The 24 Hours of LeMons returns for its October trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend. LeMons will run NHMS’ usual road course for Halloween Hooptiefest, which traverses parts of the circuit’s oval as well as parts of the infield and a section outside the oval’s boundary. Complementing the usual LeMons board of fare is a host of Halloween activities, hosted by NHMS, that includes pumpkin chuckin’, potato launching, bride carrying, and an Easter egg hunt. OK, not really the last one, but it sounds like a good time.
Of course, Jeff Glucker would fire me (just kidding, amirite, Jeff?) if I didn’t point out that Hooniverse’s own Kamil will make his own LeMons debut behind the tiller of a Buick Regal. I fully expect him to set the race’s fastest lap and win the race single-handedly because that’s how Hoons do it. And by “set the race’s fastest lap and win the race single-handedly,” I mean spend 26 hours alternating between wrenching and looking puzzled at things that should make sense but clearly don’t. (Just kidding, amirite, Kamil?) Anyway, here’s my take on what to look for and you can get the unofficial entry list here to write your preview counterpoint.
Races in the Northeast of the country tend to feature large counts of European imports and Hooptiefest follows that trend. The ubiquitous BMW 3 Series will show up in force with 25 of them entered: 16 E30s and 9 E36s. In addition, a host of Volvos and Volkswagens should clock their fair share of race miles. Curiously, New England racers also have a thing for GM F-Bodies, of which there will be seven in the 139-car field. If you’ve read any of my previews of races in the region from earlier this year, the Class A contenders should all sound familiar.
The current kings of New Hampshire are the Bill Danger squad, whose Honda Accord (above) has finished on the podium in each of the last four races there, including a pair of wins. Their heap is reasonably quick on account of a roster of hotshoes, but fuel mileage and consistency go nearly as far over 14-1/2 hours. The unassuming white Accord will be the team to beat, but don’t look for them top the timing charts in the race’s opening hours; history has shown that they usually aren’t out front until near the end of Saturday.
Longtime LeMoneers Keystone Kops will once again seek their elusive first win. They’ve come closest at New Hampshire, where they’ve nabbed all three of the team’s podiums. With two tested Volvo 240s at their disposal, they’ve got strength in numbers. The #240 turbo brick is back straight after taking some contact at this Spring’s NHMS race, while the #242 V8-swapped 240 is an absolute rocket that came extremely close to winning that same race.
This summer’s race at New Jersey Motorsports Park brought a commanding first victory to one of the newest members of the LeMons elite, Silver Errors – Ziegel Scheißhaus Racing. Their Mercedes 190E has been one of the quicker cars for some time, but the team has achieved the consistency needed only this season. Look for them to be one of the three fastest cars in the field alongside the Keystone Kops’ V8 car and the Walk of Shame BMW E36. Walk of Shame are no slouches, of course, and may very well have the fastest crapcan in the eastern half of the country. Their M52-swapped 318 has laid down the fastest lap at each of its last seven races. They’ve just missed the overall victory, but one has to wonder if their speed will eventually bring a win.
Every single time I consider Rust in the Wind’s Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX (above), I still scratch my head if not physically, then metaphorically. It’s one of the most incongruous garage-engineering concepts I’ve ever heard and it’s simply incredible that it works. Toss in a massive active-aerodynamics wing and you have a LeMons legend that wins races, including last year’s Hooptiefest.
Along with Keystone Kops, Team Pro Crash Duh Nation are maybe the toughest luck team in all of crapcan-dom. They’ve been tantalizingly close to a win so many times, including three second-place finishes and the infamous, photogenic, worst-luck-ever, windshield-destroying deer strike at Summit Point while leading the race. Maybe their Alfa Romeo Milano just isn’t meant to win, which is perhaps why they’ll be bringing a second car. The entry list indicates that it’s a Nissan/Alfa 240SX, which I hope means it will be the world’s best-sounding 240SX. On the subject of tough-luck teams, New Jersey’s Death Race BMW E28 always seems to find just enough rotten luck to keep them off the podium. Their beast of a Bimmer deserves some better luck and we’ll be rooting for them.
Near-Orbital Space Monkeys might be the best American Iron to keep an eye on with their Fox-Body Ford Mustang, which is yet another team with a pile of P2 finishes but none on the top step. The competition is stiff and the Mustang is, generally speaking, a troubled tool, but perhaps this will be the Monkeys’ race. On the General Motors side of the pony-car fence, Sorry for Party Racing took a shocking third place at the region’s 2013 opener at Monticello Motor Club, though they’ve struggled a bit since with their Pontiac Firebird.
I make little secret that I’m an apologist for the Ford Escort in crapcan racing and I think the last-generation ZX2 is a terrific platform. Perhaps no better team campaigns an Escort than Massholes (above). In four races, they’ve pulled out three Top 10 finishes. They’re never the fastest, but they put in lap times comparable with Bill Danger. If they can manage similar fuel economy and consistency, I could see them capturing a surprise victory.
More longshots: Overengineer’d Racing (BMW E30), Mod Squad Racing (Two Toyota MR2s), FRS Ugly Uncle (Toyota Camry Solara), 2-Broke 2-Care (BMW E30 and Ford Mustang), Bert-One (Volvo 262 Bertone), FastIsh and FURRiest (Volvo 240), Swedish Mafia (Volvo 240), Mid-Life Crisis Race Team 512 (Two Chevy Camaros and a Dodge Neon), Seems Legit Racing (Two Chevy Cavaliers), Valsalva Motorsports (Buncha Bimmers).
As always, any words on Class B (and Class C) are predicated on the notion that classing is an ad hoc process done at the track and that I make my predictions based past classing decisions and approximate knowledge of the sports. That said, Class B should include some brawls between Class C “graduates” and an old stalwart of B.
