The 24 hr @ 5280
How 6 idiots braved a 24 hour endurance race.
A bit off tangent this month, but Stan says I get to do what I want, so there you go. Maybe he didn’t say that, but he can’t edit enough of this article to make it look just like a true “tech article.” This entire episode started about 3 months ago, probably in between a couple of weeks of racing and likely over beers at the “Trap.”
We kind of had a dry spell during the heat of the summer, where we won’t race when it is so hot, but then someone thought it would be a great idea for the team to knock out a 24 hour race at the end of August. The idea was met with a bit of resistance, but having been around the team long enough, I knew to just keep shoving beers in them until the core team committed. Once committed, I could sign up and pay online right there from the bar, and they couldn’t back out on me.
Most bad decisions are made over a beer, I think. The target this year would be the 24 hour race at High Plains Raceway outside of Denver (@ 5280 feet of altitude) with our Porsche 986 Boxster endurance car, in our usual World Racing League series. This was the longest race we have ever run with this car, typically a weekend normally consists of an 8 hour race on Saturday, then another 8 hour race on Sunday which allows enough time overnight to go through the car and fix what needs fixing in preparation for the following day. That alone is an amazing feat to finish. It was a long journey to make this all happen, and couldn’t have been done without our team each pitching in. Many teams at the race couldn’t believe we did the entire gig with only 6 drivers who doubled as our 6 crew team as well, as most had dedicated drivers and dedicated crew members which allowed everyone to get a bit of sleep throughout the race.
The preparations were painstaking, while our car has always been very solid and reliable, it never fails that something like the cool shirt system, the radio, the drink bottles, etc., stop working at some point in a race, all of which is very critical gear. We spent an enormous amount of time doing and redoing aspects of the car like this. The cables had to plug in just at the right angle, the cool shirt hose fittings needed to be perfect, the cool box needed to be flawless and secured, etc.
I have always said a race car is built to fit one driver, anything else is impossible….so we had to make 5 impossibles possible. The list goes on, let alone getting the mechanical running portion of the car ready. Since it was a 24 hour race, we needed lights. Headlights are great for street driving, but not good for doing 120mph, then making sharp corners as your headlights do not illuminate far enough ahead for those speeds, nor the corners well enough to see where you are turning in on a corner. Oh, did I mention that at High Plains Raceway outside of Denver, there isn’t a yard light for about 5 miles? Other than having lights running at about 20% inside the pits, it’s dark…..really dark at night. So we added numerous outside cornering LED lights, in addition to a light bar across the nose, along with the high beam headlights. Our lighting during the race was superb, though we had to be extra cautious about not bumping anyone with our front nose for fear of losing the lights during the race! Hours upon hours were spent replacing anything that could possibly fail in this race.
Then we needed more drivers. Our base crew of myself, Aaron Winter and Mike Armentrout were in. Our regular 4th driver, Chris Arbuckle, made up an excuse about some national quilting show he was going to, so he couldn’t make it. We needed another 3 drivers, and getting guys to sign up for a 24 is impossible. After a bit of work, eventually we stole our old “Car 54” regular, Kris Loveless, back from LMR (another Kansas City team), then added Mike Defenbau, and Rygh Galloway to the team…..suckers. The team was complete. 6 drivers would give each man 4 hours of total seat time.
Now preparing to support a 24 hour race isn’t a small feat. The nearest hotel is 45 minutes away in Denver, so that was out and meant we would be sleeping at the track (lots of sleeping bags and cots). In hindsight, none of that worked; we slept Thursday night, and really didn’t sleep again until Sunday night. Try to fall asleep with adrenaline pumping, race cars going around outside, etc., it just doesn’t work. Food….6 guys can consume a lot of food in a 2-3 day weekend. You need good meals to feed people and keep their energy up; which meant we hauled the grill, the refrigerator (ha ha…no, seriously), a giant pile of food, 8 coolers, and the chest freezer for our ice. We hauled in three generators to power everything, including AC in the trailer for the drivers to cool down after their stint. We hauled in spare transmissions, brakes, axles, and various bins of parts we might need. Roughly 250 gallons of fuel were needed which we hauled. With all the gear, we used our 48 foot gooseneck enclosed and 24 foot enclosed with two trucks just to get the cars and gear out there. A 10×20 foot canopy wedged between the trailers in the paddock made a great resting area, with another 10×10 canopy set up in our pit box for the race.
