Sunday, March 22, 2009

LeMons car preparation update!

Me replacing the radiator hose. Rob Changing the AFM

With the LeMons South Spring race fast approaching in two weeks, we were back at it. I've been putting in a lot of time during the past few weeks and weekends when I haven't been racing getting our whip buttoned up and ready to go.

A few weeks ago I fired the car up, warmed it up and bled the cooling system to get all of the air out to hopefully avoid overheating our car during the race. All went well then I shut the car down, worked on my real race car for a while and went back to the LeMons car to pull it back into the garage. No start. Just fires and immediately dies. Great, what now?

I assumed it was a simple electrical gremlin in our now 22 year old Frankenstein race car that we cobbled together. This should be easy to diagnose with my years of highly refined electrical knowledge. This was about two weeks ago and the next weekend was our Road Atlanta race (see post below) so I was running out of time and patience with this car.

I called around, got some ideas on the thousands of issues it could be an decided to put it on hold until I could get Rob down here to help me troubleshoot. Which was this weekend. Thanks again goes to Jim Levie who offered lots of help and ultimately led to the solution. Long store short: we have a bad AFM. I'm not sure where JP got this AFM and if it ever ran a car he owned or not but it was confirmed bad when I tried it in my Spec E30 race car. Another donor part from #380 and we are back in business. Side note: Jim also has a writeup on how to repair the bad AFM so hopefully we can fix this one.

Once we got it fired up I took it for a spin thru the neighborhood. Car feels great and will get sideways fairly easily. Should be a handful at speed with this ancient suspension. Oh, and we really need a new caliper out back, the brakes are just plain scary.

After a successful test drive I bring her back in the driveway, call Jim to thank him and let him know its running great. As I'm talking to him on the phone I see lots of steam and fluid on the driveway. This is not good. I pop the hood and quickly look at the front corner of the engine where the head meets the block. There is steam pouring out and I quickly deduce that we just lost a head gasket and cooked the motor. Jim laughs at me and says look at the hoses. Hoses? You mean the original 22 year old hoses we reused? Those are fine. Except they aren't are they? there was no a big crack in one where the hose clamp is and it is conveniently spraying on th engine right where the head meets the block. I told you I was no pro tech. We let it cool off and replace the hose, all is well again...until the next issue arises that is.

Weekend Summary:
This weekend we:
1. got it running...again. Installed the kill switch, finished the harness mounting and Rob helped me move all of my garage crap to the new house. Thanks again Bobert.
2. Churched up the inside of the car a bit with some rattle can primer to cover the surface rusted metal.
3. Went to Mac's on Main again, great little place with live music and a sketchy waitress. I'm pretty sure she eats everyone's leftovers.
4. Went to the club to check out our New Amsterdam promotions. Blame it on the New Am...not feeling great today.

The paint job is done!

Paint is still wet. Wet sanding the first two coats of gray.

The car sanded before painting. Safety first!

A lot of the time I've put into the car has been getting it looking nice. I've always wanted to paint a car with rollers and see how nice I can get the paint. Since this isn't a real car its the perfect candidate. This way, if I screw it up who cares right?

I used Rustoleum and went with the three color scheme reminiscent of a once popular 80's TV show featuring a sweet van. It goes along with our LeMons team theme which will be revealed in the race recap blog. If you can figure it out for yourself by these pics and my clever clues, consider yourself average at best and go ahead and eat that extra cookie. You've earned it.

Bobert wiring up the kill switch. Two E30's ready to race?

The proper method of painting with a roller is to thin the paint to almost water like consistency so it levels and apply several coats, wet sanding in between. I had intentions of doing this for the whole car but decided against it once time began to run thin. No pun intended. I did thin the gray and added a few cots but most of it is thinned slightly and applied heavily. I did wet sand, compound, polish and wax afterward so the paint looks great for a LeMons car. As with any paint job 90% of it is in the prep work. Getting a smooth surface to start with. I sanded the car and that's about it. Again, LeMons not concourse.

This car will be smashed to pieces in the race anyway so it doesn't matter. Enjoy the pics!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Hate being wet…Did I mention that?

