On Saturday morning, my son and I prepped to head to the district pinewood derby. We had qualified last week by finishing fourth in our pack. I wanted to relubricate the wheels and reset the axles, so I started pulling the axles out, and suddenly, the front of the car gave way. The whole wooden "front suspension" came off in my hand, along with the wheel and axle.
I said to my son, "I don't think we'll be able to race today." He went ballistic, tears, ranting, etc. Well, I gave some thought to what I could do to improve things. I realized that I could drill some holes through the axle, glue in cut-off toothpicks and perhaps have the car ready to deliver to quarantine two hours later.
We set to work. Gorilla glue, my favorite woodworking glue, was out since it requires a day to fully cure. So, I resorted to America's old standby, Elmer's Glue, which dries in about an hour. We made the modifications. I decided to use the axles from this year's car, rather than the one's from last; I figured the burrs on the underside of the nailheads were too significant a downside, so we'd live with the circumferential scratch marks. I don't know if this was a right choice, but we got the car assembled and off we went.
En route there, we missed a turn, so we needed to overshoot, then double back about a mile. They were emphatic about being on time for the 11:30 AM check-in. At 11:25, we arrived, got on line and it took us a mere 45 minutes in an overcrowded, noisy school gym to get checked in. The guy in front of us in line had his son's car running on just 3 wheels. (This is a tactic used to reduce rolling friction, but was prohibited by the district rules, which apparently hadn't been circulated to this guy.) His son's car had to run in the open (no awards) division. Our car passed the tests without a problem. When the woman checking cars weighed it, it was 4.99 oz., just under the 5 oz. limit; it fit easily into the 7" x 2 3/4" sizing box; and all four wheels spun when rolled on the table.
At 1:30, having each eaten a piece of lukewarm pizza, 1/2 a muffin, and a bit of dried fruit, the management announced that they only had the room until 3:00 PM. They would therefore not rerun unless it would impact the results.
The track at this school was radically different from our track. You saw our track in last week's post. This track used about a six-foot drop, and the track sloped down to the finish virtually the whole way. My son commented about the rough handling that race management was giving the cars: they were picking up cars by the wheels; putting them roughly into a box and carrying them back to the start; and some were even dropped from the start line to the gym floor below. Rather than using a drop gate to start the cars, the cars were set at the top of the track with rears wheels overhanging, then a hinged board would lift the rear wheels to permit the cars to roll away. This system proved a problem for at least one car that we saw; its relieved bottom meant it would not stay in place without a hand being held atop it. The cars then rolled through a timing gate to start their clock and a second gate at the finish. Thus, time to start rolling was also ignored - this could have a real impact in relative performance of some cars. Also, seams where track sections joined were not smooth, resulting in frequent "derailments" and many car-to-car impacts. Most cars were covering the course in between 2.80 and 3.00 seconds. Averages were made of the elapsed times on the three tracks, and cars were placed according to that - there were no head-to-head runoffs.
We raced at about 1:55 PM, and our 5 races (three counted, two had crashes) took us about 5 minutes. We performed poorly, putting up an average of 3.0X seconds. We hit the road, having spent two and a half hours for an activity that shouldn't have taken more than an hour.
Our racing was over, but some lessons were learned, most notably, to reinforce your car if you will be using a narrow profile at the front. All-in-all, I was pleased with the car and my learning from this year, I was extremely disappointed with the management of the race this weekend.
Sorry there are no pictures, the scramble to prep the car meant I forgot the camera.