened.

When we got off the highway, I ended up following Will and Kat through a fast food drive-through. They didn’t stop either but went to a different restaurant. I decided to quit stalking them and struck off for the hotel on my own. I only made one wrong turn.

I later had a chat with Cindy, who led the non-interstate tour. None of her route was in the notes, and things got complicated when she experienced a little mechanical trouble. She doesn’t know what happened, but she momentarily had neither brakes nor clutch. The clutch pedal went straight to the floor. Both systems use the same reservoir, so it’s not surprising an issue with one might cause an issue with the other. She had the rest of the gang go ahead without her. A few minutes later, both clutch and brakes were back to normal. She’s local to that area, so she managed to take a different route and rejoin the others by getting ahead of them.

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called Enzo’s. I could ask Mike, who did his usual stellar job of planning and leading the group, if he chose the restaurant because of the name. If that was the case, he might deserve some grief: Enzo is Ferrari, not Lotus.

Getting off the highway, it felt like I was applying the brakes. I realized now that this is what happened when Will and Kat passed me earlier. This same thing happened on the way home from Atlanta. One of the bolts holding my right rear brake caliper in place had worked itself out. It didn’t come out completely as the parking brake cable is in the way, but it was out far enough for the caliper to occasionally be cockeyed on the disk. This happened years ago on the left side. That time, the bolt came completely out. I’m surprised this one happened again, but the caliper has other issues and I’ll be replacing it in the coming days.

In any event, the fix is an easy one. All I need to do is jack the car up, dismount the right rear wheel, get the caliper into place, and tighten the bolt. The only problem with this plan is I lack a jack and any way to remove the wheel. I got online and looked for any auto shops that would be open on a Saturday morning and found one right around the corner from the hotel. They open at 8, so I should be back on the road fairly quickly.

Emich, Spring 2023

I paid for this event in December, long before I started planning the Atlanta/Barber trip. This was originally scheduled for the 16th, which meant I’d miss this as I’d be lapping at Barber that day. Then, not long before my big trip, I received notice that it had been delayed for a week. This doesn’t make up for missing Barber, but I’ll take it as a consolation prize.

Michael and I checked over the car. I’m good to go for the day, then we’ll do some maintenance.

April 23

The weather was nearly ideal. A bit chilly early, but ultimately was about 60 and sunny with a slight breeze. Great weather for lapping.

There were more Corvettes than usual, probably a few more Camaros than usual, and only a few Porsches. Throw in the usual Miatas, Subarus, and VWs you have your field. There was a McLaren 570s. And we three Lotus: Ryan, Eric, and myself.

There was one more noteworthy car: the Autozam AZ-1. He drew a crowd. He ran the afternoon session. Well, part of the afternoon: he got a few laps then started overheating.

Ryan is chasing a two-minute lap. I’m thinking a 2:16 would be the best I could expect.

Dennis came out for a ride. I failed to go through my usual spiel about how we’d need to use hand signals, and how to show me that he wants to stop. After a few laps, I gave him a thumbs up and he nodded, so I kept going. At Road Atlanta, Dan lasted six timed laps. Here, Dennis made it five. I gave Mike, the owner of the AZ-1, a ride. We don’t know if he was made of sterner stuff, as we got the checkered flag after four.

Road Atlanta was my first track day with the new GoPro 360 camera, but because I was able to run only a few laps I don’t have much of an idea what to do with it yet. So I threw together a little highlight reel to get some experience with the tools. It was all much more time-consuming than I would have guessed, but so it goes.

Some highlights and a moment of brain fade

The Atlanta Saga – Rear View Mirror

I’ve been back home for a week now, and have had time to reflect on my experience.

First, I have to thank Jayne and Dan. I would not have seriously considered this trip without their kind offer to put me up (and put up with me) while I was in Atlanta. They are two of the finest people I have the privilege to know. Their hospitality was much appreciated and their moral support kept me on an even keel while all my plans crumbled around me.

Thanks also to all the random people who helped me and who tried to help me. I’ve known for quite a while that one of the important aspects of my track days is the sense of community. We all get together to share a common passion, and we come to each other’s aid when possible. Although nobody was able to direct me to someone who could fix my car and salvage the rest of the trip, it wasn’t for lack of effort. I don’t necessarily expect this level of support from random strangers, but I sure got it from Reuben when I was stranded out of sight on the side of a Tennessee highway.

Last but not least, thanks to Ryan who went out of his way to squeeze me into his already heavy work schedule. He was confident that it would be a relatively easy fix and went the extra mile to see that I was back on the road (and the track) quickly. He was correct: it was an easy fix; a wire was chafed, causing a short.

