The 24 Hours of Lemons race series has been venturing out to the thin air, cacti, and drone-hunting permits of
Kansas northeastern Colorado every year since 2010, and earlier this month we returned to High Plains Raceway for the eighth time. HPR is one of the best tracks we visit, with plenty of elevation changes and not a lot of hard stuff to crash into, but its distance from civilization gives the annual Colorado race its name: the B.F.E. GP. Here’s what happened there this time.
Since the President of the United States went to Germany and proclaimed that country to be very evil (sehr böse), due to the millions of German cars sold in the United States, the Lemons Supreme Court got with the program and applied this stencil (made by Rocket Surgery Racing) to all such cars entered in the B.F.E. GP. If you race a Porsche, BMW, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz in Colorado Lemons, the Mark of der Deutsche Teufel will be on your car!
The most noteworthy thing about this race was the incredibly small number of teams that packed up and went home after breaking their hoopties. Even though parts stores and wrecking yards were over an hour away in Denver, the racers with broken cars went and fetched what they needed, while those with still-running race cars helped their pit neighbors with loans of tools, parts, and expertise.
There were at least a dozen teams (out of 61 that showed up) who qualified for the Most Heroic Fix trophy at the ’17 B.F.E. GP. Befuddled by our embarrassment of Heroic Fix riches, we chose The Farmers and their Hyundai Accent for the award, more or less at random.
These guys blew up their transmission during Saturday’s race session, and they turned in their transponder and planned to leave for home in the morning. Saturday night, they were eating dinner at their campsite and staring at their nuked transmission from their previous race (which they had kept in their trailer out of laziness). What the heck, they thought, let’s take apart both busted transmissions and see if we can build one good one. Which they did, despite having very little experience with the mysteries of gearboxes. Sunday morning, they got their transponder back and hit the race track for a good day of Hyundai-style racing.
Of course, some teams that refused to give up suffered repeated disappointments all weekend long. For example, Team Crapa brought this 1991 Chevrolet S-10 pickup, featuring all sorts of interesting backyard modifications that promised domination once the green flag waved.
Unfortunately, the Chevy 350 small-block under the hood suffered from endless problems with cooling, ignition, fuel delivery, and just about everything else that can go wrong with an engine. The truck would enter the track, clank to a halt about 45 seconds later, and return behind the wrecker. Repeat. Endlessly.
After 24 one-at-a-time laps and about 40 hours of spinning the wrenches, Team Crapa earned the I Got Screwed trophy for the race. The really screwed thing about this is that Team Crapa had a very similar experience with their Honda Accord at the 2016 B.F.E. GP, finishing a mere 65 laps and fixing 27 dozen problems.
The Class A and Class B races were hard-fought from flag to flag. The trophy for the fast class and overall win went to Dropped Packets Racing for the second year in a row. After the 2016 B.F.E. GP, their 1991 Acura Integra caught fire in the trailer, causing heavy damage to both race car and enclosed trailer. After repairing both, they left the paint damage on their car intact, to remind themselves to disconnect the battery before towing.
Just 34 seconds behind the Dropped Packets Racing Integra at the checkered flag, Team Super Troop had spent most of the weekend in P1. A failed wheel bearing early on Sunday cost them what looked like a sure first-time overall win.
The Super Troop team towed all the way out from California, where they have been competing in Lemons races with their Super Troopers-themed 1978 Mercury Zephyr since 2011. Though they have finished many of those very tough races in the top ten of the standings, this was the closest they have come to an overall Lemons win.
The Class B win went to Team Other Options and their very stock 1990 Audi Coupe. This team is made up of mechanics who toil at Denver-area Audi dealerships, and they seem to be better than any other Lemons team at keeping these fragile-but-quick cars running all weekend.
Team GTI Wish finished just seconds behind Team Other Options, with a corporate cousin of the Team Other Options Audi. That’s right, after 14 hours and 30 minutes of all-out racing, the fast and medium classes came down to a single black flag or slightly-too-long driver change.