80 degrees and sunny for four days. That was the weather we had right up until Friday, March 13th 2009. Then it turned to 30’s and 40’s with constant rain. Just in time for a race weekend at Road Atlanta. Yes, the same Road Atlanta that I wrote about in previous blogs with lots of concrete walls very close to the tracks edges. It sounds like a great combination: a wet slippery track, race cars and concrete walls. What could possibly go wrong!!??
I hate being wet all weekend. Wet clothes, wet gear, wet food and worst of all; wet feet all weekend. I do not like those things. In fact, it’s miserable. Last year at CMP when it monsooned, I was ill prepared and was wet and cold all weekend. Not this time. I bought a full rain suit and brought my waterproof boots. Quite possibly the best investment in clothing I have ever made. Not to mention, the sexy “I know what you did last summer” killer’s outfit really gets the attention of the ladies…as Boogie pointed out to me.
This weekend I wasn’t wet and cold except when I was in the race car since we have to race with the windows down. You don’t notice that when racing though, you’re kind of busy. You do however notice that you can’t see 10 feet in front of your car because of the spray from the other cars as well as your completely fogged up windshield, which is nice. Those things make it interesting. Oh yeah and my ABS went out in Saturday’s practice session. More on that later.
Turnip, Rankin and Boogie brought the RV to the track again thanks to Tom Johnson. This was great because I planned on camping in my tent for the weekend and they had an extra spot in the RV just for me! I’m glad they offered too because Friday night brought the wind and the rain. I would have been miserable in my tent on top of the hill under the shelter. I’m pretty sure I would have blown away. The rain was hard enough to wake me up in the RV that night. From then on it rained non-stop day and night, all weekend. It was miserable and lots of cars were wrecked. Mine thankfully came out unscathed. I did get stuck once…more on that a little later as well.


I took Friday off of work so I could take my time making the three hour drive to the track and get there with plenty of time to help out for the three hour enduro that started at 2:00. I got to the track around 12:30 and we set up the pits to help out a few fellow racers. Fortunately the rain missed us all day Friday and it was a good day. Steve Foushee, fellow Spec E30 racer took first in E2 until his NASCAR style celebration efforts earned him a DQ and the Title “Donut king of Augusta.” He stopped on the front straight and did donuts on the track. This is generally frowned upon by NASA officials and this time was no different. I didn’t get to see them but I heard the donuts were pretty sweet. Sorry Steve!
Friday night a few of us went out for Mexican food and some beers. I smelled like Mexican food all night. Some of the others went to the baby shower that was being held in the timing and scoring tower. That’s right, I said baby shower. I suspect they went for the free pizza and cake but with those guys, you can never be sure.


As Skid Row used to sing “I woke up to the sound of pouring rain.” Well, I was actually woken up by Rankin who had to go meet his student first thing in the morning. I’m pretty sure it was about 4 AM. It seemed that early anyway. And it was cold and pouring rain…all day. Our practice was at 9:30, qualifying at 11:10 and the race at 2:00. Surely the rain would let up later in the day for the race right? Not a chance. I left my dry setup on the car but luckily I had a fresh set of full depth R888’s mounted by Sasco the day before. This made the wet track a little more tolerable but I was still loose all over the track. I felt pretty good in practice and in qualifying I was able to be quick enough for 5th out of our 17 Spec E30’s. Sweet!
Because of the conditions the race director decided to grid us in one big group for the race. This meant we were classified by our overall time, not just our class. This meant I was starting 10th out of about 60 cars. This was done to keep cars at similar pace near each other to hopefully avoid a lot of carnage on the start. It worked but it’s not as fun as grouping all of the Spec E30’s together and having split starts. Maybe it was for the better.

I ended up finishing 6th. Not bad and I got the sweet 6th place trophy that Geegar made, a T-Shirt, a set of free brake pads from Bimmerworld and I didn’t crash the car. All in all, a good day on track for me.
Saturday night we had our awards banquet and again, it was raining and cold. But I was dry and warm thanks to my sweet rain suit. I hate being wet. The bad thing about the rain at the track is it sends people in early for the night and it kills a lot of the partying we usually do. We took it easy that night. After dinner we took showers and went back to the RV to watch Role Models. Pretty funny movie. I recommend it.

Al, Travis and Scott decided the weather was too much for them and they went and got a hotel room. Dave White was also there and he had a hotel room. At around 9:00 we get a phone call from Travis, hammered drunk, announcing that they are going to the Wal-Mart to raise some hell. This should be good. We tell them we will wait for the call from jail later that night and we went back to watching our movie in the money RV. Dry and warm.


