Chump – Road Atlanta, 2014

2014 – Chump Blog

In the 3rd year since its inception, Longhill Racing has branched out from local club racing in the  Calabogie GT Challenge into the Chump Car World Series. For those that are not aware, the Chump Car World Series (Chump Car) is the largest and “most affordable” endurance racing series in the world.  With a maximum car value of $500 and a car in essentially stock format (excluding safety gear such as roll bars, upgraded brakes, removed glass, etc), cars and teams are pitted against each other in endurance races lasting anywhere from 6 to 24 hour races all across North America.  Racing is always the true test of a car, and is certainly the best way to improve cars that are sold to the masses as racing with exploit any weakness in a vehicle and break it, shake it, and sometimes turn those weaknesses into a flaming pile of scrap metal. Endurance racing takes this far beyond the next level and into a realm where even the largest and most well supported teams in professional racing have issues competing and finishing.

Enter Longhill Racing… a three year old racing team with nothing but local club racing experience.  After renting a seat in with TWOth Autosport for the Chump Car races at Calabogie Motorsports Park and Mosport in 2013, Team Owner Chris Harrison decided he needed to start his own Chump Car Race team.  After experiencing the CMP and Mosport race, and watching the logistics of pit stops and fuelling, Chris figured that fuel economy was key to fewer pitstops and therefore gained laps on the track.  Following in the footsteps of Audi at the 24 Hours of Lemans, Chris decided the Longhill Racing Chump Car should be a diesel.  After reviewing Chump Car valuations of cars, the chosen warrior was going to be a 1999 VW TDI.  Fast forward a few months a car was found, and at the helm of Powersports Garage’s Jay Fredericks and Jeff Steenbakkers, the build began.

First scheduled stop for 2014 was a 14 hour endurance race at the famed  Road Atlanta, an epic road course located in Braselton Georgia. After a 24 hour haul from Ottawa to Braselton, the Longhill Racing team consisting of Chris Harrison, Jim Harrison and Matt Edmonds, landed at Road Atlanta to meet TWOth Autosport, one of two other Ottawa based teams to compete at the Frozen Peaches and Cream Chump Car Race.  We arrived on the Thursday, however after landing a few hours later than planned we expected to be well at the back of the line for tech inspection, however, once arriving learned that there was some contractual issues between the Track and Chump Car, and the track gates were closed and locked.  After a few hours of talking with other teams, and shivering in near freezing temperatures, the gates opened, and we were off to set up some paddock space.

The Thursday night was spent getting all the car through the annual tech where they verify that the car meets all the safety requirements, as well as determine if you have stayed within the $500 limit of the series and deal out lap penalties for those that are over.  The Longhill Racing TDI while having a few modifications, still fell under the limit with an assessed competition value of $488.  Following car tech, all our personal safety gear went through tech inspection as well, and with success on both those fronts, it was time for dinner, and sleep.

Friday morning consisted of buying lots of Diesel Fuel to get us through 4 hours of test and practice and the 14 hour race to follow on Saturday.  After veteran racer Travis Hill of TWOth Autosport set the brake bias on the virgin TDI, team owner Chris Harrison was off to do the first round of practice.  By the time we had walked to one of the viewing areas, the TDI was already pulling back into the pits, the car seemed to be overheating… and on came an entire day of chasing engine cooling issues, rad caps, expansion tanks, failed thermostats, improperly reading temp gauges, leaking hoses, puking coolant… the car was putting the Powersports Garage guys through a myriad of diagnostic testing to located the source of the issue. Finally at the end of the day, a changed thermostat, and the engine appeared to finally be holding its temp, but with literally only minutes of track time and a handful of laps, the only driver on the Longhill team to experience the new car on the new track was Chris Harrison.

Saturday.  Race Day. 4:30 wake up time. 8:00 go time. After attending the driver’s meeting and installing the radios, the Longhill Racing team BogieMen 4, was ready to roll. During the initial few pace laps under caution, radios were checked for operation, and we waited to see if the final cooling system repair from the previous day would in fact solve our issues.

Pace Lap, with 109 cars on the track, the pace truck through last place nearly occupied to whole track.  A few laps under yellow, then… Green Flag. Within 2 laps, Chris Radios in saying the power is down and the car isn’t making boost. PIT STOP! Turns out the turbo was fried! With no time to perform any further diagnostics, and no spare turbo to replace the existing one, 14 minutes into the 14 hour race and the Longhill Racing TDI retired for the weekend.

Shortly after lunch, the trailers and truck were packed, and the 25 hour road trip from Braselton to Ottawa commenced. While the race was short lived, for our team at least, the experience was amazing, and with 6 more events booked this year, the experience is really just beginning.