All five of my longtime readers will know that I occasionally dip into exhaustive examinations of past 24 Hours of LeMons in an attempt to reach some kind of meaningful conclusion about what some corporate types would call “best practices” in one of those “meetings” where I’m not supposed to be “sketching the most amazing racetrack that I’ll build someday when I have piles of money because I have the perfect location picked out with just enough elevation change to make the cool parts like roller coasters.” Where was I? Oh, yes. Pointless examinations of LeMons.
In the past I’ve looked at successful car types and also at how important speed is when trying to win. In the latter analysis, I concluded that winning probably requires you to clock lap times in the top 10 percent of the field or so. While other factors certainly weigh into winning (more on this at a later time), there’s a certain part of me (and you, probably) that really loves seeing a fast car. So follow the jump to see the track record holders at all of the tracks and configurations LeMons has run since 2008.
|Autobahn Country Club (North)||1:18.0||Save the Ta-Tas||Chevy Camaro|
|Autobahn Country Club (South)||1:43.9||Holy Rollers||Acura Integra|
|Buttonwillow Raceway||2:05.9||Geo Player Special||Geo Metro|
|Carolina Motorsports Park (Full)||1:55.4||The Silver Bullets||Nissan 300ZX|
|Carolina Motorsports Park (Short)||59.737||Superkak Racing||Ford Mustang|
|Charlotte Motor Speedway||1:12.5||Hong Norrth||Mazda MX-3|
|Chuckwalla Valley Raceway||2:09.7||Idiotarod Racing||Mazda Miata|
|Eagles Canyon Raceway (Short)||1:24.2||Team Blue Goose||Acura Integra|
|Eagles Canyon Raceway||2:08.6||Team Sensory Assault||Mazda RX-7|
|Gingerman Raceway||1:39.5||Bucksnort Racing||BMW E30|
|Grand Bayou||1:29.1||Prancing Donkey||Acura Integra|
|High Plains Raceway||2:15.4||Casino Racing||Honda Civic|
|Mid-America Motorplex||1:24.2||Clueless Racing||Honda CRX|
|Monticello Motors Club||1:35.9||Keystone Kops||Volvo 240|
|MSR Houston (Long)||1:54.5||Assmasters Racing||Ford Mustang|
|MSR Houston (Short)||1:14.0||Los Gringos Locos||Acura Integra|
|Nelson Ledges||1:21.7||Team MRD2||Toyota MR2|
|New Hampshire Motor Speedway||1:23.7||Walk of Shame Racing||BMW E36|
|New Jersey Motorsports Park (Short)||1:21:0||Walk of Shame Racing||BMW E36|
|New Jersey Motorsports Park (Long)||1:44.0||Walk of Shame Racing||BMW E36|
|No Problems Raceway||1:30.2||Black Widow||Mazda Miata|
|Oregon Raceway Park||2:07.9||Autosport Labs||Merkur XR4Ti|
|Palm Beach International Raceway||1:35.5||Kamikaze Racing||Nissan 300ZX|
|Reno Fernley||2:30.6||Eyesore Racing||Mazda Miata|
|The Ridge Motorsports Park||2:01.8||Model T GT||Ford Model T|
|Road America*||2:56.2*||BoomPowSurprise*||Ford Probe*|
|Sears Point/Sonoma Raceway||2:01.0||Geo Player Special||Geo Metro|
|Stafford Springs||30.149||Goin’ Nuclear||Honda Civic|
|Summit Point Raceway||1:45.1||Walk of Shame Racing||BMW E36|
|Texas World Speedway||2:02.3||LRE||Datsun 240Z|
|Thunderhill Raceway||1:31.5||Blues Brothers Racing||Ford Crown Victoria|
|Thunderhill Raceway (Long)||2:13.9||Model T GT||Ford Model T|
It’s an interesting mix of teams and cars, for sure. Perhaps most surprising is the number of four-cylinder, front-drive Hondas. I count seven different Civics, Integras, and CRXs in that mix, which tells you that a well-driven, set-up, lightweight car can run as quickly as those cheaty BMWs you hear so much about.
You may not be surprised by many of the team names. If Eyesore Racing, Model T GT, and Hong Norrth all sound familar, that’s because each has many overall victories in LeMons. I count nine different winning teams in that list: Model T GT, Goin’ Nuclear, Geo Player Special, BoomPowSurprise, Eyesore Racing, Clueless Racing, Bucksnort Racing, Hong Norrth, and Save the Ta-Tas.
