After a short two-month “offseason,” the 24 Hours of LeMons begins its seventh season at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park with the ‘Shine Country Classic. The race marks the series’ first visit to the 2.38-mile track. With inspections later than normal on Friday and a split session Sunday, the timetable differs slightly from normal LeMons races, but expect the attrition-riddled, nail-biting, hooptie-filled madness that has exemplified LeMons for its previous six(ish) seasons. Follow the jump for more on the series opener.
The racing should be as good as ever, but I’ll let some numbers speak to the variety found in this race’s 68 entries:
- 4 previous winners with 13 combined wins
- 23 different models of car
- 4 BMWs (two E30, two E36), which is equal to the number of Ford Fox Bodies (three Mustangs and a Thunderbird)
- 19 Hondas and Acuras. They make up more than a quarter of the field
- 20 states represented on the entry list with teams towing from as far away as Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming.
- 5 or so brand-new teams, meaning lots of very experienced cars and teams will compete in all three classes
As always, class predictions are based on past classing decisions and this writer’s sufficiently useless knowledge of the series. Don’t want to take my word for it? Here is the full (unofficial) entry list for Barber.
Let’s get to it.
With at least half of the field capable of turning out a Top 10 performance, this could be a tough race to handicap. One of the four previous race winners (three of which have multiple wins) should be the first to the checkered flag, but there’s plenty of intrigue in that only two of those four have ever raced heads-up in the past.
The Silver Errors – Ziegel Scheißaus finished 2013 in style with a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in October. It was their second victory of the season and capped off a year in which they scored Top 10 finishes in each of their five races. They return to LeMons with the same 1986 Mercedes 190E (above) but a new name: RC Spiders. When they win, they run long stints with good laps while managing traffic cleanly. Traffic should not be a huge issue at Barber, so look for their speed to factor heavily into the results.
Last year, Ghetto Motorsports debuted a new East Coast car, a second-generation Mazda RX-7. It ran two LeMons races, scoring a Top 10 in its debut and a win three months later at Summit Point Raceway. The victory was the team’s fourth, having won three consecutive races with a first-generation RX-7 based in Colorado. They likely won’t have the pace to run neck-and-neck with RC Spiders (who they’ve never raced), but the Ghetto folks have been around LeMons for a long time and know how to win.
Six-time winners Hong Norrth Racing will drag their Mazda MX-3 to Barber from their home base in Georgia. The Hongs haven’t won a LeMons race since late 2012, but they scored an impressive 1-2 finish with both of their MX-3s (though they’ll only run one at Barber) at a recent ChumpCar. Like Ghetto Motorsports, the MX-3 may not have the ultimate pace of the Merc, but Hong Norrth’s hotshoes are startlingly quick in their 130-horsepower whip.
Chicago’s Save the Ta-Tas Chevy Camaro became the first F-Body to take an overall win last June at Autobahn Country Club. With very quick drivers and a terrific setup, the Ta-Tas are a good bet to set the race’s fastest lap. They will need the pace to make up for abysmal fuel consumption, but if they can keep the Camaro in one piece, their speed should be sufficient to keep the top of the timing sheet interesting.
After the four previous winners, a pair of Hondas with a second-place finish and a few Top 10s each should find themselves in podium contention. Landshark came out on the short end of the closest LeMons finish in history with their Acura Integra. After their initial few races with mechanical and black flag trouble, Landshark closed 2013 out with a Top 10 at MSR-Houston’s 24-hour race and their runner-up showing at Road America. Look for the Honda Civic of Rolling Chicane Racing (above) to seek redemption after finishing a distant second place to the Model T GT’s domination at Eagles Canyon last May. It was their second Top 10 finish, too, so they could be a nice darkhorse at Barber.
The field drops off a bit after that, but the former Top 10 Hondas of Zero Energy Racing (Del Sol) and Full Tilt Boogie (2002 Civic Si) possess a fighting chance for a podium. Hung South, somehow peripherally related to the Hong Norrth crew, netted a Top 10 finish in its debut at Carolina Motorsports Park last September. Monkey See Motorsports have the field’s best BMW and the team will start their first LeMons race after a couple of ChumpCar outings in their E30.
Keep an eye out for Flying Pigs Racing and their piggly Fox-Body Ford Mustang, my customary handpicked team to watch. The team debuted at Autobahn in October 2012 and ran well despite a little contact (above). At Gingerman in 2013, they would probably have finished in the Top 5, except an errant rock (or bounding sideview mirror or wayward Ford Tempor starter or something) smashed their front-mounted rental transponder into several small pieces. They lost a few laps while they obtained a replacement, dropping them out of contention despite a race free of mechanical issue. A quiet fifth-place finish at Autobahn last June should be a good indicator that these extremely nice fellows, despite their porcine body kit’s high-drag design, are capable of a podium if not a win.
More longshots: Team NonSequitur (Acura Integra), Honey Badger (Acura Integra), Terminally Confused (Two cars: Honda Civic and Honda CRX), Speedycop & His Gang of Outlaws (Honda Civic)
One could make a pretty convincing argument that Class B at Barber is actually the deepest division in this race. With several veteran teams bringing sorted B cars, expect a good fight here.
