24 Hours of LeMons Buttonwillow Arse-Freeze-apalooza

uberbird buttonwillow 2010

If things have been a bit slow this week and last, it’s because Der UberBird and LeMons were in full control of all available free time. In case you missed it, last weekend was The 24 Hours of LeMons Arse-Freeze-apalooza at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, in scenic Buttonwillow, CA, about 2.5 hours north of Hooniverse HQ.
In typical fashion, we scrambled to get get out the door, had semi-major breakage in Friday’s practice session, abandoned sleep to get it fixed, kept it going all weekend, but retired a little earlier than we’d hoped. As always, a mind-blowingly great time was had by all. Jump for the story.

Thursday was a scramble to finish a host of procrastination-generated to-dos, including swapping in a set front brake pads that were supposed to arrive in the mail, but didn’t. With shops approaching closing time, we raced 20 mintues down the road to Ireland Engineering, a BMW shop that former roommate and all-around old BMW guy Aaron had a connection with to get some decent Hawk Blue pads. That taken care of, we emptied my garage into the truck and trailer and retired around midnight. Bleary eyed and saggy tailed, we hit the road around 7:30 Friday morning and were at the track by 10:00.


We cleared tech and BS with minimal complications, as the craptasticness of the Uberbird is well known. With no major fixes, we were actually able to get some decent practice time in. SoCal residents should be aware: Buttonwillow runs “Test and Tune” open track days most Fridays for a remarkably low price. Things went great in practice until the last couple of laps of our last driver, when he came in complaining of lost power and extra noise coming from the top end.
Turns out we broke a rocker arm, then thing between the cam and the valve. The hardened steel foot that rests on the cam was busted off and the rest of the light aluminum rocker was far worse for it. We didn’t have any spares and none of the other racers did either. Out of nowhere some guy (“Mark”, I think…) asks us what we’re doing, then tells us he’s got a friend with a shop at the track that works on BMWs and that he’s definitely got one. How cool is that? New rocker procured, we were off to work swapping it.
The details of swapping a rocker on an M30 are manifold and tedious (for starters, the rocker shafts are press-fit in the head and keyed by the head bolts), but needless to say the job is involved. In the middle of us struggling through it, a crew of revelers equipped with beers and flashlights asks what we’re up to. Turns out one of them is a master BMW tech, determined not to let another bimmer fail to race. He lent a hand and gave us a few tricks. Unfortunately, a combination of a couple beers too many and a bit of overconfidence had him trying to do something the quick way, which resulted in breaking a bushing that locates the rocker along the rocker shaft. Such is the nature of unsolicited help.
Of course, we had no spare. It’s now 8:40 and there’s a Home depot 30 minutes away that might have something we can kludge to work. Thanks to some hot-shoe driving from Mad_Science_Sr in the Mini Cooper S, we got there just in time to run in the exit. We were looking for a way to fashion a clamp-like thing that’d clamp on the rocker shaft and hold the rocker in place against the spring that pushes on it. After picking up a cornucopia of miscellaneous plumbing and electrical clamp-like fittings, we dashed out the door as they were turning off the lights.

Precision engineering at its finest

Back at the track, a combination of lack of sleep and dropping temperatures had things going pretty slow, but eventually we managed to use an electrical ground strap clamp like a collet to hold the rocker in place on the rocker shaft. It took some Dremel-ing, but it fit right in there with just enough room between the cam and valve spring. Seriously. We buttoned everything up, just in time to scramble to put all the tools back in the trailer when it started raining at about 2:15 am.
Saturday morning, we were taking bets as to if or how long this would hold. I was of the opinion it would either fail pretty quickly or not at all. Turns out it was the latter. With no issues in the (motor’s) head, the only problem we had on Saturday was a self-unbolting throttle cable bracket, resulting in a tow. That took all of 30 seconds to fix. Other than that, no issues. We finished Saturday in the mid-40s (of 160 cars doing laps) and climbing. After-hours we learned that the screws on our super awesome Home Depot fix had loosened up, but hadn’t come off all the way. After some Lock-Tite-ing, re-torquing and an oil change we were ready for day two.

uberbird lemons race car at buttonwillowuberbird lemons race car at buttonwillow
Photo Credit: Murilee Martin’s on-car camera

Sunday we were determined to run as best we could. We planned in-pit fueling and quick driver’s changes. Turns out once you get into the 30s place-wise, things get really competitive. Our couple of black flags really hurt. We were running with a very speedy Crown Vic (#76), a couple of Alfas, and the #430 Petty Cash Jeep Cherokee Superbird wannabe. We were breakage and complication-free all day, so it was really getting down to one and two lap spreads between us and the Group B competition. We had a minor hiccup on our last driver change (had to race the WRX over to the on-track shop to get transmission fluid to top off our leaky automatic), but after that we had our fastest driver in the seat for the last shift of the day.

