We’ve done what many of you have, spent too much time at home trying to come up with ways to keep ourselves occupied. What we came up with was to build a race car, but not just ANY race car. We set out to compete in 24 hours of LeMons. I mean, It’s our first purpose built race car with a first time crew, it seems best to keep the expectations low. Starting with a barely functioning $500 shitbox seemed like the way to go.
For our Mock Race the team at Depreciation Nation came out and captured us in all of our glory. And these are just the highlights!
The LeMons Car
With a crew assembled and a car purchased, our unlikely team spent their summer in the heat stripping. THE CAR, they were stripping the car. BMW sure does know how to pile on the
weight, creature comforts in their cars.
The team decided to build a E39 BMW 528i. When they explained it to us, “it was cheap and a manual”. I’m sure there’s an article around here somewhere that talks about the build and the associated drama. Ah, there it is. Point really is that these guys have busted their asses to get this car ready for their first scheduled race. Too bad it got canceled. But don’t feel too bad for them! There’s was another race happening in a few months. Oh, damn- that one got canceled too.
Well, in an effort to give team Nein Blinker the chance to test out their Frankenstein (or Bertha as they lovingly call her), ShiftAtlanta put on an event for them at Atlanta Motorsports Park. We did our very best to create as authentic of an 24 Hours of LeMons experience as possible.
The Mock Race
We told the team that since there are no other competitors for them to race against, we’d be bringing in a ringer to set the lap time to beat in the car. We did not have the infamous “Wheel of Misfortune” used to dole out penalty punishments so we created a “Plinko of Pain”. All safety and track rules applied.
Day of the event was a hot mess, as is customary for any race day. It had been raining all morning and we all know what that means for Atlanta traffic. Once we actually all arrived and get our tents set up, each driver was able to get out on the track and get warmed up for about 15 minutes. To say the track was wet was an understatement and the red flags came out shortly after the track was opened.
We used to the free time to introduce the team to their competition, Sarah Montgomery. If you aren’t familiar, Sarah was the first woman to ever podium in the MX5 cup. Then she did it 4 times in a row. This year she’ll be behind the wheel of the Round 3 Racing Cayman S in the World Racing League. Oh yeah, she’s also been a LeMons judge so she knew the deal with the car and the shenanigans. All in all, we were stoked to get her to come spend the day with us. The drivers did seem a little nervous after hearing her talk through her experiences. Probably not as nervous as she was being strapped into a car with a functional beer tap on the trunk though.
As anticipated, Sarah went out and made it look like she was at home behind the wheel. Despite the soggy conditions, she figured out the car and used her knowledge of the track to continually pick up speed. She even passed a shiny new BMW. I wish we could have seen that drivers face to get passed by our Octoberfest themed boat.
Making LeMons out of Lemonade. Wait, That’s Not Right
The afternoon continued through intermittent downpours but we made sure everyone got as much seat time as possible. Infractions were noted and each driver wound up having at least one penalty each.
Penalties were given out for missing flags, speeding in the pits, crossing lines or just in general for complaining. In Megan’s case, she got a penalty for doing absolutely nothing at all. If you have time to lean, you have time to dress up like a Bavarian and chicken dance, damn it.
Extended Seat Time
Once we got beyond lunch, the team hit the track again. Our goal was to get each driver 45 minutes of seat time and an opportunity to review their driver data with Sarah Montgomery so that she could provide driver instruction. One of our drivers, Steve, even got a few laps on a relatively dry track (he was the only driver to enjoy that experience).
The 45 minutes is a little less than half the typical amateur endurance race stint time. Still, it gave them an opportunity to test out the car for an extended period of time. It was also a good reminder exactly how long 2 hours non-stop behind the wheel of a race on track is.
As the day progressed, team Nein Blinker got to enjoy the fruits of their meticulousness by working on their driving skills instead of fixing things on the car. Somehow, beyond figuring out how to maintain a good temperature range, they that didn’t have ANY mechanical problems even after hours on the track.
The Wrap Up
The Ringer vs. The Amateurs
The day culminated with what was supposed to be a trophy ceremony dedicated to the “first place loser” who had the closest time to our professional ringer. It was a bit of a shock when we discovered that one of our guys had actually beaten her time, until we realized that it was Steve- the only one that had the benefit the dry track. So we did what any respectful organization does, we gave the “better luck next time” trophy to the professional and then shot down all reasonable explanations and excuses.
So yeah, the theme of the LeMons car is general beer and culture. And the team had to enjoy a few brews out of the back of the race car before we loaded it up. Plus, the tap handle provides down force. If you haven’t seen it yet, yes that’s a real keg and yes it really functions.
We are so grateful for the hard work of the Nein Blinker team. We have a fabulous and hyper organized Crew Chief Paul; Steve, a serious team player who will step up and do whatever it takes for everyone to get maximum enjoyment of the car and the experience; Jonny who is always down to lend a hand and can always be counted on to get things right the first time and Dean who will lend whatever resources he has (including his time even when that’s hard to come by) to be part of the team. ShiftAtlanta really couldn’t have done any better in selecting this initial team. We even have some bonus team members like Megan who has designed our logo, helps with logistics and is probably in her race suit right this second ready to start helping with pit stops.
We can not thank Sarah Montgomery enough for being such a good sport, helping us work through the details of the car to ensure it’s as safe and race ready as possible and providing excellent driving instruction (that made an immediate difference).
Now, who’s up for some autocross?