Lake Superior 2011
Volkswagen used a flange with pinch bolts to attach the front struts to the spindles. It's easy to assemble and allows for a decent amount of camber adjustment. It also means that every time you hit a bump, a big bump, the assembly stands a good chance of moving. There just isn't enough friction.
In newer cars, ones designed with the aid computers and after consumers expected things like air conditioning to be standard, the front strut assembly is more robust and uses precision machined parts to stay in alignment.
Higher end race struts have eccentrics that allow the adjustment of camber while preventing the assembly from flopping around like a wounded duck. These work so well, I decided to turn an set of eccentric washers prior to the event and install them onto the struts. As usual, I ran out of time, but did manage to get one on the passengers side, which, by all accounts worked great.
The tire situation for the event was mildly dire- I'd sold most of my "extra" tires earlier in the season to shuffle funds around, and had 4 newish Lassa tyres left over from 100AW. I also had a stack of used Michelins, and had made arrangements with Chad Eixenberger to buy a couple of unused Lassas from him on Friday night after he arrived at the event. I would love to have a stack of fresh mounted tires before each event, particularly because every time I try to scrimp on tires, something absolutely bizarre seems to happen.
On The Road
The busy boys from Newton left home early Thursday morning and rocketed up to Houghton to take part in this years event- Barney, Marc, and Andrew. As it turns out, Houghton is about the same distance from central Iowa as it is from Ann Arbor. Who thought up this UP thing anyway?
Scruinteering following Thursday PM registration was a non-event. I had plenty of time to go through the car and clean it up prior to the event, which always helps the process go a bit smoother. The practice stage is typically fairly bumpy at LSPR, and with some of the rain they'd gotten, it was looking pretty mucky. With Andrew's early evening arrival to the event, I made the decision to not rush through the practice stage and make more work for ourselves cleaning up the car.
After a long day on the road, everyone was a bit slow to get moving Friday morning. It was misting and spitting rain while we stocked up at Wal Mart. These trips are an excuse for our Dad to buy deli ham and Doritos. He's also been trying for the past 35+ years to get Andrew to eat Mayo on a sandwich.
In the parking lot, we tried to apply some new stickers. Wet. That didn't work well at all. We'd had a better opportunity the evening before, but opted instead for Pizza at the Ambassador. In hindsight, the pizza was still the right choice.
We also were looking to air up the motley collection of tires that would accompany us through the day. The Van had come equipped with air actuated tire chains, and we'd been using that compressor to take care of our tire needs for a few seasons. This day would be the day the system failed, though, leaving us without air for our spare tires, and adding to our overall stress level.
Struggling with what was formerally a very easy task left us without time to change tires on the car for the first two stages- the rock strewn Moyle gravel pit. Out of time and a bit crabby, we headed up the road to Parc Expose.
Parc Expose was soggy and left me wishing driving shoes could combine Nomex AND Gore-Tex. The parking spot on the front lawn of the hotel guaranteed an opportunity to really get soaked.
The gravel pit stages were wet, but more notably, full of sharp rocks. The first left turn has claimed a lot of cars, and this year, I'd space out and cut the corner too close, leaving us with a flat tire on the co-drivers side. Changing the tire in service required rotating tires from rear to front due to our only spares being a slightly different size than the Lassas that we'd had on the car. Scrimping was becoming a real pain.
Leaving service, we'd made it about 3 blocks when we realized that the tire we'd moved from the rear to the front was also flat. WHAT?! We changed it with our spare in the car, and made off to stage 3.
Stage 3 was normally a wide open fast stage, but today felt nearly impassable as the car struggled to slog through the muck and mud that used to be a road. We spent most of the stage in 4th gear at full throttle trying to claw through, struggly to stay pointed in the correct direction. The transit back to Kenton was about 20 miles after the stage and was a welcome break from being wet and changing tires.
Oh, wait, about that last bit. I noticed that we'd somehow were getting a flat on the driver's side front. Out of spares, we pushed for as long as we could on the transit, only to stop and wave down BIlly Mann and borrow his spare. The Honda and VW use the same bolt pattern and size wheel - we lucked out.
Back in Kenton, we set about more tire shenangigans to prep for the upcoming Passmore stage- a LONG fast stage that we usually do pretty well with. The stage started off well enough - damp and not as outright fast as usual, but certainly driveable. Halfway through the stage, I realized I no longer could get into 4th gear. OK? Pressing on, the sounds from the gearbox became worse and worse, and by the time we neared the end, we'd made the decision to withdraw to prevent further damage to the gearbox.
We returned to the Kenton service and drove the car onto the trailer, strapped it down, and went back to the hotel, fairly dejected and supremely irritated.
The final damage, in 4 stages, was 3 ruined tires, a stripped 4th gear, and a ruined no longer available ring and pinion that had cost me $800. I drank beer that night.
The Iowa crew decided to bolt the next morning, leaving me to find my own entertainment for Saturday....