Thursday, September 3, 2009

Team Unknown Fluids: Debrief Part 1: Reflection


We scrambled to finish it, we scrambled to fix it, and we scrambled around the track to end up at 74th place overall. For more summary, see my post on Bimmerforums, Aaron's writeup at, or Jeff's Part One (ever gonna finish that?) at

I didn't start this blog to summarize, I started it to analyze and reflect, so let's get to the analysis and reflection, shall we? Let's start with confession. Of the six things that went wrong (exhaust falling off, mirror sucking, fuel leak, hood pins, guibo failure, wreck), four were easily preventable.

Not long into having the car, I'd found a decently cheap source for a multi-element "wink" racing mirror. I never got around to buying it, and we ended up picking up clip-over wide mirror on the last weekend before the race. we never really tested it, and it turned out to be utterly useless as it pulled our factory mirror down to pointing at the floor.

Photo Courtesy Jeremy Jozwik

When installing the muffler u-bolt clamps, I noticed there was still a little wobble in the system, but a gentle tug didn't seem to dislodge anything; "good enough" I thought. Not so much. I could've tightened them more or at least thrown on a tack weld once my welder showed up.

That Can't be Good...

I didn't install the doomed guibo, but it was my job to check it. I noticed it seemed to have some warp-age to it, as if the driveshaft was too far back from the transmission output. " hey, it's designed to flex, right?" I thought. Again: not so much. It bit the dust a few hours into the race. After being more careful with the second one, it lasted at least twice as long as the first, and looked pristine at the end of the race. Funny how that works.

We must've installed and removed the hood 20 times in the last week before the race. My father-in-law Mark and a few of the guys on the team took care of installing the 4 hood pins, and did a great job of it...except it doesn't seem the nuts holding the pins in place were ever really torqued all the way down. I noticed them as being kinda loose pretty late in the build, and never did anything about it. Lock washers or loctite were probably in order.


As for the other two failures, I swear I would've noticed if the fuel lines were anywhere near the axle shafts, so I'm gonna claim they magically migrated downward at some point in the race (possibly when Ted (Dad, to me) decided to go offroading). Speaking of things that happened when Ted was at the wheel, we're gonna go ahead an blame team Magnum P.I.G. Racing's driver for pulling back onto the track after blowing it on Lost Hill. We're not that bitter...but if you mysteriously find your valve cores missing at the next race, it definitely wasn't us.

The moral of this little session? It appears people trust me to be vigilant (but not a vigilante) when it comes to catching stuff that could cause problems. If anyone reading this is putting a car together, take heed: 2/3s of your problems will be the little things you should've taken care of.

The true root cause being just how badly we (I, really) procrastinated pretty atrociously. It all began back on January 6th (I just looked it up), so there's really no excuse for having to scramble to get it together in the last three weeks before the race.

That said, we've got roughly 11 weeks to get the car up and running for Thunderhill...
See ya there.

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