We may be creating a terrible tradition here. At New Jersey Motorsports Park this May, the Brooklyn Bomb Squad again dragged our old Audi out of its winter slumber and ruthlessly whipped it like a Devo song until, lo and behold, the ceremonial oil mixed with the sacred coolant, a puff of steam emerged, and we all said “fiddlesticks.”
Our Audi’s alarming appetite for head gaskets seems to intensify when whenever we go to NJMP in Millville, New Jersey. I blame the entire state of New Jersey. I blame Audi five cylinder motors. I blame Buffalo Wild Wings, just because. But most people would blame us, the Brooklyn Bomb Squad. And they would be totally correct. We blew up three motors in a row. That’s what we did.
Perhaps this most recent failure to finish a 24 Hours Of Lemons race was final, irrefutable proof that we should not be trusted with a race car. And by “race car” I mean a nearly stock, tired old econo-box that wasn’t designed to get stuffed into corners at 75 mph, let alone fight for space on a racetrack with dozens of other completely terrifying heaps of shit. Ha ha! “Race car.”
Our car is a 1991 Audi 200. It’s an economy car that probably expected to live out its last years with some dignity, perhaps under a car port in Connecticut somewhere, watching an old man putter around the yard on a riding mower. Instead it’s rocketing down the back stretch of Thunderbolt, the motor screaming BACKABACKABACKA because it’s bouncing violently off the rev limiter and passing an honest to god 427 Ford Galaxie. This achievement would lead you to conclude that it is, in fact, a “race car”. But compared to your grandmother’s Audi 200, the only thing truly different about our car is the lack of the back half of the roof, a janky roll cage and the number #51 painted on the side, which unfortunately doesn’t make the car go faster. At least that’s what they tell me. I’m not a mechanic. Maybe it does? Not sure. Did I mention I’m on a race team?
Early Saturday morning I did my first stint. The turbo motor in our car was plugged into the chipped ECU that I think Jay bought from a guy behind a Shop Rite, and within a few laps I developed a big misfire. Right at the moment when that sweet turbo came on in third gear you’d be yelling POWAHHHHHHHHH but then it would burp, cut out for a second, and fall flat on its face. So I came in and told the guys what was happening and watched from inside my helmet as they pulled the hood off and did some things with zip ties. I wondered if I should call my parents one last time.
Unsurprisingly, the zip ties thing didn’t really help, so we finally did the sensible thing and swapped in the original ECU (and something about the wastegate springs, blah blah turbo stuff) and that fixed it. I noticed the decreased power under boost, but it motor was suddenly oh-so-smooth. Mainly, it was working. I proceeded to go out there and drive that race car for over an hour. I mean, the normal car. That we think is a race car. It was fun as hell.
We logged around 280 laps on Saturday and Sunday before it blew up, meaning each of us – Jay, Joe, Ethan, Eugene, and I – got a lot of seat time. I personally got almost 2 1/2 hours, which was and by far the most track time in one weekend I’ve ever had. I generated no black flags, and I didn’t break the car, or hit anyone, so personally: mission accomplished. I also managed to cut six seconds off my lap times as I got more comfortable with the car and with traffic, which also felt pretty damn good. And I was pretty consistent! It was tremendously exciting. I can only imagine how much more intense it would feel if we were in contention for a good finish, or even a win. Obviously we can’t call the 2015 Real Hoopties Of New Jersey a victory, but by our standards we actually had a fantastic race.
Saturday night was a truly LeMons-worthy experience also. We were sleeping in tents so the less pain we felt, the better, we thought. Special shout out to the Rally Baby crew who were all lovely and they had a mason jar with some really fun liquid in it. I found Jalopnik’s Stef Schrader and saw a real life puffalump. We met a lot of good people. At 3am Ethan and I found ourselves wandering very drunkenly through the silent and foggy paddock like it was some kind of post apocalyptic junkyard summer camp, laughing at all the ridiculous cars and at the idea that we’d be back on the track in just a few hours.
Aside from how the weekend ended on Sunday afternoon, we had a total blast. We are rebuilding the Audi, because we are dumb, and we will be back. For now, please enjoy some pictures from the Real Hoopties of New Jersey 2015. If you want to check out the entire photo archive and melt your eyeballs with panning shots of nearly every car entered in the race, you can do that here. Thanks for reading!