24 Hours of LeMons: 'Return of the LeMonites' recap

LEde The juxtaposing on-track photos from the 24 Hours of LeMons‘ jaunt last weekend to Miller Motorsports Park jumble the brain a bit. One sees the largely forgotten automotive crap of the Western Hemisphere on Miller’s immaculate tarmac. The runoff area becomes part of the desert’s colorless palette, but mountains jut from the distant landscape. The scene mashes together beauty and obscenity that would puzzle viewers anywhere else, but the above image rings out like a church bell to LeMonite faithful. Nevertheless, one can scarcely hope to encapsulate LeMons in one photo, especially an event with so much worth describing as this Return of the LeMonites weekend. A long-overdue engine type and a veteran Class B squad managed to hold off series juggernauts with well-built entries in each of the top classes while the Class C absolutely paddled the bottom class. Meanwhile, one of the greatest LeMons entries of all time paraded around on all weekend, its ancient technology scarcely bothered by the stresses of endurance racing. Follow the jump to find out what the heck that means. Too_Stupid When Hooniverse calculated the best LeMons cars by finishes last winter, few series regulars were surprised to see Volvo’s venerable 240 brick at the top of the heaps despite the insanely reliable Volvo B-Series engine (also called the Redblock) never having won a race. Maybe this writer was too stupid to know better when compiling his race preview, but he completely omitted the Red Block-powered Volvo 740 from Too Stupid To Know Better. Unfazed by this race’s staunch competition, the turbocharged 740 (above) carried on unremitting, holding off the four-time winners the Model T GT by a convincing margin of six laps. The Model T GT crew did themselves few favors, earning the cruelest of black flag penalties on Saturday, wherein the LeMons Supreme Court justices made them follow the glacially slow 1950 Dodge Pickup of Grumpy Cat Racing for 10 laps. This occurred with the T GT leading by a couple of laps and by the time they were handed the penalty and executed it, they found themselves several laps down. They narrowed the gap to a single lap by Saturday’s checkered flag, but a couple of long stops Sunday kept them from making a race of it. In Class B, this writer’s handpicked longshot to win it all, the Volkswagen Rabbit of Dirty Duck Racing, also defeated the Model T GT’s teammate, a nicely built Ford Pinto. Dirty Duck ran as high as P2 overall, but their ability to outpace the Pinto and make very fast driver changes (see below) ultimately led to a seven-lap victory with the top class competitors finishing P5 and P6, respectively. Porsche_914 Class C turned into a laugher early on in the weekend with Village People’s Porsche 914 (above) pulling out a lead by dozens of laps at Saturday’s checkered flag. Their 914 ran cleanly and reliably all weekend—never a given for the type—and managed an impressive P12 overall finish. What’s more, they finished an incredible 95 laps ahead of the second car in Class C. If you’re doing the maths at home, that’s well more than three hours ahead of their best competitor, the Austin Mini Moke of LeMons resident Anglophile and madman, who is simply known as “Spank” around the series. IWannaRoc’s Chevy Camaro overcame a couple of long pit stops to finish P3, their best result yet. The California F-Body will have its hands full at California races, but if the team haul it to the Washington and Utah races, they have a good chance at a future win. Goleta Lemon Festival Special also managed their best finish yet. The team’s BMW E34 has looked competitive at several past races and their long stints made a huge difference. With just a bit more pace, this squad could become a top competitor in the top-heavy West Coast races. Rounding out the Top 10 were Rotary Rooter (P7 – Mazda RX-7), Team Gussak (P8 – Mazda Miata), Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente (P9 – Alfa Romeo Milano), and Clowntown Road Show (P10 – BMW E30). Stick Figure Racing’s twin-engined, Mormon Meteor-themed Toyota MR2 finished third in Class B and P11 overall after a rough first 90 minutes of the race. Doge_Truck As noted in the preview, Class C looked positively epic on paper and lived up to its billing on the track. The discussion really begins with Grumpy Cat Racing’s incredible 1950 Dodge Truck (above) that the Model T GT was forced to follow as a penalty. Why is that a penalty? Because the Dodge—with its flathead straight-six engine designed before World War 2—clocked its fastest lap time at 2:34, which was nine seconds slower than the next-slowest car (Punk Pirates with OCD’s Maserati Biturbo that only turned two laps). The Model T GT’s fastest lap was nearly 40 seconds faster. Whatever else you can say about a 64-year-old truck, it was clearly tough enough for the task of road racing. The Dodge hardly hiccuped on the way to an easy Index of Effluency win. Naturally, this means that Flaming A-Holes‘ Rover 3500 SD1, which also ran most of the weekend aside from a not-at-all-surprising Lucas Electrics-sourced fire, did not win the IOE but instead got the I Got Screwed trophy for running a slam-dunk race with a wretched automobile and simply getting outgunned. Their British counterparts, Bangers N Mash, blew the Lotus Twin-Cam engine in their Jensen Healey but somehow managed to find someone with a spare of that relatively rare engine in a garage at Miller, which they dropped in and resumed racing. If the two-lap Maserati sounds pitiful, 8-Bit Racing managed to outfail them when their Subaru RX grenaded its turbo motor in the 14-1/2 hour race’s first turn. The team swapped in a normally aspirated powerplant of unknown quality from a local Utah junkyard and proceeded to return to the track. NYRE Finally, mention should be made of the New York Rock Exchange crew, who should perhaps reconsider long tows. The team traveled to Road America from California last November for LeMons, a trip in which they shredded three trailer tires in the final 100 miles or so of the trip to the track. They fixed it and returned, ran a couple of California races with short tows (one of which included a trailer failure that led to them showing up late), and then decided to haul the team’s Ford Focus to Utah for Miller. Along the way, the trailer siding failed, which they fixed with duct tape and LeMons stickers. Their Focus blew up repeatedly at the race, including a blown transmission that stalled the car in the runoff where it almost got obliterated by a Mercedes. On the way back to California, just about everything else broke and the tow rig limped home just in time for team members to wake up for work, except they’d not yet slept. Did you get all that? Maybe they should change their name to Murphy’s Law Racing? Just a friendly suggestion.  

