24 Hours of LeMons: 'NASA, We Have a Problem' sprint recap

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In most motorsports arenas, a two-hour race is considered an endurance race, but for the 24 Hours of LeMons, it marked the series’ first “sprint” race this past weekend at Sonoma Raceway as part of the NASA NorCal Region’s event. The shorter format demonstrated a dramatic departure from the usual 14-1/2 hours, but it still found a good mix of mechanical troubles from the backmarkers and smooth, efficient driving from the frontrunners. When the California dust settled, Pistola Alto took the checkered flag as the best of the 60 starters with Team Prestige and Hella Sh***y Racing taking the Class B and Class C wins, respectively.

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Pistola Alto claimed their first 24 Hours of LeMons victory (and Top 10 finish), leading the race from Lap 6 until the checkered flag on the car’s 56th circuit of Sonoma Raceway. The 300ZX ran consistently fast after taking the lead, clocking only six laps longer than 2:05 until the final three laps, when the Nissan held a substantial lead.

The SmorgasBorg Porsche 944 ran second for much of the race, but a stop with about 30 minutes remaining dropped them to P6, though they picked up another position to finish fourth. The late stop handed P2 to Porch Racing, who tossed a splash of fuel into their 944 with 10 minutes remaining. That stop dropped them to P3 behind Alfa Romeo Syndicate’s (formerly California Mille) Alfetta. However, the Alfetta’s climbing lap times in those waning momentslikely to save enough fuel to finishallowed the charging Porch Porsche to overtake in the final three laps for P2.

Elsewhere in the Top 10, favorites Cerveza Racing started near the very back of the grid and climbed steadily to P5 at the checkers. Clowntown Road Show picked up its best finish in sixth after battling with the seventh-place Bunny With or Without a Pancake On Its Head Volkswagen Rabbit for much of the race. Rotary Rooter made an early pitstop from P10 that cost them 10 positions, but the Mazda RX-7 fought back to P8, just ahead of the steady Auto Lemon Union BMW.

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The real excitement of the sprint came in Class B, which developed into a whirling kerfuffel with about 30 minutes remaining. The Bridgeway Bombers’ Alfa Romeo Spider had pulled out a large lead with about 30 minutes left after class-leading the New York Rock Exchange Rabbit had needed a pit stop. The Bombers, however, also pitted, tossing them back to third place of four cars on the lead lap.

At the same time as that pit stop, Team Prestige’s late-model luxobarge Mercedes (above, displaying the $500 pedigree that earned them Judges’ Choice) overtook the slow-and-steady Lincoln of Lost Planet Airmen. Prestige pulled away with the class lead by 10 seconds a lap while the Bridgeway Bombers temporarily overtook Lost Planet Airmen before suffering a mechanical failure late in the race and dropping them out of contention.

Hella Sh***y Racing took the final spot in the Top 10 with their Class C, Subaru EJ-swapped Volkswagen Beetle, which turned a sublime 2:05 lap early in the race. Fuel duration looks to have been an issue, as lap times were far less than optimal in the final 30 minutes, but the Bug’s lead was virtually insurmountable by that time. The Rob Ford-themed Beetle sputtered to a fuel-starved stop on the cooldown lap, coming in on the tow rope to earn the Index of Effluency with their Top 10 Beetle effort.

Second in C was LOL Racing’s Volvo P1800, which finished eight laps arrears. B210 Racing finished another lap back from there with the Easy 908/14 falling just 2.9 seconds behind them. Easy 908/14 actually led the race outright from laps 2 to 5, when Pistola Alto overtook their Porsche 914. A stop on Lap 8 and a spin in the Carousel knocked the 908 cheaplica well out of contention from a race that favored them, as they continue to harbor rotten luck.

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A short race doesn’t mean less suffering, it should be said. Heavy favorites The Cannonball Bandits (above) again suffered from trailer woes when getting to the race, causing them to run late all day. Compounded by transmission and fuel issues, the V8-powered Supra only saw the track in the race’s final 45 minutes, during which they promptly turned several blistering sub-2:00 laps, though it was too little too late.

Team -Ing With Bad Ideas’ Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most-suffering LeMons cars of all time and the poor Beetle lasted approximately 1-1/2 laps before packing it in . Class C favorites Billy Beer Forever saw their Ford Fairmont toss virtually all of its engine internals out of the Ford 200 block in the afternoon practice. Their spectacular failure netted them the I Got Screwed trophy.

