24 Hours of LeMons: 'There Goes the Neighborhood' preview

NJMP_Lede The 24 Hours of LeMons makes its second foray this season into the hinterlands of southern New Jersey to New Jersey Motorsports Park. This weekend’s “There Goes the Neighborhood” will again run NJMP’s longer Thunderbolt configuration, a very fast track that will be packed with 130 entries. Aggressive driving played a huge part in the earlier spring race there, so expect chaos out of the gate. With early-week forecasts calling for a 50 percent chance of rain Sunday, things could get nutty. East Coast races in LeMons have developed a reputation for drawing multicar teams to enter and this race see 12 such multicar teams. The field also includes European cars aplenty with 25 BMWs, 10 water-cooled Volkswagens, and 10 Volvos among the heaps. You can navigate the entire field via the unofficial entry list here, but read on after the break to get the Cliff notes on the race ahead of this weekend.

Sputnik

Class C

As always, Class C will represent the absolute best parts of LeMons, namely cars that are patently terrible and/or never intended to race. This New Jersey field will draw a lot of the usual suspects, but three is the magic number in the slowest and hooptie-est class Three teams will field three heaps each in their quests for the Index of Effluence and/or Class C victory. Let’s take a look at those and the other most-effluent entries. This list starts with Team Sputnik, a Maryland team anchored by a crazy Russian that once (before their entanglement with “The K Car“) nabbed three consecutive Class C wins in a Nissan Stanza Wagon. This race will find Sputnik fielding a Porsche 924 powered by a four-cylinder engine from a proletarian-grade B13 Nissan Sentra (above). To match that, they will also debut their Stanza Wagon’s spiritual successor, a 2000 Nissan Quest minivan. Before you laugh too hard, know that vans have performed reasonably well in LeMons. Their third entry is listed as a Geo Metro, which might be the sanest thing they’ll run. Stock three-cylinder Metros are formidable Class C entries with the capability to run extra-long stints at remarkably slow speed without breaking. Unless this is Speedycop’s old Geo Metro Limo, in which case it’s just another hopeless heap in Sputniks’ stable. Speaking of, Speedycop & the Gang of Outlaws will run their own substantially sized paddock. The actual Speedycop car count is five cars, but one of those is the ’91 Toyota MR2 of a satellite team and another Speedy’s old Lexus SC400 now raced by our good friends at Blipshift. That leaves three (low-)quality entries, none of which happens to be a rusty old dinosaur like the one-speed Ford Thunderbird. Naturally, only one entry is actually listed: His Suzuki X-90, a former Class C and IOE winner. The others are noted by characters like “???” and “Surprise!” but expect one to be a quality Class B entry (possibly the Honda Accordion) as Speedycop still seeks a middle-class win. The final entry certainly falls in Class C and while I’ve been granted the privilege of knowing what it is, I was told I’d be exiled to a remote island by Speedycop’s coworkers if I leaked what it is. You’ll just have to be surprised. The final trio are Jersey locals, they of course being the venerable and party-loving Three Pedal Mafia. Sure, their Honda Civic Wagovan and GM V6-swapped Triumph TR7 will probably land in Class B, but they remain adequately effluent through osmosis (Effmosis? No, I don’t know what that sentence means, either). The star of the TPM stable remains The Boat, a 1971 Sea Sprite mounted on a Chevy S10 frame. Some rough play at this spring’s New Jersey race required many hours of fiberglass work to repair the hull, but The Boat will hope to at last capture a Class C win after many, many near misses.

Saab_Sonett
Nick Pon/24 Hours of LeMons photo
Technically, Sinical Racing will also bring three entries, although one of them is a super-boring Class A BMW. In Class C, however, they’ll race the world’s worst “Saab Sonett” (above) alongside an also-extremely-terrible Volkswagen Beetle. BMW teams, take note of the 2:1 ratio of crap cars to cheatermobiles. The Sonett isn’t the only old Saab in the entry list, though; Full Nelson’s Geo Metro-powered 96 is always a slow-and-steady contender for the class win, which has so far eluded them. Class C usually brings the goods in terms of British cars and again, LeMons delivers. Super Grover’s Rover P6 returns after an easy Index of Effluence win at NJMP earlier this year while Lucky 7 brings a Triumph TR7, always a welcome car  in the LeMons paddock. Brick If you’re looking for swiss-cheesed American iron in Class C, then Prompt Critical’s Ford Capri and Live Wire’s Chevy S10 should carry the stars-and-bars proudly in the Working Class. You may also see Dumb as a Brick’s sprint-car-wing-equipped, Pinto-engined Mustang (above) in C alongside Fat Tire’s Chevy Monza, although each of those cars are likely to produce something of a classing dilemma for the judges. Finally, Elmo’s Revenge at long last nabbed a Class B win with their beaten and bruised Saturn SL2 in 2013. Rather than take their chances with the Saturn at this race, they’ve instead elected to bring Elmo’s Wagon of Death, a 1970 BMW 2800. What could possibly go wrong?  

