At the best of times, pulling together a de facto endurance-racing team is like ushering cats into a bath, but what if the team leader is a bit of a knob? Yes, the whole rudderless production can go to hell in an instant.
We're always up for good stories, and while we like pithy, pointed comments as much as the next guy, there's nothing like a good reel, unspooled for our pleasure. And grassroots-racing stories can be some of the best. Thankfully, we have LTDScott, whose story of his LeMons team's trials and more trials is one for the front of the book, as it were. It's long, but worth the effort. Here he is.
I can beat that. Ready for a long story? Here's my weekend.
OR: How NOT to do LeMons. Names changed to protect the idiotic.
Back in 2007, my first two LeMons races were with a team that fielded two Saab 900 Turbos. The cars were actually decently fast and we did pretty well, but the captain of the team (let's call him "L"), and I disagreed on how things on the team should be done (to put things VERY mildly), so I left his team and started my own. At least two other guys from the team did the same thing.
In the past 3 years, my team has participated in 5 races and done pretty well, but we blew the engine in our car at the end of 2010. That, plus my upcoming wedding, unfinished projects, an unemployed driver, and other reasons made me decide to take the year off from racing. But a few months ago, L contacted me and asked if I'd like to drive on his team at the December race. I had no intentions of racing with any team as that normally involves paying the team a fee that was more than I could justify spending right now. But L said if I towed his car to the track with my truck, my fee would be about half what other teams were asking, and he'd pay the gas. Deal. He also got 4 other drivers signed up, including a good friend of mine. This situation was ideal since I'd have little involvement in the preparation of the car, and just tow his car up to the track and drive. At least that was the thought, but I now know that I had on rose colored glasses.
I went to L's house on Thursday night before the race to pick up the car so I could leave first thing Friday morning, only to discover that the engine was not fully installed in the car, it had no seat or seat belts, and the roll cage would not pass tech. W.T.F! So I stayed late to get the seat and belts in and left with the expectation that the car would be fully ready by Friday morning. I went back Friday morning and the car was running and driving, but it was clear the transmission did not sound good, and the roll cage was still not legal. I knew things would go downhill from there, but all I could do was load up the car and parts (including an engine hoist to swap trans) and hit the road, so I did.
L's plan was to pull the transmission out of the car that he drove in to the race (!) once he arrived and install it into the race car. I got to the track around noon and got everything unloaded. L got there around 4:30 pm (15 mins before sunset), and that was after being two hours late to pick up one of the other drivers who flew in from Houston from LAX airport. It was clear this car wasn't going to be ready for the green flag. L was able to sweet talk a team into using their paid garage overnight (it had power, lights, and protection from the 30 degree outside temps), so we rolled both cars and all the parts and tools over and started pulling the engine/trans combo from his street car. We got it out around midnight and then decided to head back to our hotels for the night since the drivers needed sleep, and left L to pull an all nighter and finish the job.
Got to the track at around 6:45 am on Saturday and found L fast asleep in a chair, freezing, with the engine half pulled out of the race car. He couldn't get the engine and trans separated because the slave cylinder was stuck and needed to be cut out with a Sawzall. Things couldn't look worse. The team that rented the garage kicked us out, so we had to load the two engine/trans and all the other spares onto the trailer, and push the cars back to our pits. L consistently insisted that the car would be done shortly, and acted as if everything was fine. The rest the team was seriously disappointed when they realized that L is completely delusional and we weren't going to be racing that day, if at all that weekend. Previously I had tried to remain optimistic and hold my tongue since negativity would do nobody any good, but I finally had it and called L out on his constant state of denial. He was not happy to hear this and basically acted as if he had done nothing wrong, despite the fact that 5 people had paid him hundreds of dollars and travelled thousands of miles to race a car that was nowhere near ready. I had not experienced so much anger, disappointment, and frustration in a long time, and I tried my best to distance myself from L while still helping out. I was afraid of saying or doing something I may regret.