The three-Saturn White Trash Ken/White Trash Barbie squad’s berst car came up one position short of finally getting into the top half of the field. The other two cars finished in the bottom five cars of the field, which is a typical finish for the team that has fielded as many as three Bottom 10 teams in the same race.

OVERALL STANDINGS

1. #32 Pistola Alto (Nissan 300ZX) – 56 Laps
2. #942 Porch Racing (Porsche 944) – +1:23.2
3. #34 Alfa Romeo Syndicate (Alfa Romeo Alfetta) – +1:55.1
4. #127 SmorgasBorg (Porsche 944) – +1 Lap
5. #12 Cerveza Racing (BMW E28) – +1 Lap
6. #325 Clowntown Road Show Racing (BMW E30) – +1 Lap
7. #17 Bunny With or Without a Pancake On Its Head (VW Rabbit) – +1 Lap
8. #72 Rotary Rooter (Mazda RX-7) – +2 Laps
9. #64 Auto Lemon Union – LemonTendo 64 (BMW E28) – +2 Laps
10. #6 Hella Shitty Racing (VW Beetle) – +2 Laps, Class C

CLASS B

1. #0 Team Prestige (Mercedes C320) – 53 Laps
2. #141 Lost Planet Airman (Lincoln Mk. VII) +1 Lap
3. #57 Uber Vogel (Mercedes 190e) +1 Lap
4. #87 ONSET/Tetanus West (Chevy Cavalier) +2 Laps
5. #7 New York ROck Exchange (VW Rabbit) +2 Laps
6. #150 Nerd Herd (Ford Mustang) +2 Laps
7. #48 Bridgeway Bombers (Alfa Spider) +5 Laps
8. #808 Licensed to Ill (Chevy S10) +6 Laps
9. #15 Del Camino (Honda Del Sol) +6 Laps
10. #888 42 Hours of MeLons (Volvo 240) +7 Laps

CLASS C

1. #6 Hella Shitty Racing (VW Beetle) 54 Laps
2. #1 LOL Racing (Volvo P1800) +8 laps
3. #210 B210 Racing (Datsun B210) +9 Laps
4. #908 Easy 908/14 (Porsche 914) +9 Laps
5. #53 Team -Ing with Bad Ideas (VW Beetle) +53 Laps

[Photos: Nick Pon/24 Hours of LeMons]

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36 responses to “24 Hours of LeMons: 'NASA, We Have a Problem' sprint recap”

    1. buzzboy7 Avatar

      If I'm not mistaken it's not actually a P1800, just a regular 1800. Also I'm pretty sure it is actually reconstructed from bondo to look like a car.

      1. needthatcar Avatar

        Yep, one of the rustiest cars I've ever seen.

      2. mdharrell Avatar

        It's an 1800E which has been converted to carburetors:
        <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LTH13/0079-Thunderhill_24_Hours_of_LeMons_2013-UG.jpg&quot; width="400">
        It is a bit rusty, even for an 1800:
        <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LTH13/0084-Thunderhill_24_Hours_of_LeMons_2013-UG.jpg&quot; width="400">

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Ah, interior ventilation exit™. Sheds weight constantly, even while on the racetrack, thanks to oxidation. What a wreck! I love it.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            I got to speak with the team at Thunderhill a few months ago during the lengthy periods when my own car was inoperable. It is a wonderful vehicle and the folks running it struck me as a good bunch.

  1. buzzboy7 Avatar

    It blows my mind that some teams were adding fuel for a 2 hour race. My car does ~5hrs on a tank.

    1. needthatcar Avatar

      Try running a twin-engine MR2/Corolla mashup with one 11 gallon tank. We get an hour and a quarter on a tank…maybe 90 minutes of you drive easy.

      1. buzzboy7 Avatar

        My wallet just cried a little.

      2. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

        Solution: 15-gallon tank.

        1. jeepjeff Avatar

          Can't. They're stuck with the stock MR2 tank, it's the only way they can legally position it next to the driver (in the trans tunnel). The two legal options for non-stock fuel cells have engines in them.

          1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

            Eh? Regarding fuel cell?

            1. Eric Rood Avatar

              No fuel cell in the cabin for safety reasons. The only places where you would normally fit a fuel cell in an MR2 (or any car, really) are both occupied by engines in the MRolla. So the only feasible option is to run both motors from the stock tank.

