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How I became a die hard chump: An guest spot with FreeRange at ChumpCar PIR 09


parid
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I have known Methius for years. We met in school playing video games (that seems to happen a lot). I have been mentioning my intentions to enter racing for some time. He had shared his great experiances racing in "that other series" and how there was a new series starting up so close to home. Just to top it all off, they needed more drivers. I already knew PIR from a bunch of cascade school days how much more could this be laid at my feet. I sent erik in my check and I was set to drive for Free Range Racing in their windmill turbo mr2!

I didn't really have anything to do with the car, which was nice. They knew what we were getting into, I certainly didn't. I spent most of my time getting my self ready for the race. My distance eye site isn't great. I got glasses specifically for this race. I didn't have any suitable racing gear. This race didn't even really become a reality for me until thursday night before the event.

The weekend whats a blur for excitment and lack of sleep but I enjoyed every single second.

I’m sorry about the lack of pictures. I was so caught up in participating in the race I forgot to keep the camera handy.

A couple members of our team were part of the event staff (Erik and Matt) so we spent most of Friday getting the race ready. I got to help with vehicle scruteneering. Each of the cars there had already developed a rich history during their construction. I don’t think a single team was found cheating. Everyone was there to have fun.

Oregon normally treats us to a wet Halloween and this was to exception. I was given the first stint out in the car at noon on Saturday. The track was wet and I had a lot of problems on the first couple of laps keeping the back end in line. I spun twice in the first 15 minutes. After getting over the jitters of my first wheel to wheel circuit race I really got into the grove. I made at least 20 passes during my nearly 2 hour session. The track started drying out and there was some great battles already under way. I got us a decent way up mid pack.

Seeing the live board on our laptops with laptimes really added a lot to the race. Running the pit and race strategy was almost as much fun as driving. I hope all the chumpcar events have this ability.

I wasn’t scheduled for another stint till around 2am so I decided to try to get to sleep. With the cold and adrenaline running through my system I really only got about 4 hours of “restâ€.

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(the poor camera skills help add the feeling of sleep deprivation)

I was woken up around 1am to get ready. A shifter linkage problem that caused us to pit 5 extra times had dropped to the mid-low 20s. The alternator was cooking the battery. Our voltage regulator had gone out and we were putting out 16v+. The starter was showing some signs of impending failure. To make matters worse, it didn’t want to idle any more. The only time we could afford to shut the car off for was fueling. The rest of the time someone had to constantly try to keep the engine running. We also had an oil leak. The oil pan had been “loafed†to increase our capacity but it looks like the work had a flaw in it. The leak wasn’t bad enough to stop us. We had only lost a quart over 12 hours of racing. The car was definitely showing signs that it might not make it.

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(One of my teammates pictured here) The driver change went without incident and I was out on track. Our mirrors weren’t great so it took quite a bit of energy to keep an eye out for passing cars. It took me longer than before to get into the grove.

I found the night flag system to be easy to work with. I apprechated the simplicity.

This is when the fog started coming in. It started showing up in turns 3 through 7. Turn 7 was especially bad. I’m so glad they had put out cones for the braking zone before the cone it was literally the only thing I could use to know where the track was. You couldn’t see the apex of the turn until you were already committed to your line.

I managed another hour and forty minutes or so in my stint. The fog kept getting worse. Our next driver was relaying conditions to us over the radio and he was pretty much as this limit. We called him in when the next full course yellow it. Right as we had grabbed the fuel rig to do a pit stop they red flagged the whole race and stopped all work being done on the cars. Apparently we weren’t the only ones having problems.

At 4:45am drivers meeting was held and it was decided that we would delay the whole race due to fog. Another meeting would be held at 8am and we would decide what to do then. I think this brief sleep period for everyone (including the workers) ended up preventing a lot of accidents. I managed to finally get some real rest.

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This is from right before the restart from the fog delay. The race was restarted at 8am and they even moved the checkered flag back to 3pm for us!

At several points in the race we were putting in the 5th or 6th best lap times. We made it up to 19th after 30 minutes back on track. The fog was still there but the visibility was decent. Another fast driver in the car got us another couple of positions. Mechanical failures started showing up in all the teams. That brought us some positions too. Our car pitted with throttle failure (a homemade line bracket had slipped out and needed to be reattached). That cost us a long pit but it could have been a lot worse. The fiat next to us (La Famila) broke their cable and didn’t have a spare. They had they their car back in their tent area for some time. I saw a sawzall come out. It looked like some serious work going on.

At around 11 in the morning, we realized we were in with a real shot at the top 10. We were lapping 10 seconds faster a lap than most of the cars ahead of us and catching them.

This team had never placed that high before and we were going to do it. Our race plan was hatched to do as fuel driver changes as possible. Sitting in 12th, we had two teams to beat. Team Partridge in a protégé (I think?) was only a couple laps ahead of us and we were pretty sure to catch them in the next hour. The real challenge was “Beach Dudes†in a datson 510 wagon. They had been in the top 10 nearly the entire race and had build up a big lead on us. We were catching them but was it fast enough?

