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Hooniverse 24 Hours of Lemons Racing – The Race

24 Hours of Lemons Halloween Hooptiefest Hooniverse Buick Regal Park Bench

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

One will take a much different view of this famous Ernest Hemmingway quote once he or she participates in any of those three sports. This past weekend, at the 24 Hours of Lemons Halloween Hooptiefest, I lost my racing virginity. I’ll have you know, dear readers, that it was not awkward at all and I lasted a long time, unlike that other first time.

In fact, our Hooniverse Park Bench Racing team did surprisingly well. At the end of the first day we were leading the race-specific, but otherwise meaningless, class of Volvo 850 Versus 21st Century GM Rental Car Challenge. This was a class specifically created for the large amount of front-wheel-drive Volvos and early-2000s GM sedans.

Realizing that we may actually do damn well in this little endurance race, we got serious! And that’s things started going not-so-well.

[Photo: Murlee Martin - Car And Driver]

hoonlemon1

photo: reader SmokeyBurnout

Friday: Inspections and Practice

We passed tech and BS inspections with flying colors. Given that our car was mechanically factory stock, we still chose to bribe the judges knowing that there may be a time when we would need their leniency. The fact that people loved our theme helped things out further. We ended up in Class B, “cars with a prayer of finishing”, which was very fair.

Things were going equally well in practice. We did our best to learn the track and the car. We monitored the engine and transmission temperatures and checked all vitals in between driver changes. We noticed that our new BFGoodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2 tires were rubbing on the fenders, so we rolled the fenders. I managed to get our first dent of the weekend when a rather fast Porsche got squirrely while passing me, despite me giving him all the space he could want.

45th position 451

Saturday: First Race Day

We had no real race strategy going into this, mostly because we did not have the time to come up with one. We also did not know how many laps we could get on a tank of gas or how long each one of us could physically drive well in a race. We ended up with one-hour driving stints, with 10-gallon fill-ups during every other driver change. Our no-plan plan was to go quick but not fast, don’t break down, don’t wreck, and avoid penalties.

This no-plan plan worked out so well that by midday were in the mid-50th position, out of 140+ cars. Not bad for a couple of rookies with a car they never drove before, racing on a track they never been on before. Excited, we stock to it and by the end of the day we were in P45 overall, and according to the Saucy Minx, a Car and Driver/Autoweek/TTAC writer and Lemons judge, we dominated the Volvo 850 Versus 21st Century GM Rental Car Challenge.

Post-day-one-race car inspection revealed a bad front wheel bearing, which we replaced (it came out in three pieces). Another issue was a custom radiator hose which was going to our custom-ish junk yard radiator and a leak from the water pump. We band-aided those, rotated tires, checked the brakes, and decided to take it easy on Sunday.

Sunday: Second Race Day

penalty box

Waiting to get out of the penalty box

Feeling more confident but cautious, we extended our driving stints to 90-minutes and fill-ups on as-needed basis. We were doing great and somehow got to P34 overall by mid-morning. Domination indeed, even if the faster teams simply put in their slowest drivers on Sunday morning. Unfortunately that’s where things started going wrong:

3 legged lunch lemons

  • Justin got some kind of a minor drive-through penalty, not sure for what but that was time lost, even if few minutes.
  • Then I got into it with an E30. He was on the outside on the hairpin, following the faster racing line, one car slower car between us, and I went for the gap on the inside. In the end, my left front corner clipped his right rear corner, spinning him out. To quote Ayrton “…if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver…”. That got us a 30-minute penalty and put us in P57.
  • Andy took over after my penalty and ran very well, making up some spots, until he got a penalty of his own. As penalty, Andy’s and the other team’s driver’s legs were tied together and they were told get lunch for the judges. Three-legged lunch, they called it.
  • By 3:00pm we were in P51 and I started the final stint of the race. Slow and careful, I wanted us to finish in the top fifty which wasn’t unreasonable. That was until I was hit by a boat, while overtaking a Saab 96. Think about that scenario for a second; a boat and an old Saab racing against a Buick. The boat went for the gap, “…if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a…” shrimpin’ boat captin’?

This was our fourth penalty, which despite my best bribing efforts and the fact that I couldn’t avoid this contact, resulted in a mandatory four hour stop. Our race was over but we were allowed to go back out for the last fifteen minutes to get the checkered flag.

