Maybe it’s no surprise the 24 Hours of LeMons’ (unofficial) de facto home track is in the middle of California’s wine country, but the series returns to California’s Sonoma Raceway just a month after its last visit. The recent sprint race marked a format change for LeMons, but if anything, it simply compressed the absurdity and drama into two hours. Prize money for this longer race probably won’t be paid in 10-ruble notes like it was in 2011 (above) since those notes would probably be better used in Crimea now anyway, but class and Index of Effluency winners will still take a few bucks with them.
Spring races at Sonoma have typically seen with huge fields and miserably wet weather, but early-week forecasts call for pleasant temperatures and clear skies. The 167-car field is slightly smaller than previous races, but traffic will still rule the early stages of the race until attrition sets in. The classes—assigned during Friday’s BS Inspection—will all have incredible depth. Take a look at what to expect after the break and be sure to peruse the unofficial entry list here.
Regular readers of these previews are probably tired of the same names cropping up in these previews, but Cerveza Racing (BMW E28) and Eyesore Racing (turbocharged Mazda Miata, above) both remain serious heavyweights crapcan racing with more than 10 wins between them. Add to that list Porch Racing, whose 944 became the first Porsche to score an overall LeMons win at Sonoma in December.
Several Alfa Romeo teams have pooled resources under the same name—Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente—with a couple of overall wins previously: The “B” entry is the former California Mille Alfetta and the “A” car is the Milano formely of Scuderia Limoni, which has run on both sides of the country.
The field includes one more prior winner: Pistola Alto, whose Z32-generation Nissan 300ZX won last month’s sprint race at Sonoma. Two hours is far different from 14-1/2, so it remains to be seen if their Z can hang in for the duration.
From the Bimmer camp, look for Auto Lemon Union (E28), Hella Shi**y Racing (E30), and The Homer by Porcubimmer Motors (E30, above) in the Top 10 all weekend. From the gobs-o’-power category, Cannonball Bandits (Vortec V8-swapped Toyota Supra) and Sour Aviation Racing (Ford Mustang) should be early contenders for the lead and potential winners if they can keep their brutish heaps intact.
In the veteran front-wheel-drive racers, Roadrace Jones (Nissan Sentra SE-R) and Bunny With or Without a Pancake On Its Head (Volkswagen Rabbit) are standbys of the California crapcan circuit since at least 2009. And in the good-teams-with-historically-poor-car-choices category, keep tabs on How Are These Guys Winning (Eagle Talon, pretty sure the former Chump Ganassee car), OLD FAST Auto Race and Sons (Audi 200), and Snowspeeder Pilots Association (Toyota MR2).
Up and comers Rotary Rooter (Mazda RX-7), Mutter Fokker (BMW E30), and Tired Iron Racing (Mazda Miata) have all shown the ability to finish in the Top 10 recently. Cracking the top three is a daunting challenge in such a deep field, but all of these teams are poised to make that jump.
What else is of interest? The Fat and the Furious have run a Big Boy-themed Miata forever, but they registered for this race with a 1992 Geo Metro. Interestingly enough, the Geo Metro Gnome just sold in California, so perhaps the former Top 10 squad has acquired the screaming, Hayabusa-powered econobox. It should be in good hands, if that’s the case.
The Model T GT (above) will also race at Sonoma, though it may be in the hands of a team not too familiar with it, since the T GT’s builders are renting it out. And to complete the crazy engineering trifecta, the snowmobile-engined Miata from Idiotarod Racing will be around to howl the shrillest of wails.
They’re likely not a fan favorite, but the BMW E36 M3 squad who drew the ire of racers and race organizers by spinning some post-race donuts on the track have come back with a gloriously sheepish theme idea: Mr. Donuts. They finished around P15 in the car’s debut, but don’t be surprised if they start with some penalty laps to atone for their previous mistakes.
