Arrived in Willows CA about 6pm PST, got checked in after a bit of kerfluffle at the Days Inn, ate at the Black Bear. Bill, Bruce and Larry started out from SLC about 6pm, arrived in Willows about 4am.
Got up Friday morning early, and drove over to the lineup waiting to get in the track. Gates opened at 7am, Pete Peterson was in line already and got in to the pits to save space for our team, Free Range and Snowspeeder. We were 2nd to arrive, and set up next to Pete and the Killer Bee. Got the car out and tarp up before the rain came, and changed to the rain tires. Since it was still fairly early in the day, it was decided to pay to run the test-and-tune on the track. As we were walking back from the main office after paying, it began to rain. Rain, oh my. Not sure what the total amount was, but it had to be about 3 inches. Felt like it, anyway…
Bruce took the car out to see how it did. This was going to be the first test of this swirl pot, and we all were keeping fingers and toes crossed. The car was doing great, and Bruce reported all was well with the gauges. After about 45 minutes, we figured we had better go through tech in case there was something that needed adjusting etc.
Due to the weather, we did not dress in our theme costumes for tech, but it turned out ok anyway. The judges were extremely busy and didn’t have a lot of time for joking around and enjoying themes, although they did appreciate many clever ones there.
Jay came around first and looked the car over. All seemed fine, until he wanted to see the tire rating…looked and looked, Paul finally discovered that the info was on the inside of the tire – they’d been mounted backwards (that’s the way they came with the car). Sheesh. Anyway, that was ok, just not the Way It’s Done.
They were running 4 lines of tech inspection, and still the lineup to go through was pretty long. We waited for our turn; someone was taking their time (or not passing the inspection!) but finally they got to us. The three inspectors looked and fussed and discussed, asked questions, asked for clarifications etc. One of them was not happy with the wiring, so Andy had to run back to our paddock for zip ties. Did I mention that we were at least ¼ mile from LeMons HQ? And he had a horrible cough? At any rate, they were procured and wires were ziptied. This is the same wiring that has passed twice before…
The BS Judging was next, with Judge Jonny and Judge Murilee. This is normally where bribery enters the picture – we had shirts for all, but didn’t really have much time to talk to them. Murille did look at front and back of the shirt, gave an appropriate mention of appreciation, and promptly went and put them in his Crown Vic so no one might make off with them. Mission accomplished!
Back to the paddock – Bruce took the car out for about an hour, until they closed the track for the day. He came back without one windshield wiper – it was somewhere on the track.
All of our other friends made it through tech ok as well. It was fun to see them again, especially after getting to know a couple of them better online.
Paul, Bill and I attended the Driving 101 class that was offered that evening, very much worth the $20 fee. We learned about various flags, passing/being passed and general good driving techniques, as well as information specific to the Thunderhill track.
Dinner that night was at the Mexican restaurant. Big margaritas that didn’t seem to have much tequila in them… oh well. Probably just as well.
Saturday dawned nice and clear, blue skies! Got to the track about 7:30am, made sure the car started etc. and got dressed. Paul built the Death Cart, replete with branch-with-skull, Black Knight and blowup doll dressed in the Stick Figure tunic. Straw was a nice touch too. Paul had his peasant outfit on, I had the peasant dress and headcloth, Bill wore the monk outfit with a Toyota hubcap he’d made for the “neck cross”. Andy had his executioner outfit, Jen her maiden dress. Bruce wasn’t into the costume thing, so he just wore a driver suit. We strolled down pit row, Bill and Paul crying “Bring out yer dead!” Everyone LOVED it, some made Monty Python references, to which we would answer in character. It was quite the show!
Drivers’ meetings ensued, then the lineup to go on the track. At the last minute, a small water leak was discovered, most likely from the water pump. Too late to do anything, let’s just watch the water level. Bill was up first, for the yellow flag transponder check, then green flag. The race is ON.
Morning racing had a few yellow flags, and it was time for a driver change and water level check. Added some water, but it wasn’t looking dire for a water level issue. This was getting fun!
