Disclaimer: Eric Rood will be getting paid to sit on the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court for this race, punishing drivers for their misdeeds and generally doing his best to maintain order on the racetrack. He will, however, not be participating in BS Inspection, so know that this preview is written without any ability to influence classing.
The 24 Hours of LeMons will trudge on to its third and final 2013 race in the series’ Midwest Region at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. With temperatures expected to top out below 50 degrees and flirt with freezing overnight, the Chubba Cheddar Enduro should be a severe test of man and machine with teams struggling to keep warm enough in the paddock to keep their machines, embrittled by the cold, in somewhat-running order. In a way, this is a microcosm of Midwestern races, where weather extremes are the norm.
This preview writer will also be providing in-race updates for Hooniverse from the Penalty Box when not disciplining some of the expected 300 or so drivers from about 80 expected teams. Consider it a “Dispatches from the frozen Tundra of Justice” and check back throughout this upcoming weekend to see how the race is progressing. Take a look at the unofficial entry list here and follow the jump to get the lowdown.
With a plethora of high-speed sections, Road America is typically a course that rewards horsepower cars. As a general rule, more cylinders is better, but it can’t be stressed enough that endurance racing can produce surprising results.
A pair of GM V8s should be fun to watch and are likely to set the weekend’s fastest lap. The last Midwest race winner, Save the Ta-Tas, are also the first F-Body to take a win with their mid-1980s Camaro. It’s been plenty fast and seems likely to clock sub-3:00 lap, but one has to wonder if its fragile V8 will take hours upon hours at high RPM.
The other GM V8 to watch in the field resides in Cannonball Bandits’ Toyota Supra, a lightning-quick car that its team, running under the New York Rock Exchange banner, will tow all the way from California’s Bay Area. It’s struggled to finish races in the past, but perhaps the long tow and a new region will prove fruitful.
Speaking of long tows, former race winners Back to the Past will haul their Nissan 300ZX from the Houston area to Wisconsin, bringing with them a spate of Top 10 finishes and consistent results. They also towed their to Colorado for this year’s BFE GP. At High Plains, mechanical troubles knocked them from the lead, but they recovered nicely for a Top 5 finish. For good measure, two competitive Mazdas will also make long tows for this race: The Miata from Lost in the Dark (Dallas) and the RX-7 of Mazda 787b NOT (Denver) are both capable of running Top 5-caliber races.
More locally, two great Midwestern crapcans will return to LeMons after missing the previous two races this year. Launcha Splatos, the Alfa Romeo V6-engined Fiat X1/9, took the win at Road America in 2012. With gobs of power in a tiny chassis and a roster of veteran vintage pilotos, the arrow-shaped Splatos is a fan favorite and a joy to watch on the racetrack. Joining them in the quest for victory are Skid Marks Racing, who took the year off from their single-cam Dodge Neon to pursue club racing. With a meager amount of power, they’ll hope that consistency and what little fuel mileage advantage they can muster on the high-speed circuit make a difference.
It wouldn’t be a crapcan race without some BMWs and this race will feature a small variety of them. LemonAid Racing, still working out the bugs in their M50-powered Geo Metro, will bring their veteran E30. Super-quick S***box Racing will return with their Chevy Nova-badged E30. They’ve shown the guyts to win but have come up just short in the past. Swiss Racing’s M50-swapped E30 (above) sounds like a rampaging bear and moves like one, too. They finished in the Top 5 at Autobahn in 2011 but haven’t run their E30 yet this year. If you like your Bimmers bigger, One Percent Racing’s hotrod E28 finished eighth place at Autobahn in June and should contend.
As noted above, four cylinders have a distinct disadvantage at Road America, but that shouldn’t stop front-wheel-drive teams like Team Fiery Death (Toyota Celica), Landshark (Acura Integra), and Team Sheen (Integra) from making runs at the Top 10. United Duck Tape Racing run one of the better Porsche 944s in LeMons and they should be a decent outside bet
after finishing as the best Porsche at the 24-hour race in Houston last month even if I can’t keep my Midwestern 944s straight.
Our handpicked longshot for this one is truly a longshot, a team that’s contended well with a fairly modern first-generation Ford Focus. Sideways to Victory IV had their strongest result yet at Autobahn this year with a fourth-place finish after a long duel with United Duck Tape Racing. Though they’ll be down on power with just 130-ish ponies in their Focus, they may have durability on their side.
More longshots: Full Tilt Boogie (Honda Civic), Futility Motorsports (BMW E36), Panzer Racing (E30).
I’ve not correctly predicted a Class B winner in some time, but I’m a bit more familiar with the Midwestern field and could hazard a better guess this time around about LeMons’ middle class. Or not.
We’re Not Really From Iran emerge from Houston’s 24-hour race with a strong showing and their Mazda BP-swapped Ford Festiva’s custom fabricated bodywork largely intact. They suffer a bit for stint length with the Festiva’s stock fuel tank, but the pace will be there, especially with hotshoe and GT Academy finalist Bill Fisher at the Festiva’s helm for a couple of stints.
