Monday, April 29, 2013

4/20/2013 - 24 hours of Lemons @ Gingerman Day 1 (Part 1)

A very cold, overcast and early morning found us in search of the Tech people as we needed to get both our individual gear and the car teched for the race.  This was done relatively simply and we continued to prep the car - swapped tires, set pressures, checked oil, installed the radio, cameras, etc.  As with any raceday this went down to the wire and our 1st driver (Eric) just barely made it to grid and on track for the start of the 2-day 14.5 hour endurance race.

The start of the race - with 66 cars - was fairly well organized and due to an unlucky starting flag we were pretty deep in the pack.  We started clicking off the laps over the next several hours, working with the fast and slow lap traffic and keeping an eye out for the yellows.  The car was running well, so our battery install the night before seems to have been the only issue; whew!  We stabilized around 16th for awhile after a long double-yellow that included a few cars getting towed in (hey; these $500 cars break!).  There's also many that spin or fly widely off-track through awesome bits of standing water (see pic)!

 About 2 hours in most of the teams that had not stopped for fuel were doing it now.  We were slowly cycling to the front and briefly held on lap 74 before we had to come in to fuel.  While nowhere near the top 3-4 cars times, our laptimes were improving as the fuel load burned down and the track emptied out a bit.  Stint #2 would be mine!

We fueled up the car and I got behind the wheel and strapped in.  Having never driven the car before, and never having driven with the Lemons organization, I wasn't 100% sure what to expect but I did get a few words of advice from the rest of the team including 'drive it like hell'.  I headed out with the main plan to NOT get into trouble, meaning no body-contact as an extended loss of laps is just not worth a position or 2 you might gain.

After Eric's solid stint, I believe I took over the car in 2nd place.  I started immediately in some heavy traffic and was pretty pleased with the level of experience everyone was showing on track with regards to traffic management and just overall skillsets.  Knowing my stint would be about double the longest I'd ever driven, I radioed in for a check on my pace then settled in and started clicking off laps.  Not having a very fast car on the straights, we had to make up our time in the turns, under braking and with good traffic management skills.  I learned to work with traffic and sometimes you follow the car and not the 'line' to get through quicker when there's a logjam of 3-10 cars altogether.  Below are some highlights from my first hour on Saturday....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman Setup (Friday)

After delaying our trip 1 day due to Truck problems (need a truck to pull the racecar/trailer), I got the word at 7:30am Friday that the truck would be fixed!  I left for the track around 9am Friday morning with the hopes the racecar would make it there in enough time to get in a few hours of testing.  My eta was 1:30-2pm with no traffic after adding in the time change.  The racecar was only 2 hrs distance from the track and now that the truck was fixed it should be leaving soon.

Once into Michigan around 12noon I called for an update.  I unfortunately found out the racecar wasn't loaded and moving quite yet.  Although the truck was fixed, the insane amounts of rain including nearly 7" on Wed/Thurs alone was causing some major issues getting the trailer out of the storage lot.  Think 8000lbs loaded and wet grass + mud.  This update confirmed we would miss the testday.  It also created a new problem; we needed to be teched by 5pm that evening. 
After a pitstop at a Winery/Brewery/Distillery to 'cool my jets', I pulled in to Gingerman around 3:30pm.  I staked out a spot and talked to the judges about our timeframe to make them aware.  Around 5:45pm the racecar made it to Gingerman, but tech was closed.  We would be forced to tech early Saturday and hope the judges would not be too pissed!  We also needed to diagnose an issue with the racecar; namely I was told it wouldn't run.

After borrowing a voltage meter we confirmed the battery was most likely the issue and not the alternator or worse.  Around 7-8pm (while it was snowing/sleeting lightly) we sent a teammate out for parts while we setup the generator to gets lights inside the trailer and then pulled the old battery while hiding from the wind and opening a beer finally...
About an hour later we had a new battery installed; the car started and backed out of the trailer and covered for the night.  Assuming we had the only problem fixed and pretty much froze after several hours out in the elements, we headed out for some food and planned to meet back up at 7:30am to hopefully get our individual gear teched/approved as well as the car.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman - Friday Update.

After all the bad news Thursday, I decided to stay home last night and wait for word from the Team Captain.  The truck made it to the dealership and would be looked at first thing Friday morning.
7:30am Friday I get a text - Truck should be fixed by 9am.  Could be packed and enroute by 10am!  Good news for the first time.

So now the task is to figure out when to leave.  Work a few hours, leave before rush hour or after?  Hell, we could still make 1/2 of the testday which runs until 5pm EST.  That damn timechange is screwing us. 