The radios had been spotty all weekend but this is when they failed for the final time. The pit could give instructions to the driver, but the driver couldn’t communicate back.

We had 3 hours left in the race and one hour left on the driver who was on track. That meant one last driver change for us. The car was smoking a little at the end of the front straight. The oil pressure gauge looked ok but how bad was that leak getting?

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Spies!

One of my buddies was working as a pit marshal and we got him to go down to beach dudes and collect some intel. He delivered. The good news was that they had destroyed their race tires over the night and had been forced to switch to their backup street tires over the night. The bad news was that they only had one driver change left like us (we were hoping that they had more so we could lap them while they were in the pits) and they were about to put in their fastest driver.

We continued to make progress on both the teams with 1 hour and 30 minutes left in the race on our last driver. Beach dudes had 10 laps on us and while we were much faster than them on track right now, we wouldn’t have the time to make it up. At this point, we were hoping for last minute mechanical failure to take one of the leaders out completely.

I gave our driver encouragements and updates but he couldn’t respond. We could hear his radio key up and that he was trying to say something but we had no idea. Fearing he was reporting impending failure we were on the edge of our seats each lap. The car was smoking more but he was sitting pulling in the completion.

We made a dramatic pass of Team Partridge on the front straight and claimed 11th. That needed to happen on our way to 10th but the numbers for beating beach dudes kept looking worse and worse.

We got our miracle. The Volvo wagon which had been tearing up the track all weekend was towed into the pits. The rumor was that the diff was gone and they had no spares. We were also told later it was the axle. (What really happened?) They sat 20 laps ahead of us when they failed with 40 minutes left in the race. All we had to do was put in 2 minute laps (we were sitting in the mid 1:40s) for the rest of the race and we could claim 10th. Nearly assured of our victory our pit was out of their seats with excitement.

That’s when I saw our car in the distance coming down the pit lane unaccounted. I was the stand by driver in case we needed to change at the last minute but I didn’t have all my gear on. I desperately started changing in case we needed to change drivers when I heard “NO BREAKS!â€

The front wheels were wet with brake fluid. Then flame. Then smoke. Our car was on fire. Luckily we had several people with fire bottles already in had when he had come in and we got it out quickly. The driver didn’t seem to connect someone yelling “fire†with needed to get out of the car. All he could think about was getting back on track. We had completely destroyed the pads. The brake pistons had pushed out and the hydraulic fluid had caught on fire. There was no way we could fix that fast enough.

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The oil leak was also much worse now. There was a constantly set of drips coming from the oil pan.

We push the car out of pit lane into our camp defeated but happy that we could go down with so much excitement. Unwilling to accept defeat we came up with a new plan. We would push the car back into the pit lane on the last lap and he would nurse the car around the last lap at 25mph.

Just as we finally push the car down into the pit lane, the last lap sign was show. He got out there. We finished under our own power! We even got to claim 13th in the end!

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Yes, that’s all caked oil. It was clean when we started

We even got an award for ugliest car, bonus.

What a race. I’m hooked now and starting my own team. We have already secured two 1987 RX7 GXL’s for $400. Both are complete (piles of junk) and run. Hopefully we can make our debut at Spokane.

I just want to put out a huge thank you to team Free Range Racing, ChumpCar, PIR, the City of Portland, CSCC, Friends of PIR, the fuel truck people, the ambluance, the small army of volenteers, and the flag workers. Extra big thanks to Matt and Erik for getting me involved. If you ever need another driver, you know where to find me :).

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Guest TroubleOnWheels

Extra big thanks to Matt and Erik for getting me involved. If you ever need another driver, you know where to find me :).

Yeah, we'll find you competing with us in your own car and laughing at our predicament!!!! Look forward to seeing you on the track :)

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Guest Michael Ericksen

Leo, very nice summary of the race. Sorry I had to miss the high drama at the end. That little MR2 sure held its own for the thrashing that we gave it. It was great to meet you and the others. Maybe another time.....

Mike

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Guest TroubleOnWheels

Leo, very nice summary of the race. Sorry I had to miss the high drama at the end. That little MR2 sure held its own for the thrashing that we gave it. It was great to meet you and the others. Maybe another time.....

Mike

Woah. The Doc speaks!

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Guest Methius

Sadly, I highly doubt we will have time to clean it off before the next event. I'm just happy the poor car finished! 4 endurance events, 1 track day, 15 autocross runs and 3 motors..

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Guest Borgesa

From LaFamilia

That is a great story!

I think that I will add it to the bed time stories I read my grandson.

Thank you for sharing the real time results with us.

Borgesa

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Guest AndyDenver

Sh*t's a huge riot, isn't it? After I finished my first budget race, I wanted to tell everyone what I'd just done. It's a whole lot more substantial than any old track day or HPDE.

(asterisk inserted by ChumpCar)

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