While they may not have set record laps during their winning races, this demonstrates that fast teams still tend to do pretty well. Because I’m verbose and because I think you might be interested in reading more about these, I’ll give a rundown on some of the more interesting lap records.
The astute readers may notice the name Walk of Shame on that list a lot. They currently hold four lap records with their M52-swapped BMW E36, which is naturally painted like the Family Truckster from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” They’ve still yet to win a race, but they have six consecutive Top 10 finishes and seven consecutive fastest race laps. Maybe they fall short on fuel mileage or maybe there’s just one little snag that keeps them off the podium’s top step. Whatever the reason, this is an extremely fast car and team.
A lot gets made of LeMons’ encouragement for garage engineering and it’s refreshing to see two of my favorite California insane-mobiles with a pair of record laps each. The Geo Player Special, also known as the Geo Metro Gnome, is a Honda CBR-powered Geo Metro that, along with some functional aero, puts down approximately ALL of the power-weight ratio. It also can hoon with the best of them. The other two-time record-setter is the Model T GT, which recently won three consecutive races without seemingly straining any of the Pinto, Mustang, and whatever-else parts bolted to its Ford Model T tub. There’s a reasonable argument to make that these are the two fastest LeMons cars of all time.
A small sample of human beings hold the distinction of driving at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France over the last 90 years. An even tinier subsample of those have had the displeasure of driving a LeMons heap on an American track. Tommy Kendall and some Italian guy have done it, as has /Drive darling Leh Keen. In fact, Keen is the only LeMons driver to break the 1:00 mark at Carolina Motorsports Park’s short course, which he did in SuperKak’s Ford Mustang. There’s video of a few of his laps, which includes him blaring police sirens attached to the car. The paddock was clearly not impressed.
One of the great builds that gets not nearly enough attention comes from the garage of LeMons’ chief technical inspector, John Pagel of Evil Genius Racing. The Idiotarod Racing Mazda Miata, also known as Balto, dispenses with the Miata’s heavy iron-block motor and transmission, instead dropping in a high-performance snowmobile engine with a CVT. With some additional weight savings, the end result is basically a two-pedal go kart that can seriously move around a racetrack. If they ever figure out how to make it remotely fuel efficient and reliable, it could actually compete for a win someday.
Back in the realm of “normal” cars, BoomPowSurprise’s Ford Probe is a car that’s been around crapcan racing for a long time. Built by some guys who work for Bill Riley, the Probe has been raced by “real racecar people” like Riley and Peter Baron. The preparation has eventually led to the Probe vaguely resembling an open-top Le Mans prototype (if you squint hard enough) and its campaigners made the KL-DE capable of turning some stunning laps. The Probe has won a half-dozen races in both LeMons and in ChumpCar World Series.
Speaking of pro race shops, racing outfit Pratt & Miller have long run a chopped-top Toyota Supra in LeMons. They also showed up with the cheatiest Chevy Camaro of all time, its motor chock full of “stuff lying around the shop.” It ran a 1:40.7 at Gingerman Raceway, which was three seconds faster than any LeMons car had run at the time, though copious penalty laps kept it from winning the race. This April, Bucksnort Racing’s E30 (above) not only breezed past that lap record by a full second, they also took their Bimmer to the winner’s circle. When Bucksnort is running well and cleanly, no team in the Midwest Region has a chance.
One of my absolute favorite cars exemplifies so many things about LeMons: It’s built by some Texans who once used super-hot Wankel exhaust to run a homemade still. It runs on crappy parts and hatred. It’s a model that should be worth good money, except that it had a terminal problem allowing the team to snag it cheap. The team have little use for things like “winning,” “fuel mileage,” or “the eardrums of fellow competitors.”
I’m talking, of course, about Team Sensory Assault’s flamebroiled FD-generation Mazda RX-7, whose 13b engine is fed by a big Chinese turbocharger of dubious quality, which is everything you need to know about this crew. At the car’s first race at Eagles Canyon this May, it annihilated the LeMons record at ECR before the Chinese turbo annihilated itself.
With a few new tracks and with teams generally getting faster, it’s easy to see this list soon becoming antiquated. However, this gives us a snapshot of a few extraordinary crapcans that have been the fastest in LeMons world over the past six seasons.
* Road America’s lap record was actually bested yesterday by the Save the Ta-Tas Camaro, which ran a 2:53.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]