Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Latch-Key Kids 24 Hours of LeMons Gingerman Race Report

Chia Neon finishes fourth overall at the 24 Hours of LeMons Campaign to prevent Gingervitis. After a hard fought two days of racing the Latch-key Kids stretched their streak of top five finishes to seven. Full race report after the jump.

Rewind for a moment to 24 Hours of Gingerman 2010. The Latch-Key Kids were finally racing on a real road course they knew well, and its the first LeMons in Michigan in three years. This was our home turf and we came to win. In the end we came a close second only a handful of laps behind the leader. The Chia Neon completed its first LeMons with zero mechanical issues (not counting a poor brake pad choice on Saturday). The Chia led for several hours on Sunday, but the other team had a 24 gallon fuel cell and we only had a 10.5 gallon factory tank. Our lack of fuel reserve meant we had to make one more pit stop on Sunday. That last stop took us from leading by two laps to down by two and our race was over. We did suffer an uncharacteristic three penalties, any one of which could have made the difference.

We returned in 2011 hoping that a reliable car, a team of strong drivers, quick pit stops, and no black flags would get us over the hump. Friday practice went well. The car had no issues and we were keeping up with everything else on track. Saturday was forecast as raining and cool so we mounted a set of Dunlop Direza tires which appeared to have more siping to evacuate water than the Falken 615k.

Saturday was raining and cold all day long. Ray Ayala took the first stint, just off a great run at Chumpcar's Oregon race. Despite Ray's four years of racing Neons, the Chia couldn't keep pace with the other Neons on track. This was an odd position for the Chia to be in. After two and a half hours, Dan Kwolek took the wheel drove for two and a half hours. The Chia lacked lateral grip and traction under throttle but could out break the best of them. Despite our best efforts the leaders continued to stretch their lead.

Our initial plan called for all of our five drivers to take one stint on Saturday to make the 9.5 hour race time. The slower pace in the rain meant better fuel economy and Dan showed the car could go 2.5 hours between stops. If Luke Keller and Ed Hessel could also make it 2.5 hours each we could go the distance with one less stop. I made the call to cut the last stint, which was mine.

Luke drove for nearly 2.75 hours with only one spin on track as the only misstep. With enough fuel to go the distance, Ed jumped in for the last stint. With a bit of luck the leaders would need to make an additional pit stop keeping them within striking distance on Sunday. It went fine until thirty minutes into Ed's stint the tower lost communication to the corner workers and the field was black flagged. Everyone was allowed to return to the pits to refuel. Any benefit from stretching our stints evaporated. With forty-five minutes left to go the race ended early because the snow reduced corner workers visibility so much it became dangerous.

Ed took the checker flag in fifth place, 10 laps behind the leader.

Sunday was sunny and cool. We switched rubber to the Falkens and I took our place in fifth for the start. Once the race began, I passed everyone but the Skid Marks Racing Neon leading the race in one lap. In two more laps I passed him as well, still a bunch of laps down but confident the Chia can race with any Neon out there. In the dry the Chia was a force to reckoned with. While other cars could keep pace on the straight, only a handful could hang with us in breaking zones or pulling in an apex. After 1.75 hours I handed the car over to Ray who continued our quick pace setting the team's fastest lap time.

Luke took the next stint and kept the Chia turning fast laps. Despite our pace we only reduced our gap to leaders from ten to six. With a comfortable lead over the fifth place car, Dan jumped in for one last stint not to be left out of driving the Chia in favorable conditions.

Dan took the checker fourth overall, keeping our seven time streak of top five finishes alive. A feat no other LeMons team has accomplished, to my knowledge.

Keep checking BeaterBlog for updates on the Latch-Key Kids racing plans for 2011.

Thanks to everyone following our twitter feed, and all our friends and family supporting the team.

The Chia Neon's honorable 24 Hours of LeMons record:

Flat Rock 2007: Third overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Thunder Hill 2007: Second overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Toledo 2008: Fourth Overall, Least Horrible Mopar
Houston 2008: Fourth overall
Nelson Ledges 2009: Fifth Overall, Fastest Yank Tank
Gingerman April 2010: Second Overall, Fastest Yank Tank and You Got Screwed Award
Gingerman April 2010: Fourth Overall

1 comment:

  1. Well done and well documented! I hope you have equally good luck in your moped thunderdome endeavors.