The 24 Hours of LeMons retreats to the series’ California stronghold this weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows for “Vodden the Hell Are We Doing?” Those squeamish about traffic management might want to sit this one out, as LeMons seeks to smash their own record for most cars in a race with 194 entries listed for this weekend. Naturally, the pre-race attrition rate will weed out some of those, but the previous record of 174 cars to record a lap seems attainable.
With so many entries in the field, there is a slight chance that a team of ringers in a cheatbucket might climb to the top of one of the classes, but in these very competitive California races, the best of the best usually top the timing and scoring charts. With weekend high temperatures soaring toward triple digits, the best and most fit drivers and cars should prevail. I can’t possibly cover the whole field in this preview, so feel free to peruse the unofficial entry list to make your own predictions (and then type them in ALL CAPS in the Comments section). As always, classing decisions are made at BS Inspections, so any predictions of classing are based on my experience with the series and with past classing decisions, which are of course subject to change.
West Coast LeMons races are renowned for having unparalleled depth; it takes a lot to beat the California hordes. A handful of squads can be counted on to spend time near the front while some consistent Top 10 finishers will look to graduate to the top of the field.
The Model T GT (#2 above) has racked up three wins already this year, two of which (Pacific Northworst and North Dallas Hooptie) required the T-Bucket racer to commute untowed to the the tracks where a handful of arrive-and-drives took it to the Winner’s Circle each time. In between (and just three weeks before Pacific Northworst), this team’s regular driving roster took a win at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in 100-degree weather. If those things don’t make a team proven, I don’t know what does. The Model T GT, even if it gets a couple of field-leveling penalty laps, is the clear favorite.
Ordinarily, I’d put a couple of BMW 5 Series as the top teams to watch, but Buttonwillow runners up and Sears Pointless winners If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk are sitting out Thunderhill. As such, Cerveza Racing will carry the 5 Series flag in their E28, hoping to pick up their second win of the year. They’ve made the podium in every 2013 California race, so if the Model GT stumbles, the Most Interesting Crapcan in the World should be there to take the lead.
They’ve seemed a little off their game this season, but Eyesore Racing and their turbocharged Mazda Miata remain contenders nevertheless. Their best finish of the year was a 33rd place and they’ve never won at Thunderhill, but Eyesore still have enough of the pieces from their 2010 National Championship to win a race.
As usual, a crowd of BMW 3 Series should comprise part of the hunt for a win. Ace Pump Racing’s E36 has improved steadily and should compete. This season’s B.F.E. GP winners Raized Crazy (above) bumped that event’s three-time winners, Ghetto Motorsports, from Victory Lane and they’ll hope to play spoiler to Thunderhill’s usual suspects, too. The veteran B-Team: Kill Phil E30 and the two-E30 Bozos Suckos squads also could factor into the Top 10. Keep an eye on the Mutter Fokker E30, which would be a strong bet for the podium if you could somehow find a LeMons bookie.
Our handpicked longshot from Buttonwillow, OLD Fast Auto Race Team & Sons, finished a disappointing 20th place at that race with their Porsche 924S. It’s probably unfair to call them a longshot because of the team’s prolonged success, but I think they still have a fair shot at becoming the first winning Porsche in LeMons history.
A pair of race-winning Alfa Romeos should be Top 10-worthy, although neither possesses the frenetic pace that has characterized California winners this year. Team California Mille have campaigned their Alfetta since the series’ brawling early days, while East Coast transplants Scuderia Limoni lived at the top of the standings a few years ago. With some lucky breaks, each has a shot at the podium.
With that kind of depth, it may be hard for some slower cars to break the top five, but endurance racing has proven time and again that anything is possible. The experienced Bunny With or Without a Pancake on Its Head Volkswagen Rabbit (above), the Communists R Us BMW E21, and The Fat and the Furious Mazda Miata have all hung around the Top 10 previously. If you like your successful crapcans more obscure, Clergy MC’s B13 Sentra-based Nissan NX2000 has run tons of races and managed a number of Top 10 finishes.
Dust N Debris have gone from Index of Effluency winners to serious contenders. Their Dodge Shadow is far and away the best K-Car derivative to have run in a crapcan race. Quick driver changes make a huge difference for them, but their drivers are no slouches, either.
While I don’t expect them to compete, a number of “Same name, different car” slots occupy the entry list. Chief among these are Angry Hamster Racing and As Seen on TV Racing, who both show as running 1988 Toyota MR2s. Angry Hamsters famously ran the bonkers Honda CBR-powered Honda Z600, which likely fell afoul of the minimum wheelbase rules for 2013. As Seen on TV campaigned a surprisingly capable Kia Rio, which probably maxed out its potential with a 26th place finish at Sears Pointless 2013 (Actually, the team debuted their MR2 at this race alongside the Kia). In addition, the much-famed Death Cab Redux V8-swapped Volvo has changed hands again. It remains the only Volvo to have won a crapcan race, but time will tell how its new owners manage it.
