Work Party #1 for September 2012, or, Mounting Tires with Wood and Iron
We decided to try something new for the upcoming September race- new, that is, for the Tunachuckers. In most all of our previous racing preparation endeavors, the days - and sometimes, hours - leading up to the green flag were flustered, frenzied, and frenetic flurries of pounding, pleading, and pondering with the racy car. This led to varying degrees of success on the racy track. Usually, though, we ended up walking away with some sort of trophy hardware for our efforts. The "Offishul Tunachucker Trophie Case" (coming soon) contains just about every award to be awarded by the LeMons High Court.
But then, something happened. Last race, for the first time in Tunachucker history, we walked away from the awards ceremony empty handed. Not a single trophy, plaque, artistically-welded-pile-of-defunct-car-chunks, or ribbon. Zilch. Why were we "shut out of the money"? Conspiracy theories abound, but as my wise father "Waterwolf" pointed out, the simple maths of the situation goes thusly: There are 80-odd cars at any given race, fewer than 10 of which will end up with any sort of recognition at the closing ceremonies. That's a 1-in 8 chance at glory for each race, and yet we've managed to beat the odds for 7 straight events. Basically, we were due for a dry spell. And no amount of daring Big Block engine building, fancy-brake swaps, crazy oil derricks, or wild 50+ person paddock cruises on Saturday night could change that.
After our thorough drubbing at the March race,we decided to take a hard-nosed look at our racy car and racy strategy and racy drivers and change the way we approach LeMons. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that LeMons has morphed into more of a serious racing series than it was when we first rolled our '66 Volvo Amazon onto the short course at CMP back in 2008. Now, I realize that saying that is a bit like saying Rodney Dangerfield is a bit less ridiculous now that he's kicked the mortal coil. Caddyshack is still a damn funny movie. And LeMons is still a damn fun race series. But, it's also allowed a flock of previously stereotypically incompetant American drivers to hone their skills into something a bit less "License to Drive" and a bit more Ricky Bobby. We needed to step up, too.
We're not walking away from the Ford LTD Landau, at least not yet. But we won't be making any drastic changes to the car, either. After mucking through numerous and varied induction, ignition, and expulsion issues (luckily, the "squeeze" part of the otto cycle never let us down), we can honestly say that we probably have the fastest and best-handling 1975 Ford LTD Landau on the planet. So, why are we finishing in the middle of the pack in rankings?
Talkin' 'bout the Man in the Mirror, mostly, its because we are a bunch of engineers who really like to work on cars and don't mind turning a wheel in anger on a race track...but we're pretty horrible when it comes to logistics and planning. I'm the captain, and I'm probably the worst of all of us at these things. In the months ahead, we're going to work on pit strategy, communications, driver changes, and fueling. These areas are where LeMons races are truly won and lost. What happens second-to-second on the race track usually matters significantly less.
That said, the mighty LTD Landau isn't completely race-ready at this moment, so the team agreed we should get the old Ford in good nick with some time to spare before September, and then spend the resulting leisure time pre-race working on the aforementioned logistics.
One of the first things we needed to tend to was our tires. When we were first scrambling to get the new racer track-ready, we happened across a screaming deal on a pile of Uniroyal tires. We grabbed some cheap steel wheels, had the Younies mounted and balanced, and largely forgot about them. 2-1/2 races later, those stupid tires are still with us, and they are maddeningly boring. With a 'B' temperature rating and an advertised 660 treadwear, these 16" roundies were really suited to grandpa turnpike cruising, not mad apex-hitting. They squealed, they rolled, they developed frightening wear patterns. And because we had to slow down so much to take turns with any sort of poise, they really beat up the brakes on the car, too. So for the upcoming race, the decision was made, and the call went out: We need better tires.
These are BF Goodrich g-Force tires. 'A' rated, 380 treadwear, and some aggressive-looking racy tread. They cost about twice what we paid for the Uniroyals, so we only bought 6 (2 spares). But they ought to grab the tarmac significantly better. Having broken the bank on sticky round things, though, we were cash-poor when confronted with having to remove the Younies from the wheels and installing the BFGs. What's a broke-arse LeMons racer to do?
When presented with an obstacle, our team often turns to its most seasoned veteran for an answer. There really isn't a single issue that we've had to deal with that a previous racing team or mechanic hasn't come up with a solution to already (except possibly for how to mount a functioning oil pump jack on the roof of a car that has to drive 100mph on a race course- we were on our own for that one). Rob's been around since before the days when you could just go down the street and have some wrench monkey swap your tires on a fancy pneumatic machine, and of course he had a solution: Tire Irons!
Tire Irons, like ballast resistors, have been around since the dawn of automotive time, and nobody really knows what either is used for. Luckily, we had gobs of free labor and almost unbridled enthusiasm.
When tire irons were first invented (shortly after they figured out how to vulcanize rubber, I'm guessing), they were meant to change tires that looked something like this:
We used a large wooden beam and some smaller chunks of wood for leverage against the back of the LTD to de-bead the old Uniroyals. With the modern low-aspect ratio tires we run, some difficulties were inevitable. But, as McCall illustrates in the video below, perseverance prevailed.
6 racy tires mounted! Total manpower expended: 5 engineers (at $50/ hour billable rate) for one hour each, or about $250. Had we gone to the local tire jobber, we'd have plunked down about $90 for a full mount and balance on the set. But, the experience was, er, invaluable.
Granted, we still have to balance the tires, but Rob promises us this is super simple (comparatively, I'm guessing). I'm taking some of the wheels over to his house this afternoon to try it out. If all else fails I'll just mount the wheels on my '69 Cadillac and head on over to the nearest Discount Tire for their "complimentary" balance and rotate service.
But where would the adventure be in that?
Mr. Logistician here---Yep, 21 years of military logistics and recon planning.
First you need video tapes af the prior races (all sports teams use videos). Then you break down the races in 3 or 4 hour segments and assign one segment to each team member.
Start analysing how many cautions (average number) in each race. How many laps (on average) are run under each caution? How many more laps would you do if exited near the end of a caution and swapped drivers and filled with gas?
Next exactly how many laps can you make on a full tank of gas. This will help limit the stops and lost laps. How many more MPG if you all lost 10 pounds? :)
Oh, I'm just getting started :)......
I like the fulcrum used to pop the bead on the tire change. You all have too much patience.....Barney at the corner garage would have changed and mounted those tires for $25 CASH... You need to get on the CASH and BARTER Exchange.
06/24/12 @ 16:46
After logistics, there are always covert operations (FM-23-86.1) to consider.. Enough of the Mr. Nice Guy stuff. Sabotage the competition!! Let's think James Bond here!! Can the Tunamobile distribute pointed/sharpened Jacks(remenber the old Jacks game??)on the race track? James Bond did it in Goldfinger. How about the wheel cutter in Goldfinger?? Crips, you have an oil rigger on the roof, you should be able to find a way to "help the competition lose".
06/29/12 @ 19:32
Spike the punch---Yes, spike the punch!! You guys normally mix up something special called Moonshine that you share after the first day of racing. Well, spike it with Ex-Lax. That will keep the other teams off the track. Just remember not to taste it yourselves.
08/08/12 @ 12:15
"Whaling on the same old dilapidated crap can." - The "Official" Blog of the Tunachuckers Volvo Amazon LeMons racing team.
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