The 24 Hours of LeMons wraps up its 2013 season with its annual Arse-Freeze-Apalooza this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, host to many LeMons races past. This time around, the Season Ender is chock full of drama and with 190 cars on the entry list, it should be a typically crowded affair with potential for a lot of tremendous class battles. Two of the best LeMons cars in history will duel in Class A while the Worst LeMons Car of All Time (WLCOAT) will enjoy a homecoming of sorts. In between, Class B should host some seriously good teams while Class C sees some exciting first-time entrants.
It’s worth noting that NASA will be hosting the 25 Hours of Thunderhill just a couple of hours up the road and we’ve heard that at least a few drivers will pull double duty, shuttling from one event to the other for a weekend full of endurance racing. The weather for Sonoma always contains the possibility of rain this time of year, so a dousing of the racing circuit could add another level of intrigue. Feel free to peruse the extensive unofficial entry list and make your own picks. Any indications about class battles are based solely on my experience with the series and with past data; as always, class decisions are made at the track by semi-qualified judges.
If all goes according to plan, this should evolve into a battle between the two most successful LeMons cars of the past two years: Cerveza Racing’s BMW E28 and the Model T GT (above), which is basically a motor, a fuel cell, and a driver. Cerveza have finished on the podium in each of their last eight LeMons races, including five wins. Countering them, the Model T GT won three consecutive races earlier this year with two of them a mere two weeks apart. The odds of neither making the podium remain slim.
Only two cars besides Cerveza and the Model T GT have won California races since 2012. The winners from this year’s earlier race at Sears Point, If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk, are not entered for Arse-Freeze, but last year’s Sears Point winners are. I am of course referring to Eyesore Racing, who also finished runners up to Cerveza at the most recent California race after a trying early season.
The Porsche marquee gets relentless amounts of grief for its poor LeMons performance, but OLD Fast Racing Team & Sons’ 924 has come painfully close to winning previously and remain the best hope for Stuttgart’s first LeMons victory. Similarly, the Ford Mustang has a bad rap, but Sour Aviation will look to bounce back from dyno-dictated penalty laps at the last race while looking good for a podium finish.
A couple of teams who only occasionally run in LeMons manage to do extraordinarily well when they show up. Off Consistently’s Nissan 300ZX (above) was the first Z car to win a race in 2010. In the time since, they’ve seldom run but are usually good for a Top 10 finish. Similarly, Hurlingmoss’ BMW 2002 only runs one or two races a year, but the mossy classic also cracks the Top 10 when they run.
As I’ve examined previously, speed makes a difference when trying to win a race, but two relatively slow front-drive cars finished in the Top 5 at Thunderhill this year. Bunny With or Without A Pancake on Its Head’s Volkswagen Rabbit and Chump Ganasee Targee Racing’s Eagle Talon could both benefit from a little mechanical trouble from the quicker cars or even from rain to even the playing field. Team California Mille’s Alfa Romeo Alfetta won’t benefit as much from a damp track, but they’ve won before and experience goes a long way in crapcan racing.
The prize for longest trip to the track, one might think, would go to the NSF Racing K-Car (more on this later) driving from Chicago, but it is actually the Bert-One Volvo 262 Bertone Coupe (above) making the extremely long trek from Vermont for the race. That’s approximately infinity miles, according to my maps. Bert-One is a regular Top 10 car on the East Coast, so many will be interested to see how that rates in a crowded West Coast race. Also bearing the Volvo badges is the Chevy V8-powered Volvo 940 of BBQ Rubber Chicken Picatta, who finally used the car’s speed to get a much-awaited Top 10 finish at Thunderhill. Their 940 will be one of the fastest cars on the track, so remaining reliable could give them a good change to win.
As usual, this race sees a glut (27 in this case) of BMW 3 Series. The best of them should include Ace Pump Racing (E36), Volcano Motorsports (E36), and the two-car team from Bozos Suckos (E30s). Interestingly, a two-car team called Klanthers looks to have entered both a regular E36 and LeMons’ first M3, an E36 generation hot rod. I suppose a really rough M3 can be had for LeMons money, but I also really hope it has a Ford 200-cubic-inch straight-six or something similarly absurd under the hood.
Roadrace Jones suffered from the commentator’s curse at Thunderhill when I picked them out of 180-some-odd cars to be a longshot to watch; their motor promptly chucked a rod a few dozen yards off into the desert. They’ll look to bounce back as a contender, as will Hit and Run’s V8-swapped RX-7 (above), which looked destined for a win a couple years ago but has fallen back to mid-pack. Scuderia Limoni, an East Coast winner, are still looking for success in California with their Alfa Romeo Milano.
If you’re looking for teams to watch for in this race and in future races, the two Nissan 300ZXs from Pistola Alto have been steadily improving and Off-the-Scale Racing’s Mazda RX-7 very quietly put together a Top 10 race this year.