Class B

Fast_Als The middle class on the East Coast races seems to revolve around fast cars with high attrition rather than cars too slow for Class A. Indeed, some cars, like the Fast Al’s Race Team (F.A.R.T., get it?!) Volvo 740 (above) have been awfully fast in the past but have broken just enough to keep from winning the class. The big names to watch have been around LeMons for a long time and at least one or two will factor into the B outcome: Interceptor Motorsports (Ford Thunderbird), Low-T Sewing Circle (BMW E28), Brooklyn Bomb Squad (Audi 200), and DeCuzzi Racing Gulf A Fiero (Pontiac Fiero), the last of which I’d actually peg as the favorite. That said, Rally Baby’s Chevy V8-powered Mercedes 450SL could be a nice longshot with the team leaving almost their entire pile of BMWs and Audis (The loose racing collective own about two dozen or so current and future racecars) at home. That said, a new team registed as G-Tron show on the entry list with three Audi 90s. I have no idea what they’ll actually show up with (if anything), but here’s hoping they have them painted like the world’s worst R18 E-Tron Quattros. Mid_Life_Neon   Look for The Boss (Toyota Celica), Monger Garage (Subaru Impreza wagon), Silent But Deadly Racing (Ford Mustang), and Mid Life Crisis Racing 512’s #768 Dodge Neon (above, likely to do better than the team’s two Class A Camaros) to have an outside chance. I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to use the Class B section of these previews to highlight my favorite part of any LeMons entry list: Awesome team names. Most of these are new teams, hopeless teams, or hopeless new teams, but you can’t beat team names like Game of Crumplezones (Acura Integra), Woeful House (Volkswagen Jetta, though every car they bring inevitably ends up looking like this), My Old Kentucky Chrome (Mazda Miata), and Finding Nemo Floating Upside Down (Volvo 850).  

Class A

RealDime The real story at New Jersey for those trying to win outright is this: Can any of the five teams with runner-up finishes make that final leap to an overall win? All five are entirely capable and they’ll face off with two former winners; those seven teams probably have about a 90 percent chance of winning. Several teams beyond that could steal one, but they’ll need some good luck. More than anything, the teams that make the fewest mistakes in a large field will have the best chance to be in contention at the end of 14-1/2 hours. I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that the best only-runners-up car in the field should be RealDime Racing. Their Acura Integra’s (above) name parodies the famed American Honda racing team, but the relative newcomers have been downright impressive in their two outings. They debuted with a fourth-place finish at NJMP last August and then nearly won the race there in May. They make excellent fuel mileage and the car set the May race’s fastest lap. If they continue to remain reliable, they’ll be tough for anyone to beat. They’ll face staunch opposition from two teams with three runner-up finishes a piece. Keystone Kops’ two-Volvo team (#240 is a turbo Redblock, #242 has a Ford V8) have come oh-so-close to wins on several occasions only to fall afoul of lady luck. The #26 Alfa Romeo Syndicate Eccelente Milano (formerly Pro Crash Duh Nation) also has three second-place finishes to their credit, they also having been foiled by lady luck in the form of a wayward deer at Summit Point last summer. bertone The Massholes’ Ford Escort ZX2 finished second at New Hampshire last October, mostly by surviving in a red-misty race. No Escort has ever won outright and they could very well be the first. The final runner-up finisher is Vermont BertOne’s Volvo 262C (above), which finished second to Speedycop’s overall win at Gingerman on Easter Sunday this year. LeMons at NJMP in May saw a remarkable run during the 6-1/2 hours of Sunday running. Near-Orbital Space Monkeys, who have several runner-up finishes of their own, started the day with a handful of laps on RealDime Racing. The drivers stretched their Ford Mustang’s V8 to the limits of racing fuel efficiency, eeking out the entire race session on a single stop thanks to New Jersey racers’ collective lust for carnage and the resulting full-course cautions. The total margin of victory was less than two minutes, but the split day’s two stints remain two of the best in recent LeMons history. The only multiple winners in the field drive a truly remarkable car: Rust in the Wind’s Nissan 300ZX, powered by a turbocharged Saab engine. Very little about it makes sense, including the fact that it won back-to-back races in 2012 and 2013, but just go with the nutbars who built it. Frighteningly enough, they seem to know what they’re doing. SorryForParty You may not wish for Sorry for Party’s Pontiac Firebird (above) to knock on your door (an incident they’ll never live down), but their F-Body is likely the best of the rest. They finished P3 at one race and have been around LeMons long enough to know how to stay in the game. East Coast regulars FRS’ Ugly Uncle drive an unlikely entry, a Toyota Camry Solara, but they linger in the Top 10 at most races. One may have noticed that three of the top cars to watch are Volvos and if you look at the chart below, you’ll notice that Volvos have excelled at NJMP. The FastISH and the FURRiest run a very quick turbocharged 240 wagon, as do Swedish Mafia Racing. They’re all part of a cadre of Northeast Volvo teams that band together and help each other out. The Keystone Kops squad are frequently in the middle of the group and they run a dealership, so this is actually probably the closest thing you’ll find to “factory” support for LeMons racers (along with a certain Mazda engineer’s car). This preview has scarcely mentioned BMWs, mainly because while there are more than 20 of them, only a couple really likely to compete. Scuderia Regurgito once put a Fiat 131 in the Top 10 of a race to win Class C, but they switched to a BMW E36 last year. After some teething trouble, they parked it in the Top 10 this spring and certainly had the pace to finish higher than their sixth-place result. You might also expect 2-Broke 2-Care to run well after an eight-place finish in a small Sebring field a month ago; I expect that, too. Outside of that, the most entertaining BMWs are likely the E21s from European Dent Crisis and Wash Are We Doing Here? Does anyone else besides me think the E21 looks way better than the E30? Am I crazy? NotSoFresh Recent Class B winners Team Farfrumwinnin (Volkswagen Fox) and Not So Fresh of the Boat Racing (Oldmsmobile Delta 88, above) will have their work cut out for them if they end up in Class A, but they’re both great, unusual cars with enough pace to run deep into the Top 10. A Top 5 run isn’t even out of the question, but they’ll both need some luck for that to come to fruition. Here’s another team worth mentioning: SillyNannies have brought two cars, an Audi S6 and a Mazda Miata, to a number of a races. Those familiar with LeMons will guess that the Miata has finished higher than the Audi in most, if not all, races. Those familiar with LeMons would be absolutely wrong; somehow, the S6 has finished higher every single time. Could this be the first Audi to win LeMons? No, probably not. But it will be interesting to see where the #992 Audi finishes felative to the #299 Miata.

