Sears Pointless 2013: Well that was… AWESOME.
As you may have seen in my previous post, yours truly was able to finagle my way onto a real-life racing team… well, a 24 Hours of LeMons team at least. Sure, they might be $500 cars, but it was about the most fun a person can have for any price.
That’s me, driving the #32 FX32 – a twin-engined beast engineered by the geniuses at Stick Figure Racing. I’ll be honest, most of my involvement with the building of the car was keeping the real workers fed with delicious donuts from Banbury Cross. But I did help a bit too – drew arrows on the proper lug holes in the wheels, kept the green and orange stripes fairly straight – important stuff.
And when I came time to drive this awesome hatchback, I was there – on practice day. See, on Fridays at LeMons events, the course is generally opened up to allow for some testing, tuning and general getting-to-know-you time with your car and the track. It was also my only significant time in a hatchback during the weekend. But I’m more than okay with that because…
…that meant I got to spend some serious seat time in the FX32’s older sibling, the MRolla. Built in a similar manner by magically joining a Toyota MR2 with a Corolla, the MRolla retained more of its MR2 DNA and appearance – meaning some razor sharp handling was on offer.
Unfortunately, the power of two engines was not. As the scheduled second driver on the first day of racing, I strapped into a car with only one viable engine. See, these cars are generally, well… old. And a bit run down. The limits of a $500 budget and all. So breakdowns are not unexpected. One of the main advantages of these twin-engined rigs is the ability to still run a race if an engine were to grenade.
So I took my morning/early afternoon shift and made the most of it. Turned in some ridiculously fast times… well, they seemed fast to me. And that’s the fun of it. How often do you have the chance to keep up with an overweight but fast Camaro on a racetrack, go four-wide through a chicane or get clipped by a car with black fur hot-glued to its flanks? Not too often.
By the end of racing on Saturday, I’d taken two stints in the MRolla, several hundred pictures of random shitbox hatchbacks, and at least four double-takes at the shenanigans occurring in Turn 11, situated right in front of our pit garage. Meanwhile, the FX32 was in the top 3 in the C class, battling it out for first with a diesel Mercedes sedan and a V12 Jaguar.
As soon as the racing was over, the scramble to fix the MRolla’s dead rear engine was on. Again, the geniuses at Stick Figure Racing had this one figured out: use the same engine in all four of the required spots in the cars, and bring a spare for contingencies. Four hours later, the MRolla had two running engines again, the FX32 – having run great all day – made due with some minor adjustments and the team hit the sack to rest up for a long second day on the track.
Sunday dawned earlier than many of us had hoped – despite the extra hour of night provided by moving to the Pacific Time Zone, I still felt that another 8-10 hours of sleep would be appropriate. But the green flag waits for no man, and I was slated to be first in the MRolla’s driver’s seat. So there I was, in the early morning light, eager to light up two thundering Toyota engines for a run at the Class C crown – while up on jackstands. Yep, the back engine still wasn’t quite right – refusing to keep life-giving coolant in check. Minor drips chased, fixed, and then created anew elsewhere. No choice for the pit crew but to disconnect the driveshafts and head out with one good engine again.
But oh, what an engine it was. Mercilessly flogged to within an RPM of its life, the sweet little 1.6 took a beating and kept coming back for more. Carrying the weight of a full car with a dead engine in the trunk, the Corolla’s temp guage never crept above 1/2 until late in the day, but even then after a false alarm and quick pit, it kept ticking.
The MRolla was never really in contention for winning the class, generally hanging out in the 10-15 position range. On the other hand, the hatchback FX32 was duking it out with the big boys and coming close to winning… until one of the engines died. Discretion being the better part of valor or when in Rome or whatever, the pit crew disconnected the dead engine and sent the car back out as a FX16, where it held its own.
A win was not in the cards for either of the hybrid beasts – despite its sublime handling and almost magical abilities in the twisty parts, the MRolla was simply overpowered by nearly every car on the track – even being passed by a Vanagon at one point. The FX32 was hamstrung in the end by the engine failure and a seemingly bottomless gas tank in the class-leading Jaguar. To add insult to injury, the FX was tagged in the rear quarter on the last turn of the last lap – driver Will was heroically able to limp it across the finish line at an approximate 30° angle on a severely bent passenger-side rear wheel.
So where’s the hatchback content on this hatchback blog? Don’t worry grasshopper, a massive photo dump will happen soon. Until then, start scouring ebay for a suitable $500 heap and get to building a race car. You won’t regret it.