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|Grassroots Motorsports Magazine: Revenge of the Turds (The 24 Hours of LeMons)|
|Written by Jim Brennan|
|Monday, 14 December 2009 11:16|
I have seen the future (of racing), and it is... a little odd.
Author, racer, and all-around track addict Nick Pon wrote a great article in the December issue of Grassroots Motorsports on the fastest growing road race event in the country: the 24 Hours of LeMons. I definitely recommend checking out the digital version. As a recent LeMons participant myself, I'd like to share with you here my own photos alongside with some of the highlights from the categories Nick touches upon in a section titled "LeMons by the Threes" (in honor of the series' third anniversary). These were compiled by chief organizer and racing legend himself, Jay Lamm.
Jay and his crew (the Lemon Squeezers) define many great categories in LeMons racing, with one of the most admired categories consisting of $500 cars kept running competitively throughout the weekend. A trophy is awarded to the most heroic fix of each race. Of the three best fixes according to the Grassroots Motorsports article, it was the repair made this year at the Kershaw, South Carolina event by Team Turbo Schnitzel that will be the most remembered....
Part way through the race, the clutch on Team Turbo Schnitzel's Merkur XR4Ti let go. Discovering an absence of rural car parts stores carrying clutch discs that would fit, the team went to work, constructing their own out of sheet metal and brake discs right there in the paddock.
For every spectacular fix, there is an equally spectacular worst fix--and none more so than that "achieved" by the Kudzu Kommandos, coincidentally at the same South Carolina event last year. After being black-flagged for dragging their exhaust plumbing all over the track, these guys wired it back into place with coat hangers. Trouble was the exhaust outlet pointed toward the gas tank. A few laps later, the car erupted into a ball of flames--and a new entry was added to the rulebook defining specifically how exhaust systems should be plumbed.
Not every team can perform such heroic fixes, let alone do it with smiles on their faces. Jay singles out three teams with the proper "LeMons" attitude. Many team members whine, complain, or even take off when their cars are singled out for destruction. Well, not these guys, and I'm singling out a fellow LeMons New England Team as the one team with the right attitude. Team Chard Beef changed three engines over the course of a weekend in attempts to keep their Buick Regal running in the event. Never cursing, always smiling, even laughing at times, these guys were the absolute cream of the LeMons crop. Other stories of great sportsmanship exist--at the 2006 race in Altamont, California, for example, at which the Car & Driver team (in an Olds Aurora) pushed arch rival Road & Track (in a RWD Corolla) across the finish line to win the event.
LeMons is becoming known for spectacular themes, the trend having started in the California races and slowly spreading across the entire venue. Judges have even given teams waivers if their themes are truly outstanding. The Grassroots Motorsports article defines two: the best-themed car and the best team outfits. I'd like to single out the car that was not only appropriately themed (it was racing right around Christmas time last year), but was also one of the worst handling vehicles at the Thunderhill event: the Bi-Polar Express. In this stunning example of automotive design, a Mustang was dressed up as the locomotive from the beloved Christmas story, thanks to more than 400 pounds of particleboard.
Recognition for the most spectacular team outfits usually goes to a team in Southern California whose members go over the top for every race. The members of Team Eyesore Racing have shown up in Molly Maids uniforms, as Batman and Robin (attended by all the villains, of course), and as a gang of Elvis impersonators. Their most eye-popping garb had to be at the Altamont 2008 event, in which they dressed as pimps and call girls to coordinate with their faux-El Dorado Honda CRX gilded in gold and accented with leopard print.
The last three categories described here include "Three Cars That Sucked," "Three Cars That Should Have Sucked, But Didn't," and "Three Cars That Shouldn't Suck, But Always Do." Two of the three cars that sucked raced in this year's New England LeMons: a 1979 Peugeot 504 from the Safari Taxi Company, and LeMons Veterans Schumacker Taxi, who brought a totally wretched Chevy Citation X-11. The article also mentioned a Yugo GV, which rolled over after three laps.
For the three cars that "Should Have Sucked, But Didn't," I was honored for my 1963 Chevrolet Corvair that competed in the New England event (yes, right along with the Peugeot and the Citation). I should also mention that Team Size Matters, racing a 1967 Plymouth Fury that started out with a 318 V-8, continues to race (in a number of events from Cally to Ohio) and always finishes.
The three cars that always suck should be a textbook lesson in which cars not to bring to compete in a LeMons event. Let's start out with the Ford Taurus SHO. As Jay so succinctly describes, these cars blow up, every single one of them. The crews that run these marvelous Fords bring countless spare parts--including engines. Then there's the Pontiac Fiero ("It's like playing catastrophe roulette," to quote Jay Lamm) and every Porsche 944 to compete, which are--and, once again, I quote from the master--"Guaranteed to blow huge chunks of fine German craftsmanship onto the track at eight hours."
If the thought of entering one of these events with a team of your own--and a truly horrible $500 race car--intrigues you, I have good news. You have 21 different venues to choose from for the 2010 season. To look up the race schedule, or anything else you may want to know about the 24 Hours of LeMons, go to 24hoursoflemons.com. If you don't want to race, be part of the craziness by purchasing track passes at an event close to you. See you there!
High-resolution versions of the images in this story are available in the Automotive Traveler image gallery.