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19 June 2012

My Capital Offense (Lemons Racing!)

I work with a cool and adventurous group of folks.  Though all notable, of relevance here are those that form the Clearspring Motor Club. Yes, it in fact consists of current employees, non-employees, and former employees, but alas, the unifying spirit lives on. Motorcycle rides in the VA countryside, karting, and yes, car racing. Last year, the team did several "crapcan" races, to varying levels of success but with a consistent level of enjoyment. I did one of those -- the DC-area 24 Hours of Lemons race known as Capitol Offense. Great name. We just did it again this past weekend, here's how it went.


We run a '94 Volvo 940 wagon.  Its gutted, with a full custom roll cage and lots of other critical modifications, like having its rear roof removed.  Scoff though you may, it is super reliable, durable, and with significant lightening, tire, brake, and suspension work, became a formidable racer.  Last year, the car was decked out in Cobra Kai livery -- you know, the bad dojo, mercy is for the weak, etc.  Full costumes, flat black, cobra on the hood, it worked out well.


(more pics of the Cobra Kai theme at the 2011 race here)

But this year we took it back to the car's roots in the north of Europe and embraced another thing we love about Sweden, IKEA! Blue base with yellow strips, we had similarly nice costumes and even named our IKEA product: the Effinkürber.

hood logo

badges and pricetags

Theme organized and car more or less prepped, we headed to Summit Point for the big event.

Test & Tune

First day at the track is basically a practice day and the tech inspection -- getting your car checked to ensure that it meets with the low standards of crapcan racing, and bribing judges.  We had Swedish meatballs, another brilliant idea of Charlie's. The judges loved them (surprisingly very few showed any reservations about eating gross-looking Ikea meatballs out of a crockpot plugged into the back of a stripped Volvo).


Said meatballs earned us the coveted "bribed" stencil, which we gazed upon with pride. In addition to the four drivers -- Drew, Charlie, Stewart, and I -- we had assistance from Aditya, who for some odd reason decided to crew instead of drive for this, his first race.


spring shortening

With new brake pads, more flat black paint, and one turn of the rear suspension coils removed, we were ready for a day of racing.



P.S. See that awesome allen wrench?  That's all Aditya.

Race Day #1

The first of a planned two race days was going great. With organized pit stops and long, fuel-timed stints, we made good time. Despite a car that is severely lacking in outright power and/or speed, we were up to 22nd place in a field of almost 130. Yes that field was far too large, and resulted in a lot of laps under yellow, but still, its racing. Drew and Stewart turned in some quick laps as usual. We were all doing pretty well, though, and looking to finish out the day strong.

I was at the wheel for my second stint of the day, heading into the evening and planning to finish out that day's racing. Without a lot of speculation or explanation, let's just say that an abrupt braking move by a car in front, combined with a car passing me at the same time in my blind spot, combined with going for a pocket that was probably too small rather than just braking and getting out of the way, resulted in a fairly extravagant crackup. By me, into a wall. I will simply say that, yes, while careening toward this concrete barrier, I didn't think it would end as well as it did. Actually, what was going through my head was something like "great, I'm going to run right into that, hard (and there aren't even any tires.)" Here's the in-car video. We also have a driver-facing GoPro shot, but its missing the critical last 10 seconds or so right befor ethe crash -- any video format recovery experts out there, I'm all ears as I'd love to have that.

::WARNING slightly scary car crash footage ahead.


front quarter

The car was totally destroyed, and had to be scrapped at the track (extremely nice salvage company employees, by the way, at Remac Metals -- who knew). I am bruised thoroughly but really only have two badly sprained ankles, feet, and a broken big toe/foot bone -- not bad considering.  To this I credit the inherent durability of the Volvo frame design, the expertly-constructed and seemed-overbuilt-until-now rollcage that Charlie and Drew put together, and properly adjusted racing safety equipment in the car.

This shot of the motor is my favorite.



The team is already in the midst of a new car purchase -- another Volvo, though a bigger-engined 960 this time. Should be a great car. After not killing me, we trust Volvos. Also, this time we'll probably have a Hans setup and a more hard-core seat.  Oh, and I'll be on the crew.

Parting thoughts:

See you at the track,


tagged: car