Class C, the awesome class (i.e., the slowest) was more of a blowout this time. The Northern Shiners hauled their 307-powered Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham Landau all the way from Minneapolis, hoping that their slow and unreliable G-Body would do better in the Mountain Time Zone than it had at several Doin’ Time In Joliet races in Illinois.
Somehow, this plan worked very well for the Northern Shiners. After towing 900 miles from Minnesota, they won Class C (over the Down and Out Race Team supercharged AMC Pacer wagon) by a massive 54-lap edge.
Perhaps this glorious victory will inspire The General to revive Oldsmobile.
Salty Thunder Racing, based in Salt Lake City, had been racing a 1985 Pontiac Fiero in Lemons for years. When that car finally won Class C (at last year’s B.F.E. GP), the team decided to add another Fiero, this one a high-performance 1988 GT model. Adopting a “Guy Fiero” theme, Salty Thunder spent most of the weekend fixing two broken Fieros instead of the usual one.
Buffs Racing is a team comprised of students at the University of Colorado Boulder. Many students.
They brought a fairly terrible 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier, complete with pushrod 122 engine and 115 horsepower. As expected, this car broke frequently, and the entire Buffs Racing team would then swarm it and make repairs.
The Britzka Racing 1974 Chevrolet El Camino was like a rock, as was the The Road Crew’s 1985 Chevrolet C10.
Actually, the ’74 El Camino was on the slow and unreliable side in its Lemons-debut race, but we loved the sight of it on the race track so much that we awarded Britzka Racing the race-specific trophy: the High Plains Hooptie award.
Britzka Racing’s other car, a 1982 BMW 528e with a sketchy-looking junkyard turbocharging rig, set the quickest lap of the race (2:14.647; for comparison, the overall winners’ best lap was 2:18.250). Sadly for Britzka Racing, it’s the quantity of laps that counts in endurance racing, and their BMW finished 45th out of 61 entries.
The Organizer’s Choice award goes to the team that, simply put, makes the race organizers the happiest. Sometimes this trophy goes to a spectacular-looking car, sometimes it goes to a team with amazing costumes, and sometimes it goes to a team that cooks dinner for everybody. This time, it went to a team that has contributed greatly to 24 Hours of Lemons culture during the near-decade they have been racing, as a Lifetime Achievement Organizer’s Choice: Tetanus Racing.
Tetanus Racing started out with a horrifyingly rusty and decrepit 1995 Dodge Neon, at the 2009 Gator-O-Rama race at MSR Houston. Since then, the team has prepared and raced six cars in the 24 Hours of Lemons, recruiting dozens of new racers in the process. In addition to the Neon, Tetanus Racing has run a Volkswagen Passat, a Buick V6-swapped Porsche 944, a Porsche-engined 944, a BMW E30 3-Series, and a Nissan 240SX.
The overlords of the Tetanus Empire are Chris Champion and Mary Harris, who have become so deeply embedded into Lemons society that their children have been going to a half-dozen races per year since birth.
With all the cat-herding that comes with juggling a bunch of cars, two small children, and a random sampling of arrive-and-drive racers from all over the country, Tetanus Racing still finds time to create entertaining themes for their teams. Here’s I.M.B.E.C.I.L.E., also known as the International Minions & Basic Evildoers for the Clearly Infamous League of Evil. There was the Upton Sinclair’s Quality Meat Products, the Bridezilla Taxi Service (for racers who were getting married after the checkered flag on Saturday) as well, plus many other great Tetanus team themes.
The Tetanus Neon still hasn’t managed to get that elusive Class B win, after eight years of being the team’s primary race car, but the team does everything else right. A very well-deserved Organizer’s Choice for Tetanus Racing, we say.
As for the Index of Effluency, the big prize of every Lemons race, the runaway winner was the Down and Out Race Team and their supercharged, Soviet-carbureted 1978 AMC Pacer wagon. For the whole story, head over to read our feature on this car.
For a big gallery of photos from the ’17 B.F.E. GP, go here. For all the latest features, news, and race updates at the Roadkill Home of the 24 Hours of Lemons, go here. Our next race will be the Kentucky (Demo) Derby, held July 7-9 at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green.