Again I awoke to the sound of…Rankin, getting ready to meet “the talker” at 8:00. I quickly fell back asleep only to have Travis wake me up with a phone call. “Hey, are you gonna qualify?” I said “when is it?” “9:00AM.” he replied. I said “probably not, well, I guess I might. We’ll see.” Guess who was there for qualifying with me?

Some of the guys were trying different setups for the wet. Some seemed to work, some didn’t. I changed mine on Sunday by disconnecting the rear sway bar as my car was very loose all day Saturday. This has worked before while racing in the rain so I thought I would try it out and it worked great. I was able to get the power down a lot sooner getting out of the turns and I qualified 3rd.

We again had a full group start and this meant I was 9th overall starting the race. I had a decent start but was soon passed by three cars in my class. The track was very wet and with the ABS not working I was getting lock up in a few braking zones. I backed off a bit from the cars in these areas just in case but I was managing it well for the most part. I went too hot into turn 10A on the fourth lap and the front tires locked up and I was sliding toward the Spec E30 in front of me. This was not good. It’s usually not a big deal when this happens, you just get out of the brakes to regain traction and apply them again. Smoothly. If you are still running out of braking room at this point but your speed is okay you can “throw” the car into the turn and still make the corner.
This time I was quickly running out of room and if I tried to throw the car into the turn I would have run the risk of hitting the car in front of me. Instead of doing this I opted to go straight off into the gravel trap. I was stuck on the beach, my race was over but the car wasn’t damaged. I sat there for a few laps watching the race and then the tow truck came, pulled me out and I drove into the pits. Sucks to end the race like that but it was the right call.

Overall it was a good weekend. I had a great time seeing everyone and like I said, I hate being wet but I like driving in the rain. A big thanks goes to Aaron, Warren, Lauren and the G-Man for letting me crash in the RV.

1. A rain suit is an absolute necessity.
2. 6th place is better than 2nd thru 5th.
3. Wal-Mart in Braselton GA will tolerate a lot of jack-assery.
4. The 10A gravel trap is a great spot to watch a race.
5. Do not drive on any of the painted surfaces at Road Atlanta when wet.
6. ABS is a good thing to have in the rain. (gotta get that fixed)

I haven’t sent out an update in a while so the two posts below may also be new to you. Stay tuned for our next event: The 24 hours of LeMons returns! Will we get the car ready in time? What’s the theme? Did Ian get that rash cleared up? All of these questions and more will hopefully be answered in my next post. Until then, stay dry and keep the car off of the walls.

-Brian Jones, BeerTech Racing #380-

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!!!!

The 2009 racing season is here!

After a short winter break we headed to Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw SC to kick it off. This was a rough weekend for Spec E-30.

Let's get right to the action:

Friday: I get to the track on Friday at about 5:00 as the 3 hr enduro is underway with one hour left. Read Jim’s blog for the exciting recount of the enduro. Turnip brought a motor home for this event which was an awesome HQ for us. Unfortunately it meant splitting up the Spec E-30 paddock.

For some mysterious reason I noticed in my garage that my left rear shock was leaking. The car had been in the garage for a couple of months and I didn’t notice anything wrong with it until the week of the race. Great, now what? Chuck Taylor of Factory 3 Performance was nice enough to bring a shiny new one to the track for me. Thanks again Chuck!

The weather was great all weekend but it did get cold at night. Good thing I brought a heater for my tent! It worked great. Friday was a lot of fun catching up with all of my racing friends while eating Mexican food, drinking beers and telling lies….Sometimes when I’m away from the track for a while I think about selling the race car but then another event comes around and it makes all of the hassle and cost worth it. You’ll never meet a better bunch of people than you will at a NASA SE event. More on that later.

Saturday: 7:00 AM. It’s cold outside but warm in the tent with my awesome little heater! Time to change out that shock before hitting the track.

This will be my first event using the new Spec tire Toyo R888’s which replaced our Toyo RA-1’s. The new tires have a stiffer sidewall but are supposed to have the same compound. They require a little bit a different set up on the car to work correctly as testing from others have shown. I still have a set of RA’s to burn thru so I run those in practice. I will have to use my 888’s for qualifying and in the race.

Practice goes well as I shake the cobwebs out of the helmet and get myself back up to speed in the race car and on track.

For qualifying, I throw on the 888’s. I didn’t have time to change the setup on the car all weekend so the settings I use with my RA-1’s will have to do. I haven’t looked at the tire wear yet to see how the setup is affecting them but the car felt good all weekend. These tires do not like to be overdriven so smoothness becomes even more important. Once these tires get too hot they are get greasy and go away pretty quick. I qualified 6th out 18 Spec E30’s.