The decision has been made - LEAVE NOW!  Eta at Gingerman around 2pm.... later!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lemons @ Gingerman - April 20-21st Preview

The initial schedule for the weekend - assuming no problems - is as follows: 
Friday , 19 April 2013
9am-5pm: Gingerman test day

Saturday, 20 April 2013
9am: Mandatory drivers' meeting
10am-7:30pm: Race Session I

Sunday, 21 April 2013
10am-12pm: Gingerman Quiet Time - NO RACE MOTORS.
12:15pm-5pm: Race Session II
5:30pm: Awards

Not counting practice, the race sessions total 9.5 hrs Sat; 5 hrs Sun = 14.5 hrs Grant Total.  This is to be split up between just 3 of us!  Add to that the weather forecast which has highs in the 40/50's, but lows in the low 30's each night.  Plus we've had probably 5-8" of rain this week throughout IL; so I can only assume Michigan has about the same.
A new development as of noon today (Thursday) is that our Team Captain is a bit behind schedule.  Instead of leaving early Thursday morning, he had issues with power outages and water at this home because of all the rain.  Adding to that his truck seems to have crapped out.  Add to that the trailer is still in storage and I believe could be actually stuck somewhere.  So the weekend schedule, hell the weekend itself is in a bit of doubt at the moment!  Last I heard there was a friend helping to fetch the trailer and a hopefull borrow/rental that would allow him to leave early Friday am.  More to come... fun start!

In addition, I found an official race event preview HERE.  The Lemons organizers tweeted this and they actually reference the team I'll be running with - The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

This weekend - Lemons race @ Gingerman!

Coming up in less than a week is my first ever 24hrs of LeMons race.  The series is loosely as a play off the famous French race; 24hrs of Lemans, but as a series with $500 cars across the US.
The organizing crew seems very laid back and when I first signed up they sent out some pretty funny notifications, check it out below (more details later in the week):

Ann Arbor MI -- Today Car and Driver reported that Nathan Pitcher, against the advice of mental-health professionals, will compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons -- a wheel-to-wheel car race for heaps that cost $500 or less. Pitcher's team -- the unpromisingly named "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers" -- hits your local track on 04/20/2013 to 04/21/2013, where therapists and junkyard operators are already standing by. 
One relative, on condition of anonymity, described Pitcher's family as "...saddened but unsurprised" by the news. "Unfortunately, we've come to expect such lapses in judgment," the source told C/D.
Friends, coworkes, and relatives interested in staging an intervention and/or watching Pitcher do something incredibly embarrassing can find more information at Car and Driver's LeMons minisite or LeMons' race-info page.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NASA @ Gateway Track Record - March/2013

Just a follow-up from the NASA @ Gateway Motorsports Park (GMP) event in March.  Along with the class pole and class win, I broke the PTE track record as well which was previously 1:15.9 I believe.  My 1:14.0 was in a car brand new to me and set on lap 12 of the race.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

RaceTime! NASA @ Gateway Motorsports Park

During our 1pm race drivers meeting, they broke the news that everything Sunday would be cancelled due to the forecasted snowstorm (5-7").  They also explained it would be a 2-wave start utilizing only 1 green flag with PTE being buried in the 2nd wave behind all the Spec Miata's (SM).  Being that a SM has a throttle restrictor and my PTE Miata did not, I knew that the start would be pretty crazy going into T1.


My overall starting position was something like 17th.  With Gateway there is a long Nascar front straight after the Nascar 3/4 banking that leads to the S/F line.  As with any split start, the 2nd wave was pretty much powering right out of the final turn and full throttle down the entire front straight.  This helped me clear a few of the slower SM's on the extreme inside prior to T1.  I was up to 11th overall by the 2nd lap!  I had an early battle with a SpecE30 that I eventually lost after running wide in T1 that dropped me to 12th after lap 4 with my in-class competition finally starting to fade a bit as I was picking up more speed.  Other than that E30, I started picking off cars slowly 1-by-1 and was up to 10th after lap 8 and 8th by lap 13.  About this time the race leaders were working past up so that was fun with slower traffic in front and faster traffic behind me to navigate!  All went well though.  I had a really good battle with Region's Director; Joel.  I was faster in spots but he was faster in others.  I pulled up even to him a few times, missed a shift once that dropped me back, but eventually got past him on the outside and made the pass stick on lap 19.  In all the race lasted 22 laps and I finished 1st in class and 7th overall (started 17th).  As an added bonus I broke the PTE track record with a 1:14.0 on lap 12.