Our handpicked longshot is a deserving team that’s been in the thick of competition since early 2010. Having finished second-place before, they may not be considered a longshot, but Roadrace Jones (formerly Lipstick on a Pig) run solid races in their Nissan Sentra SE-R (above) and may fill the void left by If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk’s absence. They’re probably more of a good bet than a longshot, but I have a hunch this could very well be their race.
More longshots: Snowspeeder Pilots Association (Toyota MR2), The Faustest Team (BMW E30), Pistola Alto (Nissan 300ZX), The Cannonball Bandits (Toyota Supra), Still Historically Hopeless (Toyota Supra), The Flying Scotsmen (2 BMW E30s)
LeMons’ classing system makes predicting the class battles a bit difficult, but some types seem earmarked for the middle class. As with everything else in a 190-car field, Class B possesses great depth. For White Trash Ken/White Trash Barbie Racing, the best way to fight numbers is with numbers. This team will run what should be six (6!) Class B entries with five Saturn SCs alongside the team’s old Barbie Ford Crown Victoria (above). This kind of depth allows a team to throw their full weight behind a car (or two) that finds itself in a competitive position. Sure, they’ve never really been in that position with the Saturns, of course, but bringing five of GM’s disposable, plastic-clad economy cars is worth a mention anyway.
None of the White Trash cars are actually fast, so if IWannaROC’s traditionally quick Chevy Camaro can hold together, it could pace the way to Class B. That’s a tougher trick than it sounds; GM’s F-Body generally finds endurance racing disagreeable and its higher fuel consumption rate can make a huge difference in a class of attrition.
If you’re a Diamond-Star Motors fan, Chump Ganassee Targee Racing’s Eagle Talon regularly punches above its weight. The BLowe’s Racing Mitsubishi Eclipse runs solid races as well, though it’s possible that both cars could end up in Class A because of their past successes. The Hot Dogs must be Level 317 DSM Wizards by now for their repeated success with a Chrysler Conquest TSi, a platform some writers generally regard as one of the worst LeMons cars of all time.
If you’re really into obscure Japanese sportscars, Useless Old People will bring Handling by Lotus to LeMons with their Isuzu Impulse (above). This could conceivably end up in any of the three classes; an Impulse has finished as high as second-place before, but the type generally finish somewhere in the middle of the field.
If the race comes down to the mere issues of staying together, the Ford Crown Victorias and Volvo 240s in the field should be on your radar. Panting Polar Bear Racing (Crown Vic) and Bernal Dads Racing (Volvo 240) are both very experienced teams who have worked out many of their cars’ bugs.
Class C and Index of Effluency
The bottom class of LeMons is occupied by a number of very experienced teams and a vast array of machinery. That said, we think 1980s Chrysler is the marquee to watch at Thunderhill. Soccer Moms’
turbocharged, five-speed Dodge Caravan is a former Class C and IOE winner that will probably always be in Class C because, at the day’s end, it’s still a minivan. Last year, the team added Plymouth Scamp, Haulin’ Ass (above), to their stable. This team knows every bolt on that era of Chryslers, so consider them the class favorites.
The 2013 LeMons regular K-It-Fwd Plymouth Reliant will find its way to Thunderhill for another act of masochism and likely disappointment. Team Sputnik will field the Reliant for the second time this year and hope it doesn’t crumble to pieces.
The Class C version of the Superfriends bring a few class wins to bear in the form of Killer ZomBees MG MGB, Team Tinyvette’s freshly rebuilt Opel GT, and Stick Figure Racing’s two-car/four-engined Toyota MR2/Corolla team. Tinyvette was originally supposed to be making a top-speed run on the Salt Flats at Bonneville, but the event was canceled. The team will hope the Opel’s freshly rebuilt engine can power them to a third Class C win. The Freewheelin’ Pikers Saab 96 probably lacks a real chance to win Class C, but they’re awesome enough to merit a mention.
If E30s are the Class A “Easy Button,” then pickup trucks are the Class C analogue. Six teams bring their pickups to the Class C duel: Pit Crew Revenge (Mazda B2200), Too Fast for Lüv (2 Chevy LUVs), The A-Lone Ranger (Ford Ranger), Gross Polluters Racing Team (GMC Sonoma), and the veteran Licensed to Ill Chevy Chevy S10, which may have graduated to Class B after a string of successful results. Maybe teams are catching on that trucks are built to handle abuse that, while perhaps not the same as endurance racing, is generally as rigorous.
The Buttonwillow Class C-winning Bozos Suckos Volkswagen Beetle may have earned a promotion to Class B with their Subaru motor, but look for its Easy 908/14 Porsche 914 cousin to have a shot at Class C. If you like German Class C contenders, Dirty Little Freaks diesel Mercedes (above) has improved to become a pretty reliable crapcan while Miami Vice bring a startlingly depreciated BMW 850 that could be an opulent, V12-powered addition to the Class C Winner’s Club.
Other Class C/Index of Effluency contenders: Pink Lloyd (Lloyd Alexander), Dudes Ex Machina (Plymouth Valiant), Zerobelow (Chevy Corvair), Monster’s Inc. Racing (BMW E12), and Team Viva La Vega (Chevy Vega).
[Photos: Murilee Martin]