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Full race weekend report - CMP 3/2-3/4/12
(Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:35 am)
|“A Real LeMon? Beemer with a Slant”
Event: 24 Hours of LeMons race – Carolina Motorsports Park (CMP), March 3-4, 2012
Team name: “E30/6” with car number 225
Team leader: Jason Ernst
Team drivers: Jason Ernst (Athens, GA), Dave Mapes (Silver Spring, MD), Rick Morris (Phoenix, AZ), and Lou Madsen (Blacksburg, VA)
LeMons event website - stats and results: http://www.24hoursoflemons.com/sodisco12.aspx
Car&Driver writeup on this event: http://blog.caranddriver.com/24-hours-of-lemons-southern-discomfort-2012-we-have-winners/
Pictures Posted: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16910097@N06/sets/72157629196733588/
First and foremost, I want to heartfully thank Jason Ernst for allowing us to team drive this amazing composite of an automobile. He and his teammates at home (including the car’s main owner Jared) had put an unprintable number of hours into this machine, and Rick, Dave, and I were in awe of the car… and that they would let us drive it! Also, I’d like to express appreciation to Dave, Rick, and Jason for being such fun and straight up guys. I can’t remember a weekend where I made such good friends in such a short time. OK, here’s how the deal went down…
Lou arrived at 10:30 PM Thurs eve, cruising down in the ’68 turbo Dart 270. Some casual walks around the pits showed quite a few crazy entrants welding up rollcages and fiddling with suspensions and motors. Dave rolled in at 11:30 PM, and we chewed the hide for an hour while setting up to camp, then crashed out. Jason called to say he was not going to make it tonight as planned. We’ll see what Friday holds…
After camping out in the nice CMP paddock (roadrace jargon for “pits”), Dave and Lou enjoyed some stellar soul food in Kershaw, SC, a little place across from Bojangles with amazing fried chicken and collard greens. Thanks James Longhurst for the recommendation. We had tried calling Jason Ernst, team leader and bringer of the E30 /6 car, a few times on Friday morning. He called us back at 12:40 PM Friday to say he was almost to the track. Jason had spent the previous 4 weeks working on re-ringing the motor and re-assembling the car, and the previous several days with very little sleep. So, no sleep for him, car not running yet, we met Jason in the pits just after 1 PM. Rick “Rickybooby” Morris, hotshoe driver flew in from Phoenix, AZ, and joined us just before Jason pulled up.
So, this white Chevy van with racecar and loaded down trailer pulls up: “Hi, I’m Lou Madsen, nice to meet you Jason.” … “Hi Lou, I’m tired…” 15 seconds later, Lou and Dave say: “OK, what does the car need?” and we all start tearing into it. The next 3.5 hrs involved finding and fixing ignition wiring and timing troubles (misplaced timing mark on damper), lashing valves, recovering oil pressure after hearing some nasty knocking sounds from the dry motor, and assorted other thrashes. Jason had done a fantastic job getting things together on the car, but a few details stymied us here and there. Custom cars can be fun… The ZERO oil pressure and knocking sounds just about convinced me that we were not racing for the weekend, but some extra oil in the filter primed the pump enough to get the pressure up, and the knocking went away for good – WHEW. While it had rained like a banshee until about 10 AM, it was thankfully an ideal 70 deg and mostly sunny all afternoon. We needed to get the car through tech by 5 PM, or no racing for us! Got the car fired up finally around 4, relocated the battery cutoff switch to meet the new rules, and got into tech at 4:30 with an “all OK” from tech at 4:45! A quick trip to the “bull$hit” station of judges had them harassing and insulting us about this stone age motor dirtying a fine Bavarian automobile. The car was deemed well below the $500 limit. We’ll see how this sucker runs…
After tech, we took a little more time to assess the carb, valves, and timing, and then headed off for a simply amazing dinner at the Old Armory Steakhouse in downtown Camden, NC. After dinner, we drove the car around the pits and idled for a while, spent 2hrs locking the kickdown linkage nearly all the way back through a fun little access panel on the trans tunnel (can you say limited space around the trans?), and got to bed around midnight.
I’ll mention a bit about the rules and the extreme efforts put forth for these “crap can” LeMons racing series cars. The rules state $500 or less worth in the chassis, body, and drivetrain, but you are allowed to spend as much as you want to “safety” items. These items include: tires/wheels, rollcage, brakes, fuel system, seat and harness. Given that you can’t spend much, stuff breaks… often. Teams had brought staggering amounts of extra parts and tools to have on hand for repairs. Jason packed his long wheelbase Chevy van with a spare 225 and trans, fluids, gaskets, and extra pumps and parts of every kind. He had a little sleeping space carved out in the bowels of the van. He had a full sized cherry picker on the front of the trailer, and a full E30 independent rear suspension strapped behind the car on the trailer. One team was awarded best fix of the weekend for blowing an engine, installing their spare, blowing the 2nd engine, then borrowing an engine and swapping that in to finish the race. I took some pleasure that it was a buttcar 1978 Malibu and they were blowing up 350s… Yes, we lapped them a couple of times on track.
