Digital timers kept running as Robin Seufert struggled to switch out one toilet flusher for another and to install a locking door knob.

Yet despite the tension, she came away with her enthusiasm intact - and knowing that a final event would follow where small hand-built cars go head-to-head on a track.

"I'm the only girl with a car in the race, I'm the Danica Patrick," joked Seufert, comparing herself to the trailblazing female NASCAR driver who races men every weekend.

Seufert, who works at The Villages apartment homes, took part April 30 with a few dozen fellow apartment staffers - all men - in the Charleston area's edition of "Maintenance Mania."

She's a groundkeeper, "so this is all new to me." That begs the question, Why take part? "They told me I didn't have any choice," she quipped.

As it turns out, Seufert had a pleasurable time tackling the eight maintenance challenges, in which participants are judged by speed in solo chances.

"I enjoyed it, my first time," she said. Her toughest job, she said, was the dual flusher conversion, while her favorite test was the lock installation.

The Charleston Apartment Association handles the duties as local sponsor of Maintenance Mania, including last month's event at the Belfor disaster recovery and property restoration warehouse in North Charleston.

Rules are spelled out in printed show pamphlets.

Supervisors and other crew sign up to attack the handyman-related tasks on specially designed stations. Judges explain the process and keep tabs on the participants. The racers must tap a bumper to trigger the clock, assemble a handful of supplies in a bucket, run to the far end of a table to begin the task, then when finished speed back and slap the bumper to post a time. The judges check to make sure the contestants finish all the tasks. Each participant gets two tries.

Once the eight challenges are completed, the participants go head-to-head in the hand-built car races.

While designs can be elaborate or simple, they must include at least three items that would be in a worker's toolbox such as cabinet knobs, switch plates, light bulbs and caulking tubes.

Maintenance Mania goes on nationwide, under the auspices of the National Apartment Association. Local winners can advance to state, regional and U.S. competitions. The national final this year takes place in Denver.

But if this all seems a bit obsessive, it's not, at least here. Participants try their best, but the evening is set up as a casual social gathering where apartment staffers can unwind and have a little fun. The judges likewise are apartment maintenance staff. Food and beverages are served. Nobody takes things too seriously.

"It's fun," said Jonathan Kuck, supervisor of the Traditions apartment village in Summerville. He took part to try out the challenges and to encourage some of his staff to try out.

"It's been going great: conquering my fears," said Hezikah Mangham of Carter Hasting.

Nick Poole of Riverstone Residential was taking part in his second "Mania." He won the car race last year. His secret?

"I'm not saying," he replied, "(but) no one else is doing it."

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.