I think the Toyota dealer in Atlanta would have been able to find and fix the issue if I had been able to provide them with a wiring diagram. Generals are always getting prepared for the last war. In that vein, I’m going to get a thumb drive I can add to my keychain and put the service manual, wiring diagram, and parts manual on it.

Ryan got me running again, and now Michael and I need to do some maintenance to make sure I can stop: it’s time for brake pads all the way around and disks in the rear, as well as replacing a failing brake caliper on the right rear. And I’ll take it to a windshield repair shop to see if they can fix my nasty rock chip. She won’t be “as good as new” – she’ll join the 100,000-mile club in a few weeks – but she’ll be ready for the next adventure.

Finally, some stats. The trip totaled 3,254 total miles, only 71 of which were on the track.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 8

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The case this weekend was the opposite, but the same. I took the one more traveled by road, and that made all the difference. Gawd how I hate the interstates.

April 15

I had about an hour of nice back roads for the start of the drive, but after that, it was one interstate after another: I-75, I-24, I-57, I-64, and finally I-70. And there was a detour for construction on I-24, so I also collected I-440.

I-75 is three lanes all the way to Tennessee. I had the aforesaid detour in addition to a couple of dozen active projects. Not active today, they don’t work on Saturdays, but they all have lane diversions and concrete barriers.

Toward the end of the day, the road surface was pretty good in Missouri. I spent most of the day trying to minimize the number of patches I drove over. The occupants of the giant land yachts passing me surely were in the comfort of their living rooms, but with my low-profile tires, stiff springs, and wafer-thin upholstery, I’m certainly more sensitive to bad roads than most travelers. I’m not saying the back roads are all well-paved, but it’s clear that the heavy truck traffic on the interstates takes a toll on the road surfaces.

Another difference between the interstates and the back roads is the detritus. In a mile or two of interstates, I see more tire carcasses than all day on the back roads. I saw half a dozen torn-off car fascias. There are at least ten times as many dead animals on the interstate. The vast majority on the back roads are raccoons or smaller. Along the super slab, there’s no shortage of road-kill venison.

That section of I-70 in western Missouri I mentioned above didn’t only feature a nice driving surface, it also was laser-straight for what seemed like an hour. The bone-jarring patches and holes were gone, only to be replaced by mind-numbing monotony.

Every now and then a nice Mustang or Challenger comes up next to me. This is almost always on 3-lane sections, where there’s a fair amount of traffic. They’ll get their door next to my nose, then back off so my door is at theirs. Then they’ll put the pedal down, making a big display of noise. I have no idea what they’re expecting me to do. We’re invariably in traffic. I’m guessing they want me to know what I already know: because they have two or three times the horsepower, they’re faster in a straight line. I find straight-line speed uninteresting.

I spotted two cars worth mentioning. One was a right-hand drive Jeep with no doors. I had to look twice when he passed me and even then I had to make sure when I passed him back a few minutes later. The other one was either a Skyline R32 or R33. I don’t really know the difference. I was surprised the car was left-hand drive. When I first spotted him, he was catching me at a good clip, and when finally saw me he maneuvered to pass me on the right (we were still in Georgia). He passed me with a GoPro in his hand. I gave him a peace sign.

When I’m passing trucks, I don’t stay next to them for very long. Before I get my nose in there, I see what’s in front of them. If they’re catching somebody, I don’t want them squishing me by changing lanes. I want some open space ahead of me in my lane so I can throw a little throttle in there and get around them with dispatch. When I’m in a long line in the left lane, which happens all too often, sometimes it irritates an impatient fellow behind me while I’m creating that gap. I refuse to drive side-by-side with a tractor-trailer rig.

By noon I decided to skip the Eisenhower Museum tomorrow and take US 36 back.

I didn’t blow any fuses today. First, there was no reason for it to happen, as I had already canceled my track day and I’m headed home. I don’t doubt that had I gone to Barber, I’d have had problems. The other reason none blew is that I bought that box of spares yesterday. The angry godz have had their fun with me.

I got to the hotel at 6:20 or so. I had plenty of daylight left. I didn’t make a reservation for tonight. Plan A was in Concordia, Plan B thirty miles farther; I’d stop at Concordia and see if the further one had a room. As it happened, they were full up, so Plan A it was.

