This weekend I’m at a Lemons race at Sonoma. I’ll update the post a few times during the weekend as stuff happens.
The team I’m with is pretty green. There are three noobs, one 3-race veteran, and me. Noob 1 has never driven on any track. Noob 2 has driven once at Thunderhill. Noob 3 has done some autocross and maybe a track day or two, but not at Sonoma. Lemons is the first introduction that many people have to road racing, and it can work out pretty well even for the complete novice. But at Sonoma? In the rain? Well we won’t know until we try.
The car we’re racing is an MX-3, which had an unusual 1.8L V6 engine. That engine has been swapped out for the 2.5L V6 from an MX-6. So now it’s an MX-3/6ths? The car wasn’t quite ready when it arrived on track and we spent the next 4 hours working on it. But once we got to tech inspection, it passed with no problems and they put us in the B class with zero added laps. That’s probably where it belongs. The 2.5L V6 has 160 hp and the car weighs some 2400 lbs. So the power:weight is a lot better than my Yaris. If the MX-3/6ths handles reasonably well, I think I’ll be able to run with cars in the A class.
This race is using an unusual configuration for the track. They are using the short turn 7 and the bus-stop turn 9, as Lemons usual, but the track is going all the way down to the long 11. That will add 5-10 seconds to lap times and give the high horsepower cars a bit of an advantage I think. Hopefully it doesn’t become a safety issue as the long 11 is narrower.
The long turn 11 is a lot longer than I thought. I think it added more like 15 seconds. The spectating is better with the short 11. It turns out I did a lot of spectating. I had a lot of grading to do, so I spent a lot of time inside grading rather than outside driving.
So what about the car? Well it was a hoot, but for some good reasons and some bad. The brake pads were $12 OEM replacements and overheated very quickly. So braking zones were much longer than they needed to be. The more interesting feature was the tires. We put decent tires on the front, 225 width RS3s, but in the rear we had some 205 width RT615K. Not RT615K+, but the older ones. How old? Manufactured in 2013 old. The track was soaking wet and the combination of water plus 6-year old tires meant that every time I decelerated in any kind of corner, the back end started to come around. I spent a lot of time driving sideways on the first few laps before figuring out how to drive it. Once I did, I was pretty fast, and got passed only 1 time.
160 hp in a lightweight car is plenty of power. The only car that passed me had a turbo. The big V8s were still trying to hook up coming out of a corner when I was at full throttle. I drove 90-100% of the track in 3rd gear. There was enough power to spin wheels on corner exits in 3rd so there was no reason to switch down to 2nd. And going to 4th meant I had to use more of the terrible brake pads on the next corner. On a dry track, I think I could put this car in the top 10 without much trouble.
I forgot to shoot video. I’ll make sure I do that tomorrow.
At the end of the day, it was a great success. Not because of our placing, which was around 100 out of 120, but because we had a lot of fun. Our casual, never-rushed attitude meant that we were safe in the pit and out on track. The only negative is that Noob 1 was fighting claustrophobia and never got on track. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this. It can be nerve-wracking getting strapped into harness and not being able to move freely. Hopefully he overcomes this. Maybe splashing in some puddles rather than jumping into the deep end would have been a good idea.
Video or it didn’t happen! At the start of my stint, the track was soaking wet, but it dried out quite a bit by the end. This clip is from somewhere in the middle. I’m in a mix with some fast Lemons cars like Eyesore, Cerveza, Hassenpfeffers, Too Stupid, and BDR. And I’m keeping up with them for the most part. Our tires were a couple years old and there was some weird noises come from the suspension, so I think I did okay for what I had to work with.