What’s All This, Then?
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.
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?
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.