The 24 Hours of LeMons seems to branch out to a new track or two every year. This year, they have added three new circuits to the schedule and the series makes the pilgrimage to the second of them, Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park, this weekend for Return of the LeMonites. Nestled between two mountain ridgse just south of the Great Salt Lake, Miller should see an interesting mix of crapcans on its 2.2-mile East Course. As Utah is far from most LeMons’ team bases, turnout is relatively low with 68 entries, but those coming include many California, Arizona, and Colorado teams alongside many first-timers from Salt Lake City. Toss in the odd team from further afield and it should be an interesting mix.
As one might expect from a racetrack near the Great Salt Lake Desert, the weather should be dry and hot with early-week forecasts indicating high temperatures around 90 and no rain in sight. Several teams making the trek to Utah drove in the 115-degree heat at Buttonwillow last year, which should make this weekend’s a relatively tolerable heat, though it’s worth nothing that Miller sits nearly a mile above sea level. The vast majority of the field sport naturally aspirated engines, so they’ll all wheeze equally at the high altitude. Check out the full preview after the jump and peruse the unofficial entry list here.
With only 68 entries and a lot of new teams, this might not be the most competitive race, but some heavy hitters will still occupy the Top 10 and compete for overall. The Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente is a bicoastal umbrella under which many of the series’ Alfa Romeo racers run. The Alfa Syndicate will enter two cars at this race, the #34 GTV6 (formerly Team California Mille) and the #75 Milano (formerly Scuderia Limoni, above). Each of them have eight Top 10s and an overall win, though the Milano’s win came way back in 2011 at the bullring known as Stafford Motor Speedway when the team and car resided on the East Coast. Neither is the fastest car in the field, but they have proven track records if they can keep their stallions together.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Model T GT, which will be towing out from California. The car itself is extremely capable, but the quality of drivers depends entirely on who’s renting it for the weekend. If the same hotshoes who won three consecutive 2013 races are in it, expect little short of a dominating race. The T GT’s fabricators have also built a Pinto. If it’s built with the same kind of quality as their thoroughbred, expect the Pinto to be in Class B and to contend.
Evil Genius Racing, who build many a LeMons roll cage, will bring their own beastly contender, the snowmobile-engined Mazda Miata known as Balto. The 100-pound drivetrain means the bantamweight Miata can absolutely fly and it nearly made the podium at Sears Pointless earlier this year if it hadn’t run out of gas at the end of one stint. If it can keep from breaking drive belts, Pull Start/Second String might just be the first two-stroke to win outright.
Keeping within Mazda, keep an eye on a pair of them that have run well in both LeMons and ChumpCar World Series. Hold My Beer and Watch This, a Miata, finished well at the 2010 LeMons race at Firebird Raceway and snagged several Top 10 finishes in Chump races since. MX787b sports a decent knockoff livery of the iconic Mazda Le Mans winner and their RX-7 (above) has hung around the front of Colorado races in both series. While probably competitive, Team Gussak’s Miata is registered from Anchorage, Alaska. That could be someone joking on the entry list (a common occurrence), but it could also be the first Alaskan LeMons team.
Of course, most LeMons races feature a few competitive BMWs and this will be no different with 10 in the field. Look for Mutter Fokker (E30), Goleta Lemon Festival (E34), Braking Badly (E30), and Clowntown Road Show (E30) to be in the mix somewhere as the best entries to sport the roundel. Of those, Mutter Fokker has the best track record, but the Braking Badly crew have looked racy in the past.
The GM F-Body is well-represented with six of them in the field, though I expect several of those to be Class B competitors. That said, IWannaRoc pulled off a Top 10 finish at last year’s Pacific Northworst with a similar-size field. Their Camaro will likely be in Class A and it will be fast, though likely not the absolute fastest Class A car.
