New Jersey may not draw the world’s richest racing series in 2014, but this weekend the Garden State will host its largest current race when the 24 Hours of LeMons strolls into the New Jersey Motorsports Park paddock. Sure, NJMP’s annual schedule may feature ARCA, the famous SCCA Devil in the Dark endurance race, and the odd Grand-Am weekend, but the 2013 edition of LeMons’ Real Hoopties of New Jersey will physically outnumber those fields combined with a whopping 139-car entry list. On the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt circuit, that gives each entrant about 85 feet of track to itself. The swollen entry list features 12 multicar teams, which comprise nearly a third of the field. Early-week forecasts for the Millville circuit call for high temperatures around 90 with little chance for rain, so weather should only factor into in-car temperatures.
Without further adieu, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this substantial field to look at some of the overall and class favorites. As always with these previews, class decisions are made at the track by the BS judges, so any assumptions about classing are based on my experience with the series and with recent classing decisions. If you don’t trust our judgment, find the entry list here.
LeMons’ fastest class, also known as the Prayer of Winning (PW) class, contains many teams familiar to LeMons’ Eastern Region. Of note are 22 BMW 3 Series (13 E30s and nine E36s), meaning that something like one in four cars in the class will sport the kidney grills.
Ordinarily, we’d lead off with cars most likely to win, but one team’s sheer volume merits mention first. Rally Baby Racing and its Valsalva Motorsports affiliate account for an astonishing 13 entries in the race, at least eight of which will run in Class A. This is far and away the largest multicar crapcan entry and probably the biggest such effort in any form of motorsports. Expect the Valsalva “beer can” E36 (#143, above) and the Rally Baby Racing I E30 (#469 formerly known as Duct Tape Motorsports) to be the top competitors from the collective, but with a host of BMWs at their disposal, one can’t dismiss any of their Class A cars. Rally Baby will also debut a new entry, the build of which can(not) be seen here.
As for the team most likely to win, incongruous racecar builds remain my favorite raison d’être for LeMons. They are spectacular in their existence and are stupendous when successful. To that end, Rust in the Wind answered nobody’s biggest automotive questions with their Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX. The two-time winners found the formula for Z-car success after ditching its problematic drivetrain and shoving a turbocharged Saab 900 engine (mostly) under the bonnet.
A more standard two-time winner can be found in the Bill Danger Honda Accord. These veteran racers crusade a moderately quick car, but solid strategy and clean driving carry them to the podium’s top step. They won’t outrun any of the top competitors on pace, but look for their reliable Honda to creep up the standings throughout the weekend.
Pro Crash Duh Nation (above) became minor Internet celebrities when their Alfa Romeo Milano tagged a deer at Summit Point Raceway while leading Capitol Offense. The team repaired the windshield in short order but were ultimately sidelined by a bevy of mechanical failures. This Alfa squad have finished runners up three times and will try again to better that finish. Near-Orbital Space Monkeys should end as the highest-finishing American car in their V8 Ford Mustang, which usually resides near the field’s sharp end alongside Pro Crash Duh Nation and has similarly just missed victory.
Keystone Kops are yet another hard-luck squad in the Eastern Region; each of the team’s two Volvo 240s (one turbocharged and one with a Ford V8) has finished in second place, including a narrow defeat at the hands of Bill Danger this Spring at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Several other teams regularly visit the Top 10 in their Volvo bricks: Swedish Mafia Racing (Volvo 240), FastISH and Furriest (Volvo 240), Bert One (Volvo 262C Bertone Coupe), and Fast Al’s Race Team (Volvo 740). No stock-engined brick has won a LeMons race yet, but the Kops possess the best chance in this group to do so.
BMWs will factor somewhere into the overall race competition. Death Race run a very competent E28 that was knocked out of contention at New Hampshire by contact. Walk of Shame will fight the Keystone Kops’ V8-swapped Volvo for fastest lap, though their E36 has yet to stay together well enough for the speed to matter.
In a field chock full o’ BMWs, The Silver Errors – Ziegel Scheißhaus (above) take on Bavaria with their lightning-quick Mercedes 190E. The Errors have improved consistently since the start of 2012 and will be one of the fastest four or five teams in the field. They’ve also nabbed a couple of podiums and could be a wild car if the weekend comes down to a late-race sprint.
Two unexpected front-wheel drive entrees have finished in the Top 10 a couple times and hold an outside chance at winning. Massholes’ Ford Escort ZX2 spent some time at the top of the standings but came up short of a podium in 2012. FRS’s Ugly Uncle unboxed a Toyota Camry Solara and succeeded where others have failed at making a trackworthy appliance.
Here’s where I put a bunch of the good BMW teams in one paragraph together: Cardorks (three-car team with an E30, E36, and an Acura Integra), Buckshot Motorsports (E30), Overengineer’d Racing (E30), Make It Fast I’m in a Hurry (E36), Deconstruction (E36), and Schumacher Taxi Service (E30).
I always handpick a longshot for the race and this time I’ll hedge my bet on a three-car team: Mid Life Crisis Racing Team 512 (above) run a pair of General Motors F-Bodies alongside a Dodge Neon. They’ve consistently put multiple cars in the Top 25 at single races and should have a chance for a Top 10 or two. With the much-maligned Chevrolet Camaro taking the F-Body’s first victory recently, Mid Life could put together a Camaro encore that will turn heads.
Remember this team name: Desert Eagle. This Mitsubishi Eclipse group has entered three races and may have the worst record I’ve ever seen from a LeMons team: 59th (of 65), 99th (of 100), and 105th (of 117). I put their chances of winning somewhere in the neighborhood of LeMons’ Chief Perp Jay Lamm drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon with Rubens Barrichello in Irkutsk on a warm February morning, but if ever there was a team to cheer for in the hopes of avoiding the dreaded DSM crankwalk, it would be Desert Eagle.