Now for the race: This year we have a whole new crop of rookies to run with. It’s great to see these guys out here and to know that Spec E30 is alive and well. With more cars on track comes more chance for bad things to happen.

As the race starts there is contact between Steven Canterbury and Brandon Smith sending Brandon spinning. Luckily no one T-bones him and we all continue on. Turns two and three are clean but as we enter turn 4, I make an inside move on Robert Patton who is driving the Pink Panther for Saturdays race. I had a good run on him out of turn three and decided to make the move. As we approached the corner Robert goes for the apex and we make contact sending him around. Turn 4 is a very high speed corner and unfortunately we were all still bunched up at this point. Damion Moses was right behind us and as he came thru four he had nowhere to go. He grazed my driver’s side door and took my mirror off before hitting the panther in the drivers rear with his left front. I went on to finish the race but Damion’s car and the panther were damaged pretty heavily. I finished 6th but was later DQ’s for passing under double yellow several laps later.

We reviewed my in car video of the wreck, (START OF SAT'S RACE) and no one was found at fault for the wreck, it was just a racing incident but it still sucks.

During the same race another Spec E30 driver was taken out by a Miata. It really takes the fun out of it when cars get bent up.

Sunday: We had little more contact on Sunday that damaged two Spec E30’s. Steven Canterbury and Chuck Taylor got together coming out of turn three and wrecked both cars.

Video of STEVEN AND CHUCK Chuck's car:

Man, this is getting old. Racing is a dangerous sport and quick decisions have to be made and these things happen.

As the quote goes: ”The price for men in motion is the occasional collision.” And we had a few of them this weekend.

Sunday was a much better day for me on track though. I had to borrow a mirror from the Pink Panther for Sunday’s race and the guys from Florida thought it would be funny to make that mirror a little easier to see.

They attached an F 250 mirror to the side of my car. See the pic. It was pretty funny…well played.
I went out for qualifying and qualified 5th but a surprise weigh in after qualy put me dead last, 17th, in the field due to being underweight. Our minimum weight is 2750 and I weighed in at 2743.
7 lbs. under! SEVEN!!

That’s one gallon of gas. Dagger!

Oh well, to the back I go and I threw a spare wheel and tire in the trunk to make sure I would make weight for the post race weigh in…which didn’t happen.

Two other guys were found underweight and started in the back with me. I had a great drive and managed a fifth place finish earning me a cool 25 Toyo bucks.


It would have been interesting if all Spec E30 racers had weighed in after qualy but some didn’t. I wonder who ….Hey Craig, what did you weigh in at? It was a poorly run post qualy impound. And no post-race weigh in? C’mon where’s the consistency?! This is all for fun anyway so I don’t really care but it adds to the bench racing and lies later on!

Too much carnage this weekend on track but this weekend really showed the spirit of the Spec E30 racing community. And that’s why we are all here. Our fellow racer and truly great guy Scott Gress had been getting the run around from a shop that was supposed to do some work for him months ago. Long story short they did not do what they were supposed to and messed up the work that they did do. He barely got the car back in time for the CMP event after calling the cops but now needed an engine swap. This would have to be done at the track to get him back out there racing with us.

As I am more of a parts swapper than real actual mechanic, this work would be left to the professionals and guys who know what they are doing. Everyone was determined to get him on track and parts were brought in Friday night from all over to get this thing running. Several people pitched in and they swapped the engine and had him racing on Sunday. This truly is an amazing group of people.

Overall the weekend was fun but all of the on track contact really took the fun out of racing for me. Saturday night was fun, we had the awards banquet and guess what? No BBQ! We had spaghetti! What a great change! I had a great time hanging out with everybody and especially Boogie! I had to add a special shout out just for you! Turnip, Rankin Brooke and Boogie were nice enough to let me hang out in the motor home all weekend and we had a great time together as always. I’m looking forward to Road Atlanta!!

Sorry for the dull write up, I kind of want to get this weekend put away and forgotten. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next one!!

-Brian Jones, BeerTech Racing #380

Preparing for the 2009 24 Hours of LeMons.

Because of the success of last year’s first ever, south east event, the LeMons creators are bringing it back! This year there will be two LeMons events at CMP, one in the spring and one in the fall. Since we had such a good time last year we decided to enter again.