BY THE NUMBERS

Numbers The numbers for this race are pretty self-explanatory and I’ve included the Top 13 in the field (four of which are pictured above; which one doesn’t belong?), indicating which class each car falls into. I’ve also added a column for “Fastest Lap” to show what each car’s potential was at this race. The average lap times often include full-course and even local yellows, which would account for some of the difference between fastest and average laps. That said, you’ll notice that the difference is usually around 10 seconds. The bigger the gap in times, the bigger the gap in driver ability on each time, I’ll posit, though that may not necessarily be the case. As always, “stint” in this case refers to time in between stops, whether they are for fueling, fixing, or getting blasted by the LeMons Supreme Court for infringements of the mind, body, and racecar. 

Team Overall Pos Class # Stints Avg Stint (In Laps) Longest Stint (Laps) Avg Lap Time Fastest Lap Avg Stint (Time, Min) Avg Stop Time
 Too Stupid To Know Better 1 A 10 39.1 58 02:07.7 01:57.7 83.2 06:18.8
 Model T GT and Pinto Bean  Bandits 2 A 10 38.6 70 02:06.3 01:53.0 81.3 08:58.0
 IWannaRoc 3 A 12 29.5 50 02:06.5 01:56.4 62.2 13:00
 Goleta Lemon Festival Special 4 A 7 54.6 87 02:09.5 01:59.7 117.8 10:24.9
 Dirty Duck Racing 5 B 10 38.3 91 02:12.9 02:03.2 84.8 04:57.9
 Model T GT and Pinto Bean  Bandits 6 B 7 53.4 91 02:16.6 02:07.0 121.6 05:50.3
 Rotary Rooter 7 A 7 53.3 84 02:16.2 02:00.6 121 06:40.4
 Team Gussak 8 A 11 34.3 49 02:09.8 01:56.5 74.2 08:52.4
 Alfa Romeo Syndicate  Eccellente 9 A 7 53.1 79 02:15.5 02:04.7 119.9 07:37.3
 Clowntown Road Show 10 A 7 52.4 71 02:09.6 01:59.5 113.1 17:17.8
 Stick Figure racing 11 B 12 30.5 53 02:13.5 02:00.8 67.9 06:58.2
 village people 12 C 8 45.0 80 02:16.6 02:04.1 102.4 10:27.3
 Smokey and the Bandits 13 B 15 24.0 41 02:14.2 01:58.1 53.7 07:03.4

