Okay, for those that want the play by play, here it is. We're all still recovering and all our cars smell like oil, mildew, and farts.
Thursday Evening: Everyone showed up to finish the car. It was a ways off from being complete, but too close to give up on completely. We finished welding the cage, adding an additional diagonal brace and floor plates to help deal with the huge rust holes in the footwell area. The rest of the team concentrated on our engine firewall, which, I'm quite proud of. See, a few weeks prior, we went to a scrap yard to find some sheetmetal to build it. They had a bunch of sections of big metal billboards. Figuring we might be able to find something cool, we thumbed through them with the annoyed mexican scrap worker. When we saw it, we flipped out.
So it's late Thursday and I'm really running out of steam as we align the car with a tape measurer, re-weld the shift cable so it can actually go into gear, get the coms set up, fix a chronic heater hose leak, and bleed the nightmareish cooling system. At about 1AM we take it out to the parking lot here at the golf course to see how screwed we are and get everyone familiar with the car. Only issue that seems to be unresolved is it cuts out under hard acceleration, other than that, it feels ok to at least limp around the track. We guess that since the fuel cell and pickup is at such a stupid angle, that even with 1/3 tank, it starts sucking air. There is really no time to diagnose it any further We leave the shop around 3:30am with the belts and fuel cell mounting still not done.
Friday: I get out of bed and begin vomiting from the exhaustion, stress, and partial hangover. Other team members experience similar. We are literally killing ourselves on this car. I go swap out our 5th argon/co2 cylinder to go with the 25lbs of welding wire we've used and begin another thrash session. At noon, the car is finally ready to scrape it's way onto the trailer. I can't even think straight, so I bring the car and very little else to the track which is 15 minutes away fortunately. I leave all the tools and wood "ramps" necessary for jacking up the car at the shop. I also put a pin that secures the ramp on the trailer in the wrong position, so of course that falls down and sparks all over the busy expressway. I finally get to the track and circle the paddock for a space. This is one of my fondest memories of the weekend. Everyone is already there, done with tech, and sorting out their cars when I drive past with the geo on the trailer. It's like a record scratch at a dance club.
I plop down near The Head's Lowbrau team, totally clueless on what I should be doing. Fortunately, they are super awesome people and went out of their way to help us the entire weekend. I would give them the shirt off my back.
My brother arrives and we head to tech and BS. We were one of the last cars to go through. I was pretty dazed the whole time, but it seemed like everyone came out to watch our car get tech'd. HQ seemed puzzled at first and then literally speechless while they went over our car. I remember hearing "That's the most awesome hood I've ever seen in my life." "Look at the exhaust!" It was hilarious. We fail tech for a missing bolt in the battery tray, wrong size shoulder straps, bad vent line routing, and some wiring rats nest. Next was BS. I popped the hood to expose our bribes, some car-themed Chicago microbrews, our OOgah horn (by request), and the neon lights. Phil responded by saying "You're bribing us?! WHY?!" He attempted to jounce the suspension, which did not happen, and laughed. There was some mumbling going on, followed by "but it's just so cool." We received 0 penalty laps. Awesome. We spent the rest of the night trying to resolve our tech issues. I was very concerned about fixing our harness, Head's team and a few others were busy helping us find a replacement. We borrowed the shoulder straps from Simba's car and they worked perfectly. Wow. We drive tomorrow.
Saturday: It's been dry here in Chicago for months, but today it's going to rain hard.
I'm supposed to drive first, but I feel like shit again and we cannot seem to adjust the crotch straps on the worst racing harness ever made. Everyone is out on the track already, the green flag is about to drop and we are pulling the seat out to adjust 2 belts. Also, it's pouring rain and everyone is soaked. My brother, Dan, takes my place and pulls onto the track 3 minutes late in the middle of a downpour in an untested midship. Did I mention he has absolutely NO motorsports experience of any kind? What can possibly go wrong? I ask him if the car is actually accelerating. He says something descriptive like "Yep". But after seeing it drive by on the main straight, it becomes apparent. NO, it is not accelerating, it is HAULING FUCKING ASS.
We are all just standing there in the rain shocked watching the MetSHrO overtake the entire field through standing water. I yell at him to slow down, but he tells me he's not driving fast, everyone else is driving slow. He's right, people are spinning and having a bitch of a time.http://www.facebook.com/#
He has to pit right away though with a completely fogged windshield. After a few more laps, he comes in with shifter problems with it stuck in the 1-2 gate. The Crab part of the shifter is fine, the Ford part broke at the balljoint. I just put it in the 3-4 gate and push him back out. Then he comes in with a broken PTT on the radio. As long as this cursed car is out on the track, it blows by all but the fastest cars out there. In fact, by hour 2, despite our frequent pitting and late start, Dan has us in 17th position.
