It’s been more than a week and your author/hobbyist racing driver is still recovering. The 24 Hours of Lemons Hooptiefest was a 2014 season closer for several eEuroparts sponsored teams campaigning three generations of SAABs.
This narrator was lucky enough to drive two of them (96 and 99) while the exploits of the company’s in house entry, Norma the c900, can be followed here: eEuro ‘Factory’ Squad piloting Norma The Orange Blur.
Our 1971 99 ‘Baja’ (a nod to the rooftop exhaust of Erik Carlsson’s Baja 1000 car) made a strong second showing after a bolt loosening shakedown at Limerock Park earlier this year. There was drama early when time robbing fuel leak drew a black flag in the first hours of the race. The car performed otherwise flawlessly, held back only by bits of green driving and unhurried driver changes.
sThe Baja spun on Saturday and took a solid shot in the front fender from another car. The damage was nothing that couldn’t be smoothed by a 10lb hammer and a Dodge ¾ ton pickup between beers on Saturday night.
Kasey “Laser” Anderson, a rookie addition to the Adopted By Jets team, executed three perfect driver stints. This was her first time ever setting tire on a race track. The team lost hot shoe Chris Conacher on Sunday when the water company he worked for canceled his leave, due to the flood status caused by a week of heavy rains. In the hands of substitute teammate Tim Remmers, the 16v Trionic powered 2.0 liter broke into the 1:29s on Sunday. In fact, all of our drivers cycled through second day shifts without incident, with impressive turns by Zak Morawski and Chris Rizzon.
This brings us to the 1971 SAAB 96 34Later. Named for it’s trademark vintage ice racing paint job, Later is the evolving work of team Full Nelson helmed by engineer and Saab expert, Eric Nelson. Predecessor to SAAB’s 99 model, this car was actually manufactured side by side our ‘Baja’ 43 years ago on the automotive plant floor in Trollhattan Sweden. Those familiar with this blog will know that in it’s current iteration, 34later sports a 3cyl, 6valve, single liter motor from a US production Geo Metro. This engine is force fed air by a small, Nissan sourced, roots supercharger, and washes it’s O2 down with fuel from a creatively altered Saab 99 sourced mechanical (CIS) fuel injection system.
The mix makes for a bizarrely reliable and predictable car. Displacement and allowable pump octane fuels limit available horsepower but the car’s nature shines in the corners and, this weekend, managed 1:34 lap times by back to back to back drivers.
The car’s reliability was definitely a factor in another top 5 in class finish, this time a 3rd place podium standing. Later took another hard hit in the rear quarter at this race. Fortunately, unlike last October’s incident, there was little or no suspension damage to repair overnight. At some point after the accident the car came in with voltage loss, and the cause was quickly identified as a problem with the alternator belt. The team jumped to action and had the car back out on track with little loss in time. Congratulations for this success go to veteran crew members Tim Remmers, John Rush, and George Welch as well as new addition Dave Burnham.
The NHMS track support staff also deserves some special recognition for the car’s impressive performance this weekend. 34Later started the race on the same rubber it has used for the last two seasons and the right front tire finally showed its cords after a first day of hard use. The car came to the track with two catch-all emergency spare wheels and neither matched the advantageous width and stagger of the front wheel they were replacing. After the car started Sunday morning with circle track style stagger (a smaller inside wheel,) the facility crew offered us the use of their shop and tire machine to borrow over a spare tire from the 99Baja and mount it on 34later’s signature red rim. NHMS, again, our hats tip to you. Photo gallery of the race can be found here [Click here].