Video: What it's like to race a 51-horsepower diesel Chevette


From the outside, driving one of the slowest cars in LeMons looks easy. Since the car’s going slower, most observers probably think that the driver isn’t working too hard, because a slow car means an easy time for the driver. This driver of Zero Budget Racing‘s diesel Chevy Chevette, however, gives great look at how difficult it is to wring the most out of a car with (low) double-digit horsepower at the recent LeMons race at Barber Motorsports Park.


Zero Budget’s diesel Chevette debuted at the infamous “snow race” at Gingerman Raceway in 2011 (above). The team struggled with the car then, but they sorted it eventually and brought home an Index of Effluency. They added a second IOE from their clapped-out, same-engined diesel Isuzu I-Mark and made a splash with the soft Corinthian leather of a “small” Chrysler Cordoba at Barber. It’s safe to say that the cars are slow and the drivers, who are mostly arrive-and-drives, are pretty good and receive some coaching from the car’s owner(s).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chevette sails through the corners and hardly requires any braking at all. Speedycop, who flogged the Chevette to a stunning 2:00 lap at Gingerman last spring, just pitched the car through corners with scarcely a brush at the middle pedal, leaving a skilled driver to pass several cars through the twisty bits. But on straightaways, the go-pedal makes very little happen. The 51-horsepower Isuzu powerplant makes a terrific amount of diesel-engine noise, but the plucky Chevette continues at its merry pace.


The driver’s helmet cam gives a great indication of what he’s thinking throughout his stint. While on the straights, he checks his mirrors regularly to know who’s coming up from behind and who will catch him by the end of the straight. To make room and to make passes predictable, he also says all the way to one side of the track as much as possible to leave only one possible passing avenue. Finally, he takes the inside corner of most straights, making faster cars take the long way around, although the Chevette’s cornering ability makes other drivers earn the mid-corner pass.


[Photos — First image: Matt Smith’s YouTube channel | All others copyright Eric Rood/Hooniverse]

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