Nick Pon/24 Hours of LeMons photo
Nick Pon/24 Hours of LeMons photo
This race’s longshot isn’t so much of a “Here’s a team that could win” as a “Here’s a totally amazing car that never gets any recognition.” THis is Rusty Bolt Racing’s Porsche 944 (#58, above). If you close one eye and squint, it bears some resemblance to the Porsche 962 that in 1988 ran in IMSA GTP and at the Daytona 24 Hours in 1989 (driven by Mario and Michael Andretti) if a Porsche 962 was built by the unsteady hands of a Champagne of Beers enthusiast. Rusty Bolt have been racing LeMons since 2009 and while they’re unlikely to break the Top 10, they will be one of the most photogenic heaps on the racetrack. More longshots: J Team (Volkswagen Jetta), Legendary Racing (BMW E30), Mod Squad Racing (two Toyota MR2), Free-Man Racing (Acura Integra).  

Some important information
Event page There Goes the Neighborhood
About the track NJMP on Trackpedia
Saturday Session (EST) 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday Session (EST) 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
LeMons Lap Record (Lightning) 1:21.0 – Walk of Shame Racing (M52-swapped BMW E36)
LeMons Lap Record (Thunderbolt) 1:44.0 – Walk of Shame Racing (M52-swapped BMW E36)
Overall Winners 2011 – Team Cardorks (BMW E30)
2012 – Duct Tape Motorsports (BMW E30)
2013 – The Silver Errors – Ziegel Scheißhaus Racing (Mercedes 190E)
2014 (May) – Near-Orbital Space Monkeys (Ford Mustang)
Class B Winners 2011 – The Fastish and Furriest (Volvo 240)
2012 – Swedish Mafia Racing (Volvo 240)
2013 – Bill Danger (Honda Accord)
2014 – Team Farfrumwinnin (Volkswagen Fox)
Class C Winners 2011 – Vermont Volvocheros (Volvo 240)
2012 – Vermont Maple Runners (Volvo 262C Bertone)
2013 – The B Team (Ford Escort)
2014 – The Little Engine That Shouldn’t (Toyota Corolla)
Index of Effluency Winners 2011 – Gormless Racing (MGB-GT)
2012 – 3 Pedal Mafia (Sea Sprite/Chevy S-10)
2013 – Speedycop & The Gang of Outlaws (Geo Metro Limo)
2014 – Super Grover (1969 Rover P6B)

  [Photos: Murilee Martin except where noted]  

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