We finished in P77 overall. For three idiots who didn’t know the car, the track, and had minimal previous racing experience, we did pretty damn well.

finish line

Next we will discuss details on our racecar; what went wrong and what went right, other things about the race; other race cars, penalties, costs, etc.

 

All images: ©2013 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski, unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved

 

Currently there are "54 comments" on this Article:

  1. scponder says:

    That is the most awesome wing technology I have ever seen. I find myself wondering if there are seatbelts attached. It's a wonder I survived childhood really.

  2. Eric Rood says:

    The Buick looks sufficiently hazardous at speed. How is it to drive?

    • Kamil_K says:

      The coil springs did a fantastic job of absorbing track imperfections.
      There was plenty of power going down hill, and not enough on the straights, and none going up hill.
      Steering was good until Sunday when it started feeling loose and off center.
      The brakes were actually quite amazing the whole race, as were the tires, which kept this boat glued to the ground while fighting the suspension, of what was left of the suspension.
      More on this in the next post.

  3. dukeisduke says:

    I'm not liking the whole penalty system thing.

    • fodder650 says:

      It is part of what makes the series special. Plus the drivers learn to take the penalties a bit more seriously because of the weirdness.

    • Tanshanomi says:

      When simply registering for the race demonstrates a shocking lack of good judgment and a willingness to go for broke against stupidly slim odds of success, it's probably the only deterrent that can keep the behavior of the certified loonies on the track reasonably sane.

    • Mad_Science says:

      It works pretty well to help teams "get it" without being to punitive to simple mistakes.

      First/second offenses are usually drive-throughs or driver swaps. After that, they need to get your attention.

      It should be noted that penalty counts and punishment are 100% at the discretion of the judges. Come in looking sad and confused and apologetic? Things will go well.

      Come in, jump out of the car, throw your helmet and start screaming at people? Yeah…not helping.

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      In general, penalties are what separate the rookie drivers/teams from the veterans. Rookies get a lot of them. Yet with experience, they become much easier to avoid. I say this with some measure of shame, as I racked up four penalties on my first day of LeMons driving.

      Regardless, Kamil, so glad you did this and great article.

    • Racin_G73 says:

      You would prefer there be no deterrent to prevent other drivers from going past their limits, crashing into you and totaling your $5000 race car that you spent the last 90 days working around the clock to finish?

  4. fodder650 says:

    So, Kamil, I'm guessing that this isn't going to be the last LeMon's race for you?

    • Kamil_K says:

      I can't say that "OMG this is teh awesomeness I need to this for life OMG WOW I'm hooked and gonna make a $5000 race car and school these fools how awesome I am"… but it was fun and I'd like to do it again. It's a lot of time invested, which I don't have, and it isn't cheap either…

      • fodder650 says:

        So it's more of a case that you are proud you got to do it at least once.

        • Kamil_K says:

          No, I didn't say that at all…

          • fodder650 says:

            I meant more as a case that you would try to do it again if you could, but you got to check something off of your bucket list this way.

            • Kamil_K says:

              No, we do have plans to race this car again. I'll give it another shot but I'm not sure if it's something that I want to keep doing.
              Typically, I am not a very competitive person and I enjoy doing my own thing and being independent more than group/team activities. Given the choice of racing against 140 other cars or doing a track event with ten other cars on the track, I'd typically do the latter.

              • LTDScott says:

                Funny, I am not a competitive person in general, but I'd much rather race wheel to wheel than do a track day. Pulling an awesome pass gives me more jollies than a fast lap.

  5. muthalovin says:

    You know what? A three-legged lunch should be 3 turkey legs.

    That is all.

    • MVEilenstein says:

      Only if the two guys do it 3-legged. Somehow I'm imagining the judges laughing their heads off at this idea, and giving them a reprieve.

  6. mdharrell says:

    "…while overtaking a Saab 96."

    Sigh. That's what they get for ditching their two-stroke.

    • Kamil_K says:

      They, whoever they are, I don't know them, seemed to have been running very well… I battled with that Saab a few times that weekend and that the first time I was actually passing him. I think. So I assume maybe they put in their slower driver?

      • mdharrell says:

        "…running very well…. first time I was actually passing him."

        Sigh. That's what they get for ditching their two-stroke.

      • Mad_Science says:

        One of my favorite parts of LeMons was getting into your own little race battles with other mid-pack crappy cars.

