Frustration with mechanical issues isn’t limited to new platform race car development. We transport drivers have our fair share on occasion, too. Lately, our two Volvo tractors have provided us with plenty of drama, either while on the road (read serpentine belt saga in the Race 2 blog) or during the down periods between events.
Since we only put around 50,000 miles per year on the transporters, it isn’t practical to invest in new equipment. We buy used equipment that generally has about 600,000 miles, but they’re in good mechanical condition. It’s common for over-the-road tractors to last a million miles; on our schedule, these trucks should last years. That’s generally the case, but they’ve been a bit cantankerous lately.
Our newer tractor developed a disturbing knock while at a VIR test day. Suffice it to say the cost of the repair (essentially an in-frame overhaul) blindsided us, blew up the budget, and sent James into near apoplexy. Hence, in route to Laguna, Johnny was driving a loaner from the dealer. Now, this appeared to be a good idea as the dealer wanted to maintain good will and help us out in a pinch. Operating under the belief that they had provided this service to others in the past, and with the departure date fast approaching, we accepted the offer on face value and hit the road. Without covering all the details, or rehashing the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the loaner was a bad idea. The paperwork the dealer provided wasn’t appropriate for our activities, and we had to sweat every weigh station as we crossed the country. After an educational stop at the latest and greatest technology-laden weigh station in Oklahoma, an $11-million homage to commercial trucking law enforcement, I spent a half hour on the phone buying 72-hour trip permits for all the states we had to traverse on the way to California and back.
Clearly, no one would realize this isn’t our regular truck.
To quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Another aspect of this trip is that as I get older (and as with many things) it isn’t as easy as it once was. Ten-hour days on the road followed by truck-stop food and, hopefully, a decent night’s sleep to get up before sunrise and back behind the wheel is wearying. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be on the road. I’ve said it many times; driving a tractor trailer is way different than driving a car all day. It commands so much more attention and concentration (at least the way I drive), the view is amazing, and modern trucks are quiet and comfortable. The one I drive has automatic temp controls, Sirius, air ride seat with three separate air bladders for back comfort, plus adjustable side bolsters and heat. The 18-speed transmission keeps me busy, too. Volvo’s ergonomics are also amazing.
Staged on the South Boundary Road.
Finally at Laguna Seca, we drive up the South Boundary Road and park as we wait to stage in the paddock. After 4 and a half days on the road, including a day and a half driving at California’s insane 55 MPH for trucks and towed vehicles, I’m ready for a break.
Please permit me a moment to vent a bit about that speed limit. First, it is strictly enforced in regards to commercial vehicles. I got stopped two years ago for doing 60 in a 55. The CB offers dozens of anecdotal stories from other truckers for being stopped for 57 or even 58 in a 55. In the meantime, all sorts of landscape trailers, boats, and campers fly by at 70-80 MPH and the CHP doesn’t blink an eye. I understand the concept of discretionary enforcement, but seriously.
For those of you who might suggest “it saves fuel,” I will say the same thing truckers have been saying since the implementation of the 55-MPH limit in the ’70’s – balderdash! As you may know, diesels have a limited operating range. As my truck is geared, I can set the cruise control and drive at 70-72 MPH all day at 1,600 RPM in top gear. To drive 55 I must shift down two gears to be in the correct operating range. So, now I’m driving 55-57 at, wait, 1600 rpm. SO, the engine is operating at the same speed, sipping the same fuel (I know this because the digital dash monitors constant fuel use), yet I’m driving 15 fewer miles each hour. How is that saving fuel? Duh.
Lance has an opportunity to clean the engine compartment.
The remainder of the event goes by quickly. If you read this blog, you certainly follow Bimmerworld’s Facebook and news updates and know we had our share of challenges (we’d prefer Lance not have that much room to work). James got the F30 on pole for the second consecutive race and save for an interesting racing move entering the corkscrew by Eric Foss, Tyler would have been on the podium. While the other cars had issues, and whereas this track is nearly perfect for everything Mazda, we were content with 4th.
Steve monitors pressure on one of the many sets of tires he manages throughout the week. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.
Green flag from Pole Position. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.
Rubbin’ is racing. It seems to me that the Mini’s are doing most of the rubbin’ this year. Do not take that as any type of statement, indictment, or endorsement from the team. It’s my opinion based on personal observations. It’s not anything malicious on their part; they simply appear to have a lot of contact. Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.
Halston Pitman photo for MotorSportMedia.
After all is said and done it’s time to pack up and head East. By the time we’re done packing up the transporters, it’s too late to hit the road, so we catch a ride to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a good meal. After a solid night’s sleep in the paddock, we hit the road at about 0400 and exit through the main gate. If you’ve ever been to Laguna Seca, not only do they have the long, very steep hill inside the track, they also have a twisting, 16% grade entrance. Since the powers that be never seem to be able to coordinate our departure times, we have no choice but to exit down that grade. That’s “fun” first thing in the morning.
There are two places we always try to stop each year on this trip. One is Nick’s BBQ & Catfish in Carlisle, AR. Second is Lisa’s Truck Stop in Moriarty, NM. It’s great to find these places with awesome food AND truck parking.
Chrome chairs and boomerang Formica!
Half way on the return trip we swap trucks so Johnny can continue up to Lime Rock for a few days of testing as I continue back to the shop with the loaner. As luck would have it, I pass the eastbound Oklahoma weigh station just minutes before it opens, and I passed safely through the scales in Arkansas and Tennessee as well. Stopping for my return visit to Nick’s I discovered an air leak too big to safely continue. I found a nearby repair shop that sends a guy first thing in the A.M. to complete the repair, but was 4:00 P.M. before everything was done. I learned that the dealer has sold the loaner and is anxious to get it back, so I drove through the night and got to BimmerWorld World Headquarters at 0330, unloaded all my stuff from the loaner, and headed home.
That’s the end of this adventure. Thanks for reading.