Yeah, I’m not below this level of “READ ME” headline, but how else am I supposed to get people’s attention to read a story comparing stint lengths and crunching all of the numbers that will tell you how to win a couple hundred bucks in nickels at a 24 Hours of LeMons race? Actually, I’m not even going to tell you how to do it; I’m just going to gloss over all of the backbreaking preparation work that teams do to explain how the most recent LeMons winners won their winnings.
This introduction just keeps getting longer and more pointless, so let’s cut to the chase: If you want to win, your whole team has to be as efficient as your meager collective brain power and ability allow. Now that you’re almost certainly hooked and not even considering going elsewhere, follow the jump to learn all the Inner LeMons Sanctum super secrets only available to those with a free MyLaps account, a spreadsheet program, and a couple hours of spare time.
In case you’re completely lost but made the jump for some soon-to-be-regretted reason, the 24 Hours of LeMons is a budget endurance racing series: Bring a $500 car filled to the brim with (budget-exempt) safety equipment, run it for 14-1/2 hours over a weekend, and walk away with prize money for winning one of the three classes (Good [A], Bad [B], and Ugly [C] to abbreviate) if that’s the sort of thing you’re into (though plenty just show up to get some seat and wrench time and to make the social rounds…LeMoneers are socially awkward animals who somehow socialize well only with each other, as shown immediately above).
Modern big-dollar endurance racing builders have created uber-reliable cars, meaning racing at legendary places like Le Mans or Sebring has evolved into long-distance sprints. It’s exciting and break-neck, sure, but it’s also a fairly recent development.
For most of endurance racing’s history, however, speed has taken a back seat to efficiency, and this is where I bring this article back from the tangential brink: LeMons’ winners tend to demonstrate that old-school emphasis of efficiency and reliability over pure speed. This conjures up images of fuel-sipping hypermiling perhaps, but what it really means is that teams who spend the most time on the track have a better chance of winning. When we look at some key numbers, the most recent LeMons race at Eagles Canyon Raceway gives us a good chance to show what LeMons’ efficiency really means.
But first, a paragraph of explanation: For lack of a better word in this instance, “stint” is used to describe the time spent between visits to the pit, paddock, and Penalty Box. I understand this word in endurance racing generally means “time a driver spends in the car,” but LeMons’ timing is not so subtle to differentiate between why time off track is occurring, let alone indicating that a driver change has taken place. As such, there are a number of reasons for coming off track: scheduled driver change, mechanical issue, black flag/Penalty Box visit, the car died on track, the driver inexplicably respects his or her codrivers too much to micturate in the racing seat that’s worth more than the car itself, etc. I could attempt to guess the reasons for each stop, but there’s no need: Every stop—even a necessary one for fuel—reduces the team’s efficiency.
So it stands to reason that a successful team (A) makes fewer stops total, (B) spends more time on the track between stops, and (C) spends the shortest possible amount of time off the track during any stop. I am, of course, repeating myself and making common-sense statements, but the end result here should demonstrate that race-long efficiency wins out over pure speed (most of the time). We’ll look at the Top 10 finishers from Eagles Canyon Raceway as well as the top three finishers in Class C to mete this out.
If you want the data, you can get it in raw form from the MyLaps race results (You’ll need a free account to get individual lap times, accessed by clicking the team name) or you can get the abbreviated version on this spreadsheet, where I’ve already done some of the legwork. But once you strip it down, this is what you get:
|Avg Length (laps)
||Avg Stop Time||Avg Lap Time||Lap Total|
|1||Back to the Past||6||42.67||6:37||02:30.9||256|
|5||Basil Weenie Racing||9||27.00||8:00||02:35.1||243|
|6||Lil Pecker Poorvette||12||20.00||9:18||02:30.9||240|
|Class Pos||Class C Team||# Stints||Avg Length||Avg Stop Time||Avg Lap Time||Lap Total|
It’s all there for you to compare stint lengths, stop times (includes the in-lap), and lap times (excludes in-laps). If you want to know the number of stops each team made, only each final stint has no corresponding pit stop, so the number of stops is two fewer than the number of stints.
So what do those numbers really mean? Let’s take a look at some of them a bit more closely:
- The only thing really separating the top two cars is the the length of time spent stopped in the pits. Team Shocker’s average stop time was inflated by a 25-minute stop Saturday, but their Integra otherwise ran blow-for-blow with the race-winning Nissan 300ZX from Back to the Past. In fact, Team Shocker were two seconds per lap faster meaning that one long stop may have kept them from winning, though it’s foolhardy in endurance racing to point to any one factor in determining outcomes.
- With regard to pure speed, the Lil Pecker Poorvette was as fast as Back to the Past over the course of the weekend, but speed is certainly not everything. Making 10 in-race stops will keep any car out of the winner’s circle, and the C4 Chevy Corvette’s speed was a moot point with more than an hour spent off the track. That said, Class B runners up TARP were slow and made many stops, but they were much shorter stops. Their Simca 1000-clad Toyota MR2 finished a surprising P10 overall.
