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Guest wipeout

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Guest wipeout

Man oh man, what a weekend. I'm still decompressing from the first ever a)24-hour event in PIR history and b)the first ever ChumpCar World Series race. The only way it worked was that 5 of the 7 drivers/crew own or work on a street or track 944...whoever had this car previously better hope I never meet them. We had the knowledge and parts, and that kept the thing on track.

The volume of crap (tools, shelter, chairs, food, spare parts, everything) took up tons of space, but most of it all showed up Friday so we could get set up, run the car and drivers through technical inspection, and get ready for the event. We had everything we needed to fix any problem except a blown engine, blown clutch, or blown gearbox (by the way, those are the 3 big issues on 944s!).

Green flag flew at 12:30 Saturday afternoon. Two of our drivers race 944s in ICSCC/SCCA events, one of them has actually driven in the 12 Hours of the Cascades. He drove the first stint and after two hours, we were up to 4th overall. His stint had the majority of the rain that we saw all weekend, and it was still a pretty wet track when our next driver went out. He was still getting used to the car, re-acclimating himself to the track, and doing it all in the wet. Several spins in a short period of time found us being black flagged, where the folks in the penalty box rotated our (directional) rear tires from left to right. That doesn't work so well in the wet, so we swapped them back and went back out. Things were looking great until about 4:30, when the fuel pump seized on us, requiring a tow. It took us about 2 hours to replace the pump--our spare pump was leaking. Thankfully, the race had a two hour break built in, which allowed us to get one of our driver's cars in the pits, pull that fuel pump, and go back out on track! We only lost an hour of race time. Everything continued to run swimmingly (well, we had some real annoying in-car radio issues that took me until about 1AM to track down), so I headed to bed around 2 (or 1AM, since the race took place over daylight savings!) I woke up around 4AM and found out I'd missed some fun!

It started to get quite foggy after I went to bed, so people were having issues navigating the track and being able to see what was happening. Now, those who know PIR know that there's normally only one chicane, the Festivals. ChumpCar, in an effort to slow the field a bit, added a chicane to the back "straight"--plastic barriers filled with water. A few cars had hit them in the 9 hours or so, so the chicane was getting smaller and smaller as the event went on. One of our drivers came through the area quickly and saw three cars going very slowly through the chicane. Instead of hitting them, he went to the right and demolished the rest of the chicane with the passenger side of the car. They guys had to cut the front valence off the car, but kept going. Imagine my surprise waking up at 4AM and seeing front end parts on the ground in the pits! The race was red flagged at about 4:30 due to really bad fog, so we stopped until 8AM (they extended the race almost 2 hours to try and get us the made up time, hats off to the ChumpCar officials). Before restarting, we were informed that we'd be seeing a black flag for our shenanigans on the back straight and would have to serve a penalty. Previous teams had served almost 2 hours in impound, so we figured that's what awaited us. At 9:45 we ended up with a 1.25 hour impound, during which the "wrecking crew" (first and second semester automotive techs at Portland Community College) deflated all four tires, removed the plug wires, removed the rear wheels, and hid our rear lugnuts in the car. We "found" all the lugnuts, replaced the plug wires, re-inflated and remounted the tires, all in under 15 minutes. The wrecking crew was amazed, but their crew chief told them he wasn't surprised at all--we knew the car, what we were doing, and were smart enough to bring spare lugnuts! We also asked around in the pits if our "public service" of removing the chicane was appreciated...we collected enough money to pay for most of the barriers.

And so, at 10:30, back out on track we went. Everything went perfectly--no real car problems--until 50 minutes left, when we suddenly lost all shifting. 25 minutes later, we'd fixed the shift linkage and gone back out, finishing the race. All told, we completed 447 laps (about 880 miles) in 24 hours, finishing 21st out of 38 cars. I'll freely admit I expected major mechanical problems, but it just didn't happen! We even collected a trophy for our donation to Portland Community College (our "fee" for destroying the barriers), to much cheering and applause.

All things considered, this was an AMAZING event. Thanks so much to John and the ChumpCar staff for putting together a great event. To the other competitors, hats off to you for a very clean, very enjoyable race. Words can't quite express the thanks to the CORNER WORKERS, without which we can't race at all. And, finally, to my drivers...Eric, James, Chris, Cliff, Greg, and Don...you guys rock. All the driving, all the working, great job. I had a blast and didn't sit in the driver's seat at all! :D

We'll be back!

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