Here are some more longshots: Zero Energy Racing (Honda Del Sol), Most Least Interesting Car in the World (Mercedes 260E), Come Monday Motorsports (Porsche 928), Scuderia Regurgito (BMW E36), and LEGENDary Racing (Acura Legend).
LeMons’ middle class, aptly named the No Prayer of Winning class, represents cars that may possess “sporting pedigree” (heavy emphasis on the quotes) but that fall short of overcoming the usual Class A fodder. Typical Class B cars are Ford Escorts and some Honda Civics, but the Real Hoopties of New Jersey features a glut of two heretofore unreliable makes: Volkswagen and Subaru. Though we’d expect some VWs to end up in Class A, there should be somewhere around six from each builder in Class B. Volkswagens have taken the odd class win here and there, while Subarus have had tougher luck staying together. Still, given their abundance, I’d suggest that a winner may emerge from either brand.
As stated above, Rally Baby Racing bring their own substantial community to the race with 13 entries. At least one of these, the #444 Rally Baby Racing F Audi 4000, has been near the top of Class B several times. It was the team’s original chariot, debuting in 2011 and finishing third overall at Stafford Motor Speedway that year. It’s struggled not to fall apart for an entire weekend lately despite leading the class late in the race several times. They’ll hope to not have their hopes dashed as they compete for wins in all three classes.
Another East Coast juggernaut, Three Pedal Mafia, brings a pair of very different Class B entries to Jersey. Like Rally Baby, the Mafia’s original chariot, a Honda Civic wagovan still makes the rounds and should be a good bet for the class lead. They’ll complement that econobox with their fairly quick, Index of Effluency-winning GM V6-powered Triumph TR7.
Maybe it’s just this writer’s opinion, but the Ford Contour and the related Mercury Cougar are underutilized platforms in crapcan racing. With relatively low weight and a plethora of power options, the Mondeo platform oozes potential. Look for Junkernauts‘ Ford Contour and Cougar Hunters‘ Mercury (ab0ve) to be in on the Class B fight.
The LeMons Supreme Court faces a tough classing decision with Punisher GP‘s matching Peugeot 405s. Few will dispute the 405’s ability to scuttle, but the inherent unreliability of its French roots lingers as a potential weekend-ender. Generally speaking, Punisher GP has kept their Pugs together better than most teams (flung rods notwithstanding), so I would expect the 405s to be among the more rapid Class B entrants.
As always, Class C (No Prayer of Finishing) promises fantastic entertainment to the casual car fan. Class C competitors are a special breed of crazy and genius as they bring strange and unexpected machinery to torture-test over a whole weekend. We’ve already mentioned Three Pedal Mafia‘s Class B efforts, but Class C is really the team’s specialty. In addition to the battle-tested Chevy S10-basedSea Sprite (above), these crazies will debut a car that lives at the apex of luxury (the only apex that matters in LeMons): a 1969 Rolls Royce Shadow in brown-over-brown finish. I don’t know if anyone really knows what to expect from a motorsports thrashing of the Rolls, but I do know it will be the presumptive favorite for LeMons’ top prize, thee Index of Effluncy.
LeMons Legend and famed Internet madman Speedycop rounds up his Gang of Outlaws for another wild outing. With a couple of Class A-ish entries and three Class C-ish entries, Speedycop will bring the usual entertainment to the masses . Don’t believe what you read on the entry lists (Speedycop entries are always subject to change), but do know that Speedycop claims he is debuting something as incredible as his self-propelled pop-up camper at NJMP.
Rally Baby Racing also has a foot in the Class C camp,. The team have upgraded their well-traveled, gorgeous Mercedes 450SL to Chevy Small-Block V8 power, so it will likely have jumped to Class B. However, Rally Baby is the latest team to take charge of the 1987 Plymouth Reliant that has traversed the country this LeMons season, mostly driving trailer-less from race to race. It’s yet to find race success and it took quite a beating on its latest cross-country journey to from Washington state, but who knows what to expect from the red, white, and blue Iacocca-mobile?
The Index of Effluency-winning Rally Baby AMC Hornet returns in all of its turbocharged, ammo-box intake glory. Word is that they’ve turned up the boost and swapped in a manual transmission, meaning that it should be more of a match for Morrows Racing’s supercharged, GM-powered AMC Gremlin (above) in what can only be described as the Bastardized Battle of Kenosha (Round 2).
Those are Class C’s heavy hitters, but some newcomers to the class could shake it up a bit. Sinical Racing bring a BMW E36 for Class A, but they’ll run it alongside what is listed as a “1971 Saab/Audi/Super Sonett.” I don’t think Saab ever built a “Super Sonett,” so it sounds like Sinical might have ditched the car’s V4 engine for something a bit more modern. The world will be a better place with more racing Sonetts.
Torque Junkie Racing seek the to follow the path of endurance racing domination with a Volkswagen Golf TDI. This should be an interesting case study in whether a diesel’s improved fuel efficiency may help the oil-burner hop to the top of the bottom class.
Finally, who doesn’t love a team called Poor College Kids (#420, of course)? As if the mention of being broke and slumming through post-secondary education doesn’t conjure up enough memories of poor judgment, this team has opted to campaign a 1998 Dodge Avenger. I don’t know if the Avenger falls into Judge Phil’s Class C loophole for the Chrysler LH platform since this is more closely related to the Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon platform, but I do know that cars of this ilk tend to fail spectacularly and often.
(Images: Murilee Martin)