You’d think that a series called the 24 Hours of LeMons might hold an entire season of 24-hour races, but you also might think that Bigfoot is using HAARP to melt the polar icecaps or something. What does HAARP supposedly do again? And what was I talking about?
Most 24 Hours of LeMons races run about 14-1/2 hours over the course of two race sessions, but this weekend’s Gator-O-Rama at MSR Houston will be the series’ lone 24-hour race of the season. The weather should rate high on the LeMons Misery Index (LMI) with highs in the upper 80s and a chance of rain all weekend, although Houston crapcan teams are probably used to that kind of humid misery (MSR-y?). Let’s see what kind of trouble to expect from the 97 teams on the entry list. (As always, you can see the full, unofficial entry list here.)
Hometown teams probably hold a slight advantage and Houston hosts two previous race winners in Z-Wrecks’ Datsun 280ZX and Pulp Friction’s BMW E30. The Z-Wrecks Datsun should be the favorite with three previous race wins, two of which came at MSR. Pulp Friction have only managed one win, but it was at last year’s 24-hour race at Eagles Canyon. Both are hardy, battle-tested racecars and I would expect the two to reside near the field’s front.
If the rains come, the locals from Mostly Harmless Racing could capitalize with their front-drive Mercury Capri (above), which is surprisingly swift. The Capri has already claimed a Class C and a Class B win; if they take the checkered flag P1, they will be the only team to have won each class (and they have an Index of Effluency in a Volkswagen Kharman Ghia to boot). Maybe if they win, these froods will sass with a hoopy Ford Prefect.
[Edit: Mostly Harmless would not be the first team to win all three classes; Team Pro Crash Duh Nation did so previously in their Alfa Romeo Milano.]
One other former winner, Team Miagra, graces the field at MSR. The Dallas-based team have raced at MSR plenty of times and will have little difficulty navigating the track. Like Mostly Harmless, they’re surprisingly quick in their Miata. Lost in the Dark, who were the 2012 Gulf Region Champions, campaign a slow-but-steady Miata that should also find its way into the podium discussion.
In addition to the usual suspects, two teams represent the very real possibility of taking home first-time wins for their German automakers. Blue Goose’s Audi finished runners up at the 2012 Season Ender and still seek Audi’s first crapcan victory. Similarly, Flying Sausage Motorsports will trek from Chicago to Houston for the race to chase the first Porsche victory in LeMons in their veteran 944.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a LeMons race in Texas without the rotary aficionados from Team Sensory Assault. They will bring their second-generation Mazda RX-7, which will compete at reasonable speeds and cacophonous volume. They will also lug along their third-generation RX-7 (above), whose engine features bridgeporting and an oversized Chinese turbocharger that combine to give it approximately 3,182 horsepower and the ability to empty its fuel tank in about 45 minutes. No, it won’t win the race, but it will probably obliterate the fastest lap time of the weekend in all of its fire-damaged glory.
I’m no stranger to espousing the virtues of Japanese luxury crapcans and Team Viagra’s Lexus SC400 has cracked the Top 10 more than once. Their powerful V8 might struggle on a damp track, but rain may also curb the SC400’s proclivity for slurping down fuel enough to make its way to podium territory.
Texans love Ford’s Fox platform; I count nine Fox Bodies in the field, but their ponycar apple carts were overturned at this year’s ECR race when Team Toxic Waste’s GM F-Body, the only one in the field, whipped another large field of Foxes. Toxic Waste’s Firebird returns to face the Texas Fords, which should compete in the guise of Property Devaluation Racing (Thunderbird), Shelia and the Sheikhs (Mustang), and the Texas Gas Holes (Mustang), among others.
Similarly, Texans love Porsches. I count seven in the field. The aforementioned Flying Sausage 944 is likely to do the best, but Generation Gap will give the Internet Car Guys apoplexy when they return with crapcan racing’s only 911. Expect it to get enough penalty laps that it will have a hard time competing with the Der Porschelump and the other 944s and 914s that I’ll get to later.
My handpicked longshot is another team traveling from the Midwest to tackle the true 24-hour race. Michigan’s Team Sheen are no strangers to P1, but their Acura Integra always seems to let them down just enough to keep them from Winning the way Charlie does. Look for a good result from the Truth Torpedo-brandishing, because this time it will be different.
Others longshots worth watching: The Syndicate – Jettarossa (Volkswagen Jetta), Out of Town Racing (Mazda Miata), Landshark (Acura Integra), Pablo Escubar (Honda CRX), Norfolk & Chance (Acura Integra), Cajun Coonasses (Saturn SL).