Lou and Dave popped out of their sleeping bags around 6, just as the night’s rain had slackened, grabbed showers then a fine omelet from the track snack bar, and tore back into the car. Driver’s meeting at 8:30 and race start at 9:30 were looming… We guessed correctly that Lou’s BBD carb was better than the one on the car already, relashed the valves again to 0.012/0.022” (remember, only 45 min of breakin on this new motor), checked tire pressures on the new Dunlops (40 psi all around), and we were ready to race.
Keep in mind that this was truly a motley crew. Only Dave and Lou had met once in 2011 for 1 hr on a parts pickup in DC, and none of the others had ever met in person. Lou had driven this track once, Jason twice, Rick and Dave – never. Lou, Dave, and Rick had never driven this car, and Lou had never done a wheel-to-wheel roadrace before, only solo timetrials. So, this was going to be interesting…
Rick Morris had graciously bought some lawn furniture pads to boost us up in the seat in this weapon of destruction. Jared, the car’s owner and original builder, was apparently a huge guy and had lowered the car floor to give himself headroom. One lawn pad and Lou’s sleeping pillow brought Dave and Lou high enough to see well, so that made driver changes interesting. On that note, our primary goal (initially) was to finish the race with the car running and all of us in one piece. This did not happen in the two previous LeMons races with this car, and except for Jason we all were inexperienced with pretty much everything about this venture, so this seemed like a reasonable goal. We were fairly casual and cavalier about driver changes and refueling. We could only burn 7-8 gals max before fuel slosh forced us to come in, so about 1.3 hrs max between fuelings. Typical fuel/driver stops were over 10 min, so we were losing some serious lap time there. By the end of the race on Sunday, the last two pit stops were in the hot pits next to the main straight, and we could do the driver swap and fuel in < 4 min. We had 7 driver changes on Saturday and 5 on Sunday.
Saturday’s racing started fairly slowly for us, with Jason taking point to see how the car was working, followed by seasoned roadracer Rickybooby (think Talladega Nights), then Lou, then Dave. Everyone took 30-45 min in this first stint, with rain off and on, and some controlled (yet sometimes tailhappy) driving to learn WTF was going on with the car, the track, and the competition. My friends Jonathan and Kacey McCreary drove down from Blacksburg and excitedly watched the racing on both days – thanks for coming! Lou was lucky to get some dry track, and walked the fast lap for the team down to 2:14, shortly after bested by Jason with a 2:13, then Rick later with a 2:07, and finally Jason with an almost 1.5 hr session to bring the fastest lap on Sat down to 2:06.7 sec. Everyone got two sessions Saturday, and we were all energized despite lack of good sleep for some of us. After the 6 PM checkered flag (9.5 hrs of continuous racing!), the car was running strong and we were hot to trot on Sunday.
Before dark on Sat, we took rough corner weights on the car (see stats below), tuned the metering rod step up position in the BBD carb, bumped the timing up 2-3 deg, checked brakes and tires, and… get this… noticed that the front swaybar was COMPLETELY DISCONNECTED. No wonder the car was leaning so much all day! After scrounging a few nuts and washers, Jason got it bolted back up. After another excellent Old Armory steak dinner in Camden, we hit the hay.
Jason awoke at 7:30 AM inside his Chevy van to Dave and Lou rocking the van and a gasket kit falling on his head… Rick showed up just then, and he and Lou did another quick valve lash at 0.010”/0.020” on this now-getting-broken-in Slant 6. We rotated the tires and equalized pressures again at 37 front and 32 rear (hot) according to what we had somewhat optimized on Saturday. We were ready to go again!
Jason and Rick split the 9-11 AM first session where they discovered the car was handling even better with the front bar hooked up. They were passing cars that were way ahead of us in the standings, and the car was running like a dream. Oil pressure was steady at 46-48 psi hot after settling in on Saturday. Heck, we still had the 30WT breakin oil in there, and only added 1 qt during the whole 2-day race. Lou kicked off the noon – 4 PM session (after track “quiet hour”) and took a 1.3 hr stint, really getting into his groove with 2:05.8 fast lap. Dave and Jason took 1+ hour stints, and then Rick for 20 min, then Lou for about 10 min. We had all thought the race ended at 4:30, so Lou and Dave should have had a bit more time, and Lou even missed the checkered flag and kept passing people for a bit on the cool down lap – oops. Why were all those corner workers waving at me??