We managed to destroy last year’s car in Weird Al’s Second Annual Dirt Track Democross and Firearms Spectacular back in November so we would have to find a replacement. If all goes well, we may be able to enter this same car in the fall event as well.

Because we are BMW E-30 junkies and gluttons for punishment, why not find another one of those we thought? Besides, some of us have lots of parts for these things and we know plenty of people who can help if we need it.

As you will recall from last year’s LeMons write up (see below) , these cars cannot cost more than $500 total, including prep work once you get the car. Safety items are excluded from that cost.

It’s pretty easy to find a “running” example for less than $500 but this means you will be buying an “e” car. These E30’s have 2.7L inline 6 cylinder engines but are built for economy more than performance. They make good low end torque but do not make much power and have a low rev limit. Their cousins, the “i” cars, like our Spec E30 race cars, have a 2.5L inline 6 but they rev higher and make more power. The “i” cars are more valuable and sought after. So we bought an 1986 325e we found for $400. But it has some problems. It has lots of problems. But we can fix it! And we can make it better!

List of problems: It’s old and rusty and has all original parts! Read: original suspension, bushings and mounts. All old and in need of replacing….which we are not replacing. The rust holes in the floor boards are big enough to put your leg completely through. I’m pretty sure the car has its original tires too. You could stick a quarter through the dry rot cracks. Nice. And safe! We will be replacing the tires. This car also runs extremely rich because it has the wrong air flow meter. Oh, and it has the milkshake. The Milkshake, in car terms, means the car has coolant in the oil. This could be due to a blown head gasket, cracked block or cracked head. We have a plan for that.

The good thing about being into this crap is that you find out neat little things along the way. It is widely known in the BMW community that you can mix and match parts from different engines and come up with different configurations. Oh, and we are replacing the open 2.93 rear end with a limited slip 4.10 I have laying around. That should make things interesting.

We decided to take our “e” engine and put all of the high performance bits from an “i” motor on it to make a poor man’s stroker motor.

Think of it this way: your 82-87 325,e,es has the 2.7L 9.0:1 compression M20 and the 87-92 325i,is,ix have the high performance 2.5L 8.5:1 compression M20. Now if you have both an "e" and an "i" then take all of the high performance "i" parts off and bolt them on to the "e" and you will have a high performance, high torque 9.0:1 compression 2.7L M20. So that’s what we did. The one thing we also needed was another wiring harness.

So we have a 1986 e car bottom end, 198X i head and ancillaries and a 1989? wiring harness. All of the mechanical work was easy enough, pull the head from our e car, put on the i head with new gaskets of course, and then it was time for the electrical work…..

Now, we at BeerTech are parts replacers, not real mechanics. This means when it comes to electrical work, count us out. All four of us taught ourselves how to work on cars and have taken zero actual classes on the subject. We’re not even sure how to use a volt meter correctly. This should be fun.

So we splice in the “new” wiring harness and fire the car up. By “fire it up” I mean turn the key and get nothing! Success! Oh wait, that’s not the result we are looking for at all. Great.

I have had the LeMons car for weeks doing odds and end getting it ready. Stripping it down completely, etc. We scheduled a BeerTech weekend for Feb 20-22nd to do most of the work. Swap the rear end, install the cage, seats, harnesses, do the motor swap, brakes and general maintenance while drinking about 6 cases of beer. We worked day and night on this thing for three straight days, got everything done and then it wouldn’t fire. A great ending to a loooong weekend. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the beer.

The race is the first week in April so this means it’s basically up to me from here on out to get the thing running and ready. And I have a ton of other things going on. Rob was nice enough to come down the next weekend and help me out and JP and I were on the phone all week looking for solutions.

Thanks to Jim Levie, BMW guru, we were able to trace the problem to the coil’s ground wire. This wire is shielded to reduce radio interference to the coil. We cut the node off the end of this wire to install a kill switch, which also didn’t work, and when we put the ground back on to the coil the shielding was in contact with the negative post. This prevented the DME from being able to ground and un-ground that connection therefore not sending a start signal to the coil.

I pulled back the shielding and reconnected our ground and the car fired right up! Sweet! Our LeMons car is alive!!! A few more odds and ends and this car is ready to rip it up on track.

We were lucky enough to find $1.59 in change in the car to offset our cost. >>>>>>>

Stay tuned for the race report and the unveiling of this year’s theme!

-Brian Jones BeerTech Racing #380