After 2 hours we put Eric in the car. He says "This thing is awesome!" and stays pretty fast and consistent with heavy traffic. We are reaching 1/3 tank now and the car cuts off for 10 seconds around the one left turn on the track which gives up any advantage we have. It kind of pisses me off. Once again, something I made has everything crap working perfectly and all the expensive new stuff SUCKS. Then this incident happens under a full course yellow which turns a CRX into a ball. It pushes me into worry overload.
We get a BF for passing under a yellow nobody saw. HQ loves the car so much, we get a slap on the wrist and are sent back out. Close to the end of Eric's stint, the car is hit hard square on the right rear wheel. The toe is knocked way off. Aaron gets in next for the remaining 3 hours. We can never sync refueling and driver changes and waste a lot of time pitting. He drives at a conservative pace which is fine considering the damage to the car. We end the day in 24th.
That night we check the car over. I do my best to eye-align the rear in the dark. We open the cell up to shift the pickup to the rear. Once done, it fails to start. We are all too tired/hungry to fix it now.
Sunday: I'm supposed to drive but feel like shit again, and have to fix the car. Turned out the hose came off the pump inside the tank when I was moving it. Dan takes my place once again. He is complaining that it's all over the place. After another refuel, which adds +10 mana and +5 magic to our car, he rips off our fastest lap of 1:25.142. Only a couple cars are faster than that. Then he spins and comes in. We put teamate 5 in the car and after only 2 laps he spins and we get BF. We need a tire of shame on the roof now. Of course I forgot the 4" tire at the shop that I was going to bring should this penalty occur so we have to hunt one down as well as the tools we need. We brought NOTHING. We just threw any chance of finishing well right in the shitter. I'm just stunned at this disaster and how ill prepared we are. Some teams are nice enough to help out and a tire is bolted on in short order while I suit up. Figuring Eric and Aaron didn't have too much trouble, I quickly set the rear toe back to where it was post-crash.
Once out on the track, I finally start to have fun. What is the MetSHrO like? Well, by some miracle the suspension feels pretty balanced, but with some really bad cornerweighting, which is what I expected. It feels like driving a teeter totter. There is no weight in the front unless you have that magic fuel, so it understeers unless you are braking. We really needed 0* camber as with -2* we were using 70% of our contact patch up front. The brakes are really good, but with pedal travel that does not inspire confidence. They reach lock up pretty much at the floor. It's scary but actually works well as kind of a caveman ABS while making threshold braking easy. Best of all is that beautiful beast sitting behind you. Just before apex, you punch it. The runner control kicks in and the ass just plants as it screams to 7000rpm (I never hit the limiter, there was no need), then you upshift and that's when you do your best to weave through everyone before you. I remember being next to a stockish S13 through 3rd, and once I upshifted it was like I hit the NOS.
But then there was that problem out back. It was like a swinging pendulum. It got so bad under braking that I was sawing the wheel back and forth to keep the ass from favoring one side before making my turn. I came in for magic fuel after an hour and lap times dropped by 16 seconds. Then at turn 2 it went south. I took the same line I had taken many times, had a bad hop, and without warning I was facing the front of a LeSabre. Mandatory 3 hour time out, which was fine with me. We obviously had no business being out there.
This left us the final 15 minutes of race after the penalty and I planned to nurse our car around the track just to finish. Teammate 5 wanted to redeem himself however, and since he only got 2 laps in the car, I told him he could finish the race with the stipulation that he stayed behind the slowest car out there. This did not happen. Instead, he was doing laps 2 seconds off Dan's best as he battled with the Red Rocket SHO and other top-driven fast machines as I screamed at him over the radio. Then on the FINAL LAP, fucking NIGHTMARE. He cooks it off turn 2 and almost causes a massive pileup. I can't remember a time I've been more embarrassed in my life. If the $800 radio I was holding had belonged to me, I would have smashed it all over the pavement. I told him to just go home.
At the awards ceremony I was shocked to find out that we had won Organizer's Choice following the unforgettable speech from Jay. It wouldn't have surprised me if we had gotten a "Don't ever come back" instead. It was kind of a bittersweet end to the whole ordeal. I really just needed a beer, and a lukewarm Miller Light was placed in my hand. It was probly the best beer I've ever had.
Then an amazing conversation took place with my wife who has been less-than-pleased from the beginning.
Me:"Well it was kinda fun, but I dunno if I'll do it again."
Me:"Yeah, it's just so much trouble."
Wife:"Why? Now that the car is done and....(more rationalizing)"
Me:"Are you even listening to yourself?!"