When I showed up at Jayne and Dan’s, Dan remarked that I didn’t look like I’d been driving all day. No doubt about it today: I’m beat. Four hours later, I felt like I was still vibrating. I was on the road for ten and a half or eleven hours, with all but the first hour keeping the tach pinned at 4k or a bit under, depending on the speed limit. The interstate really gets me buzzed, you might say. Good Vibrations.

April 16

I woke up at about 5 am and lay there a few minutes before deciding to hit the road early.

Google Maps suggests two routes: I-70 and US 36. This is a no-brainer. There’s no way I’m going to subject myself to another full day of the super slab. The route starts on the interstate: I-70 to Kansas City, then I-29 north (my 7th interstate of the weekend) until it reaches US 36. At least four times, I got the message that there’s a quicker route I should take. Silly me. If you present me with two choices and I take one, why ask repeatedly if I would rather go the other way? Is my phone doing my bidding, or the other way around?

I stopped for breakfast at the first convenient restaurant on US 36. I was expecting a warm day, so I wore shorts. At 8 o’clock this seemed like a bad choice. It was quite cold, and the wind was fierce. I might have changed clothes if my jeans were readily accessible.

I quickly settled into the rhythm of the drive. Motoring at a reasonable 65 or 70, slowing down when the highway became the main street of the various farming and ranching towns of Kansas, then getting back up to speed on the other side. The open road was nearly empty. There are at least a hundred times more cars on the interstate. I kept within 5 mph of the speed limit, was passed by faster traffic only three times, and passed not many more cars who were slower.

I was home by 4:15 and felt like a normal, non-vibrating human. Not stressed out, not fatigued.

Again, I didn’t blow a fuse. I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had I tried to do the Barber track days. I surely didn’t want to blow a fuse again at the start of a lap. I know I made the correct choice in cutting the trip short (missing not only the Barber days and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, but planned visits to Andersonville National Historic Site, Shiloh National Military Park, and the Clinton Museum and Library).

I’ve already decided I’m going to go to Barber next year. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 7

April 12

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve had a long list of people who have been giving me suggestions as to how to solve the issue. In addition to all my running around yesterday, a Denver friend posted my dilemma on LotusTalk seeking answers. I appreciate that so many people have tried to help. It’s tough, though, given my ignorance, ineptitude, and lack of tools. This morning I followed a few of their suggestions but still no joy.

The original plan for this trip had me making some side trips for sightseeing, but my time has been consumed and I’m not really willing to rely on the car for unnecessary excursions. I was going to check out Andersonville (a notorious Civil War POW camp) and the Jimmy Carter presidential library while in Atlanta, but I’ve sidelined these. So it goes.

After lunch, Jayne suggested we take a short hike. I thought it a great idea, so we piled into her Jeep and she drove us to Sawnee Mountain where we hiked up to Indian Seats, an overlook that provides views of the distant rolling ridgeline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. AtlantaTrails.com describes the view as “breathtaking”. It’s a nice view but I’m not sure it reaches breathtaking status.

The “breathtaking” view of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains.

After the short but welcome hike, Jayne and Dan treated me to a nice dinner at the local brew pub. I had the Go Bleu! burger with a pint of Cherry Limeade, a sour Berliner Weisse. Good stuff.

April 13

I asked Jayne what she had going on today and when she said “nothing”, I suggested we go visit the Jimmy Carter Museum and Library. She was up for it, so off we went. It was rainy and a bit dreary, but that’s not a bad sort of day to wander through a museum. At least I get to hit one of my Atlanta targets.

This is the third presidential museum I’ve visited. This one was a different experience for me for a few reasons. Both Hoover and Truman were before my time, and I’ve read whole-life biographies of both of them. I haven’t gotten to read a Carter bio yet, but even if I wasn’t quite an adult when he was elected, I remember most of the events that are chronicled by the exhibits while I don’t have much of an idea about Carter’s life before the presidency.

The Hoover Museum lacks a reproduction of the oval office. Both Truman and Carter do have that room in their museums and I was a bit surprised at how different they are. Aside from the shape of the room and the fireplace, there was nothing that was the same.

The grounds of the museum and library are beautiful. It may have been a nice sort of day to wander a museum, but I’d have liked to have taken a walk outside. Oh, and that’s one more difference between this museum and the other two: Carter is still alive as I write this and so he isn’t buried here (and I don’t know whether he will be buried here in the end or not).

Tonight I had dinner with a few local Lotus folks. I had the pleasure of meeting Doug, Mick, and Bob. I had no idea when I suggested getting together for dinner that I’d be visiting with a couple of Lotus Ltd bigwigs! We shared a number of war stories. There was also a bit of discussion of this year’s LOG in Knoxville. It sounded almost as if Doug was trying to talk me into making another trip this way in September.

