How BVD Skidmark Got to Goin' For Broken

May 13, 2010

Goin’ for Broken was the first 24 Hours of LeMons event for Team BVD Skidmark. None of us had ever done LeMons before, and only a few of my teammates had even been on a racetrack previously.

In The Beginning

This all started when Matt asked if I had heard of this 24 Hours of LeMons thing…in fact, I had. I was on the verge of starting a team for the first East Coast races before I moved out to California. In short, we rounded up some other folks and submitted an application for Goin’ For Broken 2010 at Thunderhill in May.

Just as the website says, we got our confirmation for the race 10 weeks out in Early March. To start, I called a meeting of the prospective team members to get together and pay the entry fee, which was $1,500 for our 6 driver team. I had also drawn up a very rudimentary budget by talking to a friend of a friend, and running some quick numbers–it worked out to about $1,000-1,500 per driver, all said and done.

Since we had a committed team, the next move was to find a $500 car. Since submitting the application for the race, a few of us had been trolling Craigslist to get an idea of what was out there. The week after we were accepted, a BMW 325es showed up, which seemed like a very good option to me. I have been a part of the BMW community for a number of years, and do all of my own work on my e36 M3.

We’ve Got a Car

Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Once we had a car, the first order of business was to get a roll cage installed. I looked up a few race shops in the Bay Area and stumbled across Evil Genius Racing. Of the places I called, they were by far the most helpful, and even had the cheapest offering; turns out, John is very involved in the 24 Hours of LeMons, so we couldn’t have found a better shop.

Before getting the cage installed, we had to clean out the car. We spent a couple of Saturdays with 3 or 4 guys just removing the car’s interior–everything from the car’s interior. When we were done, the only thing left was the un-bolted driver’s seat, the windshield, and the back window. John had advised that we even remove the dashboard, so that they could install a dash bar, resulting in a safer cage.

The only other work we did at that stage was fixing the brakes. When we got our car, the brake pedal went to the floor. Having never worked on crappy cars, I wasn’t sure what the problem was, but figured it to probably be the master cylinder. We tried swapping the completely worn out pads, and the gouged rotors to no avail. It was indeed the master cylinder. A trip to Pick-n-Pull and we had a replacement, solving our brake issues.

Finally, we trailered the car to Sacremento, and left it with Evil Genius. The next weekend, we sent a team to pick up the car, complete with roll cage. It was starting to look like a real race car now.

Racecar Preparation

Aside from the roll cage, the 24 Hours of LeMons rules mandate a bunch of other safety gear. Bill found a race seat of the type recommended by John at Evil Genius Racing, a Kirkey Intermediate Road Race Seat on Craigslist. After a test fit it was abundantly clear that the seat was much to low to actually drive. We made some calls and, once again, John at Evil Genius came to the rescue, suggesting we use some 2 inch square tubing to get the seat higher. We ordered some 2 foot long pieces on the internet along with some grade 8 bolts to mount it. After a bunch of drilling and test fitting, the seat ended up fitting atop its brackets with the square tubing underneath.

Other things included mounting the fire extinguisher to the transmission tunnel (in reach of the driver) and mounting the center brake light, since we had removed it’s stock mount along with the rear deck. Other things to comply with the rules included painting numbers on the doors & hood, securing the battery, painting tow locations, and installing the kill switch–that last one being a bit difficult. Our BMW, like most, is equipped with a rear mounted battery, which gets power to the front of the car through a single, huge cable running along the passenger side. The cable itself took 20 minutes to cut through, but with it severed, Ryan was able to get the kill switch itself wired up in another hour of work. We used a single-pole double-throw switch, running some 2-gauge cable from the original battery cable over to the left of the steering wheel, making it accessible by both the driver and anyone outside the car. The second throw was used to interrupt the positive line heading to the ignition coil, which we did with some 8-gauge speaker wire.

To The Races

After all of this work, the car was ready to go and we headed to the track. At the track, we rigged up a few things, including some probe thermometers for monitoring the water & transmission temperatures. It turns out, these hack gauges were the best thing in the world–they feature temperature alarms that make sure you know when something has gone wrong. Without a doubt, having the alarm go off after our water pump belt broke kept us in the race.

If you have ever thought about doing the 24 Hours of LeMons or had the desire to race at all, get a team together and do it. It’s a bit of work, but entirely doable and an incredible amount of fun.