The 24 Hours of LeMons heads to the South for its 100th race, which it happens to be one of the series’ marquee events, the LeMons South Fall race on Carolina Motorsports Park’s full circuit. Part of the draw is the usual on-track mayhem, but the main attraction occurs before the green flag even drops. After Friday’s tech inspections, the teams will parade to nearby Camden, South Carolina, for BS judging and the world’s strangest and most unsettling car shows. With Southern teams’ proclivity for partying, this can mean that Saturday’s 10 a.m. green flag comes a bit early for some.
Let’s take a look at what to expect in the classesfrom this year’s South Fall race on the circuit. I’ve also included a Special Bonus Internet Pull-Out Wall Poster and Desk Calendar Centerfold Section* on some unofficial races that could be fun to watch. It’s like a second article for the same price! Anyway, early-week forecasts call for temperatures in the mid-80s and a chance for rain, which can toss a race into complete chaos. Peruse the unofficial entry list if you so choose and feel free to point out my errors of prediction in the Comments section.
The Southern Region’s overall contenders discussion really begins with Hong Norrth (above), who have dominated the region since 2011. They were uncompetitive in the Spring CMP race because they lent their Mazda MX-3 to friends for stints, but if you exclude that, the Hongs have won six of their last seven LeMons races (and finished P2 and P3 in the one race they didn’t win). They have campaigned a pair of MX-3s of late but will only bring the #38 car to this race, where it will be the solid favorite.
Recent race New Jersey Motorsports Park winners The Silver Errors – Ziegel Scheißhaus return to CMP after finishing runners up at the Spring race there. They’ve developed into a very clean and fast team who slice easily through dense traffic in their Mercedes 190E. With 117 entries at South Fall, that will be key. Expect them, as always, to be among the fastest three or four teams.
After more than 80 24 Hours of LeMons events, a General Motors product finally took home an overall win when the rust-covered Moldecarlo took the checkered flag at CMP in March. The Monte Carlo squad kept their Small-Block Chevy motor turning and glided to a (relatively) easy victory. It seems unlikely that a GM product will hold together well enough in consecutive races to repeat, but Moldecarlo may be the Chevy for the job.
With such heavy hitters on the track, Grim Reaper Racing will have their work cut out in their Ford Mustang V6. They’ve been the most consistent Mustang in LeMons history, having finished in the Top 10 in every race they’ve entered since 2011. If the above-mentioned Big Three stumble, Grim Reaper will likely be in a position to take their first win.
LeMons followers and participants will see the usual brood of BMW E30s at CMP. Racing Nemo (above) and Road Warrior Racing are both top-notch teams. I’d expect one or both to occupy P1 at some point in the weekend. Newer entries from Junkyard Racing and Panzer Racing are longshots but should proudly represent Bavaria.
Magnum PU have quietly run what must be the best Honda Prelude in crapcan racing, managing the odd podium and regular Top 10 finishes. They won’t be flashy, but expect them to be in contention. The same can be said of Rolling Chicane Racing (not to be confused with the West Coast limousine racers), whose Honda Civic took P2 at Eagles Canyon Raceway earlier this year.
Toyota is an oft-mocked marquee in LeMons, but a couple of teams have made theirs work well enough over years of racing to bring second entries. Dai Mondai, who own the only MR2 win in LeMons history, bring their veteran Corolla FX16 and 1989 Celica. CMP regulars Howard J. Turkstra Motorsports have a class win and a couple of Top 10 finishes in their rear-drive Celica, but they’ll also debut a 1987 Supra, which many will know as the most blow-uppiest of Toyotas.
My handpicked longshot is Speedycop & the Gang of Outlaws. No, really. Jeff Bloch’s (aka Speedycop) reputation as a madman of driveway fabrication precedes him, but it’s a less-well-known fact that the Bloch can drive the heck out of a racecar. He and his teammates will campaign a V8-powered Lexus SC400 (above) in all of its overbuilt Japanese luxury and, mark my words, it will be fast. If you think Speedycop’s given up the crazy, fret not; his Internet sensation Upside-Down Camaro is also listed among the entries.
Other longshots: Zeus Suit Racing (Mazda RX-7), Questie’s Racing Team (Ford Escort GT), Halfast Racing (Chevrolet Impala), Wattree Renegades (Mazda Miata), Team SOB – Screaming on Boost (Volkswagen Golf).
I’ve found my Class B predicting abilities to be half-optimistic and occasionally accurate, but I think I’ve got a decent handle on B at this race. The only GM F-Body in the whole field is Mullet Racing, a team that has made drastic steps to improve, finishing P3 LeMons’ middle class and P12 overall at an earlier race. They don’t have the steam to win outright, but they should make a good run at a class victory.
A few veteran Hondas will also have a shot at a class win. The Cessna-winged Our Lady of Perpetual Downforce Civic is a fixture at LeMons CMP races, as is the Carolinahondas.com/Duff Beer Civic. Neither is at all fast, but they’re both veteran teams that know the key to Class B is to stay on the track, off jack stands, and away from the Penalty Box. The Old Dudes Accord is a borderline Class A car, but if it runs in B, it will compete.