I had the filet mignon with a loaded baked potato, a side salad, and a large Sam Adams beer. The rest of the trip will be more Subway and Wendy’s than brew pubs and steakhouses.

I reached out to the folks at Chin Track Days to cancel my entry at Barber and also canceled my reservation at the motel near the track. After checking out the weather report for the next few days, I’ve decided to leave here Saturday morning for a two-day Rule #1 violation and skedaddle on home.

Not knowing what’s causing the fuse to blow, I’m a bit concerned that I might possibly be doing some damage to the motor. My other obvious choices are to leave the car here at the Lotus dealer for them to fix (necessitating a round-trip flight), have the car shipped home, or rent a U-Haul to tow it home. I made a half-hearted search for someone to ship it but didn’t find anybody that went from here to there. I’m not at all enamored with the U-Haul option, and, frankly, I’d rather have the work done by someone who has worked on my car before and who is local to me.

Tomorrow I should stop by an auto parts store and get some more spare fuses.

April 14

Today was pretty much a “zero” day. I went nowhere, did nothing. Well, I did make it to the auto parts store for spare fuses. I did a little planning for the trip home: where to spend the night, whether to try to shoehorn in a visit to the Eisenhower Museum or not. Oh, and Jayne and Dan and I went out to eat at a Mexican place. I had some enchiladas and a beer at the CT Cantina & Taqueria. The enchiladas were quite tasty.

Working on the assumption that I would, indeed, make it home sometime on Sunday, I made an appointment to get the car fixed. My man Ryan says he’s “excited to look at it and hopefully, it will be a quick turnaround!” I love his confidence! I gather that he’s booked up until June and he’s doing me a big solid by squeezing me in. He says he’s going to work evenings. I have no idea what I’ve done to deserve the special treatment, but it’s much appreciated.

The Atlanta Saga – Part 6

April 11

I need to find a way to get the car fixed. I’m not going to get out on the track at Barber unless I get it fixed. Without a fix, the rest of the trip is done. No Andersonville, no Shiloh. No Carter Museum or Clinton Museum. Can I even drive the car home like this?

Lotus of Atlanta

First thing in the morning I got online and looked up Lotus of Atlanta. They open at 8, so I waited until about 5 after and gave them a call. I got the message that their voicemail box was full and I couldn’t leave a message. Perhaps they’re busy and couldn’t pick up the phone. I waited a while and tried again. Same result. I did a Google search and found a different phone number, where only the last digit was different. I called that number and got through. How long have they had the wrong number on their website, and what does it say about their general competence? Just wondering.

I talked to a service writer and explained my dilemma: I’m 1300 miles from home with a car that keeps blowing a fuse. Is there any way you can take care of me? The short answer was “Tough shit”. To be fair, he explained that their tech was going on vacation starting Thursday (or perhaps it was “after Thursday”) and he already had a line of cars to work on. There’s just no way they can get me in.

So I asked if he could suggest a Plan B. “Well, you could drop the car off and leave it here until Thursday and maybe we could get it done.” As I said, I’m 1300 miles from home, and being here without a car is not a good option. Can he suggest another shop that might be able to help? “No, I don’t know of anybody anywhere near here that can work on your car.” I get that it would be bad business for him to recommend a competitor under normal circumstances when the customer can just wait a while. But I’m not in normal circumstances. Their lack of compassion was striking. Not even a platitude.

The Odyssey

It’s a Toyota engine, so I headed to the nearest Toyota dealer. I drew a big crowd when I pulled into line. This dealer is quite busy. The advisor I talked to said they average more than 250 cars a day in their service department. He told me it was a slow day and they could get right to me.

Only one or two of their advisors knew the Elise had a Toyota motor.

I explained what was going on and they said they’d take a look at it, with the usual diagnostic charge that would be waived if I did whatever work they recommended. To take it from the service desk to the shop, a young gal got behind the wheel. One of the advisors asked if she knew how to drive a stick. She said she did. She stalled it three times before she got it going. After the third try, I hollered out, “No pressure! Nobody is watching!” Of course, everyone was watching. When she did manage to go without stalling, she went like a rocket.