That old stalwart is Rally Baby Racing’s Audi 4000 (above). Like Pro Crash Duh Nation, Rally Baby’s Audi led (their class) at Summit Point before a late axle failure put them out just long enough to fall to P2 in class. If their Audi is allowed to run in B, look for it to be one of the frontrunners.
The myriad of Volvos in the field will likely end up in Class A, but the 850s of Clownfish, Volvo Vikings, and Fully Torqued Racing could all compete if they’re put in B. The same goes for Volkswagen teams like Electile Dysfunction’s Jetta and Back to the Future in VW’s Scirocco. For good measure, Rally Baby will debut a Scirocco, too, among its four entries.
Many Class C winners get bumped up a class after they dominate the lowest class. Punisher GP’s Peugeot 405 Mi16s have proven extremely quick for Class C, although their French reliability reputation really makes their pair of Pugs B- material.
Rusty Tear Racing lost Class C to the Punisher Peugeot once at NHMS and ran a nearly identical race the next time out, that time taking home a win for C in their Pontiac Fiero (above). If they could win in B, they’d demonstrate themselves to be far and away the best Fiero team of all time.
That’s not it for the Class C graduates, either. Team Farfrumwinnin’s Volkswagen Fox has had a very rough year, but perhaps the VW That Everyone Forgot can return to its former alm0st-Class C-winning ways. The crazy Russians of Sputnik may also be in the hunt for Class B in their non-SE-R Nissan Sentra. They won Class C in three consecutive races with a top-heavy Stanza Wagon, so they can wield their rusty implements as well as anyone.
Anyone in the know will tell you that true LeMons glory is the provenance of Class C, where cars with none-to-less-than-that track pedigree meet up to see which one can keep turning laps while the other teams attempt to find the only Isuzu I-Mark stub axle within 250 miles and retrieve it in time to turn a couple dozen laps.
Remarkably, the ghettocharged Chevrolet Chevette of Chev-itte Where the Sun Don’t Shine (above) has been very reliable, finishing on the class podium, such as it is, in each of its last three races. For Class C, it’s relatively quick from the mild turbocharging’s bump, so look for it to give the rest of the lower class a run for their proverbial $600.
Class C stalwarts and perennial Index of Effluency candidates 3 Pedal Mafia will give their 1969 Rolls Royce Shadow another go after mending the wounds it received in its debut. It will probably be too slow to win the class, but a mid-pack finish might be enough to take home another IOE for the Internet Crapcan Grandmasters Nonpareil. Along with the Rolls, the team will campaign the venerable Boat, which is still seeking its first class win, and a Triumph TR8, replacing the TR7 that took a pounding at NJMP this summer.
The aforementioned Rally Baby Racing have taken it upon themselves to tackle the K-It-Fwd Plymouth Reliant, which has rapidly become known as the Worst LeMons Car of All Time (WLCOAT). It has traversed the country competing in LeMons races this year, leaving a wake of mangled connecting rods and a transcontinental oil slick. Like the Rolls, it seems unlikely to nab a class win, but it should be at the top of the short list for IOE at the weekend’s beginning, though Rally Baby will have their work cut out for them to keep it alive long enough to take the top prize.
Countering Rally Baby in Class C will be the K-Car derivative Dodge Daytona of Team Waahmbulance (above). This team has lamented their car choice for many years, but they now come prepared with a half-dozen spare engines (might be slightly exaggerated). Nevertheless, the team move forward and they just might keep it together long enough to compete in Class C.
It’s easy to say that a class win requires some modicum of speed, but that’s probably not entirely true. Class C may very well be called the Attrition Class, so Full Nelson’s Suzuki Swift-powered Saab 96 could putt its way to victory lane. The 1.0-liter three-cylinder motor only puts out 55 or so horsepower, but it’s also proven to be a very reliable (low-)powerplant. Bad Penny Racing’s Datsun B210 has been extremely slow as well in past races, but it’s still managed mid-pack finishes. Consider them an outside contender.
Finally, LeMons madman Speedycop (& His Gang of Outlaws) has promised another jaw-dropping creation at this race, though he’s not giving out much more than vague hints. I’m not privy to any information on it, but knowing the Showman himself, it should be a sight to behold.
Extra-awesome matchup: Circa-2000 GM cage match
Hooptiefest will also feature a four-way grudge match to determine which GM product from the late ’90 and early 2000s is least-worst. In my mind, this would be a multiple-part competition involving endurance racing, reverse-donuts, and a slalom that would closely resemble a fin whale’s death throes on the Russian Steppe. Alas, endurance racing is the only test by which we can measure these front-drive luxo-barges (for now). Let’s look at the contenders, all of which are powered by the GM 3800 Series II motor:
- Park Bench Racing Team – Buick Regal: Featuring Hooniverse’s own Kamil Kaluski. Get the lowdown on it here (in case you missed the link at the top).
- Springfield Buick-GMC – Buick Park Avenue: A second Buick! Usually, some kind of dealership/specialty knowledge is an advantage, but these full-size boats are probably beyond help. This is the only non-W Platform entry in this cage match; the Park Avenue was built on the C Platform, which was the basis for the V8-powered Oldsmobile Aurora. I don’t think that gives it any advantage.
- Zissou Society – Chevy Impala: Impalas are tough cars, for sure. Police departments around here are just starting to get rid of theirs, so a good team could pick one up with the bulletproof motor and a sturdier suspension.
- Low Budget Racing 41 – Oldsmobile Intrigue (pictured above): I’ve always thought the Intrigue was the best-looking of its badge-engineered platform relatives. Low Budget’s Intrigue is the only one of the four with previous race experience.
Who do you like in this matchup? For me, there’s literally nothing to choose between them.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]