The only glitches in car operation were in the middle of the day on Sat when the lower radiator hose started peeing a little, fixed by a simple hose clamp tightening and radiator topoff, and later we had an alternator field wire that flipped off and killed the battery. When it wouldn’t restart in the hot pit lane, we initially thought it was the starter and swapped that (< 5 min) before realizing and jumping the car and getting Dave back on track. That cost us about 15 extra minutes from pushing back to the pit spot and doing the work. Some drivers hanging around graciously helped push us back the 500 yds or so to our pit spot. Hooking up the sway bar brought the car to a new level of predictability and transient response. I think with more practice driving the car and the track, we could have been at 2:00-2:02 lap times in equivalent track conditions. We did momentarily see as low as 20-25 psi oil pressure on hard left turns 1 and 11 and a bit in 3, so further oilpan mods are in order. We had 4 very minor incidences of contact, one for each driver, and mostly people lightly bumping our right rear during corner turn in. Amazingly, none of us spun off the track – a feat of restraint and (less likely) skill. At the end of the day on Sunday, I kept saying “Man, I gotta put IRS in the ’64 Dart.” I took a bunch of pics of Jason’s spare rear axle/IRS assembly… For reference, Marc Terhorst and I had the Project V ’66 Valiant on this track in 2003 with the old 190 HP motor and basic tires and (in the timetrial) it ran somewhere just above 2:00 similar to the E30.
All in all, a fantastic race and an epic weekend. We finished 36th out of 84 cars, and were 2nd in C class. The fastest lap for the team was Lou’s 2:05:78 sec on lap 291 of 292, with Rick and Jason within a second of that. Our guess is we can add 30-40 HP with some creative die grinder and exhaust work, and better balance the car with a trunk-mounted fuel cell and some weight removal up front (see below for proposed changes).
I list specs and stats below, as raced on March 3-4, 2012 in the 24 hrs of LeMons endurance race at Carolina Motorsports Park.
Thanks for reading!
Specs, stats, and figures:
Chassis: 1987 BMW 325 “E30” generation, 4dr sedan (I love 4drs!), stock brakes/suspension, 2.76 open rear, no glass except windshield
Engine: Re-ringed late 70s cast crank 225 with 75-79 peanut plug head, BBD carb on factory 2bbl alum intake (~ 160 HP), stock A-body 1 7/8” exhaust headpipe into 2” pipe 18” from the manifold and a shiny red glasspack dumping out behind the driver
Transmission: ’64 pushbutton trans with stock converter, PB shifter to the right of the steering wheel, no kickdown
Weights: 2460 lbs total with a full tank, 2640 with Lou fully suited in the driver seat, 50/50% side/side and cross wts, and 57.5/42.5% front/rear (corners/biases approximate due to no proper leveling of scales)
Wheels and tires: Dunlop Direzza Z1 Star Spec 195/60-14s on stock BMW 14 X 7” rims
Tire pressures after tuning: 37 front, 32 rear (hot, coming off the track)
Fuel capacity: Unknown tank size, but effectively 7-8 gals max due to slosh
Event and Team E30/6 stats:
Total team laps: 292 (87 laps out of 1st overall)
Fastest lap for team: 2:05.78 (min:sec - Lou) in lap #291, also 2:05.87 around lap 224 (Lou)
Fastest laps for the race: 1:47 (min:sec), with most fast laps of the top finishers around 1:55
Total race time: 14.5 hr (870 min)
Average lap time (including all stops): 2:59 (min:sec)
Estimated average lap times (just on track time): 2:17 (min:sec)
Estimated time during stops: 2:04 (hr:min)
Estimated average time/stop: 10:20 (min:sec)
Possible racing execution gains:
Estimated time gained with 12 X 4 min driver/fuel stops: 76 min or about 34 laps
Possible gain with all 1hr + driver sessions (3 fewer changes/fuelings), short stops, and 2:06 average lap time (faster car/driving): ~ 100 min or 44-50 laps
Suggested car improvements for future races, in rough descending order of preference:
1) Install working kickdown cable and adjust PB shifter cable to allow shifting down to 1st.
2) Mount new 205/50-15 Falken RT615 Azenis tires on 15 X 6 or 7” rims.
3) Get racing fuel cell (15-20 gals) and mount behind the rear axle for better wt distribution and more fuel capacity, cut out spare tire well to mount hanging below trunk floor, cut out or swiss cheese existing tank
4) Modify front of oilpan sump for 2-4 qts more capacity and enhance baffling as much as possible. Tons of room on either side of the sump.
5) Head work and 9.5+ compression, regrind cam, bigger carb, port exhaust manifold exit and install 2.25” or bigger exhaust with no muffler. Lou may have some cheap banged up old header options to Frankenstein. This thing was super quiet compared to most other cars.
6) Remove power brake booster and non-working ABS system up front, adjust for slightly more front bias.
7) Install tachometer and ammeter or voltmeter.
8) Cut car for less wt front and rear (mostly front), target 2350-2400 lbs w/full tank and no driver?
9) Explore more chassis stiffening through rollcage additions.
10) Lower suspension about 2” all around, and stiffen rear slightly relative to front as the car was slightly tight in the dry.
11) Longer term: relocate engine/trans back 4-6” LOTS of work there…
Return of the 64 Dart. Hang on...