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We went, we broke it, we raced it, we returned

Thursday, May 5th:
On this occasion the Autosport Labs team headed to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, CA to attend “Goin’ for Broken 2010”. That’s a 24 Hours of LeMons event for those of you not knowing. We suffered the minor inconvenience of an overheated wheel bearing near Tangent, OR and fixed it hoping that was the end of suffering. Seriously, what could possibly go wrong with our 1987 Merkur XR4TI at a 24 hour endurance race that is really only 17 hours long with a big break in the middle (I can hear you laughing, …I’m ignoring you)?

Near Tangent, OR
Near Tangent, OR
< Thursevening, May 5th:
Arrived in Willow’s to partake of much drinking and rejoicing to our imminent success (doom).

Friday morning, May 6th (Test Day):
After warming up the mighty Labrat 2 we sent our test pilot Doug, of and the builder of the Merkur’s awesome cage, onto the track for…well…a test…because he’s the…you know…test driver……never mind. He returned 15 minutes later escorted by a safety vehicle for the mechanically challenged. At first Doug said “It broke.” After further questioning he elaborated with, “It got really hot all of a sudden, so I shut it down.” Both descriptions were plausible explanations of what we witnessed from pit wall. After a thorough examination of what wasn’t wrong, which was just about everything, and the removal of the cylinder head, we were totally surprised to find a blown head gasket. Luckily, being mostly a Ford (First On Race Day), a gasket was easily found just 30 miles away. Yay!

Notice the difference?
Notice the difference?
Cylinder head of dubious condition
Cylinder head of dubious condition[/caption]

Frafternoon, May 6th:
OK, that was the easiest head gasket replacement surgery I’ve ever experienced. Clearly the Gods of crapcan racing and all things LeMony are smiling down upon us. Back onto the track goes the XR4Ti and the survey says… immediate failure. Symptoms included, but weren’t limited to, softly billowing steam via the exhaust and water gently cascading from the #2 spark plug hole. Hmm, …what to do…what to do.

Frevening, May 6th:
I, injecting a comment into the ever-darkening team spirit, say “Hey, I’ve had some pretty good outcomes with the liberal use of block seal on non-turbo-charged cars.” The team responds with a collective, “Really?” “Yep,” says I. Based solely on my enthusiasm for this procedure, I’m dispatched to Wal-Mart in search of salvation and return with a fluorescent-green bottle of hope.

Saturday Morning, May 7th (Race Day):
T -30 minutes and counting. The curing is done, the spare radiator is installed, and the water is returned to the cooling system. It quickly becomes apparent that hope is present in the Labrats paddock space but confidence is not. We slowly decide that the #2 cylinder will be disabled for this event. We quickly rename the Merkur…”XR3TI” and make it to the green flag sounding like a turbo-diesel Harley.


Running on 3 cylinders, sounding like each lap was its last, our Merkur XR3TI just kept going. For 321 laps, 16:49:49 it kept running. It made awful yet endearing noises. It popped, snorted and lost what little power it had above 3500 rpm. It spat flames, its tires screamed for mercy, and it finished 31st of 108 entries.


Monday Morning, May 9th
Brent dropped a fully loaded trailer on his toes and we all went home. The end.

Scott “Leadfoot” Miller

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