This race, as best as I can tell, will see two veteran teams running new(-ish) cars. Skid Marks Racing are three-time winners in the Midwest with their Dodge Neon, but the team’s LeMons efforts have taken a back seat to Spec Miata racing. They will bring, however, a “brand new” Toyota MR2 to Miller under the Skid Marks Racing West banner. The car will likely have some teething troubles in its initial offering, but having a race winner or two in your pits helps immensely. Similarly, As Seen On TV have successfully beat on a Kia Rio for a couple years in the West. They also added an MR2 to their stable last year, which has been reasonably successful and could be a surprise podium contender.
For a handpicked longshot, Dirty Duck Racing (#83 above) should be one on which you can hang your oversized-hat-with-a-rabbit-jumping-out-when-you-press-the-brake-pedal. The Volkswagen Rabbit has taken home a pair of Class B wins and finished three times in the Top 10. Only one Volkswagen has ever won overall, which was Team Short Bus (a Golf), but with the small field and a bit of luck, Dirty Duck might become the second.
More longshots: Blew Bayou (BMW E30), Speedchimp Racing (Mazda RX-7), Team Dachsund (Datsun 510), Rotary Rooter (Mazda RX-7), New York Rock Exchange (Ford Focus).
Word sometimes gets around that a certain car type is usually in a class and does well. In Class C, that has included air-cooled German things (See Class C, below). In Class B, the Ford Escort is one of those types. Sure, growing pains plague most entries, but after a race or two, most are sorted well enough to compete. At this race, Geezer Escort Service (above) will carry the Escort banner into battle. They’ve only run three races, but their Class B finishes are headed the right direction: fourth, fourth, and second.
If 130 puny horsepower isn’t up your alley, you may find a pair of V8-powered Class B veterans more to your liking. Team Petty Cash’s LS-swapped Jeep fairly wreaks of cheatiness, but the swap has been godawful since Porsche Fake-tory driver Matt Adair decided the rock-solid AMC-designed straight six was inadequate. They’ll be joined by the Poor-sche, a 928 that can be pretty fast before remembering it’s a crapcan Porsche and failing in some incomprehensible fashion.
If a roadracing Jeep or a $500 Porsche aren’t weird enough for you, two twin-engined Toyotas might trot your tater tots (Catch-phrase patent pending). Yes, Hooniverse favorites the Volatile RAM MRolla and Stick Figure Racing FX32 will gallop around their home track, motoivated by a pair of 4AGE engines each. The FX32 won Class B at High Plains last year before rolling over at Thunderhill last year and then driving back to the pits like nothing happened. These are tough little twin-engined ‘yotas, which bodes well in a class where staying together makes all the difference.
But wait, there’s more! The Soccer Moms (above), now cleverly called Van Gogh, trek to Utah from their Oregon home to race the four-cylinder, manual-transmission Dodge Caravan. The van has been surprisingly competent, enough so to win Class C and be bumped up to B. They’re a Top 10-capable team, which might very well be enough to win the class.
Three cars teeter on the edge of Class A but could be solid Class B cars if they can sweet talk their way in during BS Inspection. Red Hot Chili Poopers run a 2005 Chevy Aveo, one of the newest LeMons cars (and it’s still nearly 10 years old). Neon Pope, as the name suggests, is a Popemobile fashioned from a Dodge Neon. And OMG Racing is a Mercedes S500, a car type that has won a couple of races in the hands of some East Coast racers.
I mentioned the glut of F-Bodies registered and the Camaros from Occupy Pit Lane (includes New Zealanders) and Sheepshaggers (ironically, does not include New Zealanders) are solid Class B entries who have struggled the Camero Struggle [sic]. If you’re wondering, the “Camero Struggle” involves breaking the same part over and over and expecting a different result.
Worth noting: Planeteer Racing doesn’t fall into the above-mentioned categories, but their Honda Prelude could be one to watch this weekend in Class B.
As always, the best teams to watch at the track and to root from afar are those in Class C, the realm of vehicles that either were designed to grace racing circuits 50 years ago or were never designed to go anywhere near them. With races at new tracks for LeMons, it’s hard to know what to expect from Class C, but Miller should see some real doozies.
