Yesterday was the second day of "Gator-O-Rama 2010," the first Houston 24 Hours of Lemons race of the year. I was driving a 1978 Triumph TR7. Yes, we took a British Leyland vehicle to an endurance race and expected to finish!
Everyone on the team except for me had raced before, so the team was experienced. They did a great job taking care of me - helping me figure out what on earth I was supposed to be doing at any given moment. I drove the second stint on the first day. It was dry out there which meant I could move pretty quickly. I did a 2:06 - the fastest time any of us managed in the Triumph that weekend. I also had... er... troubles controlling my aggression when it came to passing. The Triumph had little power but a lot of handling, and I kept trying passes in corners that were a bit too daring. I ended up getting hit (hitting someone according to the Lemons judges, but the paint traded was down the entire side of the car, so I claim we hit each other) and spinning in one half of one lap. This, of course, got me black flagged. I was put in the doghouse for my transgressions. When I got out of the car, I was red and shaking, so I think the judges took pity on me. They watched me head into the doghouse and suddenly disappear! Their complaint? "She's so small, she can hide in the back! That's not nearly humiliating enough!" I was a good sport and stuck my head out for pictures, though.
The team was back out and racing before long. I had only been out for about an hour that day, and we were supposed to do 2 hours each, so I went out again in the afternoon. I had the last stint of the day and the car had taken a bit of damage during one of the other team's running. Bo, our mechanic, told me not to worry about the clunk or, well, really, just don't come in unless it dies. The car didn't really clunk that much, but it had a bad backfire. It also felt a bit down on power. And, thanks to my earlier transgressions, I was very timid about passing. The great handling of the car still allowed me to pass through some of the sweepers, but I did a lot more getting out of the way and a lot less trying to make others get out of my way. With about 15 minutes left in the day, the car was badly down on power as I came into the last corner before the pit entrance. As I went through the sweeper, I tried a few different gears. The car sounded odd and would not accelerate, so I dove into pit. Suddenly, the car was driving perfectly (well, for it), so I went back up pit lane and headed back out. The next time I reached the sweeper, the car wouldn't accelerate again, and as I headed down pit lane, it stalled. I turned out of the pits and the guys pushed the car back to our spot in the paddock. I pulled myself out of the car, turned to Bo, and said, "I told you I wouldn't bring it in until it died." His response? "You did perfectly, didn't come of until it died but didn't need a tow." Yeah, well, I suspect that was more luck than talent, but I'll take it!
Day 2 started off damp thanks to fog. Philip, our team captain, wanted me to go out first. I told him absolutely no way - I am not going to risk my uncontrolled aggression damaging the car before others get their chance to drive. Philip gave me some crap about women having to dictate things, and went out first. He kept the car clean and safe, and then Chris drove. We had a problem with backfires and loss of power. It turned out to be a combination of the gasket between the carbs and the engine (soft rubber that can't handle our cornering Gs) and an exhaust header that wasn't bolted on properly. We re-bolted on the exhaust header with the help of the mechanics from another team and got the car back out. It had been sprinkling off and on, just enough to keep the track wet. Chris finished his session cleanly (yay), and it was my turn in the car. I got lectured about keeping my nose clean, and in the wet? Yeah, I drove carefully. It's a real challenge to stay on that knife's edge between "going quickly" and "losing it" in the wet, but I managed to avoid the "losing it." Bo built a fantastically handling car, and slip only resulted in a heavy drift for me once. I was even able to avoid others' drifts. It stopped raining fairly early in my session, but the track was very wet and people kept going off. This kept the track slick for some time. As it eventually did start to dry out, I was able to figure out exactly how much traction I had more effectively than most drivers. This meant I did a lot of dive-bombing. I could brake in about half the distance other drivers were using, so I'd tuck myself on their inside and brake late. I'd end up either 3/4 of the way in front of them or completely in front of them by corner entrance. Pass done! The track was pretty much completely dry by the time I handed the car off to Steve for the last session of the race.
Overall, it was a great weekend and a lot of fun. A big thank you to the guys on the team for having me!