- Class B winners TGTW Offroad Racing finished Saturday P2 overall, though they never looked like they’d threaten the eventual winners. Still, the tough Jeep Cherokee’s fourth-place finish and class win demonstrate the importance of reliability and teamwork. They made very quick driver changes and no real mistakes en route to their tremendous finish. If you’re taking notes for some some strange reason, jot down that a Jeep Cherokee was more efficient than every single Honda in the field except one. Excellent penmanship; your notes get a “+” for today.
- Futility Motorsports started the race with five penalty laps assigned to their BMW E36. As it turns out, the Bimmer wasn’t terribly fast, but it was reliable for a change and finished P7 overall with a lap total that would have gained them a couple of places, sans penalty laps.
- Finally, Sandbaggin Brah’s Honda Civic overtook the Cooper Saloon Mazda 626 in the last corner before the checkered flag flew on the weather-shortened race. By the numbers, these two cars ran almost identical races with the Cooper Saloon’s superior pace matching up evenly with the Civic’s fewer stops. This is the nut of endurance racing: Sometimes strategies don’t play out until the closing minutes of a race.
The Class C race is interesting enough to merit its own discussion, so I’ll repost the numbers below in case you don’t feel compelled to scroll up. Stay with me, because this follows some of the race’s overall narrative. Or don’t stay with me because you’re nodding off to sleep. Either way is fine, so long as I’m helping you, dear reader, on some fundamental level.
|Class Pos||Class C Team||# Stints||Avg Length||Avg Stop Time||Avg Lap Time||Lap Total|
The race began Saturday morning with Eagles Canyon enshrouded by soupy fog, meaning that lap times were completely wretched. The fastest teams struggled to break the 3:00 mark, though the fog cleared after a couple hours and teams with already-slow cars found themselves at a crawl.
Conveniently, Speedy Monzales made two long stops in the race’s opening hours, losing about half of that first hour. With competitors making laps in the 3:30 range, losing 30 minutes of racing meant they’d only have to make up about 8-10 laps on their Class C competitors. By also having fewer of those slow laps, Speedy Monzales’ average lap time is probably somewhat artificially altered, but even if you add five seconds to their average lap time to accommodate this, their Chevy Monza was nearly 10 seconds faster than either of the serious class contenders.
So what you see is a team who found some luck (usually somewhat necessary to win Class C) in their early misfortune and then who had a fast-enough car to outrun the competition over the long race. Naturally, the nature of Class C is that any of the cars can break suddenly without notice, so had this been a full-distance race, the outcome may well have been different, but Speedy Monzales used their janky Malaise Era speed to get a much-deserved class win.
The runners up in Class C—the Mercedes 450SLC of The Syndicate (above)—was truly a tortoise, barely breaking 3:00 at all. Some later investigation of the old Merc V8 showed an absurd amount of wear on the camshafts, which explained the car being way down on power yet extremely economical. At one point, the SLC clocked 67 laps without a stop, which comes out to around 3-1/2 hours and a third of the car’s total laps for the weekend. In one sitting.
In 3-1/2 hours, you can watch Doctor Zhivago and still have time left over to organize your own Bolshevik movement.I’m not one to imply that there’s ever a good time to whiz in the seat, but this would have been a good time to whiz in the seat. Just to prove this point, I watched Doctor Zhivago recently and peed on the couch around the two-hour mark. For science. Luckily, the local grocer had a coupon for steam cleaner rental.
Anyway, it’s interesting that all three viable Class C competitors clocked average stop times in the 10-11 minute range. I can’t really explain that other than to offer that it’s either a chancy fluke of small sample size or a rough indicator that every Class C car has to make longer stops (A) for maintenance purposes [These are generally the worst of the worst] or simply (B) because the type of team who brings a Slant Six-powered Dodge Dart to race on a road course isn’t the type of team who’s necessarily in a big hurry.
Did you like this overwrought, mostly circuitous way of saying that cars that don’t break tend to win LeMons races? Would you like to see more? Would you like me to shut up already and show the real way to dominate a race with a Toyota Solara? Here’s the secret:
This is the place where I put that Too-Long-Didn’t-Read-Conclusion-Even-Though-No-One-Is-Going-To-Scroll-Through-To-Find-A-TL:DR-Summary: Run long, consistent stints and don’t break the car. Sometimes a driver has to pee during a 175-minute stint, but if you’re committed to winning $400 in nickels for an overall win, surely you (or your codrivers) will urinate (only if need be) in the most efficient way, which is to say “in the car at speed.” Just keep a stack of towels in your pit box and commit a small portion of the winnings to the dry cleaning bill. It’ll all be worth it to Dominate.
[Source: MyLaps, Specialty timing | Photos: Murilee Martin]