What's all this about?
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.
Find out more: >> Click here to read our mission statement
Triumph and Tragedy
Is this the end?
Posted by Captain A on December 7, 2014, 10:00 pm CST
Breathe in, get ready...it's the first race of the 2014 season, and paired with the powerhouse of crapbox racing eEuroparts.com it was time to DOMINATE! We were headed to New Jersey Motorsports Park, specifically Thunderbolt raceway, which is a fast, semi flat, treeless race course in the NICE part of Jersey. OK well, I suppose the only thing that made these few acres 'nice' was the lask of seething projects. Luckily, we got to pass some on the way to the hotel, so the experience was genuinely realistic.
Usually I say something like, this wasn't just any normal race...but no race is a normal race. Every single one (look through the backlogs) was a unique challenge with supremely memorable...uh...memories. right.... Well, this race the CBQ was graced with the privalege to race with some of the coolest guys you can meet, Full Nelson racing.
Full Nelson Racing's brilliant SAAB 96, powered by a supercharged and water injected Geo Metro three cylinder engine, is a sight to behold. It's a little brown lump of win that seems both completely unlikely and extremely rare. When you stand next to it, you really know you are in the presence of something you've never seen before, and will probably never see again. This is what makes LeMons racing so ridiculously entertaining, and we were right at the bleeding edge of awesomeness. There were other cars too, but they didn't have hood mounted floating water injection pressure gauges. Science.
After tech and BS inspections, the cars were classed in B and C respectively. Class A is reserved for the fastest cars, usually BMW's and Volvo's that can build up some very high speeds. Class C is where the weird, kooky, and often much slower cars are relegated. Class C is everyone's favorite class, as it often has the most obscure showing of race cars. It is also the one with the most prize money, as encouragement from The 24 Hours of LeMons to build a C Class car. The Full Nelson 96 fits in perfectly.
The Q was being driven by its owner, Me, Adam from eEuroparts cataloging, as well as Zak from customer service, My dad Dan, and Alan Camyre from the west coast division. The Full Nelson 96 was being driven by it's owner Eric Nelson, Jordan Pagano from product development, Kip Moncrief, Josh Meinke, and SAAB Fanatic Bruce Turk.
We enrolled in the Friday test day to work on the CBQ's freshly installed Trionic system tune, and to scrub the tires. The new Bilstein HD's transformed the handling of the car. The 96 had a few drivers that had never driven the car before, so it's test session was primarily for familiarization with the interesting handling and power dynamics of the car. Friday closed without much event, and a slightly rich but overall solid tune for the 900. The 96 was having slight issues with blowing the fuse for the water injection pump, but they were resolved when a wire was found to be pinching in a door hinge and shorting.
Saturday morning. 10AM. Both cars roll out of our space to take the green flag, coasting in first gear through the paddock past several cars that suffered failures on Friday and were still busy working to get out on track. When the flag fell, everything seemed right. All the hard work was paying off. Both engines revved happily to (and past) the redline, and after we settled into the flow of navigating traffic. Cars like the 'Sorry for Party Racing' Firebird and the fox body Mustang of the 'Near Orbital Space Monkeys' were fast. Very fast. When they appeared in our mirrors, we got out of the way. This is endurance racing after all, and we had 14 hours of racing still to do. Other cars, like the Super Grover Rover P6B 3500 and the 3-Pedal Mafia Ford Cortina were easy work for us, arriving in front and disappearing in our mirrors in only a matter of seconds.
About an hour in, the front splitter on the 'Q started to rattle and shake as the result of a jarring off-track excursion in practice while learning the track (Zak). The hardware that held it on was weakened, and eventually broke from the stress of being on track. After a few laps it was clear something was very wrong, and the car pulled in to yank off the stricken bodywork. Only losing 5 or 6 laps, we put the car back out and started climbing the ranks once again.
