24HL, Thunderhill '08

Things of course melted down into a frenzy of activity during which there was no longer time to photograph or blog anything. But here area few observations and ideas regarding the 24 Hours Of Lemons 12-08 Thunderhill event:

Getting to the race early is great. The Snowspeeder was well prepped, giving us time to relax, meet other teams, take photos, check out cars, run some test laps, etc. Don't underestimate how much this improves the entire experience of a 24HL.

If the track has good facilities, camp. This is economical and looks fun. So far I'm finding track town motels cost about 200% what similar accommodations in similar hick-towns. If you book early you can take the edge off. Teams were grilling, drinking, hanging out, playing Gran Turismo... I think it would have been a blast to camp at the track. 

We had great pit neighbors. Free Range Racing, another MR2 team on one side, and Eyesore, 24HL veterans known for great cars, competition, and themes, were on our other side. Being able to rub elbows, swap tools, and share snacks with both of these teams raised the experience another bar. 

There were 5 first gen MR2s in this race: 
  • 12th place, Lil' Smokey and the Bandit, 77.
  • 16th place, Nerd Herd, 08 (with a spiff 20 valve JDM 4age motor).
  • 17th place, us in the Snowspeeder, 03.
  • 19th place, Pole Position, 3.
  • 70th, place, our pals with Free Range, 80.
People are figuring out what great cars these are. Funnest on the track I'm sure.

Our race went well, but black flags were our weak spot. We only had one mechanical issue, a minor cooling problem that was resolved during a penalty. The only thing that kept us from a top-10 finish was our 4 black flags. Randal and Joe were both very clean this race but each managed to attract one flag. I had 2 flags with a little contact jockeying for position day 1 and I spun right off the track on day 2 after a tire chnage. We pulled a great fuel/driver change under a course-wide stop and we were able to keep the car rolling nearly constantly for most of day 2. Our fueling system is very effective. The car was fast and reliable. We didn't have any major repairs. Everything was pretty much dialed. I expect Joe and Randal will be a top 5 car at Reno in May.

Chart of our position by number of laps. The gaps were black flag penalties. Brown was Randal, red was me then Randal but couldn't tell when the driver change took place, green is Joe, and purple is me.

As always, the race was extremely entertaining to spectate. I witnessed a car veer of course then come back across the front straight on 2 wheels and hit the wall, the Faster Farms Chicken car flip completely over coming to rest back on all fours, a 944 Porsche over-cook a chicane spin off course at about 90 MPH, I missed the flames but saw the driver scramble out of a smoking VW Scirocco that had caught fire, and countless other exciting events.

We had 2 entertaining penalties from black flags. Randal got the "Bob Ross penalty". He got to wear an Afro wig and paint a landscape on the hood of the car. After spinning off course I earned a three-legged hike the entire length of the paddock and back with another deviant driver, made worse with the fact I was past due to urinate. 

There was an incredibly cheap dyno service at the track and Joe got the Snowspeeder in just before close for one pull. After all the work on the engine we had high expectations, but the results were a only 93 horses. Randal tweaked the valves a bit more and we ran without really know the final effects, but what it comes down to is that the car has more than enough power to go spinning off the track if you're not careful.

The Thunderhill course is a blast. After only two previous races on the Altamont (RIP) bumper-car ring, T-Hill's vast stretches of wide, fast, curves, plus the stomach-lift as you dip out of turn 5 were fairly daunting. Test day and the first part of my first leg of driving I was pretty conservative. After about ten laps under a yellow flag though, I finally loosened up and let the MR2 do it's thing. The whole first half of the track is very MR2 friendly. It sticks to the big smooth sweepers and could usually inch past heavier cars there, and on the tight elevated turn 5 we could usually just go in hot and out brake everyone on which ever side they weren't. I had a grin-cramps when I turned the car back over to Randal.

This is the first time I wasn't too tired and busy at 24HL to goof off a bit Saturday PM. We had a few beers while we cleaned up, then bumped into the Eyesore team at pizza.

My leg is sore. Joe's brakes could use a tune and I guess I was really romping down hard on the pedal. My lower right leg is very sore and painful when I put pressure on my right big toe.

This was my favorite race so far. Great people, track, and event!

Here are my photos of the trip and event.

Here is the race summary on Jalopnik.