At the top of my list to watch are a pair of first-time Brits of high pedigree. LeMons had gone more than 100 races without ever seeing one, but this will the second consecutive race with a Rover 3500 in the field. Super Grover’s Index of Effluency winner at New Jersey was of the P6 variety. Flaming A-Holes will bring the slightly newer Rover SD1, hardly surprising given the team’s history as the first Class C winners with a V12 (a Jaguar, shown above) and the only LeMons team to have run a Coventry Climax engine (a very low-power version in their IOE-winning Hillman Imp).
Bangers N Mash will also bring a first-time car from the British Isles: a Jensen Healey. With the much-loved and much-unreliable Lotus twin-cam engine, the Jensen is the kind of car that, on paper, hardly seems a $500 car and yet is the perfect car for LeMons. If you poke around hard enough, you can find well-oxidized examples rotting away in a Anglophile hoarder’s backyard. The hard part is talking said hoarder out of his or her backyard.
Perhaps as far from a Jensen Healey as you can get will be Grumpy Cat Racing’s Dodge truck. Chevy S-10s and Ford Rangers do well in the class, but nobody has yet brought a Dodge Dakota or even a Ram. Of course, Grumpy Cat are also bringing neither, opting instead for a 1950 Dodge truck. This ups the effluence of Class C to an absurd degree. Go look at the pictures of it on the LeMons Forum. I’ll wait.
And that’s not all! Two cars that have been absent from LeMons from some time will return in glory and probably on jackstands. Redneck Racing Team campaigned a 1991 Cadillac Eldorado at a Reno-Fernley in 2009 (above) and again at that year’s Arse-Freeze, finishing reasonably well. The car has not been seen at LeMons since (though it graces the cover of the recently published unofficial LeMons book How On Fire Are We?), so it will awaken after a nearly five-year slumber.
In a slightly different manner, Punk Pirates with OCD bring back a car that only ran once at Altamont in 2007. That is a Maserati Biturbo, though it’s almost certainly a different one from Fallen Angels’ Altamont car. There have been a couple of Quattroportes in LeMons, but the Biturbo’s reign should be glorious and probably very stately on the circuit until one of the bits of corroded Italian wiring fails in some unreachable place.
None of those cars is likely to compete for an actual Class C win, though the class is notoriously hard to predict. If I had to predict a winner, I’d say Village People’s Porsche 914 should be the favorite. As mentioned above, air-cooled 914s and Volkswagens do remarkably well in LeMons after some tinkering, maybe lending credence to the notion that simple is better for crapcan. Ski Bumz 1970 Volkswagen Bug will hope for a similarly good outlook in the car’s debut.
In keeping with older metal, legendary LeMoneer Mike “Spank Worthington” Spangler will trek to Miller with his Austin Mini Moke (above) in hand. The skeletal little scamp (not actually a Scamp) has run LeMons off and on for four years now, a remarkable time frame given how much punishment it’s taken. Can Spank capture his billionth IOE? He’ll have some stiff competition, but the Moke, registered as Lamm Speed Record Bonneville Moke, should also factor into the Class C race, too.
It wouldn’t be a real LeMons race without some “new” cars. As with air-cooled cars, Pontiac Fieros do much better than they should in Class C, though usually a race or seven of catastrophic cooling failures calls most out. Stealth Alien Hunters and Salty Thunder should both land in the class if their Fieros are powered by Iron Dukes. A 60-degree V6 or a bigger swap might put them up into Class B if the judges aren’t feeling particularly generous.
Finally, keep an eye on 8-Bit Racing. The team recently dumped their Class A Nissan 300ZX for their new whip, a 1987 Subaru RX. They left it largely in stock trim, meaning nautical body roll and four-wheel domination in the rain. At least, it will if it runs more than the 64 laps it turned in its debut.
|SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
|Return of the LeMonites
|Miller Motorsports Park Trackpedia page
|Saturday session time
|Noon – 8:30 p.m. ET
|Sunday session time
|11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET
|Grumpy Cat Racing – 1950 Dodge Pickup
|Red Hot Chili Poopers – 2005 Chevy Aveo
[Photos: Murilee Martin]