Class B at this year’s Midwest races has been tight and Apocalyptic Racing brawled with the Not Iranian Festiva at both Autobahn and Gingerman. Their rear-drive Toyota Celica should be fairly well sorted if the team can keep from running their fuel cell empty and stalling on course.
A trio of Ford Escorts should also figure into the Class B mix. Byte Marks Racing have a Class B win of their own; should their Escort GT end up in B, they may have to take penalty laps, which can be a huge difference maker on a four-mile circuit. Point-0-Eight’s Escort GT has improved steadily from hopeless heap to Class B contender. A couple of minor setbacks knocked them from Class B’s lead in both races this year, but they’ve shown tons of potential. Swiss Racing’s second entry is an Escort ZX2. If it ends up in Class B, expect its drivers to pedal it for all it’s worth.
The formerly dominant Class B Chicken and Waffles Volkswagen Quantum wagon changed hands earlier this year, finding its way into the hands of the Wonderment Consortium. The Wonderment folks nuked the engine in their first race with it (above), but the Quantum recently received a transplant and should (almost) be ready to race.
Plymouth Dusters and their Dodge Shadow cousins have proven to be fairly capable Class B machines once the (multitude of) bugs get swatted. The Duster belonging to the Lee Iacocca-cult United Partnership of Pentastar Racers will be one of the faster entries in B, but the longevity of any K-car relative is an ever-present threat. If a VW Quantum and a K-Car are too reliable for you, Team Carbeque’s normally aspirated Saab 900 will be cooking ribs on the car’s exhaust manifold for as long as it stays running. For real.
Class C, as always, is Where It’s At, featuring cars with little-to-no sporting pedigree or cars whose sporting pedigree predates the Malaise Era and the concept of Reliability.
After yet another miserable showing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 1987 Plymouth Reliant that’s traversed the country to attend races (and not necessarily “race”) in 2013 will (ostensibly) arrive at Road America. The car will be campaigned by Majicbus, whose chief caretaker contributed the K-Car’s best showing at Gingerman in April. The car was a different beast at the time, but perhaps a return to the Midwest is just the prescription to avoid what the car’s apologists (whoever that might be) can only realistically call Looming Calamity or perhaps “A Monument to America’s Ability to Construct a Pyramid of Success with Utter Crap at its Base.”
In the realm of real Class C competition, Morrow’s Racing plan to drag their AMC Gremlin from Pittsburgh. The team have cast off the Gremlin’s AMC straight-six, instead swapping in a supercharged Buick V6, mated to a T-5 transmission in a Chevy S-10 bellhousing. The Gremlin should be far and away the fastest Class C car, but forced induction frequently undermines speed in the LeMons game. Consider them the class favorites.
Morrow’s will share paddock property with Futility Motorsports, whose Mercury Bobcat has narrowly missed Class C glory many times. They likely should have won C at Autobahn, but transponder issues kept them from logging laps that would have piled up enough to give them the win. They took home the vaunted Index of Effluency instead, but look for the 2.3-liter Ford motor to plug the Bobcat along steadily while the team seek that elusive class win.
The IOE winner at last year’s Road America race, Dover Bros. Racing’s MGB-GT (above), returns to champion the Prince of Darkness. They’ll be opposed by similar-vintage European machinery from Windy City Racing, whose automatic BMW 2002 is startlingly decrepit, and from Le Mopar, a Simca 1204 whose owner is usually focused on delivering thick-cut bacon to the rest of the paddock and seldom worrying about the French car’s (lack of) performance.
Debuting at Road America will be the first crapcan Ford EXP, a forgettable two-seat variant of the early 1980s Ford Escort. Sir Jackie Stewart’s Coin Purse Racing only just recently coaxed its tiny CVH engine to life, but the team will have noted LeMons hotshoe/wrench-extraordinaire/two-time driver champion Anton Lovett in their paddock space. They’ll be hoping steady wins the race, because the EXP is really only capable of slow.
Finally, I must mention the car for which all of America should be excited: Pabst Blue Ribbon Racing’s Nissan Maxima. The team debuted the Maxima some years ago, turning its stock motor into a few dozen pieces. Rather than drop in a replacement V6, the team followed the obvious solution: Put a Cadillac Northstar V8 behind the driver to turn the rear wheels. What’s the worst that can happen with a homebrewed mid-engine, 300-horsepower racecar? Well, the team blew up the Northstar at its 2012 Road America debut, but they will return for redemption this weekend with a fresh Northstar and probably a small truckload of locally made PBR.
Check back this weekend for “Confessions of a LeMons Judge” or “Dispatches from the Penalty Box” or “Somesuchnonsense.”
[Photos: Murilee Martin, except where noted.]