The 96 came off and went back on periodically to check the water injection system. Without it, the engine would overheat and melt. An ongoing problem with the brake master cylinder was getting worse, and caused the car to have very long pedal throw and extremely squishy feel. Regardless, it was surprising everyone except for it's owner due to is speed. It was a class C car, but definitely kept up with much of the higher classed competition. At some point, the always fabulous Soggy showed up to hang out with us, and cook bacon. Look at all of it. LOOK AT IT.
As the day went on, problems commonly associated with endurance racing cheap cars stayed few and far between. Both teams were able to relax as the laps ticked by. With 6 o'clock rapidly approaching, we came back to greet the cars after the day one checkered flag, only to see The Carbeque 900 in shambles. In the closing laps, an overzealous group of very fast cars threw caution to the wind while battling each other and our final driver got caught up in it. The Q was pushed wide and then tapped in the rear, causing a spin back on to the track to get summarily clobbered by passing traffic. The entire front subframe was very bent. Headlights shattered, hood mounts broken, front engine mount relocated to the left, and bumper dislocated by a good seven inches. The ribs cooking on the engine were…..still good actually. Quite good in fact, and served as a bittersweet dinner as we tried to pull together what had just happened. It seemed that it was all over at this point.
This wasn't the only accident of the day, just like New Hampshire, this race gained a reputation early with having an extremely aggressive field of drivers. Several teams spent Saturday night, like us, repairing their busted up race cars.
We tore all the dangling parts off the 900, took the hood off, and hooked it up to our tow rigs. One to anchor, one to pull, we gently pulled and yanked on the bent up car, which squealed, creaked, and cracked back into shape like a child complaining in a doctor's chair while getting his broken arm reset. A crowd gathered to witness the frame pulling, expecting some kind of accident. Fortunately we couldn't satisfy their lust for epic failure, and the straightening went exactly as planned. Special thanks to friend of eEuroparts (and Full Nelson Driver) Kip Moncrief who spearheaded the effort himself, he's not new to the process after running several high contact racing series in the past. Once completed, and after a brief test drive, we settled into the party that had erupted all around us. The 96 only needed a wheel bearing at the end of day one next to the brake master cylinder, and it was done quickly.
The dance music turned up, the spirits began to flow, and even after such an accident we had a great time. The entire paddock was a blend of flying sparks, whirling angle grinders, and the hilarious antics of alcohol fueled shenanigans.
Sunday morning came early, and at 8:15am the paddock was assigned a tongue lashing from series organizer Jay Lamm due to the high number of contact related incidents on Saturday. The 15 worst offending teams were called up and had their cars start the race, parked, engine off, in the penalty box for one full hour, effectively dropping them out of contention. We put our suits on and warmed the engines on our racecars.
Strapping in, someone noticed the radiator on the Q had an accident-related leak that didn't show up earlier. This caused us to be late for the morning green flag, and once again set us back early in the day. The 96, after having a new master cylinder put in overnight, felt much better. IE not as scary barreling into turn one at nearly 100mph, staring directly at the wall in front of you with no pedal feel at all.
Fuel stops all went as scheduled, and just as we like it, both cars kept circulating all day. Near the end of the race, the Full Nelson 96 pulled off track, sputtering out of fuel. The on-facility fuel pump had been drained over the course of the weekend so they had to run into town to fill a couple jugs shortly beforehand. They lost very little time and was able to get the car back out on track for the final checkered flag. The feeling was all kinds of epic. Both cars ran fantastically, and besides a serious accident (no one was hurt, the car took the brunt), we were able to rise above the tribulation and finish much higher than anyone could have anticipated. The historically fragile 900 transmission held together all weekend, the Red Line MT85 fluid worked fantastically.
The final standings went as follows. Team Carbeque: 8th place in class and 36th overall, while the Full Nelson SAAB 96 achieved an AMAZING podium finish, 3rd in class and 43rd overall out of over 160 total entries. Unfortunately the ribs couldn't cook all the way through because of all the new open space on the front of the car after the crash. This would be the Q's last race, and what a finale it was. The 96 will be back to die another day, until then stay tuned for coverage for all of our races right here on eEuroparts.com. Check out the complete photo gallery HERE.
Say goodbye to the historical Carbeque front valence, you will be missed.