While they’ve struggled to compete since turbocharging their Volvo 262C, the Bert One squad will be notable for raising money for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand by selling some pretty sweet Bert One stickers. These Volvo racers are on a motorsports sabbatical to California from the East Coast, where they usually team up with the Keystone Kops to raise funds similarly.
My handpicked longshot is a legitimate team for a change. The Blowe’s Racing Mitsubishi Eclipse (above)suffers the slings and arrows of a LeMons DSM team, but they’ve somehow made it work in the past, finishing as high as third. They’re the not the fastest or the most fuel-sipping car on the track, but they’ve dialed in the team efficiency to keep the car on the track and turning laps, which goes a long way. Between their car and the above-mentioned Eagle Talon, they have a good chance at being the first overall winner with a DSM product.
More longshots: Fukushima Debris (BMW E28), Oldsmember (Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight), Hit and Run Racing (Mazda RX-7), and The Faustest Team (BMW E30)
The middle class of the series is often quietly home to some tremendous racing between cars of drastically different capability, giving the opportunity to see how teams arrive at similar conclusions for the race’s endgame. The competitors to watch in Class B should break down like this:
Former class winners who may end up in B again. Class winners typically get bumped up a class after a win, but sometimes, the car and team get tossed back into the B. If Volatile RAM (the twin-engined Toyota MRolla), Dirty Duck Racing (Volkswagen Rabbit), or Flailing Lizards (Ford Escort ZX2, above) are in the class, any of them could end up in the mix.
Excellent teams with near misses at the class win. Chief among these are Communists R Us (BMW E21), The Hot Dogs (Chrysler Conquest), and Uber Vogel: Hans Am (Mercedes 190). Swedish Monarchs’ Volvo 740 are a quality stealth pick and New York Rock Exchange’s two Volkswagens (a Rabbit and a Scirocco) have the potential to win B.
Class C winners bumped up to B. If you think the previous two categories are too sporty, here’s where you’ll see the glorious variety of Class B. Few sound potentially competitive given their car choice, but all are run by very capable teams.
Dirty Little Freaks (Mercedes 300 diesel) and The Hasselhoffs (Toyota Paseo) may both prove to be tortoises in a class with more than a few hares. Soccer Moms (Dodge Caravan) and Licensed to Ill (Chevy S10 minitruck) will hold down the utility corner of B. Fiero Libre are the best Fiero team in LeMons history and surprisingly capable with the mid-engine Pontiac. Team Tinyvette (Opel GT), Planned Obsolescence (Buick Skyhawk), and Hella Sh**ty Racing (Volkswagen Beetle) are all 1970s masterpieces. Finally, Miami Vice’s V12-powered BMW 850 brings the full luxury treatment with one of the most fickle crapcan engines of all time.
Notable Others: The 1% Racing Party Vikings (formerly the Clueless Party Vikings) have been around forever in LeMons with their horrid Fox-Body Mustang. Salton Sea Speed Shop run a glorious-looking Ford Falcon. ONSET/Tetanus West are working out the bugs still in the team’s Chevy Cavalier
wagon convertible, which will eventually get a big power (and possibly class) jump from a late-model 60-degree GM V6. Dirt Poor-sche (Porsche 928) and Occupy Pit Lane (Chevy Camaro) have struggled with reliability but are both legitimate Class B contenders.
I’ll start the discussion of Class C with a car whose classing I have no idea about but that is sure to enrage enthusiasts worldwide. This is Hella Sh**ty Racing’s third entry, a Porsche 911. There has been a LeMons 911 before, but this one—called Ferkel the Nein-11—will draw its flat power curve from a Volkswagen turbodiesel engine. I’m not sure there’s much to say after that.
In Class C, the depth of California races is such that it requires subdividing. The top of the Class C crop includes LaHonda Bandits (Porsche 914, above), The Black Flags (hopeless Toyota Celica Supra), B210 Racing (Datsun B210), LOL Racing (Volvo 1800), and Crash Test Mummies (an MGB and a Ford Fiesta). All of those are veteran squads with enough pace to win the class outright if they can somehow be reliable.
