A Subaru WRX owner went to sleep at this weekend's 25 Hour of Thunderhill race with a complete car. This is what he found when he woke up a few hours later. Resident racer and gearbox theft-culprit Robb Holland explains why you shouldn't trust a racing team with your car. — Ed.
In our second year of running the USAF NASA 25 Hour of Thunderhill, Team Racing Bacon/ Continental Tire was poised for a really good result. Running in 6th place at the14 hour mark, the team was only 4 laps out of 4th place and running at a faster pace then either the 4th or 5th place car.
My buddy and Racing Bacon team principal, Roland Pritzker, had just handed over the car to me and I was settling in for a long 3 1/2 hour, 2 AM to 5:30 AM, double stint. Coming out of turn 12 on my out lap, the shifter popped out of 3rd gear, I thought no biggie, just a missed-shift. I wasn't even thinking about a blown gearbox because our Subbie boxes are normally indestructible, but when I went to put it back in gear it wouldn't go. So I went for 4th. No go. So I radioed into my crew guys
"F@#$%@^&K piece of S#$%@t gearbox F@#$%@^&K 3rd gear D*&@^!$*n 4th gear" "Um, I think we have a problem with the gearbox".
The thing with gearboxes is, they usually don't fix themselves. So I was pretty sure a tranny swap was in the cards, but I also knew that due an untimely shortage of WRX gearboxes in the US, we didn't have one. Enter one Mr. Martin Broenkow.
We met Martin last year after he let us borrow a control arm off his WRX that allowed us to continue the race. We enticed him back this year with an offer to hang with the team. He foolishly accepted. Around midnight Martin wanted to turn in and we (not wanting to lose our rolling spare parts inventory) offered him a bunk in our team bus.
With Martin tucked away safely in bed, and a potential tranny swap imminent, the crew decided to "liberate" the tranny from his car just in case we need to do a quick swap. Approximately 30 minutes later (and with efficiency that would be the envy of most chop shops) the boys had Martin'ss car completely torn down and his tranny out and ready to go.
When our boy Martin emerged from the bus in the morning all he could do was laugh. He was like "I figured you guys would be needing my car for spares again, but I didn't think the first thing I'd see in the morning would be my gearbox on your pit cart".
Of course after all that, our tranny remained rock solid the rest of the race and we were able to run lap times only 3 or 4 seconds off our original pace using only 5th gear, which made a tranny swap unnecessary.
The funny thing is, Martin was actually kind of bummed that we ended up not needing his gearbox. He said he thought it would have been really cool to have his gearbox finish in the top ten at the 25 Hour. To that I say: There's alway next year, Martin, there's always next year...
Robb Holland is a professional racecar driver with K-PAX Racing and 3Zero3 Motorsports. When he is not racing in World Challenge, Holland works as a performance driving instructor and owns a travel company that takes US clients over to Europe to drive the Nurburgring. You can follow him on his Facebook page. He's also awesome for writing this up on no sleep the day after an endurance race.