Friday 2/12/16: Team Westafari made it through tech inspection with flying colors—smoke billowing, dreads flying, reggae music blaring. We took the van out for a few practice laps. When the engine suddenly lost power, it gave us a big scare. Turns out we were simply out of fuel. Add some gas and voila. Went back out on the track and the oil light started coming on. That gave us a really big scare. Turns out we were low on oil. Add some oil and voila. The van is performing better than ever. We were able to shave off 135 pounds of non-essential stuff, we moved the rear wheels back 1” using a set of GoWesty lengthened trailing arms, the front and rear sway bars are about 50% stiffer (we welded some tubing over them in true hillbilly fashion), we lowered the final drive ratio by 13% with one of our 5.5:1 ring and pinion sets, and we bumped up the rev limiter to 5800 rpms. The van now hits the rev limiter at around 100 mph in 4th gear—which is pretty much perfect for this vehicle on this track. We had a fun chase with the Polizei van—and, yeah, we got away clean.
Saturday 2/13/16: We played cat and mouse with the Polizei Vanagon all morning. Their vehicle definitely has more power—with their 16-valve, 2.5 liter 160 hp Subaru engine. They could pull away from us on the straightaways, but we would catch them on the turns. Pass, get passed, pass, and so on. With about 2 hours left, we were experiencing a relatively trouble-free day. We were in first place (in our class), about 2.5 laps ahead of the same damn Jaguar that beat us by 0.5 laps last time, and the Polizei van was in third. And then the trouble began… After a spin-out on the track, Lucas (Jr.) was convinced something was wrong with the van—especially because it was reportedly covered in fuel. We got a black flag, and when Jr. got back on the track, his lap times were much slower than usual. He was convinced that something was wrong with the vehicle, but we couldn’t find the issue. Luckily, our videographer saved the day with footage showing that fuel was gushing out of the gas cap on every left turn—fuel was coating the rear passenger wheel and tire, and that’s what caused the crash and the slow lap times. After swapping out fuel caps (and feeling exonerated and relieved), Jr. finished the day strong. The fuel fiasco, however, put us really far behind—we finished the day 4th in our class: 7 laps behind the same Jaguar that beat us in the last race, 4 laps behind a Ford, and 3 laps behind the Polizei Vanagon. Our fuel issues persisted, though, and we ended up borrowing a fuel filler neck and gas cap from the Polizei crew—thanks, guys!
Sunday 2/14/16: After swapping out a leaky tire, we hit the track in stride. After 1.5 hours, we were running strong—1 lap ahead of the Polizei van, 3rd place in our class. Suddenly, our driver came off the track with the engine sputtering, stalling… and it won’t restart. The fuel pump had seized. It turns out that our fuel leak fix had worked too well—the cap we put on was not vented! We fixed the fuel pump, reinstalled the leaky cap from the day before, stuffed a bunch of rags over the cap, and used copious amounts of duct tape. Fuel leak = solved. We switched drivers at the same time as the Polizei van—and that’s when their troubles started. As Didier went to start the Polizei vehicle, the key broke off in the ignition. The steering was locked—they were dead in the water. (An important task on our pre-race to-do list: delete the steering lock and switch. Luckily, we crossed it off the list before the race!) We loaned them another ignition switch, and after a series of unfortunate mishaps, they were back on the track. Our two vans were really dicing it up with one another—the best laps were within 3/10th of a second apart! Both vans were running within ONE minute of each other—even after all the mishaps. What a race! After a noon black flag that disqualified one of our drivers, we refilled and drove until the van was on empty. Right around that time, the Polizei van lost its clutch—they were officially out of the race with only about 2 hours left to go. We added fuel to our van and hit the track. Try as we might, we couldn’t close the distance on the Jaguar or the Ford. We ended up 3rd in class (again!) and a respectable 41st overall out of 147 that started the race. Total laps completed: 283 (750 miles). While the Polizei Vanagon did not finish, they still completed 223 laps and finished 87th overall.
The organizers were really stoked to have both Vanagons in the race, and both teams received trophies. GoWesty won the really nice Judge’s Award trophy, which looks great sitting next to the Organizer’s Choice trophy we won the first time we raced our Westafari van. The next race is in December. We have some tricks planned to get more horsepower out of our GoWesty 2.7 engine—hopefully making our van as quick (or quicker!) than the Polizei Vanagon. With their advantage on straightaways gone, our new fuel tank that will allow us to stay on the track longer, and no black flags… well, we should be able to beat them again and bring home a class win!
GoWesty's Team Westafari had a blast at the Arse-Freeze-Apalooza 24 Hours of LeMons event at Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA, on December 5th and 6th, 2015.
The Class C race results look a lot like what you'd expect at the real Le Mans race... well, except for our Vanagon!
1st Place: Sheepshaggers—1974 Porsche 914
2nd Place: Missfits—2004 Jaguar X-Type
3rd Place: GoWesty Westafari—1986 VW Westfalia
The first place car was a 1974 Porsche 914 fitted with a Saturn 2004 double overhead cam engine. How did this car get into Class C? Apparently, no such engine had ever finished a LeMons race—so the judges figured it would not finish. No such luck! Not only did it finish, but it had zero problems, ended up 17 laps ahead of the 2nd place car, and 25th place overall! NO FAIR!
The second place car in Class C was a 2000(ish) Jaguar V6 all-wheel drive sedan—also placed in Class C because they had blown up two engines in two previous LeMons competitions. Again, not figured to finish—so the judges threw them a bone…. OK, a little more fair, but still no fair! They ended up 49th overall with 294 laps completed in 14:16:23.590 hours of racing.
The third place car was our Team Westafari VW camper. Believe it or not, they wanted to put us in Class B! This was due to the fact that it ran a 24-valve VR6 in the first LeMons race it ran a back in 2013—which put it in Class B in that event—and there was no arguing with the judges! This is quite strange because the VR6 is another engine notoriously famous for having never finished a LeMons race (Team Westafari went through two engines to finish the one race in 2013). This time around, our VW camper was placed in Class C because it is now running the original-type waterboxer, flat-four engine—albeit, a GoWesty 2.7 liter version and the GoWesty EFI—with which it not only finished the race trouble-free, but also got within ½ lap of the Jag, completing 293 laps in 14:17:20.433. Had it not been for an erroneous accusation that one of our drivers disregarded a yellow flag with 5 laps to go—sidelining the van and allowing the Jag to advance 3 laps—we would have beat the Jag easily… NO FAIR!!!
Oh well, that’s racing!