When the 24 Hours of LeMons visits Texas, weird things happen. Well, weirder than normal. Sometimes lightning strikes the timing tower while the race is red-flagged because of local tornado warnings. Sometimes a Ford Taurus SHO tries to mount a Miata. Sometimes the nuttiest LeMoneers undertake a racecar build that starts less than 24 hours before the race’s green flag. This weekend’s “North Dallas Hooptie” at Eagles Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas, should prove no less entertaining, particularly with a deep field in Class C.
Early-week weather forecasts show rain likely during the weekend with temperatures in the mid-50s. With this winter’s insane weather patterns, that may change and dump six inches of snow on the track, so who knows if it will factor in. The entry list shows about 70 hoopties, so the track shouldn’t be too heavy with traffic. Eagles Canyon maintains a reputation for being hard on cars, especially brakes, which is usually good business for local auto parts stores. See who the favorites are after the brake and feel free to peruse the unofficial entry list here.
This race features four previous winners and a couple of teams that are routinely on the podium, so expect a good battle at the front with any of about six teams considered the frontrunners. All of those frontrunners get there a different way, so this could very well be a race that doesn’t sort the winners out until late Sunday.
The Z31 Nissan 300ZX of Back to the Past (above) may be the bastions of reliability and consistency in LeMons with six straight Top 10 finishes, including a win and three more podiumss. This is remarkable if for no other reason than they drive one of the most-maligned car types in LeMons, but they clearly don’t beat on it too hard. They will not be the fastest car nor will they run the longest stints, but they also very seldom make mistakes. Expect them to enter the Top 10 by mid-day Saturday and to grind out laps all weekend to stay in the hunt.
If Back to the Past are the most consistent team, then Pulp Friction might be the polar opposite. The BMW E30 (one of just four BMWs in the field) won the 24-hour race at Eagles Canyon in 2012 by a wide margin. They also have six Top 10 finishes and are always one of the fastest cars, but those Top 10s are interspersed with mechanically related mid-pack finishes. More often, Pulp Friction become the chase hare, jumping out to an early lead. That frenetic pace produces mixed results, but if the car stays together, they could lead almost wire to wire.
Mostly Harmless Racing will take a second crack at becoming the first team to win all three classes with the same car. After winning Index of Effluency with their Volkswagen Kharmann Ghia, this team’s Mercury Capri XR2 has also won Class C and Class B. As evidenced with a pair of great finishes last year, this Protégé cousin has the chops to become the first to take home the trifecta with a Class A (and overall) win. What do they have going for them? A light car, good power from the turbocharged Mazda BP engine, and a crew of hotshoes who can pedal it. I like their chances.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve said in a LeMons preview that Audi has a shot at the brand’s first LeMons win, but it’s been a lot. Blue Goose’s Audi 4000 (above) has been closer than any other four-ringer, though, with a pair of second-place finishes. The car is slow but shockingly reliable. I’m not entirely sure how they’ve finished P2 twice, honestly; they just kind of appear there late in the races and stick around. Clean, mistake-free driving goes a long way in endurance racing. If they’re going to win, expect them to take P1 late in the race.
It’s been some time since Team Miagra were really competitive for an entire LeMons race. They haven’t finished on the podium in two years and they won their only race a year before that. The team is chock-full of good drivers, but their Mazda Miata has come apart at the seams in seemingly ever race over the last two years. One more former winner may factor in: Team Benzgay’s Mercedes 300E is powerful, robust beast of a Benz that won at MSR in 2010. The car hasn’t raced LeMons in at all since 2012 and Eagles Canyon doesn’t really favor such a heavy car, but their only win came as a bit of shock, too. Don’t count either of these cars out.
Texas is the pony-car capital of crapcandom and this race will see 10 Ford Fox Bodies (well, one is an SN-95 Mustang) and four GM F-Bodies. It’s unlikely that any will win, but several of them are very fast and at least one or two should finish in the Top 10.
Property Devaluation Racing will again bring a pair of Foxes after their fresh-build Ford LTD got twisted at the very end of the last 24-hour race. Their Thunderbird (above) has a few more races of development and could be a Top 10 car; Property Devaluation will also debut a Granada. Lost in the Dark’s Ford Fairmont will be quick, though that car has never fared as well as the team’s Miata (which will not run this race). Dirt Cheap Racing and Texas Gas Holes are equally good bets to finish as the best of the six Mustangs.
On the GM side, Team Toxic Waste always put up a good fight with the FoMoCo crowd. At last year’s ECR race, Toxic Waste was the only F-Body against a dozen or soFox Bodies and it finished P10, more than five positions ahead of the best Ford. They struggled in Houston, so maybe they used up all of their F-Body reliable in their first race. The Texas regulars of Smash and Crash Racing (formerly Pflugerville Pflamers) will look and sound good if nothing else. Team Petty will debut a ’68 Camaro, which leaves me eager to see what a LeMons-caliber ’68 looks like.
As long as we’re talking fast and blow-uppy (as pony cars tend to be), Team Sensory Assault will be there with two Mazda rotary-powered cars, as usual. They will be fast. They will be inefficient. They will blow up (probably both cars). They will proudly represent all of those kids in high school welding shop who stick-welded the word “FART”on the test metal while seeing how far they could stretch the arc. They are slag-spattered glory.