So L kept working on the car while the rest of us basically took off in different directions, trying to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of his insanity. I did my best to remain positive since I was at a cool race with a lot of people I know to visit and interesting things to see. My friend who was supposed to drive left altogether, while myself and two of the others were able to secure stints with other teams. I can now say that I have road raced a stretch limousine, which was WAY more fun than I thought it would be, and was out there for about an hour before I ran out of gas and had to get towed in. Doh. The driver from Houston stuck around L and helped him as much as possible - I commend him for that, but I just couldn't do it. The car got 90% together by the end of Saturday. We went back into town, L went to sleep, and the rest of us got dinner and then headed back to the track to party with the teams - first time I've attended a punk rock concert in freezing temps!
Sunday morning, L kept working on the car and finally got the cage fixed and the engine running about 2 hours after the race started. Sent the car to get a tech inspection (which was supposed to happen on Friday) and found out it still needed some things to pass. At that point, one of the judges that I have known for a while came over to say hi and asked what team I was running with. When I pointed to the Saab, he said, "You're running with L? God, you must be a junkie if you need a hit THAT bad." <— Quote of the weekend. The racing crack pipe is indeed hard to resist! The car finally passed tech, and we were ready to hit the track in a car with no working tachometer, temp gauge, or oil pressure gauge. I rallied to get the driver from Houston in the car first, since the car would inevitably blow up and he had travelled the farthest and helped the most, but L insisted I get first shot. Okay.
The car went one lap before it lost nearly all power. Brought it in and found the turbo outlet hose had popped off. Got it fixed, ran about two more laps (with me guessing where to shift thanks to no tach, and fighting the rear end of the car from overtaking the front) when the car lost power again. Back into the pits I went, and when we popped the hood one of the hoses had popped off and was steaming everywhere. L asked me "What did the temp gauge say?" "What temp gauge?" "Now Scott, I don't need a smart ass answer." At that point I COMPLETELY LOST IT. What the hell answer was he expecting when he knew there was no operating temp gauge?! I jumped out of the car and started screaming at L that he CANNOT act like I'm the problem, and that he needs to wake up and realize that he caused all of this and is the reason why all of us are pissed off at him. I told him I was done and had no desire to have anything further to do with this endeavor. I literally had to walk laps around the car to cool off. I'm not sure I've ever been more pissed off, and I yelled so loud that I partially lost my voice later that night.
After fixing the car again, the driver from Houston went out, and came in a few laps later because the car spun due to unpredictable handling and got a black flag. He had enough as well. Played with tire pressures to fix the handling and driver #3 went out for a while but came back in because he was being asphyxiated from burning transmission oil on the exhaust. Driver 4 went out for a while and also spun due to handling quirks and got black flagged. He got no penalty as the judges declared being on L's team was punishment enough. The driver from Houston went out again for a while until he was black flagged for smoking and oil on the track, and wouldn't let us out until the problem was fixed. It was the leaking transmission, which also caused it to be really hard to shift. We all decided to call it a day and start packing everything up. In the meantime, L was working on getting his street car back together so he had a way to drive home, and despite his claims, it was obvious to nearly anyone that it wasn't going to be finished before dark. There were several heavy items (BBQ, engine hoist, non-working generator) that were originally loaded in the bed of my truck, but I wanted to be able to just dump the trailer at L's house because I knew I couldn't rely on him for help unloading when I got there, so I put nearly everything in the car or on the trailer. I hit the road at 5:15pm in the dark and last I saw L was still trying to get his car together. I have no idea if/when/how he left. Dropped off the trailer in his driveway and went home. I was honestly mentally exhausted from dealing with all of this.
L owes me $325 for gas (I kept receipts and he was to pay me in cash at the end). I didn't want to talk to him by the time I left the track so I didn't bother trying to collect that debt, and had planned to email him about it, but wasn't holding my breath to get repaid. It was an expensive mistake, but not as much as others on the team. However, as I was cleaning out my truck, I discovered L had left a folder in it that contained several important documents, including the titles for two of his cars. Hello, leverage! So now I get to play hardball. My friend who left the race is also trying to get a refund on his racing fees. I'm waiting to see what L has to say about that sitation before revealing my hand.
At least I have an interesting story to tell!