              1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

                Ah. Thank you. Thought you could have it in the cabin if it was a purpose-built racing fuel cell.

                1. Eric Rood Avatar

                  You could probably argue that containing it within a bulkhead next to the driver meets the letter of the rules, but the race organizers/tech inspectors have already said no, IIRC.
                  Also, the MRolla cabin looks plenty cramped in the most awesome way possible:
                  <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fBVKF2J1nrQ/Td15YVM6KwI/AAAAAAAAPeg/ktdwMpRO13w/s1600/mrolla08.JPG&quot; width="600">
                  And in video form:
                  [youtube MehP1c8OQH8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MehP1c8OQH8 youtube]

                  1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

                    Wow. Dang. Not much room there at all.
                    But holy crap, I want to drive it.

    2. jeepjeff Avatar

      My Jeep won't do 5 hours on a tank on the highway.

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    Pickup trucks? I thought they were verboten in LeMons. Dodge Rampage you might make a case for being a two seater Meetchybeeschy, I guess.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Pickup trucks are welcome (indeed, encouraged) as long as they were 4200 pounds or lighter from the factory.
      "2.1: Vehicle Eligibility: Entry limited to mass-produced, four-wheeled vehicles legal for US highway use at the time of their manufacture. Vehicles must be acquired and prepared for a maximum of $500 as described in Section 4. Vehicles must meet all safety standards laid out in Section 3. The vehicle's original, manufacturer-stated curb weight may not exceed 4200 pounds. Individual waivers may be granted; just don't ask about Peterbilts, Zambonis, sidecars, or golf carts again. We already said no."

      1. needthatcar Avatar

        I'm still waiting to see a Plymouth Arrow pickup at Lemons. It may have to be me that makes this dream a reality.

      2. Batshitbox Avatar

        Whoah. I shouldn't have sold that 2WD Scout 80 I got for free. Though my prep budget was considerably more than $500, and that's just for the dual master cylinder upgrade.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          I have worse news for you, then. As a safety item, brakes are exempt from the budget.

        2. Timothy Odell Avatar

          GAH!!! That wou've been awesome. Show those Cherokee guys how to make a real ridiculous SUV-based racecar!

    2. buzzboy7 Avatar

      Nope. Stock curb weight of 4200lbs or less. Otherwise it just can't be too small.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        My understanding is that it's also exceedingly difficult to convince LeMons HQ to allow forward-control vehicles.

        1. buzzboy7 Avatar

          I'd thought about that. The Volksibuses and the like.

        2. OA5599 Avatar

          Control is overrated in a Lemons car.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            As is forward thinking and forward motion.

  3. JJDuddles Avatar

    So I've been reading about all the fun you guys have at the these events for a few years now. Is there a dedicated Lemon site with race schedules? I'd sure like to check one out the next time there is an event in OR or WA.

      1. JJDuddles Avatar

        Thanks!

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      LeMons had an event in Oregon a few years ago at Oregon Raceway Park but the only one on the schedule in the Northwest for the last couple of years (and this year) is at The Ridge Motorsports Park near Shelton, Washington. This time around it's set for the weekend of 19-20 July. We hope to be there again.

      1. JJDuddles Avatar

        Wow! That's great! I live in Olympia I'll be there!

  4. HTWHLS Avatar

    I really like the idea of LeMons, but already got lost trying to follow the classes…

    1. Eric Rood Avatar

      There are three classes: A, B, and C. They used to have different names for the classes that defined them pretty well:
      A – Prayer of Winning (Usually fairly modern sportscars or performance sedans. Think E30, Miata, Integra, V8 Mustang, RX-7)
      B – Prayer of Finishing (Generally neither frontrunners nor real sportscars. It's kind of a catch-all category and hard to define. The cross-section from this race is a pretty good example of how broad this class can be.)
      C – No Prayer of Finishing (This is for weird, awful, old, rusty, hooptie, crazy, and/or never-should-be-anywhere-near-a-track type stuff.)
      The classes are determined in pre-race BS Inspection by the judges in a relatively subjective manner. The main purpose of the classes is to give everyone something to compete for (if they so choose…plenty of people just show up to drive and/or wrench). Class C remains the residence of the real gems in LeMons.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I'm also fond of the informal descriptions of the classes as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

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