We arrived to the track Friday morning and started setting up the small sized home we had brought with us. Friday practice started at 12pm and ran until 10:30pm, allowing everyone enough time to get familiar with the car during the day and at night. With a small break in the evening, we had 8 hours of available test time, which we took advantage of. Aaron brought his Boxster with as well, so we could beat up on that car on the track without being too hard on our endurance car. Even with that, we put a quick 2-3 hours of seat time on the endurance car making sure everything was right. About 10pm, I put the car in the air and started going through everything for the following day. Fresh brakes and tires were installed, all bolts on the entire car were checked for torque and any adjustments made, fluid levels were checked, etc. At about midnight we put the car cover on it and tried to get some sleep, but mostly ended up being able to only close our eyes until morning.
Saturday morning was driver meetings, setting up our pit spot, and getting ready for the 12pm green flag with a 40 car field starting the race. We decided to run 2 hour driver stints, which would allow us to do a full 16 gallon fuel fill at the same time we changed drivers. Mike Defenbau started us off with his local track expertise and put us into good position right off the bat. I believe he inched us into the top 10 for most of his stint before our pit stop.
How fast is a pit stop? There are some various rules of what can and cannot be done at certain aspects of a pit stop for safety, but we can dump 16 gallons of fuel in the car, change driver, drink system and driver cool shirt ice in about 90 seconds. If we were allowed a little faster fueling system, we could probably get that down a bit. During a stop, we have five men over the wall in full fire gear: one man on the fuel jug, one on the fire extinguisher, one getting into the car as the 6th man gets out, and 2 helping the driver from each side get everything hooked up properly. The first driver change dropped us a bit (even with a great stop), but Rygh got us right back up in the top 10 quickly. All in all, we would hold in the top 10 positions, with much of it being between 5th-8th for about 22 hours of the race. The drivers followed with Kris Loveless, and Mike Armentrout bringing us into the night stints in great position.
We noticed quickly into the race that our transmission temperature was running about 290-300 degrees, which is about 75 degrees higher than normal. It was likely a pump or sensor issue, but we weren’t going to stop unless the transmission gave out. At 8pm, Aaron took the first full night stint and burned down some great times in his 2 hour stint. I went in for the 6th stint at 10pm for a double stint ending at 2am. At about the 1am mark, we realized we had a slightly leaking exhaust gasket, causing some fumes in the cabin, which would make double stinting the rest of our drivers impossible, so after I fell out of the car at 2am, Mike D took back over, followed by Rygh getting us to the 6am mark.
Headlights….a lot of LED headlights at night in your mirrors are blinding to everything in front of you. That was really the only issue at night that we had, but struggled through it and did just fine. Throughout the night, we would run a skeleton one to two man crew in the pits, while others tried to sleep, although most efforts again at that were futile. At the end of Rygh’s stint, we needed to do brake pads and a tire change as they were getting pretty thin, and wouldn’t make the full 6 hours that we had remaining. We knocked all 4 brakes and 4 tires, along with a fuel stop and driver change in about 8 minutes. Kris jumped back in at this point, and took over in the daylight. We ignored his complaints about the fumes, and ran him almost 3 hours with a fuel splash in between in order to finish strong at the end with one and a half drivers. Mike D got back in the car, followed by Rygh who brought home the checkered flag in the last hour stint. I, honest to God, feel like I have that driver order out of place slightly; I might have been slightly delirious throughout the night, to remember exactly who drove when.
In the end, out of 40 cars, we took 6th place overall and 5th in class. About half the field did not finish the race due to mechanical issues. What these cars, drivers, and crew are required to do in a race like that is unheard of. We completed 615 laps, approximately 1568 miles, and other than our tires and brakes which we expected, we never put a wrench on the car during the race. The car, running Driven Race Oil, burned about 1.5 quarts of oil the entire race, which is unheard of as well; many have heard me preach about Driven oil before. The transmission running 300 degrees (which was accurate) for much of the 24 hours, never gave us a hint of a problem.(also running Driven Race Oil). We had one yellow penalty flag for driver error, which cost us 3 minutes in the pits, and one 2 minute issue where we were releasing Aaron for his stint, and a car had wrecked in turn 1 and was blocking cars on pit exit, which held us for another 2 minutes. A couple of minor things is all it takes to drop a couple of positions in this series; it is incredibly competitive. All in all, we were happy with the results. Once the car pulled off the track, we put it right in the trailer, closed the doors, and headed for KC. One final 8 hour stint got us home about 10pm Sunday night, roughly 72 hours since anyone of us had last slept. I use to laugh at club race events that had “1 hour enduro” events, but after completing the 24, now we consider a twin 8 hour race as a sprint race.