A pair of big American hulks will also be worth watching. Irritable Dad Syndrome’s Ford Thunderbird and The Homersexuals – Stupid But Tough Racing’s Chevy Malibu will hope their V8s and acres of sheet metal can hang with the smaller Hondas.
Other Class B contenders: Orbits Near Uranus (Saturn SL2), Team Fubar (Pontiac Grand Prix).
The lowest class is anything but low-class in LeMons. There will be a glut of quality Class C entries, but the class battle should be headlined by your classic Slant Six-powered E30 vs. Cadillac Catera. You read that right; the E30/6 team (above) seem to have ironed out the bugs in their leaning tower of power and will contend with the zigging, cast-off Catera from Cadillac Racing for the top prize in the bottom class.
If any of them stumble, the B-/C+ entries from Gulf and Go (Opel Kadett), Smokey Unit (Fiat Spider), or Speed is Bliss (Pontiac Fiero) should work their way toward the front.
No CMP race would be complete without the relentlessly hopeless NSF Racing, who will bring three entries: a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, a 1971 Plymouth Fury, and a 1987 Mitsubishi Cordia. Will any of them hold together?Probably not. Will NSF have more fun than anyone? Probably a better bet than anything I’ve written above.
It would irresponsible of me not to mention Team Fairlylame’s 1964 Ford Fairlane (above) or Capitol Offense’s Index of Effluency-winning Austin Powerless’ 1975 Austina Marina. They’re both terrible and seem unlikely to win Class C, but this is truly the least predictable class of racing outside of, say, Finnish folk racing. There are many more Class C-caliber entries, but I’ll cover most of them below.
This your Special Bonus Internet Pull-Out Wall Poster and Desk Calendar Centerfold Section, so be sure to print it out, add some gold stars and/or glitter, and paste it (push-pins don’t have an adequate sense of permanence) to your cubicle wall so everyone can see how awesome
I am you are.
Japanese Flagship Cup – Speedycop vs. Samurai Racing
I’ve already covered Speedycop above, but keep an eye on Samurai Racing, who I believe will debut crapcan racing’s first Infiniti Q45. Infinitis have been startlingly reliable and top-end luxury cars tend to be overbuilt, so don’t be surprised if this one does well. The Q45’s 276-horsepower VH45 V8 is a new powerplant for LeMons and it’s likely built to withstand a flogging, much as Speedycop’s 1UZ-FE V8 will be.
Oil Burner Trophy – Zero Budget Racing vs. Failure Modes vs. Idle Clatter
Running a tiny diesel crapcan is old hat to two-time IOE winners Zero Budget Racing, so give their diesel Isuzu I-Mark the upper hand in this smokey triumvirate. Failure Modes torture a diesel Volvo 240 and have finished mid-pack with it in most races. Idle Clatter’s Mercedes 300SD debuts just a week after Dirty Little Freaks’ 300SD walked away with Class C at Thunderhill, although that came after several races of teething troubles for the Freaks.
Mitsubishi Model Challenge – NSF Racing vs. Pork Chop Express vs. Nuclear Waste Boys vs. Morrows Racing
Four teams have drummed up the moxie to run a car with Mitsubishi badging and each one will bring a different Mitsu model. NSF Racing’s Cordia Turbo is much-renowned for its awfulness and obscurity. Morrows Racing, much-renowned for weirdness and paddock wrenching of the highest order, have turned their Mirage into a picture of reliability and narwhals (above).
Pork Chop Express and Nuclear Waste Boys are new teams who bring an Eclipse and a Galant, respectively. Maybe they’ll get lucky and run all weekend, but the disastrous crapcan reliability of Mitsubishis (especially “new” ones) means these teams should have a spare motor or two around.
Darkest Shadow Shootout – Chariots on Fire B vs. The Little Engine That Could
Yes, in this remarkable world of LeMons, Dodge Shadows sometimes outnumber GM F-Bodies two-to-one. Somewhere, Lee Iacocca is smiling as he reads this Special Bonus Internet Pull-Out Wall Poster and Desk Calendar Centerfold Section over his morning coffee. Or so I imagine.
Anyway, Chariots on Fire are veteran LeMoneers who run a decent Mazda MX-3 and have occasionally brought some other rollcage-equipped heap that a team member apparently dragged home. Opposing them is a first-time team in The Little Engine that Could, though I have a feeling the Shadow’s K-car roots may level the playing field that experience would otherwise tilt in Chariots’ favor.
Least-Worst Metro Showcase – Knoxvegas Lowballers vs. Mity Metro
Yes, this is a redux of the Metro Cup held at Autobahn Country Club in June, where the Charnal House Ford SHO-powered “NoPro” Metro stomped both of these would-be contenders. The Knoxvegas Lowballers (above) sport a similar powerplant to the NoPro car, a Contour Duratec V6 swapped behind the driver in their four-door Geo. Their 200-horsepower V6 will contend with Mity Metro’s stock, 1.0-liter three-cylinder motor in the team’s Metro convertible. The result will be closer than you might think.
* I bet you forgot what this asterisk was for.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]