Monday, September 21, 2009


William Conway: Our chief cook for the race. The food was awesome.

Atlanta Brewing Company: Having draft beer at the race was fantastic. I only wish I wasn't driving so I could drink more. Thanks!

Ed at He managed to get Leslie's shoes out to us in time after a shipping snafu from his supplier. Thanks Ed.

John at Atlanta Air Exchange: Thanks for helping us out with the wing. You can see it looks great!

Dick Anderson: Our source of suspension knowledge and the stiffer springs under the car.

Dave, Nick and Stephanie: For your help with the car and photography.

The Berkobins: Camera management, video downloading, and a whole bunch of valuable shade.

Everyone that showed up for the race: Organizers, workers, and participants. We had a great time!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

LeMons South Fall learning

So we did OK with the stuff we learned at the last race. What new stuff do we need to take forward to our next race?

Suspension matters.

Now that we have a car with some power, we need to get it to the ground on turn exits. We had a swaybar in front and an open diff. Not a good combination for a front wheel drive car and we would just spin the inside tire until the wheel was straight. This was a big suck on the sweeper. We need a big swaybar in the rear to help keep the inside front planted. The car was also very underdamped (at least on paper). New shocks that are stiff enough to match the springs should help. Me getting more educated on what a well set up car should feel like will also help.

Simplicate, then add lightness.

The fast teams had removed everything unnecessary to the function of the car. Hood, roof, and door stiffeners can go. Maybe putting a smaller battery back under the hood might also save not only the difference in battery weights, but also the weight of the battery cable.

Changing camera cards/batteries is a pain.

The GoPro Hero we borrowed from Mark's brother is a great little camera with its wide lens, but it doesn't have a provision for a power adapter and it's little batteries only last an hour or so. Couple that with a 2 Gig file limit and that means you need to swap stuff out at every pit stop (if it even makes it that long). I'd really like to find a simple inexpensive solution to this. Unfortunately most of the really cool systems are $$$.

We need better fuel cans.

The fuel cans we had took forever to get the gas into the tank. This lead to some really long pit stops if we needed to add gas. We should also get another fire extinguisher to use during fueling.

Did we learn anything?

After the April race I posted a list of things we learned. Let's see how we did acting on them:

Get to the track early.

We arrived at the track at about 2:30 AM on Friday morning. Most of the good spots were already taken. We ended up camped one spot down from the primo one we had last year. Setting up our stuff and only getting a few hours of sleep kinda bites. On the bright side, we did have plenty of time to get through tech and do the practice sessions. Next race I want to get there when the gates open on Thursday night.

Sleep is your friend.

Besides the limited sleep from the drive up, we did great on sleep this year. We worked hard in the weeks leading up to the race to have a running vehicle, but no crazy all night sessions. I think we'll do even better next spring since the car is in decent shape.

Stock brakes suck.

Amen. The Integra brakes and Hawk HP+ pads did great. We started to get some vibration under braking up front towards the end of the race, so there's some room for braking improvements. We were able to finish the race on a single set of pads, and there's probably a couple more races in them.

Being slow makes you slower.

The faster car helped us out quite a bit in this respect. I felt like we could go with the flow of traffic, and on some of my stints later in the day on Sunday I felt faster than average.

Visibility is your friend.

The faster car allowed me to spend more time looking forward than backward, so this didn't feel quite as critical as it was in the last race. Still, we were able to get all of the stuff out of the back and our rear wing was mounted high enough to not block the view.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 3: Success and Failure

With the density of cars on the track thinning due to attrition, the racing got a little more fun. Fewer cars meant more opportunities for clear track and getting some fast times.

Jeff garnered some battle damage during his stint when the vorpal rabbit sunk his teeth into the side of Our Lady in turn 1. Fortunately they only black flagged the rabbit and Jeff was able to finish his stint. The Civic, however, will carry the scars by which to remember the encounter.
Our only problem came when Craig noticed that the car made some scraping noises when turning and brought the car in. Turns out that the bolts that secured the mount to the engine on the other side were loose and one had fallen out. Another few minutes and we may have had a dramatic failure.

We also had a bit of fun with the Tunachuckers. It turned out that they could hear our radio communications going back and forth and particularly enjoyed the air traffic control lingo that we were using.

At the end we managed to keep the car on the track for most of the race and finished ~150 laps behind the leader. Not too shabby considering that we had a couple of long unplanned pit stops and that our pit strategy was optimized for driver entertainment and not focused on the win.
Our disappointment came at the awards. We felt like we had the Dangerous Homemade Technology award in the bag. The wing seemed to be a big hit with the crowd and it was pretty cool to watch on the track as it lowered on the straights. We even thought we might have had a shot at organizers choice since we had gone the extra mile with the costumes. In the end we missed out on both. Jay gave us a mention during the awards ceremony but ultimately gave the Dangerous Homemade Technology award to a team that had built electric brake coolers (presumably thermoelectric and not just fans). I can only guess that Jay had already seen enough active aero to want to give the Dangerous Homemade Technology to something a bit more unique.

Day 2: Racin'

Mark took our first stint and everything was pretty uneventful. He actually turned in a few fast laps near the end of the stint despite all of the traffic.

My stint was next and didn't go so smoothly. A couple laps in I was confronted by this:

The driver was fine, and was insisting that someone had hit him. I can understand why.

