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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