A couple of hours later, they came to give me the bad news. They had no idea what the issue was. The harness isn’t Toyota, the ECM isn’t Toyota, and they can’t do much without a wiring diagram, and anything they suggest would just be a guess. They did provide a guess, though: the oil control valves. There are two, each goes for about $200 and the labor would put me in the thousand-dollar range. That’s pretty ballsy. “We just admitted we don’t know anything about your problem, but we’re willing to charge you a grand on something anyway!”

One of the advisors asked the other if he remembered the name of some British guy that worked on Lotus and used to come in for parts. He might be able to help. They never did come up with his name, but one said I should go to Robinson Racing, which is not far away. The guy there, Barry, would know the British guy. So off I went.

The address he gave me turned out to be a building housing a Jeep shop. I would say “bustling” Jeep shop but even though there were a couple of dozen Jeeps there, the place seemed deserted. I went in anyway. I spotted the race car that the Toyota advisor showed me on his phone, so I figured I was in the right spot. I called out “Hello” and Barry came out from behind a car and greeted me. Yes, this was Robinson Racing, but he sold the building a while back and he’s down to being a one-man shop, mostly doing fabrication. He couldn’t help me, he had no clue about any British guy and suggested I go to the building next door and talk to the vintage Porsche guys. So off I went.

They have a big semi out front with the name Vintage Racing Company. I “Hello”ed again and this time was greeted by a chap formerly from South Africa. He was busy with something but was quickly on the phone with someone who I assume was his boss. He put him on speaker and I answered some questions: What kind of car? What year? and a couple more. He didn’t know anybody but told the South African to have Matt call around for me. We went inside and found Matt. I let him make his calls while I ogled all the old and not-so-old Porsche race cars.

A few minutes later, he told me he tried to get hold of two guys. One was on an airplane and the other was in a business meeting. He said I should wait a while for one of them to call back.

Next, I met a guy who was just visiting the shop. He used to work there and the other guys kept giving him grief for one thing or another. He was curious about my problem. I showed him the list of fault codes and he poked around here and there and looked up the codes he didn’t already know. His suspicion is that it’s a bad solenoid.

Matt came back outside with a Google maps printout. He said I should reach out to Hyper Sport Engineering-Lotus and talk to a guy named Kirt. I had him spell that. It’s the same Kirt I talked to at the track. He wasn’t much help at the track, but he was busy with his own work. What harm is there in reaching out to him again? Perhaps in his shop he could work some magic. I dialed the number. “We’re sorry. The number you dialed is no longer in service.” I found another number after a little googling, but that number turned out to be the firehouse for engine number 10. Sorry, wrong number.

Further searches led me to believe Hyper Sport Engineering-Lotus is no more. When I first talked to him, he did say he used to build Exige race cars. Past tense.

I also reached out to Ryan at Blue Chip to see if he knew anybody in this neighborhood. He asked a bunch of questions. He had a list of possibilities. An oil control solenoid could be drawing too much amperage. Later he said he had a hunch that there is a chafed wire somewhere or an issue with the alternator. He, too, reached out to Dave Simkins. I bet Dave is getting tired of people telling him about my car. (His suggestion: visit the local Lotus dealer.)

Michael’s first suggestion when the first one blew was that there is a wire shorting out. I’m generally clueless about these things, but it seems to me a short would fit with the fact that it doesn’t matter whether I’m on the second cam or not and that it has failed upon startup and also when cruising. In any event, it doesn’t look like I’m going to find an answer in time to salvage the rest of the trip.

I went back to Jayne and Dan’s and did a load of laundry. For dinner, I met a colleague I’ve worked with over the last year and a half. We ate at a place called Butcher & Brew. I had the roasted beef birria sandwich and a couple of pints of lime gose. Very tasty.

I probably spent two hours driving from place to place on today’s odyssey and with the hour’s drive after the track, it’s been about three hours of operation since the last fuse went. Nobody is going to be able to troubleshoot it without the wiring diagram. The car isn’t going to get fixed.

What are my options?

The Atlanta Saga – Part 5

April 10

Today is my day at Road Atlanta. How will this go?

I’m well past the last day refunds would be available, so even if I don’t get any track time, I may as well go. I should be able to run a few laps at least. But the fuse is one that controls the VVTI business. Would the fuse blow as soon as I hit the second cam? If that happens, I may as well park it. We shall see.

The organizers, Chin Track Days, wanted drivers to get signed in before 7:30 and to have the cars through tech inspection before the 7:40 drivers’ meeting. I planned to arrive at 7. The track has a gas station, so I didn’t fuel up on my way. This was a minor mistake. Premium unleaded is about four bucks a gallon in these parts, but at the track, it was six. I could have saved about twenty bucks. So it goes.

