T-hill ’09

Well here’s the update, as promised. More media to possibly come later, or next year… as you can see deadlines and goals are not my strong point.

So, Arse-Freeza-Palooza 2009, back at Thunderhill again. This time, being our second race, we were better prepared. We brought less stuff (only the vital stuff needed… which turned out to be sort of a problem later on) and we had our own trailer. 6AM in the morning we hit the road, well actually we packed the car onto the trailer and got on the road at like 6:45am, after waking up all our neighbors trying to load the car onto the trailer. Next time, we’re going to buy a winch.

Heading to Thunderhill Raceway, being chased by this weird looking 300zx, oh wait…


As soon as we got there, we realized that maybe we really SHOULD have shown up at the gate way earlier before opening. We arrived at like around 8am and all the premium spots (read: spaces with electrical hookups) were taken. We paid the camping fee, we sure as heck want to get a spot with an electrical outlet. Should be easy since we don’t have an RV right? Nope. Eventually we stumbled upon a spot, which a team sort of gave to us. We had a small issue about space later in the day but in the end stuff worked out great and we were all friends, yay!
Here’s our pit spot:

And here’s the car:

And here’s the first day of the race with our first driver, and of course, the golden cock from Arse-Freeza-Palooza 2008:

We got the car out on time, under yellow and things were looking great. We had a pretty good driver strategy this time. Basically we had one driver who had not driven the car since it’s handful of modifications (actually we just put in lowering springs) so we had her go out first under yellow to get some seat time without the hassle of trying to actually race.

And it worked great until the first turn (turn #1) on the first lap under the first green flag on the first day of the race. Some car had gone sideways and smashed into our driver door and pushed our car off the track. We still don’t know who quite did this to us and there were no penalties given since I guess no corner worker saw what happened. We do know the car had some light blue paint on it, as evidence by the paint STILL on our drivers door, which we now can’t open. But that was the worst of our problem, the drivers door can’t open. But now we also had a freaked out driver, who opted to sit on the side of the track for the tow truck to pull it back to the pit. Seeing this (our pit was right next to turn 1) we thought that the car was damaged and we also sort of flipped out. Turns out nothing was wrong, okay good. Well the door issue was also a problem as we have one driver who is quite large and can’t really pull a Dukes of Hazard ingress/egress through the window (which I am really glad we had removed last year, otherwise we’d have shattered glass everywhere). But hey, first problem, not the car’s fault, we’re still free from the curse of the Z-car. Sort of.

Two drivers later the car comes in after a clean run and one of the teammates points out that there’s a lot of smoke coming out from the hood. Not good. Looks like fate has it that our car does fall within the curse:

Turns out that the coolant hoses that go into the throttle body (I’m guessing these are to prevent the throttle plate from seizing in the cold, that or some silly emissions thing) had popped off due to our ghetto conversion job. Okay fine, only other problem was that the car was overheated and we didn’t want to reach into the engine bay to get our hands burnt so we had to sit out for about 20-30 minutes to let everything cool off. It was a 5 second fix with 2 zip ties.

So then I go out, put another hour of clean driving on the track. While I’m out there I notice that I would occasionally get some coolant spray on the windshield, but the temperature gauge stayed normal. As soon as I brought it in, it was overheating. I coasted the car back into the pit and the coolant was BOILING. Great, now what, did we damage the cooling system? Another 30 minute wait and I reached down to touch the lower radiator hose, only to notice that it is cold.

Quick fix: put the thermostat in the garbage can. Everything worked great from there on, so here’s a top tip: if you have a 300zx, or anything with the Nissan VG V-6 engine and you’re racing it in lemons, just save $10 and don’t bother putting in a thermostat, it really doesn’t need one. Two other Z-car teams threw theirs away ages ago. Oh, forgot to mention, those two are also out of the race. Why? Turns out one of them threw a rod, or two… and the other had overheating problems. Not good, the curse is catching up on the Z-cars.
But we weren’t phased. Our car had been really good to us for this entire time and the worst it threw at us was a stuck thermostat, which apparently had a design such that it would go into failsafe mode when the engine overheated. What was the failsafe mode? It would stay shut. And no we didn’t put it in backwards as it only fit’s one way, not that it matters.

End of day 1, and we weren’t doing too well, but we weren’t doing too bad. About 1-2 hours of down time and driver changes, we got in a good number of hours on the track. Also, rocket engines:

These look fantastic at night and we wished that the 24 hour race at Reno wasn’t cancelled so we could use these, but oh well, not a big deal.
Also while everyone had these fancy trailers and RVs, we were one of the few that just had and EZ up, foldable table, and a camping stove. But we were the only ones… with LED Christmas lights. Check it out:

Anyways, second day. Should be better right? Well we started off the day as a team (yep these are all the drivers):

Going to our first black flag penalty… Turns out a driver went on and off the track trying to let someone pass. Let that be a lesson, courtesy is penalized. Next time just smash into them. Just kidding.
It wasn’t a very bad penalty either, we just had to preach about Chairman Mao’s awesomeness to the rest of the people in the pit.

And that’s where it all went very wrong. And this is when all the cameras stopped as we had to get everybody (including people from the pit next to us) to get working on the Z-car. About another hour on the track, we noticed the Z-car wasn’t passing buy. Looking a little further we noticed it was parked on the dirt, on the inside of turn 3. Not good, at all. When the car came in apparently the clutch had exploded. Pulling apart the trans showed that it indeed had exploded and that one side was completely missing the friction material. Skipping all the pain and drama, a clutch kit from (I think) Kragen in Chico, CA and about 5 hours later we swapped in the new clutch and pressure plate. We also managed to break off the studs at the manifold so we had to hold the downpipe in place with a few vice grips. Also the car became very loud as a team member from the pit next to us finally did what we had been meaning to do for so long, and took a pry bar to the guts of our catalytic converter. Of course we had sawzalled off half the exhaust since the entire thing was welded in place so now we just had a downpipe and a hollow cat. Very loud. Also very smelly because we couldn’t open the fill plug for the transmission, so we poured the trans fluid through the gear lever opening, managing to spill most of it everywhere. The smell is okay for the first 3 minutes but really gets to you after about 10 minutes. I was in the car for maybe under an hour (last hour in the race) and all I wanted to do was take off my helmet and stick my head out the window to get fresh air.

But in Project-FATE tradition, we did finish the race… only in like, 133rd place out of 152. Much worse than our 79th place out of 114 teams last time. Oh well, more lessons learned, and a lot of fun experienced. The Z-car as it currently stands has no 1st gear (it magically went away, it’s worth noting that when we drained the transmission a ball bearing fell out) grinds if you try shifting from 2nd to 3rd unless you rev-match, and also causes hearing loss. Time to hit up pick-n-pull for another 5 speed.

Aiming for Infineon 2010… here’s to hoping we get in!

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~ by noodleknight on November 25, 2009.

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