24 Hours of LeMons: ‘Humidi TT’ recap, or 'Sebrings in yo Sebring'

    sputnik-mopar

Just a couple dozen hoopties, two different Chrysler Sebrings, and one enormous American flag mounted on a Mopar showed up for the first 24 Hours of LeMons race in Sebring, Florida. The World War II-era-airstrip-turned-road-course known as Sebring International Raceway has been forever the home of the 12 Hours of Sebring race, now an annual and historic staple of the televised motorsport season. That makes it a must-drive track for a lot of racing fans. On the weekend of our nation’s birthday, the 24 Hours of LeMons held its first enduro on this so-called hallowed ground.

Jay-lamm-cutoff-shorts

Series Chief Perp Jay Lamm celebrated the heat with cutoff shorts worthy of any Florida Gators fan.

Chief Perp Jay Lamm called a stop to the race mid-day Saturday on account of an approaching storm cell with copious lightning. This gave teams a chance to fix their hoopties without losing laps.

Sebrings-at-Sebring

 This proved convenient for the NSF Sebring (gray). They had run into battery or starter issues on Saturday, and it took some time to troubleshoot. These being Sebrings, the battery is mounted in the front driver’s-side wheel well, adding to the challenge, but they were able to get it done in time for the post-rain restart. The LeMons organizers waived entry fees for any team that brought a Sebring to race at Sebring; two series regulars — Speedycop and the aforementioned NSF Racing — heeded the call for a Sebring at Sebring face off. These would be the only Chryslers that I know of racing an enduro at Sebring since the winning Hemi-powered Cunningham C4-R of 1952. (I’m excluding Plymouths and Dodges, obviously. Maybe someone with better knowledge of Trans-Am or IMSA can correct me.) NSF chose to drive more cautiously, hoping Speedycop’s more aggressive team would succumb to mechanical failures. Both teams reported that Sebrings are absolutely miserable cars on track.

sebring-rollover

Speedycop had owned his maroon Sebring for several years, waiting for this exact opportunity. In preparation for the race, he even bought parts car. His team finished day 1 a full six laps ahead, but their car had stopped running. They brought the parts car to the hot pit area and began troubleshooting. After replacing the crank position sensor to no avail, they decided the distributor was bad. Unfortunately, removing the distributor is an engine-out procedure, and Sebring engines don’t come out the top. Naturally, the only option was to tip the parts car on its side and lower the engine sideways out of the car. Thankfully, installing the distributor could be done on the race car without engine extraction. The team worked until 1:30 in the morning, at which point Damion Jedlicka, who had been doing the majority of the work, determined everyone was too tired. The new distributor was in, but off by 180 degrees. They returned to the track in the morning, but the car wasn’t ready until NSF had made up the six-lap gap. Speedycop’s Sebring returned to the track once again neck and neck with the other car. The scenario repeated itself by the end of the race. Speedycop writes that they did “well enough to beat NSF’s Sebring by like 6 laps. What an awful car. It managed to blow a head gasket with like 30 minutes to go, and was limped to the end.”

porsche-winnar

Oh yeah. A Porsche won overall. Considering the brand took overall wins at the 12 Hour every year from 1976-’88, it’s probably not all that surprising. NSF Racing brought another car: the all-American land yacht Plymouth Fury pictured at the top of this post. De-powered steering together with wide tires tore the flex coupler in the steering shaft until they realized they shouldn’t steer the car when it’s not moving. It also overheated every time they brought it into the pits, but while in motion it was relatively successful. Its exhaust was also quiet: on track, you could hear the flag coming before the car. mercedes-infiniti Proof that LeMons and ChumpCar competitiveness and speeds are about equal: The Infiniti J30 of ChumpCar regulars Team Infiniti ran a tight race with the Cosworth-powered Mercedes 190E of the RC Spiders team when they were out on track together. Both teams are regular contenders for the overall win. Team Infiniti took home the Judge’s Choice trophy at this race, but a transmission failure kept them away from the overall win. The RC Spiders came in second behind the Porsche.

DSC_0189

Though the turnout was light, there were many high-quality entries in the field. This 1964 Dodge Dart (Escape Velocity Racing) lost to a ’64 Ford Fairlane (Team Fairlylame) in another battle for American brand superiority.    

rx-7

There was an RX-7 with widebody rear fenders, side exhaust and a Mercedes grille…

mr2-lancia

…and a Lancia Simca body mounted on a Toyota MR2 chassis.

Ultimately, the low turnout of this race almost certainly means this was a financial disappointment for the series, but hopefully this reestablishes their presence in southern and central Florida. LeMons has not run a race in Florida since the Palm Beach International Raceway 24-hour race in 2010. There are plenty of racers in the area as evidenced by the strong turnout at the ChumpCar race at Sebring last year. Hopefully those who did turn out, like the aforementioned Team Infiniti, will help spread the word to that community.

  Photos Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Alan Marcos Pinto Cesar

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