I got checked in and took the car through the tech line. They don’t actually inspect the car. All the tech line is for is to submit the paperwork and have a sticker applied to the windshield. It’s pretty quick. I found a place in the already full paddock, unloaded my stuff, and introduced myself to my neighbors, relating to them a short version of my fuse woes.

After the drivers’ meeting and a quick second meeting (broken down by run group), the first session on track was a yellow flag orientation session. No passing, and not at full speed, it allows folks like me who haven’t been there to get a sense of the place. Drivers in all groups were allowed. Even though it was standing yellow flags all the way around and no passing, people were moving at a pretty good clip. Still, I wasn’t exactly sure what gear to use for each corner or where my braking zones were. But it was a useful session. Until, eight laps in, the fuse blew again.

Luckily, it blew near the end of the lap, and I could easily and safely limp back to the pits and paddock. I pondered what sort of fun it would be if it were to blow just as I was getting on the track. I swapped in another fuse and went in search of anybody who might be able to help me. I was the only Lotus, so I figured my hopes were slim.

First, I met Angel. He has a trailer and tools and even a couple of cars for rent (not cheap; I didn’t even ask). Unfortunately, he didn’t have a multi-meter and wasn’t confident he could be of any help. He did say he’d likely charge me $50. The first thing he did was take the cover off the fuse box, which he promptly fumbled down into the engine bay. He managed to get it out after 20 minutes of struggle and when he was done he told me he wouldn’t charge me the fifty to retrieve it. I pocketed it to make sure it didn’t get lost. Naturally, I realized a couple of hours later that I had lost it. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.

Angel then directed me to another fellow, Kirt, who told me he used to build Exige race cars. He loaned me his multi-meter and gave me a list of things for Angel to check. This proved fruitless. I talked to Kirt again and he said he’d reach out to Dave Simkins, the chief Lotus tech in North America. Dave is in California, so we were dealing with a 3-hour time difference.

Not yet ready to risk another fuse, I skipped my first couple of sessions and wandered the paddock chatting with people. I met another gentleman who told me he used to work for Lotus of Atlanta. I said I’d likely see if they could fix it; he said I shouldn’t go there. He tracked me down later in the day to tell me that he, too, had reached out to Dave Simkins.

By the end of the day, even people I hadn’t talked to knew that I was having issues. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one. One Corvette was up on jacks all morning and half a dozen guys were taking the turbo apart on a Porsche. Just before they packed up and left, I recognized that one of them was Randy Pobst.

I had met Randy a few times at the RMVR Race Against Kids Cancer events over the years. He’s a really personable guy, always pleasant. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, he meets people all the time, but he might remember my car. I approached him.

“Rocket Randy Pobst! How are you?”

I told him we’d met a few times at the RAKC events. We chatted for a few minutes. I gave him my usual line: “I’m the idiot who drives his Elise cross country for track events.” He responded with “You’re my hero!” and gave me a fist bump. Then he left with the guys working on the Porsche. They went to his place to see if they could get it cured.

I decided to run in my next session. After three laps, I saw a black flag. Each corner station was presenting the black flag, so I knew it wasn’t personal. Then I saw the Mustang parked on the track. These guys don’t fetch stricken cars without stopping the session. After a few minutes idling on pit lane, they green-flagged us and we went out again. I got another 4 laps in.

Shortly after that, Jayne and Dan showed up. We got Dan his passenger wristband (sign the waiver, pay $20) and I gave him a ride. I know that being a passenger isn’t the same as driving. I’m not a great passenger. Once, after a few laps as a rider, I started feeling queasy and was happy to get back to the paddock. So I understood fully when he gave me the signal that he’d had enough.

Dan then suggested that Jayne get a wristband for a ride. Unfortunately, just out of the pits, the fuse blew again. Right at the start of the lap, the worst possible time. I had to limp the 2.5 miles back to the pits. There weren’t very many cars left this late in the day, so it could have been a lot hairier. Still, crawling along the back straight with 4-way blinkers on, seeing the Porsches blast by with about a hundred-mile-an-hour speed differential was unsettling, to say the least. But I could see the corner stations flying a white flag (slow-moving vehicle on track) as I went by.

So that was the end of my day at the track.

A Lap

Here’s the obligatory video of a lap of the track. This is my first track day using the new 360 camera. By the time I put the data and rearview on, I’ve taken away the ability of the user to move the camera’s view and all that’s left is the “horizon lock” and picture stability. Maybe next time, I’ll take more advantage of the capabilities of the camera.