Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Latch-Key Kids 24 Hours of LeMons Autobahn Race Report

This past weekend, a reconstituted Latch-Key Kids Motorsports finished 13th at the 24 Hours of LeMons Show Room Schlock Shoot Out at Autobahn. Our Chia Neon reliably finished its 8th event and was fast and fun all weekend. Full Race report inside.

Piloting the Chia were LKK regulars Luke Keller and myself followed by three friends recruited to fill out the roster: BB regular Matt Anderson joined the action Saturday; Supermoto racer, rally driver, and the fastest man I know in a kart Chris Baker drove Sunday; and two time LeMons neon driver for his own team Chris Barber rounded out the team. With the team and car ready to go, we packed the trailer for scenic Joliet Illinois and headed out Thursday afternoon.

We arrived a few minutes before 11pm local, just in time to make it into the paddock before closing and receive a warm Joliet welcome. We pitched tents on the asphalt and enjoyed the mild weather. The next day, we cleared tech and BS with no issues and no penalty laps as expected. In practice we cycled all the drivers through the car and turned our first laps on Autobahn's 2.1 mile south course. The relatively flat 15 turn circuit is surprisingly technical and the forty foot width makes racing three wide a possibility. The Chia was running great and we were able to keep pace with nearly any car on track. After practice, we inspected our astro turfed car inside and out, installed the stickiest rubber in the trailer and treated ourselves to the finest restaurant in Joliet, Al's steakhouse.

Saturday morning I took the first stint racing against nearly 100 other crap cans. Racing went fine for nearly an hour until the Nixon themed escort made slight contact with the Chia and we were both black flagged. Strike one for LKK. After a brief stop at the tech shed I got back to racing. After an hour and forty-five minutes the Chia hesitated in turn three signaling a need for fuel.

We made our first stop and Luke took the drivers seat. Luke set a fast pace keeping the Chia near the top ten until he was called for passing under yellow. Strike two for the Chia. Our pit stops got smoother and faster. Matt took the wheel next and set the fastest lap of the team (1:48) while driving clean and making passes. Unfortunately, the race went full course black 20 minutes after our stop allowing our competition to refuel without losing laps. To make matters worse, in the time it took to feed the seventy running cars back on track the leaders turned two laps under yellow before we made it onto pit lane.

A few extra laps down, Matt got back in the car and under his heavy foot, the car barely ran an hour and forty minutes before fuel starvation forced a pit stop. Chris Barber took the drivers seat next. After only three laps, he completed a pass before the yellow flag was out but got called for it anyway. Strike three for the Chia. We were told to sit out the last hour of the race on Saturday. We had been running as high as fifth and by the time racing ended Saturday we were a distant 31st.

Post race inspection showed the Chia was still solid but the brakes had taken a beating. The rear pads were paper thin and the Carbotech front pads were coming loose in chunks. New rear pads were easy to find but we had to settle for some well used Hawk Blues up front. With newish brakes, Barber ran a flawless stint Sunday morning and moved us up almost ten positions. Baker drove second and did fine until the judges forced a driver change after he put two wheels off at turn five. Luke then drove an hour forty-five before I took the wheel with two hours to go.

With more than ten minutes left in the race, the Chia sputtered in turn three. Bad memories of Luke driving the Chia on the starter down pit lane at Nelson Ledges filled my mind and I immediately began driving like my wife was in the car. Five laps later, I took the checkered flag on fumes. The Chia now has a lucky thirteen to add to its impressive finishes.

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 2011: Fourth Overall
Autobahn October 2011: Thirteenth Overall

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