My handpicked longshot for this race is Mazdarachis’ RX-7. This team again made their car and team considerably better over time until they’re a steady bet for the Top 10 at every race.. Look for them to take the next step up toward a podium at this race.
More longshots: The Fat and the Furious (Mazda Miata), Tired Iron Racing (Mazda Miata), Speedchimp Racing (Mazda RX-7), BLowe’s Racing (Mitsubishi Eclipse), Flying Scotsmen (Two BMW E30s).
California has become a haven for quality Volkswagen teams. In addition to the Bunny/Pancake team referenced above, similar vintage Rabbits from New York Rock Exchange and Dirty Duck (pictured below with Panting Polar Bear’s Crown Vic) are top-notch Class B cars. However, the VW to watch is the veteran Team Harlequin Golf, which was dueling for Class B at Thunderhill when the surprise dyno test (above) knocked it out of contention, though mechanical woes eventually ended their run.
Communists R Us have successfully campaigned their BMW E21 for many years and it is a force with which to be reckoned in Class B. For my money, I think the E21 looks light years better than any other 3 Series, but that’s not really relevant. Or is it? I don’t know. They’ll be good in B, though.
The Hot Dogs’ Chrysler Conquest should be the best Japanese entry in Class B. They’ve never really had the speed to blow away their class competitors, but they’ve somehow rendered the Starion platform reliable and come close to a win in B. They won’t be the only slow-and-steady cars in B. The Hasselhoffs’ Toyota Paseo, Licensed to Ill’s Chevy S10, and As Seen on TV’s KIA Rio are all too good for Class C, but they’re all Top 20-capable cars, which could be enough to win Class B in a huge field.
Class B has a wide variety of performance, obviously, but it also is the landing place for some heavyweights like the Ford Crown Victoria. To that end, Panting Polar Bear Racing’s Crown Vic (above with Dirty Duck’s Rabbit) should represent the breed pretty well. On the GM side, Learning2Turn’s heavy Pontiac Firebird has been a strong runner in the past. Team Petty Cash will enter their “second” Jeep Cherokee, a manual-equipped example that ran well in its debut earlier this year.
The wild card in this event is the ONSET/Tetanus West Chevy Cavalier being built by three-time drivers champion Anton Lovett. His beloved first Cavalier wagon perished in a rollover at Sears Point in 2010, but he will return with a fresh build that will bear the finest of Cadillac Cimarron badges bodywork.
The biggest story of the event is, of course, the finale for the K-It-Forward/NSF Racing Plymouth Reliant (the aforementioned WLCOAT), which has (kind of) dutifully traversed the country many times to attend and occasionally participate in LeMons races throughout the country. Fresh off its much-anticipated Index of Effluency win at Road America, the K-Car will host a few dozen of the ragged souls who flailed and/or sobbed on it this season. There’s apparently some sort of plan for it post-race, which may or may not involve a few gallons of gas, a match, and a trebuchet with enough heave to clear the substantial fences in front of Lee Iacocca’s mansion.
Since the Reliant will be hosting a few dozen drivers running short stints, it won’t be at all competitive in Class C (and if we’re being honest, the “drivers” will be more likely sprinkling the K-Car with holy water to exorcise Lucas-grade electrical demons). That leaves some Class C stalwarts to duke it out. Look for the Billy Beer Ford Fairmont Futura to fulfill its potential at last while the world’s worst Toyota Celica Supra from The Black Flags also chases the Class C Dream. The two-truck Chevy LUV entry from Too Fast for Lüv could also be in the hunt.
If previous C winners end up in the class, look for Team -Ing With Bad Ideas (Volkswagen Beetle), Bozos Suckos (Volkswagen Beetle, Subaru EJ engine), Planned Obsolescence (Buick Skyhawk), and Rocket Surgery Racing (Checker Marathon with Chevy 350) to all factor.
German luxury heaps are not immune from Class C with Bad Decisions’ diesel-powered Mercedes and Miami Vice’s V12-powered BMW 850 representing diametric opposites in German engineering. No bother, they’ll likely both be awful. Staying in Germany, three Porsche 914s should take a crack at the class win. The veterans from Easy 908/14 and LaHonda Bandits have been historically good while Village People make their first trek into the world of smart-looking Volkswagens.
Of course, the first-time cars are the most exciting part of Class C, when a new team wheels out a fresh serving of not-ever-intended-for-racing racecar. Most exciting among these is Toro Nada, which the astute will gather is a classic front-wheel-drive behemoth known as the 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado. Le Citron will bring LeMons’ first Pontiac Le Mans, a no-doubt fantastically Malaise-y 1977 example. In the realm of ’80s Japanese compacts, 8-Bit Racing will have a Subaru RX and AMCI Starletans will run an ’82 Toyota Starlet, which is a truly glorious and rare car.
Other hopeless Class C types: Coming From Behind (Dodge Dart), Zerobelow (Chevy Corvair), LOL Racing (Volvo 1800), Sex Pistons (Triumph Spitfire), Team Apathy (Saab-powered Honda 600).