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Armed with a team of barbeque and
automotive experts and a 1989 Saab 900
purchased for $400, Team Carbeque is a
unique racing team determined complete the 24 hours
of LeMons... all while making barbeque under the hood.
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Axles to Oranges
The relationship between having a good time, and finishing well
Posted by Adam G on May 14, 2013, 1:35 am CST
There's a short list of things that need to happen for a LeMons event to be considered "fully visited". The first is, something major on your race car has to break. Who wants to see a bunch of clapped out art cars drive around without any sort of trouble or drama? No fire, no carnage? Well, I suppose that would be called a parade, and true some people might enjoy that, we are slightly more sadistic. Part of LeMons is about racing a crappy car around a track in a fashion it was *NEVER* designed to do. Generally, that part is considerably smaller than LeMon's other major draw, the insane amount of wrenching, grinding, welding (JB and otherwise) involved when said crappy car inevitably explodes in a cacophonous clatter. This box is definitely checked on our list.
The second thing on the Full LeMons Experience checklist is some sort of terrible weather. When we pulled up to unload on Friday afternoon, the atmosphere hadn't fully decided which type of precipitation it would torment Gingerman Raceway with. It's mind was clearly in between snow and rain, but had definitely decided that wind would be fun. The weather ultimately settled in flying snow/ice blowing sideways at over 45mph. No one could put up their tents or canopies, and only trailers along the front straight provided any kind of shelter. Even though it was snowing, we got passed tech, and only encountered snow one more time, on Saturday night.
The last part required to really get an understanding of what it's like to field a team in lemons is, at some point, you must be in costume. Unfortunately, due to our good manners on track, we didn't rack up any penalties. You could argue that dressing up as a race car driver with your shiny helmet and suit could be considered a costume, but nobody wants to show up at the party where most of the people have the same costume as you. That's just awkward. We did see someone get heat-shrink wrapped to the top of a car, though, for speeding in the pits.
Two out of three aint bad, and our own personal check list has two more objectives to fulfill. Those would be to get every driver a stint on track, and to cook amazing ribs on the exhaust manifold. We got those two down on paper, so if it wasn't the perfect race it was damn close. Well, and we finished like..what...52nd or something? I don't even know, whatever, anyway...
Showing up to sideways blowing ice and suffering wasn't the best welcome Gingerman could give us, but it is certainly a stark contrast to the 100+ degree race we ran there in 2011. When you drive a race car in temperatures like that, you feel a lot like a microwave burrito, but without that savory smell. As it turns out, with enough layers of clothes on, or a blanket, you can get through the cold. Plus, you are at LeMons, suffering is nearly a requisite. That's what makes it so fun right? Luckily the sun came out for the race. So in other words, you are freezing cold, and still manage a sunburn.
Saturday morning arrives, everything goes as planned. We fuel the car up, check tire pressures, torque lugs, wipe the window, top off fluids. You know, stuff race car people do. While that was going on, the pitmaster seasons and wraps the luckiest set of pig parts we know of, and drop them into our patented (not really) underhood BBQ meat cooker. Drop the hood, strap Willy in, and send him out as the green flag drops.
As team manager, this is easily the most nerve racking part of the whole thing. Your mind is darting back and forth, "Did I put in that cotter pin?", "Is that gasket seal holding?", "Is the wing going to stay on?". As Willy continued to burn the tires off the car, our minds settled back to a rest in the pits.
That moment where you can take a breath, crack a red bull, and enjoy the sounds of approx 70 crapcans driving around a 1.8 mile road course. This is a good feeling. This is generally when suddenly everyone on the team disappears and your emergency pit stop strategy goes out the window. Oh well, time enough to arrange the lug wrench and top off the fuel jugs. There was a spin through some mud about two hours into the race, but some zip ties to fix the front splitter back on was no big deal.
Around the time the ribs were ready to come off, almost four hours into the day, a slight problem arises in my stint. In the dogleg double apex left turn, the end of the axle sheared off with the main nut, explodifying the bearing, ruining the spindle, hub, and almost the brake caliper in the process. There was a time where I was coming around a corner just making the realization that the wheel was only being held on with the brake caliper, and the axle and cv was coming out of the transmission. It's actually this moment, right here.
Of course, the thing that breaks is always what you didn't have spares of, so after about 10min of searching online for junkyards that might have a SAAB 900 in them (fat chance, and eEuroparts doesn't deliver on Sundays), I jumped into the minivan and headed for Chicago, where failcar would have spares waiting for us. Thanks again guys, couldn't have done this without you. At least the ribs were done, just sauce n go!
I arrived back at the site 5hrs later and work started immediately. The only good thing about working after the checkered flag has fallen for the day is BEER. The bad? More snow. Need I say more. The fix didn't take long, a couple hours at most, and then some of Team Carbeque migrated to a party that lasted into the night.
Sunday morning went smoothly, and we ran through all stints without any issues. The brakes were perfect, the handling was perfect, the ribs were perfect. The engine was...loud as usual, which is a good thing.
(It's an Isuzu I-Mark Diesel BTW)
(It's a K-Car, and yes, now you've seen everything.)
(You may notice our aerodynamic wing endplates, technology taken straight from Formula 1)
(Taurus SHO brakes. on. fire.)
When we came in after the race, the team next door had one of those Big Green Egg smokers finishing up, and had timed his ribs to come off right at the checkered flag.
After some spraying of Champagne, we all gathered around with a combination of Carbeque and Big Green Barbeque to finish a hectic, yet successful weekend. I honestly thought we had it in the bag, but man, that egg can cook. It didn't help that constant temperatures in the 40s kept our box a little cool the entire race. Still, we will be back, with a vengeance. We MUST cook the best BBQ on track, regardless of cooking device. If you are up to the challenge, email us and we will set it up. Big Green Egg guy, thanks for the ribs, and if you come to Summit Point in June, this isn't over.
...the prize ceremony was going on. If we won anything put it in the mail, we're eating dinner.