uberbird buttonwillow 2010 corner

Despite a black-flag (semi) false alarm, the shift was going great. Ryan was picking people off left and right, and we had climbed as high as 31st. Then, with about 90 minutes to go, the rain started coming down. Rain on a track that’s had over 100 crapcans dripping oil on it all weekend makes for quite the calamitous scene. Cars were spinning and going off left and right. We were very very glad to have former NASA/SCCA racer Ryan behind the wheel at that point. Unfortunately, with about 60 minutes left, the rain caught up with him, too. A spin in the “bus stop” turn was one black flag too many and we were done.
Not doing laps will cost you, and we dropped back a ways from our hopes of a top-30 finish. In a way it was almost better, though. The Uberbird’s final place? #43
Be sure to check out Jeff’s pictures on his flickr set
Here’s a gallery courtesy of Murilee Martin:

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26 responses to “24 Hours of LeMons Buttonwillow Arse-Freeze-apalooza”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    Thank you for this, Tim. Thank you.

    1. zsm Avatar

      Thanks from me too. The whole doing it the quick way, 9/10 times it takes longer, but it feels so good when it works that one time out of ten. Faced with this situation, that ground clamp was genius!

  2. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Tim, we were packing up our hot pit to head-out for the long drive back to San Diego during the awards ceremony so we missed it. Did you get "Most Heroic Fix" for this? If not, you should have.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Sounds like things didn't end on a high note for you then… how did it go?
      The Mini Moke lunar rover team won heroic fix. Their car's rear subframe broke off twice.

      1. BrianTheHoon Avatar

        Oh they did, really. We knew we didn't earn any honors (missed the "Best of the 70's" by 5 laps), saw rain coming and thought we should use the time to break camp. Half the team had to work the next day so (me included) so we were itching to bug out.
        48th place out of 177 and no breakage for our maiden LeMons voyage = smashing success in my book 🙂

        1. LTDScott Avatar

          That's great! Congrats to you guys.

  3. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Tim, I can only offer a sincere thank you for letting us live vicariously through your Hoondeavors.

  4. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Also, is Phil "Murilee?" He looks just like him from the pictures I've seen but I never asked him.

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Those records are sealed.

    2. Pleco Avatar

      Ask and find out

    3. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

      Phil Greden is Murilee, yes.

      1. Paul_y Avatar

        I always thought his name was [REDACTED]

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          No, that's [REDACTED]'s name.

    4. skitter Avatar

      Don't you know a saucy minx when you see one?

      1. BrianTheHoon Avatar

        LOL! Like I said, he looked like Murilee from the photos I've seen over the years. It was the first time I met the ol' gal in the flesh though, so I wasn't sure.

  5. dculberson Avatar

    Nice finish, though, guys! Great job and thanks for the write-up.

  6. LTDScott Avatar

    Well done! We were in 12th place with about 45 mins to go (two black flags hurt us early on Saturday) when I ran out of talent and spun the car in the rain while downshifting for the sweeper after the esses. The car stalled and refused to re-fire. It was running hot all day and I figured maybe we cooked something. We got towed in and then swapped computers and changed the crank position sensor.
    Miraculously the car fired up and I was out on track for the last 30 mins of the race. Happily the rain had stopped and the track was dry so I drove it like I stole it and was a bit more aggressive than I normally would be. I made up 2 or 3 positions in that short time and finished in 23rd. Not bad considering the issues we had.
    Our car handled amazingly, but the stock motor has seen its last race. For now I'm happy not to touch the damn car for a couple of months but it'll be getting a new heart sometime next year.
    Here's a great shot of the Petty twins.
    <img src="http://www.dcmimages.com/Cars/2010-12-04-24-Hours-of-Lemons/untitled-1925/1120095315_dmnE7-M-1.jpg"&gt;

    1. Alff Avatar

      How many laps did the light show last?

      1. LTDScott Avatar

        Light show?

      2. Timothy Odell Avatar
        Timothy Odell

        The exhaust was "self-clearance-ing" over any of the dips or hard left turns on the track. Future races might require re-routing through the proper channels in the body.

  7. Tomsk Avatar

    Great writeup and great effort Tim. Ireland's one of my dad's customers, and they do quite a business when it comes to sharpening Bimmers (and other small-displacement cars) for track duty.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Yeah, our car features several Ireland goodies. Nice stuff.

  8. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    #43? You guys are genius. Congratulations on a great race and finish. And thanks for filling us in.

  9. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Every time I read these I'm in awe and more than slightly humbled. I'm not afraid to get fourty weight under my fingernails and wield my own spanners under the bonnet, but I fear that If I were in your team my duties would stretch to nothing more demanding than replenishing beers and tidying up the pit. That "no fear" approach, combined with "nothing to lose" gets my utmost respect.

    1. Timothy Odell Avatar
      Timothy Odell

      Having nothing (or very little) to lose pretty much eliminates all the typical inhibitions to batshit crazy fixes.
      With last race's blown motor and this race's rocker, in both cases we pretty much instantly switched over to "well…what do we need to do?". When you're SOL if you do nothing, doing anything starts to look pretty attractive.

  10. Josh Avatar

    I am naming my baby after you…well the retarded one- but he's cool with it.