Pit Crew Revenge has taken on the task of becoming something of a home for wayward LeMons cars. Team captain Chris Overzet rents out seats and his host of rides at Sonoma includes the co-Hooniversal Car of the Year Plymouth Reliant K Car, which will likely infect several more poor souls with its misery if it hasn’t driven Overzet completely insane yet. The K-It-Forward wagon joins the Pikachu-themed Subaru Legacy and the famous V8-swapped Volvo 240 that LeMons Supreme Court Justice Murilee Martin helped build and raced many years ago. None of those cars is likely to win a class, but it will be great to see three “classics” still turning laps around Sonoma.
I’ve repeatedly predicted class wins for Billy Beer Malaise Forever (Ford 200-powered Fairmont Futura, above) and Easy 908/14 (VW Golf-powered Porsche 914, above, shown behind the Futura), but I seem to repeatedly curse them instead. At the Sonoma Sprint race, the Billy Beer Fairmont tossed a
crankshaft camshaft during practice after I’d predicted them as the Class C frontruners. I’ve officially given up on both of these cars; they’re more hopeless than a sea turtle in gymnastics class. Team -Ing With Bad Ideas (Volkswagen Beetle) is similarly cursed aside from one flawless weekend in 2012. We wish all three teams the best, but we don’t expect them to win.
INDEX OF EFFLUENCY
California races produce such a depth of Class C competition that some in the class are beyond hopeless at a class win without major changes, but these are usually the frontrunners for the vaunted top prize in LeMons, the Index of Effluency (IOE). Let’s take a look at the bumper crop of ultra-lemony LeMons with two veteran teams bringing “new” cars that should lead the field in Longest Oil Trail and Saddest-Looking Suspension.
Directionally Challenged Racing have long campaigned a crappy Fox-platform Mustang (above) in LeMons, but they will debut a first for LeMons: an International Scout. I don’t know much about the classicoffroaders, but I can’t envision one being even remotely capable on a road course, making it the frontrunner for IOE if it doesn’t blow up in the first couple hours.
Panting Polar Bear Racing were recent Class B winners in a Ford Crown Victoria, but this race sees them upping the ante and lowering the bar with a pink 1961 Rambler. The team took it to the Evil Genius Racing shop, where their dyno spit out a measurement of a whopping 78 horsepower and 100 ft.-lb. of torque. Triple-digit torque figures? That’s domination territory.
Trucks usually do well in the IOE hunt, so the two-truck Pinewood Dirtbags (formerly Too Fast for LUV) will once again bring their ancient Chevy LUV pickup trucks looking for the IOE. Pizza Planet Delivery will also bring their own truck, a Mazda B2200, the second in the field alongside Pit Crew Revenge’s motorhome-bedecked B-Series (above), complete with curtains flowing in the breeze behind the Mazda at it goes literally tens of miles per hour.
B Team – Just Plain Stupid Lotus Elite is a car that should dominate on paper, especially with a V8 swap, but the car spends most weekends on jackstands as it seems to have inherited the LeMons-caliber Small Block Chevy issues with the swap while retaining sketchy British reliability. Dudes Ex Machina’s 1972 Plymouth Valiant has been one of the absolute worst LeMons cars in history, so even a mid-pack finish for the big green heap could net them IOE consideration.
Of course, no California LeMons race is truly complete without entries from Mike “Spank” Spangler (above, left), purveyor of British and otherwise bizarre machinery like the Harley-Davidson-powered Prius. He’ll be along with at least one new car, which may or may not be a stock Prius making an incredible amount frightening noises (though I believe he scratched plans to run the Prius for something else equally disturbing and/or out-of-place on a racetrack).
As always, feel free to point out errors of fact and judgment in the comments section. You can follow along on live timing with the Race Monitor app on smartphone or on the web here.