This is an overdue race report from April. At first I was waiting for the Lemons wrap-up video to come out (it was late), and then I just got to doing important things. Anyway, it was a fun time, and there’s some neat data to look at if you stay with me to the end.
Every year I race Tom Pyrek’s minivan in the 24 Hours of Lemons. We’ve done NJMP Thunderbolt, Thompson, and PittRace together. The van has been the source of some really good themes, and is better on track than it should be. It’s a first gen Honda Odyssey (also badged as an Isuzu Oasis), the one with 4 doors instead of a slider, and with an anemic 4-cylinder Accord engine. Tom’s
minivan racecar has thankfully been manual swapped, but it still struggles with an open diff, terrible aero, and a lot of weight.
Tom has been down the road chasing performance, and it’s just not his gig any longer. He’d rather have fun racing an underperforming slug than stress out over performance. I can understand that, but I’m also about incremental improvements. I can’t do anything about the power or diff, but I’ve been subtly adding performance year by year.
The last time we raced the minivan I begged Tom to allow me to add an airdam and splitter. I did that modification overnight between race days, and so we got to A/B test the modification. It was noticeably better, and so Tom even left it on for street driving after that. Yes, it’s street legal, and he drives it regularly.
This year Tom also allowed me to remove the spare tire from high up on the passenger side window, and remove the third row seat. I was like “Bruh, do I even know you?” The wide-screen TV set would still remain bolted to the rollbar, because I don’t have that kind of influence yet, and Tom is still Tom. But I’ve made some solid progress on both aero and weight.
The minivan is a source of countless themes, and we’ve had some good ones. The first time I raced with The Awkward Corner, we were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I think we kept that theme for Thompson. The first time we raced PittRace, we changed it to Mister Rogers Neighborhood Trolley. Mr Rogers is from Pittsburg, so this was appropriate. The Swangers in the pic below are just for show, we didn’t race on them; the spokes can come loose and they weigh like 80 lbs each.
This year we were stuck juggling theme ideas until the Evergiven tanker got stuck in the Suez canal. Lightbulb! It finally got dislodged before the race, but we stuck with the theme.
There are more theme pics at the very end, with keen details to appreciate.
The race went from good to bad, and then to good back to bad again, and then good. Pretty normal.
The first problem was tires. PittRace is notoriously hard on tires, and we’d fitted budget Accelera 651 tires. These are unusual 200 TW tires because they have three center grooves instead of the usual two, and come with a FREE MONEYBACK GUARANTEE. They are cheap (arguably free), and come highly recommended by my friend Brian Smith at Easthood Racing, so we figured we’d try them out. We chunked them in our second session.
In foresight, I’d brought two wheels from my wife’s Honda Civic, with the intention of A/B testing them for one session, and then secretly putting them back on her car before she knew. Her wheels were shod with Nexen NFera Sur4G 200TW tires, which we’ve raced on the van before (in a 16″ size, not these 17″ ones) and they’ve worked well.
So we changed the tires quickly to my wife’s tires, and on the plus side, this gave me some great back-to-back data that I’ll share later. On the down side, the tires delaminated, and now I’m sleeping on the couch.
If you’re thinking the
minivan racecar doesn’t have enough camber, it has -3.5 degrees. Tom says that tire deflection has a lot to do with wear, and that it was the 7″ wheels that were to blame. So we rotated tires around as best we could, and used some older tires that were well heat cycled (or cycled out) on the front, and did our best to finish the race.
So with our tire woes somewhat sorted, the next thing was our brakes. I could hear something grinding and vibrating, so I brought the car in. We got the wheels off and noticed it had a cracked front rotor.
We replaced that, put the car down, and I didn’t get to the track entrance before I brought it back in with the same sound. It was, in fact, the rear pads that were shot. These were brand new parts-store ceramics, which usually last a couple races when the parking brake isn’t dragging. Which it was. We replaced these with a used set of organic pads, but those barely lasted one session. Luckily we already had someone out and about buying spare parts, and so we got more rear pads to finish the race.
At one point I got punted from behind by another driver in a E30. In a Lemons race, anyone involved in contact gets a black flag, regardless of who’s fault it is. And so this resulted in me collecting my first black flag since 2013. If you watch the video, I think you’ll see this wasn’t my fault; it may not matter to Lemons, but it matters to me.
I later confronted the driver, who was a total douche about it and called it my fault. But after the race the other guys on the team said their apologies, and I countered with “racing incident”, and we’re all good now.
