The 8-hour event was the first endurance race for our hooptie-turned-racecar Civic.
It was morning at Mid Ohio, and there was a rush of feelings running through my body. The most prevalent was induced by waking up in a hammock mid-April after a cold night in the low-30s. Once I built up the courage to leave my cocoon, aka my 0-degree sleeping bag, I immediately jumped into my race suit. It wasn’t out of excitement, but rather survival, due to the lack of warm clothing I brought.
Fast-forward to the driver’s meeting, and a new cocktail of emotions, including excitement and anxiousness, filled my body. When the driver’s meeting concluded we rushed to the pits to set up.
It wasn’t long before it was time to strap Hassan, our first driver of the day, into the “Runs and Drives” Honda Civic (we went through a few names before landing on BGKP). It is important to note that up until now only Tony had any wheel-to-wheel racing experience, and endurance racing with this large of a field was new to all of us.
Our communal goal of the day was to get out alive—we wanted to finish. We decided the best method to achieve this would be to each run a shorter first stint to adjust, and then we would each run a longer stint once we were comfortable.
The first out on the track was Hassan. He ran about 35 minutes without any hiccups. I was the next on track, and the moment I saw that little green Civic enter pit lane I felt an unprecedented surge of excitement and adrenaline. I strapped in, double-checked everything, and was on my way.
I was hardly through the first turn before an ambush of much faster cars flew by me on both sides. My immediate thoughts were, “What in the hell did I get myself into.” However, within a few laps I became more comfortable with my surroundings, arguably a bit too comfortable, as I overcooked a turn and spun a 180 degrees off track into the dirt. I decided that was the end of my first stint.
Gabe was the next one on track, followed by Tony. When Tony came into the pits, we were about 2.5 hours into the race and we were all relieved because no one wanted to be “that guy” who broke the car before everyone even got a turn. The morning faded into early afternoon as Hassan ran his second stint. Then, when it was my turn again and I was strapped in ready to go, the car wouldn’t start.
A quick check revealed that we had lost tension in the alternator belt and lost it somewhere on track. A mere hour or so later, encompassed mostly by the drive to the auto parts store, and the car was back on track, ready to finish the day. I had one more off-road adventure during my second stint before relinquishing the car to Gabe.
Gabe went out and ran like a bandit, setting the fastest lap time of our team for the day. With less than an hour to go Gabe was in the pits, but this time complaining of a clicking noise [he thought] from the rear suspension. We jacked up each corner, wiggled the wheels to check for any signs of wheel bearing or ball joint failures, and with no evidence, we sent Tony out to finish out the day.
It wasn’t long before Tony came in and complained of a similar noise. There were only 15 minutes left, and we told Tony to take it easy and finish it out, but understandably Tony didn’t want to risk himself or the car to a mechanical failure on track, so we pulled off the paddock to further diagnose the problem. The race came to a close as we discovered a CV joint boot split and spewed grease everywhere.
We brought the car back to the trailer and headed down to check out the Top 5 at the post race inspection. Coincidently, the winners (RBanksRacing) ran with a Saab T5 OG9-3 and 9-3SS. Needless to say, I was compelled to strike up a conversation with them and pick their brains a bit. After a quick chat, we all retired to the awards ceremony, packed up, and headed home.
Once we got home we had a brilliant idea for that broken CV joint. That CV joint, along with some TIG welding from Mr. Hassan Bakar, became the team bragging rights trophy for the fastest of the weekend. You can see a full time sheet of our team via one of the links below. We started the race in 37th (arbitrarily), and even with some mechanical mishaps, managed to climb a few spots to 28th.
In addition to the broken CV joint, the Civic’s handling was loose all weekend, and we had some concern about slight overheating in the pits. And so, the preparation began for our next scheduled race of the season: Sahlen’s ChumpYard DOG at Watkins Glen.