Thunderhill 2010 – Day 2 Update


We started Sunday pretty confident in our newly swapped motor. Overnight we’d fixed a few minor things: a vacuum line and CV shaft swap. Our biggest problem was a nasty exhaust leak due to a completely stripped hole in the head for the exhaust manifold stud. Obviously not good, but it’s not like we had the time/energy/supplies to drill it and helicoil it.
Not long into Fast Guy Ryan’s first shift he came in complaining that the car was cutting out/shutting down on him. Obviously not good. We checked a bunch of in-engine sensors and the like, and couldn’t find anything. When we went to jump it (our alternator is basically shot) and got nothing out of the starter switch, we knew we had a problem. Turns out, it was the wiring on the interior switch panel. The crimp connection on the main ignition switch was bad. We’ll probably solder that next time. With that switched, he was back on for a nice fast stint, which ended with a minor black flag.
I was up next, and had the best on-track experience of my life. Per Ryan’s advice, we just left  the car in 2nd (of 3 gears) and aside from having to hold back a little at the ends of the straights, the throttle response coming out of corners was worlds better. Besides, with the exhaust leak, we were far enough down on power that the UB was more of a momentum car at this point, which forced me to drive better anyway. By the end of my shift, I found myself catching back up to cars that had been passing me. After 2 hours in the car (in 95 degree heat) I was cooked and out of gas. It was Graham’s turn.
We were climbing in the standings (mid-30s) and duking it our with a very fast but sometimes broken Daihatsu for the Class C lead. We were determined to be the cream of the crap.
Graham got about 45 minutes into his shift when we heard a squawk over the radio (squawking was about all our radio setup was good for). He’d made and was coming in. Apparently going 3-wide into 90-degree right-hander turn 13 doesn’t really work. Somewhere out there there’s a yellow Z-car with a little Petty Blue on it. Luckily, it had happened out of view from the corner workers, so all we had to do was pull out our front-right fender a little.

Something like 15 minutes goes by and we hear more squawking…which then turns into intelligible talking. That’s a bad sign, because it means Graham’s no longer flying around the track, but sitting with the car not making any background noise. I was in the middle of getting gas for our next driver change while I head “bad knock…big boom…lots of smoke…” Dammit. And I’d just pumped $50 worth of gas, too.
Graham gets pushed in, but there’s nothing obviously massively wrong…no trails of fluid or parts, nothing hanging down. Optimism sets in. We get to diagnosing and the dipstick gives us the telltale milkshake of a blown head gasket. Damn. There’s about 90 minutes of racing left, which is “drain it and fill it and just run it” kind of time. Again, jumper cables come out and we get cranking, but it won’t fire. All of our typical electrical weak links check out fine and there are no horrible noises coming out of the motor. Back to basics: fuel, spark, compression. We checked the fuel rail and injectors, which have fuel and are triggering. We check the plugs and they’re going ok (and actually look pretty good). At this point, there was no good reason for it to not give us some combustion. The assumption is that the oil/water slurry that’s all over everything is putting a damper on in-cylinger combustion. We open up the throttle and spray in a bunch of carb cleaner, and dump it in the spark plug holes as well.
We crank it again, hoping to expel some of the crud that’s in the combustion chambers. While cranking, we get the typical “wooofwoof” out of cylinders 2-5, but 1 is giving us nothing. Compression….not so much. At this point,.there’s less than an hour left, we’ve got a motor with a blown head gasket and no compression on one cylinder that still won’t fire (that blown #1 shouldn’t have kept the other 5 from firing). We were pretty much out of options and had no chance of catching the class-C leader Diahatsu in the remaining 30 minutes, so we threw in the towel. [sad trombone]
We were bummed, but on the whole it was an awesome weekend. We’d swapped a motor over night, with great results. We were running better than we ever had: our highest place was 32nd, but we ended up finishing 48th. To cap it all off, Jay and Co. Decided to award us the “We Got Screwed” trophy for our combination of near-heroic fix and back luck of blowing up two motors in one weekend.
Now we’re hitting the road for a 10 hour drive and then need to push a busted UB and haul a blown motor up my driveway. That’s gonna be fun.

By |2010-08-09T12:09:49+00:00August 9th, 2010|24 Hours of Lemons, The Überbird|0 Comments

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Jeff Glucker is the co-founder and Executive Editor of . He’s often seen getting passed as he hustles either a dark blue 1974 Mercedes-Benz 280 or 1991 Mitsubishi Montero up the 405 Freeway.
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