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Altamont 24 Hours of LeMons 2008

The Altamont running of the 24 Hours of LeMons has come and gone for 2008.

As you might have heard, a horrific accident occurred on the first day of competition and we lost a racer. Court Summerfield was not a member of my team and I did not know him, but he will be missed. The racing community is always devastated, no matter the circumstances. I'd rather not write more about this and will leave you to click the Donate link on the home page and let this post suffice.


Another year, another car. Along the lines of the first Festiva, we picked up another one from the same dirt trackers. This was an '88 Festiva using a carbed 1.6L from a 323. It supposedly had a bad coil but would work just fine after that! After the replacing first the coil, then the plugs and wires, then the cap and rotor and finally the distributor itself, we got the bugger to fire up. We had NO idea what else was in store for us though.

Thankfully, another Microsoft friend decided to join in on the mayhem. I've told him twenty times so far but I'm going to say it again. If it wasn't for Dan, we would not have made it to the race. Without going into all the build details, which would take pages and bore most of you, here's the list of everything we did:

Priority 1
  1. Fire extinguisher
  2. Refill transmission fluid
  3. Repaint car
  4. Trim/install front fenders, hammer out dents in rest of car
  5. Rebuild inner joint on driver side half-shaft
  6. Replace steering rack
  7. Wheel bolts + rear wheel spacers from Nat
  8. Alignment
  9. Troubleshoot radiator fan
  10. Check transmission fluid
  11. Lengthen/relocate fuel tank vent line
  12. Troubleshoot oil pressure light
  13. Patch oil pan gasket
  14. Bleed brakes
  15. Replace pass control Arm
  16. Gather spares
  17. weld/rivet panel over old fuel filler location
  18. Tighten shoulder straps
  19. Hose: Thermistat housing to intake manifold
  20. Relocate gas filler neck
  21. Cover for + batt terminal
  22. Wink mirror
  23. Floor panel
  24. Seat
  25. Harness
  26. Window net
  27. Battery tiedown
  28. Change oil
  29. Insp t-belt, water pump
  30. Mount new gauge cluster
  31. Exhaust (if too loud)
  32. Fix throttle return cable
  33. Reconnect radiator fan
  34. Tie down wiring
  35. Air filter / box
  36. Spark plug wire
Priority 2
  1. Vacuum crap out of car
  2. Re-center steering wheel
  3. Steering wheel
  4. Windshield
  5. Install vacuum caps
  6. Add choke cable
  7. Replace thermostat
Priority 3
  1. KYB struts
  2. Cut springs
  3. New Aspire rotors
  4. New Aspire front pads, rear shoes
  5. Used Aspire hubs/spindles, outer tie rod ends, calipers, brake hoses
  6. Replace radiator
There are other things that we didn't capture, but just look at all of that! This was probably 50 hours of work and Dan did innumerable other tasks in between our meets. By this point, the car was purring like a kitten, was quite stable in turns, braked as well as we could expect and decently reliable. In addition to all of that, we cobbled together a bunch of spare parts, including front struts with the springs pre-mounted. We were not going to face the same issue that took us out last year!

The Cast

Let's step back and outline the cast of characters:
  • Me, whom you should know.
  • Sanjeev, friend, coordinator extraordinaire and previous LeMons racer (PLR)
  • Dan, MSFTie that I've autocrossed with before, works in Jeev's department, owner of a FIVE CAR GARAGE and more knowledge of mechanics than I thought possible
  • Jeff B, S2K owner, known in the PNW S2K circles
  • Jeff C, S2K, S4 and 911 owner
  • Richie, PLR
  • Nat, Festiva expert, PLR, the reason why we were able to race last year
  • Dale, experienced racer from Austin, PLR
  • Jack, AI superstud, PLR
  • Randy, experienced racer from Austin
  • Craig, good friend of Jeev's
  • Becca, photographer and friend of Nat's
  • Heather, friend of Richie's
Before the Race

The cars were trailered down using a gutted 1974 Holiday Rambler towed behind a rented 1-ton truck. This greatly overshadows the open one car trailer towed behind Nat's beat up truck last year. Nat, Becca, Richie and Heather made the tough trip this year and I heard it wasn't the most enjoyable. Everyone but Jack made it to the track well in advance of necessary. We had tons of time to set up the pits, check on the cars and more. Jack's luggage was delayed and I'm still not sure what ungodly hour he arrived on Saturday morning.

Friday night, we all went out for pizza and my god, did we all get along well. I had spent quite a bit of time with Dan, Jeev and the Jeffs fixing up the car but it was great to see the PLRs and the new faces. A couple pitchers of beer, some mostly fluff race preparation and a bit more drinking and we were all ready for the race. I spent quite a bit of time trying my hand a t-shirt iron-ons, using this cheeky design of my own creation:

I wanted to make shirts for everyone, but I couldn't find enough iron-on transfers and then I the directions didn't explain one crucial aspect of the tools, yadda yadda. I was only able to make five shirts, but we might get them printed up for real later.

The Race

The two race days were pretty much a blur. You get bullet points:
  • We finished 60th and 71st of 82 entrants.
  • The blue car made it to day two and then failed spectacularly! Dale caused most of the damage but Jack was in the car when oil just started pouring out. Turns out, the bearing cap blew a three inch hole in the block. No way to fix that easily!
  • The yellow car was having cooling issues for most of the first day. We replaced the radiator cap and fashioned an air director and had no problems the second day. We took two big hits, the first bending a strut and the second shearing an inner tie rod. Luckily, we had a hot swap strut with spring already mounted ready, so the first hit wasn't so bad. The second hit required us to replace the steering rack and while we had a spare, it took about 45 minutes.
  • We were hit for a penalty this year. Jeff C took a shortcut and instead of spending 30 minutes in the pits, we spun the penalty wheel. He hit the Al Gore Award and thus had to don a tie-dye shirt and dig a hole to plant a tree, all while being pelted with tofu!

  • We've already got plans for next year and more people than we need. We are going to focus on reliability and a bit more grip.