Gator-O-Rama promises to have a very deep Class B with a number of high-quality teams poised to take class wins. By sheer numbers, Tetanus Racing should have a good chance in LeMons middle class. In addition to the team’s veteran Dodge Neon, they have also slapped their name on three more entries: a stock Porsche 944, a Volkswagen Passat (formerly of NSF Racing), and another Porsche 944 powered by a GM3800 V6. That will likely be three Class B entries, excepting the stock 944.
By past results, TGTW Offroad Racing are probably the favorites*. They will bring a pair of Jeeps (a Cherokee and a Comanche, which won Class C at ECR this year). The Cherokee has managed three Top 10 finishes all as Class B entries, but they’ve somehow fallen short of a class victory. Jobo Racing’s normally aspirated Mazda 626 has typically been a Class A car, but if it somehow ends up in Class B, consider it a car that will compete for the win.
As Class A will have two Midwestern teams competing, so too will Class B. We’re Not Really From Iran’s Ford Festiva, now sporting some snazzy new bodywork, has the pace and reliability to compete in Class B. The Festiva’s limited fuel-carrying capability handicaps it a bit, as does the fact that the team’s hotshoe Bill Fisher is currently competing in the North American GT Academy Finals in England. Frankenstein Motorworks, the domain of the radial-engined Toyota MR2 builder Marc Labranche, will campaign a slow-and-steady Honda Accord that finished runners up in Class B at Gingerman in April.
A couple of Class C winners should end up in Class B with a chance, as well. Scuderia Ignorante campaign the three-time Class C-winning Toyota Tercel EZ that used to run under the apt Exhibition of Slow banner. Its pace will be far off the rest of the Class B field, but fuel efficiency and reliability go along way in Class B. TARP’s Simca-bodied MR2 had a rough go at ECR this year but will look to bounce back big-time.
The main focus in Class C will be on United America Wrenchers Local 1275, a conglomerate of Index of Effluency starpower that is resurrecting a snake-addled heap of Austin Americas. The group is headed by local Peter Barrett, who will get some help from the Swamp Thing Grenada squad and West Coast madman Spank. How hard could it be to resurrect a British Leyland product that has been sitting for a couple decades to take racing?
The slowest LeMon in history will also appear; the old Hoonatic Racing Datsun Fairlady Roadster will fly the Lost in the Dark flag over its electric motors. [Electric Ladyland joke goes here.] Hopefully, it will be able to move faster than the crawling pace of its debut, when it turned a single lap that spanned a couple of geological epochs.
The Malaise Era will also be strongly represented at this race with a couple of marquee “matchups.” In the battle of forgettable V6-powered compacts, Macaroni Racing’s Ford Mustang II will face off against Speedy Monzales’ Chevy Monza in an Index of Effluency-trophy toting grudge match. In the Malaise Era front-wheel drive category, Pocket Deuces’ wretched Ford Fiesta, run by some servicemen and servicewomen from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, will square off against Fuzzie Zombies’ first-generation Cavalier. Hopefully, they’ve rebadged it as a Cimarron. Either way, both teams will probably be miserable in their Malaise econoboxes.
Somewhere in the Malaise Era category will be RIP Racing, who bring LeMons’ first GMC Caballero. What’s a GMC Caballero, you ask? It’s an El Camino with a GMC badge and an equestrian-related name. I can’t think of a finer Class C automobile.
Escape Velocity Racing inherit the World’s Worst LeMons Car, also known as the K-It-Fwd Plymouth Reliant that has been passed along from team-to-team at most of this year’s LeMons races. It has yet to come even remotely close to a Class C victory and, given this race’s length, that seems particularly unlikely. Never fear for the team, however; Escape Velocity will bring their main car, too, a 1964 Dodge Dart with a Slant Six engine. Crool Runnings’ 318-powered Dodge Coronet also returns to MSR, where they took home the vaunted Index of Effluency.
Speaking of the IOE, Teamgravy’s Porsche 914 took home that trophy earlier this year in the team’s first race, which is no small feat. They’ll hope to top that with a class win. Braking Wind will debut their own 914 and hope to match Teamgravy’s accomplishment.
Here’s a Class C wildcard: the 1996 Buick Century of The Widow’s Son. GM’s 60-degree V6 is a tough motor that endures crapcan racing surprisingly well, so if this car ends up in Class C, it may very well plod along to the class win. Or, since it’s a GM product, its peripheral mechanical systems will crumble one-by-one while the motor chugs along unfazed. Regardless, it should be entertaining to watch.
* TGTW may be the Class B favorites, but they won’t have Jeep roadracing guru Matt Adair around to babysit their XJ.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]