This race will also produce an introducing reliability experiment. Two two-car teams with a Ford Pinto (or Mercury Bobcat) are entered in this race. Futility Motorsports’ Mercury Bobcat won Class C at Road America and beat the team’s BMW E36. Inglorious Bastards run a generally not-so-good MN-12 Ford Thunderbird and will debut a Pinto at this race (a foolproof plan). So will each team’s Pinto/Bobcat beat the Class A team car? If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds probably favor the Pintos, whose motors have generally been pretty reliable in LeMons.
As always, I highlight a longshot that looks unassuming at first glance. Norfolk & Chance are pretty new to LeMons racing, having run their first two races in 2013. However, those two races produced P7 and P14 finishes. Will they win the race outright? I doubt it, but I could see them improving on their past performances.
More longshots: Alice Cooper Saloon/Jobo Racing (Mazda 626), Team Shocker (Acura Integra), Basil Weenie (BMW E30), Futility Motorsports 2 (BMW E36)
This race should produce a tremendous variety in Class B with an array of should-be fast imports, offroaders, and subcompacts. TGTW Offroad Racing suffered an uncharacteristic weekend at MSR last fall with both of the team’s Jeeps (a Cherokee and a Comanche, above) retiring early. With a pair of Top 10 finishes before that but no class win, TGTW will come back with just the Cherokee to take another crack at Class B.
Their toughest competition should come from 2013 Gulf Region champions Tetanus Racing, who are a team with Class B completely dialed in. They will leave the Buick 3800-powered Porsche 944 at home and run the long-suffering Dodge Neon in its 18th race. As far as I know, that Neon is still running the same engine block as its first race in 2008. Added to that will be the troublesome Volkswagen Passat. Water-cooled VWs can be temperamental in LeMons, so expect the Neon to be Tetanus’ best finisher.
Piston Broke won Class C at MSR last fall with nearly 60 laps over the next competitor. Expect the Mitsubishi Eclipse to run in Class B henceforth. With a little luck, they may keep the DSM demons at bay long enough to compete in Class B. Keep an eye on the Straight 6 Pack Toyota Supra. They’ve only run three races since 2010, but they’ve improved every time, including placing ahead of the Tetanus Neon at MSR.
Scuderia Ignorante crashed their veteran Toyota Tercel EZ at MSR and it sounded like it was totaled, but the team show up on the entry list with a Tercel. Whether they show up with the same three-time Class C-winning Tercel (formerly run by Exhibition of Slow) remains to be seen. I’m a sucker for Ford Festivas and Braking Bad have quietly done pretty well with theirs. I’m not sure they’ll win, but a mid-pack finish from the tiny hooptie is no small feat.
This promises to be a tremendous Class C race for a lot of reasons. Three great cars will make long-awaited debuts and a few teams will seek redemption from bad outings at MSR. The usual Class C suspects are great cars, as well, and I have no idea who will win the class.
The stalwarts of Class C will keep it interesting with a weird mix of iron. Escape Velocity Racing (’64 Dodge Dart, above), Speedy Monzales (’80 Chevy Monza), and Team Buckaroo (’68 VW Baja Bug) are all former Index of Effluency winners that will still be looking for a class win. Widow’s Son is a truly bad 1996 Buick Century that has been nowhere near the top of the class, but big, front-wheel-drive GM iron has shown Class C potential before.
Lil’ Pecker Racing’s Poorvette is (virtually) circled in my (virtual/non-existant) race program. The team has been building a C4 Chevy Corvette for a while and considering powerplant options, since the CrossFire Injection motor was a non-starter (not in the literal sense…well, maybe in the literal sense). The LeMons Forum discussion included the possibility of GM LT1, a GM 4.3-liter V6, a Mercruiser marine engine, a diesel, a 2.0-liter Honda, and a Ford EcoBoost under the hood, though it doesn’t appear that the builder ever mentioned the final choice. So what will power the Corvette? [Probably answer: People, most of the time.]
The entry list also shows not one but two old Honda Civics. Tighty Whities will bring a 1980, second-generation Civic while The Resistance shows on the entry list with a ’75, which would a tiny first-generation car. I doubt either will be fast in stock guise (which I hope they are running), but an engine swap eventually could probably make these into screamers.
Three more Class C entries failed categorically at MSR and will look to actually turn more than a couple dozen laps. United America Wrenchers built an Austin America in the paddock starting the day before the race and it did probably a little better than one might expect (though still bad with 33 laps in a 24-hour race). Bad Science showed up with a Shelby Daytona (above, white) that proceeded to puke its engine bits everywhere (15 laps). And The Syndicate’s Mercedes 450SLC turned seven laps because it barely even got to the track. All are entered and I’m not sure any of them could do any worse, though they may try.
Inglorious Bastards’ Pinto will run in C, probably, though Futility Motorsports’ performance in C has probably bumped them up into Class B. Hoodfellas’ Isuzu Impulse could straddle the line between B and C, too. Like a Merkur, the Internet will probably suggest an Impulse should dominate LeMons because it has “handling by Lotus,” but—like a Merkur—the reliability record in LeMons is generally poor.
Finally, Team 8 Racing return to LeMons after 3-1/2 years away. They had previously run a Nissan 240SX and Porsche 924 back in 2009 and 2010, but they come back with a Chevy S10. Trucks have done very well in Class C in LeMons and Team 8 should be high-quality drivers, so don’t be surprised if this first-time truck comes away with a class win. Or they might be a late scratch. Who knows? LeMons is unpredictable.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]