Rotation/water checks continued throughout the day. Bill received his first black flag – the judges proclaimed that “your driving stinks!” and proceeded to douse the passenger side with cheap Wal-Mart cologne (fortunately not TOO strong!)
Andy was out next, was going great until the car suddenly quit. No steam coming out, that we could see, he wasn’t sure what happened… our first tow back to the pit! Turns out it was an air intake hose, it just split. It was suggested that we repair it with duct tape, so repairs were made, all the crew folks in the vicinity thought it should work fine – guess we’ll see! Holy moly, it was my turn. Yikes. Never been on this track, and I didn’t have the luxury of a yellow flag to make a couple of laps. Damn they’re going fast. And there’s a lot of them too. After a couple of laps, the excitement really happened. I’m on the back side, coming down the blind curve on the hill, and look ahead down the track. Why is that car kind of sideways, and oh crap, it’s the Bee! I’d know that color yellow anywhere. HOLY !@#% it’s in the AIR DOING BARREL ROLLS!!! Who’s driving? Are they ok? NOT THE BEE!! ANYONE but they Bee!
All sorts of brakes going on, no one hits anyone else (that I see), but we’re all thinking the same thing, that could have been me. As I go by, I see the driver has climbed out and is sitting on the poor car, as the emergency crew gets there. I had a thought that I should stop and see if he’s ok – oh wait, we’re not on the highway here, can’t do that, just gotta hope and pray. Back to racing…
Between that and just not getting a handle on the track, I came in early as I wasn’t feeling really comfortable being out there. I figure we have guys that are having a blast driving, so let them!
Track time ended at sundown, about 4:30. The swirl pot was doing exactly what it was designed to do – no overheating! All the drivers had a blast (poor Paul had a migraine and couldn’t drive that day) and were stoked for the next day’s run.
Dinner at the Black Bear again, and all fell into bed like the dead.
Sunday dawned a bit overcast – it had rained some during the night. The ground around there has a lot of clay in it, making it extremely slick (or it grabs you and doesn’t let go, especially if you’re a tire). Drivers’ meeting again, the usual cautions were mentioned, and it was time to race.
Paul led off under yellow transponder check, needed to get a handle on the track as he hadn’t been on it yet. Green flag! Gogogogo!
Bruce, Bill and Andy got their turns – one more black flag that came with a 30 minute penalty… not much fun there. Back out, then boom, another black flag. This time, Judge Jonny spray painted the time we could go back out on the rear trunk. 1:46. Nuts, an hour. I will say it’s quite entertaining to watch the parade of offenders come into the penalty box – some/most accepting their punishment, but some thinking it would be a good idea to argue with the judges. NOT a good idea. NEVER argue with those judges!
Back in the paddock, the NerdHerd team (another MR2 team a few paddock spaces down) was experiencing overheating problems. Paul took over the 2nd swirl pot, which they installed, and were able to finish the race. They didn’t want to give it back, so they bought it for $40. More than covered the parts cost, but not the time spent building it – that’s the way it goes some times.
We offered Pete Peterson (Killer Bee owner) a stint behind the wheel, but he declined as he’d driven that day for the Free Range team, and it was close enough to the checkered flag that (I think) he didn’t want to be the one driving at the end (that’s an honor that should go to the team.) Andy ran the car through to the checkered flag, it was DONE! We finished!
The car ran like a champ, Paul’s swirl pot did its thing in keeping the overheating issues at bay. We just have really lousy drivers, so that’s what we’ll really need to work on now!
The Swirl Pot really works. After making a enchilada can into something more useful than a memory of last nights dinner gone bad and boy am I paying for those enchiladas I ate, our swirl pot worked. We finished the race in style and along with that we helped Team "Nerd Herd" by loaning them our back up swirl pot half way through Sunday morning so that they could finish the race. When I asked for the swirl pot back after the race they insisted on buying it from me. $40.00 dollars later they are the proud owners of technology that is somewhat still a mystery but works really well. More news on our incredible race when I get pictures to go with the story.