        "Oh man, did you see how fast the Ranger was running? I couldn't catch him coming out of 9…"

        • Kamil_K says:

          The irony is that this is exactly what everyone should try to avoid. You get into these little battles with god knows who, lap after lap, you don't even know if the guy is your class, 20 laps ahead or 20 laps behind you, don't matter you're fighting… while the reality is that you should avoid that at all cost cuz then you're not running your own race.

          The only time to do that is in the last several laps, when racing for victory in your class or overall.

  7. Sjalabais says:

    Great story and congrats on the good position! The Buick will be back in the game soon, or what?

  8. vwminispeedster says:

    Ah yes the classic case of "stepping on ones own wiener" and having to visit the penalty box. I am familiar with that move. Although having to perform a penalty is no fun (less time racing) if you take your lumps and have fun with whatever they dish out it takes the sting away. And frankly there is no "winning" in LeMons, just whether or not you have a fun time. Winning in LeMons is like cleaning your toilet twice in one day, good job, but, who cares. That said I can't wait to "get back in the saddle" of our My Little Pony Mustang and DOMINATE!!!!!

  9. OA5599 says:

    "Our no-plan plan was to go quick but not fast, don’t break down, don’t wreck, and avoid penalties."

    Very good strategy.

    [youtube lEHZJNQ5Y4A http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEHZJNQ5Y4A youtube]

  10. Racinrob says:

    Eric, I was in the #461 Brickmobile early on both days. On Saturday we seemed to be fairly equal and I was having fun trying to stay with you. If you thought you had no power down the straights you don't want to get in our car!

    • Eric Rood says:

      That was Kamil, not me, at this race. :)

    • Kamil_K says:

      You won your class, right?
      Every time I looked up at the big score board (for the lack of better terms) and saw 461 in like 30th or better place I was ecstatic!

      That's because I kept confusing your car number, 461, with mine, 451. It was always a let down. :(

      • Racinrob says:

        Kamil,

        Yes, we were able to hold off The Boat to win class C. I just remember on Saturday morning that I must have been just a few car lengths behind you for what seemed like an hour. I was sort of amused that the #451 and #461 were running so close together.

  11. TheAnnM says:

    This makes me really want to find a LeMons team. Weirdness, creativity, racecars… sounds right up my alley.

    • Eric Rood says:

      MPLS isn't far from Elkhart Lake, WI, and there's a race there this weekend. Lots of weird and creative people at the Midwest races and I'll be judging from the Penalty Box to boot.

      • TheAnnM says:

        Google maps says 5 hours away, which is a little far for a last second trip, but I'll be watching for this stuff next summer, for sure.

        • Zaxbys says:

          I went from not knowing about the race to deciding I was going last Thursday. It's a 6 hour drive that I'm turning into 7 to pick up t-bird parts. I normal wouldn't be this spontaneous but decided to make an exception… Because crappy racecars. Plus I want too see the M…

        • longrooffan says:

          Hell…jump in that red clown shoe and hit the road. Elkhart Lake is a beautiful area and race course is excellent. Or not.

        • Eric Rood says:

          I'll be liveblogging it to the best of my ability this weekend, if you're interested in living the life of a crooked LeMons Supreme Court Justice vicariously.

      • OA5599 says:

        Certainly you can create a penalty involving Ann and a test drive.

  12. smokyburnout says:

    I was wondering how you got a dent so high in the door. Boat!

  13. LTDScott says:

    Great job for a rookie team! Trying not to "step on your own weiner" with penalties is harder than it looks, especially with a large field of cars.

  14. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

    The final penalty, involving the boat, doesn't seem like you should have been penalized, as it reads very much like you were not only an unwilling participant, but also not at-fault.

    Then again, I wasn't there to see it.

    • mdharrell says:

      That's specifically covered by Rule 6.1:

      "It's Always Your Fault: LeMons is an all-fault environment. You are 100% responsible for what happens while you're at the wheel. Think you're the hittee, not the hitter? We don't care. Think you've been wrongly accused? See the part where it says 'we don't care.' Your job is to stay out of trouble. If trouble finds you, take responsibility like a grownup and figure out how to avoid it the next time. This ain't the damn SCCA."

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

        Lame.

        You can easily be an wholly unwilling participant, especially in a race environment.

        But, it's their game, their rules.

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