A little later I earned our first (and luckily only) black flag. I went hot into the inside of turn 1 and couldn't make the turn in the space allotted. I ended up gouging a rather large hole into the door of the LabRat's #63 Colt. Fortunately the cars weren't disabled in any way that a large hammer couldn't fix.

Jeff and Craig's shifts went pretty smoothly.

My second shift involved some extra stops. The car lost power on one of the turns and I realized that I was running out of gas. Then just a few minutes later Craig called me in because I was trailing a cloud of smoke. I assumed we had blown a gasket and sullenly took her to the pits.

I pulled her in to our pit and saw the trail of oil that followed her all the way from the track. The passenger side of the engine compartment was coated with oil. The culprit? One of the engine mount bolts had come loose and allowed the engine to shift enough to rub the transmission on our relocated oil filter.

We were very lucky that the damage wasn't worse. We got her fixed up and back on the track in under an hour.

Day 1: Arrival and Tech

We left the office in Atlanta at about 7pm on Thursday. After a dinner stop at a Waffle House along the way and a 2 hour shopping trip at Walmart in Camden, we rolled into CMP (Carolina Motorsports Park) at about 2:30am. We spent much of the trip up talking about our shtick at BS judging. We had a lot of great ideas.

Our favorite spot had been taken, so we set up camp next door. We blearily set up tents and tried to get a few hours sleep.

On Friday morning we tech'd the car first thing. We were worried about the lack of seat bracing in the cage, so we wanted to tech early so we could fix problems if necessary. The seat proved not to be a problem, though I think we need some better support for next time. What they did ding us for was minor and could be quickly fixed: clear tape over the windshield cracks, foil tape over some of the holes in the trunk floor, and a bigger lightning bolt indicating the location of the emergency kill switch.

We had signed up for practice laps. We got 5 20min stints that were spaced about an hour apart. Each of us took a stint to try out the car. She was definately a different beast than last time. The extra power of the Integra motor kept it from feeling like a chore to push her around the track. In between stints we took care of the tech issues and Jeff put the decals on the car. By the time 4pm rolled around we were ready for BS.

Our skit was pretty eleborate. We were pretending to be crop dusters who had just set down to fill up on fuel. Craig and I asked suspicious questions like "Exactly what kind of judging is going on here?". Once we had established that they weren't "govmnt" judges we signalled to Mark who ran up clutching our contraband: foam blocks covered in parsley flakes designed to look like bricks of pot.

We didn't even get to the part where we explained that Big Ag was in cahoots with the government to put pot in all our food. The judges were amused enough to send us on with 0 laps without even opening the hood.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's so beautiful

A shot of the semi-complete paint job. The decals will go on at the track.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Jeff's done some cool graphics for the car and shirts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paint Scheme

After considering zombies, Shinto monks, drunk airline pilots and Hare Krishnas as possible themes we've finally settled on Otto's Crop Dusting. Jeff has put together a paint scheme reminiscent of an old biplane.

Our new number is 172 in honor of our wing's donor. I think we've since come to the conclusion that it may actually be a 152 wing since it only had a 13 gallon wing tank.

Our leather caps, goggles and flight suits have come in. Mark's even gotten a surplus parachute. Jeff has also designed us some pretty awesome t-shirts. I'll post pics on Tuesday.

More Cowbell!

Craig noticed that he got a little light headed while driving. The lack of trunk and the wash from the wing was pulling the exhaust into the cabin.

We decided that our life expectancy might be improved if we put the trunk lid back on to keep our exhaust where it belongs. The fact that it also serves as mounting point for another wing sealed the deal.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Legal to Drive

I got the emissions done and renewed the tag. Since we've fixed the lights Our Lady is now legal to drive on the road. Perhaps not safe, but legal. I drove her to work.

Driving the car, the first thing you notice is the power. This is a whole different animal from the old Civic. The second thing you notice is the steering. It feels like an old jeep. The steering has a dead zone of about 3" where the steering wheel does nothing. The third thing you notice is the scary sounding clunk from the right front when you hit a bump.

So after I got home from work Craig and I took a look at the alignment using string and some jackstands. We expected it to be off since we swapped the Integra knuckles into it. It was. When we started making the adjustments to correct the toe, we noticed that we weren't getting much closer to our goal, every adjustment seemed to keep the tires our one way or the other. Then we found our culprit. The tie rod end was shot and had ~.060" play. Fortunately we still have the Integra steering rack and the tie rod end looks similar. We'll be swapping that in tonight.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's a jungle in there.

We've made a few mistakes with the wiring. I guess we'll just have to know better for next time.

Our goal was to use the entire harness out of the integra to simplify any engine-ecu confusion. That part of the plan worked pretty well.

Our first mistake was starting to strip unused wiring out of the harness before we knew for sure we didn't need it. We reduced the rear harness to just the brake lights, fuel pump and fuel gauge sending unit. That was fine until we realized that the only thing keeping us from driving it on the street was the lack of turn signals and headlights.

Our second mistake was putting the fuse box in the center of the dash. This one was more of a lesser of two evils choice. The stock position, underneath the steering wheel, would have been a nightmare to work on. The upside is that all of the harness lengths would be right.

The third thing we learned is that grounds are important. There a probably a dozen different grounds on the harness, and any one of then can (and did!) keep the car from running.