The obvious place to start is at the front of the field where each of the top two cars ran the same number of stints. The Model T GT was about 1.5 seconds faster, but their longer stop times (because of black flags and a small repair or two, it seems) ultimately cost them the win. The T GT’s ability to go much farther on a full fuel tank coupled with their average pace demonstrates just why that car won three consecutive races last year. Too Stupid to Know Better’s cleaner race, however, proved the biggest difference. Just behind, IWannaRoc was second-fastest in the Top 10, but the slings and arrows of the GM F-Body fuel efficiency scarred their ability to win. Dirty Duck Racing and the Model T GT’s Class B Pinto interestingly enough ran equally long stints to mark the longest of the race at 91 laps. That hardly seems right for the Volkswagen Golf, but I stared at the numbers hard and they didn’t show a fuel stop anywhere in there. Dirty Duck’s stops were the fastest in the Top 10 by nearly a minute. As they won by seven laps, that didn’t make all the difference in the world, but it helped cushion their lead some. Want to have some nerd fun? Take all of the cars that ran seven stints and see how lap times and stop times stack up. The tiny differences add up over 14 hours, but one could easily argue that stop times carry the heaviest weight. The proof is in the standings, but some better luck for the Clowntown E30 could have put them as high as P3. Smokey Finally, Smokey and the Bandits’ Trans Am (above) were a rookie team who, it seems, decided to start their race by making sure that each driver got an hour in the car. Usually, this renders a team relatively uncompetitive, but they persevered and continually improved in the car with one driver clocking sub-2:00 laps by the race’s end. They’ll need a bit more fuel economy probably (but not necessarily) to compete in Class B, but they showed some promise. The same goes for the rookies on Team Gussak, whose Miata was very, very fast but made enough stops to keep them out of the Top 5.   OVERALL (Full results via MyLaps) 1. #17 Too Stupid To Know Better (Volvo 740) – 391 Laps 2. #92 Model T GT and the Pinto Bean Bandits (Model T GT) – 385 Laps 3. #666 IWannaRoc (Chevy Camaro) – 383 Laps 4. #162 Goleta Lemon Festival Special (BMW E28) – 383 Laps 5. #83 Dirty Duck Racing (VW Golf) – 381 Laps, Class B 6. #97 Model T GT and the Pinto Bean Bandits (Ford Pinto) – 374 Laps, Class B 7. #72 Rotary Rooter (Mazda RX-7) – 373 Laps 8. #49 Team Gussak (Mazda Miata) – 373 Laps 9. #75 Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente (Alfa Romeo Milano) – 372 Laps 10. #325 Clowntown Road Show Racing (BMW E30) – 368 Laps CLASS B 1. #83 Dirty Duck Racing (VW Golf) – 381 Laps 2. #97 Model T GT and the Pinto Bean Bandits (Ford Pinto) – 374 Laps 3. #4 Stick Figure Racing (Twin-engined Toyota FX32 Toyota MR2) – 366 Laps 4. #25 Smokey and the Bandits (Pontiac Firebird) – 360 Laps 5. #78 Finger Tight Racing (Ford Mustang) – 355 Laps CLASS C 1. #771 Village People (Porsche 914) – 360 Laps 2. #0 Lamm Speed Record (Austin Mini Moke) – 265 Laps 3. #60 Flaming A-Holes (Rover 3500 SD1) – 261 Laps 4. #100 Grumpy Cat Racing (1949 Dodge B Series Truck) – 250 Laps 5. #90 Salty Thunder (Pontiac Fiero) – 188 Laps   [Photos: Murilee Martin]  

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