As always, a couple of previous Class B winners may or may not be admitted back to B with some handicap laps. Byte Marks Racing have suffered lately with their Ford Escort GT, which developed the relatively unusual habit of destroying Mazda B engines last year. Despite that, they bring a Class B victory to the track and they’ll plead their case to remain in B. The same goes for the Frankenstein Motorworks Honda Accord, which claimed a 22-lap class victory at MSR-Houston last fall over the much faster Oktoberfesters BMW E12. Their A20-powered Accord will run long stints; if they’re classed in B and given laps, expect their climb up the class standings to be slow and steady.
Not all Hondas are Class A caliber, especially when they’re equipped with absurd aerodynamics. Our Lady of Perpetual Downforce are a staple of Southern LeMons races and while their Civic sedan wants not for downforce, the Cessna wing section also creates a fair share of drag, one would imagine. They and Class B regulars Duff Beer Racing/Carolinahondas.com (ab0ve) should have a good time and may give Honda an outside chance at wins in classes A and B.
St. Louis racers Apocalyptic Racing have gone from heroic fixers on a hellacious weekend to Class B heavyweights over the last two seasons. Minor issues and mistakes have kept them from winning B, but their truck-motored, rear-drive Toyota Celica has been in the class discussion at most recent races. Fellow Midwesterners from White Trash Racing usually possess a fighting chance with their single-cam Dodge Neon and are seldom seen without a smile on their collective faces.
If Subarus are your bag, Junk Male’s Outback and the PBR Impreza carry the curse of the Pleiades, but they’ve been around the crapcan block a time or two and could surprise. The same goes for Purple Hays‘ four-cylinder Mustang, which is probably the most reliable pony car variant you can bring to a LeMons race. Sputnik will drag their non-SE-R Nissan Sentra from Maryland while the more local Squirting Coronas and The Syndicate have the luxurious parts of this race cornered with a Mercedes 300E and a Mercedes 560SEL, respectively.
This race features really only one characteristic freak of LeMons engineering (that I know of) and it’s one of my favorites: Knoxvegas Lowballers‘ Duratec V6-powered Geo Metro (above). The Georassic Park Metro goes like hell and the team have tuned it at autocrosses with un-LeMons-like precision. Typically, they’ve run in Class B but have struggled enough with reliability to stay out of the class hunt. To remedy this, they’ll be bringing a second entry, a Ford Contour SVT, because adding entries solves all reliability problems and never creates twice the headaches.
Loooking for a real redemption story? Swamp Shack Maniacs’ hopeless carburated Honda Prelude returns to LeMons after a failed attempt to get it onto the track at Grand Bayou in 2011. More than two years later, the team may have finally pieced together a working drivetrain for their Honda and I am eager to see what happens with it.
The lowest class will lack big numbers like at other races, but look for the Class C entries to make up for that with the quality of their general hooptieness. And by “quality,” I of course mean “low, low quality.”
The frontrunners for a class win here border on Class B territory. TARP Racing’s Simca-bodied Toyota MR2 has already won Class C and likely graduated to B. Mock Grass Racing’s Kia Sephia is probably bad enough to run in Class C, although Kias are generally in the B-/C+ range so their ability to contend will depend on how the judges see the car at BS Inspection.
If both of those cars end up in B, then the NSF Racing Mitsubishi Cordia may possess half a chance at winning Class C. Many things feel wrong about typing that, but the NSF crew have made a habit of running the absolute worst LeMons cars (They are the pushers of the co-HCOTY-winning K-Car) and the Cordia may be the worst of that bunch. Still, if it can avoid the historically bad Mitsubishi juju, NSF’s Cordia could score an unlikely win.
NSF will have their hands full with a couple of oil burners. Idle Clatter’s Futurama-themed diesel Mercedes 300 took home a surprising Index of Effluency win at CMP last fall in the car’s debut. The diesel Benzes can take a pounding and, in a class where staying on the track can be enough to win, Idle Clatter could have a leg up out of sheer durability.
The second diesel is a veteran and one of the most godawful slow cars ever put on a racetrack. Despite this, Zero Budget Racing’s diesel Chevy Chevette won their own IOE in 2012 (not to mention a second IOE with their diesel I-Mark last year) and put on a show-stopping encore with an unlikely and fortuitous class win at Autobahn last summer. Even with a class win, the Chevette would be (still more) hopeless in Class B, so look for them to stay in C. Additionally, Zero Budget will debut a new, non-diesel Class C car. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it remains one of the cars LeMons organizers have most wanted to see.
Sputnik will bring a second entry, allegedly. I don’t know much about it, but the car is registered as a 1971 Plymouth Fury. Any classic Mopar’s performance depends heavily on which lump is between the front wheels, but the Slant Six has proved itself capable and durable in the past with most Chrysler V8s struggling to run as well.
Finally, Speedycop will bring yet another mystery entry. Shown on the entry list as a 1991 Toyota MR2, this really could be anything, though I’ve heard rumor that his former Lancia Scorpion-clad MR2 was being rebuilt by its New England caretakers. If it’s not that, then your guess is as good as mine, but the man seldom disappoints.
[Photos: Murilee Martin]