It was a dicey moment at the time. I had to react quickly to go straight off, then turn and gas it right before hitting the tire wall, which vectored me away so that I only grazed the right rear. But this gave me more speed which I had to scrub quickly to avoid getting T-boned in T18. I stopped it before re-entering the track, barely.
These are, unfortunately, the moments I live for.
This was my first time with a three-driver team, and I prefer four. We had a lot of downtime in the pits fixing shit, and a fourth hand is helpful for that, and if we didn’t break so often, we’d have had the same amount of track time anyway.
I haven’t mentioned our new teammate Stephen Kent. Tom found him on the Lemons Rally, and so I already knew he was good people. What I didn’t know is that in his first race ever, he’d impress the hell out of me.
Stephen was fast (2.8 seconds off me), did a lot of work on the car, bought food and drinks, and generally was the ideal teammate. Never mind the fact that this autocrosser (I’m making the X sign and backing away) had no previous racing experience and had never been to PittRace, he had excellent situational awareness, stayed out of trouble, got consistently faster, and played up the theme to a 10. Yes, he was the one that blocked the track exit at the end of the race. PittRace officials didn’t find this funny, Lemons people did.
We also had a pit crew member Ari, and he was a great help all weekend. He’s been doing some autocrossing, and with some help from Stephen, maybe we’ll have a fourth teammate after all.
Staying “in theme” and Lemons Wrap-up
To be theme-tastic, we purposefully stuck our van in as many places as we could: We blocked the tech garage in the morning; We held up traffic at track in, and track out; When we were pulled in for a penalty, we wedged the car between the building and a pole. We were Everturrible.
24 Hours of Lemons did a wrap up video on the race, and we are featured singing a Whitney Houston song, and generally playing up our theme by being assholes.
Tires and Data
As promised here’s some interesting tire data comparing the Accelera 651 to the Nexen NFera Sur4G. I chose a couple representative laps from each without traffic. (If you want to measure your laps vs a portly minivan, my best lap was a 2:23.135 with a top speed of 97.4 mph.)
On the speed trace, Nexen is red and Accelera is blue. You can see the Nexen makes a better lap time by about 1.5 seconds, but what’s interesting is where the Accelera if faster: on the straights. Once into high gear, the 651s have less drag, less rolling resistance, and less weight, and this translates into a consistently higher top speed.
The Accelera’s are the lightest 225 street tire I’ve weighed and are a couple pounds lighter than the Nexens. When you put both 225 tires on their sides, you can see the 651 is a narrower tire. This weight and narrowness is probably where the top speed comes from.
Next take a look at lateral Gs, and this is where you can see the Nexen’s have an advantage. And they should. Sur4Gs are known to be a 200 TW autocross tire, and the 651 is a budget 200 TW tire. You can see that the red lines are both higher and lower than the blue lines, indicating more grip (low means left turn, high means right turn).
As for how they drive, I liked both, but I was able to trail brake better on the Nexens. In the friction circle, you can see the red lines are not only wider than the blue lines, but more bulbous shaped, meaning I can blend inputs better.
I drove the Acceleras slightly better than my teammates. They were about 2.5-3 seconds slower on the 651s than the Sur4Gs, while I was only 1.5 seconds slower. I practice on all-season tires, and so I’m used to a car that moves around a lot. It could be that training, or it could be that their driving styles don’t mesh as well with this tire.
Anyway, the Accelera is a slower tire, but it still might be a good endurance racing tire, the jury is still out. I need to get these tires on a Miata with proper camber, and not a FWD van that destroys anything you put on it. I have a feeling that the three grooves on the 651 will make it a good wet tire.
I sent this data and some comments over to Kaylee at Tire Streets, to say that I’m intrigued by the tires, but until you come out with a wider 15″ tire, I’m not buying. First, because all they offered was a 195/50-15, and second, 651s seem to run narrow. Well, not long after sending that email I found out the Accelera 651 is now available in both a 205/50-15 and a 225/45-15. I bought them immediately.
My plan was to A/B test them at the NJMP Lemons race vs RS4s, but due to recent circumstances (which you can read in maybe the next late race report), I have not tested them yet. I can tell you that the 651s measure exactly the same width as 225 Maxxis RC1s, and so they might not run narrow in this 15″ size.
24 Hours of Lemons is a weekend of fun on and off track. It’s not just about racing, it’s about having a good time. The series is going more and more towards performance cars, but I wish more people brought shitty cars with themes.